World News in Brief

Syria bishops call for negotiated solutions

Syriac Catholic bishops have called for diplomatic solutions to achieve peace in Syria and Iraq.

In a statement released at the conclusion of their annual synod, held in Harissa, Lebanon, the bishops urged countries, especially those directly involved in the Syrian conflict, to follow a path of “negotiation to find a peaceful political solution” to the Syrian civil war.

Denouncing the “barbaric acts” carried out by the Islamic State, they demanded the liberation of all hostages, appealling again for the release of Aleppo’s Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul, both of whom were kidnapped in April 2013, and thanked God for last month’s release of kidnapped Father Jack Murad.

They also appealed for Iraqi leaders to solve outstanding problems through dialogue, and encouraged key countries to support the Iraqi army in liberating Mosul and the Nineveh plain. 


Top Vatican official expects family exhortation soon 

The Vatican secretary of state has said that Pope Francis could soon issue an apostolic exhortation on the family, following the recently concluded Synod of Bishops.

“I imagine that it won't take long because usually these things should be done in a relatively short time, otherwise it loses its strength a bit, its impact,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin told Vatican Radio. “I think if the pope decides to do it, he will do it relatively quickly.”

The exhortation would come as a response to a request in the synod’s final report, which said, “We humbly ask the Holy Father to evaluate the opportunity of offering a document on the family, so that in it, the domestic church may ever more shine Christ, the light of the world”.


Abuse crisis costs in US $1 billion more than thought 

The Catholic Church in the United States has incurred nearly $4 billion (€3.6 billion) in costs related to the clerical abuse crisis.

An extensive investigation by the National Catholic Reporter of media reports, databases, and Church documents from the past 65 years has revealed payouts of $3,994,797,060.10 between 1950 and August of this year. Hitherto it was commonly believed that the cost had been “up to $3 billion”. 

Separate recently published research has estimated other consequences of the crisis, such as lost membership and diverted giving, has on average cost more than $2.3 billion annually over the past 30 years.


Chinese Catholics told to insist on “sinicisation”

Authorities overseeing religion in China told a group of Catholic bishops and leaders to insist on “sinicisation” in a gathering that took place soon after Beijing concluded closed-door meetings with a Vatican delegation.

“At the moment, loving the Church and the country is manifested through … insisting on sinicisation and deepening the extent of managing the Church in a democratic way,” Chen Zhongrong, vice director of China’s religious affairs administration, told the Catholic leaders during an October meeting with 25 Chinese bishops, priests, nuns and laypeople in Guizhou province.

The concept of “sinicisation” in religion, which urges churches to adapt to Chinese society under communist rule, was first used by President Xi Jinping in May. 


South African Church leaders pledge to work for educational equality

South African bishops have said they will help find solutions to the country’s mounting education crisis. The “financial precariousness of most students should not be an obstacle to accessing education”, said the national executive of the South African Council of Churches, of which the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference is a member.

Promising to meet with students, university management, government and the private sector to discuss ways of ensuring equitable access to education, council members stressed the importance of campaigns “in defence of poor families facing spiralling costs of university education”.