Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Church’

Pope, in Egypt, Takes Aim at Violence Based on Religion

April 29, 2017

Trip comes in the wake of Palm Sunday church bombings in two cities

Pope Francis stands next to Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar [Andreas Solaro/AFP]
Pope Francis stands next to Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar [Andreas Solaro/AFP]
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In Egypt, Pope Condemns Religiously Inspired Violence
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Pope Francis issued one of his most extended condemnations yet of Islamist violence yet on Friday at Cairo’s Al-Alzhar University. Photo: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

CAIRO— Pope Francis opened a two-day visit to Egypt Friday with a forceful denunciation of religiously inspired violence and a call for religious freedom, three weeks after Islamic State terrorists killed more than 40 people in bombings at two of the country’s Christian churches.

The pope used the first speech of the trip to issue one of his most extended condemnations yet of Islamist violence. His remarks, addressed to an audience that included the leader of the most authoritative institution in the Sunni Muslim world, was at once a defense of the Middle East’s besieged Christian population and a challenge to Muslims to repudiate religious justifications for violence.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi greeting Pope Francis upon his arrival to Cairo on Friday.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi greeting Pope Francis upon his arrival to Cairo on Friday.PHOTO: THE EGYPTIAN PRESIDENCY/REUTERS

“Peace alone is holy and no act of violence can be perpetrated in the name of religion or in the name of God,” the pope told an international peace conference at Al-Azhar University. “Together let us affirm the incompatibility of violence and faith, belief and hatred.”

The pontiff balanced the speech with a strong warning against anti-Muslim sentiment in the developed world, suggesting it would only encourage terrorism.

“It is disconcerting to note that…demagogic forms of populism are on the rise,” he said, in an apparent allusion to anti-immigrant movements in the U.S. and western Europe. Such movements, he added, are “a gift to proponents of radicalism and violence.”

Related Video

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/popes-visit-expected-to-highlight-christian-minorities-in-middle-east-1493368215?mod=e2fb
Twin Attacks on Egyptian Churches Kill at Least 47
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© AFP / by Tony Gamal-Gabriel | Mourners pray next to coffins of the victims of the blast at the Coptic Christian Saint Mark’s church the previous day during a funeral procession east of Alexandria on April 10, 2017.  Coptic Christians were celebrating Palm Sunday at two separate places of worship in Egypt when they were struck by blasts claimed by Islamic State that killed at least 47 people and wounded more than 100.

Pope Francis, who has previously visited six Muslim-majority countries, has shown a steadfast commitment to close relations with the Muslim world, despite critics who say such dialogue has accomplished little in the face of Islamist violence.

Security was tight in Cairo when the pope landed, reflecting concerns following the attacks earlier this month. Only government and church officials were present at his arrival at the airport, streets that are normally packed were empty, and Egypt’s state-run media reported intensified security around churches. The country is already under a state of emergency imposed by President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi following the blasts earlier this month.

Although the pope followed his usual practice in declining an armored car, the Vatican took the unusual step of asking journalists not to reveal the locations of some of his appearances ahead of time.

The papal visit could give the extremists an opportunity to stage an attack aimed at stoking sectarian tensions and embarrassing the Egyptian government, said Andrew Freeman, a London-based analyst with Control Risks, a consulting firm.

A Half-Century of Interfaith Dialogue

The Catholic Church began reaching out to the Muslim world in the mid-1960s

Pope John Paul II prayed at Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi, Italy, on Oct. 27, 1986, with representatives of 12 world religions.
Pope John Paul II prayed at Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi, Italy, on Oct. 27, 1986, with representatives of 12 world religions. ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Pope John Paul II kissed the Quran in Vatican City in 1999.
Pope John Paul II kissed the Quran in Vatican City in 1999. L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Pope Benedict XVI greeted envoys from Muslim-majority countries at his summer residence in Castelgandolfo, outside Rome, on Sept. 25, 2006, after he made controversial remarks about Islam.
Pope Francis met with Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar in Cairo, at the Vatican on May 23, 2016. MAX ROSSI/PRESS POOL
Pope Benedict XVI greeted envoys from Muslim-majority countries at his summer residence in Castelgandolfo, outside Rome, on Sept. 25, 2006,
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Pope Benedict XVI visited the Blue Mosque in Istanbul on Nov. 30, 2006, becoming only the second pope, after John Paul II in Damascus in 2001, to set foot in a Muslim house of worship.
Pope Benedict XVI visited the Blue Mosque in Istanbul on Nov. 30, 2006, becoming only the second pope, after John Paul II in Damascus in 2001, to set foot in a Muslim house of worship.PATRICK HERTZOG/PRESS POOL
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Pope Francis welcomed Syrian refugees he had brought back with him to Rome from a refugee camp in Greece in April 2016.
Pope Francis welcomed Syrian refugees he had brought back with him to Rome from a refugee camp in Greece in April 2016. FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/PRESS POOL
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Pope Francis met with Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar in Cairo, at the Vatican on May 23, 2016.
Pope Francis met with Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar in Cairo, at the Vatican on May 23, 2016. MAX ROSSI/PRESS POOL
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Pope Paul VI waved to a crowd while standing next to King Hussein of Jordan after arriving in Amman on Jan. 4, 1964. The next year, the Second Vatican Council issued a pathbreaking document on dialogue with non-Christian religions, including Islam.
Pope Paul VI waved to a crowd while standing next to King Hussein of Jordan after arriving in Amman on Jan. 4, 1964. The next year, the Second Vatican Council issued a pathbreaking document on dialogue with non-Christian religions, including Islam. ASSOCIATED PRESS

“But Islamic State is also pragmatic,” Mr. Freeman said, and would likely be deterred by the heightened security around the pope. He said the group was likely, however, to carry out an attack elsewhere in Egypt, most probably its stronghold in North Sinai, within a few days of the pope’s visit.

The pope’s appearance at Al-Azhar was a significant gesture of outreach. The university and the Vatican resumed contacts earlier this year, six years after Al-Azhar cut them off to protest remarks by Pope Benedict XVI about the need for Egypt to protect its Christian minority from terrorist attacks.

Although Christians enjoy equality under the law with Egypt’s Muslim majority, they suffer widespread social discrimination and have been the targets of large-scale terrorist attacks and individual killings.

In his speech, Pope Francis called for combating terrorism and intolerance by teaching the young “their rights and basic freedoms, particularly religious freedom.” He also urged a fight against the “poverty and exploitation” that he said nourish extremism, and cutting off the flow of armaments and money that fuel violence.

Pope Tawadros II, leader of Egypt’s Orthodox Coptic Christians, led prayers at St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo on April 15.

Pope Tawadros II, leader of Egypt’s Orthodox Coptic Christians, led prayers at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo on April 15. PHOTO: NARIMAN EL-MOFTY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The pope’s speech followed remarks by the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayeb, who said no religion should be blamed “for the crimes of any small group of followers.” His examples included Islamist terrorists, but he also said Judaism wasn’t to blame for Israel “occupying lands and extirpating millions of the indigenous, defenseless, civilian citizens of the Palestinian people.”

Addressing Mr. Sisi and an audience of diplomats and other dignitaries later on Friday, Pope Francis called for “unconditional respect for inalienable human rights such as equality among all citizens, religious freedom and freedom of expression.”

Human-rights advocates have denounced Mr. Sisi for abuses since he came to power in 2013 after a military coup that overthrew President Mohammed Morsi.

Later Friday, the pope also visited Pope Tawadros II, leader of Egypt’s Orthodox Coptic Christians, who account for the vast majority of Egypt’s Christians. Egypt has the Middle East’s largest Christian community, with about 9.5 million people, or 10% of the country’s total population. Pope Tawadros was inside the cathedral in Alexandria on Palm Sunday when a suicide bomber exploded a bomb just outside.

Pope Francis told his counterpart that their two churches were growing closer together through common suffering in an “ecumenism of blood” exemplified by the recent attacks on Orthodox Copts.

The two popes signed a joint declaration recognizing baptism in either church as valid in the other—a milestone in reunification of the two churches, which split in the fifth century. Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros then prayed together at Cairo’s Church of St. Peter, site of a December bombing that killed 29 people.

On Saturday morning, Pope Francis is scheduled to celebrate Mass at Cairo’s Air Defense Stadium for some of the country’s Catholics, estimated to number fewer than 300,000. Atef Grace, 60, a retired government worker, said he would be attending the Mass in spite of security concerns. “We’ve only got one life and one God. I’ll leave it to Him,” he said.

The pope will also address Egyptian Catholic priests, nuns and seminarians on Saturday before departing for Rome in the afternoon.

Write to Francis X. Rocca at francis.rocca@wsj.com

Appeared in the Apr. 29, 2017, print edition as ‘In Egypt, Pope Decries Religious Violence.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/popes-visit-expected-to-highlight-christian-minorities-in-middle-east-1493368215?mod=e2fb

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© Mohamed El-Shahed / AFP (file photo) | Members of the Egyptian police special forces stand guard on Cairo’s landmark Tahrir Square on January 25, 2016.

Relatives of a Christian woman who was killed in the bombing of Cairo's main Coptic cathedral carry her casked in Cairo on Monday.
Relatives of a Christian woman who was killed in the bombing of Cairo’s main Coptic cathedral carry her casked in Cairo on December 14, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
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 (December 2016)
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Members of the special police forces stand guard to secure the area around St. Mark"s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral after an explosion inside the cathedral in Cairo

The building bombed in December 2016 is next to St Mark’s Coptic Cathedral, seat of the church’s pope. Reuters Photo

A Christian employee at Cairo's Coptic Cathedral checks for damage from the blast after an explosion inside the cathedral in Cairo

The interior of the church, where Christians had gathered, was also hit in the explosion. AP photo

Image result for Reina nightclub attack, photos

Islamist gunman Abdulgadir Masharipov killed 39 people  in the Reina nightclub shooting on January 1, 2017, in Istanbul. © Dogan News Agency/AFP/File

 (December 11, 2016)

David Dosha, the priest of the Church of Mart Shmoni, located in the Christian Iraqi town of Bartella. (Safin Hamed/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

An Iraqi Christian forces member lights a candle at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on October 30, 2016 in the town of Qaraqosh (also known as Hamdaniya), 30 kms east of Mosul, after Iraqi forces recaptured it from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (AFP/ SAFIN HAMED)
An Iraqi Christian forces member lights a candle at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on October 30, 2016 in the town of Qaraqosh (also known as Hamdaniya), 30 kms east of Mosul, after Iraqi forces recaptured it from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (AFP/ SAFIN HAMED)
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26 July 2016
A photo of Priest Jacques Hamel taken from the website of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray parish84 year-old Father Jacques Hamel was giving morning Mass when the Islamist attackers stormed his church. AFP

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The Isis jihadist group

Philippines: Presidential Spokesman Calls 7,000 Extrajudicial Killings “Fake News” (It’s actually more like 9,000) — Further Erodes Credibility of Philippine Government, Philippine National Police (PNP)

April 21, 2017
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella called reports on more than 7,000 extralegal killings “false news.” PCOO/King Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson on Friday called reports of nearly 9,000 drug-related deaths “false news,” months after media organizations and international groups used the figure in their reports.

Ernesto Abella, the presidential spokesperson, said that the persistent reports of more 7,000 killed, which is now said to be nearly 9,000, was “false news” as the Philippine National Police (PNP) said that the figure was much lower.

“On the number of extrajudicial deaths, the persistent news reports of 7,000 killed, which is now being said to be close to 9,000, is false,” Abella said.

The president’s spokesperson said that based on official police data there were only 6,011 homicide cases being investigated. Of the figure, only 1,398 cases were found to be drug related, contrary to reports that 9,000 have already been killed in anti-illegal drugs operations, Abella said.

Abella, meanwhile, called on organizations which report on drug incidents to be fair and not to rush to judgment as he emphasized that people appreciated the changes being implemented by the administration and the way these were carried out.

“We ask to be understood not just from a single perspective, but from the point of view of Filipinos who desire change, stability and fairness,” Abella said.

The number of murders and homicide cases, however, have risen dramatically at the start of the Duterte administration last year despite government’s denial that they are related to the brutal war on drugs. Drug experts also acknowledge that stringent law enforcement policy against narcotics have historically resulted in unnecessary violence and deaths.

Abella’s comments came days after a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that public satisfaction with the government’s conduct of the war on drugs plunging by 11 points, from +77 in December 2016 to +66 in March 2017.

He also assuaged American concern on the increasing extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, saying that those who breached protocol would be made to account.

“We share the concern of US Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy, who has been quoted in the media saying ‘there are elements of the drug war that are operating outside the rule of law,’” the spokesperson said.

Abella said that the PNP has an Internal Affairs Service which would probe into cases of police violations.

“This body can suspend or dismiss PNP personnel based on violations incurred and can recommend the filing of criminal charges,” he said.

He said that security forces followed procedures in conducting their operations although force may be used to protect the safety of the police.

“Local authorities follow operation protocols and the proper enforcement of our laws requires the use of reasonable force merited by the attendant circumstances,” he said.

Not a single cop, however, has been accused by police investigators before a court of unjustifiably killing drug suspects in police operations. President Rodrigo Duterte himself said he will defend and pardon cops accused of wrongdoing in the field.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/04/21/1692511/abella-calls-7000-extrajudicial-killings-fake-news

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Discarded — The body of a dead Filipino girl — killed in President Duterte’s war on drugs — looks like it has been put out with the trash….. Presidential spokeman Abella said the war on drugs is for the next generation of Filipinos.
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) talks to Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald Dela Rosa. AFP photo

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Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa

Philippines: Human Rights Watch director Phelim Kline also said the numbers of fatalities in the drug war launched by President Rodrigo Duterte when he assumed office on June 30, 2016, are “appalling but predictable” since he (Duterte) vowed to “forget the laws on human rights.”

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Philippines Policeman found tortured and strangled after some fellow police said he was involved in the illegal drug trade. Photo Credit Boy Cruz

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/07/08/1600763/cop-linked-drugs-tortured-killed

 (December 23, 2016)

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 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

“They are afraid the incident could cause President Duterte to declare martial law. I talked with some sultans and ulamas and elders here… and that’s what they have told me,” Ponyo said.

 (November 30, 2016)

 

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High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo, Jean-Marc Ferré

Summary executions of supposed drug dealers and other criminals have become a common occurence in recent weeks. The STAR/Joven Cagande, file

 (November 16, 2016)

 

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Davao City’s Ronald dela Rosa has been appointed to become the next chief of the Philippine National Police to lead President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s planned crackdown on illegal drugs. Facebook/Dela Rosa
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Crime scene investigators examine a vehicle used by two drug suspects killed during an alleged shootout with officers along NIA Road in Quezon City on June 21, 2016. JOVEN CAGANDE/file
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President Rodrigo Duterte's crusade against drug users and dealers is controversial

 

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry's Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry’s Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Health officials closed Henry's Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Health officials closed Henry’s Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Philippines: National Police killings ‘committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population’ — ‘Reign of terror’ — ‘Extermination’ — Insiders talking to evidence gatherers for the International Criminal Court

April 18, 2017
At least 39 people were killed in police operations during Holy Week as Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa proved true to his word that there would be no Lenten break in the war on drugs. AP/Bullit Marquez, file
  • Almost 9,000 people killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June
  • Two senior officials have claimed that police orchestrated many of those killings 
  • Police paid to kill drug suspects and – for 10,000 pesos ($200) a head – rapists, pickpockets, swindlers, gang members, alcoholics and other ‘troublemakers’

The Philippine police have given bonuses for killing drug suspects, planted evidence at crime scenes and carried out most of the murders they blamed on vigilantes, said two senior officers.

The officials, who are critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘war on drugs,’ challenged the government’s explanations of the killings in interviews.

Almost 9,000 people, many small-time users and dealers, have been killed since Duterte took office on June 30. Police say about a third of the victims were shot by officers in self-defence during legitimate anti-drug operations.

Human rights monitors believe the remaining two thirds were killed by paid assassins working with police or by police disguised as vigilantes – a charge the police deny.

Philippine police have received cash payments for executing drug suspects, planted evidence at crime scenes and carried out most of the killings they have long blamed on vigilantes, claim officials critical of President Rodrigo Duterte's (pictured) 'war on drugs'

Philippine police have received cash payments for executing drug suspects, planted evidence at crime scenes and carried out most of the killings they have long blamed on vigilantes, claim officials critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s (pictured) ‘war on drugs’

The two senior officers, one a retired police intelligence officer and the other an active-duty commander, claimed the killings are in fact orchestrated by the police, including most of those carried out by vigilantes. They spoke on the condition of anonymity.

‘It is the Philippine National Police doing it,’ said the retired intelligence officer.

‘This killing machine must be buried six feet under the ground.’ He said he was angry about the impact of the killings on police discipline and wanted ‘to put Duterte on the defensive.’ Reuters was unable to independently verify if the police are behind vigilante killings.

The president’s office and the Philippine police did not respond to questions from Reuters.

The intelligence officer has authored an unpublished 26-page report on the conduct of the drug war in an effort to organize opposition to Duterte’s campaign.

The report, titled ‘The State-Sponsored Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines,’ provides granular detail on the campaign’s alleged methods, masterminds and perpetrators. The document has been shared with leaders of the Catholic Church in the Philippines and with the government-funded Commission on Human Rights.

Some of the report’s accusations against individuals could not be confirmed by Reuters; the news agency is therefore not publishing the full document.

Many of its findings, however, support and expand upon previous investigations of the drug war by Reuters and independent human rights monitors.

Human rights monitors believe paid assassins operating with police backing or by police disguised as vigilantes killed two thirds of the 9,000 people who have died since June 30 - a charge police deny

Human rights monitors believe paid assassins operating with police backing or by police disguised as vigilantes killed two thirds of the 9,000 people who have died since June 30 – a charge police deny

The report claims that police are paid to kill not just drug suspects, but also – for 10,000 pesos ($200) a head – rapists, pickpockets, swindlers, gang members, alcoholics and other ‘troublemakers.’

It also claims that civilian members of the so-called Davao Death Squad, which rights activists allege killed hundreds of people in Duterte’s hometown of Davao, were drafted to ‘augment and assist’ the police’s current nationwide anti-drug operation.

The report doesn’t provide documentary evidence for its accusations, which the intelligence officer said were based on accounts from 17 serving or former policemen, including the commander Reuters interviewed. The police commander said he agreed to talk because he was upset that authorities are targeting only petty drug suspects. ‘Why aren’t they killing the suppliers?’ he asked. ‘Only the poor are dying.’

The second half of the report is largely political in nature, asserting that Duterte has close ties to Communist forces in the Philippines. Many in the military and police are concerned by what they see as Duterte’s leftist sympathies. Since taking office, the president has released Communist rebels from prison to restart peace talks.

The report also calls the drug war a ‘social cleansing’ campaign similar to that launched in Mao Zedong’s China, with Duterte aiming to have drug addicts ‘physically eliminated.’

The Commission on Human Rights has reviewed the report and the accounts could open up new leads in ongoing investigations, said chairman Chito Gascon. Church officials confirmed receiving the report as well.

A report claims that police are paid to kill not just drug suspects, but also - for 10,000 pesos ($200) a head - rapists, pickpockets, swindlers, gang members, alcoholics and other 'troublemakers' (pictured, police interrogating local residents in operation against drugs

A report claims that police are paid to kill not just drug suspects, but also – for 10,000 pesos ($200) a head – rapists, pickpockets, swindlers, gang members, alcoholics and other ‘troublemakers’ (pictured, police interrogating local residents in operation against drugs

‘We should do all we can to follow any lead that could ultimately shed light on these killings with the view to ultimately holding the perpetrators to account,’ said Gascon.

The fresh claims come amid growing criticism of the drug war. In February, the country’s influential Catholic Church called it a ‘reign of terror.’ The campaign has also sparked street protests and lawsuits.

Duterte’s police chief, Ronald Dela Rosa, halted police operations for most of February after it emerged that an anti-drug unit had kidnapped and murdered a South Korean businessman last year. The killings continued but at a slower pace. On March 6, Dela Rosa announced that the police were resuming their drug operations.

In March, a former policeman, Arturo Lascanas, testified in the Philippine Senate about his role in vigilante-style killings in the southern city of Davao, where Duterte was once mayor. Lascanas was the second Senate witness to link Duterte to the Davao Death Squad. Duterte denies ordering any killings, either as president or mayor.

In a subsequent interview, Lascanas told Reuters that for over a decade he was paid for carrying out the liquidation of drug suspects and criminals. In the early 1990s, he said, he was paid 3,000 to 5,000 pesos ($60-$100) for each of the ‘jobs’ he performed.

By the early 2000s he was earning tens of thousands of pesos for each operation, he said. Lascanas said he had no documentary proof of the payments. He has since left the country.

In the past nine months, police acknowledge having shot dead more than 2,600 suspects during their operations. They say such shootings occur after suspects open fire on undercover officers trying to catch them dealing drugs.

It also claims that civilian members of the so-called Davao Death Squad, which rights activists allege killed hundreds of people in Duterte's hometown of Davao, were drafted to 'augment and assist' the police's current nationwide anti-drug operation. Pictured, Duterte with Trade Secretary Liam Fox)

It also claims that civilian members of the so-called Davao Death Squad, which rights activists allege killed hundreds of people in Duterte’s hometown of Davao, were drafted to ‘augment and assist’ the police’s current nationwide anti-drug operation. Pictured, Duterte with UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox

But these so-called ‘buy-busts’ are actually well-planned executions, said the commander interviewed by Reuters. The commander said targets are chosen from lists of suspects drawn up by police and local officials, who later coordinate to unplug security cameras in the neighbourhood where a killing is planned. According to the report, street lamps are also switched off.

‘There is no such thing as a legitimate buy-bust,’ the commander said. ‘The dealers know the cops and won’t sell to them.’

Instead, he said, a team of police operatives will execute the target, who is almost always unarmed, then plant guns and drugs at the crime scene to justify the use of deadly force.

‘We have to plant evidence for the legality of the operation,’ the commander said. ‘We are ordered to do these operations, so we have to protect ourselves.’

The commander said officers put the gun in the dead suspect’s hand and pull the trigger with the victim’s finger so forensic testing will show that the suspect fired a gun.

Late last year, he said, police crime-scene investigators told their fellow officers to place the guns at a slight distance from the suspects, rather than in their hands, to make things look more realistic.

Most drug suspects in his precinct are shot by rookie cops who are either eager for the experience or nominated by their superiors, the commander said. The superiors refer to this as a ‘baptism by fire.’

Each member of the team is quickly paid according to two factors, said the commander: his role in the killing and the target’s value.

According to the report, the cash ‘reward scales’ for drug killings range from 20,000 pesos ($400) for a ‘street level pusher and user,’ to 50,000 pesos for a member of a neighborhood council, one million pesos for ‘distributors, retailers and wholesalers,’ and five million for ‘drug lords.’

Police officers kill for money, said the commander, but also out of fear: Even the police are afraid of being included on a ‘watch list’ of drug suspects drawn up by police and local officials.

Officials have been killed for not cooperating, he added. He said he was aware of two cases but did not provide details on exactly what happened.

Most drug suspects in his precinct are shot by rookie cops who are either eager for the experience or nominated by their superiors, the commander said. Pictured, armed Filipino policemen stand guard next to the wall of a prison facility

Most drug suspects in his precinct are shot by rookie cops who are either eager for the experience or nominated by their superiors, the commander said. Pictured, armed Filipino policemen stand guard next to the wall of a prison facility

Reuters reported last year that the watch lists were effectively hit lists, with many of those named ending up dead. Another Reuters investigation showed that police officers were killing 97 percent of the suspects they confront in violent buy-bust operations, the strongest evidence yet that the police were summarily executing suspects.

Officers also cooperate because they know the police force’s flawed disciplinary system, which fails to adequately investigate even a fraction of the killings, means there is little chance they will get caught, said the intelligence officer.

One sign of the drug war’s success, says the government, is that more than a million users and pushers have voluntarily registered with the police, a process known as ‘surrendering.’

But the commander said police are given a quota of ‘surrenderers,’ and fill it by using city ordinances to arrest men who are drunk or shirtless – a misdemeanor known as ‘half-naked’ – then forcing them to register as drug suspects.

Reuters learned of the intelligence officer’s 26-page report from him and interviewed two Catholic priests in Manila who said they had encouraged him to compile it. One of the priests said he edited the report; the other said he helped distribute it among a small group of clerics and human rights activists. Both are helping organize opposition to Duterte’s drug campaign.

The Church’s initial reluctance to criticize Duterte’s drug war was prompted by a desire to ‘give him a chance’ when he took office, said one of the priests. But the killings, along with the president’s overtures to Communists, made many in the Church feel their values were under attack, he said.

The intelligence officer said he hoped the report would be used as evidence at the International Criminal Court. In October, the Hague-based tribunal said it could prosecute suspects if the killings were ‘committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4421430/Police-kill-rewards-staged-crime-scenes-Dutertes-drug-war.html#ixzz4ecS4W7LE
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) talks to Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald Dela Rosa. AFP photo

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Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa

Philippines: Human Rights Watch director Phelim Kline also said the numbers of fatalities in the drug war launched by President Rodrigo Duterte when he assumed office on June 30, 2016, are “appalling but predictable” since he (Duterte) vowed to “forget the laws on human rights.”

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No automatic alt text available.

Philippines Policeman found tortured and strangled after some fellow police said he was involved in the illegal drug trade. Photo Credit Boy Cruz

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/07/08/1600763/cop-linked-drugs-tortured-killed

 (December 23, 2016)

Discarded — The body of a dead Filipino girl looks like it has been put out with the trash…..
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 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

“They are afraid the incident could cause President Duterte to declare martial law. I talked with some sultans and ulamas and elders here… and that’s what they have told me,” Ponyo said.

 (November 30, 2016)

 

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High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo, Jean-Marc Ferré

Summary executions of supposed drug dealers and other criminals have become a common occurence in recent weeks. The STAR/Joven Cagande, file

 (November 16, 2016)

 

 (August 10, 2016)

Davao City’s Ronald dela Rosa has been appointed to become the next chief of the Philippine National Police to lead President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s planned crackdown on illegal drugs. Facebook/Dela Rosa
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Crime scene investigators examine a vehicle used by two drug suspects killed during an alleged shootout with officers along NIA Road in Quezon City on June 21, 2016. JOVEN CAGANDE/file
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President Rodrigo Duterte's crusade against drug users and dealers is controversial

 

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry's Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry’s Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Health officials closed Henry's Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Health officials closed Henry’s Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Philippines: Catholic Church will participate in the establishment of community-based rehabilitation centers for drug users in at least 20 parishes in Metro Manila.

April 18, 2017
/ 05:20 PM April 18, 2017
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Despite the rocky relationship between President Duterte and the Catholic Church, the religious sector and some government institutions will work together “to win the war against illegal drugs.”

The Catholic Church and concerned government agencies are set to discuss on Wednesday how to speed up the establishment of community-based rehabilitation centers for drug users in at least 20 parishes in Metro Manila.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo and members of some laity organizations will meet with representatives from different government agencies at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila, according to Interior Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III.

Image result for Bishop Broderick Pabillo, photos

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo

The government agencies joining the meeting are the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Department of Health (DOH).

“We will be meeting so that we can discuss the community-based rehab centers that we will put up immediately. This is ASAP,” Densing said in an ambush interview on Tuesday.

The target is to have rehabilitation centers in at least 20 parishes  which can accommodate drug abusers from around 80 to 90 barangays, said Densing.

The community centers are included in the “out-patient component” of the government’s drug rehabilitation efforts as it will mostly admit the “experimenters” or those who use drugs once a week or once a month.

Asked about the funding, Densing said parishes will help raise the money to support the community-based centers, aside from the government budget that was allotted for the barangay anti-drug abuse councils (Badac).

“Once we’ve established the community-based rehab centers, we might require the barangays to put in some of their Badac budgets to support the community-based rehab centers. So it’s both a government and non-government (effort),” he said.

Densing said parishes will provide personnel to run the center while the government will provide supplemental needs like skills training care of Tesda, classification of drug surrenderers by the DOH, after-care program from the DSWD while the DILG and local government units will provide additional support.

As for the patients, the assistant secretary said they will get the list of “Tokhang” surrenderers from the PNP and the barangays.

“Hindi pa pinag-uusapan (We have not discussed it) in detail, but definitely there will [be] a strategy to ask the surrenderer to undertake the community rehab center,” he said.

If the program becomes successful, Densing hopes that other faith-based organizations can follow suit all over the country.

“That’s why we’re expediting this. We’re taking away all the red tape in organizing. When we met with Bishop Pabillo, the first thing I told them was to forget about all the paperwork. Let’s just put this into a running program and then maybe later on the paperwork will follow,” he said.

“Kung ito kasama natin ang simbahan, ang private sector at LGUs (If the church, the private sector and LGUs are on our side), I’m quite sure we will [win] the war against drugs,” Densing added./ac /rga

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/890088/drug-rehab-centers-to-be-put-up-in-metro-manila-parishes#ixzz4eb7yCkkm
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Pope to wash feet of mafia snitches in Easter ritual

April 13, 2017

AFP

Pope Francis pictured in 2016, washing feet at the Castelnuovo di Porto refugees centre near Rome. AFP photo

VATICAN CITY (AFP) – 

Pope Francis will wash the feet of former mafiosi on Thursday in a prison known for housing collaborators of justice who inform on old mobster allies.

The closed-door visit to Paliano prison outside Rome will see the 80-year-old pontiff kneel before a small group of inmates, pouring water over their feet, drying them with a towel and bending to kiss them in an age-old Easter tradition.

The inmates include some 50 former mafiosi who made a deal to provide anti-mafia prosecutors with information in exchange for shorter prison sentence, the chaplain prison said.

“Everyone has the right to make a mistake. We have all been mistaken in one way or another,” Francis said in reference to prisoners in an interview published Thursday in the Repubblica daily ahead of the ceremony.

The Argentine went on to lament “the little trust placed in rehabilitation, in reintegration into society”.

The rite, performed yearly on Maundy or Holy Thursday, commemorates Jesus Christ’s Last Supper with the apostles.

In Christian tradition Jesus is said to have washed their feet ahead of the meal in a gesture of humility.

In 2014 Francis excommunicated members of the mafia, which he called “the adoration of evil and contempt for common good”.

Thursday’s ceremony is part of the run-up to Easter Sunday.

Since his election in 2013, the pope has moved the feet washing ceremony outside the walls of the Vatican and into centres for vulnerable people or those on society’s margins.

In his first year he visited a youth detention centre where he performed the ritual on a group of young inmates including two Muslims — the first Catholic leader ever to do so.

In 2014 he washed the feet of elderly and disabled people, in 2015 he did so in a prison and last year he chose a migrant reception centre.

© 2017 AFP

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Palm Sunday attack in Egypt is the latest strike in the war on Christians — Christians are by far the most persecuted religious body on Earth

April 11, 2017

By John Allen Jr.
The Spectator

At least 36 people have died in Egypt after blasts targeted Coptic Christians on Palm Sunday. Today’s attack is just the latest strike in the war on Christians in the Middle East. As Jonathan Sacks observed: ‘until recently, Christians represented 20 percent of the population of the Middle East; today, 4 percent’. In 2013, John L. Allen Jr. wrote for The Spectator on the global persecution of churchgoers — the unreported catastrophe of our time. Unfortunately, the article still holds true today.

Imagine if correspondents in late 1944 had reported the Battle of the Bulge, but without explaining that it was a turning point in the second world war. Or what if finance reporters had told the story of the AIG meltdown in 2008 without adding that it raised questions about derivatives and sub-prime mortgages that could augur a vast financial implosion?

Most people would say that journalists had failed to provide the proper context to understand the news. Yet that’s routinely what media outlets do when it comes to outbreaks of anti-Christian persecution around the world, which is why the global war on Christians remains the greatest story never told of the early 21st century.

In recent days, people around the world have been appalled by images of attacks on churches in Pakistan, where 85 people died when two suicide bombers rushed the Anglican All Saints Church in Peshawar, and in Kenya, where an assault on a Catholic church in Wajir left one dead and two injured.

Those atrocities are indeed appalling, but they cannot truly be understood without being seen as small pieces of a much larger narrative. Consider three points about the landscape of anti-Christian persecution today, as shocking as they are generally unknown. According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular observatory based in Frankfurt, Germany, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians. Statistically speaking, that makes Christians by far the most persecuted religious body on the planet.

According to the Pew Forum, between 2006 and 2010 Christians faced some form of discrimination, either de jure or de facto, in a staggering total of 139 nations, which is almost three-quarters of all the countries on earth. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, an average of 100,000 Christians have been killed in what the centre calls a ‘situation of witness’ each year for the past decade. That works out to 11 Christians killed somewhere in the world every hour, seven days a week and 365 days a year, for reasons related to their faith.

In effect, the world is witnessing the rise of an entire new generation of Christian martyrs. The carnage is occurring on such a vast scale that it represents not only the most dramatic Christian story of our time, but arguably the premier human rights challenge of this era as well.

To put flesh and blood on those statistics, all one has to do is look around. In Baghdad, Islamic militants stormed the Syriac Catholic cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation on 31 October 2010, killing the two priests celebrating Mass and leaving a total of 58 people dead. Though shocking, the assault was far from unprecedented; of the 65 Christian churches in Baghdad, 40 have been bombed at least once since the beginning of the 2003 US-led invasion.

The effect of this campaign of violence and intimidation has been devastating for Christianity in the country. At the time of the first Gulf War in 1991, Iraq boasted a flourishing Christian population of at least 1.5 million. Today the high-end estimate for the number of Christians left is around 500,000, and realistically many believe it could be as low as 150,000. Most of these Iraqi Christians have gone into exile, but a staggering number have been killed.

India’s northeastern state of Orissa was the scene of the most violent anti-Christian pogrom of the early 21st century. In 2008, a series of riots ended with as many as 500 Christians killed, many hacked to death by machete-wielding Hindu radicals; thousands more were injured and at least 50,000 left homeless. Many Christians fled to hastily prepared displacement camps, where some languished for two years or more.

An estimated 5,000 Christian homes, along with 350 churches and schools, were destroyed. A Catholic nun, Sister Meena Barwa, was raped during the mayhem, then marched naked and beaten. Police sympathetic to the radicals discouraged the nun from filing a report, and declined to arrest her attackers.

In Burma, members of the Chin and Karen ethnic groups, who are strongly Christian, are considered dissidents by the regime and routinely subjected to imprisonment, torture, forced labour, and murder. In October 2010, the Burmese military launched helicopter strikes in territories where the country’s Christians are concentrated.

A Burmese Air Force source told reporters that the junta had declared these areas ‘black zones’, where military personnel were authorised to attack and kill Christian targets on sight. Though there are no precise counts, thousands of Burmese Christians are believed to have been killed in the offensive.

In Nigeria, the militant Islamic movement ‘Boko Haram’ is held responsible for almost 3,000 deaths since 2009, including 800 fatalities last year alone. The movement has made a speciality out of targeting Christians and their churches, and in some cases they seem determined to drive Christians out altogether from parts of the country.

In December 2011, local Boko Haram spokesmen announced that all Christians in the northern Yobe and Borno states had three days to get out, and followed up with a spate of church bombings on 5 and 6 January 2012, which left at least 26 Christians dead, as well as two separate shooting sprees in which eight more Christians died. In the aftermath, hundreds of Christians fled the area, and many are still displaced. Over Christmas last year, at least 15 Christians are believed to have had their throats cut by Boko Haram assailants.

North Korea is widely considered the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian, where roughly a quarter of the country’s 200,000 to 400,000 Christians are believed to be living in forced labour camps for their refusal to join the national cult around founder Kim Il Sung. The anti-Christian animus is so strong that people with Christian grandparents are frozen out of the most important jobs — even though Kim Il Sung’s mother was a Presbyterian deaconess. Since the armistice in 1953 that stabilised the division of the peninsula, some 300,000 Christians in North Korea have disappeared and are presumed dead.

As these examples illustrate, anti-Christian violence is hardly limited to a ‘clash of civilisations’ between Christianity and Islam. In truth, Christians face a bewildering variety of threats, with no single enemy and no single strategy best adapted to curb the violence.

Though fellow believers in the West may have special reason for feeling concern, the reality is that no confessional convictions at all are required to justify alarm over this rising tide of anti-Christian animus.

Because the bulk of the globe’s 2.3 billion Christians today are impoverished and live in the developing world, and because they are often members of ethnic, cultural and linguistic minorities, experts regard their treatment as a reliable indicator of a society’s broader record on human rights and dignity. Just as one didn’t have to be Jewish in the 1970s to care about dissident Jews in the Soviet Union, nor black in the 1980s to be outraged by the Apartheid regime in South Africa, one doesn’t have to be Christian today to see the defence of persecuted Christians as a towering priority.

Why are the dimensions of this global war so often overlooked? Aside from the root fact that the victims are largely non-white and poor, and thus not considered ‘newsmakers’ in the classic sense, and that they tend to live and die well off the radar screen of western attention, the global war also runs up against the outdated stereotype of Christianity as the oppressor rather than the oppressed.

Say ‘religious persecution’ to most makers of cultured secular opinion, and they will think of the Crusades, the Inquisition, Bruno and Galileo, the Wars of Religion and the Salem witch trials. Today, however, we do not live on the pages of a Dan Brown potboiler, in which Christians are dispatching mad assassins to settle historical scores. Instead, they’re the ones fleeing assassins others have dispatched.

Moreover, public discussion of religious freedom issues often suffers from two sets of blinders. First, it’s generally phrased in terms of western church/state tensions, such as the recent tug-of-war between religious leaders in the United States and the Obama White House over contraception mandates as part of health care reform, or tensions in the United Kingdom over the 2010 Equality Act and its implications for church-affiliated adoption agencies vis-à-vis same-sex couples. The truth is that in the West, a threat to religious freedom means someone might get sued; in many other parts of the world, it means someone might get shot, and surely the latter is the more dramatic scenario.

Secondly, discussion is sometimes limited by an overly narrow conception of what constitutes ‘religious violence’. If a female catechist is killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for instance, because she’s persuading young people to stay out of militias and criminal gangs, one might say that’s a tragedy but not martyrdom, because her assailants weren’t driven by hatred of the Christian faith. Yet the crucial point isn’t just what was in the mind of her killers, but what was in the heart of that catechist, who knowingly put her life on the line to serve the gospel. To make her attackers’ motives the only test, rather than her own, is to distort reality.

Whatever the motives for the silence, it’s well past time for it to end. Pope Francis recognised this in remarks during a General Audience last month.

‘When I hear that so many Christians in the world are suffering, am I indifferent, or is it as if a member of my own family is suffering?’ the Pope asked his following. ‘Am I open to that brother or that sister in my family who’s giving his or her life for Jesus Christ?’

In 2011, the Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, who leads a church with more than its fair share of new martyrs, phrased the same questions more plaintively during a conference in London. He bluntly asked: ‘Does anybody hear our cry? How many atrocities must we endure before somebody, somewhere, comes to our aid?’

There may be no question about the destiny of Christianity in the early 21st century more deserving of a compelling answer.

John L. Allen Jr is author of The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution.

https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2017/04/todays-attack-egypt-latest-strike-war-christians-middle-east/#

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Islamist gunman Abdulgadir Masharipov killed 39 people  in the Reina nightclub shooting on January 1, 2017, in Istanbul. © Dogan News Agency/AFP/File

 (December 11, 2016)

David Dosha, the priest of the Church of Mart Shmoni, located in the Christian Iraqi town of Bartella. (Safin Hamed/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

An Iraqi Christian forces member lights a candle at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on October 30, 2016 in the town of Qaraqosh (also known as Hamdaniya), 30 kms east of Mosul, after Iraqi forces recaptured it from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (AFP/ SAFIN HAMED)
An Iraqi Christian forces member lights a candle at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on October 30, 2016 in the town of Qaraqosh (also known as Hamdaniya), 30 kms east of Mosul, after Iraqi forces recaptured it from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (AFP/ SAFIN HAMED)
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A photo of Priest Jacques Hamel taken from the website of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray parish84 year-old Father Jacques Hamel was giving morning Mass when the Islamist attackers stormed his church. AFP 

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The Isis jihadist group

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Attacks Shows ISIS’ New Plan: Divide Egypt by Killing Christians

CAIRO — Grief and rage flowed through Egypt’s Christian community on Monday as tear-streaked mourners buried the victims of the coordinated Palm Sunday church bombings that killed 45 people in two cities. The cabinet declared that a state of emergency was in effect. A newspaper was pulled off newsstands after it criticized the government.

It was just the reaction the Islamic State wanted.

Routed from its stronghold on the coast of Libya, besieged in Iraq and wilting under intense pressure in Syria, the militant extremist group urgently needs to find a new battleground where it can start to proclaim victory again. The devastating suicide attacks on Sunday in the heart of the Middle East’s largest Christian community suggested it has found a solution: the cities of mainland Egypt.

Since December, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has signaled its intent to wage a sectarian war in Egypt by slaughtering Christians in their homes, businesses and places of worship. Several factors lie behind the vicious campaign, experts say: a desire to weaken Egypt’s authoritarian leader, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi; a need to gain a foothold in Egypt beyond the remote Sinai deserts where jihadists have been battling the army for years; and a desire to foment a vicious sectarian conflict that would tear at Egypt’s delicate social fabric and destabilize the state.

“There’s a significant propaganda factor to this,” said Mokhtar Awad, a militancy expert at George Washington University. “ISIS wants to show that it can attack one of the Arab world’s most populous countries.

Few believe it can succeed. The sheer demographics of Egypt mitigate any Iraq-type success, in which the Islamic State fed off deep tensions between Sunnis and Shiites. Christians make up just 10 percent of Egypt’s people, who are mostly Sunni Muslims, and despite deep-rooted prejudices, there is no popular support for a bloody pogrom.

Yet for now, unless the Egyptian government can bridge its wide security gaps, Egypt’s Christians seem likely to bear the brunt of the Islamic State’s ambitions — and the fight could have broader consequences for civil liberties and political freedoms in a country where both are already in short supply.

A line of wooden coffins borne by Boy Scouts, and marked with the word “martyr,” filed through the doors of an ancient monastery on the outskirts of Alexandria on Monday. A mournful drumbeat accompanied the procession. The coffins held the remains of some of the 17 people killed on Sunday in a blast at the gates of St. Mark’s Cathedral, the historic seat of Christendom in Egypt. It was perhaps the most ambitious of the two attacks because the Coptic patriarch, Tawadros II, had been inside the church at the time.

The scene also stepped up pressure on Mr. Sisi, who counts Christian leaders among his staunchest allies.

His response, the imposition of a three-month state of emergency, was met with a national shrug. Egyptians have lived under a state of emergency for 44 of the past 50 years, and Mr. Sisi already has vast powers that have led to the imprisonment of his rivals, mass trials and unfettered surveillance of enemies.

This state of emergency, due to be approved by the rubber-stamp Parliament on Tuesday, will probably entrench his autocratic tendencies. Under the emergency law, suspected terrorists will be channeled through special courts with a low evidence threshold and no appeals process, and which operate entirely under Mr. Sisi’s control.

Photo

Relatives and other mourners showed their grief during the funeral for the victims of the bombing of a cathedral in Alexandria. CreditAly Fahim/European Pressphoto Agency

Additionally, the president will have the power to censor newspapers and intercept electronic communication, a provision that his supporters have suggested could be used to crack down on critics on social media, one of the last arenas of relatively unrestricted speech in Egypt.

“We’re likely to see people who tweet or use Facebook for political purposes, or to call for protests, being tried in these courts,” said Mai El-Sadany, a nonresident fellow for legal and judicial analysis at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.

Apparently foreshadowing such a crackdown, the government on Monday blocked distribution of Al Bawaba, a normally pro-state newspaper that blamed the Interior Ministry for security lapses in the church bombings in Alexandria and Tanta, a city in the Nile Delta. Parliament approved a law tightening the criminal code, while the speaker, Ali Abdel Aal, told lawmakers that the emergency laws would be applied to media outlets and social media.

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Pope Francis appoints coadjutor bishop in Vietnam ‎

April 9, 2017

. St. Nicholas Cathedral of Da Lat, Vietnam, with newly appointed  Coadjutor Bishop, Fr. Dominic Nguyen Van Manh (inset).  - RV

St. Nicholas Cathedral of Da Lat, Vietnam, with newly appointed Coadjutor Bishop, Fr. Dominic Nguyen Van Manh (inset). – RV

08/04/2017 12:19
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appointed a coadjutor bishop to the Diocese of Da Lat in southern Vietnam.  Fr. Dominic Nguyen Van Manh, the Judicial Vicar of  Dal Lat is its coadjutor, under Bishop Antoine Vu Huy Chuong.  Unlike an auxiliary bishop, a coadjutor bishop has the right to succession in the case of the retirement, resignation or death of the current bishop.

Sixty-one year old Coadjutor Bishop-designate Manh was born on August 12, 1955 a Can Tho.  He studied at the Simon Hoa Minor Seminary of Da Lat, 1966 to 1973.  He then did his philosophy and theology at the St. Pius Pontifical College from 1973 to 1977 in the same diocese.  He continued in the college serving as supervisor until 1980.  After his ordination on May 29, 1994, he was assigned the following responsibilities.

1994-2003:  Assistant parish priest at Tan Hoa, Bao Loc

2003-2009: Sudied Canon Law at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, Italy.

2006 – …: Judicial Vicar of Da Lat Diocese.

Established by St. Pope John XXIII on November 24, 1960, Da Lat is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Hochiminh Ville.  Spread across an area of 8.764 sqm, the diocese cares for 377.492 Catholics out of a total population of a little more than 1.2 million.  The faithful spread across 96 parishes are served by 290 priests, 275 men religious and 932 nuns.  Seventy-six seminarians are preparing themselves for priesthood.

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2017/04/08/pope_francis_appoints_coadjutor_bishop_in_vietnam_%E2%80%8E/1304351

Pope Francis will canonize two of the children who saw Our Lady of Fatima

March 24, 2017

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Pope Francis prays in front of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 13. The statue, which was present for the May 13 feast of Our Lady of Fatima, is a copy of the original in Fatima, Portugal. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, pool)

By Gerard O’Connell

Pope Francis will canonize two of the three Portuguese shepherd children—Jacinta Marto and her brother Francisco—to whom Our Lady appeared at the famous shrine in Fatima 100 years ago. Though the Vatican has not said so yet, it is likely that he will do so during his upcoming visit to that shrine on May 12 to13.

The Vatican announced today, March 23, that the pope has opened the door to the canonization of the two children when he formally recognized the second miracle attributed to their intercession at a meeting with the Prefect of the Congregation for Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato.

The two children died young, as Our Lady had told them. The third, Lucia, wrote down the three secrets of Fatima. She was the only one to reach adult life, and became a Carmelite nun. Lucia was born in 1907 and died in 2005, and the cause for her beatification is now well under way. The first two secrets were a call for prayer and penance to save the world from even greater disaster and an end to World War I. The third secret, which attracted the most attention, spoke about the sufferings of the church and the assassination of a pope.

St. John Paul II, who understood this vision as referring to himself, beatified the two children at the Fatima shrine on May 13, 2000, after recognizing a miracle to their intercession. On that day, the Vatican also announced that the third secret would be revealed soon after by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

When Pope Francis canonizes them, they will become the youngest children (apart from martyrs) ever to be recognized as saints by the church. Jacinta died at age 9, on Feb. 20, 1920, while her brother Francisco died at age 10, on April 4, 1919.

Our Lady appeared to the three poor children several times between May 13, 1917, and Oct. 13, 1917. During the final apparition, “the miracle of the sun” took place and was witnessed by the children and as many as 100,000 people, media reports of the time state.

Gerard O’Connell is America‘s Vatican correspondent.

http://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/03/23/pope-francis-will-canonize-two-children-who-saw-our-lady-fatima

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Fátima Siblings Near Sainthood as Pope Francis Approves Miracle

ROME — Pope Francis on Thursday officially recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of a young brother and sister who said, 100 years ago, that the Virgin Mary had appeared to them in the Portuguese village of Fátima.

The approval of the miracle was the final step needed before the siblings, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, could be made saints. By signing the decree, the pope increased the likelihood that he could canonize the two when he visits the Fátima shrine in May, 100 years to the day that the children said that a vision of Mary had appeared to them for the first time. Officially, no date has been set for the canonization ceremony.

The Marto children and their cousin Lucia de Jesus dos Santos said they had seen the apparitions six times between May 13, 1917, and Oct. 13, 1917, when Jacinta was 7, Francisco was 9 and Lucia was 10.

By the time of the last apparition — in 1917 — 50,000 to 70,000 people had gathered to pray with the children, according to the website of the Shrine of Fátima.

The apparitions were officially recognized as a miracle by the Roman Catholic Church in 1930.

The Marto siblings fell ill with pneumonia in 1918. Francisco died in 1919, and Jacinta a year later. Lucia, who said she saw several subsequent visions of Mary and later became a nun, died in 2005, at age 97. Three years later, a case for her beatification was opened in Portugal. It was closed last month and now passes to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The shrine in Fátima is Portugal’s most renowned pilgrimage site, drawing 5.3 million visitors last year. A shrine official declined on Thursday to give details about the miracle, other than to say that it involved a Brazilian child who was inexplicably cured of a disease.

Pope John Paul II visited the Fátima shrine three times: in 1982, 1991 and 2000. In 2000, the Martos were beatified — the final step before sainthood — by John Paul. He called them “two candles which God lit to illuminate mankind in its dark and anxious hours.”

Sister Lucia wrote several memoirs in which she revealed the content of the children’s visions, which included three secrets. The first secret was a vision of hell; the Vatican interpreted the second secret as a prediction about the rise and fall of Communism and the conversion of Russia.

The third secret, which had been the object of feverish speculation because it was revealed only in 2000, years after the first two were made public, was of a “bishop clothed in white” who makes his way amid the corpses of martyrs until “he too falls to the ground, apparently dead, under a hail of gunfire.” The final secret was interpreted by the Vatican as a prediction of the 1981 assassination attempt on John Paul.

John Paul credited the Madonna of Fátima with saving his life when Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turkish gunman, tried to kill him on May 13, 1981, the anniversary of the visions. The bullet that struck the pope was later placed alongside diamonds in the golden crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fátima in the village.

This will be Francis’s first visit to Fátima as pope.

The pope on Thursday also signed a decree approving the canonization of “Cristóbal, Antonio and Juan, adolescent martyrs, killed in hatred of the faith in Mexico in 1529,” the Vatican said in a statement.

Philippines: “thou shalt not kill.” — Do we still respect human life?

March 19, 2017

Catholic Bishops In The Philippines Suggest Citizens Pray for Lawmakers

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 19 2017 11:38 AM | Updated as of Mar 19 2017 04:27 PM

CBCP asks Filipinos to pray for legislators

A banner hangs outside a church in the town of Patero , Metro Manila Tuesday. Erik De Castro, Reuters

MANILA – As the Senate considers the revival of capital punishment, leaders of the Philippines’ Catholic Church on Sunday urged legislators not to use the Bible to defend the death penalty, which they say runs against the teachings of Jesus Christ.

In a pastoral letter read out at Mass services across the country, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said lawmakers must “interpret the Scriptures properly” and take note that Jesus “was never an advocate of any form of ‘legal killing.'”

“To the people who use the Bible to defend death penalty, need we point out how many other crimes against humanity have been justified, using the same Bible? We humbly enjoin them to interpret the Scriptures properly, to read them as a progressive revelation of God’s will to humankind, with its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ, God’s definitive Word to the world,” the letter read.

“Jesus was never an advocate of any form of “legal killing”. He defended the adulterous woman against those who demanded her blood and challenged those who were without sin among them to be the first to cast a stone on her.”

Christ, the CBCP said, pushed for “justice founded on mercy” in lieu of a system of retribution exemplified by the principle of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

Senator Manny Pacquiao, a champion boxer and born-again pastor, has repeatedly used the Bible to defend the return of the death penalty. He said in January that that while the 10 Commandments prohibit killings, God approves of capital punishment to pursue justice and that even Christ was sentenced to death.

Policemen and a passerby look at pictures of the ones killed due to alleged involvement in illegal drugs, during a protest against extra-judicial killings at an open area of a Roman Catholic Church in Parañaque, early March. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

Capital punishment inched closer to reinstatement earlier this month after it was approved by the House of Representatives on 2nd reading on Ash Wednesday, March 1, as well as on final reading last March 7.

CBCP said it was ironic that majority of congressmen during the 2nd reading voted in favor of death penalty while their foreheads were marked with crosses made of ashes, a symbol of God’s forgiveness.

“Could they have forgotten what that cross meant? Could they have missed out the contradiction between their vote and the crosses on their foreheads, which were supposed to serve as a loud statement of faith in the God who, for love of us, chose to give up his life for our salvation, rather than see us perish?” the Church leaders asked.

The bishops said capital punishment has often been used by repressive governments as “a way of stifling dissent, or of eliminating those whom they regarded as threats to their hold on political power.”

“Think, for instance why Herod Antipas had John the Baptist beheaded, or why Pilate had Jesus crucified. Think of the thousands of Christian martyrs who were put to death for sheer hatred for the faith,” they said.

They added that capital punishment was never proven as an effective deterrent to crime and will likely target only the poor who cannot afford good lawyers and a guarantee of due process.

The CBCP ended its pastoral letter with an appeal for the public to pray for the enlightenment of the Senate ahead of its death penalty deliberations.

“Let us pray fervently for the legislators of our country as they prepare to vote on death penalty in the Philippine Senate. Let us offer all our Masses for them, asking our Crucified Lord who offered his whole life, body and blood, for the salvation of sinners, to touch their consciences and lead them to abolish capital punishment once and for all,” CBCP said.

Pope Francis Is Warned Against Betraying China’s Underground Church, Becoming a “Sell Out” — As Xi Jinping is China’s “Core Leader,” What Is The Assigned Role of Jesus?

February 24, 2017

Feb 24, 2017 | 2:37 PM

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the retired Bishop of Hong Kong, has warned the Vatican against forging an agreement with the Chinese government that would grant it significant power over the Catholic Church in the country. Cardinal Zen has stated that he would consider any such deal a “betrayal” by the Holy See of the underground Catholic faithful in China.

It is estimated that millions of Catholics in China are forced to worship underground as they refuse to register with the state’s official Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA). These “underground” Catholics recognize the authority of the Holy See and opt to worship clandestinely due to the risk of harassment from authorities. The communist-approved Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association operates under the supervision of the central government and the activities of its clerics are strictly monitored.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, an outspoken critic of Beijing, prays outside China Liaison Office to demand religious freedom in China during a protest in Hong Kong July 11, 2012. REUTERS Photo by Bobby Yip

Cardinal Zen has explained that priests and bishops in the so-called underground church have been thrown in jail for submitting to the Holy See rather than the patriotic church. If a deal is approved between the Chinese government and the Catholic authorities in Rome, it is feared that the Vatican will officially recognize the government-controlled Church.

The deal could allow the Chinese government to nominate bishops for the Pope to accept or reject, and critics fear this would essentially mean Vatican acceptance of the government-controlled Church in China.

Cardinal Zen has expressed concern that Pope Francis may be misinformed about the true situation for Catholics in China.

“We are very much worried because it seems that the Vatican is going to make a very bad agreement with China. And I can understand that the pope is really naïve. He doesn’t know the Chinese communists,” he told LifeSiteNews.

The retired cleric also fears the pontiff may be receiving bad advice from some Vatican officials on the situation on China.

“Unfortunately, the people around him are not good at all. They have very wrong ideas. And I’m afraid that they may sell out our underground Church. That would be very sad,” he said.

In its desire for total control of the Church, Zen said Beijing is painting a negative picture of the underground faithful as “troublemakers.”

Zen ultimately fears any potential deal would “give too much decision power to the government,” endangering Catholics in the country who do not want to submit to state oversight in their worship.

However, the current Catholic Archbishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal John Tong Hon, has defended the new deal proposals. He has said the agreement would mean China would be put in a position where it must now recognize the Pope as the supreme head of the Church, as the pontiff, not the Chinese state, would have final authority on who was appointed a bishop in the country.

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Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/pope-warned-against-betraying-chinas-underground-church-175723/#Hlix6Sr2UtyVJwiv.99

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A crane winches a large red cross from one of three domes on the Guantou church in Wenzhou
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