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International Briefing - Presiding Bishop visits Cuba

[Episcopal News Service]  Episcopal News Service: International Briefing
Friday, February 24, 2006
  • BRAZIL: Strong Anglican voice in future WCC work
  • BRAZIL: WCC Assembly concludes, elects new presidents and central committee
  • CANADA: Church puts out call for overseas volunteers
  • CUBA: Presiding Bishop makes official visit
  • ENGLAND: Archbishop of York calls Guantanamo Bay 'a breach of international law'
  • INDIAN OCEAN: Archbishop Ian Ernest installed as new Primate
  • NIGERIA: Anglican leader warns of reprisals over torching of churches
  • PAKISTAN: Christians call for peace following attacks on churches in Sukkur
  • SINGAPORE: Global South Primates Steering Committee issue communiqué
  • SUDAN: Archbishop of Canterbury will encourage peace and development during visit
  • SUDAN: Communiqué from the Provincial Synod of the Episcopal Church
  • UGANDA: Bishop Stuart University holds maiden graduation

BRAZIL: Strong Anglican voice in future WCC work

[ENS, Source: Anglican Communion News Service] Anglicans will have a significant role in the World Council of Churches over the next seven years, both through representation on the Central Committee and also by the election of Dr. Mary Tanner, a member of the Church of England, as one of eight regional presidents of the WCC. The presidents serve as the public voice and face of the WCC in both their geographic regions and also worldwide in the period between General Assemblies, as well as being ex-officio members of the WCC Central Committee.
        Tanner, who was elected president for the European region, has contributed to the ecumenical movement in a variety of ways throughout the years. She has been a member of the WCC Faith and Order Commission since 1974, serving as moderator from 1991 to 1998. She has also been a member of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC since its inception in 1991. Tanner has been involved in various ecumenical conversations on behalf of the Anglican Communion, including the Anglican-Roman Catholic conversation. From 1982 to 1998 she was active within the Church of England body that ultimately became the Council for Christian Unity, serving as its General Secretary from 1991 to 1998.

Full story by Jamie McMahon

BRAZIL: WCC Assembly concludes, elects new presidents and central committee

[ENS, Source: World Council of Churches] A new body to lead the World Council of Churches (WCC) into the next decade was elected in Porto Alegre on February 22 as the 9th Assembly drew to a close. Delegates at the Assembly, who had been meeting since February 14, also endorsed measures designed to strengthen youth participation in the organization's decision-making.
        The Assembly elected a 150-member central committee, which serves as the main decision-making body of the Council between assemblies. The Assembly also appointed presidents for each of the world regions and for the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches.
        During the Assembly, the WCC leadership and many delegates urged the Council to find ways of strengthening youth participation and of involving young adults in the leadership and decision-making of the church fellowship. Proposals for a new representative body for youth will be discussed on the last day of the Assembly.
        The new 150-person central committee includes 63 women (42%), 22 youth (15%), and six indigenous persons (4%). 97 members of the committee are ordained (65%). The nominations committee worked with a pool of names put forward by the WCC's 348 member churches. A 25-person executive committee, a moderator and two vice-moderators will be elected by the central committee later this week.
        The role of the WCC presidents is to promote ecumenism and to interpret the work of the WCC, especially in their respective regions. The presidents are ex-officio members of central committee.

Detailed coverage of the WCC's 9th Assembly

CANADA: Church puts out call for overseas volunteers

[ENS, Source: Anglican Journal] The Anglican Church of Canada's volunteer program is appealing for candidates to serve the church in different capacities overseas, as it once again goes through a bleak period, with a dearth of volunteers and a critical need for help overseas.
        "The staffing situation will be desperate in July, so any help will be appreciated," said a letter from a church partner in Dodoma, Tanzania, to Jill Cruse, co-ordinator for the Volunteers in Mission (VIM) program of the Anglican Church of Canada.
       Cruse pointed to the letter to underscore the urgent need for volunteers to support VIM. Approved in 1986 by General Synod, the church's governing body, the VIM program enables people of various ages, skills and professions to offer themselves for voluntary service for one to two years.
        VIM has recently been swamped with requests for volunteers from church partners in Africa, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean but it has no one to send, said Cruse. She said that to date, no one has applied to become a VIM this year. Last year, VIM sent three volunteers -- one to Sri Lanka, one to Belize, and one to Tanzania.
        In an interview, Cruse said VIM has undergone a similar cycle of highs and lows before. "It's hard to predict when people will hear the call to serve overseas," she said. The last time VIM had a shortage of volunteers was after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, when people were hesitant to travel or venture out of their comfort zones, said Cruse.
        Volunteers who have been requested range from teachers to communications officers to paramedics. The diocese of Masasi, Tanzania, for example, needs an individual to head the English department of its junior seminary in Lindi. Dodoma, Tanzania, needs at least nine teachers for its early years and middle elementary schools. The diocese of Colombo, Sri Lanka, has also requested English teachers. "We would normally require a two-year period but in the circumstances will be happy to receive people even for one year," wrote Colombo Bishop Duleep de Chickera.
        Cruse says one does not have to fit a certain profession to become a volunteer since the needs are varied. She said that people interested in becoming volunteers should call her office to inquire about where their skills could be put to good use. "We are prepared to match their skills with the needs," she said.
        The VIM website, which features volunteer opportunities, Those interested in participating in the program should contact Jill Cruse at 416.924.9199, ext. 315, or email:

CUBA: Presiding Bishop makes official visit

[ENS] Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold embarked on a five-day visit to Cuba February 24. He will be hosted by La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba, a diocese governed by a Metropolitan Council in matters of faith and order.
        Council members of the Diocese of Cuba include the Primate of Canada, the Archbishop of the West Indies, and the President Bishop of the Episcopal Church's newest Province, the Anglican Church of the Central American Region.
        Griswold will be accompanied by Alex Baumgarten, international policy analyst in the Office of Government Relations; Barbara Braver, the Presiding Bishop's assistant for communication; Brian Grieves, director of Peace and Justice Ministries; Juan Marquez, Latin America and Caribbean partnerships officer in the Office of Anglican and Global Relations; and Bob Williams, director of communication.
        The origin of the Episcopal Church in Cuba can be found in the visit in 1871 of Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple of the Episcopal Church of the United States. On his way to Haiti, Whittle stopped off at Havana, which was in the grip of an epidemic at the time. Whittle was disturbed by the lack of spiritual comfort available for the dying, the number of clergy in the Roman Catholic Church being too few to offer adequate support. Out of this experience, on his return to the United States, he persuaded the Episcopal Church to send missionaries to Cuba.
        The Cuban church separated from the Episcopal Church in 1967 due to political tensions with the United States.
        With about 10,000 Anglicans out of a population of 11.4 million, the church currently consists of about 45 churches and 25 clergy.
        Further information about the Diocese of Cuba can be found online at:

ENGLAND: Archbishop of York calls Guantanamo Bay 'a breach of international law'

[ENS, Source: Church of England] Archbishop of York John Sentamu said February 23 in response to the suggestion that the Guantanamo Bay situation was an anomaly:
        "This is not an anomaly. By 'declaring war on terror' President Bush is perversely applying the rules of engagement which apply in a war situation. But the prisoners are not being regularly visited by the Red Cross or Red Crescent, which is required by the Geneva Convention. They were not even allowed to be interviewed by the United Nations Human Rights Group.
        In Uganda President Amin did something similar: he did not imprison suspects because he knew that in prison the law would apply to them, so he created special places to keep them. If the Guantanamo Bay detainees were on American soil, the law would apply. This is a breach of international law and a blight on the conscience of America."

The Archbishop had previously said February 17:

"The American Government is breaking international law. Whatever they may say about democracy, to hold someone for up to four years without charge clearly indicates a society that is heading towards George Orwell's Animal Farm.
        The main building block of a democratic society is that everyone is equal before the law, is innocent until proved otherwise and has the right to legal representation. If the guilt of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay is beyond doubt, why are the Americans afraid to bring them to trial? Transparency and accountability are the other side of the coin of freedom and responsibility.
        We are all accountable for our actions in spite of circumstances. The events of 9/11 cannot erase the rule of law and international obligations. I back the United Nations Human Rights Commission report, recommending that the US try all the detainees, or free them without further delay. If the US refuses to respond, maybe the Commission should seek a writ of Habeas Corpus in a United States Court, or at the Hague."

INDIAN OCEAN: Archbishop Ian Ernest installed as new Primate

[ENS, Source: Anglican Communion News Service] In a colorful ceremony broadcast live on national television, the Most Rev. Gerald James Ian Ernest was installed as 5th Archbishop of the Indian Ocean on Sunday, February 19, in the historic Cathedral of St. James, Port Louis, Mauritius. Portions of the service were in English, French, Creole and Ny Baiboly.
         Visiting bishops in colorful vestments walked in procession with the new Primate into the stately cathedral as the two-hour service began. Government leaders, including the Prime Minister and President, along with the clergy of the diocese and from throughout the Province were present. Extra seating was provided outside for the overflow congregation.
        Music included traditional Anglican anthems and hymns, Taize prayer chants, with dancers from Madagascar. The new archbishop's vestments were designed by his wife, Kamla. His son Julian traveled from Canterbury, where he is studying at the University of Kent and works at the cathedral.
        Visiting bishops from the United States, Southern Africa, Central Africa and West Malaysia were present but some bishops from Nigeria were unable to obtain visas. Canon James Rosenthal, representing the Anglican Communion, read a letter from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and brought greetings from the secretary general, Canon Kenneth Kearon. He presented the new primate with a silver plaque with the Compass Rose, symbol of the Anglican Communion. Bishop Andrew Smith of Connecticut read a greeting from Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, and Bishop Suffragan Elijah Twala of Natal brought greetings from the Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Rev. Njongonkulu Ndungane. Bishops Elisha Ponniah of West Malaysia and James Tengatenga of Southern Malawi were also present.
        In his installation sermon, delivered in French, the new primate spoke of the mission of the church. "In the Scriptures, Jesus' mission is inscribed in the sharing of the Good News with the sick, the marginalized and the poor," he said. "As missionaries of our times, and despite our frailty, our weaknesses and our imperfections, we need to make Christ's action our action. The challenges are numerous, the enterprise is huge, yet the responsibility is ours. If we want to ensure the continuity of God's mission, we cannot run away from the suffering of the Cross. However, if we affirm what we are and what we believe, if Archbishop, Bishops, clergy and laity, we all work together to live our faith and accomplish our mission, then we shall become a revitalized Church, capable of becoming salt to this earth and light to the world."

Full story

NIGERIA: Anglican leader warns of reprisals over torching of churches
By Obed Minchakpu

[ENS, Source: Ecumenical News International] Nigerian Christian leaders have denounced the killing of at least 51 Christians and the destruction of more than 31 churches in the north of the country during protests by Muslims incensed over the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in Western media.
        The attacks began on February 18 in the cities of Maiduguri and Katsina and spread to Bauchi two days later and then to Gombe on February 22 with churches as the first targets. But mosques were burned down when Christians retaliated, and church leaders warned more could follow.
        The president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Jasper Akinola, condemning the attacks on Christians, warned that retaliations seemed inevitable. The attacks followed the publication, first in Denmark, then in other countries, of caricatures of Muhammad that triggered violent protests in some parts of the world.
        Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold has written to Akinola conveying his concern and offering his prayers.
 "We have for a long time now watched helplessly the killing, maiming and destruction of Christians and their property by Muslim fanatics and fundamentalists at the slightest or no provocation at all," said Akinola in Nnewi, in southeastern Nigeria. "We are not unaware of the fact that these religious extremists have the full backup and support of some influential Muslims who are yet to appreciate the value of peaceful co-existence."
        He noted: "Nigeria belongs to all of us -- Christians, Muslims and members of other faiths. No amount of intimidation can change this time-honored arrangement in this nation. CAN may no longer be able to contain our restive youths should this ugly trend continue."
        Akinola said the fact that "an incident in far away Denmark, which is not even a Christian country, could elicit such unfortunate reaction here in Nigeria, leading to the destruction of Christian churches, is not only embarrassing, but also disturbing and unfortunate."
        He said it was clear to him that the sacrifices of Christians in Nigeria seeking peaceful co-existence with Muslims had been misunderstood.
        "It is no longer a hidden fact that a long-standing agenda to make Nigeria an Islamic nation is being surreptitiously pursued," he observed. "The willingness of Muslims to descend with violence on innocent Christians from time to time is to all intents and purposes a design to actualize their dream."
        About 50 percent of Nigeria's 129 million people are Muslims, while 40 percent are Christians.

Full text of Akinola's statement

PAKISTAN: Christians call for peace following attacks on churches in Sukkur

[ENS] Christians in Pakistan have called on government officials to "evolve a strategy to usher in the new era of peace and harmony in Pakistan," following a wave of fundamentalist attacks on churches and church properties in Sukkur, Pakistan.
        Bishops of the Church of Pakistan joined other Christian leaders in meeting with Shoukat Aziz, prime minister, and General Pervaiz Musharraf, president, on February 22, to "seek the solution [to] this deteriorating condition," said Bishop Rafiq Masih of the Diocese of Hyderabad.
        St. Saviour's Anglican Church in Sukkur and St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church came under severe attack on February 19, Masih explained. "It was heartbreaking to accept this truth during my visit to those blazed churches along with [Roman Catholic] Bishop Max [of the Diocese of Hyderabad] and other co-workers," he said. "As we stepped into the church compound the Christian community burst into tears and held us tightly as they were completely in a condition of shock and fear."
        Masih has joined other Christian leaders in expressing his grief and anger about such attacks and has appealed to government officials, some of whom have visited the destroyed properties, to bring the perpetrators to justice. "We are thankful to the government of Pakistan, Ministers, members of National Assembly, members of Provincial Assemblies, political leaders and those who visited these churches and condemn this act and expressed their sympathy," Masih said.
       Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams encouraged inter-faith understanding during a visit to Pakistan in November 2005.
 "I urge all ... faith leaders to come together at one platform and address this sensitive issue," Masih said. "I believe we, the religious leaders, can ... play a considerable part in bringing [about] positive change."
       Masih also expressed his sincere gratitude to all the bishops of the Church of Pakistan, organizations, institutions, NGOs "and those who are with us in this difficult time. We seek a Pakistan that is secure and at peace with all religions, a voice for tolerance and capacity for forgiveness. We anticipate and pray for a new wave of interfaith harmony in our Pakistan.

SINGAPORE: Global South Primates Steering Committee issue communiqué

[ENS, Source: Anglican Communion News Service] Anglican Primates of the so-called "Global South" issued a communiqué February 6 after meeting in Singapore for the 10th anniversary of the formation of the Province of South East Asia. The meeting also coincided with the installation of Bishop John Chew as the Third Archbishop of the province. Chew succeeds Archbishop Yong Ping Chung as primate.

Full text of the communiqué

SUDAN: Archbishop of Canterbury will encourage peace and development during visit

[ENS, Lambeth Palace] The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, is to visit Sudan next week at the invitation of the Primate of the Province of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, the Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Marona, and will mark the start of Lent -- a season of fasting and penitence for the Church -- by visiting U.N. World Food Program locations on the White Nile.
        Williams will meet with the Government of National Unity in Sudan as well as Muslim and Christian faith leaders in both Khartoum and Southern Sudan. He will spend Ash Wednesday -- a day of fasting -- by taking part in barge and school distribution projects in Malakal.
        The Archbishop's official program will begin in Khartoum on Sunday, February 25, and he will return to the U.K. on March 5. As well as church services and other official meetings and events in Khartoum and Juba, Williams will visit a Displaced People's Settlement in Khartoum and consecrate a new cathedral in Renk, offering new hope and encouragement to millions of Anglicans across the country, and will visit a rural school under a tree in an area recently attacked by a well-armed militia group claiming to be part of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
        Williams will be accompanied by Bishop David Stancliffe of Salisbury. The Dioceses of Salisbury and Bradford have long-established links with the Province of Sudan.
        "The Episcopal Church in the Sudan remains one of the key civil society organizations capable of delivering reconciliation and sustained development in the region," Williams said. "I am proud to be visiting them at this crucial time in their country's history and I look forward to supporting the work of the World Food Program in Sudan. I am anxious to see governments, U.N. agencies and faith based organizations working together to strengthen all that makes for peace in a land that has known far too much of war."

Further information

SUDAN: Communiqué from the Provincial Synod of the Episcopal Church

[ENS, Source: Episcopal Church of the Sudan] The 8th Provincial Synod of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan was held in Juba from January 23-29, 2006, for the first time in more than a decade. In its communiqué, the synod "gives thanks to Almighty God for the opportunity to meet together in peace after 21 years of civil war. We praise God for the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement on January 9, 2005, and convey our congratulations to the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A on achieving the agreement and on the formation of the Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan."

Full text of the communiqué

UGANDA: Bishop Stuart University holds maiden graduation

[ENS, Source: New Vision Kampala] More than 180 students from Bishop Stuart University in Mbarara, Uganda were on February 17 awarded degrees and diplomas in different disciplines at a colorful ceremony presided over by Anglican archbishop Henry Luke Orombi. It was the university's maiden graduation ceremony.
        Fourteen students were awarded a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and five received the award of Bachelor of Development Studies, while five students received the award of Bachelor of Arts with education degree.
        Eighty-four students were awarded a Bachelor of Education degree, while 68 were awarded a diploma in primary education and 12 students graduated with certificate in nursery teaching.
        The dean of students, John Tuhairwe Mwesigwa, said 89 of the graduates were females while 99 were males.
 Orombi cautioned the graduates to safeguard themselves from HIV/AIDS and urged them to use the talents attained from the university to create employment.

Full story by Kyomuhendo Muhanga