Pope Francis to reunite with cousin on visit to Thailand

Sister Ana Rosa Sivori will travel with Pope Francis as his personal translator when he visits Thailand. (AP)
Updated 18 November 2019

Pope Francis to reunite with cousin on visit to Thailand

  • Sister Sivori, who has lived in Thailand for more than 50 years, will travel with Pope Francis as his personal translator
  • The cousins have grown closer since Bergoglio became Pope Francis in 2013

UDON THANI, Thailand: In a remote Catholic school in Thailand, Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, 77, kneels in a chapel to pray at the beginning of the school day.
The Catholic nun is also counting down the days when she will be reunited with her cousin, Pope Francis.
Or, as she calls him, Jorge. They grew up together in Argentina.
Sister Sivori, who has lived in Thailand for more than 50 years, will travel with Pope Francis as his personal translator when he visits the Southeast Asian nation from Wednesday to Saturday.
“For me, it’s a pleasure that he’s coming ... I never thought that he will be coming to Thailand,” the soft-spoken nun told Reuters in an interview.
“I’m happy for the people. I want the people to see him, to be close to him.”
The cousins, whose grandfathers were brothers, grew up in a big Catholic family in Argentina.
Sivori said they weren’t close as children, since Jorge Mario Bergoglio — as the Pope was known then — was six years older than she.
She joined the Catholic ministry young, and her calling as a missionary brought her to Thailand, where she has lived since 1966 and worked in schools across the country.
Now, she is a vice principal at St. Mary’s School in the northeastern province of Udon Thani, about 600 kilometers from Bangkok, the capital.
The cousins have grown closer since Bergoglio became Pope Francis in 2013.
On every journey home to her family in Argentina, Sivori first stops by the Vatican in Italy to see him for a few days.
The last time they saw each other was in 2018, when they bonded over their love of books.
“He took me up to the big room with plenty of books. He told me to choose, he would ask ‘Do you want this one?’,” she said.
“When we talk, we feel like brother and sister. For me, of course I know that he’s the Pope ... but we talk simply.”
She will travel to Bangkok ahead of the pontiff’s arrival and shadow him during his visit, at his request.
In the Buddhist-majority country, Pope Francis will meet King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the supreme Buddhist patriarch, Catholic leaders and students, before flying on to Japan.
Sivori brings out an envelope of handwritten letters and postcards from the Vatican and reads them fondly.
“When I meet him, I’ll call him by his name, Jorge. Pope Francis just came after,” she said.
“I’m proud of him.”


‘Disturbing’ allegations of rape in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: UN

Updated 22 January 2021

‘Disturbing’ allegations of rape in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: UN

  • A UN representative said she was greatly concerned by serious allegations from the northern region

ADDIS ABABA: The UN says it has received “disturbing” reports of sexual violence and abuse in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region, including of individuals forced to rape members of their own family.
Pramila Patten, the UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, said she was greatly concerned by serious allegations from the northern region, including “a high number of alleged rapes” in the Tigrayan capital Mekele.
“There are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence,” Patten said in a statement Thursday.
“Some women have also reportedly been forced by military elements to have sex in exchange for basic commodities.”
Patten called on all parties involved in the hostilities to commit to a zero-tolerance policy for crimes of sexual violence.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, announced military operations in Tigray in early November, saying they came in response to attacks by the regional ruling party on federal army camps.
Abiy declared victory after federal forces entered the regional capital in late November, though leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) remain on the run and have vowed to fight on.
Thousands have died in the conflict, according to the International Crisis Group, though a communications blackout and media and humanitarian access restrictions have made it difficult to assess the situation on the ground.
In her statement Thursday, Patten noted that “medical centers have indicated an increase in the demand for emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which is often an indicator of sexual violence in conflict.”
She called for full humanitarian access to Tigray, including camps for displaced people “and refugee camps where new arrivals have allegedly reported cases of sexual violence.”
She voiced concern about “more than 5,000 Eritrean refugees in and around the area of Shire living in dire conditions, many of them reportedly sleeping in an open field with no water or food, as well as the more than 59,000 Ethiopians who have fled the country into neighboring Sudan.”
The caretaker administration in Tigray did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month state television broadcast footage of a meeting during which an unidentified man in a military uniform expressed concern about rapes in Mekele.
“Why are women being raped in Mekele city?” the man said.
“It wouldn’t be shocking had it been happening during the war, because it is not manageable so it could be expected. But at this moment while federal police and local police are back in town, it is still happening.”