Pope prays after dozens drown off Italian coast
POPE FRANCIS prayed on Sunday “for those who are lost, and for those who have survived” from the boat which sank in the Mediterranean early that morning, leaving at least 59 people dead, including 12 children, Vatican News reports. The boat, which set sail from Turkey and was carrying people from countries including Afghanistan and Iran, sank in rough seas just off the coast of Calabria, in Italy. Survivors reported that up to 200 people were on board. On Monday, the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Rose-Hudson Wilkin, asked on Twitter: “How many more of these stories will we have to hear before we take action to establish safe routes? How long until we address the reasons people flee their homes?”
Bishops express concern over Nigerian elections
RC BISHOPS in Nigeria have questioned the transparency of the country’s presidential elections, in which Bola Ahmed Tinubu, of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party was declared the winner on Wednesday, Crux reports. On Tuesday, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji of Owerri, said: “The experiences of many voters on the election day were a far cry from the hitch-free exercise that was repeatedly promised.” Delays in the transmission of results “raised suspicion in many minds about the transparency of the entire process”. Caritas Nigeria, which deployed more than 6000 observers, highlighted “the snail-pace deployment of sensitive and non-sensitive materials” at polling units, and said that roads leading to some opposition strongholds had been destroyed. On Tuesday, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that he was praying that the Independent National Electoral Commission would “observe the highest levels of honesty and transparency, and for the Holy Spirit to bless Nigerians with patience and dignity during this process”.
Iranian pastor freed in amnesty
THE Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhan was released from prison on Sunday, as part of a national amnesty issued by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to commemorate the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports. He was serving a six-year sentence, reduced from ten years, on charges of “acting against national security” by “promoting Zionist Christianity” (News, 11 May 2018). He was first arrested in the city of Rasht, north Iran, in 2009, and sentenced to death after refusing to convert to Islam. He was released in 2012 (News, 14 September 2012), re-arrested in 2016 (News, 29 July 2016), and then released on bail, before being arrested again two years later.
Swaziland Bishop warns of violence, calls for dialogue
VIOLENCE in Swaziland could lead to civil war, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Manzini, the Rt Revd José Luís Gerardo Ponce de León, has warned, in an interview with Vatican Radio. He spoke of violence “fuelled by unemployment, poverty, lack of infrastructure, and by the perception that the King and the government are turning a deaf ear to the demands of the people”, Vatican News reported in its summary. The Council of Swaziland Churches, which includes the Anglican Church, has called for “an inclusive National Dialogue in the country as a way out of the crisis”. The lawyer Thulani Masego, who chaired the coalition for constitutional reform, was assassinated in January.