Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne emphasised that priests are under an absolute moral obligation to preserve the secrecy of the confessional.

The archbishop was reacting to a recommendation by an Australian Royal Commission that would oblige priests to break the seal of confession in cases of child abuse. Hart said that priests should inform police about any abuse complaints they hear in other circumstances, but should accept a prison term rather than disclose the contents of a sacramental confession.

Praise for nun who served lepers

Many Pakistani leaders lauded Sister Ruth Pfau, the German nun who worked with lepers in Pakistan. The nun, who has been compared to Mother Teresa, died on August 10 at the age of 87.

Born in 1929, Sister Ruth Pfau graduated from medical school in West Germany. In 1960 she was sent on a mission to India by the Daughters of the Heart of Mary but stayed in Pakistan because of visa problems. She dedicated her life serving people with leprosy, training doctors and founding treatment centres.

The President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussein, saluted her on her death, saying that her services to end leprosy in Pakistan cannot be forgotten. He said that although Sr Pfau was born in Germany, her heart was always in Pakistan.

600 Christian families return to northern Iraq

Archbishop Petros Mouche, the Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, said after the liberation of Mosul and northern Iraq from Isis over 600 Christian families have returned to the region to “start again from scratch”.

The archbishop told Aid to the Church in Need that the liberation of the region was “a sign of hope for us Christians”.

He said: “For us Syriac Catholic Christians in Iraq, liberation is a cause for great joy because the vast majority of my diocese was staying in the environs of Mosul and in Qaraqosh.”

Syriac Catholics made up 60 per cent of 150,000 Christians and others forced to flee to Erbil from the Nineveh Plains and Mosul due to Isis violence.

The number of Christians in Iraq today is probably as few as 300,000, down from 1.5 million before the 2003 US-led invasion.

(Compiled by Fr Joe Borg)


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