ASIA/INDIA - "To be people of Caritas means to be people of the Good News"

Fides EN - - Mer, 09/05/2018 - 13:29
New Delhi - "Caritas is the joy of service, Caritas is a service of joy. Caritas India is the organ of the entire Catholic church to concretely express our charity and, as Deus Caritas East of Benedict XVI says, to be people of Caritas means to be people of the Good News, people who communicate the love of God": said the President of Caritas, the Bishop Lumen Monteiro, said in a recent celebration in New Delhi, where The Catholic body presented its new leadership, in the presence of Msgr. Theodore Mascarenhas, Secretary General of the Indian Bishops Conference .
As Fides learns, Fr. Paul Moonjely, the new executive director of Caritas India and his assistant Fr. Jolly Puthenpura, took charge during a solemn liturgy. Fr. Moonjely said: "Do not compare your life with others. There is no comparison between the Sun and the Moon. They shine bright when the time is right. I assure you that I too will shine bright, with the grace of the Almighty and with your support, I will endeavour to be a Diakonos, a faithful, humble servant and a steward of the Diakonia ministry. I once again affirm and declare my simple faith in the Lord. As St Paul says: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Fr. Puthenpura remarked: " Caritas India is called to grow nearer to the poor of our country and their life situations. To encounter them with solidarity, to embrace them with affection and to let them feel the warmth of Christian love expressed in service".
Addressing the new leaders of Caritas, Msgr. Theodore Mascarenhas expressed full confidence in the new management of Caritas, recommending them to " always follow the light of the Lord".
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/NIGERIA - Inequalities in the world of work and corruption: necessary to put the dignity of the person back at the center

Fides EN - - Mer, 09/05/2018 - 12:48
Abuja - "Work is not just any kind of commodity, and the dignity of workers is always the primary criterion of evaluation, as the Social Doctrine of the Church teaches. Work confirms the profound identity of man created in the image and likeness of God": says Father Joseph Tile Nomhwange of the Society of African Missions in Nigeria to Agenzia Fides
remembering that on May 1st the whole world celebrated Workers' Day. "It should be a celebration of the collective commitment to make the world we live in habitable, as well as the possibility of being able to take care of our families. Unfortunately, - continues the priest - for many countries, as in the case of Nigeria, it has become a day of protest, a reminder of growing despair and, for some people, an international day of regrets".
In Nigeria this year, workers listened to the speeches of the leadership of the Nigerian Labor Congress and the government. The sequence was always the same: trade unions renewed their votes to protect workers' interests, and the government responded by promising better days. "At the end of the celebrations, the leaders of the Union fled aboard the cars that the workers paid through the union quotas and the government officials did the same with those that the workers paid with taxes. Workers returned home with the same old sad stories of bad working conditions, trampled rights, low pay and unpaid wages", notes the missionary.
"The cost of living continues to rise while the minimum wage has not changed", he notes.
"When teachers are not paid - underlines Father Joseph - the educational system is affected; when other public officials are not paid, the fight against corruption worsens. The problem is not limited to workers alone but to pensioners who sometimes die in poverty after working for the government for so many years.
This year, the main objective of the celebration in the African country was aimed at increasing the minimum wage of workers. Represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, President Muhammadu Buhari assured the workers a clear economic progress.
Addressing the population, he said: ' We believe that the worst is over for Nigeria'.
"But, with the increase in the cost of living, can we consider the salary with which to raise a family right?". For this reason, he concludes, a reflection on the meaning of work in Nigerian society should generate a revision of consciences and a general reform based on principles of fairness and defense of the dignity of all workers.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/BURUNDI - "Safeguard peace and unity": Bishops’ appeal in view of the constitutional referendum of 17 May

Fides EN - - Mer, 09/05/2018 - 12:04
Bujumbura - "We urge all Burundians to safeguard unity and peace" write the Bishops of Burundi in a statement on the constitutional referendum of 17 May, which concerns the constitutional reform to increase the duration of the presidential term from 5 to 7 years, with no more than two consecutive terms covered by the same person. The reform is provoking strong contrasts, because the opponents consider it an expedient of President Pierre Nkurunziza to remain in power for another 15 years .
Recalling the democratic turnaround of the Arusha Peace Accords that put an end to the civil war, the Bishops underline that since 2015, democracy has been in crisis. In that year, in fact, President Nkurunziza presented himself in the elections to obtain a third term in violation of the Constitution and the Arusha Accords themselves, provoking a serious political, institutional, social and economic crisis, which pushed millions of Burundians to take refuge in neighboring countries.
The new reform of the Constitution, according to the Bishops, goes against the Constitutional Charter itself. "In fact, it is questionable whether the provisions of Article 299 of the Constitution that currently governs us have been taken into account. This article states that no revision procedure can be applied if it undermines national unity, the cohesion of the Burundian people or reconciliation. As we can see, instead of uniting the Burundians, the work carried out and the resulting draft constitution seem to have exacerbated the differences. In our opinion, as we have already said, the moment for a profound amendment of the Constitution was not appropriate", affirms the statement sent to Agenzia Fides.
In concluding the statement, the Bishops urge the Burundians not to panic: "Whatever the result, if the "YES" wins, we will be governed by the new Constitution, if the "NO" wins, we will maintain the one that currently governs us. What matters is that Burundians remain united, and are concerned with safeguarding peace and trying to advance democracy".

Categorie: From the church

ASIA/TURKEY - Evangelical pastor Brunson also accused of supporting the creation of a "Christian Kurdish state"

Fides EN - - Mer, 09/05/2018 - 11:53
Izmir - Among the new, exorbitant accusations against American evangelical pastor Andrew Craig Brunson, on trial by the Turkish judicial authorities for alleged connivance with networks and forces accused of terrorist acts and subversive plots against Turkey, is that of trying to set up a “Christian Kurdish state” destined to occupy part of the Turkish territory. A "secret witness" described as a former parishioner and codenamed "Serhat" testified via a long-distance system and claimed that Brunson helped Kurdish militants in various ways, including those fighting in Syria. He also claimed a Syrian who converted to Christianity helped Brunson.
The new accusation is to be added to the other charges already addressed against the US pastor, whose story has entered fully into the list of issues that have recently increased the tension between the Turkish government and the US administration.
Brunson is detained in Turkey on charges of connivance with Hizmet, the organization of the Turkish Islamic preacher Fetullah Gulen, indicated by Ankara as the inspirer of the failed coup of July 15, 2016. Over time the list of charges against him has increased, Brunson faces a 35-year prison sentence if the charges of espionage and flanking of Hizmet and of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party , considered as “terrorist organization” by both Turkey and the US, will be upheld.
Already responsible for the Evangelical Church of the Resurrection in Izmir , Andrew Craig Brunson had been summoned by the Turkish immigration office in October 2016, along with his wife, Lyn Norine. The couple was initially informed of the obligation to leave Turkey, justifying this measure with the vague accusation of having received funds from abroad to finance missionary initiatives and to have endangered the security of the country with their activities.
Subsequently, the Turkish press reported that for the evangelical pastor the expulsion decree had turned into an arrest, after a secret witness had accused him of belonging to the so-called FETO . In prison, Brunson had received visits from senior US Embassy officials to Turkey, and US President Donald Trump had also requested the release of the evangelical pastor during the May 2017 meeting in the White House with Turkish President Erdogan. Last August, after Trump’s intervention, Brunson had been accused of even more serious crimes than he had in the past, and had been transferred to a maximum security prison, where some defendants are held to be among the highest officials of the failed coup of 2016.
Last September 28, Erdogan himself had declared himself ready to release the US evangelical pastor only if in return the US authorities will hand over to Turkey Fethullah Gulen, who has been exiled to the USA since 1999.
Brunson’s legal case has resumed in recent days, after the first session was held on April 16th. On that occasion, after the 13 hours of proceedings, dominated by wild conspiracies, tortured logic, and "secret witnesses" - whose voices were sometimes disguised almost to the point of being indecipherable - the court updated the hearing, postponing it for three weeks. During the hearings, Pastor Brunson - currently detained in a maximum security prison, seemed to have lost weight.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/IRAQ - Elections, the Chaldean Patriarch: the Church cannot be "silenced" when it contributes to the common good

Fides EN - - Mar, 08/05/2018 - 13:55
Baghdad - The Church does not intervene directly in the field of politics. But it cannot be silenced when it intervenes on crucial issues and emergencies for the life of the people and the Country. This was strongly highlighted by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako who responded to those who in recent days had accused him of wrongly intervening on political issues, in the heated climate that precedes the upcoming legislative elections on Saturday 12 May. In a message released by official channels of the Patriarchate, Patriarch Sako reaffirmed the right of the men of the Church to intervene in matters affecting the life of the community, exercising a positive role "to support national cohesion, to protect the rights and freedoms of the person", to favor the establishment of an authentic rule of law, of the principle of citizenship.
In recent days, the Chaldean Patriarch had publicly stated that many of the small political groups animated by Christian leaders and militants who will take part in the next elections are actually influenced by far more influential Kurdish or Shiite political groups. Some local members of the small lists of Christians had reacted negatively to the Patriarch’s statements, seen as an undue clerical interference in temporal matters. The Patriarch, in his message, points out that such criticisms attack the sensitivity and social concern that the Church has always shown for the concrete life of peoples and nations. Agenzia Fides, 8/5/2018)
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/PAKISTAN - The first Catholic nun of the Kacchi Kohli tribe

Fides EN - - Mar, 08/05/2018 - 13:36
Hyderabad - The Catholic Church in Pakistan welcomed the first nun of the Kacchi Kohli tribe, after 70 years of mission among those tribal peoples in Sindh. Here the Dutch Franciscan friars begin their ministry of apostolate among the tribal groups in 1940, under the guidance of Fr. Farman OFM and with the support of two catechists.
Sister Anita Maryam Mansingh, of the Congregation of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary , took her perpetual vows together with another nun in a celebration held in recent days at the Joti Cultural and Educational Center of the Catholic Diocese of Hyderabad. Her uncle, Fr. Mohan Victor OFM, was the first Catholic priest and Franciscan friar from the same tribal group of Kacchi Kohli.
Sr. Anita was born on 8 September 1989 in Tando Allahyar, a small town near Mirpur Khas, and joined the religious community of the nuns of the Presentation in September 2008 after completing her university studies in educational sciences. She made her temporary profession on September 14, 2011. During the period of her formation she worked in several communities in Rawalpindi and Hyderabad.
Speaking to Fides, Sister Anita said: "My uncle Fr. Mohan Victor inspired me to choose religious life and helped me to discern my vocation. I am grateful to my parents and brothers for always supporting me in this choice".
The Sisters of the Presentation began their apostolate in Rawalpindi in 1895. A group of nuns came from Chennai and opened schools to serve the children of British and Irish soldiers. Today there are 60 nuns of the congregation engaged in Pakistan in the fields of education, health care and pastoral work.
Bishop Samson Shukardin, at the head of the Catholic diocese of Hyderabad, told Fides: "It is a joyful moment to see a Catholic nun from the Kacchi Kohli tribe. The tribal people express the beauty of our Church in Sindh. I encourage the nuns to be a hope for the abandoned and the most vulnerable people. I thank them especially for the service they offer, providing quality education to the people of Pakistan in the provinces of Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, to students of every culture, religion and ethnicity".
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/INDONESIA - Towards the elections: Catholics in Indonesia support Pancasila

Fides EN - - Mar, 08/05/2018 - 12:56
Jakarta - 2018 is an important year for the political situation in Indonesia. Citizens will participate in two political events: firstly, the administrative elections in all the regions; secondly, there will be the registration and presentation of candidates for the 2019 presidential elections. As Agenzia Fides learns, in view of these important events that touch the civil life of the nation, Indonesian Catholics, in different areas of the composite nation, have organized various initiatives and activities that aim at supporting the "Pancasila", or the "Charter of the five principles" that is at the basis of the nation.
In the Archdiocese of Jakarta all religious and social activities are based on the pastoral theme chosen for 2018: "Practicing Pancasila: We are Diverse, We are Indonesia". On April 27th during an Easter celebration organized by the Church they joined several Muslim faithful, while in Semarang in a public demonstration the faithful reiterated their support for Pancasila. In Manado, many parishes participated in the procession on April 30th and a gathering for the solemn opening of the 150th Jubilee anniversary of the Catholic Church in the diocese of Manado. In all these events Indonesian Christians brought Indonesian flags and the emblems of the state, reiterating their feeling and their spirit of being fully Indonesian, faithful to the roots of the nation, and fully Christian.
In this context, the first national coordination meeting of the "Vox Point Institute" , a Catholic lay association, was held in recent days, with the participation of representatives from all over the nation, who gathered in Jakarta from 29 April to 1 May, on the theme "In the spirit of Pancasila, preserving diversity". In the final statement of the meeting, sent to Agenzia Fides, it is stated that Vox Point will try to identify potential Catholic candidates who have integrity, quality and firmness in protecting Pancasila.
In addressing the 2018 regional elections and the 2019 presidential elections, "we lay people firmly reject campaigns that exploit ethnic and religious issues and propagate hate speech, false news and intimidation, we reject mobilizations that generate fear and intimidation of voters and also attempts to weaken or even replace the Pancasila ideology. We will participate actively in dialogue with various groups of society". Reaffirming the intent to "cultivate dignified, fair, peaceful, honest, transparent political attitudes, to promote national unity", the statement says: "We ask all citizens to use their right to vote with awareness and we urge local government authorities, law enforcement agencies, other institutions to counteract movements that obscure the Pancasila ".
The text recalls the motto of the national hero, the Jesuit Albertus Soegijapranata SJ when he claimed to be "100% Catholic and 100% Indonesian", and proposes ways to strengthen the call to be "salt and light of the world".
The VPI was officially created in 2016 as a forum for lay Catholics who wish to promote and become involved in socio-political activities in Indonesia. In the Mass celebrated at the meeting, Archbishop Ignazio Suharyo, at the head of the archdiocese of Jakarta, said: "With our strength we will not be able to face this great challenge, we trust in God's help and grace. We are committed to building brotherhood and achieving a just and peaceful coexistence, cultivating the values of unity in diversity, according to Pancasila".
The five principles that form the Pancasila and which inspire the Indonesian Constitution are: faith in the one and only God; justice and human civilization; unity of Indonesia; democracy guided by inner wisdom; social justice for all the people.
Categorie: From the church

EUROPE/ITALY - The Camillians, martyrs of charity and service to the sick

Fides EN - - Mar, 08/05/2018 - 12:38
Rome - On February 2, 1994, the Order of the Ministers of the Sick officially instituted the "Day of the Religious Martyrs of Charity" on May 25, coinciding with the anniversary of the birth of St. Camillus de Lellis. It is a commemoration of over 300 Camillians, seminarians, oblates, novices, brothers and priests, who died in serving the victims of plague in Italy, Spain, Hungary and Croatia during the first four centuries of the life of the Order. "An exemplary testimony of the 'fourth Camillian vote', that is, service to the sick even at the risk of one’s life", says Father Aris Miranda to Agenzia Fides.
The Camillian priest, who is Executive Director of the Camillian Disaster Service International Foundation , a non-profit humanitarian and development organization of the MI, is keen to point out that "the Foundation decided to celebrate this Day, to remember the enthusiasm and the availability of our confreres to accept death in serving the sick who have in some way influenced the way we give witness today. We work in collaboration with the local Churches and with associated organizations , responding to the immediate problems of the populations.
With regard to areas affected by natural disasters, we deal with four areas: Relief, Rehabilitation, Resiliency, Rights".
"Secondly - says Fr. Aris - we want to celebrate the values of solidarity, commitment, generosity, self-denial, fraternal love and the preferential option for the poor who animate our ministry".
On the occasion of this celebration, CADIS organized a conference at the General Curia of the Camillians on May 25, 2018, with the purpose of sharing its vision and mission in a context of historical continuity with respect to the call and the spirit of the fourth Camillian vote. The Camillian Disaster Service International Foundation is a non-profit humanitarian and development organization of the Order of Ministers of the Sick . The Foundation supports the global mission of witnessing the mercy and compassion of Christ to the sick, who suffer, and to the most vulnerable populations.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA - Latin American Bishops create "Bridges of Solidarity" to help Venezuelan migrants

Fides EN - - Mar, 08/05/2018 - 11:57
Vatican City - "Bridges of Solidarity - Integrated pastoral plan to help Venezuelan migrants in South America" is the name of the project presented yesterday, May 7, in the Vatican press room, which was prepared by eight Episcopal Conferences of South America with the help of the Migrant and Refugee Section of the Vatican Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development. The plan aims to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees, accompanying them at every stage of their journey, from departure to arrival, and even in their possible return home.
According to the International Organization for Migration , in the last 2 years hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have fled to neighboring countries due to the political and economic crisis and in this period there have been many initiatives of the particular Churches in their defense and help .
"It is a situation that pushes many Venezuelans to find ways to alleviate their suffering by going to another country - said Fr. Arturo Sosa, Superior General of the Society of Jesus after the press conference - this is why this project of the 8 Episcopal Conferences is a very important gesture of solidarity ... At the moment the Venezuelans need help and this is a way to contribute, see the suffering of people and try to find ways to support them".
The Bishops' conferences of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru forged a coordinated action plan to offer needed services to Venezuelans, other vulnerable migrants and the local communities that host them, but above all, as pointed out by Fr. Sosa, "integration in the society they reach" because this is very important. The plan will be launched in coming days and will have an initial duration of two years, it will also address the most vulnerable people already present in each of the eight host countries and it is hoped that it will serve as a model for other countries experiencing similar migration problems.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/CENTRAL AFRICA - "Fr. Albert, a pastor esteemed for his action for reconciliation between Christians and Muslims"

Fides EN - - Mar, 08/05/2018 - 11:40
Bangui - "Fr. Albert, seventy-one years old and among the oldest priests of the clergy of Bangui, was a pastor esteemed and known for his simplicity and sympathy, and above all for his discreet and tireless work in favor of reconciliation between Christians and Muslims", writes to Agenzia Fides Fr. Federico Trinchero, a Carmelite of the monastery of Our Lady of Carmel in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, recalling Fr. Albert Tungumale Baba, the priest killed together with about twenty faithful on the morning of May 1, in the attack against the parish of Notre Dame de Fatima by an armed group from the Km5 district.
"During the most acute phases of the war, he had received thousands of refugees from neighboring areas for several years in his parish, very close to Km5. Fr. Albert, moreover, was known to all for his great love for Sango, the national language of Central Africa, not particularly rich in vocabulary. Fr. Albert could translate every word , with brilliant solutions or funny words", says the missionary.
"In an interview Fr. Albert had said that only God can now save Central Africa. Many are still trying to save Central Africa: the national army, the African Union troops, the French mission , the soldiers of the European Union, MINUSCA, the great mission of the UN and now the Russians are on the horizon. Even Pope Francis tried with his visit in November 2015, unfortunately, the effect of that visit vanished and the opportunity to turn page was once again wasted. Clashes have multiplied over the entire country and peace seems almost more distant than before", writes Fr. Federico.
The missionary reiterates that "the war in Central Africa, which began as early as 2012, is not a confessional or ethnic clash. Rather it is the umpteenth conflict for the conquest of power and for the exploitation of the riches of which the subsoil abounds. Unfortunately, the confessional element has entered violently, poisoning the coexistence between Christians and Muslims that made Central Africa an example of peaceful coexistance".
During the homily, on the occasion of the funeral of the murdered priest and some of the victims, His Eminence Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui, denounced the inertia of the government, the slowness of the UN and the risk that Christians give in to discouragement or, worse still, to the logic of violence and revenge. There is an insidious enemy that is destroying Central Africa. And this enemy, the Cardinal pointed out, is the devil. Only the weapons of faith can overcome it.
"Bangui, wounded at the heart of its faith, is not angry with God. It is rather angry with those men who do not want peace and persist in blocking the Country, as if it were ineluctably condemned to misery and war. Bangui and all of Central Africa are looking for heroes - among the rulers, soldiers, the young - who stand up as one man and say no to war and yes to peace", concludes Fr. Federico.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/PERU - Thousands of Peruvians march for the promotion and protection of life

Fides EN - - Lun, 07/05/2018 - 13:35
Lima - "Pope Francis knows the march for life very well, on two occasions he personally wrote to me, encouraging me and even advising me how to organize it, so if the maximum leader of the Church writes to a poor priest in South America, this gives me great peace and tranquility".
This is what Fr. Luis Gaspar, executive director for the "March for life" in Peru says to Agenzia Fides.
Since 2013, when the first March for life in the country was held, the Archbishopric of Lima entrusted Father Gaspar with the organization of the event, which has grown from year to year and gathered approximately 750 thousand people in 2016. Last year, the Cardinal Archbishop of Lima, Juan Luis Cipriani, took the decision to suspend the March in March 2017 because of the natural disasters caused by the phenomenon of El Niño in the north of the Peruvian coast, inviting everyone to lend themselves as volunteers to help in the affected areas. This year 2018, according to the organizers, the march under the motto "United for life" saw the participation of over 800 thousand people.
The event is usually held on 25 March, on the solemnity of the Lord's Annunciation, when the "Unborn Child Day" is celebrated in Peru, but this year the march was postponed to Saturday 5 May, in the afternoon, because as Cardinal Cipriani explained, "it seemed close to the Pope's visit to the Country", which took place from 18 to 21 January.
During the opening ceremony of the March, Fr. Gaspar read the greetings of Pope Francis encouraging all the organizers and participants: "May the joy that comes from the encounter with the risen Jesus Christ, the Lord of the history of every human being and source of true joy, become a missionary force that helps to arouse in everyone's hearts a greater commitment to the promotion and protection of human life, especially that of those helpless and marginalized brothers and sisters in society, remembering that it is the primary value and primordial right of every person".
At the end of the march, Cardinal Cipriani thus exhorted thousands of Peruvians gathered in the Costa Verde esplanade: "Let us not eradicate from this marvelous people this faith that is in everyone". The Pope told us: I see and touch your faith and I too see and touch this faith. Yes to life".
During the event it was announced that today, May 7, 10 essential measures to strengthen the family will be handed over to State authorities.

Categorie: From the church

ASIA/LEBANON - The elections confirm the fragmentation of the political framework. The Lebanese PMS Director: no one will be able to govern alone

Fides EN - - Lun, 07/05/2018 - 13:14
Beirut - The official results of the 2018 Lebanese political elections, held yesterday, Sunday 6 May, have not yet been released. But all the anticipations and partial data released by the Lebanese media seem destined to confirm and prolong the fragmentation of the Lebanese political scenario. The rumors seem to confirm the relative decline in consensus of the "Future" Sunni Party, that of Premier Saad Hariri. The strength of the Hezbollah Shiite Party and the Free Patriotic Movement, the Maronite formation founded by President Michel Aoun, seems to have been substantially confirmed, while the Lebanese Forces, a political formation led by Samir Geagea, seems to have significantly increased its seats in Parliament.
"In this shattered scenario - Maronite priest Rouphael Zgheib, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Lebanon points out - everyone needs everyone and no one can govern alone. So everything seems to push for a confirmation of the situation of balance and to perpetuate the political compromise between the major political forces that led to the election of President Michel Aoun. The most alarming element - adds Fr. Rouphael - is the strong decrease of voters, which at a national level have not reached the 50 percent threshold of those entitled to vote, confirming also the widespread distrust towards politicians, often considered being all corrupt".
Regarding statements by senior Israeli politicians on the alleged growth of Hezbollah's power , the National Director of the Lebanese PMS recalls that similar statements by Israeli representatives "are not new", and that in any case "it is not true that Hezbollah will be able to control and determine everything in Lebanese politics: the Hezbollah Shiites will be able to assert their relevance on the military and weapons level, but in the political field, the game is certainly more complicated".
The Lebanese citizens who actually exercised their right to vote are more than 1 million 800 thousand, out of a total of about 3 million and 663 thousand potential voters. The 2018 Lebanese parliamentary elections are destined to renew the Parliamentary Assembly of the Land of the Cedars after almost 10 years.
The Lebanese voted according to a new electoral law, approved by Parliament last June , which established a rather complicated proportional system instead of the majority, in force since 1960. Lebanon was divided into 15 constituencies, relatively homogeneous within them from a confessional point of view. The electoral law provides for a 10 percent threshold at a national level.
The new electoral system does not affect the rule - included in the Taif Agreements, with which in 1989 the end of the civil war was ratified - which states that half of the 128 deputies of the Parliament are Christians, and the other half is made up of Muslim parliamentarians - Shiites and Sunnis - and Druses.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/MALAYSIA - The Church: elect those who have the well-being of the country at heart

Fides EN - - Lun, 07/05/2018 - 13:02
Kuala Lumpur - "Every five years we have the opportunity to democratically elect our leaders and the government, I invite all Catholics to exercise the vote according to a Christian vision and values, it is our moral duty and right, as citizens of our beloved Country, to vote wisely and responsibly. We will put the future of our nation, our future, in the hands of men and women who have the well-being of the country at heart": says Archbishop Simon Poh to Agenzia Fides, who is at the head of the archdiocese of Kuching, Malaysia, urging the faithful in view of the upcoming general elections, scheduled for May 9th.
"By expressing our vote, we give trust to the candidates to fulfill all the promises they have made, to work for the common good and welfare of all Malaysians, to defend religious freedom for all regardless of race, religion or ethnicity. It is necessary to take into consideration the political party and the integrity of each individual candidate, considering his work for development, for the rights of citizens for the welfare and care of the people", added the Archbishop.
The Archbishop also invited Catholics to pray and fast in view of this important moment: "As a community, let us pray together with Christians. We are peaceful citizens of the province of Sarawak: I urge all Catholics to pray incessantly for the elections to be free, fair and transparent. We Christians can always bring God's love and peace to the country, preserving harmony in our nation", he added.
Even the Christian Federation of Malaysia, which brings together all the Christian confessions present on the territory, has urged Christians to vote responsibly. "For Christians who are citizens of Malaysia, it is important to vote responsibly in the forthcoming general elections in Malaysia because it is a moral duty", says a statement signed by Catholic Archbishop Julian Leow, president, and by other Christian Bishops.
The text sent to Fides reads: "Let us try to choose the leaders who will govern us wisely. We ask God an ever greater capacity to discern between right and wrong and the wisdom to choose the Members of Parliament and the representatives of the Legislative Assembly for the next 5 years. To do so, we must ask the candidates questions, listen carefully to their political choices, support the rule of law and the primacy of the Federal Constitution, safeguard the freedoms , as well as their willingness to serve for the common good, promoting the well-being of all, including the poor and the marginalized".
Malaysia is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious federation of 13 states and three federal territories, with 31 million inhabitants. Being a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, Christians need to build bridges with all peoples regardless of ethnicity and culture. With 60% of the Islamic population, the remaining 40% is divided among Buddhists, Hindus and Christians. The latter are a minority of about 9%, half of them Catholics.

Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/ZAMBIA - The commitment of a missionary who gave his life for Christ, the Church and the poor

Fides EN - - Lun, 07/05/2018 - 12:41
Kabwe - The Missionaries of Scheut , Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, offer assistance to the victims of HIV and AIDS in Zambia: many of them are orphans, homeless children who do not have access to health care. In 2007, Belgian missionary Fr. Pierre Ruquoy arrived in Zambia. Due to the death threats he received and the expulsion from the Republic of Santo Domingo, CICM sent him on a mission to the central province of Zambia, where there was nothing, there was not a parish, a church. In this very inhospitable place the missionary founded the Sunflower, an orphanage that currently hosts over a hundred children and offers food and shelter to the most vulnerable children. The priest has so far dedicated himself to the care of AIDS orphans, giving them hope and education in an attempt to contribute to the reconstruction of Zambia.
For serious health reasons, Father Pierre is currently in Belgium and, aware of his health condition, told Fides about the last days spent in the Savannah before leaving to undergo surgery in his native country. And he delivered a sort of spiritual testament: "Our life is in the hands of God and we do not know how or when we will pass the door to the Kingdom of Heaven. Faced with my health situation, I am trying to convince myself that perhaps the time has come to start a new phase of my life", says Fr. Pierre. "These were really special days, and when you read these lines, I hope to still be alive in my homeland in full recovery from the removal of a cancerous tumor.
Father Ruquoy spent about 30 years of his life on a mission in the Republic of Santo Domingo, in an area called Barahona, on the border with Haiti. He lived in a bateye, the sugar cane plantations where cane harvesters live, leaving the country in 2005. Zambia is home to over a million orphaned children, most of whom will never receive an education or legitimate health assistance. Despite being a Country rich in natural resources, most of its inhabitants are forced to work in the fields.
Over 60% of the population lives below the poverty line and the phenomenon. Over 60% of the population lives below the poverty line and the phenomenon of corruption is really rampant. The Catholic Church has been strongly present in Zambia for over 100 years , engaged in social and political activities.

Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/CENTRAL AFRICA - Religious leaders: "The violence of May 1, fruit of a Machiavellian plan to divide the Country"

Fides EN - - Lun, 07/05/2018 - 12:26
Bangui - The violence that has shocked Bangui in recent days "is the manifestation of a Machiavellian plan set up by some known Countries that call themselves friends, with the complicity of some patriots". This is what a platform of religious leaders for peace on the causes of the "ignoble massacre perpetrated on May 1 in the parish Notre Dame de Fatima which caused the death of several innocent believers and civilians including don Albert Toungoumala Baba, as well as a hundred wounded" denounce .
According to the Central African religious leaders, the objectives that the perpetrators of violence aim to obtain are: the division of the Country; make Central Africa ungovernable; if necessary, put it under a protectorate. "All the religious confessions in Central Africa strongly oppose these actions of destabilization" says a statement of the platform of religious leaders sent to Agenzia Fides, including His Eminence, Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui. Cardinal Nzapalainga wondered if there is "a hidden agenda" that guides the action of the perpetrators of the massacre . All the main religious confessions in the Country, whose leaders invite the population and in particular young people, "to calm" now denounce a maneuver of destabilization of the Central African Republic.
In announcing "concerted actions to inform national and international public opinion about the serious danger that threatens our nation's life", religious leaders have decided to proclaim "three days of prayer in all the churches and mosques, 10, 11 and 12 May".
Finally, religious leaders ask the government and MINUSCA "to make every effort to bring the perpetrators of these terrible acts to justice".
Following the prayer of the Regina Coeli, on Sunday 6 May, Pope Francis addressed an "invitation to pray for the people of the Central African Republic, a country that I had the joy of visiting and which I carry in my heart. Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the Lord helps everyone to say no to violence and revenge, to build peace together".
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/ZAMBIA - A strong contribution of the Polish Fidei Donum Priests for their 50 years of evangelization

Fides EN - - Lun, 07/05/2018 - 11:16
Lusaka - "Inspired by the appeal of Pope Pius XII in his Encyclical Letter 'Fidei donum', twenty Dioceses in Poland, since 1968, have sent to Zambia about one hundred priests, who have contributed significantly towards the planting and growth of the local Church. The Polish Fidei Donum Priests have been effective witnesses to the merciful love of God, especially in evangelizing the poor, in proclaming the Gospel and in administering the sacraments". Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, in a message sent to Fr. Christopher Mroz, representative of the Fidei Donum Missionaries in Zambia, recalls the significant contribution given to evangelization in Zambia by the Polish Fidei Donum Priests, on the 50th anniversary of their presence in the African country.
The Prefect of the Missionary Dicastery emphasizes that many of them were, and still are, "actively involved in constructing new missions, teaching in schools, serving in diocesan administration and managing humanitarian programs". Cardinal Filoni urges them "to continue their generous missionary and pastoral work" and joins them in thanking God "for the abundant graces and blessings He has bestowed on Zambia" through their zealous missionary activities. Hoping that this "wonderful exchange of gifts between the Dioceses in Poland and in Zambia will continue", Cardinal Filoni concludes: "May these Jubilee Celebrations be a time of great grace for the Polish Fidei Donum Priests and for their Dioceses of origin, for the Local Churches they are serving and for the entire people of God in Zambia".
Fr. January Liberski, from the Archdiocese of Katowice was the first Polish Fidei Donum Priest in Zambia, who arrived in the African country on March 24, 1968. Since that time 91 Fidei Donum Priests from 20 dioceses have followed in their footsteps, leaving Poland to commit themselves to the missionary apostolate in this land. Twelve of them are still in Zambia, and they are originally from 5 dioceses: Katowice 6, Pelplin 3, Plock, Radom and Torun 1.
Their first commitment was in direct missionary activity, therefore the proclamation of the Gospel, planting the Church, administration of the sacraments, organization of catechetical activity, meeting parishioners in their Small Christian Communities, visiting the sick... Beside direct pastoral work, the Polish Fidei Donum Priests have also been involved in other types of missionary work, such as teaching in schools, lecturers and spiritual directors in the seminary, constructing new mission buildings for both spiritual and humanitarian programs, managing diverse social and drought relief program. One took upon himself research to make a translation of the Bible translation into the local language of Cimambwe and later made an English-Cimambwe dictionary. Some were responsible or members of various diocesan organisms.
Many Polish missionaries dedicated much of their lives to evangelization in Zambia, to the point of dying in the African country. The longest missionary experience was that of Mgr. Marcel Prawica from the Diocese of Radom: he arrived in Zambia in 1972, he spent 41 years in the most isolated rural parish in the Diocese of Kabwe, and returned home only because he was ill, in 2017, a few months before his death.
According to the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, there are 5,239,000 Catholics in Zambia out of a population of 15,474,000 inhabitants. There are 518 diocesan priests and 394 religious priests; 100 religious non-priests and 1,037religious women. In 2016, the Church celebrated the 125th anniversary of evangelization, initiated by the White Fathers and Jesuits.

Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/MOZAMBIQUE - Afonso Dhlakama, leader of RENAMO, the main opposition party dies

Fides EN - - Ven, 04/05/2018 - 13:36
Maputo - "A bolt from the blue". This is how Chiara Turrini, at the head of the Community of Sant'Egidio in Mozambique, defines the death of Afonso Dhlakama, the 65-year-old leader of RENAMO , the main opposition party in Mozambique. Dhlakama died yesterday, May 3, following a heart attack in his stronghold in Gorongosa.
"It was known that Dhlakama had health problems but his death was nevertheless a bolt from the blue, partly because the talks between him and President Filipe Nyusi were proceeding in the best way" says Turrini.
For thirty-nine years, Afonso Dhlakama was the leader of RENAMO, a guerrilla movement fighting against FRELIMO .
RENAMO however, took up arms in 2013, in some areas of the Country, to protest the fact that FRELIMO has been in power since independence in 1975.
At the end of 2016, Afonso Dhlakama, who lived in the mountains of Gorongosa since 2013, declared a cease-fire to advance negotiations with the government. This truce was widely respected, but a formal agreement has not yet been signed between the two parties.
President Nyusi hopes that Dhlakama’s death does not block the negotiation but instead accelerates it also in view of the general elections in October 2019.
However, RENAMO will have to find a new leader. "Dhlakama did not actually appoint a successor; apart from the general secretary of the party there is no clear succession line", says Turrini.
RENAMO consists of a political wing and a military wing, made up of several hundred men. Some observers have expressed the fear that Dhlakama's death may result in the loss of control of these men.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/NICARAGUA - The Bishops: "It is urgent to review the political system of Nicaragua"

Fides EN - - Ven, 04/05/2018 - 13:20
Managua - "We believe that the objective of National Dialogue must also be to review the political system of Nicaragua from its roots, in order to achieve an authentic democracy": with these words the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua wanted to point out the main reason why they accepted the role of mediators in this difficult moment that the country is going through. In the statement sent to Agenzia Fides, at the conclusion of a conference held yesterday, the Bishops wanted to clarify several points, with the aim of providing the Nicaraguan people with truthful information.
Presenting an account of what happened, the Bishops said that on 22 April the President of the Republic Daniel Ortega addressed an invitation to "National Dialogue", and asked the Bishops of the Catholic Church to act as mediators. On 24 April, CEN issued a statement accepting the mediation.
CEN called on the government to work to create a suitable environment and conditions to establish a real dialogue, asking: the release of young prisoners; the withdrawal of the so-called "riot police forces"; freedom of expression and of press; the publication of a new presidential decree that clearly revokes the precedent ; the search for missing persons.
The Bishops of Nicaragua believe that these dialogue sessions should have a first duration of one month and then, during a pause, evaluate the will of the parties, the implementation and the effective application of the agreements reached. If the dialogue process takes a "negative" path, the Bishops would immediately make the decision to renounce the role of mediators.
"We also ask that the issue regarding the victims, killed during university demonstrations, is addressed and clarified", continues the text of the statement sent to Fides.
Lastly, the Church offers the "Nuestra Señora de Fátima" Interdiocesan Seminary as a place of work for dialogue and appeals to all sectors of Nicaraguan society to participate by appointing a representative, asking for "good will to solve problems in a peaceful and responsible manner".
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - More than 200 child soldiers released: the government's commitment to peace and development

Fides EN - - Ven, 04/05/2018 - 12:38
Yambio - More than two hundred child soldiers were released to the community on 28, April, in Yambio Gbudue State. As Fides learns, this is the second time child soldiers are released in Gbudue State, in fact about 300 children including 75 girls had already been released in Yambio in February 2018.
"Some of the released children said they were engaged in various criminal activities while in the bush. The little ones were kidnapped at schools and promised to be given huge ransom of money but were not even paid", said Catholic Radio Network radio station.
To cope with this phenomenon, the governor of the state of Gbudue Daniel Badagbu Rimbasa pledged to work diligently to bring peace and stability to the State and South Sudan at large, to create a conducive learning environment for children. In a note from the Catholic Bishops of East African Nations sent to Fides, we read that "Rimbasa has appealed to all those who still hold arms so that they join the government for peace, development and stability".
Meanwhile, Acting Chairperson of South Sudan Disarmament Demobilization and Re-integration commission, Claude Obwaha Akasha, stressed that "children are supposed to go to school but not to be turned in to soldiers". As can be seen from the note of the CRN sent to Fides, Akasha also revealed that the released child soldiers have been screened for various diseases, given scholastic materials and will be engaged in some vocational training. According to the UN children’s agency, there are about 19,000 children who are believed to be associated with various armed groups across the country.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/HONDURAS - Thousands of Hondurans hold their breath: today the US government must decide on the TPS

Fides EN - - Ven, 04/05/2018 - 12:21
Tegucigalpa - Today is a crucial date for thousands of Hondurans who have been granted the State of Temporary Protection : Donald Trump's government must in fact communicate its decision during the day whether to prolong or cancel the program, which protects from expulsion and grants a temporary work permit to about 56,000 undocumented migrants from this Central American country who have been in the United States for nearly two decades.
The TPS was granted to the Hondurans in January 1999 during the government of the then President Bill Clinton as a humanitarian response after the passage of Hurricane Mitch along the Central American coasts, which had left a trail of death on the Atlantic coast of Honduras and Nicaragua. This status expired on 5 January 2018 and, although a further six months were granted, until 5 July, the US authorities must rule 60 days before, ie today.
Currently, of the three Central American countries - El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras - only Honduras still maintains such permission. Therefore those who do not regularize their situation between January and September 2019, will have to leave the country. A decision that has been repeatedly condemned by the Bishops of the United States and El Salvador , who have visited the United States several times to meet the members of the Congress and to try and find a solution for the almost 200 thousand Salvadorians covered by the TPS .
Last October, Mgr. Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin, Texas, and President of the Episcopal Commission for Migration of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops , presented a report on the issue by his Commission, urging everyone to address "their thoughts and their prayers to the people of El Salvador and Honduras, in particular to the recipients of the TPS". He also urged "to ask the US administration for an extension of the TPS and to address the elected leaders of the Congress to ask them to support a legislative solution for TPS beneficiaries who have been living in the United States for many years" .
Today many are waiting for a miracle to happen: "May God touch Donald Trump's heart", says Orlando Lopez, a Honduran activist who has been in the United States for 19 years, to the press.
Categorie: From the church