ASIA/INDIA - Covid-19, the Prime Minister of the state of Meghalaya: "Nothing is impossibile for God"

Fides EN - www.fides.org - lun, 06/04/2020 - 13:21
Meghalaya - "At the beginning of this Holy Week, let us remember our faith in God, the Almighty. Today, the world is facing the great challenge of Covid-19. As Christians, we have hope in the Word of God that guides us and reminds us that 'nothing is impossible for God": says the Catholic, Conrad K. Sangma, Prime Minister of the State of Meghalaya, in North Eastern India, recalling that "the love of God gives us faith, wisdom and strength during this period". "Holy Week is a time when we celebrate the Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let us reflect on his messages and try to live as his disciples in today's crisis", he notes.
The celebrations that accompany Easter are religious events usually marked by large participation throughout the State of Meghalaya. However, religious assemblies will not be held in churches this year, given the lockdown imposed by the Indian government to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
As Fides learns, the Churches throughout the region have made arrangements to stream the various liturgical celebrations online, as happened yesterday for the solemn Palm Sunday Mass, followed by thousands of faithful of the "garo" ethnic group, majority in that territory. "The mass was broadcast live on social media via Facebook and YouTube", the auxiliary bishop of Tura, Mgr. Jose Chirackal confirmed to Fides. "This remains a blessed week for us", he notes, recalling that the majority of people in the north east of India are Christians.
The Christian population in Meghalaya is about 2.5 million that make up 75% of the State’s population, according to the 2018 census. Presbyterian and Roman Catholic are the two most widespread Christian denominations.
Catégories: From the church

VATICAN - An emergency fund established by the Pope at the Pontifical Mission Societies for Covid-19

Fides EN - www.fides.org - lun, 06/04/2020 - 12:10
Vatican City - The Holy Father has established an emergency fund at the Pontifical Mission Societies, in order to come to the aid of those people and communities who are being tragically impacted by the spread of COVID-19. The Emergency Fund will be used to accompany impacted communities in mission countries via Church structures and institutions.
Cardinal Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, welcomes the announcement:
"In her task of evangelization, the Church is often on the front lines of major threats to human well-being. In Africa alone, there are over 74,000 religious sisters and over 46,000 priests operating 7,274 hospitals and clinics, 2,346 homes for elderly and the vulnerable, and educating over 19 million children in 45,088 primary schools. In many rural areas they are the only providers of healthcare and education". The Cardinal continued: "The Holy Father is calling upon the Church’s entire vast network to face the challenges ahead".
The Holy Father has designated US $ 750,000 as an initial contribution for the fund and has asked that those Church entities that are able and desirous to help, to contribute to this fund through the Pontifical Mission Societies in each Country.
Archbishop Giampietro Dal Toso, President of the Pontifical Mission Societies, said: "This fund has the aim of supporting the presence of the Church in mission territories, which also suffers the consequences of Corona Virus. Through the Church’s activity of preaching the Gospel and of practical aid through our vast network, we can show that no one is alone in this crisis. In this sense, the Church’s institutions and ministers play a vital role. This is the Holy Father’s intention in establishing this Fund. While so many are suffering, we remember and reach out to those who may have no one to care for them, thus showing forth the love of God the Father ".
The Pontifical Mission Societies is the Holy Father’s official channel of support for more than 1,110 dioceses mostly in Asia, Africa, Oceania and part of the Amazon region. The Archbishop continued: "I call upon our network of Pontifical Mission Societies, present in every diocese around the world, to do what they can to support this important initiative of the Holy Father".
Contributions can be made also to: IT84F0200805075000102456047 for: Amministrazione Pontificie Opere Missionarie, indicating: Fund Corona-Virus.
Catégories: From the church

EUROPE/ITALY - Father Gigi Maccalli: knowing that he is alive is a message of hope for Holy Easter

Fides EN - www.fides.org - lun, 06/04/2020 - 11:58
Rome - Holy Week begins with news that we have all been waiting for for almost 18 months. From a short video released in these hours, it appears that Father Perluigi Maccalli, priest of the Society for African Missions is alive. The missionary, kidnapped in September 2018, is apparently still in Mali in the hands of his kidnappers.
"The News fills us with joy and hope. However, we must all remain very cautious. It is information that must be treated with extreme delicacy", said the Superior General of SMA, Father Antonio Porcellato, to Agenzia Fides. "At this time of global health emergency, let us continue to keep our faith steadfast, to pray and wait with the hope that this Holy Easter will bring Father Maccalli's release as an immense gift".
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA - Africa more reactive to Covid-19 than other continents, but a strong health, economic and social impact is feared

Fides EN - www.fides.org - lun, 06/04/2020 - 11:25
Rome - Africa has shown greater reactivity to the Covid-19 emergency compared to Europe and America. Local governments quickly took steps to contain the epidemic without waiting for the numbers of infections to increase to hundreds of cases. This is what emerged from the web-meeting held on April 4, organized by the bimonthly magazine "Africa" and by the monthly magazine "Africa e Affari", in which Agenzia Fides took part.
However, coronavirus is a serious health and economic emergency for African Countries. The fragile local health systems which already in several cases face other epidemics , risk being overwhelmed by the spread of the pandemic. As Enrico Casale of Africa magazine recalls, citing the Montfortan missionary Piergiorgio Gamba, who works in Malawi, African Countries have to cope with the emergency with few structures, poorly distributed throughout the territory, with few doctors and nurses. For example, in Malawi there are only 10 beds for quarantine, 17 for intensive care and only 2 laboratories for swabs.
Covid-19 containment measures also have a very serious impact on the lives of millions of Africans who live thanks to informal economy. In general, if the upper middle classes can stay at home because they still have economic guarantees, the same does not happen for the poorer classes who are forced to leave the house every day to get what little they can for themselves and their families. A complete lockdown like that adopted by European Countries is therefore difficult to apply in the African context.
In South Africa for example, as reported by Scalabrinian missionary Fr. Filippo Ferrara, the townships where most of the black population lives are "like boilers with boiling water; if there is no relief valve they will explode". It is no coincidence that the townships are surrounded not by the police but by the army in combat gear.
In Nairobi alone, the capital of Kenya, "at least 2 million people have to leave the house every day to put something on the table in the evening", says Comboni missionary Fr. Renato Kizito Sesana.
"In Kenya, most people do not yet have an awareness of the seriousness of the phenomenon", says Fr. Kizito. "There have been few deaths but there is a continuous growth in the number of sick people. Covid-19 highlighted the fact that there are two economies in Kenya: one of 30% of the population who can stay at home because they have something to live on; and that of the rest of the population who cannot stay at home otherwise they starve to death", underlines the missionary. Indeed, the Kenyan government has not imposed a total lockdown for fear of serious accidents.
"Covid-19 was initially seen as a disease of the "rich", of those who travel and have contacts with foreign Countries for work reasons", reports Cleophas Adrien Dioma, who describes the situation in his Country, Burkina Faso, where the first Covid-19 patient died in sub-Saharan Africa: former Vice President of Parliament, Rose Marie Compaoré. However, the virus has now also infected people from the most humble classes, forcing the government to take measures to contain and reassure the population, such as blocking rents and other expenses for shopkeepers for three months.
Catégories: From the church

EUROPE/SWITZERLAND - Journey towards Easter: traveling across the world without leaving home

Fides EN - www.fides.org - lun, 06/04/2020 - 10:45
Friborg - The closure of churches due to the coronavirus infection will not make the Easter celebrations in communities possible. Families can no longer get together for the feast. Missionary Childhood of Missio Switzerland have therefore sought ways, during this period of isolation, to make children reflect on the journey towards Easter, offering them a nine-day journey. The "novena" begins on the eve of Palm Sunday and ends on Easter day. Written in simple and comprehensible language for children, the text, written in French, invites them to pray for their families and for all the other children in the world, "by connecting with all the children of the world who also live isolation for this pandemic and also with those who cannot live their childhood because of illness, war, poverty".

Link correlati :Missio's booklet for the journey towards Easter
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/COLOMBIA - The testimony of life of Sister Johana, first nun who died of coronavirus in Colombia

Fides EN - www.fides.org - lun, 06/04/2020 - 10:35
Cartagena - "Living a permanent prayer was one of the characteristics of Johana, this was deeply rooted in her, many times she also reminded us older people to pray more, and that is what we did": with these words Sister María José Alamar, superior of the Franciscan Community of the Immaculate Conception, remembers her sister, Sister Johana Rivera Ramos, 33, the first nun who died in Colombia due to the coronavirus infection on March 27.
On March 14, Sister Maria Josè, together with Sister Johana and another nun, following the indications of the preventive quarantine, were isolated in their home located in the Santa Lucia neighborhood of Cartagena. On March 15, Sister Johana showed signs of mild tonsillitis, later complicated by pneumonia, which became pulmonary edema, until the unexpected death that shocked the nuns.
As Sister María José recalls, in the testimony released by the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia sent to Fides, Sister Johana was born in San Martín de Loba, a municipality in the south of the Bolívar department, on January 10, 33 years ago. She came from a humble and very Catholic family. Before entering her religious life she had studied law at the Popular University of Cesar and theology at the provincial Seminary of San Carlos Borromeo. In 2010 she became part of the Community of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception and in 2012 she professed her first vows. She was then sent to Peru, where she worked with a community of deaf children in Cusco, then went to Lima. In 2019 she returned to Cartagena. Since then, in the municipality of Arjona, she dedicated herself to catechesis with children and the elderly. As Sister María José recalls, a classroom for pedagogical support and strengthening of children was about to start. The religious was also linked to the archdiocese of Cartagena, where she collaborated with the pastoral care of youth and family.
Sister María José recalls that on March 25, Sister Johana should have made her perpetual profession, "unfortunately this did not happen, but we are sure that from heaven she made the final vows before the Lord". "She will always be remembered - she concludes - as a very happy person, a fighter, who gave her soul, life and heart. We will miss you, but also the children, young people and families who saw in you a great testimony of life".
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/IRAQ - Easter and pandemic, message from Patriarch Sako: May the Lord protect Iraq and the world

Fides EN - www.fides.org - lun, 06/04/2020 - 10:22
Baghdad - In the days preceding Easter, Christians "are not able to celebrate these important liturgical events" as they used to do annually due to the current situation, but "they keep praying at their homes" making their hope as a real “Pass-Over” from darkness to light, from fragility to strength; from illness to health". This is what Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako writes in a message released in view of Easter and also sent to Agenzia Fides.
In this time, which also sees the Easter celebrations marked by the scourge of the pandemic crisis - says the Iraqi Cardinal - "Everyone must analyze their own behavior. Self-criticism should be everyone’s “duty”, since morals have been falling back, marked by corruption, greed, stealing public money, violence, threats, murders, displacement, divorce, abortion, etc... we have distanced God from our world, "using him" as a tool for our unworthy behaviors"- continues the Patriarch, adding that the Easter and Corona lesson is nothing more than an invitation for a full conversion "to God to the principles of our faith, spirituality and real morals".
The many evils that afflict the present - the Primate of the Chaldean Church points out - also call into question the responsibility and the desirable self-criticism of those who exercise power: "Coronavirus outbreak as well as wars and conflicts in more than one Country, leaving thousands of dead and injured victims, millions of displaced people and massive damage to infrastructure, must be a moment of reflection in reviewing, analysing and criticising their policies and strategies. It is time to correct their approaches and find the right solutions for respecting life in all its forms; protect the environment by fighting pollution and climate change; and stop encouraging deadly weapons production that generate death".
The Patriarch, referring to the Encyclical Laudato Sì “on caring for our Common House”, recalls the urgency of a "Global plan to build a more peaceful and prosperous society", and concludes with the wish of "a blessed Easter and a prompt recovery from the coronavirus infection", and may "the Lord protect Iraq and the whole world".
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/DR CONGO - After Ebola, covid-19: Holy Week between uncertainty and fear, says Cardinal Ambongo

Fides EN - www.fides.org - lun, 06/04/2020 - 09:55
Kinshasa - "We are terrified of the possible spread of covid-19 here in Congo; we have no means or logistical solutions to deal with it and it would be a disaster": says Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, Archbishop of Kinshasa to Agenzia Fides, expressing his concern. First the Ebola nightmare, which has tormented the country since the summer of 2018, making thousands of victims, and now we have to deal with the first infections due to the coronavirus. "There is great fear because the number of infected people rises day by day. My diocese is the most affected, most of the cases are concentrated in the capital where 12 million people live, but we fear that it will spread to other areas of the Country as well. We are observing what is happening in Italy, Spain, America and we dare not imagine what it would be like here if even a small part of what happened there happened to us". Cardinal Ambongo reports to Fides the conditions of poverty and lack of preparation which the Country is facing. "The government has asked to limit circulation, to wash your hands, to stay as much as possible at home, but here, the slogan stay home in many cases would make no sense, because houses are precarious, up to about 10/15 people live in a small room and the vast majority of our population lives on the street all day. Furthermore, not all households have running water and in order to wash their hands it is necessary to travel distances. In the city you see fewer people around, but we are far from the measures that are needed. As a Church, we are talking to the President of the Republic to find solutions, because we fear that the indication of staying at home will not work in most situations. There is also a risk of looting in the case of mass epidemics and hospitalizations, especially by the military and policemen".
The Christians of the Democratic Republic of Congo, over 50% of the population , are preparing to live Easter in a situation of great uncertainty and fear. "Churches are open, but the influx of the faithful is prohibited. You can enter to pray, but one at a time or with very small groups, no more than 20. In Kinshasa we can make use of a Catholic TV and radio and we will broadcast all the functions. The problem will be in all those dioceses where there are no such means".
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/UNITED STATES - Message of the Bishops to the people of God: "Christ is not quarantined and his Gospel is not in chains"

Fides EN - www.fides.org - lun, 06/04/2020 - 09:38
Washington - "Future generations will look back on this as the long Lent of 2020, a time when disease and death suddenly darkened the whole earth. As we enter into Holy Week, these most sacred days of the year, Catholics in the United States and the world are living under quarantine, our societies shut down by the coronavirus pandemic", this is how the message of Archbishop de Los Ángeles, Mgr. José H. Gomez and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops begins, sent to Fides.
They are words of hope for Christians:
"But we know that our Redeemer lives. Even in this extraordinary and challenging moment, we give thanks for what Jesus Christ has done for us by his life, death, and resurrection. Even now, we marvel at the beautiful mystery of our salvation, how precious each one of us is in the eyes of God"
"These are times almost without precedent in the long history of the Church. In the face of this worldwide contagion, my brother bishops and I in almost every country have been forced to temporarily suspend public worship and celebration of the sacraments".
" In this difficult moment, we ask God for his grace, that we might bear this burden together with patience and charity, united as one family of God in his universal Church".
" This Holy Week will be different. Our churches may be closed, but Christ is not quarantined and his Gospel is not in chains. Our Lord’s heart remains open to every man and woman. Even though we cannot worship together, each of us can seek him in the tabernacles of our own hearts. Because he loves us, and because his love can never change, we should not be afraid, even in this time of trial and testing. In these mysteries that we remember this week, let us renew our faith in his love. And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to intercede for us", concludes the message.

Even the United States has been hit by the pandemic in a violent and unprepared way. In terms of victims, during the weekend more than 1100 people died in a single day, but at an economic level, there is talk of 10 million jobs lost. And even at an organizational level, in some States people live in fear and chaos.
The richest and most industrialized nation on the planet has registered 68,000 positive cases and 2,500 deaths in one city, New York, surpassing those of 9/11. Recalling that even in this country the figures are lower than reality.
The paradox is that despite the latest figures and what has happened in the world, the order to stay at home does not cover the entire national territory, in a country with more than 300 million inhabitants.
Catégories: From the church

NEWS ANALYSIS/OMNIS TERRA - Has conronavirus caught Christian believers unprepared?

Fides EN - www.fides.org - sam, 04/04/2020 - 14:40
"Coronavirus has caught Christians in the various continents unprepared, distracted by concerns and conflicts of diverse nature, and blinded by proposals of half-truths, warped truths and ‘instrumentalized truths’. We have become like “children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of teaching”: reflection of an Indian Archbishop on the Christian spiritual approach to the emergence of the coronavirus. Social distancing reaffirms forgotten values: withdrawal, solitude, silence, meditation, prayer ": this is what Salesian Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil, emeritus of Guwahati, in northeastern India, and former head of the Office for Evangelization within the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences says to Agenzia Fides, and published on "Omnis Terra" website. The Archbishop points out that the so-called "Social Distancing’, has brought some ‘unintended blessing’, it reminds the world that ‘withdrawal’ was always a positive value in Christian tradition. "Monks withdrew to the mountains, hermits into caves, contemplatives into forests. They were guardians of the environment wherever they went, they protected nature, they respected the cosmic order. They believed that solitude deepens a person, silence has power, meditation keeps one close to God, prayer obtains whatever one seeks".
"The isolation that Coronavirus has imposed on us - he continues - has made us think. It has compelled us to sit back, relax, and evaluate our day-to-day life, and notice some of our superficialities: quick profits, overconcern for appearance, figure and form; hasty judgements, fatuous boasts, petty bickerings, negligence of courtesies, resentments over trifles".
In addition, the Archbishop notes "the calamity has stimulated a quick change in attitudes: there has been an outburst of generosity from the most unexpected sources. All of sudden we realize we can be generous, helpful, and reach out in collaboration…that we need each other, we are interdependent" .

Link correlati :Continue to read the in-depth analysis on Omnis Terra website, in English,
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/IRAN - Ayatollah rector of the University of Qom to Pope Francis: in the face of the pandemic, let us unite at the service of humanity

Fides EN - www.fides.org - sam, 04/04/2020 - 13:24
Qom - Thanks for the concern shown by Pope Francis for the poor and needy in the time of the pandemic, and the proposal to "intensify" collaboration and exchange of experiences with Catholic institutions, in order to "create a community of celestial religions at the service of humanity". These are the key messages contained in a letter addressed to Pope Francis by Iranian Ayatollah Alireza Arafi, Rector of the Al Mustafa International University of Qom, on behalf of the Seminary of Iran and of the professors of that prestigious Shiite academic community.
The misfortune of the spread of the coronavirus reads the letter, sent to Agenzia Fides "has caused suffering for Countries and nations", also upsetting scholars and religious leaders. Religious teachers and their students, in Qom and throughout Iran - writes Ayatollah "invoke God's mercy for those who have lost their lives and healing for those who are sick", and "express their gratitude for the Pope and for all those who care about the weak and needy", while underlining the importance of following the plans outlined by the recommendations of experts and scientists". "According to the logic of revealed religions", reads the message "natural disasters are alarming phenomena that test humanity" and also represent a circumstance in which "to deepen one's origin and the possibility to resurrect" in which a fruitful spirit of empathy and dedication can also emerge. A correct approach to such accidents - explains Iranian Ayatollah - must avoid lying contradictions between science and religion, and must also instill in leadership groups the concern to promote social cohesion. Religious leaders and theologians - notes the high Shia exponent - have the additional responsibility to strengthen the foundations of their faith "protect society from anomalies and contaminations, keep in mind the eternal power of the Almighty God, promote prayer in the presence of God", to face together other contemporary emergencies such as "injustice, discrimination, inhuman sanctions, environmental crises, war, terrorism, production of instruments of mass destruction".
Ayatollah Alireza Arafi proudly adds that in Iran "in these days we have witnessed indescribable manifestations of popular solidarity and voluntary mobilization" which has united government institutions and people of all religious groups, and has seen nurses in the front row, doctors, students, academic elites and many young people, "under the guidance of the supreme leaders of the Islamic Revolution", and concludes by announcing that professors, scholars and students are ready to intensify scientific, cultural exchange and experiences of mutual support, opening a new chapter of collaboration "in a special world Catholic institutions", so as to form a "community of revealed religions at the service of humanity".
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Appointment of the Apostolic Vicar of Jolo

Fides EN - www.fides.org - sam, 04/04/2020 - 12:42
Vatican City – The Holy Father has appointed Fr. Charlie M. Inzon, O.M.I., currently Provincial Superior of the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate, in the Philippines as Apostolic Vicar of the Vicariate of Jolo .
Father Charlie M. Inzon O.M.I., was born on November 24, 1965 in Putiao, in the Diocese of Sorsogon. From 1988 to 1993 he studied Philosophy at Notre Dame University, in Cotabato City, and from 1993 to 1994 Theology at the Loyola School of Theology of the Ateneo de Manila University, in Quezon City, obtaining a Master's degree. From 2002 to 2008 he continued his studies at the same Institute, obtaining a Doctorate in Psychology. He entered the Congregation of the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate in 1982, made his perpetual profession on September 8, 1990. He was ordained a priest on April 24, 1993 in Coloocan City.
Since his priestly ordination he has held the following roles: 1993-1995: Chaplain of Notre Dame College, Jolo; 1995-1998: Person in charge of the mission station of Batu-Batu, Tawi-Tawi; 1998-1999: Parish Vicar of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Bangong Barrio, Caloocan City; 1999-2000: Parish Vicar of Sto. Niño Parish, Madsayap, Cotabato; 2000-2007: Director of the O.M.I. College Seminary, Quezon City; 2007-2010: Research Director of Notre Dame College, in Jolo 2008-2010: Chaplain of Notre Dame College, Jolo; 2009-2010: Dean of the Graduate School of Notre Dame College, Jolo; 2010-2014: President of Notre Dame College, Jolo; 2014-2018: President of Notre Dame University, Cotabato, since 2018: Provincial Superior of the O.M.I.
Catégories: From the church

EUROPE/ITALY - The Order of Malta extends its projects all over the world to combat Covid-19

Fides EN - www.fides.org - sam, 04/04/2020 - 12:36
Rome - The Covid-19 pandemic is profoundly influencing the activity of the Order of Malta, which every day offers social and health assistance around the world, but has now had to adapt to this unprecedented global crisis. The staff has been trained to continue to ensure safe assistance. Programs that bring relief to the needy and the sick have been expanded to respond to the enormous pressure on the national health systems of the countries affected by the pandemic, according to a statement sent to Agenzia Fides. The Order is committed to supporting hospitals, medical centers, ambulance services and, at the same time, continues, where possible, its activities in support of the elderly and disabled people, who are particularly at risk at the moment, as well as homeless people and all people in need.
Here are some of the ongoing activities in Africa and Asia, according to the note sent to Fides. The Order of Malta is present in Africa in over 30 countries, where it runs numerous hospitals and dispensaries. Most activities continue despite the growing number of Covid-19 cases. The medical centers run by Ordre de Malte France continue to operate in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Guinea, Madagascar, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Chad, Togo and Chad, despite the implementation of preventive measures and reorganization required by local authorities.
With the exception of South Sudan, numerous cases of coronavirus have now occurred in all countries where Malteser International operates, and governments are responding with curfews and the closure of airports. All international staff are still in their respective workstations.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the isolation department used during Ebola's response is now used for Covid-19's response. In South Sudan the MI spreads messages with all means to inform the population of Juba, including street theater performances and radio commercials. In Uganda the MI is working on the development of a communication plan to change behaviors, focused on hygiene and sanitation, aimed at refugee populations and host communities around the Rhino Camp Settlement. This initiative will also include the distribution of items such as hand sanitizers. In South Africa, the "Fratellanza del Beato Gerardo" medical and social center is preparing for a possible outbreak of the epidemic, which - in the region with an increasing number of HIV cases - can represent a real catastrophe. The Health Minister predicts that 60-70% of the entire South African population could be infected, that is, about 40 million people. Assistance activities for the sick, the elderly and children have been reorganized to reduce possible infections.
In Asia kits of basic necessities have been distributed in Bangladesh, together with an intensification of primary needs programs. In the face of the threat of coronavirus, the teams of the CIOMAL Foundation of the Order of Malta, which specifically deal with the treatment and research on Hansen's disease, have reorganized the current management in Cambodia. Communication groups in Khmer language have been created to allow non-English speaking employees to stay in touch. In Thailand, Malteser International, in close collaboration with the Ambassador of the Order in Thailand, carried out health screening with infrared thermometers.
For the Middle East, all Order of Malta assistance centers in Lebanon and the Order of Malta's mobile medical units follow a rigorous protocol to ensure the safety of all staff and patients. The centers continue to work to ensure essential medical visits and medicines, especially for patients with chronic diseases. The staff is collecting the list of the most vulnerable who cannot reach the centers, contacting them in their homes in order to deliver the monthly medicines. For each center, a hotline for non-urgent cases was created, encouraging tele-consultations with careful follow-up by doctors. The Mobile Medical Units are active above all in the most remote areas, in close collaboration with the municipalities.
In Palestine, the situation is particularly worrying due to the lack of medical equipment, such as ventilators and oxygen, and the lack of masks, alcohol and disinfectants.
At the Holy Family Hospital of the Order of Malta, in Bethlehem, which has the only neonatal intensive care unit in the whole region, despite the difficult circumstances, 285 babies were born in March. Staff regularly contact Bedouins who live in isolated communities for telemedicine visits and pregnant women were able to leave their communities to give birth to their children at the hospital. In Syria, together with partner organizations, the Order's global relief agency, Malteser International, continues to run and strengthen healthcare facilities, hospitals and primary health care centers, and will intensify its activities by distributing more water and products for hygiene, and helping to improve sanitation in informal camps and settlements that are in poor condition.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - Covid-19, "humanitarian aid for the population must be guaranteed"

Fides EN - www.fides.org - sam, 04/04/2020 - 11:49
Juba - "Closing the borders in South Sudan means condemning thousands of people to hunger: the food security of the population still depends on exports from neighboring countries as well as humanitarian aid. For this reason, the government has asked Uganda to let the food and gasoline trucks pass". This is what Father Christian Carlassare, an Italian Comboni missionary who lives in Juba, reports to Agenzia Fides, talking about the precautionary measures put in place by the young African state in response to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Ministry of Health in past days announced the closure of all the other airports present on the national territory, with the prohibition of international flights and the closure of borders.
According to UN data, about 6 million people, 60% of the population, urgently need humanitarian assistance, 20% more than last year. "The country would be in a critical situation if it were to face an epidemic of this type", notes Father Christian. In February and in the first weeks of March there were numerous movements with the neighboring states: "It is feared, therefore, that the virus may spread also in South Sudan - explains the Comboni priest - while the hope is that the hot climate limits the spread of contagion; but we will only know in a couple of weeks".
"Currently - specifies the religious - there are no data available about the infection: no cases have yet been confirmed in the country. As a precaution, schools have also been closed for a month and gatherings, including religious activities, have also been prohibited: "With the suspension of community celebrations - reports Fr. Carlassare – we need to find other forms of closeness to people and those who suffer. For the moment there is no obligation to remain isolated at home. There is only a curfew from six in the evening to six in the morning. During the day, one can visit families. Small grassroots communities can remain active and carry out their prayers at a family level".
Television, the Internet and other social media are not yet accessible to the majority of the South Sudanese population: "The radio - the missionary notes - carries out an important service: each diocese has its own broadcaster which broadcasts programs that facilitate family prayer and bring a word of comfort and hope".
Although important, the measures adopted appear insufficient to face the complex reality of a country like South Sudan, tormented by hunger, poverty and disease: "The first challenge - says Fr. Carlassare - concerns the possibility of intervening if there are infected people, the possibility of carrying out swabs is very limited and confined to the capital alone. In addition to this - he continues - public health is not equipped: it can isolate the patient but there are no intensive care units with ventilators and oxygen. We Comboni missionaries have the direction of the diocesan hospital of Mapuordit where the only ventilator is that of the operating room". The other challenge concerns prevention: according to Father Christian "the practice of isolation and quarantine is very difficult to implement in a country like South Sudan for many reasons, first of all - he explains - many families live in huts or houses that have only one room that is shared on average by five or six people. Life takes place almost entirely outdoors". At home, no food is stored, except flour and not much else: "The hygienic conditions of markets, formed by stalls often in dusty and very crowded squares, are very precarious".
"The new transitional government has an important responsibility: to face this possible crisis without divisions", notes the missionary. "This epidemic, as Pope Francis said - he concludes - caught us by surprise, but at the same time has made us important and necessary, all with the need to comfort each other, all called to row together since we are on the same boat".

Link correlati :Watch the video interview with Fr. Carlassare on Agenzia Fides Youtube channel
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Manila's "double war": coronavirus and drugs, with unpunished murders

Fides EN - www.fides.org - sam, 04/04/2020 - 11:31
Manila - The fight against the Covid-19 pandemic has not slowed down the "drug crusade" in the Philippines. "Currently, the country is facing a double war: one concerning the war on drugs and the other against the coronavirus", says Catherine Guzman, Catholic laywoman of the diocese of Cubao, near Manila, to Agenzia Fides. "We had hoped that the war on drugs would come to an end with efforts to stop the pandemic, but this is not happening", she notes.
Since 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte has started anti-drug policy to kill criminals and drug addicts, often targeting the poorest neighborhoods in the Philippines and especially those who live in vast slums. So far it has caused 6,600 official victims, but about 30,000 including people killed by unidentified "vigilante squads" and armed executioners: a long trail of extrajudicial killings.
Despite the pandemic, the government's deadly push for the "war on drugs" continues, and police attention has also shifted to other areas of the country and other targets.
While the coronavirus emergency has already killed 144 Filipinos and records over 3,100 cases of infection, the government has imposed a lockdown of the entire northern island of Luzon, with 57 million people. Provincial and municipal leaders have imposed similar measures in their own communities, practically the entire country of 104 million people in quarantine.
On April 1, Rodrigo Duterte ordered the police and military to shoot people who do not respect the lockdown of the nation. "We are really worried and shocked. We are living a double battle every day: with the pandemic or with the drug-related murders", says Sebastian Cruz, 23, to Fides, who lives in a slum in Manila, where people are forced to leave the house to get food.
In civil society, human rights groups have called for the immediate cessation of police operations, warning against further abuse during the national health crisis. "It is paradoxical to witness extrajudicial killings while the nation is committed to saving lives from the deadly coronavirus", said Carlos Conde, activist of the Human Rights Watch NGO in the Philippines. Paulin Romer, social worker, hopes that "the national health emergency will lead to the end of the so-called anti-drug crusade" and that "the culture of impunity will cease, so law enforcement can have a free hand to kill without consequences". The lockdown, she notes, "has exacerbated social inequality in the country, leading to further violations of dignity and human rights".
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/CENTRAL AFRICA - A missionary: "Let's challenge the virus with prayer, charity and hope"

Fides EN - www.fides.org - sam, 04/04/2020 - 11:10
Bozoum - Covid-19 has also reached the Central African Republic. Officially there are eight cases of contagion, but it is feared that the virus may be more widespread. "Last week - explained to Fides Aurelio Gazzera, Carmelite missionary in Bozoum - the President of the Republic announced the first measures . On Sunday we limited the number of those present at Mass, but we managed to broadcast the celebration at 8.30 on our community radio".
Father Aurelio, parish priest of Bozoum and at the head of the diocesan Caritas, thus decided to organize a trip to meet the leaders of ten parishes and explain to them how to deal with the possible epidemic. "In each parish - he explains - we had a meeting , in which I first presented the disease , inviting to take this problem seriously. Then we organized ourselves, as believers and as Caritas, to ensure assistance and food for the weakest ".
The people I met welcomed this initiative. "Despite the fear - continues the Carmelite -, there is still a great desire to be ready and to give a concrete response to the virus. Unfortunately it will not be easy to block the virus. People here live outside their homes. To be able to get what they need they must go out. Only in this way it is possible to find some jobs, sell or buy essential items and food. Although the number of infections is rapidly rising in Cameroon , and despite travel restrictions, buses continue to regularly go and return from Bangui to the Cameroon border, thus promoting the spread of the disease".
Fr. Aurelio took four days to travel 700 km. "It was a tiring journey - he concludes - but it was a great joy to meet parish priests, nuns, lay people who care first of all about others. Fathers and nuns, young and sometimes old all very worried about what may happen if the virus takes hold in Central Africa. And they are all determined to challenge the virus, with the few weapons we have available: prayer, charity and hope" .
The Central African Republic is a country on its knees. For seven years, it has plunged into a civil war that, despite peace agreements, continues to reap violence and political instability. In this context, already precarious, the spread of the virus can only further prostrate civil society by affecting many people and causing an increase in the prices of basic foods and basic necessities .
Catégories: From the church

VATICAN - Covid-19, Caritas Internationalis to governments: "Do not forget the poor, migrants, peoples victims of wars"

Fides EN - www.fides.org - sam, 04/04/2020 - 10:55
Vatican City - "Do not forget the South of the world, migrants and refugees, continue to help countries facing war and poverty" is the invitation that Caritas Internationalis has addressed to governments in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. "Each of the 165 national Caritas has put in place projects and measures to support the populations affected by the pandemic and to prevent the virus from spreading in countries where this it is still in its infancy", explained Aloysius John, during an online press conference with the general secretary of Caritas Internationalis, Aloysius John on Friday 3 April 2020 with some journalists in which Agenzia Fides also took part.
Among the key points reported by the General Secretary, first of all the awareness of the global population and the accompaniment of the most vulnerable groups. "Everyone - he remarked - has the right to receive the right orientation to avoid getting infected. We must not lose sight of those poor countries that could be more helpless and in need of global solidarity. In areas such as Syria, South Sudan, Africa in general, the epidemic could lead to a humanitarian disaster. The health system situation in these areas is fragile, our emergency department is mobilized, and we work together with the Holy See to identify what the needs are and how we can help. The different Caritas of the continent are being organized, in connection with the local Episcopal Conferences".
"In particular, Caritas is very active throughout Africa to increase awareness so that information reaches even the most remote communities, which can thus equip themselves to prevent the spread of the infection", said Suzanna Tkalec, CI's humanitarian director, and added that in Rwanda for example, Caritas started broadcasting awareness messages through diocesan radio even before there was only one case of COVID-19 and that Caritas Kenya is recruiting doctors and nurses to be hired to address the situation if it gets out of control.
"The needs will be immense, - insisted Aloysius John - we will have to strengthen health systems, we will have to be truly pro-active, and solidarity must be up to par. We are all united against a common enemy. I hope that the unprecedented suffering that we are suffering in Europe, and that has taken us by surprise, will help us to be more united. It is very important - he added - what Pope Francis said, that today we are all united, that there is not 'we' and 'them' but we are one human family. Human suffering should unite us, and as a Church we have a role to play. I believe that solidarity will unite us".
The General Secretary then gave an overview of some of the most contingent realities, citing among others Italy where, despite the dramatic situation, Caritas’ work has continued through soup kitchens, dormitories for the homeless and assistance to the elderly, including through a dedicated telephone line. In Spain and the United States, the other two countries currently most affected, the respective Caritas, together with other local charitable organizations, are active 24 hours a day. In Venezuela, where the spread of the virus is aggravating an already disastrous economic situation, volunteers also provide food aid and hygiene kits at home. In India, where the pandemic is just starting but hundreds are already infected, Caritas has supplied more than 72 thousand bottles of disinfectant, over 4 million masks and 64 thousand kits for personal hygiene. The Secretary General also stressed the serious risk for such a large population of starvation and thirst. In the Philippines, the desire to continue to help has led to the creation of “kindness stations” where food aid is distributed to the poorest.. In Ecuador, where the spread of coronavirus is now rampant, local Caritas is already helping nearly two thousand people, including about a thousand children and adolescents.
The Secretary General urged not to forget the most vulnerable people present in all States. Especially migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, such as the Rohingya who are at greater risk of contagion due to the conditions in which they live and called on local authorities to guarantee them access to basic services, regardless of their legal status.
Aloysius John recalled that, in line with Pope Francis and with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples who is also president of Caritas internationalis, the body appeals for a ceasefire across the globe, to the cancellation of the public debts of developing countries and the elimination of sanctions in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iran. "The future will not be like the past, and this is also why we must prepare to help people return to normal life by giving strong reference points", said Aloysius John with regards to the post-crisis.
The Secretary General of CI concluded the conference by saying that today, Saturday 4 April 2020, he will be received by Pope Francis "to explain to him what we are doing as a mission of the Church in support of the various local Churches. The Pope has already given help to Italian Caritas, but also funds for China. In addition to informing him, we will ask him how to continue this mission, how to witness the Pope's solidarity in particular for the south of the world and for Africa, where there would be enormous needs if the coronavirus were to spread".
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/IVORY COAST - Coronavirus: an appeal for universal solidarity from the President of the Episcopate

Fides EN - www.fides.org - ven, 03/04/2020 - 13:24
Abidjan - "Dear brothers and sisters, the pandemic due to the coronavirus puts man in front of his fragility; but then the thought of God expressed by the apostle Paul helps us: charity never goes", said His Exc. Mgr. Ignace Dogbo Bessi, Bishop of Katiola, Apostolic Administrator of Korhogo and President of the Episcopal Conference of Ivory Coast, who launches an appeal to universal solidarity in the face of the spread of the Coronavirus which is causing mourning in thousands of families and ruining the world economies.
According to the Bishop of Katiola, the misfortune affecting the whole world can be quickly overcome "only if the struggle is fought in universal charity" which requires honesty and transparency from all in managing the funds allocated to the fight against the coronavirus.
"The whole world has no right to make such a context of upheaval flourish, the saying: 'the misfortune of one makes the happiness of the other' should be banished from the thought of humanity. On the contrary, the misfortune of some is the misfortune of all according to the word of God which says: when a member of the body suffers, all the other members suffer with it ", underlines Mgr. Bessi. "If we suffer with those who suffer from this pandemic, if we are in solidarity with their misfortune, we cannot take advantage of it to do business and get rich by exploiting the disease".
In ending his appeal for universal solidarity, Mgr. Bessi recalled that unity in prayer will quickly make us victorious over the coronavirus and the world will resume its march with much more hope in unity and charity without discrimination.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/TURKEY - Covid-19, religious minority foundations join the "Donation collection" launched by Erdogan

Fides EN - www.fides.org - ven, 03/04/2020 - 13:20
Ankara - The Turkish foundations headed by minority religious communities are preparing to participate in the collection of donations launched by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a "National Solidarity Campaign" to collect resources necessary to counter the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Turkey. The Jew Moris Levi, representative of the Foundations of the minority religious communities within the National Assembly of the Turkish Foundations, told the Turkish media that the whole sector of the Foundations represented by him, without exception, has already taken steps to respond quickly to the request for concrete solidarity expressed by the Turkish President, while Isaak Haleva, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish community in Turkey , has already announced that he will donate the equivalent of five months of his personal salary to the donation campaign.
On March 30, Erdogan launched the "National Solidarity Campaign" to support the new coronavirus, conducted under slogans aimed at affirming Turkey's "self-sufficiency" in such battle. Erdogan inaugurated the collection of donations by announcing that he had donated the equivalent of seven months of his personal salary to the campaign, underlining that the initiative aims to support above all those who struggle more economically in daily life, starting from workers who are not receiving their salaries. Members of the government also joined the campaign with a total donation of 5.2 million Turkish lira .
In recent weeks, among the conspiracy theories circulated in the Turkish media about the pandemic, those of Fatih Erbakan, leader of the Yeniden Refah Partisi movement, have been noted: in his opinion, "Although there is no concrete evidence, Zionism could very well be behind the coronavirus".
At the beginning of March , the communication office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had sent to the foundations that belong to the minority religious communities the request to sign a document of unconditional support for the Turkish government and army, at a time when Turkish soldiers continue their operations on the scenarios of the ongoing conflict in the Syrian province of Idlib.
More than 40 villages and neighborhoods in the Country are in quarantine, due to the epidemic. According to official figures provided by the Turkish authorities, at the end of March the confirmed cases of people infected with coronavirus was around 11 thousand units, with less than 800 patients in intensive care.
The donation campaign launched by Erdogan was harshly criticized by representatives of the opposition. Meral Akşener, founder of the Iyi Party, has controversially invited the Turkish President to add the plane given to him by the Emir of Qatar to his donations.
In Turkey, the approximately 170 foundations linked to ethnic and religious minorities present in Turkey - including those animated by Jews and by Christian Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Syrians, Chaldeans, Bulgarians and Georgians - operate according to the provisions and regulations defined by the Directorate General of the Foundations. In recent years, these bodies are in a situation of institutional uncertainty: in 2013 a new regulation had been drawn up to redefine the relations of the Foundations with the governmental apparatuses and their internal functioning, but this de facto regulation has never entered into force, preventing the renewal of the executive positions of the individual institutions.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA - Slums closed "they risk exploding": social effects of the fight against covid-19

Fides EN - www.fides.org - ven, 03/04/2020 - 13:06
Pretoria – There are just over a thousand cases and the dead are counted on the tip of a hand, but in South Africa Covid-19 is equally scary. "The virus - explains to Agenzia Fides Pablo Velasquez, a Scalabrinian missionary in Johannesburg – is worrying. However, what is frightening is the spread of the epidemic, but also the possible social reaction to quarantine".
The decrees of President Cyril Ramaphosa impose the closure of economic activities and the obligation to stay indoors. For the middle class and the wealthier class, this is not a problem. "The wealthy sections of the population - continues Father Pablo - have economic resources and employment guarantees that protect them and help them comply with the directives. This is not the case for the poorest sections of the population".
Slum dwellers in large South African cities live thanks to informal economy: small businesses, household services, etc. They have no protection. "For them - continues Father Pablo - not working means not earning anything and therefore do not have resources to buy food for the family".
Closing slums can worsen the infection. Living conditions are very harsh. Families of five, six people often live in a small room, one next to the other. The spread of the virus thus becomes easier.
The condition of immigrants who represent 7.5% of the population is particularly dramatic. "In this lockdown phase - observes Father Filippo Ferraro, Scalabrinian missionary in Cape Town - migrants have difficulty renewing residence permits. They cannot work and therefore have no money to eat".
Thus, while the police patrol the residential neighborhoods, soldiers in warfare have been sent around the large slums. "Closing a township - explains Father Filippo - is like closing a boiling boiler: if you don't let it vent, it risks exploding".
In this context, the healthcare system does not seem ready to face a large-scale epidemic. "The local system - Father Filippo concludes - is similar to the American one, where the best care is guaranteed only to those who can afford it economically. So most of the poor population is forced to turn to the few public structures. The risk is that there are not enough structures to contain the spread of the virus".
Catégories: From the church

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