It turns out that Pope Francis will not visit South Sudan this October with the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury as he had originally hoped. With the civil war violence and famine spreading, the Pope had expressed doubts back in March, about the possibility of making the trip. Although a team from the Vatican recently visited Juba in May to study the possibility, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke confirmed that the trip will take place this year.
Last October, various Church officials from the Sudan came to the Vatican to explain the situation in their country and to invite the Pope and Archbishop Welby to visit and bring a message of peace directly to the people and to the feuding members of the government.
While visiting an Anglican church in Rome in February, Pope Francis noted how leaders of the different churches were working together for peace and that the South Sudan invitation was an ecumenical one. At this time, there is no further information on when a Papal trip to the Sudan may happen.
To the Philippines now, where violence and tension is growing between the Philippine armed forces and terrorists linked to the Islamic State in the southern city of Marawi.
Last week, ISIS militants swept into Marawi City on the island of Mindanao, burning churches and schools, and kidnapping Fr Teresito Suganob, the vicar general of the Prelature of Marawi, along with several staff of St. Mary's Cathedral.
President Rodrigo Duterte quickly imposed martial law for 60 days across the entire Muslim-majority region of Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities which covers roughly one third of the entire country.
At first, most of the religious leaders were against the martial law order however, in the wake of the growing killings, the Catholic bishops in the southern Philippines issued a statement in support of martial law but clearly stated that it must be temporary.
A video recently surfaced on Facebook of the kidnapped vicar general claiming he's being held with more than 240 hostages. He's seen pleading to the Philippine President to consider the lives of the hostages asking him to stop the airstrikes and attacks against the city.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Philippine bishops' conference, said in a statement that the terrorists have threatened to kill the hostages if government forces pitted against them are not recalled.
State security forces continue to battle with the terrorist group as the military "clearing operations" continue, but it is resulting in the displacement of thousands of people in the region. I’ll keep you updated as the story progresses in the days to come.
To Mexico now where the lives of the Bishops and priests in the Mexican state of Guerrero are being threatened by drug cartels as they serve a region plagued with drug related crimes.
Bishop Maximino Martinez was recently robbed of his car at gunpoint after encountering a roadblock manned by an armed group in the violent Tierra Caliente region while the Bishop of Tlapa was asked to pay extortion fees
In a recent news conference on the growing violence against religious clergy, Bishop Mendoza provided details of incidences where three priests have received death threats, and how this is becoming a normal thing. The Bishop himself has spoken about establishing communications with cartel bosses in an attempt to pacify one of Mexico's most violent states.
The violence rate in Mexico has grown significantly over the last two years and statistics show that the country is on pace to record its highest homicide rate in 20 years. The state of Guerrero has been especially violent and had a murder rate of 61 per 100,000 residents in 2016 which is highest in the country. At least four priests and two seminarians have been murdered in that state since 2009.
And finally now, with tens of thousands of Haitian refugees in the US granted Temporary Protected Status until January, the conditions in their homeland are not getting any better. I have now this report from CNS
That's all that we have time for today. Join us again on Monday when we bring you more of the latest news and stories through the Perspectives through a Catholic lens.
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