Media Watch

Few Priests Brave Tibetan Mountains

NEWSWEEK, June 11—Some Catholic congregations in remote Tibetan villages are slowly vanishing due to a lack of priests, the national weekly reported.

Ethnic Tibetans are usually raised Buddhist, but there are tiny Catholic enclaves where congregations wait for traveling priests. Sometimes holidays like Christmas are postponed until the priest arrives. Baptisms are performed by the laity.

Many worry that Tibet's Catholic communities, which have faced persecution both from the Chinese government and from Tibetan Buddhists fearful of foreign evangelists, may die out without local priests.

Russia Moves Toward Restrictions on Religion

KESTON NEWS SERVICE, June 13—A draft of a new religion policy for Russia called for tighter controls on religious organizations and believers, the religous-freedom news service reported.

The draft was proposed by the Institute for State-Confessional Relations and Law and the Moscow City Department of Justice. It calls for protection against “foreign religious expansion into Russia as an element of the foreign policy of a number of foreign states,” echoing a common charge against foreign missionaries and members of religious groups based outside of Russia, like the Catholic Church.

Another drafted policy, “Conceptual Bases for Church-State Relations in the Russian Federation,” was produced by the religious faculty of the Russian Academy for State Service. It emphasized that the Russian Federation is a secular state. The draft called for a revival of a state organization dealing with religious groups, after the manner of the Soviet-era Council for Religious Affairs.

The draft policies have not yet been approved by the Russian administration.

Priest Who Slew Bishop Faces Excommunication

ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 12—Father Mario Orantes, convicted of involvement in the 1998 murder of Guatemalan Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi, will face excommunication in a religious trial, the wire service reported.

The trial will take place once Father Orantes has exhausted his appeal of the 20-year prison sentence handed down by a secular Guatemalan court. The appeal could take up to a year.

Bishop Gerardi, the head of the Church's Guatemalan human rights office, was bludgeoned to death at his rectory apparently in retaliation for presenting a report that blamed the military for most of the 200,000 deaths in Guatemala's 1960-1996 civil war.

Father Orantes was convicted of giving the killers access to and information on Bishop Gerardi.

Most Australian IVF Couples Kill the ‘Extras’

SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, June 12—Ninety-five percent of the couples who use in vitro fertilization in the Australian state of Victoria allow the resulting embryos to be killed after five years in storage rather than giving the embryos to other childless couples, the Sydney daily reported.

In vitro fertilization results in the creation of a number of “excess,” unwanted embryos. The state will store them for five years. Many parents who considered donating the unwanted embryos changed their minds after being told that the children might want to contact them in the future.