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Around the Traps

Loved bishop of Sao Paulo mourned

SAO PAULO (SE): Pope Francis has sent a message of condolence to Odilo Pedro Cardinal Scherer, the archbishop of São Paulo, Brazil, following the death on December 14 of its former archbishop, Paulo Cardinal Arns, at the age of 95.

Cardinal Arns became well known worldwide for his stand against the military government, as well as his support of the Basic Christian Community model of ministry under lay leadership, especially in the sprawling slums of his archdiocese.

He experimented with part time study as part of formation for priesthood in an attempt to find vocations from among the poorer classes of the city.


Pope meets with Colombian leaders

VATICAN (SE): On December 16 Pope Francis met separately with the president of Colombia and with the leader of the main opposition party. They spoke about prospects for final approval of a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels.

In an unexpected development, the pope brought the two together to discuss the peace agreement.

The meeting was arranged to facilitate the major political parties to work together to ensure ratification of a peace deal. An earlier agreement was rejected by a popular referendum.


Papal appeal for Congo

VATICAN (SE): Pope Francis appealed for calm in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as Joseph Kabila, the  president since 2001, refused to step down at the end of his constitutional term limit on December 19.

An election, originally scheduled for last year, has been delayed until at least 2018.

“I ask you all to pray that dialogue in the Democratic Republic of Congo might unfold with serenity,” Pope Francis said, “in order that all manner of violence be avoided.”


No liquid blood

NAPLES (Agencies): For centuries the Church in Naples has marvelled at the regular liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius three times a year, but this year the Catholic Herald reports that it did not happen.

St. Januarius was the bishop of Naples and died as a martyr in a persecution early in the fourth century. A vial of his dried blood is preserved, but did not liquefy as expected on December 16.

Many people believe that this is a sign that some tragedy will befall the city. In 1980 a similar thing happened and Naples was wracked by a terrible earthquake.


Business as usual for pope’s birthday

VATICAN (SE): Pope Francis celebrated his 80th birthday with business as usual on December 17. On his schedule were the president of Malta and the prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, in addition to other guests working in Rome.

Seven new email addresses were created in order to handle the volume of well-wishers, one in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Polish and Italian.

He celebrated Mass in the Pauline Chapel in the Vatican, together with the cardinals who live in Rome. 


Oslo and Beijing patch up

BEIJING (SE): Norway and China have patched up diplomatic relations. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry announced on December 19 that ties which were cut in 2010 when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to dissident writer, Liu Xiaobo, have been resumed.

At the time of the break, Norway and China were engaged in discussions over a free trade agreement, which were discontinued.

“I am very pleased that we are today normalising our political and diplomatic relations with China,” Norwegian foreign minister, Børge Brende, said.


New ambassador to Holy See

VATICAN (SE): Jonghyu Jeong is the new ambassador to the Holy See from South Korea.

The 66-year-old holds a doctorate in law from Kyoto University in Japan and was a member of the Korean bishops’ bioethics committee.


Can’t ban Santa Claus

JAKARTA (AsiaNews): A fatwa (Islamic edict) issued by the Ulema Council of Indonesia against Santa Claus saying that non-Islamic objects should not be used during the Christmas season has no legal basis, the police chief general, Tito Karnavian, as well as two regional chiefs said.

Karnavian described the edict as a demonstration of intolerance, saying that the pluralism and the spirit of religious tolerance that lie at the basis of Indonesia must be protected.

He has ordered police to prevent the circulation of leaflets supporting the fatwa.

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