Greek Orthodox defies church-closure order
THE Greek Orthodox Church refused to close its buildings this week, defying an order from Greek government to close places of worship amid rising coronavirus cases. The Holy Synod issued a statement on Monday saying that it did “not consent to the Government’s measures” and that its churches would remain open to celebrate Epiphany, including ceremonies of blessing of the waters. It said that the Church had not been consulted about the new tighter restrictions, which came into force on Saturday. A government response on Monday said: “The law cannot be applied at whim, so that whoever disagrees with it can just ignore it.”
Israeli minister hopes to welcome pilgrims again
THE Israeli Minister of Tourism, Orit Farkash-Hacohen, has urged Christians around the world to celebrate Christmas in the Holy Land after the pandemic. Speaking outside the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, in Nazareth, last week, she said: “Nazareth is a Jewel, attracting tourists and pilgrims from all over the world — I hope to see the city’s streets full again soon. Usually, the winter holidays are a festive time, as Christian visitors celebrate them here and around the Galilee. While the Covid-19 pandemic changed this, I and all of Israel look forward to the day international travel resumes so that millions of Christians can come and visit.” Israel currently has more than 440,000 Covid cases and has recorded more than 3400 Covid-related deaths since the pandemic began.
Kidnapped Nigerian bishop released
THE Auxiliary Bishop of the RC archdiocese of Owerri in Nigeria, the Most Revd Moses Chikwe, and his driver, Robert Ndubuisi, were released by their captors on New Year’s Day, a week after being abducted. A statement this week from the Archbishop, the Most Revd Anthony Obinna, said: “At about 10:00 pm on 1 January 2021, His Lordship, Most Rev. Moses Chikwe and Mr Ndubuisi Robert, his driver, who were abducted in the evening of Sunday the 27 December 2020 were finally released. I personally visited and saw Bishop Chikwe in his residence at about 10:45 pm, looking very weak from the traumatic experience.” The driver had a “deep cut” to his hand. It is unclear who their abductors were. Pope Francis had appealed for their release in his New Year Angelus address.
Texan pastor shot dead with his own gun
THE Pastor of Starrville Methodist Church, an independent Methodist church in Smith County, east of Dallas, Texas, the Revd Mark Allen McWilliams, was killed with his own gun on Sunday morning. Two other people were injured, including his wife. Mytrez Deunte Woolen, 21, was arrested on Sunday evening and charged with two counts of aggravated assault and one count of capital murder. Mr McWilliams, 62, had reportedly drawn his gun when he found his attacker in the lavatory. The man, who had been evading a police chase, lunged at the pastor, disarmed, and shot him.