Bishop: Twin blasts an attempt to divert attention? *Thailand: Hundreds pray without priest at Easter

April 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia, Persecution, Philippines

Comments Off on Bishop: Twin blasts an attempt to divert attention? *Thailand: Hundreds pray without priest at Easter

Philippines, April 10, 2012: The bombs went off last Thursday near Puerto Princesa, wounding four people. For the local bishop, they are connected to the investigation of former Provincial Governor Mario Joel Reyes. The latter, who is on the run, is accused of being the principal in the murder of Gerry Ortega, a Catholic journalist, killed in 2011.

“The twin blasts on Holly Thursday in San José and El Nido (Puerto Princesa – Palawan) were politically motivated. The local church was not damaged and Holy Week celebrations were not affected,” said Mgr Pedro Arigo, bishop of Puerto Princesa. The two explosions occurred not far from the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, on Palawan Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, wounding four people. “Despite the fear, hundreds of people participated in the Via Crucis on Hood Friday and Easter Mass on Sunday in the Cathedral.”

For Bishop Arigo, those who planted the bombs want to create a climate of terror in the population and harm the tourist industry. Their goal is to divert attention away from the search for Mario Joel Reyes, a former governor of the province, wanted with his brother in connection with the murder of Gerry Ortega, a Catholic journalist killed under mysterious circumstances on 24 January 2011.

An advocate for the rights of tribal peoples, Ortega had hosted a radio show for years in which he regularly denounced mining practices on the Island and violence against tribal people. Missionaries, leaders of Christian communities, NGOs and environmentalists were regular guests.

Police recently arrested the people who carried out the assassination as well as some of those who instigated the crime. The latter fingered former Provincial Governor Mario Joel Reyes as the principal in the case. The latter is still on the run.

Last Sunday, police arrested Jheramae Harim Hassan, a local Muslim leader, in connection with the two blasts.

This has not caused any waves among locals, the bishop said. Everyone is convinced that the bombings and the Ortega trial are connected, the prelate explained.

“People know very well that local politicians are behind the attacks,” said Mgr Arigo who remembers the slain journalist as a friend who fought against corruption and the exploitation of the island’s resources.

– asianews

Thailand: Hundreds pray without priest at Easter


Thailand, April 10, 2012: Government plans to convert seized chapel into a school.

Hundreds of Catholics were forced to gather and celebrate Easter without a priest outside their chapel in a parish bordering Thailand on Sunday following its recent closure by the government.

“Around 200 Lao Catholics recited the rosary, sang hymns and read the Gospel to celebrate Easter in front of Kengweng chapel, while four armed soldiers watched from the chapel’s gate,” Lovers of the Holy Cross Sister Josephine Seusy, who organized the ceremony, said.

“We prayed with the risen Christ for the government to return the chapel,” she said.

The chapel, built in 1964, was closed off to parishioners by Savannakhet provincial authorities in February.

The 200 sq m chapel set on a 500 sq m plot of land is located in Xaybuly district of the province.

“The government decided to confiscate the chapel after saying we had no ownership papers,” she said.

“It plans to build a school on the plot.”

On Saturday, three local Catholics were arrested and questioned by security officials after they removed a closure notice which was posted on the main door of the chapel by government officials in February.

The faithful had also gathered outside the chapel to celebrate Palm Sunday.

Sister Seusy said priests from elsewhere are still being prevented from providing pastoral services for local Catholics.

She said she and her five novices have to hold prayers, teach catechism and provide communion, baptism and funeral services.

There are around 3,000 Catholics among 850,000 people, most of them Buddhists, in Savannakhek province.

– ucan

Christian ‘threat’ seminar is govt’s prerogative *Christ saves from poverty…& bad government

April 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Asia, Malaysia, newsletter-asia, Persecution, Philippines

Comments Off on Christian ‘threat’ seminar is govt’s prerogative *Christ saves from poverty…& bad government

Malaysia, April 05, 2012: Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon has said the Cabinet will discuss last weekend’s “Christian threat” seminar in Johor but admitted the state government had the authority to organise the event that required the attendance of over 300 religious school teachers.

The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department told The Malaysian Insider what was important was that the Cabinet’s Special Committee to Promote Inter-Religious Understanding and Harmony had engaged the organisers.

“In a way, it has been resolved, the title has been changed,” the minister in charge of unity and performance management said, referring to the move by the Johor Education and Mufti departments to drop the reference to a “Christian threat” in the seminar’s theme.

But when quizzed over the fact that the Mufti Department refused to change the content of the seminar, Koh(picture), who is also Gerakan president, said “that is their prerogative.”

“The interfaith committee chairman has tried to sort out the matter. We will discuss it in Cabinet and see what can be done,” the senator said when told that a Christian minister would ask Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for an explanation.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili told The Malaysian Insider on Tuesday he would raise the matter at tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting to Muhyiddin, who is also education minister, as “the threat is only an allegation.”

The government’s interfaith panel chairman, Datuk Azman Amin Hassan, had said the matter has been resolved after the Johor Education Department agreed to drop the reference to a “Christian threat” from the seminar’s title.

But the Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) said Christian ministers should use their office to ensure the Cabinet takes a stand on last Saturday’s seminar after Datuk Seri Najib Razak failed to censure the seminar despite calls from non-Muslim groups for him to “walk your talk” of unity and moderation.

Some 300 religious teachers from Johor national schools attended the seminar entitled “Strengthening the Faith: What is the Role of Teachers?”, which was held in the state capital Johor Baru.

The seminar had attracted controversy among non-Muslims for focusing on the alleged threat of Christianisation to Islam.

But Muslim NGOs insisted that the government was duty-bound to address the “threat of Christianisation,” which they repeatedly profess to be real despite the absence of firm evidence.

In response, Johor dropped specific mention of the “Christian threat” from the seminar originally themed “Pemantapan Aqidah, Bahaya Liberalisme dan Pluralism Serta Ancaman Kristianisasi Terhadap Umat Islam. Apa Peranan Guru?” (Strengthening the Faith, the Dangers of Liberalism and Pluralism and the Threat of Christianity towards Muslims. What is the Role of Teachers?).

But Johor Mufti Department officials said that while the title of the seminar will be changed, the contents and structure will remain unaltered.

The Mufti, Datuk M. Tahrir Kiai Samsudin, also insisted the seminar was for the good of teaching Islam.

Christians form 9.2 per cent of Malaysia’s 28.3 million-strong population.

In recent years, the Christian and Muslim religious communities have been engaged in a tug-of-war over the word “Allah”, with the latter group arguing that its use should be exclusive to them on the grounds that Islam is monotheistic and the word “Allah” denotes the Muslim god.

Christians, however, have argued that “Allah” is an Arabic word that has been used by those of other religious beliefs, including the Jews, in reference to God in many other parts of the world, notably in Arab nations and Indonesia.

Conservative Muslim groups have also accused Christians of attempting to convert Malays, resulting in heightened tension between followers of the two religions.

– the malaysian insider

Christ saves from poverty, discrimination and bad government


Philippines, April 06, 2012: In his first Chrismal Mass, Mgr Tagle calls on priests and lay people to spread the Gospel to free people from the enslavement of material things. He calls on the faithful to pray for the priests of his archdiocese, which serves 3 million people.

“We are all baptised,” said Mgr Luis Antonio Tagle at his first Chrism Mass as archbishop of Manila. During the service, he enjoined people to work together to bring joy to God, show everyone that “happiness will be found only in Jesus” and free people from material constraints like poverty, social discrimination and bad government. The capital’s new archbishop spoke before 236 diocesan priests and hundreds of believers, packed inside San Fernando de Dilao Church, temporary seat of the archdiocese whilst Manila’s Immaculate Conception Cathedral undergoes extensive repair

In his homily, the prelate urged the priests of his diocese not to waste their priestly life but follow Christ instead. He asked Church members to “pray for us priests” and forgive them for hurting or failing to serve people. “Always pray for us and remind us to serve,” he said.

The Archdiocese of Manila has more than 3 million members. Its territory is served by 412 diocesan and religious priests divided among 27 diocesan parishes with another 58 run by religious congregations.

Before his appointment as metropolitan archbishop on 13 October 2011, Mgr Tagle, 55, served for six years in the Diocese of Imus where he paid close attention to the needs of the young.

Online catechesis and biblical commentaries are among some of the initiatives he promoted. In 2009, the Diocese of Imus also held Asia Youth Day.

– asianews

Vatican asks Iran to spare pastor *Italian priest shot dead

October 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Asia, Iran, newsletter-asia, Persecution, Philippines

Comments Off on Vatican asks Iran to spare pastor *Italian priest shot dead

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Iran

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani

Iran, October 13, 2011: The Holy See has “expressed its concern” to Iran over the death sentence given to a Christian pastor for his conversion from Islam, reports the Catholic Herald.

A spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said: “We are concerned at the reports from Iran about the death sentence for Youcef Nadarkhani. The Holy See has expressed its concern through diplomatic channels and we remain hopeful that the Courts will revoke the death penalty over the coming days. Meanwhile, our prayers are with him and his family.”

Youcef Nadarkhani, 33, has been given fresh hope after his case was referred back to the country’s lower court following a ruling that the conviction was based on “insufficient investigations”.

The Protestant pastor was arrested in the northern city of Rasht in 2009 on charges of refusing to reconvert to Islam, and sentenced to death. He was due to die for his faith last week.

But following criticism from governments, human rights groups and Christian leaders, the regime claimed that he had been condemned not for apostasy but for “being a Zionist and a traitor, who had committed security-related crimes”.

– ucan, catholic herald  

Italian priest shot dead


Fr. Fausto Tentorio

Fr. Fausto Tentorio (photo: Diocese of Kidapawan)

Philippines, October 17, 2011: An Italian priest doing mission work in the hinterlands of North Cotabato, Philippines, was gunned down inside the compound of Mother of Perpetual Help parish in Arakan town, according to a local official.

Fr Fausto Tentorio, 59, of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), was shot dead by a lone gunman as he was about to board his pickup truck at around 7:30am, said town councilor Leonardo Reovoca.

The murder was immediately condemned by the Diocese of Kidapawan, Church groups and environmental organizations in the country.

“This is really heinous. We’re so sad and shocked that this killing happened in broad daylight,” said Bishop Romulo dela Cruz of Kidapawan.

Autopsy reports showed Father Tentorio sustained eight gunshot wounds in different parts of his body. Senior Inspector Benjamin Rioflorido, chief of Arakan police, said four empty shells from a 9mm pistol were recovered from the crime scene.

“We’re studying lots of angles but nothing is definite as of this time. We have yet to know the motive and the identity of the killer and the mastermind in the killing,” Rioflorido said.

The suspect was wearing a crash helmet and made his escape by walking away casually from the scene to a nearby motorcycle, Reovoca said.

The priest was due to attend a regular meeting of Kidapawan diocese clergy at the house of Bishop Romulo de la Cruz in Kidapawan City yesterday.

Reovoca said Father Tentorio had been an active law and order campaigner in Arakan town.

Only recently, he was appointed as head of a civilian anti-criminal task force in the town, councilor Reovoca said.

“I am a witness to Father Tentorio’s strong stance against mining and other projects which are not sustainable and would harm and affect the indigenous peoples, in particular.”

Father Giovanni Re, PIME Philippines regional superior, said Father Tentorio had escaped attempts on his life by paramilitary groups in the past, “but this is a bit of a surprise for us because the situation here has been quiet for some time.”

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) also condemned the killing, calling it a sign of degeneration of morality and spirituality in the country.

“We condemn this killing in the highest possible terms. This is brutality and savagery that no civilized men or groups could possibly do,” said Muhammad Ameen, chairperson of the MILF Secretariat.

Bishop dela Cruz said Father Tentorio’s remains will be brought to his parish in Arakan town for the wake until Wednesday, before his body is transferred to the compound of the bishop’s house in the city.

“What we really want is for authorities to act swiftly so that justice for Father Tentorio’s death would be achieved.” he said.

Father Tentorio first arrived in the Philippines in 1978 and served in Zamboanga archdiocese. He becomes the second PIME priest killed while doing missionary work in North Cotabato.

Father Tulio Favali was killed in 1985 while serving as parish priest in Tulunan town.

– ucan

Muslim Militants Bomb a Catholic Church in Philippines, Two Killed

June 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Asia, Persecution, Philippines

Comments Off on Muslim Militants Bomb a Catholic Church in Philippines, Two Killed

A Church in PhilippinesTwo people were killed and eight wounded when an bomb exploded outside a canteen near a Catholic Church in the southern Philippines, police said Sunday.

The blast occurred Saturday in Isabela City in Basilan province, 900 kilometres south of Manila, according to regional commander Felicisimo Khu. Khu said the explosion caused a fire in the canteen.

Basilan is one of the strongholds of al-Qaeda-linked Muslim militants accused of some of the worst terrorist attacks in the Philippines and high-profile kidnappings involving foreign hostages.

– M&C