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Pope chatted with Polish bishops

VATICAN (SE): Pope Francis scrapped his scheduled official discourse to Polish bishops on the day of his arrival in Poland, choosing instead to chat with them, in much the same manner as he does with journalists during his in-flight press conferences.

In one of his last acts as Holy See press officer, Father Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio that the pope wanted the occasion to be as spontaneous and authentic as possible.

He described it as a moment in which the bishops and the pope would be at ease and free to exchange opinions and ask questions.


Drug executions a soap opera

JAKARTA (UCAN): Despite appeals from Church leaders and human rights groups, Indonesia executed 14 prisoners convicted of drug charges at midnight on July 28.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation described the choice of the 14 as a soap opera with no apparent criteria applying in the choice of the few from the many on death row.

Last year 12 people were executed in two batches. “Those first and second rounds of executions resulted in nothing, there was no significant deterrent effect. In fact, drug distribution is more widespread. Even prisoners can control the trade from jails,” Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, from the Commission for Justice, Peace and Pastoral Care for Migrant-Itinerant People, said on July 27.


North Koreans smuggled into China

BEIJING (SE): Thousands of North Koreans are rented out as cheap labour to farms in China each year from early spring to late autumn. They work with cattle and sheep, plant and harvest soybeans.

They can earn up to US$300 ($2,325) a season. Radio Free Asia reported that even factoring in the US$50 ($388) fine imposed on them by Pyongyang, they are still much better off than they would be working at home.

Smugglers pick up the people and lead them across the border at a cost of US$33 ($255) per person.

North Korean women are brought in as brides or sex workers.

Border guards facilitate the trade. 


Bihar state bans altar wine

PATNA (UCAN): Churches in India’s Bihar state may soon be reiterating the words of Our Lady to her son at the wedding at Cana, “We have no wine.”

The licence of a Church winery has been cancelled, as it violates the overall ban on alcohol. It had been treated as an exception.

Excise commissioner, Aditya Kumar Das, said there is a chance it could be abused.

The Jesuit wine-maker, Brother Francis Thattaparambi, said that he had been expecting to be closed down, but it is possible to use a brew that can be classified as grape juice, but without fermenting it cannot be preserved.


World Youth Day to Americas’ oldest diocese

PANAMA CITY (SE): Panama City has welcomed its choice as the next World Youth Day venue 2019 and reminded the world that in 1513 it became the first diocese in the Americas.

Fides reported Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa as calling it a balm for the youth of Central America that will counteract problems faced by young people who live in poverty which pushes them toward migration, drug peddling and violence.

The bishops say that Panama is capable of organising a World Youth Day and it will be a wake-up call for young Catholics over Latin America.”


Manila lifts ban on GMOs

MANILA (UCAN): The Supreme Court of the Philippines has reversed a December 2015 ruling temporarily halting field trials of genetically modified eggplant and the issuance of new permits on genetically modified organisms (GMO).

Father Manuel Vicente Catral, from a centre for organic farming, said the government should direct all its efforts and scientific studies into the development of sustainable organic farming.

“GMOs will not answer our food security problem. It will only worsen the scarcity of organic food products and benefit transnational agri-businesses,” he said on August 3.


From prisoner to priest

LONDON (SE): Father James Mawsdley, who had been tortured and imprisoned in the Union of Myanmar for more than year, was ordained a priest for the Fraternity of St. Peter in Warrington, England, in July.

The Catholic Herald reported he was freed in 2000 after 415 days in solitary confinement.

He had been sentenced to serve 17 years for protesting against the military junta’s treatment of ethnic minorities.

“But the greatest help came from Christ. The crucifixion makes sense of suffering. Jesus turned my misery into joy,” he wrote in 2008 in The Telegraph.

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