Melanie McDonagh Would you give up a place on a lifeboat? CHARTERHOUSE, PAGE 20
Will Heaven Downside faces its greatest test COMMENT, PAGE 12
Michael Wenham Doctors, help me to live, not to die FEATURE, PAGE 7
Mugabe wages a secret war on Catholics in Zimbabwe
BY STAFF REPORTER
CATHOLICS in Zimbabwe are facing persecution for standing up to President Robert Mugabe’s regime amid fears that oppression could rise sharply.
In reports received from a number of sources within Zimbabwe, The Catholic Herald has learned that priests, religious Sisters and lay people have been arrested or threatened with violence for opposing Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF party and Church buildings have been seized.
In a hard-hitting critique of the regime, one bishop said: “In some parts of Zimbabwe we see now the beginnings of a real persecution of the Church, especially where Christians refuse to be coopted by Zanu PF.
“The Church, because it opposes the politics of violence, has become herself a victim of that political violence,” the bishop said.
These are the main findings of a series of interviews, reports and other documents received by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), investigating a country where political propaganda is seen as replacing the work of an independent media largely silenced by the regime.
The reports follow a visit to the country by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. Dr Williams presented the Zimbabwean president in October with a dossier detailing a number of attacks on Anglicans.
According to one ACN source, religious Sisters were told they would be beaten if they refused to hand over a Church-run hospital.
Describing the seizure of the medical facility, he said: “Suddenly a group of men came in, threatening the Sisters,
The Church, because it opposes the politics of violence, has become a victim of that political violence
For the latest international Catholic news, visit CatholicHerald.co.uk shouting and running around the hospital, frightening the patients. They demanded the hospital be handed over to the authorities immediately.”
The men threatened to hurt the Sisters if they resisted.
Church leaders have been barred from the area and do not know if the building is still functioning as a hospital.
In addition to buildings being seized, in some places the Church has had difficulty obtaining permission for public processions and been stopped from holding prayer meetings and workshops. While the reports sent to ACN included full details about various attacks on the Church, the charity was asked not to release this information for fear of further reprisals. Warning that things are likely to get worse, one bishop said: “In some areas of Zimbabwe we see a real persecution of the Church. What we are seeing now is the politicisation of everyday life.”
He added: “We anticipate further trouble.”
According to the bishop, the persecution of the Church has come in response to criticisms of the government by Catholic leaders and he said that the difficulties the Church faced were part of wider problems in the country.
He said: “All people of this country, who do not actively support the unjust policies of Zanu PF are victims of violence, discrimination, injustice, persecution, arrests and eve n murder.”
The bishop said that a key problem was Zanu PF’s origin as a guerrilla movement and said the party “does not know how to negotiate”.
“The party takes what it wants, by force if what it wants is not given voluntarily.” he said.
January 20 2012 £1.50 (Republic of Ireland €1.80)
Acrobats vault into Pope’s weekly audience
Trappist reveals role in killer’s conversion
BY ED WEST
ONE OF the most violent murderers in the American prison system converted to Catholicism after being befriended by a priest, it emerged this week.
Clayton Fountain, who murdered five men and was deemed the “Most Dangerous Prisoner” in America, turned to God after meeting Fr Paul Jones.
Fr Jones writes in his book A Different Kind of Cell: The Story of a Murderer Who Became a Monk that Fountain, who was condemned to live out his last days in a specially built steel and concrete solitary confinement cell, was transformed into a “well-educated, articulate monk”.
Fountain, who died from a heart attack in 2004 aged 49, was born into a military family at Fort Benning, Georgia and joined the US Marine Corps before murdering his sergeant in Vietnam. He was eventually captured after a stand-off with a SWAT team but despite being transferred to increasingly high-security jails he was able to use his military training to kill three prisoners and one guard with his bare hands. So in 1983 he was installed in a special cell next to the criminally insane unit of the Federal Medical Centre in Springfield, Missouri.
Circus artists perform for Pope Benedict XVI at his weekly general audience last week. Around 120 performers took part in a show that featured juggling and human pyramids
After a correspondence with a woman who encouraged him to pursue a “spiritual quest”, Clayton began corresponding with Fr Jones. Eventually the warden allowed them to speak by phone and this would become a weekly event. Finally the priest was able to visit, passing through nine guarded gates and speaking through the meal slot.
Clayton was baptised in April 1992, still shackled, and began a PhD, after gaining a degree.
Fr Jones wrote on the Huffington Post website: “I was pulled, in spite of myself, into the vortex of Clayton’s unfolding drama – functioning first as his unintended spiritual director, gradually becoming a companion and eventually a friend in his unbelievable spiritual pilgrimage.”
He also said that Clayton’s redemption was a powerful argument against capital punishment, because it showed anyone can be redeemed.
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Priest calls for London to play host to World Youth Day in 2016 BY ED WEST
A PROMINENT priest in the Diocese of Westminster has called for London to host World Youth Day in 2016.
Fr Stephen Wang, dean of studies at Allen Hall seminary in London, set up a Facebook group, “World Youth Day London 2016”, to test whether there is popular interest in the idea. As The Catholic Herald went to press almost 600 people had offered their support.
Fr Wang said that he was inspired after receiving an invitation to a group campaigning to host the 2015 World Youth Day in Kraków from a pilgrim he had met in Madrid last year.
Fr Wang said: “It reminded me of all the fantastic buzz and energy among the English pilgrims in Madrid. There were English pilgrims all over the place, and we had lots of conversations about how fantastic it would be to have a World Youth Day in London. It was just dreams on the one hand, but there were serious conversations about how it would be organised, where we would have the final Mass and how London would cope.”
He said that the English Church could “put forward a fantastic proposal” and that, after the event had been staged in Spain, France, Italy and Germany in recent years, “the United Kingdom is the next obvious one”.
Fr Wang added: “It wouldn’t just be a London event but a national event, we could even include Ireland.” On his website Fr Wang linked to the counter-argument put forward by the CatholicYouthWork.com, a website of Catholic youth workers. A post on the site said that “we couldn’t do it as easily as many people seem to think. Our youth services infrastructure would need strengthening... [and] they would need a lot more staff and funding to make WYD happen.” Editorial Comment: Page 13
Nun who kissed Elvis prays for benefactor BY ED WEST
A NUN who once kissed Elvis Presley, before entering the convent, is praying for a benefactor to save the abbey where she and 40 other nuns are cloistered.
Mother Dolores Hart, 73, walked away from Hollywood in 1963 to join a religious order in rural Bethlehem, Connecticut. Now the
Abbey of Regina Laudis is launching a £2.5 million appeal to pay for renovations to meet fire and safety regulations, add a lift and make disabled accessibility upgrades.
Dolores Hart was a quickwitted blonde starlet in the 1950s and 1960s and starred in the 1957 Paramount film Loving You with Elvis Presley.
Protesters try to set up camp in Vatican BY ED WEST
ITALIAN police had to remove protesters from St Peter’s Square last week after an Occupy-style camp was set up to protest against the Vatican.
Up to 50 protesters known as Indignados (“the outraged”) held placards suggesting that the Vatican should give up its wealth to help Europe’s financial difficulties.
Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said that the police were right to intervene before the protesters, most of whom were Spanish or French, set up home in the square. He said: “These Indignados evidently wanted to use the piazza in an improper way, ... it was therefore just and opportune to move them out.” Editorial Comment: Page 13
James Hannam How the Church inspired the rise of science PAGE 10
William Newton Why Catholics can’t trust Wikipedia PAGE 8
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