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Pope sends condolences to Taiwan after earthquakes

VATICAN  (CNS): Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with the people of Taiwan after high-magnitude earthquakes on February 6 and 7 devastated the island nation, killing at least nine people and injuring hundreds more.
In a telegramme sent by the Vatican, the pope offered “the assurance of his prayers for those who have lost their lives and for those who have been injured.” 
 

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Indian government admits rise in religious hate crimes

NEW DEHLI (UCAN): India’s pro-Hindu government presented detailed data in parliament showing a surge in religion-based violence since it came to power four years ago. The statistics, revealed on February 6, confirm a long-standing allegation by rights groups that the situation is worsening.
 
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which leads the coalition government, has been accused by rights groups and civil society of fanning the flames of intolerance.

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Philippine democracy under threat

The young man, Jake, 22-year-old and single laughed when I asked him whom he voted for in the local elections for mayor. He said he abstained, but he went to the house of the mayor and received a payment all the same. “Why not?”, he reasoned, “It was for free everyone was going there.” 
 

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Vatican delegation attends Olympic Committee general meeting

VATICAN (Agencies): In a first, the Vatican has been invited to attend the February 5 to 7 annual general meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as an official observer, in Pyeongchang, South Korea, L’Osservatore Romano reported on February 2. 
 
The delegation, led by Monsignor Melchor Sanchez de Toca Alameda, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture and head of its Culture and Sport section, will also be present at the opening ceremony of the Winter Games which run from February 9 to 25. 

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Don’t sideline constitution Indian cardinal says

BANGALORE (CNS): “Poverty is the mortal sin of modern times. It is the biggest terrorism and evil that needs to be fought by the Church,” said Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar. He was delivering the keynote address at the inaugural session of the 33rd general body meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) that began in Bengaluru on February 2 on the theme, United in diversity for a mission of mercy and witness.
 

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Those displaced by eruption in urgent need

LEGAZPI (Agencies): Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi said providing food for 84,000 people has become a “tall order” especially because of the constant threat posed by the erupting Mayon Volcano, UCAN reported on February 6.
 
The bishop said that Church leaders and government officials have been cooperating closely over the past few days to provide for the needs of displaced residents.
 

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Weapons licenses for Pakistan churches

QUETTA (UCAN): The provincial government in Balochistan, southwest Pakistan, plans to issue churches in the region with weapons licenses and has donated millions of rupees to Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta to support victims and families of a suicide bombing that killed nine people on 17 December 2017.
 
“The Balochistan Home Department will issue weapon licenses in the name of the churches,” Samuel Pyara, chairperson of the Implementation Minority Rights Forum (IMRF), said.
 

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Priests defending hospital charged with rioting

BHOPHAL (UCAN): Four Catholic priests have been charged with rioting and criminal intimidation in India’s Madhya Pradesh state over a land dispute involving a plot of land adjacent to the 44-year-old Pushpa Mission Hospital and a group of people from the Hindu, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who claim the plot is illegally occupied. 
 

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Cardinal calls for digital detox

MAKATI (SE): “Some people are proposing a digital detox… I don’t know how to do it. But they say, through silence, return to reflection and prayer life,” said Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the archbishop of Manila on January 19, CBCPNews reported.
 

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Southern Asia’s year of worshipping dangerously

Of course, it is almost impossible to get past the ongoing visceral horror of the plight of Myanmar’s ethnic Muslim Rohingya people; over 650,000 of them brutally forced from their homes onto the margins of existence into crowded, inadequate, life-threatening refugee camps.