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

Fides EN - www.fides.org - 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 - www.fides.org - 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

AFRICA/EGYPT - Already "legalized" 215 churches by the government built before the new law on places of worship

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Ven, 04/05/2018 - 12:01
Cairo - There are already 215 churches with adjoining service buildings built before the new law on the construction of Christian worship buildings came into force, legalized and "regularized" by the Egyptian government that declared them compliant with the parameters defined by the new legal provisions. The regularization was sanctioned by a decree signed by Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail. The list of Christian worship buildings so far legalized, published in the Official Journal, has been re-launched by some Coptic websites, and includes churches in seven Egyptian governorates, including those of Assiut and Sohag.
The number of "regularized" churches is destined to increase in the coming months. As already reported by Fides , there are more than 3 thousand Christian places of worship that will have to be examined by the government apparatus to verify whether they meet the standards established by the new law.
In recent decades, many of the Christian places of worship to be subjected to the assessment of governmental control bodies were built spontaneously, without all the necessary authorizations. In the past, precisely such buildings built by local Christian communities had been used as a pretext by Islamist groups to foment sectarian violence against Christians.
The law on places of worship, approved at the end of August 2016 represented for the Egyptian Christian communities an objective step forward with respect to the so-called "10 rules" added in 1934 to the Ottoman legislation by the Interior Ministry, which forbade inter alia to build new churches near schools, canals, government buildings, railways and residential areas. In many cases, the rigid application of those rules had prevented the construction of churches in cities and towns inhabited by Christians, especially in the rural areas of Upper Egypt.
Before August 2016, and in the absence of precise legislative references, in order to meet their own pastoral needs the various Churches and Christian communities had built buildings - buildings of worship, but also houses and premises for collective use - which often result still lacking the specific licenses required by the current legislation.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/INDIA - "Anti-conversion law" approved in the state of Uttarakhand

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Ven, 04/05/2018 - 11:46
Nainital - Uttarakhand has become the seventh state of the Indian Federation to have approved an "anti-conversion law" that penalizes freedom of conscience and religious freedom.
As Fides learns, on 18 April Governor Krishna Kant Paul signed the bill "Freedom of Religion" , previously approved by a majority in the State Legislative Assembly.
Uttarakhand joins the states of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand, where similar laws are in force, which Hindu extremists ususally use to accuse Christians of "forced or fraudulent conversion".
The new law makes "forced conversions" a punishable offense, punishable by imprisonment between one to five years. If the victim of "forced conversion" is a minor, a woman or a person belonging to a lower caste or tribe , the minimum prison sentence is two years.
The law also makes it mandatory to obtain permission from the state government before religious conversion. An affidavit must be submitted to the district magistrate at least one month before the conversion. Persons who convert for marriage must submit the same sworn statement one month before the marriage. If this procedure is not followed, religious conversion will be invalidated and considered illegal by the state government and may invalidate the marriage.
Catholic John Dayal, spokesperson of the "United Christian Forum" and of the "All India Catholic Union", tells Fides that "the anti-conversion law was promoted by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, without any real reason".
"There are no cases of forced or fraudulent conversion in the state." The only plausible explanation, therefore, is that of threatening minority communities or limiting the freedom of religion of the Dalits and of the weaker communities: their rights are crushed by the upper castes who exercise political power in the state". "We will bring the law to court and contest it in the public debate", said Dayal, a Catholic journalist and human rights activist.
Bishop Francis Kalist, at the head of the diocese of Meerut, in Uttarakhand, told Fides: "The law is discriminatory by nature, as implicitly addressed to Christians and other minorities". The Bishop fears that the law could "negatively affect the Church as it could be exploited to harass Christians".
The state of Uttarakhand has 10 million people, mostly Hindus. Christians represent less than 1% of the population, while Muslims make up 14% of the population, according to the 2011 census. The state is governed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party .
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/AFGHANISTAN - The Pro Children Association of Kabul and the work of the nuns for the dignity of disabled children

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Ven, 04/05/2018 - 11:36
Kabul - "The nuns on mission in Kabul live in an extreme situation. They are carrying out a truly heroic work. And, in their small way, they are slowly helping to requalify the figure of people with disabilities within Afghan families". This is what Father Matteo Sanavio says to Agenzia Fides, a priest of the Congregation of the Rogationist Fathers and referent of the "Pro Children of Kabul" Association, a reality officially born in 2006, but which finds its origin in the Christmas speech given by John Paul II in 2001. "On that occasion the Pope said: 'Let's save the children of Kabul!'. It was from that cry for help that the Guanellian, Fr. Giancarlo Pravettoni had the idea of creating an inter-congregational association that would respond to Wojtyla's appeal", explains Fr. Sanavio.
The first four nuns arrived in Kabul in 2006. The priest explains: "They belonged to three different Congregations and they prepared themselves by living an experience of common life for six months in Rome. At first they were housed in the premises of Caritas in Kabul, then they found a house for rent. The aim of their mission was to help the weakest, so they chose disabled children, because unfortunately very often Afghan families do not give any kind of attention or assistance to disabled relatives".
Right from the beginning, therefore, the nuns tried to gradually incorporate children into society. To this end, "in a first phase a kind of professional school had been created. For almost 10 years now, however, the institute has been reorganized. Today there are 40 of our young pupils, and among them there is even a minister's daughter. In fact, we find that the Pro Children's Association of Kabul is the only structure for handicapped children present in Afghanistan", notes Fr. Sanavio, also explaining that "there are 4 classes of 10 students, followed by specialized teachers, in turn coordinated by the nuns. The teachers are Afghans with a regular contract, so the school is also a real job opportunity for the locals".
The future of the school, however, explains the priest, is rather uncertain: "We are in the hands of God, because we meet two difficulties every day. One is of an economic nature: for 2018, we need the necessary financial support, but at the moment we do not know if we will be able to maintain the institute in the next three years. The economic one, however, is not the biggest problem. The main obstacle is to find the staff to send to Kabul: there is need of nuns who have a culture close to that of Afghanistan, or who at least know the Arabic language. And above all that they are willing to spend and sacrifice two or three years of their lives there".
According to what Fr. Matteo Sanavio reported, there are currently two nuns in Kabul, a Guanellian from India and a Missionary of the Consolata from Mozambique.
In Afghanistan, where Islam is recognized as a State religion, the Catholic presence was admitted in the early twentieth century as mere spiritual assistance within the Italian Embassy in Kabul, elevated to Missio sui iuris in 2002 by John Paul II. Today the mission continues to be based in the diplomatic structure and is entrusted to the Barnabite, father Giovanni Scalese. The Missionary Sisters of Charity also work in the Afghan capital.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/URUGUAY - Confirmation of the National Director of the PMS, Fr. Leonardo Rodriguez

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Ven, 04/05/2018 - 10:56
Vatican City - On 8 March 2018 Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, confirmed the rev. Fr. Leonardo Rodriguez, of the diocesan clergy of Canelones as National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Uruguay for another five years .
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/CONGO - Appointment of the National Director of the PMS, Fr. Gelase Armel Kema

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Ven, 04/05/2018 - 10:53
Vatican City - On March 14, 2018 Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, appointed the rev. Fr. Gelase Armel Kema, of the diocesan clergy of Ouesso, as National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Congo for five years .
The new National Director was born on October 26, 1972 in Ouesso and was ordained a priest on August 29, 1999, always in Ouesso. After attending the San Pius X Seminary in Makoua, he studied philosophy and theology at the Theological Institute of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Following his ordination he obtained a licentiate and a doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome. Since his ordination he held various positions: Assistant Parish Priest, Parish Priest, Rector of the preparatory Seminary in Ouede, Vicar General. After studying in Rome , since 2014 he has been a Professor of Canon Law at the Card. Emile Biayenda Major Seminary.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/CENTRAL AFRICA - Cardinal Nzapalainga after the massacre: "Is there a willingness to divide the Country? Is there a hidden agenda?"

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Gio, 03/05/2018 - 13:28
Bangui - "I bow to the memory of our brothers and sisters who are no longer with us and offer condolences to their families. I am spiritually close to the injured", said Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui, on his return to the Central African Republic. The Country is still in shock for the massacre in Notre Dame de Fatima parish perpetrated on May 1, causing according to the latest updated toll, 24 dead and 170 injured. Among the dead there is also a highly esteemed priest, Don Albert Toungoumale-Baba .
"Violence is not the solution to our problems", the Cardinal reiterated. "For this reason I strongly condemn what happened in Notre Dame de Fatima parish. I appeal to the government and MINUSCA to investigate into the matter", says the Cardinal. "Behind these events, I ask myself questions: what is happening? Have there been manipulations, exploitation? Is there a willingness to divide the Country? Is there a hidden agenda? Let us look for answers to these questions together".
However, the Cardinal raised the hope that "in difficult situations such as this, heroes arise, and I do not doubt that heroes exist in the Central African Republic, so that they stand together to say no to violence, no to barbarism, no to self-destruction. This is why I appeal to all political, administrative, religious groups, without distinction, to condemn together what happened. At the same time I say to all those who are believers that at the moment of trial we must rely on God, who gave us the peace of Christ. I appeal to all to avoid anger, hatred, revenge and reprisals".
"I ask Christ, Prince of Peace, to touch everyone’s hearts, so that they may convert, lay down their arms and be able to look each other in the face. May Mary, Queen of Peace, bless our Country", concluded the Cardinal.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA - To win the challenge of peace in Africa: a possible dream with dialogue, not with weapons

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Gio, 03/05/2018 - 13:13
Kara - "Who will save Central Africa, Congo Kinshasa, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, Libya? Who will really save Africa from all the violence that is burying and impoverishing the African continent, ever more victim of the barbarism of its own children? Will Africa ever be free of this spiral of violence? These are all questions that afflict our nights", says Father Donald Zagore, missionary of the Society of African Missions, to Agenzia Fides, commenting on some of the incidents of violence recorded in the last few days on the African continent. "Now more than ever, concrete and effective actions are urgently needed to save the lives of millions of men, women and children who are repeatedly and desperately sacrificed. Africa is not always an open cemetery where there are thousands of dead, Africa is not the land where the looting of economy, torture, murder, are just banalities. No, Africa is not the arena where evil always triumphs", the missionary insists.
"It is time for Africans to realize this tragic fatality", the priest explains to Fides. "It is time for Africans to refuse to close themselves in this logic of endless violence imposed by men without faith or law, men who paradoxically find in the destruction of humanity the way par excellence to realize their own humanity", he adds.
"If the history of our continent through its endless rebellions and wars, has shown that violence as a means of expression is the most popular thing on the African continent, we must also admit that violence itself has never brought progress and will never be a solution to our problems. We will never build our continent using the language of weapons. Only true dialogue can save the African continent".
"It is urgent to face the challenge of peace through true dialogue on all its persistent difficulties that prevent the improvement of the African peoples and freedom remains an imperative of great importance. This will be possible only through the culture of a social love animated by the sense of charity", concludes Father Zagore.

Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/PERU - Missionaries of the Sacred Heart: to promote the rights of indigenous communities and evangelize them in their own language

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Gio, 03/05/2018 - 12:42
Ucayali - The assassination of the 80-year-old indigenous leader of the Shipibo-Konibo population, Olivia Arévalos, which took place on April 19 in the Peruvian Amazon and is still under investigation, "was a very strong event for us, missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus present here, for her family and for the entire Shipibo-Konibo people, who feel they have lost one of their wise women, a deep knowledge of the traditional values of this ethnic group, as well as active in defense of the cultural and environmental rights of her people". This is what Sister Amparo Zaragoza Castello, of the "Missionary Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus" says to Agenzia Fides, who together with three other religious sisters announces the Gospel in the Shipibo-Konibo community, in the district of Yarinacocha, in the Peruvian department of Ucayali.
The missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, present in the Shipibo-koniba community for 41 years, communicate and celebrate the liturgies in Shipibo language. "For us, their vision of the world - even if we do not know it completely - has never been a problem when it comes to evangelizing, because from the beginning we tried to take their culture into account and respect it, says Sister Zaragoza to Fides, adding: "starting from an inculturation and keeping in mind the Shipibo man, we share and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus".
Speaking of her missionary work, the religious says that this "entailed very strong moments of rejection for us, not by the people we accompanied, but by individuals and societies that, over the years, try to take possession of the cultural riches and those natural resources of the territory".
As part of their missionary commitment, the congregation promotes the rights of the Shipobo-Konibo population, helping them to defend their territories and to know the laws that protect them. "We have always tried to keep in mind what Evangelii Nuntiandi No. 31 states: 'Between evangelization and human promotion, development and liberation, there are indeed very strong links'. Therefore for us the proclamation of the Gospel and the formation of the Christian community must always be accompanied by the help to their struggles, above all to be recognized individually and as a group in the ownership of the earth, bearing in mind that our role is to accompany and advise them, not to direct them", emphasizes Sr. Zaragoza. One of the main challenges they must face as missionaries, according to the Spanish nun, is" to know how to avoid a cultural shock, but make sure that there can be mutual enrichment and from here something new and rich is born for both cultures".
The Shipibo-Konibo population belongs to one of the 12 indigenous ethnic groups present in the Peruvian forest. Today it has more than 30 thousand people, who live mainly on the banks of the river Ucayali. The Franciscans and Jesuits were the first Catholic missionaries to come into contact with this community in the colonial era.

Categorie: From the church

ASIA/LEBANON - Maronite Bishops on the elections: the next government must aim at the repatriation of Syrian refugees

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Gio, 03/05/2018 - 11:58
Bkerke - The parliament and the government that will be elected on Sunday 6 May will have to oppose the attempt to permanently impose on Lebanon the weight of the reception of Syrian refugees. This is one of the priorities indicated by the Maronite Bishops in a widespread pronouncement in view of the forthcoming, important national election deadline.
The Council of the Maronite Bishops, gathered on Wednesday 2 May at the Patriarchal headquarters of Bkerké under the presidency of Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai, at the end of the meeting urged future parliamentarians and members of the government to stand with President Michel Aoun regarding the management of refugee-emergency, and called for the urgency of a "global plan" aimed at favoring the repatriation of displaced Syrians who found refuge in Lebanese territory.
In recent weeks, there has been growing concern in sectors of the Maronite Church that processes of stabilization of Syrian refugees present in Lebanon can be initiated. This eventuality, in addition to having unpredictable effects on the already difficult Lebanese economic situation, according to the Maronite Bishops would end up altering the demographic profile of the Country, putting a strain on the delicate balance among the different religious communities. On 7 and 8 April, in two different homilies, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai had expressed his concern for an article included in the national budget law 2018 that recognized the possibility of obtaining a residence permit in Lebanon to all foreigners who purchase a housing unit in Lebanese territory worth at least 500 thousand dollars. The Patriarch had denounced this measure as a preliminary move to eventually grant Lebanese nationality to foreigners - including Syrian refugees - who have been living in Lebanon for some time.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/TURKMENISTAN - The Catholic community on the way between new baptisms and catechumenate

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Gio, 03/05/2018 - 11:44
Ashgabat - "Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle. This inspires us: let us pray so that our candle does not blow out. We are a small Church, but we thank God because we have the opportunity to evangelize in this Central Asian country, announcing that the Risen Jesus Christ is the savior of humanity. The presence here offers us a unique opportunity to witness faith". This is what Fr. Andrzej Madej, Polish priest of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and Superior of the Missio sui iuris of Turkmenistan, told Agenzia Fides announcing the new baptisms celebrated in his community.
F. Madej says: "We lived the Easter season, the greatest event in the life of every Christian. During the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ, there were some new baptized and others who renewed this sacrament: many of them received it when they were a child, but over the years they had moved away from the Church. We propose the catechumenate to them in order to understand what baptism means and what to believe means. In this way we help many people to return to the Church and be a living member of the mystical body of Jesus".
From May 28 to June 4, however, the Turkmen community will welcome three representatives on a pastoral visit: the Apostolic Nuncio Paul Fitzpatrick Russell, who will arrive from Ankara; the provincial of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Father Pavel, from Poland; an Oblate missionary representing Asia. Fr. Madej explains that it will be "an occasion to experience the strength of unity, remembering that we are at the same time members of an apostolic Nunciature, of the Church and of the small community of the Oblates".
In Turkmenistan, which has 5 million inhabitants and 90% Muslims, the Catholic Church was reborn with the Missio sui iuris established by John Paul II in 1997. For thirteen years, the presence of the Oblates was admitted only as a representative of the Vatican Embassy: at the beginning we met in private houses and the Mass was celebrated in the diplomatic territory of the Apostolic Nunciature of Ashgabat. In 2010 the Turkmen government officially recognized the Catholic presence. The Turkmen Catholic community, consisting of about two hundred faithful, meets in the chapel of the Transfiguration of the Lord, in the capital Ashgabat, and is led by two Oblate priests of Mary Immaculate.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/MALAYSIA - The Church in prayer for the general elections: "A responsible vote"

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Gio, 03/05/2018 - 11:32
Kuala Lumpur - The Catholic Church in Malaysia has invited all the faithful to express "a responsible vote" in the upcoming general elections and to accompany the political process with the prayer for peace and for the common good. On May 9th, citizens from all over the country will vote, to select representatives in the new federal Parliament, consisting of 222 seats. The coalition so far in government, the "Barisan Nasional" , led by Prime Minister Najib Razak, will challenge the opposition alliance "Pakatan Harapan" and the Parti Islam Se-Malaysia . Najib Razak is facing corruption allegations related to the financial management of a Malaysian sovereign fund, but his coalition is however in the lead in the polls.
In this framework, the Episcopal Conference of Malaysia has released a pastoral letter on the "responsible vote" and launched the "24 hours of prayer for the elections", as Fr. Joshua Liew, priest of the diocese of Kota Kinabalu reports to Agenzia Fides. Hundreds of people in groups, communities and ecclesial associations took turns to pray in the churches of various dioceses. From April 30 to May 8, several parishes have organized a novena in three languages that reflects the composition of the Malaysian population, divided among Malaysian, Indian and Chinese citizens.
"As responsible citizens, they all have a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this land in some way better than before", explains Elizabeth Angang, a Catholic from Kuala Lumpur commenting on the Bishops' text.
"Catholics are called to exercise their civic responsibility, and this means putting the good of society and of our fellow citizens above individual wishes and needs. A primary question to which we must respond as Catholic voters is if so far politics has responded to the needs of the weakest and most defenseless. With the vote, we have the opportunity to contribute to our nation and promote the common good by bringing the values of our faith into our society", he adds. "The Church does not say who to vote, nor does it approve an official list of candidates. Catholics must use their judgment and follow their consciences thinking of Jesus' teachings and the fundamental values of faith, when they will be in the voting booth" , he notes. "We need to consider the issues and candidates in the light of our faith, actively participating and engaging in civic activities", concludes Angang.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/CENTRAL AFRICA - A priest killed in an attack on a church in Bangui, already assaulted in 2014

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mer, 02/05/2018 - 13:16
Bangui - An unreal and sad calm surrounds Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, after yesterday’s massacre, 1 May, where at least 16 people died, including a Catholic priest, Don Albert Toungoumale-Baba, killed in Notre Dame de Fatima church, not far from the PK5 district, inhabited mostly by Muslims. According to local Church sources contacted by Agenzia Fides "at the moment the situation is calm in Bangui, there are no reported shootings. We are awaiting a declaration by His Eminence Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui, who has just returned from Europe".
The incidents broke out when the security forces stopped a vehicle carrying Moussa Empereur, a member of a self-defense militia of the PK5. In trying to escape the arrest, he was wounded by the military. His men then attacked the security forces and unleashed the violence against civilians.
An armed group attacked the parish of Notre Dame de Fatima, while don Albert Toungoumale-Baba and some faithful were celebrating Mass on the occasion of the anniversary of St. Joseph. "The priest who was killed was not the parish priest of Notre Dame of Fatima, but a Central African priest , who was there for the celebration as chaplain of the Fraternité Saint Joseph movement", say Fides sources. The Notre Dame de Fatima Church suffered a bloody assault on 28 May 2014, during which 18 faithful were killed .
According to a testimony from the local press, "an angry mob decided to transport the body of the priest killed to the Presidency. The procession passed through Lakouanga neighborhood, where a mosque was destroyed and two men were burned alive. The procession reached the center of the city before being dispersed near the Presidency".
Doctors Without Borders said that an angry mob had gathered in front of the NGO hospital in the Sica district, threatening to destroy the hospital and hindering the access of ambulances.
The UN Mission in Central Africa and the President of the Republic, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, have invited the population to keep calm.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/NICARAGUA - National dialogue: need to talk about democracy, freedom, independence of powers

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mer, 02/05/2018 - 12:59
Matagalpa - The democratization of the country and the real independence of the powers of the State should be topics to be addressed in the national dialogue in which several Catholic Bishops will act as mediators and witnesses: this was stated by the Bishop of the diocese of Matagalpa, Mgr. Rolando José Álvarez Lagos, in a note sent to Agenzia Fides.
Presiding over the religious solemnity of Saint Joseph in the parish of San José Obrero in El Tuma, one of the main urban concentrations in the municipality of El Tuma-La Dalia, Mgr. Álvarez recalled yesterday that the situation in the country "is very complicated".
"You know that, as Bishops of Nicaragua, we have embarked on a difficult path, a path in which there are many thorns, there are many risks and dangers, because the situation in Nicaragua is very complex", said Mgr. Alvarez in his homily to the faithful.
According to the Bishop, dialogue must involve "the broadest representative sectors of the Nicaraguan population, and each one has his own approach, his point of view". It is often difficult for us to be at the center and seek conciliation, act as a bridge and a channel of communication between the parties, to be able to find a path that will lead us all to a consensus", reads the note.
Nicaragua is going through a crisis that has lasted for two weeks, with massive demonstrations against President Ortega, which began after the announcement of a draconian provision to cut pensions.
Agitation continued although the president revoked his decision, after the numerous victims caused by the repression of the police.
The population now demands the resignation of Ortega and his wife, Vice-President Rosario Murillo, because they consider them to be corrupt, violators of human rights, civil rights and public freedoms.
In all this affair, the Catholic Church has played a leading role, because it took to the streets to defend young Catholics who peacefully called for justice for the elderly in the country.
The international press noticed Nicaragua when thousands of Nicaraguan people from all over the country took part in the march "to show faith in God and love for Nicaragua" organized by the Episcopal Conference .
Since the protests began, the violent clashes that have taken place in Nicaragua have caused at least 42 deaths and a total of 48 missing, according to the Center for Human Rights of Nicaragua , while other humanitarian organizations report that this figure reaches 63 victims.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/IRAQ - Chaldean Patriarchate: no to the use of symbols and religious references for electoral propaganda

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mer, 02/05/2018 - 12:31
Baghdad - Candidates in the upcoming Iraqi political elections must avoid exploiting symbols and religious references as instruments of electoral propaganda. This is the request expressed by the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans in view of the election on 12 May. In order to gather electoral support the candidates must only refer to their professional skills and their personal talents. Christian candidates, in particular, must avoid claiming alleged sponsorships and support from ecclesiastical authorities.
The case that needed to be clarified was in particular that of Sarkis Agajan, former Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister in the Government of the Autonomous Region of Iraqi Kurdistan, whose work was compared to that of Christ in some messages of electoral propaganda spread through social networks. "We respect Professor Agajan" the patriarchal statement reads, "but we cannot compare him to Christ".
Almost 25 million potential voters are called to cast their votes in the upcoming national elections. Almost 7 thousand candidates came together to compete for the 329 seats in Parliament, grouped into 87 lists, many of which were organized only at a local or regional level.
There are at least 9 small political groups animated by Christian leaders and militants who will take part in the next elections, competing to win the 5 seats - distributed individually in the 5 provinces of Baghdad, Kirkuk, Erbil, Dohuk and Nineveh - that the quota system reserves for Christian minorities.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/LAOS - Four new priests: the Church rejoices

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mer, 02/05/2018 - 12:06
Vientiane - The Church of Laos rejoices for the ordination of four new priests. As confirmed to Agenzia Fides, on April 29th the small Catholic community in Laos lived a solemn Eucharist celebrated in the Cathedral of St. Louis, in Takhek, in central Laos, with the ordination of four new priests: Fr. Peter Mituna Tanvilay of the Apostolic Vicariate of Khamnouan-Savnnakhet ; Fr. Mattia Paly and Fr. Pietro Bounten Heuanded, of the Apostolic Vicariate of Paksé ; Fr. Francesco Saverio Sayasith, of the Apostolic Vicariate of Luang Prabang . The day after the ordination, on April 30, the new priests celebrated the first Holy Mass in the chapel of Jean-Marie Vianney Seminary, in Takhek.
The celebration, note local sources of Fides, was a moment of joy for the Laotian Church. Mgr. Jean-Marie Inthirath, Apostolic Vicar of Paksé presided over the ordination rite, together with Mgr. Tito Banchong, Apostolic Administrator of Luang Prabang, while almost all the priests of Laos, many religious women, and many lay faithful were present. Sources of Fides confirm that there was no interference or any obstacle posed by the civil authorities, who were even informed of the ordination ceremony.
The new priestly ordinations constitute an important step forward for the local Church which, as Cardinal Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, Apostolic Vicar of Vientiane told Fides, "needs new priests: for this reason the work of formation and deepening of the faith is very important for us today".
The Church in Laos experienced two historical events in recent years: the first was the celebration held in the Vientiane capital on 11 December 2016, when Filipino Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, special envoy of Pope Francis, proclaimed the beatification of 17 new martyrs, including missionaries and Laotian laity, killed between 1954 and 1970 by the Pathet Lao communist guerrillas. The martyrs were recognized by Pope Francis in 2015, in two distinct causes of beatification: the first is that of the Italian missionary Mario Borzaga and catechist Paolo Thoj Xyooj. The second concerns ThaoTien, first Laotian priest, and 14 companions.
A second important step was the creation of the first Laotian Cardinal, Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, now Apostolic Vicar in Vientiane, who took possession of the Roman church of San Silvestro in Capite on 22 April.
The Catholic Church in Laos is made up of about 60 thousand baptized . The last priestly ordinations date back to 2016: Don Paolo Lattana Sunthon, Don Agostino Saegna Be Bunti, Don Michele Kanthak Vilae Luong Di, all belonging to the Apostolic Vicariate of Luang Prabang.
In 2005, thirty years after the last ordination of 1975, priest Sophone Vilavongsy, Laotian and missionary of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate was ordained in Vientiane. In December 2006 Pierre Wilaiphorn Phonasa and Luca Sukpaphorn Duangchansai became priests. In 2009 in Savannakhet it was the turn of Fr. Matthieu Somdet Kaluan. In 2011 another new priest was Fr. Pierre Buntha Silaphet.
Today, in addition to the three apostolic Vicars, the Laotian diocesan priests present in the country as a whole, with the four newly ordained, now rise to 24, while 11 are religious priests.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/AFGHANISTAN - A Barnabite in Kabul: "These attacks are crimes against humanity"

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mer, 02/05/2018 - 11:14
Kabul - "We are shocked but we are well, thank God. Although the last attack took place near the Embassy, I did not suffer any consequences. The sisters, compared to me, are much more exposed because they live in popular neighborhoods and without any kind of protection. It is true that I am here to do good and are well liked by the population, but the problem is that they could become the target of an attack at any moment". This is the testimony sent from Kabul to Agenzia Fides by Father Giovanni Scalese, a Barnabite missionary, titular of the Missio sui iuris of Afghanistan, following the double suicide attack that, on Monday 30 April, killed more than 25 people, including nine journalists, also causing a very high number of wounded. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The first bombing, which occurred around 8:00 am local time in the Shashdarak area, close to several government institutions and NATO headquarters, had the aim of attracting reporters, who were then hit by a second suicide bomber who, pretending to be a communication operator, blew himself up 20 minutes later. "Journalists, who are witnesses to what happens, are naturally a privileged target of terrorists. But what is most striking is the evil of the action: to provoke an explosion, to wait for rescuers, journalists and the police to gather, and then to provoke another explosion. These are not military actions, they are crimes against humanity", notes Fr. Scalese.
Only a month ago, it was the Barnabite who sent words of hope from Afghanistan, highlighting the positive signs in the month of February, when the Taliban declared that they were ready to start negotiations with the United States and when Ashraf Ghani, Afghan president, made a peace deal proposal with the Taliban themselves. Today Fr. Scalese says: "It is clear that the inclusion of ISIS in the Afghan war is a sign that some do not want an agreement between the government and the Taliban. ISIS is a foreign body in Afghanistan, specially created to sow terror, without any other logic than destabilization as an end in itself. The Taliban have a different philosophy. In the communiqué with which they announced the beginning of the spring offensive, they wrote: 'Special attention must be given to the protection of the life and property of the civilian population, for which all precautionary measures must be taken when attacking the objectives chosen'".
In Afghanistan, the Catholic presence was admitted at the beginning of the twentieth century as a simple spiritual assistance within the Italian Embassy in Kabul and elevated to Missio sui iuris in 2002 by John Paul II. Today the mission, entrusted to Barnabite father Giovanni Scalese, continues to have a basis in the diplomatic structure. In the Afghan capital there are also the Mother Teresa of Calcutta sisters and the Pro Bambini of Kabul inter-congregational association.

Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/BRAZIL - Religious life in the Pan-Amazon region: “being present there where life is most in danger”

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Ven, 27/04/2018 - 18:11
Tabatinga - "This meeting has been a gift of God’s grace " Fides was told by Bishop Adolfo Zon, Alto Solimões , in whose diocese of Tabatinga, from 20 to 24 April there was a meeting of Religious Congregations and projects with a Pan-Amazon view, with about 90 participants representing 30 different religious communities .
A main point of the meeting, found also in the final message, was inter-congregational and inter-institutional work, presently being considered in various parts of the Amazon region. In this sense Bishop Zon, whose diocese borders with Brazil, Colombia and Peru underlined the importance of joint organization in this triple border and how the three ecclesiastic circumscriptions , "are working on the project of evangelisation ".
For all those present, the meeting created great hopes for building a Church with an Amazon and Indigenous face in view of the Pan-Amazon Synod in the region. As the final message underlines new paths for the ‘Church and Integral Ecology’, the theme of the Synod, "will be discovered there where there is a process of listening".
The religious present expressed the necessity "enter a dynamic constant of profound conversion", so that the Amazon region and its people may capture the hearts of missionaries. At the same time the Final Message, insists on the necessity to "cross all borders geographical, symbolic, cultural, personal and congregational". All this in view of becoming "a Church that is open and missionary, and leads us to be present there where the Church is most in danger, in the peripheries".
Pan-Amazon Religious life expresses elements capable of inventing new models of evangelisation, better suited to the present times and the present ecclesial and local realities. All this in view of the Synod process in which local and universal reflection can exert a profound transformation of Church life in the region, just as the mission of Religious Consecrated Life played for centuries a decisive role among the peoples of the Amazon region, whom it is essential to listen to and accompany.

Categorie: From the church

ASIA/SOUTH KOREA - Bishop You: “We entrust to our Korean martyrs peace in Korea

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Ven, 27/04/2018 - 17:03
ASIA/SOUTH KOREA - Bishop You: “We entrust to our Korean martyrs peace in Korea
Daejeon - “I was deeply moved while watching on television the meeting of the two Korean leaders. Then I prayed, I thanked God and gave my blessing too. I am truly happy because a new era has opened: truy we can God works surprising great wonders”: with these words Bishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik, of the diocese of Daejeon and president of the Bishops Commission for Society, comments for Fides the historic meeting of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the South Korean president Moon Jae-in , held today in Panmunjom, in a demilitarised zone in south Korea.
“I invoked the protection of the Blessed Mary and the Korean martyrs: to them I entrust this journey towards reconciliation peace, for the good of the entire Korean people and all humanity”, the Bishop adds.
Bishop Lazzaro explains: “The event was deeply emotional. Today in Korea there is an air of great optimism and hope. Something which seemed impossible only a few months ago when there was talk of war, today has actually happened. Today we say to the Lord: complete Your work. We are brothers: as Koreans we are one people”. Great merit, he adds “must be attributed to president Moon, who is a Catholic, and he believed deeply in this possibility and worked hard for this result”.
“Now we hope to have the opportunity to help the people of North Korea suffering from hunger and poverty. The goals of nuclear disarmament and the signing of an authentic peace agreement are within reach. Not only are they possible, they are also necessary : they are the path and the proper fruit of this summit” he continues, recalling that “peace in the region needs also the political will of actors like China and the United States of America”.
“Korea’s Catholics – the bishop concluded – lived this event in prayer and will continue to accompany with prayer the path to dialogue and peace, promoting initiatives of exchange and cooperation with the North, helping to build authentic reconciliation and brotherhood ”.
Categorie: From the church

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