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Call to prayer from global cultural monument

ISTANBUL (CWN): For the first time in 85 years the Muslim call to prayer was heard from the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. The building was completed in 537 as the basilica of the Patriarch of Constantinople, but with the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, it became a mosque until 1931.

In 1935, it reopened as a museum under the president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

On July 1, a prayer call from inside the building was broadcast on television, the Anadolu Agency reported.

The Greek government expressed concern, saying that a monument of global cultural heritage is not compatible with a functioning religious centre.


China to diversify Congo economy

BEIJING (SE): Beijing released plans to work with the Republic of Congo in Central Africa to accelerate industrialisation to diversify its economy, which is heavily-dependent on oil, Xinhua reported on June 4.

China will put money into the development of a special economic zone in Pointe Noir, the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, said at meeting with the president of the Congo, Sassou Nguesso.

Xi said that China is looking to expand its partnership with the Congo in the areas of agriculture and aviation, as well as exchanges in culture, education, youth development, media and other areas.

It also wants to give a legal guarantee for bilateral trade, investment and people-to-people exchanges.


Filipino journalist shot

SURIGAO (UCAN): A 41-year-old journalist, Saturnino Estanio Jr., from the Radio Mindanao Network, was shot three times by two men riding on a motor cycle in Surigao City on July 4 and his 12-year-old son, Anjover, took one bullet.

Although the wounds did not prove fatal, InPeace Mindanao said in a statement that the authorities had promised to carry out an investigation, but it hopes that this time around it will keep its promise and actually do it.

Estanio has exposed the illegal activities of mining companies and paramilitary groups around Surigao City on his radio programme.


Priest running for public office suspended

JAKARTA (UCAN): Father Rantinus Manalu, who is known for his anti-corruption campaigns and support for marginalised farmers, was suspended by Bishop Ludovicus Manullang in Indonesia when he announced his intention to run for public office in local elections next year.

“His priestly jurisdiction will be revoked,” the bishop said on July 4.

Father Manalu declared his candidacy after 30,000 people endorsed him in a petition, exceeding the minimum requirement of 22,000 signatures.

He said he hopes his priestly status would be reinstated if he loses the election or after his term ends.

“I consider this suspension as something legitimate,” Father Manalu said.


Crowning statue

SAN MATEO (SE): The coronation of an image of Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu, a venerated shrine in San Mateo, Rizal, The Philippines, has been approved by Pope Francis and will take place at a date yet to be decided.

The proclamation recognises the deeply-rooted and fervent devotion of the people to the Virgin Mary, as manifested by favours sought and received, CBCP News reported.

Other canonically crowned images include Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (Antipolo 1926), Marikina’s Patroness and Our Lady of the Abandoned, both 2005.

In addition there is Our Lady of Naval (1907); Our Lady of Peñafrancia (1924); Our Lady of Manaoag (1926); and the Santo Niño de Cebu (1964).


Guilty and not guilty in Vatileaks trial

VATICAN (SE): A Spanish priest charged in the latest round of Vatileaks, Monsignor Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and an Italian, Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, who has a three-week-old son, was given a 10-month suspended sentence for leaking confidential documents.

Vatican Radio reported that two Italian journalists, Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, who wrote best-selling books based on the leaked documents, were cleared by the Vatican court, as it has no jurisdiction over them.


An assistant to the Spanish priest, Nicola Maio, was declared not guilty.

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