Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Divorce not Sinful, Former Top Canonist Says
Divorce is not a sin, an outspoken former Vatican official has told an Italian newspaper. "In itself, divorce is not a sin, and in certain cases it could even be recommended, to resolve patrimonial or civil problems," Cardinal Mario Francesco Pompedda said. Until his retirement in May 2004 at the age of 75, Cardinal Pompedda was the Vatican's top judicial official. Cardinal Pompedda’s comments came in support of Spanish Jesuits who had recently suggested that the Church should allow Catholics who are divorced and remarried to receive Communion. A Jesuit author had argued that divorce is not a sin, and that Catholics who divorce and remarry are not excommunicated. Cardinal Pompedda supported that view, arguing that "the principle of the indissolubility of marriage does not prevent us from regarding divorce as licit." The question of whether Catholics should be allowed to receive Communion after divorce and remarriage has prompted some intense debate in recent years. The Vatican has consistently answered in the negative, upholding the traditional teaching that a valid marriage can never be set aside, and a second union is therefore adulterous.
Church of England Unveils Options over Women Bishops
The Church of England could someday see the appointment of the first female Archbishop of Canterbury, a story in the London Independent reports. Under proposals published recently for the consecration of women bishops, all bishops' posts including the See of Canterbury would be open legally to women under the plans put forward in a Church of England House of Bishops document. However, the Crown Nominations Commission would be given statutory authority to judge whether the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion was ready for a female Archbishop of Canterbury. Under the proposals, a move which would mean such a change could only be envisaged a long way in the future. The Guildford group report puts forward compromise proposals for the Church of England for the consecration of women bishops. The document suggests a scheme entitled Transferred Episcopal Arrangements which would allow for the appointment of a group of male bishops who would care for parishes which rejected women bishops. The document rejects calls from traditionalists who want to set up a separate division of the Church to administer to opponents of female bishops. The Church of England first ordained women priests in 1994, a move which sparked controversy and resulted in a walkout by some traditionalists. More than 1,000 parishes have voted to reject women priests. The document notes that the earliest date at which the first episcopal appointment might be open to a woman would probably by 2012.
Episcopal Bishop Removes Priest in Dispute over Gay Clergy
The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut on Saturday removed a priest from his duties in a clash over the elevation of a gay bishop in New Hampshire. Connecticut Bishop Andrew D. Smith stripped Mark H. Hansen, formerly of St. John's Church in Bristol, "of the right to exercise the office of priest in the Episcopal church." Smith acted six months after Hansen's suspension that began July 13, saying it was his duty to remove Hansen because the priest failed to meet conditions including recanting his behavior or statements that led to the inhibition. Hansen, who resigned his priesthood in September, refused to meet with Smith. The conflict stems from Smith's support for the Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the church's first openly gay bishop. Robinson's consecration in 2003 has divided the U.S. Episcopal Church and expanded the rift over gay issues among churches in the global Anglican Communion. "The controversies are still there. This is not about the controversy," Smith said. "This is about his abandonment of the relationship he has as a priest with the bishop. People disagree with me (over Robinson) and do not abandon their relationship with the bishop."
Famine in Kenya – Thousands Dying
Once again drought threatens the lives of two and a half million people in Kenya, where government figures estimate that 17 people are dying every day, according to Missions Insider. The most vulnerable are children and the elderly. Eighty percent of the livestock in the northern and eastern regions have died because there has been no food, water, or grass for the animals. In his New Year’s speech to the nation, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki declared a state of national disaster in areas of the country hit by severe shortages of food and water, following a prolonged drought. He said, "In the next six months, up to 2.5 million of our people will be in need of famine relief." He also appealed for donations to alleviate the plight of those affected. Sylvester O’kango, leader of Kenya Evangelism Team (KET), pleads for help from fellow believers. Inflation is rampant in Kenya, where the cost of a sack of corn ($30) or beans ($45) has doubled, costing more than the average Kenyan earns per month. The people in the region are very resistant to the gospel, so KET has targeted this people group, and is praying that this disaster will be an open door for the gospel. Though poor themselves, churches planted by KET are all “contributing even the small fraction of support we may have, so that we may be able to contribute towards our fellow country people, who are dying because of famine.”