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Christian leaders in Nigeria allege Islamization attempt after recent judicial appointments

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari addresses the UN General Assembly, Sept. 28, 2015. / UN Photo/Amanda Voisard.

Abuja, Nigeria, Apr 13, 2021 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

Christian leaders in Nigeria claimed Sunday that Muhammadu Buhari's government is keen on Islamizing the West African nation, following the recent appointments of Court of Appeal judges.

In their April 11 statement obtained by ACI Africa, the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria called for “serious adjustments” on already executed appointments, and a “paradigm shift” in future appointments.

“Under the watch of President Buhari, especially throughout his first term, the Judiciary was literally an appendage of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) because its members were in charge of its affairs,” CAN’s officials said.

Making reference to the country’s former Chief Justice being banned from holding public office for ten years, they added, “We all know how they removed Justice Walter Onnoghen from office without following due process.”

“The grand plan of subtle Islamization is to make a Muslim the head of every key board, committee, parastatal and put Christians under without much influence in the decision-making process in the establishment (irrespective of their number),” the Christian leaders said.

The reaction of the officials of the ecumenical body, whose membership includes representatives of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, have “been recently strengthened by the ‘2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Nigeria’ of the U. S. Department of State,” they said.

“In the report, it was stated that, ‘traditional relationships were used to pressure government officials to favor particular ethnic groups in the distribution of important positions and other patronage.'”

The claims of Islamization were stirred by the March 19 recommendation of Nigeria’s National Judicial Council for the appointment of Court of Appeal judges.

Following the appointments the president of CAN, Supo Ayokunle accused the country’s leadership of sidelining Christians and cautioned, “If you don’t take the religious, ethnic diversities into consideration, then it will be to your tents, oh Israel.”

“I challenged the NJC recently on the new Appeal Court judges they appointed. I said that out of the 20 judges you appointed, 13 are from the North while seven are from the South,” Ayokunle was quoted in Vanguard as saying March 28.

He went on to ask, “How come that all the 13 judges from the North are all Muslims. Does that mean all Christians in the North are dullards? Does that mean there is no single Christian who is educated enough to qualify for that position?”

The claims of the CAN official attracted a reaction from their counterparts at NSCIA, who in a March 29 statement accused the Christian leaders of undertaking a “campaign of calumny” over the judicial appointments.

The Muslim leaders offered a breakdown of the religious affiliations of all the country’s 70 appellate judges and vowed not to “allow the serial falsehood of CAN and its propensity for character assassination of people on the basis of their religious identity to stand.”

In their April 11 statement, CAN representatives note that the leadership of the Muslim Council was, in its statement, “smart by half when it picked an example of just one arm of Government without addressing the totality of fundamental questions on all the arms of government.”

“Should it not have been better for the Council to have been bold enough to examine the entirety of appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari as serially referenced by CAN?” officials of the Christian body asked.

According to the Christian leaders, “The NSCIA evaded those troubling issues that are well known not only to Nigerians but members of the international community; those knotty issues that have pushed our country on the edge of a precipice.”

Members of the Christian body said that the past imbalance in Nigeria’s public service “is different from what is happening today when those in power are deliberately overlooking the qualified Christians who should be in different positions.”

As a way forward regarding hiring by government, Nigeria’s Christian leaders “demand some serious adjustments forthwith on the appointments already done, and henceforth desire a paradigm shift in the ways and manners the affairs of this country are run, and appointments are done from time to time as to be clearly reflecting that this country, Nigeria, is not owned by Muslims, but a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country.”

In their April 11 statement, CAN officials also responded to claims by the Muslim leaders that the Central Bank of Nigeria is bankrolling the Christian body, terming the allegations as a “wicked lie and dubious attempt ... to mislead the public.”

Representatives of the ecumenical entity further express displeasure at the “vulgar, immature language and unprintable words” that NSCIA leaders used in their March 29 statement to address their Christian counterparts.

“We are disappointed with the tone of the highest Islamic body in the country for the abysmal and tragic condescension knowing that the Council is made up of eminent and highly respected personalities,” Nigeria’s Christian leaders said.

They added, “This country is greater than anybody or association for that matter. We shall come and go, but the country will outlive all of us. We should therefore avoid both political and religious war and live in peace as one with the understanding that what you do not want others to do to you do not do it unto others.”

“May God help Nigeria to rise above mediocrity, spiraling challenges, and be prosperous in Jesus’ name,” the leadership of CAN implored.

Pope Francis hails St. Teresa of Ávila as exemplar of courage and spiritual motherhood

Pope Francis and St. Teresa of Avila / Public domain/ACI Prensa.

Rome Newsroom, Apr 13, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has hailed St. Teresa of Ávila as exemplar of courage and spiritual motherhood in a letter marking fifty years since the 16th century Spanish mystic was declared the first female Doctor of the Church.

“Despite the five centuries that separate us from her earthly existence, the flame that Jesus lit within Teresa continues to shine in this world that is always in need of brave witnesses, capable of breaking any barrier, be it physical, existential or cultural,” Pope Francis wrote in the letter.

The pope’s letter to Bishop José María Gil Tamayo of Ávila was read aloud at the inaugural Mass for an international congress on St. Teresa that is taking place in Ávila, Spain and virtually via livestream April 12-15.

St. Teresa of Ávila was “‘an exceptional woman,’ as Saint Paul VI defined her,” Pope Francis said.

“Her courage, her intelligence, and her tenacity to which she united a sensitivity for the beautiful and a spiritual motherhood toward all those who approached her work, are an exemplary example of the extraordinary role that women have played throughout history in the Church and society.”

Pope Paul VI declared St. Teresa of Jesus a Doctor of the Church on Sept. 27, 1970. The title Doctor of the Church denotes recognition of the importance of a saint’s writings and teachings for Catholic theology.

Since St. Teresa, three other female saints have been declared Doctors of the Church. St. Catherine of Siena was recognized with the title one week after St. Teresa. And St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Hildegard of Bingen were declared Church doctors by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI respectively.

In his letter, Pope Francis said St. Teresa of Ávila “continues to speak to us today through her writings and her message is open to all.”

“Having her as a friend, companion and guide in our earthly pilgrimage confers security and peace to the soul,” he added.

St. Teresa was a Spanish Carmelite reformer and mystic. She was born in the Castilian city of Ávila during the year 1515, the third child in a family descended from Jewish merchants who had converted to Christianity during the reign of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

When she was nearly 40, Teresa experienced profound changes within her own soul in contemplative prayer, and remarkable visions that seemed to come from God. Under the direction of her confessors, Teresa wrote about some of these experiences in an autobiography that she completed in 1565.

This revolution in her spiritual life enabled Teresa to play a significant role in the renewal of the Church that followed the Council of Trent. She proposed a return of the Carmelites to their original rule of life, a simple and austere form of monasticism – founded on silence and solitude – that had received papal approval in the 12th century and was believed to date back to the Old Testament prophet Elijah.

Together with her close collaborator, the priest and writer later canonized as Saint John of the Cross, she founded what is known today as the Order of Discalced Carmelites – “discalced,” meaning barefoot, symbolizing the simplicity to which they chose to return the order after a period of corruption. The reform met with fierce opposition, but resulted in the founding of 30 monasteries before her death in 1582.

St. Teresa of Ávila was canonized on March 22, 1622, along with St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, and St. Philip Neri.

In his letter, Pope Francis encouraged the priests, religious, and laity involved in the international congress on St. Teresa to continue spreading her teaching.

The international congress is the joint effort of the Catholic University of St. Teresa of Ávila, the Discalced Carmelites, the local diocese, and the “Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt” in Germany. Speakers at the conference include Cardinal Aquilino Bocos Merino and Cardinal Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, the archbishop of Valladolid.

Pope Francis signed his letter to the congress on March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, and noted that St. Teresa of Ávila had a great devotion to St. Joseph.

“She took him as a teacher, advocate, and intercessor. She entrusted herself to him, having certainty that she would receive the graces that she asked for. From this experience, she encouraged others to do the same,” the pope said.

“The saints always go hand in hand, and they sustain us by the trust placed in their intercession. May they intercede for you,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis hails St. Teresa of Ávila as exemplar of courage and spiritual motherhood

Pope Francis and St. Teresa of Avila / Public domain/ACI Prensa.

Rome Newsroom, Apr 13, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has hailed St. Teresa of Ávila as exemplar of courage and spiritual motherhood in a letter marking fifty years since the 16th century Spanish mystic was declared the first female Doctor of the Church.

“Despite the five centuries that separate us from her earthly existence, the flame that Jesus lit within Teresa continues to shine in this world that is always in need of brave witnesses, capable of breaking any barrier, be it physical, existential or cultural,” Pope Francis wrote in the letter.

The pope’s letter to Bishop José María Gil Tamayo of Ávila was read aloud at the inaugural Mass for an international congress on St. Teresa that is taking place in Ávila, Spain and virtually via livestream April 12-15.

St. Teresa of Ávila was “‘an exceptional woman,’ as Saint Paul VI defined her,” Pope Francis said.

“Her courage, her intelligence, and her tenacity to which she united a sensitivity for the beautiful and a spiritual motherhood toward all those who approached her work, are an exemplary example of the extraordinary role that women have played throughout history in the Church and society.”

Pope Paul VI declared St. Teresa of Jesus a Doctor of the Church on Sept. 27, 1970. The title Doctor of the Church denotes recognition of the importance of a saint’s writings and teachings for Catholic theology.

Since St. Teresa, three other female saints have been declared Doctors of the Church. St. Catherine of Siena was recognized with the title one week after St. Teresa. And St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Hildegard of Bingen were declared Church doctors by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI respectively.

In his letter, Pope Francis said St. Teresa of Ávila “continues to speak to us today through her writings and her message is open to all.”

“Having her as a friend, companion and guide in our earthly pilgrimage confers security and peace to the soul,” he added.

St. Teresa was a Spanish Carmelite reformer and mystic. She was born in the Castilian city of Ávila during the year 1515, the third child in a family descended from Jewish merchants who had converted to Christianity during the reign of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

When she was nearly 40, Teresa experienced profound changes within her own soul in contemplative prayer, and remarkable visions that seemed to come from God. Under the direction of her confessors, Teresa wrote about some of these experiences in an autobiography that she completed in 1565.

This revolution in her spiritual life enabled Teresa to play a significant role in the renewal of the Church that followed the Council of Trent. She proposed a return of the Carmelites to their original rule of life, a simple and austere form of monasticism – founded on silence and solitude – that had received papal approval in the 12th century and was believed to date back to the Old Testament prophet Elijah.

Together with her close collaborator, the priest and writer later canonized as Saint John of the Cross, she founded what is known today as the Order of Discalced Carmelites – “discalced,” meaning barefoot, symbolizing the simplicity to which they chose to return the order after a period of corruption. The reform met with fierce opposition, but resulted in the founding of 30 monasteries before her death in 1582.

St. Teresa of Ávila was canonized on March 22, 1622, along with St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, and St. Philip Neri.

In his letter, Pope Francis encouraged the priests, religious, and laity involved in the international congress on St. Teresa to continue spreading her teaching.

The international congress is the joint effort of the Catholic University of St. Teresa of Ávila, the Discalced Carmelites, the local diocese, and the “Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt” in Germany. Speakers at the conference include Cardinal Aquilino Bocos Merino and Cardinal Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, the archbishop of Valladolid.

Pope Francis signed his letter to the congress on March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, and noted that St. Teresa of Ávila had a great devotion to St. Joseph.

“She took him as a teacher, advocate, and intercessor. She entrusted herself to him, having certainty that she would receive the graces that she asked for. From this experience, she encouraged others to do the same,” the pope said.

“The saints always go hand in hand, and they sustain us by the trust placed in their intercession. May they intercede for you,” Pope Francis said.

Cardinal Bo: 'We need the light of God’s mercy in Myanmar'

Charles Maung Bo pictured during a visit to Rome in 2017. / ACI Stampa

Rome Newsroom, Apr 13, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo has urged Catholics in Burma to share God’s mercy amid the suffering caused by the military coup in their country by visiting the mourning, sharing food with the starving, and praying unceasingly for peace.

“Today, more than ever, our community stands in need of mercy. Millions are starving. Before they could come out of that disaster, the coup came. Most of our people are starving. We need to share our resources. However poor we are, we could share something. That is the sign of Divine Mercy,” Cardinal Bo said in his homily on April 11.

“Hunger is not only the problem our people face: they are afraid, they are traumatized, their spirit is broken by street violence. They need Words. Words of comfort. We need to visit people who have lost their dear ones to the hatred … They all need the soothing words, like Jesus soothed his disciples: ‘Do Not be Afraid; I am with you always,’” he said.

Bo, the archbishop of Yangon and president of the Burmese bishops’ conference, made a pastoral visit on Divine Mercy Sunday to Myitkyina in the northern region of Kachin, which has experienced some of the worst violence as security forces crack down on protesters of the Feb. 1 military coup.

“Myitkyina has been in the news for sad reasons and reasons of faith and sacrifice. Sad reason because of the great tragedy of killing the innocents in the streets, especially in front of the church. The Church was drawn into the struggle of our people, called to accompany our people in their blood and tears,” the cardinal said.

“For many of you, the thirteenth station of the Cross, of Our Mother crying over the dead body of her Son, became real. We live in a country where hundreds of mothers live with inconsolable tears and their hearts wounded, like our Mother Mary, with the sight of their sons and daughters tortured and killed,” he said. “To all those mothers and all of you directly involved, we pray with grace flowing from the heart of Jesus.”

His visit came days after media reports that more than 80 people were killed by heavy artillery fire on protests in the town of Bago on April 9. 

Hundreds of civilians, including 44 children, have been killed in the violence in Burma since February, according to the United Nations. 

The UN World Food Programme has warned that rising food prices pose a significant threat to the poor and vulnerable in the country, including the thousands of people who have been displaced by the violence.

Churches and Buddhist temples in the Kachin region have also been subjected to military raids and searches, according to Agenzia Fides.

“We need the light of God’s mercy in Myanmar,” Cardinal Bo said, urging Catholics to practice works of mercy with good deeds and continued prayers for peace.

“Let us not repay inhumanity with inhumanity. Let us not repay brutality with brutality. Civil war would wound every one and will take decades to heal. Let us not take that path of self-destruction,” he said.

Cardinal Bo pointed in particular to St. Faustina Kowalska’s witness to God’s Divine Mercy. He invited Catholics to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and to recall the good news of the Lord’s resurrection.

“We have seen so many wounds, so much blood, so much atrocity against innocent people: We find it difficult to believe that God is present amid this darkness. Yes. Amid all this darkness, my brothers and sisters, it is important to believe that God will ultimately triumph over evil,” Bo said.

“Jesus is the wounded healer. His wounds wash away our pain today,” he said. “We pray to Jesus: Help us Lord, when our land is wounded and bleeding with hatred, let us become the wounded healer. Let us have the grace and courage to forgive and reconcile our worst enemies and give him the benefit of Love.”

Pope Francis accepts resignation of Crookston’s Bp Hoeppner after Vatican-ordered investigations

Bishop Michael Hoeppner. / CNA file photo.

Vatican City, Apr 13, 2021 / 05:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael Hoeppner of Crookston, Minnesota, who was the subject of two Church investigations after he was accused of mishandling cases of priests accused of sexual misconduct.

Hoeppner, 71, was the first U.S. bishop to be investigated under Vos estis lux mundi, Pope Francis’ 2019 norms on investigating bishops accused of mishandling or obstructing allegations of clerical sexual abuse.

Pope Francis appointed Bishop Richard Edmund Pates, bishop emeritus of Des Moines, Iowa, to lead the Crookston diocese as apostolic administrator “sede vacante” until a new bishop is named.

Hoeppner is reported to have pressured an alleged victim to drop his allegation of abuse against a priest, failed to follow mandatory reporting laws, and neglected to follow protocols designed to monitor priests accused of misconduct.

A report on the Vos estis investigation of Hoeppner was sent to Rome in late October 2019, and in February 2020, the Diocese of Crookston announced that the Vatican had ordered an additional investigation into the bishop.

Both investigations were conducted by Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Hoeppner was not permitted to oversee sexual abuse cases in his diocese during the second investigation.

In depositions released Nov. 5, 2019, as part of a legal settlement, Hoeppner is seen to admit to several of the charges against him. In those depositions, Hoeppner also defended a diocesan decision to allow a priest to remain in ministry, without notifying parents or parishioners, after the priest admitted that while he was teenager he had sexually abused a younger child.

The announcement in early 2020 about a second investigation into Hoeppner followed several months in which local Catholics called for Hoeppner’s resignation, and accused him of mistreating a popular priest removed from ministry under vague terms.

Priests in the diocese told CNA at the time that they expected Hoeppner to be removed from office, and that given the bishop’s record, the credibility of the Vos estis procedures could be called into question if he is eventually permitted to remain in office.

Vos estis lux mundi allows the Vatican “to provide for a supplementary investigation” after initial steps are taken, if Vatican officials deem it necessary.

There are currently several Vos estis investigations going on in dioceses in the U.S.

In 2021, announcements were made about new Vos estis investigations into Bishop John Brungardt of Dodge City and former Albany bishop Howard Hubbard.

Pope Francis accepts resignation of Crookston’s Bp Hoeppner after Vatican-ordered investigations

Bishop Michael Hoeppner. / CNA file photo.

Vatican City, Apr 13, 2021 / 05:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael Hoeppner of Crookston, Minnesota, who was the subject of two Church investigations after he was accused of mishandling cases of priests accused of sexual misconduct.

Hoeppner, 71, was the first U.S. bishop to be investigated under Vos estis lux mundi, Pope Francis’ 2019 norms on investigating bishops accused of mishandling or obstructing allegations of clerical sexual abuse.

Pope Francis appointed Bishop Richard Edmund Pates, bishop emeritus of Des Moines, Iowa, to lead the Crookston diocese as apostolic administrator “sede vacante” until a new bishop is named.

Hoeppner is reported to have pressured an alleged victim to drop his allegation of abuse against a priest, failed to follow mandatory reporting laws, and neglected to follow protocols designed to monitor priests accused of misconduct.

A report on the Vos estis investigation of Hoeppner was sent to Rome in late October 2019, and in February 2020, the Diocese of Crookston announced that the Vatican had ordered an additional investigation into the bishop.

Both investigations were conducted by Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Hoeppner was not permitted to oversee sexual abuse cases in his diocese during the second investigation.

In depositions released Nov. 5, 2019, as part of a legal settlement, Hoeppner is seen to admit to several of the charges against him. In those depositions, Hoeppner also defended a diocesan decision to allow a priest to remain in ministry, without notifying parents or parishioners, after the priest admitted that while he was teenager he had sexually abused a younger child.

The announcement in early 2020 about a second investigation into Hoeppner followed several months in which local Catholics called for Hoeppner’s resignation, and accused him of mistreating a popular priest removed from ministry under vague terms.

Priests in the diocese told CNA at the time that they expected Hoeppner to be removed from office, and that given the bishop’s record, the credibility of the Vos estis procedures could be called into question if he is eventually permitted to remain in office.

Vos estis lux mundi allows the Vatican “to provide for a supplementary investigation” after initial steps are taken, if Vatican officials deem it necessary.

There are currently several Vos estis investigations going on in dioceses in the U.S.

In 2021, announcements were made about new Vos estis investigations into Bishop John Brungardt of Dodge City and former Albany bishop Howard Hubbard.

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