World news in brief

Europe’s bishops call for European solution

As the European Union is founded on the solidarity of Europeans, so the current refugee crisis should be recognised as a common challenge that needs a common solution, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) has said.

Describing as “unacceptable” the attempts by some countries to evade their responsibilities, the bishops said “we cannot accept that people drown and suffocate at the borders of Europe” insisting that “it is a Christian duty to help the refugees, whatever their origin or religion”, as well as being “an issue that directly affects the values and the future of Europe”.

The statement, authored by Germany’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Belgium’s Bishop Jean Kockerols and Bishop Gianni Ambrosio of Piacenza-Bobbio, was adopted at a meeting on September 9.

Root October Synod in reality – cardinal

There would be little point in this October’s Synod of Bishops if its discussions were to be conducted in the abstract, Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has said in an interview.

Explaining that bishops are called to observe the situation “with the gaze of pastors who scrutinise today’s reality in an evangelical spirit”, the cardinal, who was the lead editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, said the bishops must see “how much good will and how much effort there is even in the midst of much suffering”.

It is not enough, though, he said, to pretend that nothing is wrong with situations, explaining that pastors must “help Catholics build on what is good, growing in holiness and faithfulness to God and to each other”.

Queen thanked for Christian example

The head of the bishops’ conference for England and Wales has thanked Queen Elizabeth II for her 63 years of “outstanding and unstinting service” as monarch.

In a message to mark her becoming Britain’s longest-ever reigning monarch, Westminster’s Cardinal Vincent Nichols also thanked the Queen for her “steadfast insistence on the great importance of our Christian faith, given in both word and example, alongside your appreciation of the contribution made by other religions in our rich and diverse society today”. 

He expressed a shared hope that Britain would maintain respect for its Christian heritage “and the sure foundations that it provides for a flourishing of true human fulfilment”.

Burmese Cardinal challenges ‘religion and race’ laws targetting minorities

Burmese’s (Myanmar) Cardinal Charles Bo has urged his country’s president to review controversial new laws that he believes will fragment “the dream of a united Myanmar” by targeting religious minorities in the 89% Buddhist country. In a statement, the cardinal condemned the ‘race and religion’ laws, arguing that the parliament had been, in what he called “a dangerous portend for the fledgling democracy”, coerced into enacting the laws by “an extra-constitutional fringe element”.

The laws, the last of which President Thein Sein signed into law on August 31, had been championed by hard-line Buddhist monks from a group known as Ma Ba Tha, or the Committee for the Protection of Race and Religion, and appear to be aimed at the country’s Muslim minority. 


‘Bishop of Bling’ escapes proceedings

Dr Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the former Bishop of Limburg, will not have to face canonical proceedings or compensation claims, the Vatican has decided. 

The German bishop was suspended from his episcopal office in October 2013 after spending more than €31m refurbishing his episcopal palace and diocesan centre, with Pope Francis accepting his resignation in March. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, told Limburg’s apostolic administrator, Bishop Manfred Grothe, of the decision.

Dr Tebartz-van Elst now has a low-key role in helping the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation prepare catechetical texts.