This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to Religion News Service, Patriarch Porfirije, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, has tested positive for COVID-19, the church said Tuesday, amid a surge in infections in the country and elsewhere in the Balkan region. Porfirije has developed “very mild symptoms of the virus infection” and remains in home isolation, said the statement. It added that Porfirije is carrying out administrative duties entirely without problems. The 60-year-old patriarch became the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church after the previous patriarch, Irinej, died in November 2020 after contracting the coronavirus. Porfirije on Sunday attended a mass ceremony in Republika Srpska, the Serb-run part of neighboring Bosnia, where few people wore face masks. Serbia reported nearly 9,000 new infections on Monday in the country of 7 million people. The number of daily new cases has risen sharply after New Year’s celebrations that included open-air concerts and relaxed anti-virus rules.
According to CBN, India’s government is reversing an anti-Christian move it made a few weeks ago and is now allowing Mother Teresa’s charity to receive foreign funds once again. Hindu hardliners had blocked it saying the Catholic organization did not meet conditions under local laws. Derek O’Brien, a lawmaker from the opposition Trinamool Congress party, has tweeted that Missionaries of Charity (MoC) was back on the list of approved associations after its license to receive funds from foreign contributions was restored. As CBN News reported late last month, the Indian government blocked the famous Catholic charity founded by Mother Teresa from receiving the funds, rejecting the ministry’s renewal application. Missionaries of Charity found out on Christmas Day that its application, which allows it to receive financial assistance from abroad, was not considered by India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) due to “adverse inputs,” The Guardian reported. The move by India’s MHA drew strong criticism on social media, with parliament leader P. Chidambaram referring to the rejection as “shocking.”
According to Reuters, The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem has accused radical Israeli groups of threatening the presence of Christians in the holy city, in remarks that Israeli officials rejected as baseless. In a column in the Times of London on Saturday, His Beatitude, Theophilos III, said he believed the aim was to drive the Christian community from Jerusalem’s Old City, which has sites sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Israel captured East Jerusalem, including the Old City, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a 1967 war. It annexed East Jerusalem after the war in a move that has not won international recognition. “Our presence in Jerusalem is under threat,” the patriarch wrote in the article, published a day after the Greek Orthodox celebration of Christmas. “Our churches are threatened by Israeli radical fringe groups. At the hands of these Zionist extremists the Christian community in Jerusalem is suffering greatly, he said. “Our brothers and sisters are the victims of hate crimes. Our churches are regularly desecrated and vandalised. Our clergy are subject to frequent intimidation.” By singling out extremists as Israeli, Theophilos’s criticism was more personal and trenchant than that of a collective statement issued by the heads of other churches in Jerusalem before Christmas.
According to the Wall Street Journal, For centuries, to be Latin American was to be Catholic; the religion faced virtually no competition. Today, Catholicism has lost adherents to other faiths in the region, especially Pentecostalism, and more recently to the ranks of the unchurched. The shift has continued under the first Latin American pope. Seven countries in the region—Uruguay, the Dominican Republic and five in Central America—had a majority of non-Catholics in 2018, according to a survey by Latinobarómetro, a Chilean-based pollster. In a symbolic milestone, Brazil, which has the most Catholics of any country in the world, is expected to become minority-Catholic as soon as this year, according to estimates by academics that track religious affiliation. In Rio state, it has already happened. Catholics make up 46% of the population, according to the latest national census in 2010, and a little more than a third of some poverty-stricken favelas, or slums. “The Vatican is losing the biggest Catholic country in the world—that’s a huge loss, an irreversible one,” said José Eustáquio Diniz Alves, a leading Brazilian demographer and former professor at the national statistics agency. At the current rate, he estimates Catholics will account for fewer than 50% of all Brazilians by early July.
In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!