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Cuba responds to pope’s jubilee request

HAVANA (SE): The government of Raul Castro in Cuba has announced the release of 787 prisoners on November 16 as a response to a request issued by Pope Francis for the Jubilee Year.

It was announced that those released were selected on the basis of the time they had already served and their behaviour. Violent criminals were not included in the early-release programme.

The Associated Press reported that the authorities did not specify how many of those pardoned still remain behind bars, or when they may be released.


Vietnam pulls back from Trans-Pacific Partnership 

HANOI (SE): Vietnam moved to shelve its plan to ratify of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, because of the uncertainties prompted by Donald Trump.

The prime minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, told the National Assembly on November 17 that there was not sufficient impetus to submit a proposal.

Strangely, Vietnam was one of the few countries expected to do well out of the partnership, since its economy is heavily trade dependent.

In all events, the partnership is not so much about trade, but entrenching the interests of major corporations.


First minor basilica for Japan

NAGASAKI (UCAN): The church in Oura in the city of Nagasaki is marked to become the country’s first minor basilica, the Asahi Shimbun reported on November 9.

It was the scene of an event that marked a transition from an age when the faith was banned to an age when people became free to follow it.

In 1865 the church was the site where a group of hidden Christians revealed their faith to a French missionary.

The pope grants a minor basilica title to important places of worship. The archdiocese of Nagasaki had applied for this status in February.


Church rallies against Park

SEOUL (UCAN): Churches and people across South Korea are demanding that the president, Park Geun-hye, step down over a scandal coined Choi Soon-sil Gate.

From dioceses to parishes and even seminaries, there have been loud calls for Park to resign after it was alleged that her friend, Choi Soon-sil, had manipulated her to gain access to secret documents and embezzle funds.

The call began with Masses being held in Kwangju and Cheju on November 7.

Bishop Simon Ok Hyun-jin led around 1,000 people through the streets of Kwangju calling for her resignation.

Park has so far given no indication she will step down.


British court rules classroom segregation not illegal

LONDON (CWN): A British court has ruled that religious schools are not barred from educating boys and girls in separate classrooms.

Examining a government inspector’s complaint against a Muslim school, the administrative court judge found that such separation is legal, but commented that “segregation has the tendency to promote social and cultural stereotypes about the role of women in society.”

The judge suggested that segregation in mixed schools is not the practice. It is only capable of being seen as a reflection of the mores, attitudes, cultures and practices of the faith groups who have been permitted to do it.


Renewed cathedral for Singapore

SINGAPORE (SE): Singapore’s historic Cathedral of the Good Shepherd was back in use on November 20 following a US$40 million ($310 million) restoration.

The Straits Times reported the three-year job has been returned it to its original neoclassical white and dark yellow, with gold highlights in its interior.

Conservation consultant, Ho Weng Hin, said, “One of the aims of the project was to give the cathedral back its civic presence and restore the sense of dignity as the main church of Singapore’s Roman Catholics.”

The cathedral was built in 1843.


Church attack part of political move

JAKARTA (AsiaNews): The Synod of Protestant Churches in Indonesia released a statement following a bomb attack on a church on November 13 calling it a human tragedy. 

“Violent acts can never be the best solution to solve the problems… Intolerance cannot be tolerated in any form, including the hate speech that led to the protests of recent weeks,” it says.

The attack is being interpreted as part of the demonising of the Christian governor of Jakarta, who is being charged with blasphemy, and ultimately part of a plan to unseat the president, Joko Widodo.

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