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World news in brief

20 December 2019


Smoke rises from tear gas during anti-government protests in Beirut, Lebanon, last Sunday

Smoke rises from tear gas during anti-government protests in Beirut, Lebanon, last Sunday

Patriarch calls on Lebanese government to calm protests

THE Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros-Rai, has urged political leaders in Lebanon to “listen to their consciences” and to the anti-government protesters caught up in violent clashes with security forces in Beirut this week. Over the weekend, Shia Muslim men set cars on fire and threw stones at police, who used tear gas and water cannons. Dozens of people have been injured since October. His deputy for external relations, Archbishop Paul Sayah, told Vatican News: “The Patriarch has been calling on [the] government to listen to their consciences, to listen to the people who have been on the streets for 60 days, to look at the social situation, examine closely the difficulties the people are experiencing and to make sure the uprising does receive sufficient attention because on the whole, what the uprising is calling for, is justified. . . They are asking the government to make sure they don’t use their political positions for their own gain.”


Pope abolishes top-secret status for child-abuse cases

THE Pope has abolished the “pontifical secret”, an exalted level of confidentiality under canon law, for cases of sexual abuse against children and vulnerable persons. The RC Church has been widely criticised for failing to report and respond to cases of child sexual abuse within its institution (News, 15 November). The possession and dissemination of pornographic images of children will now be classed as a crime delicta graviora, the gravest violation. The changes were declared in two documents published by the Vatican this week. The first, signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, states that information relating to child abuse should be “treated in such a way as to ensure its security, integrity and confidentiality” but that this confidentiality does “not prevent the fulfilment of the obligations laid down in all places by civil laws”.


PAA protester holds a photo of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia during a demonstration outside the office of the Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, in Valletta, last week. See gallery for more picture storiesMalta bishops call for calm over Galizia death revelations

THE Archbishop of Malta, Charles Scicluna, and the Bishop of Gozo, Mario Grech, have urged people in the country to stay calm and “seek the common good” as the European Union addresses allegations that high government officials in Malta were involved in the murder of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. She died in October 2017 when the rental car she was driving from her home exploded. Shortly before her death, she had suggested in a blog post that the Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, and his wife had used offshore bank accounts to hide payments from Azerbaijan’s ruling family, which triggered early elections in Malta. Mr Muscat announced that he would resign in January, but opposition leaders have called for his immediate dismissal. The joint statement from the Roman Catholic prelates says: “As in every society, disagreement is inevitable. However, we are always called to express our legitimate opinions with respect for one another and with respect for the truth, without falling into the trap of hatred, lies, and violence.”


Anglican church in Auckland hosts multilingual carols

ST ALBAN the Martyr, Auckland, in New Zealand, has held a joint carol service for churches in the area, including songs and liturgy in multiple languages and traditions. Congregations came from St Mary’s Assyrian Orthodox Church of the East Manurewa; the Russian Orthodox Church of the Resurrection; the Eritrean Orthodox Church, whose worship-style includes an African drum and ululation; and Holy Trinity Anglican Church, a Pacific Island congregation, whose congregation sing in Samoan and Nuiean. Carols were sung in Maori, Afrikaans, French, and English. The Priest-in_charge of St Alban’s, the Revd Mark Beale, said: “The sense of Spirit transcends language, such that in fact we do not need to understand the language to join together in Spiritual worship. This event certainly facilitated this and brought all present into an awe-inspiring worship experience.”


UNICEF: Afghanistan ‘world’s most lethal conflict’

IN AFGHANISTAN this year, an average of nine children a day have been killed or maimed, UNICEF reports. Nearly 6500 children were killed, and almost 15,000 other children were injured, between 2009 and 2018. The child-casualty rate increased by 11 per cent in 2019, owing to a surge in suicide bombings, the report, Preserving Hope in Afghanistan: Protecting children in the world’s most lethal conflict, states. UNICEF’s executive director, Henrietta Fore, said: “Even by Afghanistan’s grim standards, 2019 has been particularly deadly for children. Children, their families and communities suffer the horrific consequences of conflict each and every day. Those same children are desperate to grow up, go to school, learn skills, and build a future for themselves. We can, and must, do so much more to reinforce their extraordinary courage and resilience.”

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