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World news in brief

17 March 2023


Public-sector union members and citizens protest during a 24-hour general strike in Athens, on Wednesday of last week

Public-sector union members and citizens protest during a 24-hour general strike in Athens, on Wednesday of last week

Greeks protest over railway safety

MORE than 10,000 people took part in a demonstration in Athens on Sunday — two weeks after a train crash in which 57 people died. The Greek government was accused of repeatedly ignoring calls by unions to improve safety; and a nationwide rail strike was due to take place yesterday. A passenger train and freight train collided head-on in the northern city of Larissa, in the Tempe Valley, on 28 February. A memorial service was led nine days later at the site of the disaster by three metropolitans of the Greek Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Ieronymos of Larissa & Tyrnavos spoke of plans by the Thessaly region to erect a small church, so that prayer for the souls of those who had died would be constant, the Orthodox Times reports. 


Nicaragua suspends relations with Vatican

THE foreign ministry of Nicaragua has declared that the government intends to suspend diplomatic relations with the Vatican. It has asked the Vatican to close its respective diplomatic missions. The move marks a year since the Apostolic Nuncio in Managua, Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, was expelled from the country. Pope Francis has expressed dismay at the state of church relations with the government there (News, 26 August 2022). The social and political situation in Nicaragua has been marked in recent years by a growth in arrests, expulsions, and violent responses to demonstrations. After being under house arrest since last August, the Bishop of Matagalpa, the Rt Revd Rolando Álvarez, is now in prison, sentenced to 26 years. No further news has emerged (News, 17 February).


WCC calls for Korean peace treaty

THE World Council of Churches (WCC) has called on member Churches to support the Korea Peace Appeal, to promote a transition from the armistice agreement to a peace treaty for the Korean Peninsula. The 70th anniversary of the armistice, which suspended fighting of the Korean War, falls on 27 July. The WCC is backing efforts by the National Council of Churches, and says that “the unresolved state of war since 1953 has posed security risks, led to increased militarization, and incurred major political and economic costs for the people on the Korean Peninsula.” The WCC’s general secretary, the Revd Professor Jerry Pillay, said that this was “a crucial step towards achieving lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and beyond”.


Irish bishops urge parishes to ‘return to nature’

THE Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference has asked parishes, through their pastoral councils and diocesan trusts, “to identify and care for 30 per cent of parish grounds as a haven for pollinators and biodiversity”, and to be enjoyed by the whole community. This is one strand of work being undertaken by its Laudato Si’ Working Group. The Bishops made their request during their spring 2023 general meeting last week. In a statement released afterwards, they explained: “In embracing this initiative we encourage parishes to expand their circles of solidarity, to protect and care for biodiversity and recommend that, by 2030, 30 per cent of church grounds be returned to nature. The first goal of Laudato Si’ asks us to respond to the ‘Cry of the Earth’.” Other matters discussed at the meeting included refugees, preparation for Lent, and plans for the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.


Pope Francis reflects on spiritual architecture

SACRED architecture must seek to rediscover “symbolic language and be able to interpret it”, Pope Francis has said. He was reflecting on the theme of the 26th Public Session of the Pontifical Academies on Tuesday. “To have lost the capacity to grasp the symbolic value of the body and of every creature renders the symbolic language of the Liturgy almost inaccessible to the modern mentality,” he said. “And yet there can be no question of renouncing such language. It cannot be renounced because it is how the Holy Trinity chose to reach us through the flesh of the Word. It is rather a question of recovering the capacity to use and understand the symbols of the Liturgy.” Artistic and architectural creativity must draw inspiration from the liturgical life of the Church, he said, rather than from human preferences. Liturgy and art must be free from “subjectivisms” and the “invasion of cultural elements”.


Bishop of LA christens Princess Lilibet

THE Episcopalian Bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt Revd John Harvey Taylor, baptised the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Princess Lilibet Diana, last week. He wrote in a Facebook post that the couple had initially asked the Presiding Bishop, the Most Revd Michael Curry, to administer the sacrament at their home in LA, but that the Presiding Bishop had tested positive for Covid shortly beforehand. With the accession of their grandfather, the King, the Sussexes’ children now, according to convention, have received royal titles: the Princess’s brother is now Prince Archie.

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