ASIA/TAIWAN - Solidarity and gratitude of the Taiwanese people in times of Covid-19

Fides EN - - sam, 16/05/2020 - 10:38
Taipei - "The Covid-19 pandemic was immediately an opportunity for solidarity, given that the Taiwanese are an open, generous and supportive population", says to Agenzia Fides Fr. Raphael Lin Zhiding, Chaplain at the "FuJen Catholic University" in Taipei, a university attended by over 27 thousand students, mostly non-Catholics. "In particular - says the priest - there was an abundant flow of donations to Italy: an Italian missionary in Taiwan, Father Giuseppe Didone, of the Order of Ministers of the Sick , launched a public appeal, recalling that Italian priests have been helping the people of Taiwan with dedication for decades, since times when they were very poor. A race of solidarity towards Italy, therefore, took place as a sign of gratitude for what the Camillians have done in 60 years of its presence in that country". The Italian Camillians helped build hospitals and clinics in Yilan County after the Second World War. Now the inhabitants of Yilan, in eastern Taiwan, brought donations to Luodong St. Mary's Hospital, contributing with more than 4.8 million euros, a way to show their gratitude: the funds are used to purchase essential medical equipment in areas affected by Covid-19 in Italy.
As a result of the magnificent momentum of solidarity, Taiwan donated 480 thousand face masks delivered to the Vatican and the Italian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, and to religious communities thanks to the collection made by public and private donors. The Taiwanese government, numerous organizations and private citizens wanted to help the Holy See and the Italian Church in the fight against the pandemic. The face masks were destined to the Vatican, three Roman hospitals , and various religious and health facilities in Northern Italy. In addition, donations of food and protective material were made and handed over to various religious congregations that are particularly busy alongside the sick and there will be other initiatives of this kind in the future.

The Chaplain continues: "Taiwan has been successful in the fight against this virus. This happened because the civil authorities reacted immediately and efficiently, taking all the necessary measures, such as carrying out swabs to the whole population, isolating positive cases, treating the infected", he underlines, describing a situation that currently sees zero contagion and only one person infected, who arrived from abroad. "Salvatorian missionaries and other religious orders - continues Father Lin - also collected and sent aid. We must also remember the campaign launched by the young people of the Focolare Movement in Taiwan, in favor of a country like Mexico, after the experience of one of them in the American country. The Taiwanese have a warm heart that have shown kindness and charity".

The spiritual dimension, notes Fr. Lin, is very important in Taiwan where, out of about 23 million inhabitants, Christians account for 3.9% of the population, compared to a majority of Buddhists and Taoists : "Religious communities give proof of mutual help and unity. In the present crisis, faith communities develop good relationships, in the common spirit of compassion and mercy towards those in distress or suffering".

With regards to the life of the small Taiwanese Church, which is about 1% of the population, the Chaplain observes: "The pastoral activities were suspended for a while but last Sunday we received the good news of the resumption of Holy Masses and liturgical celebrations with the people. Of course there is a strict observance of health protocols such as the use of face masks, the sanitization of environments, washing hands, social distancing. The baptized, in this difficult moment, have never lost hope, faith, charity".
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/CONGO - Covid-19 special fund: "Despite the crisis there is a huge wave of solidarity", says PMS National Director

Fides EN - - sam, 16/05/2020 - 10:36
Brazzaville - The outbreak of the global health crisis caused by Covid-19 has profoundly changed the life and mission of the Church in Congo-Brazzaville", says Fr. Gélase Armel Kema, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies to Agenzia Fides in the Republic of Congo .
"First of all, places of worship have been closed by decision of the government since March 31, 2020", underlines Fr. Gélase. "Consequently, since that date, it has not been possible to celebrate the Eucharist with the faithful, nor guarantee catechesis, or administer the sacraments. On the other hand, it was equally impossible to celebrate funeral services and organize the usual Church activities".
"The initiative of Pope Francis to establish the Special PMS Fund for the victims of Covid-19 was welcomed by the Congo-Brazzaville Bishops' Conference", says Fr. Gélase referring to the initiative by Pope Francis in April, to establish an Emergency Fund to be distributed through the worldwide network of the PMS.
"Several dioceses have difficulty organizing themselves due to the restrictions on mobility imposed by state and municipal authorities. Despite these difficulties, the Episcopal Conference of Congo is working to mobilize the faithful to establish the special PMS fund for the victims of Covid-19 together with the national direction of PMS-Congo", says Fr Gélase.
The National Director also stresses the pedagogical nature of the "special fund because it will certainly increase awareness of the dangers of the pandemic as well as contributing to the collection of basic necessities during this confinement period".
"In Congo, it must be recognized, this crisis has led to a huge wave of solidarity", says Fr. Gélase. "Many donations are made to the government by companies, religious denominations, individuals, etc. to support response initiatives against Covid-19. Others participate through acts of charity, but due to the concomitant economic crisis in Congo, there is still much to do, concludes the PMS National Director.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/NIGER - Prayer and hope for the release of Father Maccalli, still in the hands of his kidnappers

Fides EN - - sam, 16/05/2020 - 10:20
Bomoanga - Twenty months have passed since the kidnapping of Father Gigi Maccalli, priest of the Society for African Missions in Niger . The memory, prayer and hope of many are always focused towards his release. "I asked David Sagna, a catechist in Torodi, what do you remember about Fr. Pierluigi", writes to Agenzia Fides Father Vito Girotto, Fr. Maccalli’s confrere, also a missionary in Niger. "The first aspect that David highlighted, keeping in mind and continuing the work of Father Gigi, is how he was welcoming towards everyone, in particular towards the sick". "In Torodi, which is 50 km from Bomoanga, - continues Fr. Girotto - there is a small hospital where Gigi sent malnourished or sick children and asked David to go and see how young patients were doing".
"During the moments of formation of catechists and animators of the liturgy - says the catechist - Fr. Gigi organized everything well, paying particular attention to the community prayer he did with them. In adult literacy he was careful that everything took place according to the established program so that there were good results in all classes and that both teachers and pupils were satisfied, making them understand that this school not only helped them to read and write, but also to live together".
"We appreciated Fr. Gigi’s calmness, firmness and enthusiasm in the proclamation of the Gospel", added Ivana and Dino Avanzino, two of Fr. Gigi’s friends who attended the monthly meetings for adults held by the missionary in Genoa when he was provincial councilor, a few years before he left for Niger.
"It is important for him to sow seeds of the Gospel in the belief that 'the first evangelization is nothing but humanization', as he wrote in his letter. One evening, a guest at our house, had announced that he was leaving for Niger, a new mission, to be built, but he was confident as always: to go where you are called to bring the announcement of the Gospel, without if and without but"- they say.
"We remember his commitment to digging drinking water wells, to taking care of sick children. Each time he came back, he told us about the progress made in the faith of the Gurmancè people and the social and humanitarian progress that he was gradually getting. In a letter in June 2018 he wrote: 'Our decisions, words and actions according to the Gospel always reveal the living Christ present and active in the world. The mission continues and together we continue to be his hands and feet'. These words are for us an encouragement and a sign of hope, hope for Niger's mission and hope for his return".
The Avanzino couple conclude their testimony by recalling Pope Francis who in one of his homilies at Santa Marta said that "we must learn to ask Jesus forcefully and decisively what we want to achieve, we now ask him 'bring Father Gigi back'.
Catégories: From the church

OCEANIA/PAPUA NEW GUINEA - Schools reopen after lockdown

Fides EN - - ven, 15/05/2020 - 13:56
Bereina - The gate of the Jesus Good Shepherd Primary School has reopened. After a few weeks of lockdown in Papua due to the Covid-19 emergency, children return to class. "Thank God, only 8 infected cases have been officially registered in Papua New Guinea, and no deaths. Life returns to normality", writes Sister Giovanna Bordin, missionary of the "Cavanis Fraternity Jesus Good Shepherd", in Bereina to Agenzia Fides. "The lockdown here lasted a few weeks, and given that there were a few cases of contagion, schools, offices and activities are slowly returning to normal", continues the missionary. "Of course, also here we have had to adapt to the precautionary containment and safety measures adopted by the Department of Education: face mask for teachers and children, washing hands before starting lessons, social distancing".
The nun says: "Our students were delighted to be to school, ready to enter. An unreal silence accompanied the first two days of school. From the third day on, the reverent silence gave way to the laughter and the noisy joy of these children , who come from rural or forest areas, and have never listened to news on Covid or seen a face mask. In fact, most of the people who live in the villages remain isolated and it is not easy for them to understand the proportion and consequences of this pandemic".
The return to teaching was also a good opportunity for special science lessons: "We explained - she continues - with simplicity and clarity what bacteria and viruses are, the basic rules of hygiene and the most common diseases here in Papua. These issues that are so current in the world today, are even more so here in this country. The children were very interested and took notes. It was clear that some of them wanted to keep as much information as possible and then, in the evening around the fire, pass it on to their families. These children are the future of the country and we thank the Lord who gives us the opportunity to help them grow".
Even the students of adult schools had the opportunity to discuss how this crisis is teaching prudence and respect for rules, without sowing panic and fear. "Faith in God must be our strength", concludes Sister Giovanna.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/BURUNDI - "There is still time for the May 20 vote to take place in peace and security" say the Bishops

Fides EN - - ven, 15/05/2020 - 13:45
Bujumbura - "We appreciate the fact that, in general, the current election campaign has so far continued peacefully and safely. However, we cannot fail to deplore some shortcomings and the non-reassuring language used by some of the protagonists of the election campaign", said the Bishops of Burundi in a statement sent to Agenzia Fides, on the general elections to be held on May 20.
The Bishops in particular condemn "the kidnappings of people, one of whom was found dead after four days. We regret the provocations, the manhunt and the persecutions recorded in certain places, while those who should investigate and punish the guilty find it difficult to carry out this role impartially".
"We are also concerned about the language of some political parties indicating that they are not ready to accept the poll results if they do not win the elections", say the Bishops, who are wondering what will happen after the announcement of the election result.
After asking everyone, including journalists, to work to ensure that the vote is held in a peaceful manner, and to avoid incitement to hatred, the Bishops urge the population to "remain committed to fighting the Covid-19 pandemic by respecting the protection measures for themselves and for others".
"We conclude by asking everyone: candidates for the elections, their supporters, members of CENI , public authorities, those responsible for justice, law enforcement and security, as well as Burundians, to maintain the hope and will that these elections take place in safety and peacefully", concludes the message.
The elections on May 20 involve the election of the Head of State and the National Assembly. Several human rights organizations have denounced repressions and violence committed by Burundian authorities and members of outgoing President Pierre Nkurunziza's party, including kidnappings and extrajudicial killings.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/PAKISTAN - Religious leaders gathered in prayer and fasting: "God free us from the pandemic"

Fides EN - - ven, 15/05/2020 - 13:37
Lahore - United in prayer and mutual solidarity, invoking God to free us from the pandemic: it is with in this spirit that yesterday, May 14, leaders of the various religions in Pakistan met in the Catholic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Lahore, imploring God for the coronavirus epidemic to end in Pakistan and throughout the world. The meeting was organized by the National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism , within the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, following the appeal of Pope Francis and the Committee for Human Fraternity, so that throughout the world a "Fasting, prayer, works of charity day" would be celebrated.
As reported to Agenzia Fides, all those present observed the protective measures and precautions against the spread of Covid-19. According to what Agenzia Fides learned, Archbishop Sebastian Shaw, at the head of the diocese of Lahore, in his host cathedral, said to those present: "This pandemic is attacking all human beings all over the world, without any border or limit. It travels from city to city and from country to country and kills people. This invisible bacterium makes no difference between people of religion or status, it affects everyone. Human beings today and forever are called to eliminate all kinds of differences and discrimination from their hearts and unite in social and religious harmony". The Archbishop, who led the prayer meeting, also invited leaders of all religions to pray continuously and to remain united in mutual solidarity to defeat the pandemic. "Believers of all religions are called to unite spiritually, today in particular, and always, on a Day of prayer, fasting and works of charity, begging God to help humanity, overcoming the coronavirus pandemic", said Archbishop Shaw, who is also president of the NCIDE Commission.
Leaders from the Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities were present, including Fr. Francis Nadeem OFM Cap, , Fr. James Chanan O.P., Fr. Qaisar Feroz OFM Cal, Fr. Mushtaq Piyara, Maulana Sahibzada Asim Makhdoom Allama Mufti Syed Ashiq Hussain , Qari Khalid Mahmood Bhagat Lal and Sadar Bishon . All the leaders devotedly participated in the interreligious prayer assembly, reciting prayers according to their religious beliefs and traditions.
All those present appreciated and praised the spiritual movement launched by Pope Francis and the imam of Al-azhar for human fraternity in the world, also appreciating the efforts of NCIDE in Pakistan, in this difficult moment. A special message was sent to those present by Muhammad Abdul Khabir Azad, Imam of the great "Royal Mosque" of Lahore who, although not physically present, reaffirmed his spiritual unity and prayed together with the participants, thanking the Pope for the initiative to hold together the believers of all religions, united for a common good, in this moment of trial for humanity.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/PHILIPPINES - The Church and the Pontifical Mission Societies are a compass in the difficult time of the coronavirus

Fides EN - - ven, 15/05/2020 - 13:27
Manila - The spiritual and material work of the Catholic Church in the Philippines and, in this context, the action of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the country constitute a compass, and a safe haven for the population, in a time of disorientation like that of the pandemic. They are an essential point of reference, both at a spiritual consolation level, and in the work of assistance and proximity to needy communities, and for the needs of local Churches, thanks to the Emergency Fund of the PMS: says Mgr. Esteban Lo, priest in Manila, member of the "Lorenzo Ruiz Mission Institute", and national Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the Philippines.
Father Lo tells Agenzia Fides: "Humanly speaking, this crisis represents the great temptation to be more self-referential and less oriented towards the mission. But, thank God, it is also an alarm bell to put each other in touch as we go through the same storm".
The closeness is made concrete also by participating in the special Covid-19 Emergency Fund, established by the Pope in the Pontifical Mission Societies, to meet the needs of the local Churches: "With a first humble expression of solidarity we sent 5,000 US dollars, through the Apostolic Nunciature, to the special PMS Emergency Fund to reach the victims of the virus in Catholic communities that are particularly in need of assistance all over the world. Mutual charity is the key in these times: in the Philippines too, the initiatives of proximity towards Catholic families who are in extreme need, starting from essential needs, and with only the help of the Church can help to survive".
The expressions of charity are not lacking, reports the Director: "In general, in our country we see a generous and charitable response towards the poor, even towards those who do not know each other personally. Aid is extended by giving money, food and essential goods for daily life. Numerous Catholic institutions and schools, parishes and other organizations have made available rooms and facilities for the homeless and marginalized, while doctors and nurses are at the forefront with regards to aid. Volunteering plays an important role: young parishioners volunteer to help distribute food parcels and to prepare spaces to accommodate different groups".
On a spiritual level too, the Church offers her widespread contribution, also thanks to new technologies: "In many communities, prayers and masses are organized online to nourish and strengthen the life of the faith of the baptized. The Word of God fills social media and numerous messages with words of the Gospel, or spiritual thoughts, run through the net like a chain, forwarded from one user to another, acting as inspiration and consolation. Faith is a valid help in this difficult moment, and we continue to trust in God", Father Lo concludes.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/TURKEY - Erdogan: Armenian and Greek "lobbies" conspire against the Turks even during the time of the pandemic

Fides EN - - ven, 15/05/2020 - 13:01
Ankara - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to use periodic speeches dedicated to the Covid-19 crisis to denounce geopolitical forces and actors who, in his opinion, in this emergency situation, pursue plans to weaken Turkey. In his speech on Sunday 11 May, among the realities targeted by Erdogan as inspirers of anti-Turkish hostility, what he called "Armenian lobby and Greek lobby" were also mentioned. "We are determined to strengthen the Alliance of the Republic", said the Turkish President, "considering as negligible details all the things that are not the Nation and the Country. The parties that are unhappy and aim to sabotage Turkey's proponents with their attacks will not be able to stop this sacred march. We - added the Turkish Head of State - will not leave room for FETÖ , the PKK or the Armenian and Greek lobbies, or to hostile centers based in the Gulf countries. We will continue to disappoint those who think they are putting us in the corner, blocking us and chaining us by destroying our economy through foreign financial institutions".
The previous Sunday, during a similar update meeting on measures taken to stop the coronavirus infection, Erdogan had declared that the Turkish authorities will not allow terrorist "leftover of the sword" in our country, to attempt to carry out activities, but are still active in the Country. The expression "Leftover of the sword", of biblical ancestry, in the Turkish version is commonly used insult in Turkey that often refers to the survivors of the Christian massacres that mainly targeted Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians in the Ottoman Empire and its successor, Turkey . In protest, Garo Paylan, an Armenian MP in Turkey's parliament, wrote on Facebook: "In his hateful speech, Erdogan once again used the phrase 'leftover of the sword.' That definition was invented to refer to orphans like my grandmother who survived the [1915] Armenian genocide. Every time we hear that phrase, it makes our wounds bleed again".
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/UNITED STATES - US Bishops express solidarity with indigenous communities during the pandemic

Fides EN - - ven, 15/05/2020 - 12:26
Washington - Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux and chairman of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City and chairman of USCCB’s Committe on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup and chairman of the USCCB’s Subcommittee on Native American Affairs have released the following statement in solidarity with Native and Indigenous communities who are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
" As Native Communities continue to greatly suffer from the COVID-19 epidemic, the Church is developing ways to draw upon its deep roots in the person of Jesus to foster strength, charity and support to those who are sick and those who have died. We cherish our close connections to Native Communities through our Catholic parishes, missions and schools. We recall once more our profound desire to develop pathways to hope. We are heartbroken over reports that Native and Indigenous communities across this country are suffering at disproportionately high rates from the COVID-19 pandemic and concerned about the lack of sufficient resources to respond to the crisis. We are especially mindful of the Navajo Nation where people are being infected with the coronavirus at some of the highest rates in the country. We hold in prayer our brothers and sisters who are suffering and grieving in these communities, and we stand with them in calling for a robust response to the pandemic in their lands", reads the statement sent to Fides.
The Bishops note that "adequate funding" has long been "a challenge" for the Indian Health Service , which is a federal agency within the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and stress that the IHS reports of "shortages of medical personnel and hospital beds". The agency provides comprehensive health services to nearly 2 million Native Americans and Native populations in Alaska.
Archbishop Coakley and Bishops Fabre and Wall said they hoped that the Senate's unanimous confirmation of a new director of the IHS on April 22 could also "affirm the recognition for the need of a strong advocate for the health needs of tribal communities". "It is also good that additional resources were allocated in recent legislation, and it is essential that this funding reach its intended recipients as soon as possible", they say.
In the United States, there are more than 1.5 million cases of Covid-19 with more than 86,000 deaths. According to the press, the Latins, the natives and the native populations are the ones most at risk.
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA - "Time of pandemic, time of opportunity in the light of Laudato Sì": Laudato Sì week

Fides EN - - ven, 15/05/2020 - 12:02
Aysén - In communion with the initiatives promoted all over the world 5 years after the publication of Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Sì" on the care of the common home, the Apostolic Vicariate of Aysén in Chile will offer a cycle of programs, through Radio Santa María, from 18 to 23 May, with the title "Laudato Sì Week in Patagonia".
Each day a program will be broadcast animated by the Apostolic Vicar, Mgr. Luis Infanti della Mora, who together with a host will address the ‘Laudato Sì’ with various approaches, making it contemporary in the vision of the faith of Patagonia, to then dialogue with the representatives of the Church and civil society who lead initiatives of defense and promotion for the care of the planet.
"We believe - says the Bishop - that it is important to make the most of the 5 years of this powerful encyclical by Pope Francis to evaluate, look, criticize, propose, from Patagonia, how we continue to treat our planet in the light of this text, which offers us an evangelical gaze to build a new relationship with our wonderful, beautiful and precious planet, which God the Father gives everyone in the same way".
From 16 to 25 May, the Special Episcopal Commission for Integral Ecology and Mining of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops , promotes the "Laudato Sì Week, 5 years: integral ecology and mining". During these days, the Commission will hold daily thematic debates on the encyclical with representatives of the commission, teachers and researchers, members of the National Council of Christian Churches , Indigenous Missionary Council , Pastoral Land Commission and Fisheries Pastoral Commission .
The Bishop of Caxias and President of CEEM, Sebastião Lima Duarte, and the Bishops who are members of the Commission, will open the "Laudato Sì Week" with prayer in the communities, on May 16 at 6 pm. On May 24, at 8 am, the Archbishop by Belo Horizonte and President of the CNBB, Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo, will preside over the celebration of the Eucharist in the Basilica Nossa Senhora da Piedade, for the five years of Laudato Sì. The closing of the week, May 25, will be in Brumadinho, where the Bishop Auxiliary of Belo Horizonte and member of CEEM, Vicente Ferreira, will preside over the Mass, at 6pm.
On the fifth anniversary of the encyclical Laudato Sì, the Bishop of La Rioja, Argentina, Mgr. Dante Gustavo Braida, sent a letter to the community and to the pastoral groups of the diocese with the title "Time of pandemic, time of opportunity in the light of the Laudato Sì", in which he recalls the encyclical and the celebratory week, from 16 to 24 May. To live this week, Argentines have set up spaces in social networks that will allow them to participate in various initiatives to explore the content of the encyclical.
"We are going through this period of pandemic that has led us to make various changes in our behaviors - writes the Bishop - and allows us to see that other deeper realities must be renewed in society, so that the world in which we live offers opportunities to all its inhabitants to live and grow worthily". "For these transformations to be possible - he continues -, we all need to participate and feel protagonists. It is very illuminating to see how Pope Francis in Laudato Sì anticipated a series of shortcomings or weaknesses in this world that have disastrous consequences for many people, taking away their freedom and damaging their lives, such as consumerism, self-reference, the life at all speed, the emptiness of the heart ... which brings with it violence and mutual destruction, etc. But, at the same time, the Pope tells us that it is possible to change course, that it is possible to start again, encouraging us to look for 'another lifestyle' with other parameters or values ".
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/CHAD - COVID-19, the Bishops: "Food security must be guaranteed"

Fides EN - - ven, 15/05/2020 - 11:24
N'Djamena - "We appreciate the prompt reaction of the State to deal with the pandemic through the Alert and Health Security Cell", write the Bishops of Chad in their message sent to Agenzia Fides, on the consequences of COVID-19 on the local Church.
Even in Chad places of worship have been closed to prevent the spread of contagion, but this - the Bishops say - "does not mean the suspension of prayer and any form of worship, but only the suspension of public religious ceremonies".
If the Bishops praise the public health measures adopted to contain the pandemic, they warn, however, that the consequences of the economic crisis deriving from them risk having a devastating impact on the population, especially the poorest sectors of the population. "Essential goods and in particular food come from rural areas", they underline. "The rainy season has already arrived and now is the time for sowing. Concrete steps must be taken to allow farmers to plant crops in their fields safely. The agricultural season can be compromised by the continuous conflicts between herdsmen and farmers", say the Bishops who ask the authorities to work so as "to ensure the country's food security in the post COVID-19 pandemic".
The Bishops make Church resources available, starting from the structures of Caritas, in a spirit of collaboration with the State to assist people affected by the disease and its consequences, regardless of their religious affiliation.
In thanking all those who are struggling to face the disease, the Bishops conclude by hoping that "the pandemic is not only an evil, but becomes an invitation to conversion for greater national solidarity".
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/INDIA - Civil society and religious communities: coronavirus increases "slave labor"

Fides EN - - jeu, 14/05/2020 - 11:20
New Delhi - In some states of India there are measures that extend working hours and suspend the minimum wages, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, increasing the phenomenon of "slave labor", or what becomes a form of slavery, exploitation and abuse of human dignity. This is the alarm raised by Church leaders, human rights activists and Indian civil society organizations. Father Jaison Vadassery, Secretary of the Commission for Migrants of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India , tells Fides that "national and state governments do not pay enough attention to workers' issues". Work shifts in six Indian states were extended from 8 to 12 hours a day over a three-month period.
"The revitalization of the economy or the containment of losses due to the pandemic must not be at the expense of workers, migrants and the poor", said the priest, who in the past was also Secretary of the Indian Bishops' employment office.
Union leaders from different organizations say that several state governments have given companies "green light" to exploit workers. "Modifying the existing rules to satisfy certain commercial and profit interests can increase slavery and trigger social conflicts", pointed out Lenin Raghuvanshi, who formed a Supervisory Committee on the Human Rights of Workers. The leader expresses great "anguish" that workers are asked to work longer hours during the lockdown and are denied permission to go home".
Akhtar Khan, a construction worker in the state of Chhatigargh, tells Fides that "it is inhumane to force workers to work for 12 hours without paying other benefits. It becomes a matter of slavery endorsed by the government and employers".
Several States have adopted "new overtime provisions instead of suspending labor laws", as an escamotage", explains Raghuvanshi, a well-known human rights activist. A forum of academics and unions has announced that at least six states are planning to suspend labor laws to help the industry recover from the seven-week coronavirus lockdown, in force until May 17 and likely to be extended. The lockdown has affected millions of workers and migrants stranded in various parts of the country, impacting the livelihoods of millions of workers.
According to experts from the world of work, the decision to suspend federal and state laws that sanction workers' rights would push even more people into the sector of informal economy, of undeclared work, with the effect of reducing wages and further eroding the conditions of job safety and dignity. According to some sources, various states, in order to incentivize the economy after the losses related to Covid-19, intend to suspend the legislation that guarantees minimum wages and the formation of workers' unions for a period of three years. Social security measures, including social security funds or provisions for the health and safety of working women, would be revoked.
These interventions, it is said, will help local industries to recover and reverse the trend of losses suffered, as well as be useful in attracting new investments.
"The change in labor laws would be a regression", said K.R labor economist Shyam Sundar, a professor at the Xavier School of Management, run by the Indian Jesuits.
Over 90% of the workforce out of 450 million Indians work in the informal sector with low wages and without social security. These workers have been hit hard by the closure of factories, construction sites and other workplaces.
India has eight million "modern slaves", according to the "Global Free Slavery Index", developed by an NGO based in Australia, and forced labor is the most common form of slavery in the country.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - A missionary: "The pandemic must not stop the peace process"

Fides EN - - jeu, 14/05/2020 - 11:09
Juba - South Sudan responded immediately and seriously to the threat of the coronavirus, by adopting containment measures, but the pandemic must not slow down the peace process: this is what Sister Elena Balatti, Comboni missionary in Juba hopes for. The measures taken by the executive against Covid-19 have had postive effects so far. The sick are just over 200 out of twelve million inhabitants. Few compared to many African countries, nothing compared to the infections in America, Asia, and Europe. "The government of Juba - Sister Elena Balatti explains to Fides - proved to be ready. As soon as the first cases in neighboring States were registered, international flights were immediately canceled. The regional ones have been partially canceled and those that have not yet been suppressed must receive special government authorization. Border traffic has been limited. It seems that the measures taken are working, we hope that they will protect South Sudan from the epidemic".
The Country, born in 2011 from the separation from Sudan and upset by six years of civil war, has very fragile medical structures. "Unfortunately - continues Sister Elena -, the health system of South Sudan is very poor. There is only one laboratory in the nation capable of performing swabs, very few intensive care units and four respiratory ventilators. International organizations are taking steps to create intensive care places in some strategic centers for the Country. What is certain is that if the epidemic were to expand, the institutions would be in great difficulty. And it is precisely for this reason that the authorities reacted promptly".
The government has banned all forms of aggregation and has limited commercial activities. In the main centers only the basic necessity shops are open. Reduced hours have been imposed in offices. "Political meetings and, alas, religious ceremonies have been prohibited - continues Sister Elena -. Among Christians, the impossibility of celebrating the Easter triduum in church aroused great concern. However, religious leaders did a great job by explaining to the faithful the reasons why it iso f fundamental importance to stay at home and not to spread the virus".
On February 23, a delicate peace process began with the entry into the executive of rebel leader Riek Machar. The formation of a national unity government was the first step towards new elections and greater political stability. "The Covid-19 epidemic - concluded Sister Elena - did not stop this process, but slowed it down. The appointment of local government officials has been postponed. Certainly political leaders are concerned about possible contagion. At the base, however, there is also a lack of agreement on the distribution of the proceeds of natural resources , of which South Sudan is very rich. The hope of all is that, once the emergency is over, the building of a peace that guarantees prosperity for a nation tormented by too much violence of the past will start again".
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/MADAGASCAR - Covid-19: "There is a reawakening of faith even if churches are closed" says the PMS National Director

Fides EN - - jeu, 14/05/2020 - 10:56
Antananarivo - Since 22 March, Malagasy people have been living in a state of health emergency. Since then churches have been closed, during the most important and central period of Christian faith; the last week of Lent before celebrating Holy Week", says to Agenzia Fides. Fr. Martial Ramiakadaoro, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of Madagascar, who describes how the local Church is experiencing the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the consequences of the lockdown directly involved the PMS "that had to send the texts for the animation of the World Day of Vocation Prayer to the 22 dioceses of Madagascar. Shipping was canceled because means of transport were also blocked. We used other means to send the animation texts even though we knew that some regions far from the dioceses could not be reached", says Fr. Martial.
"In addition, in Madagascar, Sunday of the Good Shepherd is dedicated to fundraising to support the Society of St. Peter the Apostle, but this year it was not possible to carry it out because the faithful are confined".
With regards to the special PMS fund for coronavirus victims in Madagascar, Fr. Martial says that "in our country this initiative is difficult to carry out in this period of confinement and crisis. But the PMS national management is advertising the existence of the special fund in the various dioceses through the Bishops. This does not prevent the Malagasy faithful from being in intense communion of prayer with the Churches in the world and united in our local Churches".
The COVID-19 pandemic, says the PMS National Director does not weaken the faith of the Malagasy. "First of all, the faithful do not question faith in God despite the pandemic. Indeed, there is a reawakening of their faith even if churches are closed. More and more faithful dedicate themselves to personal prayer in their homes, taking advantage of the Marian Month to recite the rosary with the family. This event puts them in search of the presence of God and his power".
Finally Fr. Martial describes how the Church organized itself to assist the faithful from a distance. "Each diocese is organizing itself to spread the Sunday Eucharist through the Catholic media to allow the faithful to follow it as a family. Entertainment programs are broadcast to encourage people to help and support each other, to make gestures of sharing and solidarity. For example: making face masks to be distributed free of charge to the maximum number of people. Distributions of food gifts and assistance to the poor, the elderly and the weak. Free assistance for all those with coronavirus".
"The Head of State consults Church leaders in the decisions to be made that affect the life and faith of peoples. Although the consequences of the pandemic influence the social and economic situation of the Country, like many other Countries in the world, the Church remains a source of life and a place of hope for the Malagasy people", concludes the PMS National Director.
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA - Bishops of the continent participate in the "Day of prayer, fasting and works of charity" to invoke the end of the pandemic

Fides EN - - jeu, 14/05/2020 - 10:41
Bogota - The President of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopal Council , Archbishop Héctor Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, urged the Bishops of the continent to accept Pope Francis’ call to join the "Day of prayer, fasting and works of charity", announced by the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity on May 14, to implore the Father and Lord of life to help humanity overcome the coronavirus pandemic.
CELAM’s note sent to Fides reports that the Bishops of the continent will invoke God so that "a cure for Covid 19 is soon found, and thus health and development are restored, so that together we build a more human and fraternal civilization". It is also an opportunity to express closeness and prayer in a particular way to those who suffer due to Covid-19, entrusting them to the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as mother and empress of America.
The Archbishop of Maracaibo and President of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, Mgr. José Luis Azuaje, through a message invites "all Christians of our nation" to join the World Day of Prayer, Fasting and Charity, proposed by the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity and welcomed by Pope Francis.
In his message the Archbishop writes: "We want to invite all Christians to join together on Thursday 14 May 2020 in prayer, so that the Lord may give wisdom to scientists and find the vaccine against this disease. At the same time to pray for the sick; to fast so a sto experience the hunger that millions of families in Venezuela go through; but it is not only a fast from bread, but to abandon pessimistic attitudes and hopeless afflictions. Also to remember the need to be in solidarity with the most vulnerable in our communities".
"As Venezuelans - he concludes - we all need each other, but we also need the spiritual strength that comes from God to remain firm and engage in the necessary changes in our homeland that promote human dignity and the common good".
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA - Covid-19 and Gospel of charity in Africa

Fides EN - - jeu, 14/05/2020 - 10:33
Kara - "What will the poor become when the current extraordinary situation caused by the pandemic is over?" writes Father Donald Zagore, a priest of the Society for African Missions, to Agenzia Fides. "In this global health crisis, everyone has intensified a strong impulse of charity and solidarity towards the most disadvantaged. The poor have suddenly become not only visible to everyone, but above all everyone's priority".
"While waiting for another emergency to remember them in an exceptional way, bringing them to the fore, - explains Zagore - the destitute will again fall into oblivion, become the waste of society and will remain eternal victims of all these political structures and economic leaders who claim to defend their causes, but on the contrary suffocate them even more".
The missionary intends to highlight the fact that the poor should not be remembered only in exceptional circumstances: "A condition of poverty is always an exceptional situation and must take precedence over everything and in all circumstances".
"This is why the Gospel of solidarity goes beyond simple acts of charity motivated by circumstances and requires a transformative commitment on behalf of our societies, in favor of the well-being of the poor and most abandoned. All those political and economic structures that prevent taking full responsibility for the destitute must be banned, while a daily, permanent struggle must be waged to improve the conditions of the poorest".
"In Africa as everywhere in the world - concludes Zagore, we must not spare any effort to preach, live and witness the Gospel of solidarity and charity always and forever".
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/BOLIVIA - "We must know if this government is interested in life", asks Mgr. Centellas on Journalist's Day

Fides EN - - jeu, 14/05/2020 - 10:27
Sucre - Bolivia celebrated "Bolivian Journalist's Day" on Sunday 10 May. On this occasion Mgr. Ricardo Centellas, apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Potosi, recently appointed Archbishop of Sucre and president of the Episcopal Conference of Bolivia presided the mass for Bolivian journalists. During the homily, Mgr. Centellas said: "Journalism, every journalist, is a servant of the truth, a friend of the truth, and is called to present the truth of things, to speak the truth, to present the truth. Today we will pray for journalism in Bolivia to be free and independent, journalism that responds to ethics, that responds to truth and not corruption. It is very sad to learn that in Bolivia, many media do business with the government, for a lot of money, and sell their ethics".
"It is not easy to communicate the truth - he continued - for me there is no neutral journalism. Journalism that has an ethics is on the side of truth, not of corruption, not of lies. Reality is reality, we cannot ignore that in Bolivia the current government issues a transgenic decree and we have to find out what is the truth behind this decree".
Then he continued: "A transitional government that cares too much about placing its people in public institutions is not a transitional government. We have to know exactly if this government is interested in life".
The government in words says "life comes first", but then it does the opposite. "How many ventilators have been purchased? Where are they? They have announced they have set up 500 beds for intensive care. Where are they? Journalism must help us point this out.
Dear brothers, may God give you strength and courage to tell the truth at all times".
In Bolivia there are about 2,500 cases of Covid 19 and 128 have died, but the real problem will be the post-Covid economy, because like other Latin American countries, a large part of the population lives on what they earn during the day and with the quarantine in progress everything is blocked.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/TANZANIA - Appointment of Bishop of Mpanda

Fides EN - - jeu, 14/05/2020 - 10:16
Vatican City - On 13 May 2020, the Holy Father appointed Bishop Eusebius Alfred Nzigilwa, currently titular of Mozotcori and auxiliary of the archdiocese of Dar-es-Salaam, as Bishop of the diocese of Mpanda, Tanzania.
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AFRICA/CAMEROON - Appointment of the Bishop of Bafia

Fides EN - - jeu, 14/05/2020 - 10:12
Vatican City - On 13 May 2020, the Holy Father appointed Bishop Emmanuel Dassi Youfang, currently titular of Esco and auxiliary of Bafoussam, as Bishop of the diocese of Bafia, Cameroon.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/THAILAND - Resignation of metropolitan Archbishop of Tharé and Nonseng, Thailand, and appointment of new metropolitan Archbishop

Fides EN - - jeu, 14/05/2020 - 10:09
Vatican City - On 13 May 2020, the Holy Father accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the metropolitan archdiocese of Tharé and Nonseng, Thailand, presented by Archbishop Louis Chamniern Santisuknriran.
The Holy Father has appointed as Archbishop of the metropolitan see Msgr. Anthony Weradet Chaiseri, of the clergy of Tharé and Nonseng, currently Vicar General of the same see.
Msgr. Anthony Weradet Chaiseri was born on 26 June 1963 in Tharé, in the Archdiocese of Tharé and Nonseng. He attended the diocesan minor Seminary in Tharé. He completed his philosophical and theological studies at the Lux Mundi National Major Seminary in Sampran, obtaining a baccalaureate in both disciplines. Prior to ordination to the priesthood he attended a course of spiritual formation at the Priests' School for Asia in Tagaytay, Philippines . He is a member of the Focolare Movement.
He was ordained a priest on 21 March 1992, and incardinated in the archdiocese of Tharé and Nonseng.
After ordination he held the offices of parish vicar of Saint Anne, Nonseng, and head of the communities of the faithful of Baan Phaeb and Srisongkhram ; and parish priest of Saint Joseph, Nakhonphanom, and head of the youth missionary office . He carried out studies for a licentiate in biblical theology at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome from 1995 to 1997, and attended a brief course in formation for seminary formatters at the Pontifical “Regina Apostolorum” Athenaeum in Rome. He then held the roles of formatter at the Fatima Minor Seminary in Tharé , rector of the G.M. Vianney Major Seminary in Thakaek, Laos, where he also taught sacred Scriptures ; vicar general and parish priest of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sakhonnakhon ; vicar general and parish priest of the Cathedral of Saint Michael Archangel, Tharé ; and vicar general and parish priest of the Mother of Martyrs Shrine, Songkon.
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