Asia Bibi’s appeal is rejected and her death sentence upheld

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A demonstration in support of Asia Bibi

A demonstration in support of Asia Bibi

Her case is now in the hands of the Supreme Court. The news will surely provoke a reaction from the international community

Paolo Affatato
romeThere is no justice for Asia Bibi. The Lahore High Court, a court of second instance, has upheld the death sentence for the Pakistani Christian woman accused of blasphemy. Speaking to Fides news agency, Naeem Shakir, one of the lawyers defending Asia Bibi, said the ruling betrayed the expectations and trust of the defence. The case will now be passed on to the country’s Supreme Court, where Asia Bibi will present an appeal. This will be the final step before hanging.


A broad and detailed appeal was presented during this morning’s hearing, which finally took place after numerous postponements. The case against Bibi – which was based on an allegedly “deliberate act of blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad” – was dismantled piece by piece. Bibi was sentenced by a crooked court of first instance, on 8 November 2010. The sentence was mainly based on testimonial evidence.


The main figures in the prosecution are: the complainant, Qari Mohammad Salam, an imam of a mosque in the village of Ittanwali, in the district of Nankana Sahib in Punjab – the village where Bibi was born and lived for 40 years with her humble farming family – and two Muslim nuns, also farm workers, who had argued with Bibi while they were working in the fields. Bibi said the two nuns refused to drink from the same spring as she had because they considered her to be “impure”. This sparked a row which turned from malice and bitterness into an “act of blasphemy”.


The picture seemed crystal clear and according to the principles of criminal justice, there was good reason to be optimistic. After all, Salam, the main accuser was not even physically present when the alleged crime was committed and had not actually heard the woman pronounce the blasphemous words she is accused of uttering. An absurd and paradoxical situation by normal standards, according to criminal proceedings and according to the law: evidence that amounts to hearsay, cannot be admitted at trial.


The personal prejudices of the two women and the fact that the man was physically absent from the “scene of the crime”, were encouraging factors and a reason for Bibi’s defence to be confident. The defending body includes Christian lawyers such as Naeem Shakir, S.K. Choudry, Sardar Mushtaq Gill and the current human rights minister for the Punjab province, Khalil Tahir Sindhu, a Catholic. All very competent men with an extensive experience of blasphemy cases. They say there have been countless cases of acquittals and victories being announced in court in what have often amounted to fabricated legal cases.


And yet, after a four hour hearing, the two-member college of judges, chaired by Justice Anwar ul Haq, rejected the arguments presented by the defence which contested the contradictions in the evidence presented by the prosecution and the lack of credibility. The judge ignored another key point: the obvious fabrication of false accusations. Indeed, the blasphemy charges were made after a village assembly led by the imam, just days after the quarrel. What makes it seem obvious that the whole thing is part of a set-up, is the delay with which the incident was reported to the police: the complaint was lodged and recorded on 19 June 2009, a whole five days after the incriminating episode took place. Here again, the law clearly favours the defence, the lawyers say.


“The judge upheld the accusations made by the two Muslim women who testified to the alleged act of blasphemy committed by Asia,” Shakir says, visibly let down. Radical Islamists infleuenced the judge’s decision: Asia Bibi’s case is emblematic of a woman having a bounty placed on her head, by an imam who is promising to reward the person who kills her.


Pakistan’s magistrates recall the murder of Arif Iqbal Bhatti, a Lahore High Court judge, who was killed in 1997 after he acquitted two young Christians, Salamat and Rehmat Masih. The two Christians had been sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy by a court of first instance. The judge’s death is still a warning and a threat to the courts.


The battle continues despite the obstacles and difficulties that  present themselves, with the added help of a foreseeable international reaction. Bibi’s family will be appealing to the Supreme Court, Pakistan’s highest court of law.


The Court is headed by Chief of Justice Tasaduq Hussain Jillani, an eminent Muslim figure and the country’s most important magistrate. Jillani has often shown himself to be a far-

sighted man who takes a balanced view of things. Last June, he showed great courage in issuing a historic “suo motto” ruling protecting religious minorities in Pakistan and ordering the constitution of the “National Council for the rights of minorities”.

His gesture was seen by Pakistani Christians as an “act which gives renewed strength to rule of law” in the country. This is precisely what is needed in the tragic case of Asia Bibi who has been languishing behind bars for the past five years.

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“The Church is open and excludes no one” Synod says in concluding message

A moment during the Synod discussions


(©Afp) A moment during the Synod discussions

Bishops are to continue to reflect on the issue of remarried divorcees. Governments should do more to promote the rights of families the Synod said, ahead of the publication of the “relatio synodi” this afternoon

vatican city

“Christ wanted his Church to be a house with doors always open to welcome everyone,” without leaving anyone out. Hence bishops are called to “accompany couples and families and care for their personal and social wounds.” The message, which was approved by the Synod Fathers, illustrates the “challenges” of family pastoral care, including “the hardships of existence”.


The document takes its inspiration mainly from the Evangelii Gaudium and Francis’ feelings are shared by the majority of bishops, starting with his denunciation of the “fetishism of money and the dictatorship of the economy faceless and aimless truly human.” The document was approved by an overwhelming majority: 158 out of 174 voters.


At the introductory press conference, the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Gianfranco Ravasi, reiterated that it is an “open document, the fruit of frank discussions.” The message of the Third Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops underlines that “failures give rise to new relationships, new couples, new civil unions, and new marriages, creating family situations which are complex and problematic, where the Christian choice is not obvious.” This is set against a background of an “enfeebled faith and indifference to true values, individualism, impoverishment of relationships, and stress that excludes reflection leave their mark on family life.”


Marital crises are “often confronted in haste and without the courage to have patience and reflect, to make sacrifices and to forgive one another”. The Synod has therefore appealed to governments and international organisations to “promote the rights of the family for the common good.” It praised “the generous faith of many families” and “conjugal love which … endures despite many difficulties.”


In the message approved today ahead of the Synod’s final vote, the fathers wrote: “In the first stage of our Synod itinerary, therefore, we have reflected on how to accompany those who have been divorced and remarried and on their participation in the sacraments.” The Synod also speared a thought for “children abused by those who ought to have protected them and fostered their development.”


In a news briefing, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said: “Today, Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, commented on the content of the message, informing that a series of spontaneous speeches were given on the message. Most of them expressed appreciation and presented proposals for improvements or modifications to a number of points, including some very specific points. In the evening, the commission worked on the message and presented the revised version this morning. This version was re-read, voted on and approved by an overwhelming majority of bishops.”


Fr. Antonio Spadaro, Editor-in-Chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, referred to the example Francis gave during a meeting with superior generals of religious orders, of a girl being adopted by a female couple. The Pope, the Jesuit said, recalled “the case of a very sad little girl who eventually confided in her teacher: “My mum’s girlfriend doesn’t love me.” Fr. Spadaro went on to say that “the situations we experience today therefore present new challenges which may sometimes be difficult for us to understand. How do we proclaim Christ to these boys and girls? How to announce Christ to a changing generation?” “The Pope,” Fr. Spadaro said, “sees the homosexuality issue as an important educational challenge.”


The newspaper published by the Italian Bishops’ Conference stressed that the Church is not afraid of internal debates. “The summaries of the discussions that have taken place over the past few days in the circoli minores, the different language groups (which were published to ensure transparency) portray the image of a Church that is not afraid to engage in internal debates or discuss the real experiences of families in the current global context. It is aware that new languages and new pastoral approaches are needed in order to reach and get close to everybody,” the Catholic newspaper highlighted in a comment by Stefania Fallasca. “The vexata questio of the administration of the sacraments to remarried divorcees,” Avvenire newspaper underlined, “was also discussed and what emerged what a willingness to look into this further, from a pastoral point of view too. Proposals are welcome but the doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage is to remain untouched.”


The message was very clear: “In the first stage of our Synod itinerary, therefore, we have reflected on how to accompany those who have been divorced and remarried and on their participation in the sacraments. We Synod Fathers ask you walk with us towards the next Synod,” the Ordinary Synod which is scheduled to take place in October 2015. “We offer you the words of Christ: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.

“On his journeys along the roads of the Holy Land, Jesus would enter village houses. He continues to pass even today along the streets of our cities. In your homes there are light and shadow. Challenges often present themselves and at times even great trials. The darkness can grow deep to the point of becoming a dense shadow when evil and sin work into the heart of the family.”

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Advise wanted on Errant Parish Priest


Can any one guide me, We are a Roman Catholic Parish is GOA, Our parish priest is out of control, he has affairs and has removed the sacristan who has seen all what is happening, he has dissolved the Church committee, He demands money as he likes to say the Mass and donation and gives no receipt, Before the priest was appointed we were a have united village now the priest has done Divide and Rule, He speak bad about people on the Altar during his sermon.
People respect word Priest and not the Man and need a Urgent solution
This Priest is a Bad influence to the Christian Religion

Posted in News from Goa/Mangalore | 2 Comments

Mixing of Religion With Politics

 He taught Scripture and theology in the Seminary. He was the rector of the Seminary and now see the picture below of how religion is being mixed with politics.
It is understandable if some new priest did it but just imagine a person who has served as a priest as a moderator at the Seminary is today hobnobbing with Politicians.
Just imagine if Catholics are attacked due to this priest openly mixing about with politicians and the Congress is not elected?
Does he know the repercussions of this act? We, are making a mockery of our religion.
The Cardinal should act immediately and issue a public statement or else we will have to face the music for this act of Fr. Harold Vaz who is the parish priest of Our Lady of Egypt Church.
We, had a previous parish priest of the same Church who put up a public notice , made a public announcement in the Saturday/ Sunday mass and held a morcha in the Church and said Gordon Jacobs is the no.1 enemy of the Church when he condemned the mixing of religion with politics as was indulged by Fr.Adrian Fereirra.
Till today no action has been taken by the Cardinal.This has made more and more priests bolder.
Just imagine the quality of  priests who have trained under this rector.
Jesus save the Church in Mumbai.

Catholics divided, but vow to vote for development

Catholics divided, but vow to vote for development
Kalina Cong candidate Kripashankar Singh campaigning in a Catholic neighbourhood in Vakola
The community, generally loyal to Congress, doesn’t want to focus on parties and instead pick candidates who have done work in their areas.

The large Catholic community in the city has traditionally backed the Congress, but this time the members’ loyalties are divided, say political observers. With two major political alliances splitting, Catholics are likely to base their decision on work done by their local candidates irrespective of the party.

Their vote will be a key factor in at least six constituencies in Mumbai, including Bandra West, Kalina and Vile Parle.

In Bandra West, some Catholic groups are with BJP’s Ashish Shelar, but in neighbouring Kalina, Christians are backing Congress leader Kripashankar Singh.

For years, Bandra West has been a Congress bastion; the community helped elect Priya Dutt to Parliament and voted for sitting legislator Baba Siddique in three elections. But this time Catholics, who account account for 11 per cent of the electors, are not sure which party they will vote for.

But some prominent members have played an integral part in Shelar’s campaign. “In 2009, Catholics in Bandra had supported Shelar. He, however, lost by a narrow margin. There is a lot of anger among voters against those who were in power till recently,” said Anil Joseph, a former vice-president of the Bombay Catholic Association.

Shelar – who will face Siddique, Shiv Sena’s Vilas Chavari and Tushar Afale of the MNS – said that he was confident of winning the seat. “I served as a corporator for two terms in the constituency and completed various civic works. In the past two years, I have spent my MLC funds for the development of the area,” he said.

But the Congress leader even refused to consider Shelar as a major rival. “People voted for BJP in May (Lok Sabha elections), but inflation is still high and black money stashed abroad has not been brought back. Voters will not be fooled again, as it was evident in the by-polls. I don’t consider Shelar as my competitor, I am fighting with Chavari,” Siddique said.

He added that prominent Bandra Catholics such as Darrly D’Monte and Cornel Gonsalves were backing him.

In Kalina, Kripashankar will take on BJP’s Amarjit Singh, Sena’s Sanjay Potnis and NCP’s Kaptan Malik. “Some Catholic groups may be supporting BJP elsewhere, but in Kalina, the community is with Congress. We have been working for local residents for the past five years and ensured their problems are addressed,” said Congress corporator Brian Miranda.

Redevelopment of gaothans is a major issues for the community and it will influence members’ decision. “All minorities are with the Congress in Kalina. People from north India who have settled there are also backing me,” Singh said. “I have informed the voters about the work I have done in the area. I have not made any false promises.”

Some Catholics are also contesting from Bandra West and Kalina under the banner of Maharashtra Swaraj Party. But they have found it difficult to drum up support.


Posted in Church News in Mumbai/Thane/Navi Mumbai | 2 Comments

Influential cardinals increasingly open in their opposition to Pope Francis over issues including divorce, remarriage, contraception and same-sex relations.

Pope Francis
While ruling out women’s ordination, Pope Francis has been quietly insisting on the appointment of more women to positions of influence within the Vatican. Photograph: Daniel Dal Zennaro/AFP/Getty Images

A battle is raging for the soul of the Catholic church, with influential cardinals increasingly open in their opposition to Pope Francis over issues including divorce, remarriage, contraception and same-sex relations.

Disagreement over these issues is likely to come to a head over the next few days, with the bishops gathering in Rome for an extraordinary synod on the family, called by the pope. Unusually, the Vatican sent out a questionnaire ahead of the synod seeking the views of Catholics around the world on family, marriage and sexuality. The hierarchy has been reluctant to publish the responses, but it is clear from their commentaries that many Catholics do not follow the church’s teachings.

Sometimes the teachings are rejected or ignored – such as the prohibition of artificial birth control and pre-marital sex – but sometimes people want a more compassionate and constructive approach to those who respect the teachings but have failed to live up to them, for example in the case of divorced and remarried Catholics. The central message of the Christian faith is, after all, not that of moral perfection but of forgiveness, mercy and redemption.

For those who take for granted the values of progressive liberalism, the Catholic church seems like a creakingly anachronistic institution. As a feminist I am treated with incredulity by those who cannot understand why I remain within the church, particularly when I am repeatedly censored because I speak out on issues such as same-sex marriage and women’s ordination.

I came to the attention of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in August 2012, when – along with 26 other Catholic theologians, priests and public figures – I signed a letter to the Times, saying Catholics could in good conscience support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples. Formerly known as the Inquisition, the CDF is a shadowy group of senior bishops and cardinals charged with the promotion and defence of Catholic doctrine. In my case, their intervention has resulted in the cancellation of several public appearances, including a short visiting fellowship to the University of San Diego in 2012, and most recently a talk for the Newman Association in Edinburgh. The association received a letter from Archbishop Leo Cushley, saying he was acting on the instructions of the CDF and that I was not allowed to speak in any church in his diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

This climate of theological censorship developed during the papacy of John Paul II, when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) was the CDF’s hardline president. Benedict appointed the equally authoritarian Archbishop (now Cardinal) Gerhard Müller to that post. Many were surprised when Pope Francis renewed Müller’s appointment, because his heavy-handed approach seemed at odds with Francis’s more open ethos.

Francis has described the church’s preoccupation with contraception, abortion and homosexuality as “obsessive”. It is, he says, a distraction from the church’s primary vocation to live the dynamic joy and freedom of the gospel in a way that makes it attractive to others. If the Catholic church has in recent decades appeared to function as a global police force primarily concerned with controlling people’s sex lives, Francis wants it to instead become a church of the ordinary people, and a champion of the poor and the marginalised over and against the tyranny of the modern economic system.

He has kickstarted the process of reform that followed the second Vatican council (1962–65), which stalled during the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict. While ruling out women’s ordination, he has been quietly insisting on the appointment of more women to positions of influence in the Vatican. For example, the number of women on the International Theological Commission, which acts as theological advisor to the Magisterium, has just been increased from two to five.

Whatever happens in Rome over the next week or so might be decisive for any future direction: the church of Francis or the church of Benedict? The power struggles being played out suggest these two factions might be heading for a messy divorce.

So, why would a feminist stay in such a male-dominated institution where progressive liberalism is repeatedly thwarted? Progress is a dubious concept, and our rights and freedoms are daily corroded by the politics of greed, power and wealth. The Catholic church has a rich tradition of social teaching and solidarity with the poor which challenges these neo-liberal corporate values and offers a different way of living. It is a rich and diverse tradition, weaving together a vast multicultural family that defies the growing xenophobia and exclusivity of modern western societies. It offers a perspective from which to evaluate our muddled values and short-term goals against a more enduring and hopeful outlook on what it means to be human.

The church’s intellectual heritage is a complex mixture of theology, philosophy, art and science that enriches the mind, even if its own leaders have tended to be the worst enemies of this tradition – the sex abuse scandal has revealed a malignant darkness at the heart of the hierarchy. Yet all this is just as true of life outside the church. One should expect better of those who claim to be Christian, but in reality we humans are a species with a peculiar proclivity towards violence, shame and corruption.

Christians call it original sin, and I find in the Catholic church a powerful narrative of hope and redemption in the midst of that.

It is surely worth struggling for.

Posted in Church Worldwide news | 7 Comments

Francis: God wants to save everyone but the ruling class stands in his way

The Pope

At this morning’s mass in St. Martha’s House, the Pope urged faithful not to wander around searching for gurus to teach them about a salvation that is different from Jesus’. His salvation comes through mercy and forgiveness

Domenico Agasso jr
RomeWith the Extraordinary Synod on the family just a few days away, Pope Francis recalled that throughout history, it has always been “the ruling class that [has] close[d] the doors to the way in which God wants to save us.” Francis said this at this morning’s mass in St. Martha’s House, inviting faithful to believe in the salvation proclaimed by Jesus instead of “wander[ing] around looking for gurus to teach me another kind”.


Francis listed the attitudes of the ruling class in Jesus’ times: “They argue, they try to trick him and catch him out because they are resisting his offer of salvation. Jesus says to them, “I don’t understand you! You are like those children who say ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn’. What do you want?” They want, the Pope said, to save themselves and remain closed to the way of the Lord.” Salvation comes through mercy and forgiveness, not through sacrifice. “The drama of their resistance to salvation” is that they want to save themselves their “own way”. “How do I want to be saved?” “By a spirituality that is good for me, but static, self-explanatory and without any risk? Or by the divine, by Jesus who always surprises us, which always opens to us the doors to the mystery of God’s Omnipotence of, which is mercy and forgiveness?”


“All God wants is to save humanity but the problem is that humans often want to dictate the rules of salvation.”  “This explains the intense exchanges Jesus has with the ruling class of his day,” Francis stressed in his homily.


Those who feel they are the chosen ones show a reluctance to be saved. “It is the ruling class that closes the doors to the way in which God wants to save us.”The people of faith, however, understand and “accept” the salvation brought by Jesus. Their leaders, on the other hand, reduce salvation to the fulfilment of the 613 commandments they have created through their intellectual and theological fervour.” “They do not believe in mercy and forgiveness, they believe in the sacrifice.” “They believe in everything being settled, well organized, clear cut. This is the drama of resistance to salvation. “This drama exists within each and every one of us,” the Pope said.


The Gospel also describes this drama, this reluctance to be saved. “Jesus says to them, ‘I don’t understand you! You are like those children who say ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn. What do you want?’” To which they reply: “‘We want to make the rules for our own salvation!’”. “This is the dramatic paradox,” Francis said, “of so many of the Bible stories which culminate in the life of Jesus himself.”

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Who is responsible for this mess in the Archdiocese of Mumbai?

In Mumbai when any property has to be sold the following steps are usually taken depending on the value of the property as per Canon Law.

If the value of the   property to be sold is upto Rs.4,00,000/- ( Four Lakhs) the Parish Priest has authority to sell it.

It the value of the property to sold is upto Rs.10,00,000/- ( Ten  Lakhs) the Archbishop has authority to sell it.

It the value of the property to sold is above  Rs.10,00,000/- ( Ten  Lakhs) the Pope  has authority to sell it.

In Mumbai when property is to be sold or alienated the Parish Priest is guided by the Property Committee at the Parish level and the Archbishop is guided by the Archdiocesan Finance Committee . Thus members of the Finance Committee whether it is at the Parish Level or Archdiocesan level should be persons who possess technical knowledge and should not merely be yes men or  women.

Who were the persons on the Archdiocesan Finance Committee who recommended the sale of land/FSI in Marinagar which led to the signing of an agreement  in the year 2008?

What is their technical qualifications?Have they been made members merely because they are yes men/ women?

What has happened to the Inquiry Commission set up by Cardinal Oswald Gracias to look into the Marinagar deal more than 3 years ago?

Why is the Church in Mumbai remaining a silent spectator and is not complaining about the 6 already rehoused tenants of Quinny House who have fraudulently given affidavits to show that they are yet to be rehoused?

Why is the Church in Mumbai not stating openly that Quinny House was demolished and in its same place a new 7 storied building came to erected and 48 flats were constructed?

What about the 106 tenants whose benefit of additional FSI has been taken without their written consent?

I think the best person who is cut out to defend this deal will be Bishop Dominic Savio Fernandes who defended the Marinagar deal in the Examiner, the Vakola deal by means of a letter which was produced in Court at the time the accused successfully got anticipatory bail and now even the Thane Pokran Church deal.

He was the person who stood by and justified the Marinagar deal.Now could he explain about how the six already rehoused tenants are being rehoused once again. Could he explain why he feels that the person who exposed this deal are anti Church ?

Has Christ told us that standing up for the truth means a person is anti Church?

How many persons are aware that in order to get the Transfer of Development Rights certificate of 20,000 meters the Thane Municipal Corporation has given a written reply to the builder that two churches which includes the church in which Parishioners worship , the High school and Karuna Kendra have to be demolished.

Persons holding posts in the Archdiocesan Finance Committee should be held responsible for their decisions.Persons in the Archdiocesan Finance Committee are not holding posts of cosmetic value. It is absolutely ridiculous that a person with no technical knowledge are in the said committees.

Time and again when serious issues crop up , these persons who should be ideally around the place to state why they recommended the sale make themselves scarce and suddenly become busy.

If they were so busy then why did they take the post in the first instance?

Should not all the persons on these Committees and responsible for the Marinagar and Thane Pokran Church deal be held responsible for what they did? Or should  all of them  be knighted for the good work done?

We, too want good governace in the Church.


Posted in Church News in Mumbai/Thane/Navi Mumbai | 9 Comments