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By Kantz, Matt | National Catholic Reporter, February 12, 1999 | Go to article overview

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Kantz, Matt, National Catholic Reporter


Bishop says Sudanese slave trade

After a human rights group announced it purchased the freedom of 1,050 mostly child slaves in Sudan, a bishop decried the slave trade, which he said has been going on "forever" in the country.

Arab slave traders have kidnapped great numbers of Christian and animist southern Sudanese over the years, said Bishop Cesare Mazzolari, apostolic administrator of the Rumbek diocese in southern Sudan.

"It still goes on, and children are stolen from their families and taken to Koranic schools to be indoctrinated and Islamisized. A lucky few receive scholarships to study, but the others are sent to Northern Sudan or to Arab countries as slaves," the bishop said Jan. 29 in Nairobi, Kenya, where many of the southern Sudanese bishops keep an office.

The Swiss-based group Christian Solidarity International bought the slaves in January for $50 per person with the help of European and North American financial backers.

In a Jan. 28 statement, the group said, "Interviews with redeemed slaves reveal a consistent pattern of physical and psychological torture, such as throat-slitting, death threats, female genital mutilation, forced conversion to Islam, beatings and lashings, and unpaid labor."

Mazzolari said he would be going to Sudan for 10 days to look into the situation. He added that the Catholic church has been involved in redeeming children from slave traders and has established a school for them once they have been freed.

Irish brother jailed for sexual abuse

An Irish Catholic brother was jailed for eight years Feb. 1 after admitting to 53 cases of sexually abusing children under his care.

Br. Patrick John Kelly, 50, confessed to abusing 11 children at different schools where he taught between 1977 and 1988.

Families of the abused children applauded the ruling after the judge said it was the worst case he had ever heard.

Kelly, a teacher from Cork, was a member of the Christian Brothers, some of whose members have been accused of pedophilic activities on several occasions in the past. The order's leadership published an apology in the Irish press last year for all the sexual abuses committed by its members.

Pilgrims can `walk on water' in the new millennium

Pilgrims traveling to Israel for the millennium celebrations will be offered the chance to "walk on water" in Israel, where the government is constructing a submerged bridge in the Sea of Galilee allowing tourists to simulate the miracle the gospel says Jesus performed.

The Israeli National Parks Authority head of planning, Zeev Margalit, said a private contractor has been authorized to build the bridge in time for the millennium when some 4 million pilgrims are expected to make their way to Israel.

Margalit concluded it would "not hurt the feelings of the Christian tourists and it would not be too kitschy. So we decided to go with it."

Wadia Abu Nassar, director of millennium celebrations for the Catholic church in Israel said the church had yet to decide whether to list the bridge as an official site.

"It is problematic," Nassar said. "It will lead to various interpretations."

New debate front opens in Austrian controversy

Despite Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schonborn's recent call for a moratorium on debate inside the Austrian Catholic church, a new front opened recently in the pages of a newspaper close to Bishop Kurt Krenn of Sankt Polten.

Krenn and Schonborn squared off last fall over a report to the pope in which the Austrian bishops admitted mishandling charges of sex abuse against former cardinal of Vienna Hans Groer. Krenn, a defender of Groer, rejected the report and indirectly called Schonborn a "liar." The comment triggered widespread calls for Krenn's removal.

In its most recent issue, the newspaper 13 -- self-described as "loyal to the past" -- said that Schonborn blends the "arrogance of nobility" with a "certain diplomacy and loveliness. …

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