JANUARY 27, 2013, Vol 63, No 02

  Supporters of the National League for Democracy hold a portrait of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a by-election last year.  CNS photo Supporters of the National League for Democracy hold a portrait of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a by-election last year. CNS photo

LONDON – The Archbishop of Yangon says that 50 years after the military junta seized power in Myanmar, the light of hope is slowly starting and the country’s three million refugees should return home.

According to Zenit news agency, in a Christmas homily reported by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Charles Bo said “the opportunity” has come for the country’s massive exiled community to “come back to their motherland”.

The archbishop’s appeal extended to the country’s one million internally displaced people.

Archbishop Bo’s message comes amid widespread change in Myanmar. A nominally civilian government was installed in March 2011, a few months after the release of pro-democracy campaigner Aung Sang Suu Kyi. Last November, US President Barack Obama paid a landmark visit to the country.

Archbishop Bo called for the release of “political prisoners” jailed abroad and said the people’s debts should be cancelled, describing Myanmar as “a nation on a loan, despite our resources”.

He appealed for an end to internal conflict, saying that thousands had died in “senseless” violence and called for efforts towards reconciliation, saying that justice and peace were both vital.
MANILA – Domestic workers in Asia receive among the worst treatment globally, according to a report released on Jan 9 by the International Labour Organization.

Of the 21.5 million domestic workers in the Asia-Pacific, only three percent are entitled to a weekly day of rest against around half of all the butlers, maids and gardeners employed worldwide, according to the ILO report.

Similarly, just one percent of domestic workers in the region have statutory limits to their standard maximum weekly working hours versus three-quarters of counterparts in Latin America.

Asia scored particularly badly on maternity leave, a key indicator of rights given that women make up 80 percent of all domestic workers worldwide. Only 12 percent in the region enjoy such benefits, the report said, while in Latin America every woman qualifies for maternity leave.

  Thousands of demonstrators march in Paris on Jan 13 to protest France’s planned legalisation of same-sex marriage. CNS photo Thousands of demonstrators march in Paris on Jan 13 to protest France’s planned legalisation of same-sex marriage. CNS photo

PARIS – A French bishops’ spokesman urged politicians to “listen to the streets” after hundreds of thousands of people rallied against same-sex marriage.

“We’re facing questions about society – what the family is, what marriage is, and whether there’s a difference between men and women,” Msgr Bernard Podvin, spokesman for the French bishops’ conference, told France’s Metro daily.

“I’m not one who says the street must decide, because this is always dangerous, and political responsibility rests with those elected. But the street is expressing a great frustration today – those holding political responsibility can’t expect to govern without listening to what it’s saying,” he said.

The Jan 13 demonstration was organised by a coalition of 30 family groups. Organisers said 800,000 people participated, although French police put the number at 340,000.

Msgr Podvin said the Catholic Church believed homosexuals “must be respected,” but was against the same-sex bill, which was introduced in November by the government of President Francois Hollande under the slogan, “Marriage for All”. In addition to legalising same-sex marriage, it would allow adoption by same-sex couples.
VATICAN CITY – The Catholic Church remains committed to deepening its relations with Jews and finds it “absolutely unacceptable” to consider the Jewish people as enemies, the Vatican spokesman said.

“It is absolutely unacceptable, impossible, to define the Jews as enemies of the Church,” Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi said.

In an audio recording posted on YouTube on Dec 30, the head of the traditionalist Society of St Pius X called the Jewish people “enemies of the Church”, saying Jewish leaders’ support of the Second Vatican Council “shows that Vatican II is their thing, not the Church’s”.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the society, said those most opposed to the Church granting canonical recognition to the traditionalist society have been “the enemies of the Church: the Jews, the Masons, the modernists”.
ROME – Politicians who want to act as if God did not exist and as if there was no such thing as objective moral truths are bound to fail in their efforts to promote the common good, said a Vatican official.

“The politics we have today in Europe and North America without ethical foundations, without a reference to God, cannot resolve our problems, even those of the market and money,” said Archbishop Gerhard L Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The archbishop, coordinator of the project to publish the complete works of Joseph Ratzinger-Pope Benedict XVI, said one of the key teachings of the pope is the importance of faith and reason going hand in hand.

Speaking on Jan 11 at a Vatican bookstore in downtown Rome, Archbishop Muller said, “Faith and reason are like two people who love each other deeply, who cannot live without each other, and who were intimately made for one another, so much so that they cannot be considered separate from one another and cannot reach their goals separately”.