OCEANIA/PAPUA NEW GUINEA - The bishops remember Blessed To Rot, second generation Christian, an example of persistence in these times of lockdown

Fides EN - www.fides.org - ven, 03/07/2020 - 11:37
Port Moresby - The 61st Annual General Assembly of the Episcopal Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands ended yesterday, 2 July 2020.
About 50 people took part in the celebration, including 17 bishops, 2 administrators, CBC staff, men and women religious and lay faithful.
The Mass was presided over by the Archbishop of Madang, Mgr. Anton Bal, who is also the newly elected president of the Catholic Episcopal Conference of PNGSI. Card. John Ribat, MSC, new Archbishop of Rabaul, Mgr. Rochus Tatamai, MSC, and the Bishop of the diocese of Bereina, Mgr. Otto Separy new vice president of the PNGSI CBC were also present.
The Eucharist was dedicated to the life of Blessed Peter ToRot on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his beatification and 75th of his martyrdom, brought to support the holiness of the laity, theme of the General Assembly .
The homily was delivered by Archbishop Tatamai, a close descendant of the Blessed's family, who highlighted ToRot's life, testimony and example as a man of courage and fortitude in faith, as well as determination to follow Jesus Christ with his life until his death. In his homily, the Archbishop recalled Blessed ToRot from the moment his parents became first generation Christians when the missionaries landed on the island of Matupit in 1882. ToRot was a second generation Christian who followed in the footsteps of his parents. He was a family man, catechist, teacher and died a martyr in defense of his Christian faith, after working hard with discipline and obedience to become a good teacher and catechist. When he married he lived a married and family life according to the teachings of the Gospel. He defended the values of marriage and resisted the traditional culture of polygamy and the laws of the Japanese imperial army, and died supporting his faith. ToRot left behind many great examples of obedience, exemplary family life, he was an excellent teacher, catechist, man of prayer, respect and faith. He lived and represented his faith even when some members of his family betrayed him. Lay people in particular are challenged to continue his example especially in the difficult and uncertain times of today. In fact, ToRot was born in a period of lockdown during the Second World War, where even then restrictions on the activities of the Church persisted, but he persevered in his pastoral work of teaching and catechesis. Archbishop Tatamai therefore urged all those present to be persistent and continue to grow in faith in this period of lockdown caused by Covid-19 following in the footsteps of their compatriot.
At the end of the Assembly, CBC staff paid tribute and greeted Archbishop Emeritus Francisco Panfilo, SDB, who took part in his last AGM of bishops having reached the age limit.
Described as the voice of the voiceless and a beacon of hope for the small people he was thanked for his leadership as a servant to the people of Alotau-Sideia, Rabaul and PNG.
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA - Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico: together to involve sick missionaries in their mission projects

Fides EN - www.fides.org - ven, 03/07/2020 - 11:21
Caracas - On Wednesday 8 July, the leaders of the missionary and elderly sick groups from Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico will have a virtual meeting to share the work they will do during the confinement due to the pandemic.
The national network of sick and elderly missionaries in Colombia, and the EMU in Mexico, together with the missionary group of the sick and elderly in Venezuela, have agreed to work together on their mission projects during the second half of this year, according to a note sent to Fides by the PMS of Venezuela. The objective they propose is to devise pastoral planning according to reality.
For its part, AMDEAM, which recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, published a thanksgiving letter to the diocesan Mission Directors for all the contributions made during this celebration. In Latin America, work with the sick has taken on a missionary dimension thanks to the hard effort of the Pontifical Mission Societies in this continent. It can be said that in every Latin American country there is a large number of sick missionaries who have created a movement within the PMS to continue their work of evangelization even during illness.
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/VENEZUELA - Assembly of the Episcopal Conference, in a virtual way but with an analysis of the reality of Venezuela

Fides EN - www.fides.org - ven, 03/07/2020 - 11:16
Caracas - On this occasion, the Venezuelan Episcopate will meet virtually, thus respecting the prevention measures established for the Covid-19 pandemic. The ordinary plenary Assembly of the CEV number CXIV will therefore be held virtually from 7 to 10 July. On Tuesday 7 July, at 9 am, the Assembly will open with an adoration of the Blessed Sacrament led by Mgr. Mario Moronta, First Vice President of CEV.
The opening of the works will be entrusted to the President of CEV, Mgr. José Luis Azuaje Ayala, who from Maracaibo will present a vision of the national and ecclesial panorama, as the note of the CEV press office sent to Fides informs. As usual, there will be the greetings on behalf of Archbishop Mgr. Aldo Giordano, apostolic Nuncio to Venezuela.
Among the topics that will be developed: the pastoral challenges posed to the Church in Venezuela by the Covid-19 pandemic, the sharing of concrete actions according to Pope Francis's "Plan to rise again" and the challenges that the reality of Venezuela presents today. Also on the agenda there is the preparation for the beatification of Venerable "Dr. José Gregorio Hernández".
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/IVORY COAST - The challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic: National Catholic Radio stops broadcasting

Fides EN - www.fides.org - ven, 03/07/2020 - 11:06
Abidjan - The institutions of the Catholic Church in Ivory Coast are not immune to the economic consequences caused by the coronavirus pandemic, as in the case of the Catholic Radio, defined as "The Voice of the Gospel", forced to suspend broadcasting.
"The financial situation of the radio requires decisions to be made about its future. Therefore, in compliance with what the State requires, the suspension of work, without pay was bitternly opted", announced on June 30, Fr Augustin Obrou, National Executive Secretary of the Episcopal Commission for social media communications to the staff of the National Catholic Radio during a meeting held on the premises of the broadcaster. The staff of the radio, about thirty people, will not be abandoned and will enjoy a social plan: the general management has started a fundraising campaign. "The goal is to get the financial resources to be distributed equally to each employee", added the National Executive Secretary of the Episcopal Commission for media.
If the resources collected are sufficient - this is the hope - the broadcaster will be able to resume.
RNC, the National Catholic Radio of Ivory Coast, was established on February 2, 2001 and was officially inaugurated by the Bishops' Conference of Ivory Coast on June 24, 2006. It broadcasts 24 hours a day. It presents itself as a missionary tool, at the service of evangelization and human promotion.
In Ivory Coast 9,702 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have so far been recorded, of whom 4,381 have recovered, while 68 have died.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/INDIA - Fervent charity initiatives in the Church of Bombay in times of pandemic

Fides EN - www.fides.org - ven, 03/07/2020 - 10:54
Mumbai - The charitable commitment of the Catholic communities of the archdiocese of Bombay is remarkable, which began with the lockdown imposed by the government to contain Covid-19 and which still continues, to meet the needs of the poorest and derelicts, whose social or work situation has worsened in times of pandemic.
As Fides learns, among the many activities organized in favor of the poorest, most destitute or vulnerable, there is the "Manna on Weels" program . Organized by the church of St. Peter, in the Bandra area, it is animated by parishioners who help meet the needs of people who suffer from hunger and live on the street in Bandra West, including numerous children. Launched by a Catholic married couple with Jesuit father Gerard Rodricks. The program started with the distribution of 25 lunch-boxes on March 30th and still continues. The program quickly grew with the involvement of other volunteers, in particular young people from the church of St. Peter, and people from other religious communities, and it became a procession of 14 cars that delivers 1,850 parcels of food every day. Overall, over 40,000 meals have been distributed, helping to meet the nutritional needs of migrant workers, the homeless and others in need, also thanks to over 200 donors who made a contribution of over 50 thousand US dollars.
"It is an initiative born to give a testimony of faith, hope and charity. And when we launched a request for funds, we did not imagine that much money would come. I think this activity was inspired by God. The project is a testimony of teamwork and service, carried out with love and mercy, following the example of Christ", Richard Pereira tells Fides.
Similarly, another church, the parish of the Holy Magi of Gorai-Culvem, is reaching out to farmers and fishermen in economic difficulty. Gorai and Culvem are places located near the Arabian Sea, surrounded by vegetation, fields and mountains, where communities of farmers and fishermen live. "Covid-19 has had an impact on people's social, psychological and mental health. The most affected are migrants, domestic workers, wage workers, small fishermen who have also had problems with survival. In the midst of the crisis, the parish of the Holy Magi saw the difficulty and tried to give an answer", explains Father Edward Jacinto, parish priest of the church to Fides. Community volunteers provide food and supplies to people of other faiths, tribals, migrants, widows and other people in need with the cooperation of local governments and other civil society organizations. For over three months, about 80 young Catholics, women and men, have been patrolling the area 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and have established an efficient solidarity network.
"Several parishes, associations, movements of the local Church are feeding the hungry" says Don Mario Mendes, director of the "Center for social action", organization of the archdiocese of Bombay that deals with social development. "Many associative realities and many Catholic faithful are showing genuine courage and compassion. This spontaneously born charity, which is doing good for thousands of people who would otherwise be abandoned, is one of the most beautiful and encouraging aspects in this time of pandemic and social distancing. The love of Christ goes beyond every barrier and reaches every man. This is the testimony that the Catholic Church in India offers today", concludes Don Mendes.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Manila priests oppose anti-terrorism law

Fides EN - www.fides.org - ven, 03/07/2020 - 10:34
Manila - The anti-terrorism bill has "vague, amorphous and deleterious" provisions that will only do more harm than good to the people. The bill very clearly and concretely derogates from some established legal principles that are aimed at protecting fundamental human rights. With these observations, the priests of the Archdiocese of Manila openly share the appeal of several civil society groups who, alarmed by the possible consequences, have invited President Rodrigo Duterte not to sign the anti-terrorism law, approved at the beginning of June 2020.
In a joint statement by the Manila clergy, sent to Fides, it states: "One’s freedom of expression, rights to privacy, property, ownership, and freedom of movement are not anymore guaranteed under this bill as it allows spying, confiscation of properties, and detention beyond the legally allowable time". "This bill - continues the statement - gives draconian powers to State agents, which, as history will tell us, are almost always abused and mis-used", also because the text of the law contains "ambiguous and expansive provisions" which are also left open to arbitrary and whimsical interpretations.
"Even legitimate dissent or criticisms, which are signs of a healthy and working democracy, may be misconstrued as inciting to commit a terror act. Weaponizing this measure to silence critics and detractors will give this government a free-pass even for its inefficiency, ineptness, and abuses", say the priests.
The Manila clergy therefore claim to be against the bill that "as it is contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of man, and to the teachings of the Gospel". The state must guarantee security "within the bounds of existing democratic principles and processes". "The government should not make as an excuse the upholding of national security while undermining human rights and civil liberties. To do so makes the government terrorism against its own people", reads the statement.
The staement of the priests of the archdiocese echoed the arguments of the former associate judge of the Supreme Court, Antonio Carpio, who promised to contest the constitutionality of the new anti-terrorism law if the President signs it, decreeing its entry into force. In recent days, Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of the Secretariat for Social Action in the Catholic Bishops' Conference has also invited the Supreme Court to examine the "constitutionality" of the bill because "it endangers the rights of the Filipinos", he said.
The country's largest Catholic schools and institutions have urged the president not to sign it. The Vincentian Family, which brings together 14 religious, male and female congregations and lay organizations, which recognize themselves in the charism of St. Vincent de Paul, has publicly criticized the bill.
Human rights activists, Catholic leaders, lawyers, academics, priests and religious have opposed the controversial new anti-terrorism law. The Philippine Congress passed the counterterrorism law on June 3, 2020, with 173 legislators voting in favor, 31 against and 29 abstentions. Now only the signature of President Duterte is needed to make it become law in all respects: an apparent formality, since his government was the promoter of the text of the law.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/TURKEY - The Council of State puts the future of Ayasofya in the hands of Erdogan

Fides EN - www.fides.org - jeu, 02/07/2020 - 12:27
Istanbul - The current status of Ayasofya as a museum complex not used for religious worship fully corresponds to the current legal framework, founded on the decision of 1934 with which the Turkish government at the time turned the ancient Christian basilica into a museum which was used as a mosque. To change this state of affairs, a presidential decree is sufficient to declare the provisions on Ayasofya in force for less than 86 years has expired. This is a summary of the sense of the expected pronouncement, on Thursday 2 July, by the Turkish Council of State on the possibility - strongly sponsored by political sectors today dominant in Turkey - to reuse Ayasofya as an Islamic place of worship. The session of the Council of State called to express itself on this delicate and thorny affair with a strong geopolitical impact - local sources report to Agenzia Fides - lasted less than half an hour, and seems to leave in fact in the hands of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the responsibility to change the current status quo, converting Ayasofya back to a mosque. The members of the Council of State, in their brief session, confirmed the persisting validity of the previous pronouncement with which the same body had already rejected the appealpresented in 2004 by the so-called "Turkish Union of Historical Monuments" to ask to open Ayasofya to gatherings of Muslim prayers. At the same time, the Council of State acknowledged that a direct intervention by Erdogan on the controversial issue, through an ad hoc presidential decree, can change the current state of affairs and legitimize the reuse of Ayasofya as an Islamic place of worship. It will take at least fifteen days for the publication of the pronouncement of the Turkish Council of State and its reasons.
The Byzantine basilica of Hagia Sophia was transformed into a mosque after the fall of Constantinople, and then became a museum in 1935, at the behest of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, first Turkish President and founder of modern Turkey. In recent years, at the end of May, gatherings of thousands of people had filled the vast square outside the site to celebrate the anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of the city and request its reopening as a mosque. The authoritative intervention of the Turkish Council of State was expected as a useful signal for deciphering whether in the near future the pressures put in place by these Turkish political and social sectors, which in recent times seem to have found increasing attention and support, also on behalf of Erdogan. According to reconstructions also reported by Agenzia Fides , the Turkish President himself has apparently given instructions to change the status of the monumental complex of Ayasofya, so that it can also be used again as an Islamic place of worship. The whole issue also takes on obvious geopolitical connotations: on Wednesday 1 July, according to news from numerous international agencies, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo allegedly asked Erdogan not to transform Ayasofya into a mosque, so as not to compromise the historical value of the monument. On June 30, during the homily of the divine liturgy dedicated to the Holy Apostles , Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, stressed with alarmed tones that the possible conversion of the monumental complex of Ayasofya into a mosque in Istanbul "will push millions of Christians around the world against Islam".
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/DR CONGO - "The government coalition has lost its raison d'etre": harsh stance by Cardinal Ambongo

Fides EN - www.fides.org - jeu, 02/07/2020 - 11:59
Kinshasa - "A quick glance at the past sixty years shows that this dream of redeeming the Congolese from colonialism has been progressively destroyed by a series of events", said His Eminence Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, Archbishop of Kinshasa, during the Mass homily to celebrate the 60 years of independence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"We have known a succession of autocratic regimes that rise to power like colonists without any concern for the will of the people and this continues to this day: by force, wars or shrewdness, fraud and the installation of a selfish system in the management of public affairs instead of promoting the common well-being of the Congolese people to whom they believe they should not be accountable because it is not thanks to him/her that they came to power", accused the Cardinal.
The lack of democratic power translates into a general impoverishment of the population of a country endowed with immense natural resources. "60 years after their adhesion to international sovereignty, the Congolese people continue to be impoverished to the point of being classified today among the poorest peoples of the earth", says Cardinal Ambongo.
During the homily, the Cardinal denounced the depredation of DRC resources by bordering Countries with the complicity of Congolese politicians, soldiers and officials. In particular, he recalled the east of the Country, "the situation in Ituri, with the insecurity managed by some officials of Kinshasa; the situation in Beni-Butembo, with the ADF-NALU which is still there. How can we explain that an entire army of a Country like Congo is unable to remove a few people who are in the bush of Beni?", asks the Cardinal referring to the jihadist guerrilla group of Ugandan origin who for years has been sowing death and destruction in this area.
The Cardinal also recalled "the situation in South Kivu, in the diocese of Uvira, near Minembwe, where the armies of neighboring countries, Rwanda and Burundi, are there to challenge us. And the situation in Tanganyika: even Zambia, which until now has been considered a friendly Country, dares to occupy our territory". "The truth is that Congo, which has 9 neighbors, are all present in our Country: either with their armies, in most cases; or with their immigrants. We know that the employment policy of our Country is hidden behind immigrants. This is the case in the far north, with refugees from the Central African Republic and Mbororo shepherds", the Cardinal accuses. "As for the stripping of its natural resources, this takes place in broad daylight, with the complicity of some Congolese, without the population being able to really benefit from it".
"What have you done with your Country? What have you done with all this wealth, all this potential that I have given you free of charge", underlines Cardinal Ambongo according to whom rivalries within the government coalition risk "dragging the whole Country into total chaos". Therefore according to the Cardinal "the ruling coalition has lost its raison d'etre and should disappear. It is the responsibility of those who formed it, the President abs outgoing President, to break this coalition that conditions the development of our country".
Cardinal Ambongo's harsh stance accentuates the differences between the main religious denominations and the government of Kinshasa for the reform of justice and that of the Independent National Electoral Commission .
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/PAKISTAN - A Christian has died in hospital, victim of an attack due to religious hostility

Fides EN - www.fides.org - jeu, 02/07/2020 - 10:52
Peshawar - "It is very sad and tragic news; first of all we ask for justice for Nadeem Joseph and his family. Everyone has the right to buy property in Pakistan. This incident is a clear violation of human rights, it is an act against the law and cannot go unpunished. In addition, it should be noted with concern that similar episodes of attacks on the most vulnerable communities are on the rise: the government must take them seriously. "This is how Christian human rights activist Sabir Michael, comments the story of Nadeem Joseph to Agenzia Fides, a Christian attacked for buying a house in a Muslim-majority area in Peshawar. As Fides learns, the man died on June 29 after undergoing five surgeries following gunshot wounds. On June 4, 2020, his attackers, Muslim men who believed Christians "unwanted", shot him in the stomach, seriously injuring him .
Khalid Shahzad, another activist in continuous contact with Nadeem Joseph’s family, speaking with Fides said: "It is a very sad and alarming story for the entire Christian community; now the culprits need to face a murder trial. Nadeem's family is in pain and lives in terror after this attack. The family is grateful to all those who have offered help and assistance for Nadeem Joseph's care and legal issues".
Christian Samson Salamat, president of the "Rwadari Tehreek Pakistan" civil society organization , committed to peace, pluralism and interreligious harmony, told Fides: "This attack against Joseph Nadeem is the worst form of discrimination and persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan. A question arises: who will be able to protect and save the lives of human beings who are members of religious minorities in Pakistan?".
Nadeem Joseph had purchased a house in an area of Muslim majority in Peshawar, and his Muslim neighbors began to show dissent because a Christian family lived in their street, considering them unworthy and unwanted. They first threatened Nadeem's family by ordering family members to leave their home within 24 hours. When Nadeem called the police, before they arrived, they started hitting him and then opened fire on him and his family and fled once the police arrived.

Catégories: From the church

EUROPE/ITALY - The Xaverian missionaries open the jubilee year

Fides EN - www.fides.org - jeu, 02/07/2020 - 10:10
Parma - The Jubilee year of the Institute of St. Francis Xavier for foreign missions, whose members are known as "Xaverian missionaries" will begin with a mass presided by the Superior General, Father Fernando García, in the sanctuary of San Guido Maria Conforti in Parma, the Mother House of the Xaverians, which will be broadcast in streaming.
The General Direction of the Institute has in fact announced a jubilee year, from 2 July 2020 to the from 2 July 2020 until 2 July 2021, to remember the definitive approval of the first Constitutions and the so-called "Testament Letter" of the founder, San Guido Maria Conforti, who communicated the news to the "present and future" missionaries. He invited everyone "to thank the Lord" and at the same time he drew the attention "to the serious and solemn commitment we undertake in the eyes of God and the Church". It was July 2, 1921.
The jubilee year intends to give particular importance to the first centenary of the first Constitutions and the Testament Letter, which also coincides with the 125th anniversary of the Institute’s foundation. This jubilee event will be lived in communion with the entire Xaverian family: the Missionaries of Mary, the Xaverian laity, the Josephine Sisters.
There are three main elements that must distinguish this period, write the members of the General Administration of the Xaverians in the jubilee letter calling: "Thank God for the gift of the Xaverian charism in the Church, remembering the history of these 125 years of the life of our Missionary family. We must give thanks for all the good done by the confreres who preceded us and for what is currently being done, also through us. Everything is grace! To verify our response to the gift received. The Xaverian charism is clear and precise: mission ad gentes and ad extra lived in religious consecration, inserted in the more global context of the only mission of the Church. Therefore it has a particular, very specific place in ecclesial life. It is a question of seeing, with the eyes of faith and with human reason, our fidelity or infidelity to the Xaverian charism, that is, to our identity in the Church. To engage promptly and with determination to respond adequately to the gift received. This commitment also has to do with a real, adequate and urgent repositioning of our missionary presences, especially where it is necessary to do so".
The prayer composed for the Jubilee year sums up the sentiments of the Xaverian missionaries in this circumstance: "Praise and glory to you, God and Father, for our Founder St. Guido M. Conforti, who, fascinated by your crucified Son, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, founded the Xaverian Family to spread the Gospel unto the ends of the earth, so that our Lord Jesus Christ may be known and loved by all. We thank you for the gift of the missionary vocation. Forgive our betrayals to the charism received, and strengthen in us the desire and zeal to live the mission ad gentes, with a passionate family spirit.
Give us a spirit of living Faith to bear witness with love, in the world, to the Hope that gives meaning and life. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen!"
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/IVORY COAST - Peace, reconciliation and social cohesion: challenges ahead of the presidential election

Fides EN - www.fides.org - jeu, 02/07/2020 - 09:40
Abidjan - Four months before the presidential elections, scheduled for October 31, 2020, while politicians carry out their election campaigns, many observers are attentive to the role of the Church in particular and religious forces in general in this critical period. In fact, political tensions in the country do not tend to decrease, especially after the government issued an arrest warrant against the former rebel leader and future presidential candidate, Guillaume Soro, on December 23, 2019 . The country, between 2002 and 2011, was split geographically into two by an armed conflict that caused thousands of deaths in addition to serious electoral crises.
"For the first time, after the tragic presidential elections in 2011, all political parties have decided to participate - writes Fr. Donald Zagore, Ivorian theologian of the Society for African Missions to Agenzia Fides. This is a big step forward for the Ivory Coast".
Outgoing head of State, Alassane Ouattara, has announced that he will not run for a third term in accordance with constitutional constraints. His party's candidate, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, is however accused by the opposition of using Covid-19 containment as an excuse to revive his image.
"The political crises that the country has experienced over the years arose from the lack of an electoral culture - declares Fr. Zagore. Mobilizing the whole population to an active participation, training and promoting consciences towards an electoral culture based on the principle of a contradictory and democratic debate in the strict respect of people, relationships, structures, institutions and values for the benefit of the common good, must be the main objectives".
“As long as we remain firm in the dynamic of mutual accusations, peace, reconciliation and social cohesion will remain difficult challenges and violence will always have the last word. Voting is a fundamental right, - concludes the Ivorian missionary - but it is our undeniable duty to do it responsibly and with mutual respect. The elections of October 2020 should not be a revenge, but rather a sacred gift that history has made for us to show the world that we have grown and that we have become a strong and upright people. Religious forces must take the field to accompany this process with their expertise and wisdom. The responsibility for peaceful elections is not only political, but also of all the nation's forces, including religious ones".
Currently, the Ivory Coast is one of the West African countries most affected by Covid-19, with 9214 registered cases and 66 deaths. On March 23, outgoing president, Alassane Ouattara, announced a national emergency and imposed some measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including a curfew from 9pm to 5am.

Catégories: From the church

ASIA/SOUTH KOREA - 70 years since the start of the war, the commitment of Christians to peace and 70 days of prayer

Fides EN - www.fides.org - jeu, 02/07/2020 - 09:33
Seoul - "We celebrate in memory of that tragic fratricidal war that broke out due to the invasion of North Korea 70 years ago on June 25; because it is a precious opportunity to give thanks and praise to God for having constantly assisted our people and our Church, guiding us with unceasing love for the way of truth and life for such a long period of time, the period of the war and after the armistice in 1953 until today; because it is also an important opportunity to renew, as citizens of Korea and as Christians, the determination to carry out our mission of commitment to the reconciliation and unity of the people and for peace, that is, for the evangelization of the Korean Peninsul": with these words Cardinal Andrea Soo-jung Yeom, Archbishop of Seoul and Apostolic Administrator of Pyongyang, addressed the faithful present in the Cathedral of Seoul on 25 June, celebrating a mass on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, the conflict that shocked the peninsula from 1950 to 1953. All the baptized in Korea live this anniversary with the intention of praying for reconciliation, for the unity of the people and for peace on the Korean peninsula, with various initiatives at an ecumenical level, while respecting the strict measures put in place to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Cardinal recalled the immense suffering of that conflict which, in the aftermath of the Second World War, marked the division of the peninsula - the North under Soviet influence and the South under the American sphere of influence - and caused millions of victims: "During this war about 700 thousand soldiers of the South Korean and North Korean armed forces, about 40 thousand soldiers of the United Nations armed forces, and about 150 thousand soldiers of the armed forces of China died. Among the civilians of South Korea about 400 thousand people died or were killed, more than 300 thousand people went missing, and about 90 thousand people were deported to North Korea. Over 280 thousand people died among North Korean civilians and about 800 thousand people went missing". Furthermore, more than 6.5 million refugees had to leave their cities and about 1.5 million North Koreans came to South Korea in search of freedom, and among them "there were many Christians who escaped persecution against churches operated by the communist regime". "Before this war - he continued - about 60 thousand faithful lived their life of faith in the 57 parishes of the 3 dioceses of the North. But, under the persecutions carried out by the communist regime established immediately after the Liberation of 1945, one of my predecessors, Mgr. Francesco Yong-ho Hong, Bishop of Pyongyang, Abbot and Bishop Bonifatius Sauer, OSB, of the territorial Abbey of Tokwon and of the diocese of Hamhung, and many priests, religious and lay people were arrested and martyred and all the ecclesiastical buildings were confiscated by the communist regime. Thus our Church became invisible in the North". Among the martyrs of this period there was also Bishop Patrick Byrne of the Maryknoll Society, the first Apostolic Delegate in Korea. He refused the opportunity offered to him by the US Embassy to leave the city of Seoul, and was arrested in the Cathedral of Seoul, brought to North Korea and was later martyred. For 81 martyrs, including religious and lay people, such as Bishops Hong and Byrne, the cause of beatification is currently underway.
The Archbishop of Seoul, addressing all men of goodwill, notes that "looking back on our history 70 years ago, we ask you to join all forces and hearts in order to build a society in our Korean Peninsula in which all the people, both of the South and of the North, freed from the shackles of the past through the 'purification of memory', live a truly human life in a true peace that the Lord gives us".
The Cardinal stresses that "the North Korean regime continues to threaten peace in the Korean Peninsula and in the world, with the pretence of acquiring nuclear weapons that require immense resources, without paying any attention to the extreme poverty of the people and suppressing its fundamental human rights". But in spite of everything, he notes, "I would like to say that achieving peace is a very difficult task, but it is not at all impossible, if only each of us did the things he must and can do in daily life in favor of true peace, with the firm determination to live 'spiritual martyrdom', following in the footsteps of our martyrs. Sowing peace around us, this is holiness".
To build and obtain the longed for peace, the main way is forgiveness: "No peace process can ever be started if an attitude of sincere forgiveness does not mature in men.
Without it, the wounds continue to bleed, fueling endless hatred in following generations, which is a source of revenge and the cause of new downfalls. The forgiveness offered and received is the indispensable premise for walking towards an authentic and stable peace", notes the Cardinal, taking up the words of John Paul II in the Message for the Day of Peace in 1997. And then he launches an appeal to rulers: "I sincerely hope that the leaders of the Korean Peninsula and the international community who hold the fate of our people, can resolutely overcome personal, party and national interests in order to promote the true good of every man and of all the people of the South and North of the Korean Peninsula in the perspective of the universal common good".
Furthermore, "the most powerful weapon that the Church possesses in the struggle for peace - he recalls - is nothing other than prayer: it lies at the heart of the effort to build peace. In particular, Holy Mass is an inexhaustible source of all genuine commitments of Christians for true peace. And as Our Lady who appeared in Fatima asked us in 1917, let us fervently recite the Rosary for world peace and especially the Korean Peninsula. The power of the Rosary is truly great. Through the Rosary the Mother of God makes our prayer her own and addresses it to her Son. The recitation of the Rosary therefore can change the course of history". In this spirit, the Cardinal made a special act of entrusting the community of faithful in North Korea, what is called "the Church of silence", and of all the population beyond the 38th parallel, to the Virgin of Fatima, to guarantee her special protection.
In this perspective, Korean Christians of all denominations are experiencing a special 70-day prayer campaign, launched on March 1st and will end on August 15th, supported and shared by the Churches in Korea and around the world. August 15, 1945 will be remembered, the day on which the Korean peninsula was freed from Japanese occupation but, at the same time, the day in which the division of a people until then united by culture, history, traditions, language was sanctioned.
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/BOLIVIA - "In addition to doing mission, we are mission": the invitation of Mgr. Centellas in the pandemic

Fides EN - www.fides.org - jeu, 02/07/2020 - 09:00
Sucre – Mgr. Ricardo Centellas, Archbishop of Sucre has urged to take on the spirit of co-responsibility, fraternity and mission in our life of faith, and the challenge of renewing ourselves at this moment with prayer and solidarity. He exhorted all the communities of the Archdiocese to promote spaces for meeting, prayer and reflection that lead us to make concrete commitments to promote the life and mission of the Church of Sucre.
"This is a favorable moment to realize that, in addition to doing mission, we are mission - underlined the Archbishop -. This must be our lifestyle that makes Jesus Christ present in the world as a sign of mercy and justice, of transparency and freedom, of love and communion. In this way we live our faith as a Church at the service of the Kingdom".
The Church's commitment in Sucre is aimed at helping the huge amount of people who have nothing to eat in this part of Bolivia due to the health emergency. "In the context of the pandemic we are experiencing, we are challenged to be a Samaritan Church, which lives solidarity and compassion for all, especially with the poorest", concluded Mgr. Centellas.
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/PERU - Dramatic lack of oxygen in hospitals for Covid-19 patients, the Church in the emergency aid campaign

Fides EN - www.fides.org - jeu, 02/07/2020 - 08:57
Lima - Peru, with more than 288 thousand cases of Covid-19 and until yesterday registered about 10 thousand deaths, is also experiencing a parallel crisis that it cannot solve: the lack of oxygen in hospitals. We are witnessing dramatic scenes: people are lined up with oxygen cylinders in some streets near hospitals in order to be able to treat their families. With an already serious situation to handle, operators and traders in the sector take advantage of the crisis and speculate on prices. Before the emergency, an oxygen balloon cost about $ 75. Today you have to pay between $ 500 and $ 1,950. For this reason many Peruvians are going into debt to save the lives of their relatives.
Yesterday 1 July, during a virtual press conference, the campaign "Peru breathes - Because oxygen is life" was presented, which in a great gesture of solidarity brings together the Peruvian Bishops' Conference, the USIL Educational Group and the Società Nacional de Industrias with the aim of raising funds so that no Peruvian dies from lack of oxygen due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Archbishop Mgr. Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte OFM, president of the Peruvian Bishops' Conference, said: "with immense pain we see many people running desperately or waiting for a long time to get an oxygen balloon to help their relatives. We have to act. This is why we are uniting the Church, university and private companies as a single force. We can all collaborate".
According to the latest news from agencies, President Martín Vizcarra has decreed the use of medicinal oxygen as a priority for the treatment of patients with coronavirus. For now, industrial consumption will be left aside. But the Andean nation is unable to satisfy its internal demand and will have to ask help to its neighbors: Colombia, Ecuador and Chile.
Catégories: From the church

EUROPE/ITALY - Italian missionary dies in Madagascar after 59 years dedicated to education and the poor

Fides EN - www.fides.org - mer, 01/07/2020 - 12:54
Reggio Emilia - "Don Pietro Ganapini is one of the most singular figures, perhaps the most significant, of the missionaries from Reggio who lived their ministry in the second half of the twentieth century and in these first years of the new millennium. It can be said that his whole adult life coincided with the missionary vocation. Since 1961 he lived in Madagascar where he was sent by Bishop Beniamino Socche.
Mgr. Massimo Camisasca, Bishop of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla, recalls: "The schools he created and managed are today a fundamental axis of the country's weak educational system. The more than one hundred school residences that, with the help of Pietro Ganapini's friends, he set up in recent years are the sign of a tireless and lucid perception of the value of education for the present and future of a Church and a nation. Don Pietro gave us the testimony of a missionary life at the service of the poor, without any shadow of sociological or ideological reduction. He was simply a Christian".
At 4 in the morning on Tuesday 30 June, Don Pietro Ganapini, for 59 years a Fidei Donum missionary in Madagascar, died. He was the pioneer and dean of the Reggio missionaries, and he spent every day of his life at the service of the poorest, especially children, those whom he affectionately called "the poorest of the poor", those who did not have the opportunity to study. Born in Pantano di Carpineti on 19 January 1928, he received priestly ordination on 13 August 1950. After a few years of teaching in the seminary, enthusiasm for the publication of the encyclical "Fidei Donum" led him to leave as a missionary in November of 1961 for Madagascar, first of the Diocese of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla, opening the way for many missionaries: priests, nuns and lay people. According to his will, his mortal remains will remain in Madagascar.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/IVORY COAST - "What will the post-Covid-19 world look like?": A priest organizes a series of radio conferences

Fides EN - www.fides.org - mer, 01/07/2020 - 12:42
Abidjan - "What will the world be like after Covid-19? Will it be the same as before or will it be different? How can the global health crisis be an opportunity to profoundly change our habits and make us more virtuous?" These are some of the questions that prompted Fr. Norbert Erick Abekan, parish priest of Sainte Famille de la riviera 2, in collaboration with Grand Conférences d'Abidjan and Radio Espoir, to organize a series of conferences to reflect on the challenges that Africa will face after the Covid-19 pandemic, in the light of the Gospel.
From 1 July every Wednesday and Friday, at 8 pm GMT, on Radio Espoir and on other Catholic media in Ivory Coast, speakers specialized in sociology, anthropology, philosophy, theology and psychology, will be invited to contribute to indicate a new way of seeing things and the world.
The reflections will be carried out around the general theme of this space of comparison: "After Covid-19: Will another world be possible?".
Fr. Erick Norbert Abekan, initiator of this lecture series which aims to help people have a better life after Covid-19, hopes in the effective involvement of the country's Catholic media for the widespread spread of these radio debates.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/TURKEY - Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew: the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque will sow discord between Christians and Muslims

Fides EN - www.fides.org - mer, 01/07/2020 - 12:37
Istanbul - The possible conversion of the monumental complex of Ayasofya in Istanbul into a mosque "will push millions of Christians around the world against Islam". This is the dramatic alarm launched by Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, in the imminent pronouncement of the Turkish Council of State, which in a session scheduled for Thursday 2 July will consider overturning the decision with which in 1934 the Turkish government had converted the ancient Byzantine Basilica into a simple museum transformed into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople .
The strong impact of Bartholomew's words were pronounced in the homily of the "Primus inter pares" of Orthodoxy, during the divine liturgy celebrated on Tuesday 30 June in the Orthodox church dedicated to the Holy Apostles, in the Feriköy district of Istanbul. Ayasofya, by virtue of its sacredness - the Patriarch remarked - is a center of life "in which East and West embrace", and its eventual conversion to a place of Islamic worship "will cause a break between these two worlds". In the 21st century - continued the Patriarch – it is "absurd and harmful that Hagia Sophia, from a place that now allows the two peoples to meet us and admire its greatness, can again become a reason for contrast and confrontation". In his homily, Bartholomew repeated with heated tones that Ayasofya "belongs not only to those who own it at the moment, but to all humanity, and "the Turkish people have the great responsibility and honor to make the universality of this wonderful monument shine", given that "Ayasofya as a museum is the symbolic place of encounter, dialogue, solidarity and mutual understanding between Christianity and Islam".
At the beginning of June, as reported by Fides , Turkish media published rumors that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself had given instructions to initiate the legal process aimed at changing the status of the monumental complex of Ayasofya, to celebrate Islamic religious rituals again in that place without closing it to the flow of tourist visits. The pronouncement of the Turkish Council of State, expected on July 2, will represent an institutional response which will have a strong impact and will allow to evaluate the realistic chances of success of the pressing put in place by political sectors currently in power in Turkey.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/KENYA - Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood help the needy families of the suburbs

Fides EN - www.fides.org - mer, 01/07/2020 - 12:25
Nairobi - "We decided to dedicate a day to the distribution of foodstuffs and other basic necessities that we had purchased to help the most needy families during the Covid-19 pandemic", said Sister Grace Njau, coordinator of the rehabilitation center and the Amani primary school, managed by the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood. The nuns, assisted by teachers and social workers, reached the families through the contacts of the children in the suburbs of Kawangware and Riruta, in the city of Nairobi.
"In normal conditions, we feed these children in our Center but during this Coronavirus period we decided to reach out to families", explained Sister Grace, in a note sent to Agenzia Fides.
The teacher of the Hassan Kariuki Warui school, who participated in the distribution, praised this iniative. "It is quite effective. I like it. It leaves no doubt that everything goes directly to the poor", she stressed.
The nuns also help over 200 children who come mainly from the Kawangware and Riruta settlements. In these times of pandemic which is tragically affecting the country, the local Catholic Church, through bishops, priests and religious, is particularly committed to humanitarian assistance to needy and poor families. According to official statistics, 6366 cases of Covid-19 have been registered in Kenya.

Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/DR CONGO - Justice and CENI reform: "You reap what you sow" warn the Bishops

Fides EN - www.fides.org - mer, 01/07/2020 - 12:15
Kinshasa - "We are convinced that the rule of law is based on democratic principles that are inspired not only by the power of the majority, but also by the recognition of fundamental moral values respectful of human dignity, life and intangible and inalienable rights from every man. A parliamentary majority, however legal it may be, loses its legitimacy when it is disconnected from the interests and well-being of the people", say the members of the Standing Committee of the National Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in a message on the bill of reform of the judiciary deposited in the Parliamentary Assembly by the government.
The government bill has raised concern among opposition forces and civil society organizations about the possible weakening of the judiciary's independence from political power.
In their declaration entitled "You reap what you sow", the Bishops say they "noted that the bill on judicial reform and the lack of consensus among the members of the Platform of religious denominations on the appointment of a common candidate for the Independent National Electoral Commission have aroused strong dissatisfaction in different parts of the Congolese population", and this is why "perceiving the risk of violence and faithful to our prophetic mission, we decided to turn to our compatriots to preserve civil peace". "We condemn all forms of violence and recommend everyone the use of legal and peaceful means to express their opinions", stresses the message sent to Agenzia Fides.
The Bishops recall that "the rule of law is based on democratic principles that are inspired not only by the power of the majority" therefore "it is unacceptable that laws are tailor-made based on the ambitions of political leaders, parties or political platforms or that some of our compatriots develop strategies to empty institutions that support democracy for personal purposes". "These actions only contribute to the destruction of national cohesion and the destabilization of state institutions", warn the Bishops.
Another point under discussion is the reform of the Independent National Electoral Commission . Several civil society movements believe that the reform process ha sto be preceded by an examination of the report on the management of the contested 2018 elections in order to avoid repeating past mistakes in view of the 2023 elections. A position shared by the Bishops according to which "the Congolese have the very chaotic 2018 election management in mind. Many have even lost faith in our electoral system. It is therefore necessary to reassure future voters of 2023 that things will no longer be as before".
"The well-being of the Congolese people must be the main concern of any party or political platform", they recall. "While the country is in a state of health emergency, its leaders would do better to try to protect the population from the consequences of Covid-19 instead of focusing on getting political benefits".
"May the Lord God of the universe illuminate our hearts and bless our Country through the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace and Lady of Wisdom", they conclude.
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/BOLIVIA - Appointment of the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, His Exc. Mgr. Waldo Ruben Barrionuevo Ramirez

Fides EN - www.fides.org - mer, 01/07/2020 - 11:58
Vatican City - On February 27, 2020 Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, appointed His Exc. Mgr. Waldo Ruben Barrionuevo Ramirez, CSsR, Apostolic Vicar of Reyes as National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Bolivia, for a five-year period .
The new National Director was born on 9 September 1967 in Oruro in Bolivia. In 1989 he entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer . He made his temporary profession on February 2, 1992 and his solemn profession on March 25, 1996. He completed his philosophical and theological studies at the Seminary of Cochabamba, and was ordained a priest on October 25, 1997. Since his priestly ordination he has held the following roles : 1997-2000: Member of the mission team in Santa Cruz de la Sierra and Extraordinary Councilor of the Province; 2000-2004: Collaborator of the Master of Novices in Oruro; 2004-2006: Provincial Vicar and Master of Novices ; 2007-2009: Parish priest of Nuestra Señora de La Paz in Cochabamba; 2009-2010: Superior of the missionary team in Santa Cruz de la Sierra; since 2010: Student of the Collegio Maggiore for priests of the Congregation of SS. Redeemer and student in Rome, at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
On 15 February 2014, Holy Father Francis appointed him Auxiliary of the Apostolic Vicariate of Reyes, he received episcopal consecration on 14 May 2014, and on 1 June 2019 appointed him Apostolic Vicar of Reyes.
Catégories: From the church

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