During an in-flight news conference after a one-day ecumenical journey to Geneva, Pope Francis said the difficulty with the proposal of the Catholic bishops’ conference of Germany to publish a policy about the reception of communion by Protestants married to Catholics in special cases was not about the content. The difficulty is that the Code of Canon Law does not provide for policies by bishops’ conferences. The bishops’ conference can study the issue and offer guidelines that help bishops handle each individual case, he said.

‘Overwhelming’ help offered to migrants

Arturo Ros, Auxiliary Bishop and coordinator of the social and chari­table service of the Archdiocese of Valencia, said the diocese was overwhelmed with calls and people, groups, families and parishes all willing to help migrants on the ship Aquarius. An existing network of facilities and services, as well as about 6,000 volunteers, were made available. Last year, Caritas Valencia helped 25,000 migrants.

Fewer Christians in the Middle East

In a panel discussion organised by Embrace the Middle East on the experience of Christians in the region, Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP, former master of the Dominican Order, said the number of Christians in the Middle East has decreased dramatically. In Iraq, there were 1.5 million but this figure dropped to 300,000 in 2018.

Bishop Thomas of the Coptic diocese of El Qussia and Mair in Upper Egypt said there had been a huge exodus of Coptic Christians to the west due to the persecutions they have suffered.

Souraya Bechealany, acting secretary general of the Middle East Council of Churches, said Christians and Muslims should build the future of their countries together. She explained that the Middle East has historically been a pluralist society, with a high degree of religious and cultural diversity.

Bishop Thomas said that Christians should ally themselves with the forces that look towards “the transformation of society”.

Mozambique bishop calls for calm

Bishop Luis Fernando Lisboa of Pemba, Mozambique, has called for “calm and serenity” among the people of this region in the north of the country, which is also one of its poorest. He described the situation of extreme violence as “ab­solutely new to us all”. It has ta­ken the government, peo­ple and the security forces by surprise.

(Compiled by Fr Joe Borg)