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

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

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