ASIA/INDIA - The accusation of #CoronaJihad rekindles hostility towards Muslim minorities

Fides EN - - jeu, 18/06/2020 - 11:39
New Delhi - In early June, over 2,200 foreign members of the Tablighi Jamaat Islamic missionary organization that visited India and took part in religious meetings, were included in a list of people who are denied entry into the country for the next ten years. A one-week meeting held in March is under accusation because apparently the guidelines that prohibited, due to the coronavirus, the meetings of more than a certain number of people and caused an increase in infections from Covid-19 were ignored. Tablighi Jamaat is not new to this kind of accusations, which have rebounded from Malaysia to Indonesia where TJ has organized pandemic rallies. But, the story sparked a wave of controversy that poured out on Indian Muslims in a real "hate campaign" that accuses them of "spreading the contagion". On the other hand, nothing happened to the Sikh community after the sermons of the preacher Baldev Singh - who died due to Covid-19 on March 18 - pushed the government to quarantine about 40,000 people in 22 villages that had assisted.
Now, what has been called a "black list" for thousands of foreigners, many of them migrant workers belonging to the Islamic missionary movement, risks reigniting yet another wave of anti-Muslim hatred with a campaign that, according to several commentators, is also based on false news: "The videos showing members of the missionary group spitting on the police quickly went viral on social media, exacerbating an already dangerous atmosphere for Muslims", writes Pakistani journalist Amjed Jaaved. According to Jaaved, from the end of March to the beginning of May, "tweets with the hashtag #CoronaJihad have appeared over 300,000 times and have potentially been viewed by 165 million people. But the social media posts were mostly fake".
The story adds to the concerns about the authoritarian turn of the government of Delhi, with the repercussions on the hostile attitude towards religious minorities: in recent months there have been lively protests for the change of the Constitution and the revocation of the autonomy of Kashmir, while grievances of civil society were unleashed especially after the approval of the "Citizenship Amendment Act" in December 2019, the law that offers the possibility of giving citizenship to migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, excluding those of Muslim religion.
In a report in late April, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom suggested that India should be included in the list of countries that "raise particular concern on the religious freedoms front" and that it should be subject to sanctions if things do not change. According to the Report, "in 2019, conditions of religious freedom in India have deteriorated drastically, with religious minorities subjected to increasing assaults", which have involved not only Muslims but also Christians, Dalits and other small communities.
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/URUGUAY - Vocational Month: towards a new time of evangelization

Fides EN - - jeu, 18/06/2020 - 11:24
Montevideo - As every year, June is Vocational Month in the Church in Uruguay and Mgr. Luis Eduardo González, Auxiliary Bishop of Montevideo and at the head of the Vocations and Ministries Department of the Episcopal Conference, invites to pray for vocations and share the material that the dioceses, congregations, institutes and movements of consecrated life have prepared to reflect during this month.
"We celebrated a new Pentecost and received the Holy Spirit in our hearts, which animates us and pushes us towards a new time of evangelization. The Church, the body of Christ, has been renewed in its various charisms and ministries", writes Mgr. González in his message, sent to Agenzia Fides, on the occasion of Vocational Month 2020.
"Taking into account the path we are taking in preparation for the 5th National Eucharistic Congress - continues the Bishop -, this year's motto is:" I give myself for you ... and you? " . It is the handing over of the Lord that challenges us to respond. The handing over of Jesus on the cross is renewed in every Eucharist, a memorial of his death and resurrection". Mgr. González invokes the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, "so that the Lord will support us all in his fidelity and send new vocations to his Church".
The V National Eucharistic Congress is scheduled for next October in Montevideo, the last one celebrated in the country dates back to the year 2000, in the city of Cologne, for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. As the Episcopal Conference of Uruguay points out, a Eucharistic Congress "is, first of all a feast of the whole Church around Christ, her Lord and Master, present in the Eucharist", who meets "to reflect on the Eucharistic mystery, to celebrate it, to adore it and to renew her commitment to evangelization with enthusiasm in the contemporary world".
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/HAITI - Despite the pandemic, Haitians celebrate Our Lady of Perpetual Help, invoking her to get out of the crisis

Fides EN - - jeu, 18/06/2020 - 11:16
Port au Prince - Haiti experiences the worst historical moment of recent times, for economic and social stability, to which is added the health emergency, which affects not only the poorest country in America but a country flogged by several natural disasters that have blocked the economy and activity of a very religious population. Fides received the testimony of Father Renold Antoine, a Redemptorist missionary, who tells how, despite the economic lockdown of the quarantine, the Catholic population is preparing the national holiday for its patroness, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, on June 27th.
"Without wanting to draw too hasty conclusions about this particular year, we are all of the opinion that 2020 is an accumulation of new shocks. Some dare to call it already the year of all records. This name is due not only to the economic crisis in which our world finds itself, but also to the fear that reigns in each of being infected by Covid-19, as well as to the feeling that death comes like lightning, suddenly.
In the Haitian context - explains Father Renold - the situation is much worse, because there are other realities which are more virulent than the coronavirus: corruption, misery, insecurity, unhealthiness, to name just a few".
In this atmosphere, however, Haitian people are preparing to celebrate their Patroness, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, on June 27th. The theme chosen this year is: "O Mary, mother of the Haitian people, help us in this suffering". A series of activities are already underway to mark this important date: 30 days of prayers, that is, from 1 to 30 June at noon; 3 days of prelude to the novena, from 15 to 17 June, at 3 pm, guided by the Solèy Lafwa group. Finally, the national novena in the ten dioceses of the country, from 18 to 26 June. On the day of the solemnity, June 27, there will be three Eucharistic celebrations and a procession with the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help that will leave from the Cathedral of Port-au-Prince and head towards the chapel of Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel-Secours in Bélair. At the end of the procession, the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, His Exc. Mgr. Max-Leroy Mesidor, will give the solemn blessing to the Haitian people and to the city of Port-au-Prince.
Taking into account the current situation, only a small group will take part in the activities in the Shrine, which will be broadcast live on radio, television and social media. During this period of prayer, praise and thanksgiving, the Haitian people turn to Mary, Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel-Secours, to ask her to heal us from the Coronavirus, corruption, insecurity, misery.
"May the intercession of our Heavenly Mother renew the human and intellectual energies of the Haitian people - concludes the missionary".
Today in Haiti there are about 5,000 positive Covid-19 cases and more than 80 people have died.
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/CHILE - A second group of Bolivians return to their country thanks to the intervention of the Church

Fides EN - - jeu, 18/06/2020 - 10:49
Copiapó - This time 42 Bolivian citizens returned to their country on the night of Tuesday 16 June. The journey was made possible thanks to the commitment of the Bishopric of Copiapó and to two weeks of intense work together with the regional government, the immigration department, the police and the travelers themselves.
The group said goodbye to Atacama and travelled about 16 hours to reach Tata Santiago camp, in Pisiga, Bolivia. This camp is located on the border, opposite Colchane, where they will remain under quarantine, and finally they will be able to return to their hometown.
Once on the bus, the passengers received a special greeting and a blessing from Fr. Guido Castagna, delegate for Pastoral Care, and from the Administrator of the diocese, Fr. Jaime Pizarro. According to the note sent to Fides, this is the second group of Bolivian citizens who was able to return to their country during this critical moment due to the Covid pandemic. The first, consisting of 77 people, had left in late May. The possibility of organizing a third group for the next few weeks is currently being considered.
The migration situation in South America has always been delicate and difficult, aggravated in this case by the closure of borders in the face of a health emergency. The main reason for their return is the lack of work and other resources to live in a foreign country.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/ESWANTINI - Covid-19: "Let us look to the future with hope, we will be called to be missionaries in new ways", says the Bishop of Manzini

Fides EN - - mer, 17/06/2020 - 14:06
Mbabane - "Announcing this special time of grace for our diocese I never thought we would face months of it in a full or partial lock-down. We planned special events thinking everything would be as usual. It was not. It is still not and we are all unable to talk about the future", said His Exc. Mgr. José Luis Ponce de León IMC, Bishop of Manzini , in the Pastoral Letter dedicated to the Covid-19 crisis.
The event to which the Bishop refers is the Extraordinary Missionary Year , which started in October 2019 and will end in October 2020 , whose celebration has been suspended during the months of confinement imposed to stop the pandemic.
"It is the context that has changed, not our call. We remain ‘baptised and sent’", says Mgr. Ponce de León recalling the motto of the Extraordinary Missionary Month of October 2019. The EMY has not taken a break "until we go back to normal. There might not be a going back to normal in the future and we will then be called to be missionaries in new ways", underlines the Bishop of Manzini.
Mgr. Ponce de León points out that "Our diocese quickly reacted to the new situation: Once the world was affected by the virus we started our daily prayer. Holy Masses became available on our diocesan YouTube channel, accompanied by daily podcasts of reflection and prayer".
Mgr. Ponce de León praises the solidarity initiatives launched in his diocese: “Protective masks have been distributed to parishes and projects have been organized to support the poorest. Our parishes also looked for ways to be close to each one of you through the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, writing down the names on the benches of the church, WhatsApp groups, distributing food to the poor…".
The Bishop stresses that every little gesture is a gesture of love for others: "We also show our being Christians by caring for each other in the most simple things like keeping social distance, wearing masks, washing our hands, being careful of what we share on social media... Do not underestimate any of this, remember Naaman when he was asked by the prophet Elisha to wash seven times in the river Jordan . Every little act of love counts!".
The crisis caused by the Coronavirus, however, has accentuated social inequalities: "Wash your hands we are also told, but what do we do when there is no water?", underlines Mgr. Ponce de León. "The same slogans given to protect us have revealed the weakness of our personal and social fabric; What about all the self employed people, selling in the streets whose only income is what they themselves are able to make on a day to support their families…?", Archbishop Ponce de León asks.
The Bishop of Manzini concludes inviting to Christian hope: "The Lord’s promise to be with us and the gift of His Spirit does not expire. Let us not live the present waiting to return to the past. Let us look at the present and to the future and, with the same faith, hope, love and enthusiasm, look for new answers to new challenges. It is us who, today, once again, having been baptised are sent by Jesus. May God bless us and Mary our Mother protect us".
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/BURKINA FASO - "An institutional crisis must be avoided, the date of the general elections must be respected" urge the Bishops

Fides EN - - mer, 17/06/2020 - 13:34
Ouagadougou - The Bishops of Burkina Faso have invited the government of Burkina Faso to hold the elections on time and to commit themselves to improving the security situation in the Country. Vast areas of Burkina Faso are destabilized by the violence committed by various terrorist groups. At the same time, the country is facing the Covid-19 pandemic. In this delicate context, the Bishops of Burkina Faso invite the government to respect the date set for the presidential and legislative elections, scheduled for November 22nd.
In a statement, sent to Agenzia Fides, the Bishops underline the urgency of "avoiding adding an institutional crisis to the alarming security crisis". "The ideal situation would be to be able to organize elections throughout the national territory and guarantee the full participation of all populations wherever they are, in order to guarantee the legitimacy of the President-elect and allow all provinces to send their representatives to the National Assembly".
"It is a challenge to be faced at all costs, it is a challenge for the whole nation and to face it we must pool our energies", underlines the message.
The Bishops recall that jihadist violence has caused the displacement of populations in different regions of the Country, especially in the north, and invite the state to vigorous and rigorous management for the conservation of the territorial integrity and stability of the Country's security, so that all the inhabitants of Burkina from north to south, from east to west, can feel safe.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/MYANMAR - Young Christian volunteers working in hospitals, on the front line against the pandemic

Fides EN - - mer, 17/06/2020 - 13:31
Yangon - These young people are "the beautiful face of the nation", "are an example for everyone and testify that there is hope for the future". Thus the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Myanmar and the Council of Churches of Myanmar praise the service provided by young Christian volunteers in the fight against the pandemic, in various areas of the country. The commitment of young Christians comes after an appeal launched in recent weeks by the "National Youth Commission", which had invited young people to make their contribution to respond to the health emergency.
A large group of young volunteers assisted health workers in the fight against coronavirus by providing free service in the hospital of Okklapa in southern Yangon. Some of the Christians temporarily left their jobs to serve in the fight against the pandemic. These are eight young Catholics and four from other Christian denominations, whose commitment was highly appreciated by the director of the hospital and by the doctors and leaders of the Church who expressed the hope that young people "can inspire others to share their time, energy and service for the common good".
In the diocese of Yangon, various Catholic structures, such as St. Joseph major seminary, have been made available to host nurses, doctors, volunteers and staff engaged in the fight against the pandemic: it is a concrete aid offered by the Christian Churches who have wished to give concretely their contribution to the institutions.
Even in the diocese of Pathein, the young volunteers of "Karuna" are busy distributing supplies and medical devices to the city's health departments, quarantine centers and more remote villages. Isidore Saw Ko Ko of the Karuna team of the diocese told Fides that about a thousand workers and families were the beneficiaries of this aid. "We provided 683 workers with protective equipment, which is useful when they go to give vaccines to children, while over 150 people in quarantine have received face masks, hand sanitizers, soaps and protective equipment". Several villages in the Thabaung municipality have received useful materials and information to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Bishop Raymond Sumlut Gam, President of Caritas in Myanmar, confirmed to Fides that "the Catholic Church in Myanmar is united in all its components, bishops, priests, religious, lay people, young people, families, in order to face the ongoing emergency and to show the face of charity, compassion, and solidarity towards the poor and suffering".
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/SYRIA - The Maronite Archbishop of Aleppo: the new sanctions against Syrian people are a "diabolical act"

Fides EN - - mer, 17/06/2020 - 13:20
Aleppo - "Now in Aleppo everyone says: we were better off under the bombs". This is how Joseph Tobji, Maronite Archbishop of Aleppo, photographs the feelings among the population of the Syrian metropolis, on the day when the umpteenth economic sanctions imposed on Assad's Syria by the USA with the so-called "Caesar Act" enter into force. A provision that is added to the anti-Syrian sanctions extended for a year by the European Union, hitting a population devastated by years of war, while the specter of the coronavirus pandemic reaps victims even within the borders of Syria. "The bomb comes suddenly - adds the Maronite Archbishop in a conversation with Fides - and kills people around the place where it falls. Now, in Syria, there is real hunger, and millions of people have before them the prospect of watching themselves die slowly of an announced death, without possible escape routes".
The scenario described by the Syrian Archbishop is objectively distressing: "The value of the Syrian lira" he tells Fides "has collapsed in a dizzying way: before the war a dollar was equivalent to 50 Syrian lira, now to buy a dollar we need almost three thousand, and the average salary of an employee remains the same, equal to 50 thousand lire, practically less than twenty euros. Stores close, small businesses close, everyone tries to survive with what they find. Those who have the money deposited in the banks of Lebanon cannot even withdraw it, due to the Lebanese financial crisis. Hospitals lack the necessary medicines and equipment for life-saving surgeries, such as stents. If you enter into the depths of the hardships and sufferings of families, you will hear stories that make you cry. Things cannot be any worse".
The so-called "Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act", which obtained bipartisan support at the US Congress last December, presents itself as a package of sanctions against Syrian troops and others responsible for the atrocities committed during the civil war in Syria". But that of 'targeted' sanctions - comments the Maronite Archbishop of Aleppo - is a lie that not even a child would believe. Everyone sees very well what the goal is: to increase suffering in the population to fuel popular discontent and thus produce regime change. But this way of acting is criminal. Putting an entire people in distress at a time like this, where there is also the specter of the pandemic around the world, is inhuman. And the sign that to pursue your goals you are willing to do anything, even to sacrifice millions of people, poor people, families is a diabolical act".
In this situation, even in Aleppo the priority for Archbishop Tobji is to try to keep the timid signs of recovery that had occurred with the end of the conflict. "Next month", Tobji tells Fides, "we will inaugurate the Maronite cathedral after two years of restoration. Made necessary by the devastations suffered during the war. What can we do? We must try to go ahead anyway, in the situation we are in, treasuring small signs of hope. We ask prayers from brothers all over the world".
The Maronite cathedral of Saint Elijah, in the historic Aleppo district of Al-Jdayde, was still without a roof, destroyed by the many mortar rounds that had devastated it during the Syrian conflict, when on the evening of Tuesday 11 July 2017 more than a thousand Aleppins had crowded its open-air aisles and the square in front , to listen to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Mass in C Minor, performed by 45 musicians and 27 choristers of the Damascus Symphony Orchestra together with the members of the Naregatsi choir, animated by local Christian communities. .
Catégories: From the church

VATICAN - "The value of martyrdom as an element of Christian life in El Salvador": towards the beatification of the missionary Cosma Spessotto

Fides EN - - mer, 17/06/2020 - 13:02
Zacatecoluca - "I ask the Lord to give me the strength at the right time to defend the rights of Christ and the Church. To die a martyr would be a grace that I do not deserve. Washing all my sins, defects and weaknesses of past life with the blood shed by Christ, would be a free gift from the Lord. I forgive in advance and ask the Lord for the conversion of the authors of my death". This is the spiritual testimony left by the Italian Franciscan missionary Fr. Cosma Spessotto, OFM, killed in San Juan Nonualco on June 14, 1980. On May 26 his martyrdom was recognized, in hatred for the faith, with the publication of the decree of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, approved by Pope Francis .
Born on January 28, 1923 in Mansué , in 1935 he entered the Franciscans . The period of philosophical and theological formation coincided with the Second World War. He was ordained a priest on June 27, 1948. He had already developed a desire to go to China or Africa as a missionary, but requests for priests from Central America led him to go to El Salvador, where he arrived on April 4, 1950 together with two confreres. He was entrusted with the parish of San Juan Nonualco, in the department of La Paz, which he led until his death, gaining esteem and affection from the faithful. In the years of the Salvadoran civil war, he did not fail to denounce injustices and atrocities, he helped the sick and needy, collected the corpses thrown into the ditches and buried them, without making any distinctions. His work cost him several death threats. On Saturday 14 June 1980, while praying before celebrating Holy Mass, he was shot dead by some strangers in front of the main altar of his parish.
"The recognition of martyrdom aroused emotion and joy, the Catholic community in general expressed great joy", explained the Bishop of the Diocese of Zacatecoluca, His Exc. Mgr. Elías Samuel Bolaños told Agenzia Fides. "Although Fray Cosme Spessotto is little known in some contexts, however, listening to the news, there was general joy. In March we received the communication that Fr. Rutilio Grande had also been declared a martyr. The Catholic Church of El Salvador feels the value of martyrdom as an element of Christian life".
On the date of the celebration of the Beatification, the Bishop recalls that in the meeting of the Episcopal Conference in January the possibility had been evaluated, if the two decrees had been published, of making a single beatification ceremony for the two Blesseds, inviting the Pope to preside over this ceremony. "In February the decree of Fr. Rutilio was published and in May that of Fray Cosme Spessotto - the Bishop explains to Fides - we are therefore now sure of their beatification. We have sent the letter to the Pope through the Nuncio, but we have not yet received a reply. At the next meeting of the Episcopal Conference of El Salvador we will see how to proceed. First of all we will have to meet the representatives of the two dioceses to study the logistics and promotion of this celebration".
Father Cosme was assassinated 40 years ago, but his memory is still alive in the community, as Mgr. Elías Bolaños points out to Fides: "In the parish where he was assassinated he is always remembered. Father Cosme Spessotto was a very humble, very pastoral friar, very devoted to his pastoral service for his faithful, he always visited them. This is how he is remembered: an unselfish, generous priest, attentive to his faithful, who defended those who had been accused of being left wing, although they were not. Father Cosme was also a very spiritual man: a man of prayer, very full of love for the Eucharist"
Catégories: From the church

EUROPE/ITALY - Father Pier Luigi Maccalli and the "company of the apostles"

Fides EN - - mer, 17/06/2020 - 12:42
Genoa - "Among the lovers of the first apostolic experience, I love remembering Father Pier Luigi Maccalli, my confrere and friend of the Society of African Missions" – writes Father Bruno Semplicio, SMA missionary in Genoa, to Agenzia Fides.
On the occasion of the anniversary of that September 18 2018 in which Father Maccalli was kidnapped from the mission of Bomoanga, Niger, Fr. Semplicio gave testimony of the initiatives shared with his confrere. "Many times - he says - we discussed the need to develop a spirituality and therefore a genuinely apostolic action. This highlighted therefore the desire for a 'company of the apostles', with reference to a thought expressed several times by our Founder, Mgr. Melchiorre de Brésillac. That is, of a group of missionaries who devoted themselves particularly to the study of the teaching of the first apostles and tried to follow their example".
"I recognize that Father Gigi was often an incentive to continue this type of matter. We talked about persecutions, not only the violent ones but also the subtle ones that arise in our Christian communities when trying to return to the time when it all began - the missionary specifies. When the disciples of Jesus were called the 'followers of the way'. A different way from that followed by other believers for the simple fact that Jesus is different from the others. He himself is the 'way'."
In the note sent to Fides, Father Bruno says that "after the blessing of the new church of Bomoanga in Niger, dedicated to the Holy Spirit, Father Gigi had described, in a letter, the various symbols that adorned it and that were to help the faith of Christians and concluded: 'The church is done, but more remains to be done'. Then he spoke of positive comments to the new church also by non-Christians who considered it truly beautiful. And he added that 'beauty is by its very nature diffusive, it does not need advertising. And our God is Beauty, the Good, the Good that speaks to the heart of every man in different forms and ways ... Thus faith has a force of attraction and the Crucified One has drawn the world to himself from the height of the cross.
Of course, - concludes Fr. Semplicio - Father Gigi did not imagine how his mission would continue! But it is the same story of the apostles of yesterday and today that continues in many deserts in the world".
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/ARGENTINA - "We are all Amazon": Mgr. Ojea calls for anti-Covid emergency measures also for the inhabitants of the Amazon

Fides EN - - mer, 17/06/2020 - 12:18
Buenos Aires - The Bishop of San Isidro and president of the Argentine Episcopal Conference, Mgr. Oscar Vicente Ojea, participated in a virtual meeting in which, together with the specialists, talked about the desperate cry of the Earth and the poor in the Amazon, whose drama today has been deepened by the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The activity, with the motto "Todos somos Amazonia", was organized by the University of San Isidro and promoted by the group for Higher Diploma in Integral Ecology.
In addition to the Bishop of San Isidro, also Father Mauricio De López, executive secretary of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network ; Susana Nuin, of the Latin American Council for Social Sciences ; the rector of the National University of Jujuy, Rodolfo Tecchi and Sandra Lassak, for the German Catholic Agency participated.
Mgr. Ojea opened the meeting by recalling the pre-Synod on the Amazon: "Through Repam, an impressive job was done to prepare the questions and consult the people of God for the preparation of the Synod. Then the answers, more than 80,000, on behalf of the members of our communities". "Therefore, when we arrived last year, we already had a working document prepared with the participation from the people of God", he highlighted.
Referring to the result of this participation, the Bishop said that the Church has found a disfigured Amazon, "crossed by a river of over 7 million square kilometers, an impressive territory with 20% of the world's oxygen reserves, forests and the richness of biodiversity, all disfigured by mistreatment; from extraction without control, from water pollution, from desertification, from indiscriminate felling of trees, from the extinction of species".
At the end of his speech, Mgr. Ojea said that "in the midst of this context of predation, of mistreatment, we have the pandemic, and we want to give particular visibility to this", and concluded by saying: "We want to share the situation humanitarian emergency with our brothers".
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/CANADA - The Bishops praise the non-prescription proposal for crimes of abuse

Fides EN - - mer, 17/06/2020 - 11:52
Quebec - The Minister of Justice of Quebec, Sonia LeBel, has recently presented a bill to modify the civil code and, in particular, to ensure that civil actions in the field of sexual violence, child abuse and marital violence, do not statute-barred by limitation. A proposal that finds the consensus of the local Bishops who, in a note, say: "We welcome this legislative measure, concerned that victims can receive justice".
The Bishops recall: "although it is evident that financial compensation can contribute to the expression of justice, it is equally evident that financial compensation cannot, on its own, compensate and alleviate the prejudice caused by such acts of violence", which is why the Catholic Church of Quebec "wishes to participate, together with the victims, in the pastoral actions necessary to respectfully seek reconciliation and reparation" from these traumas.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/KENYA - Covid-19: "Need to protect the most vulnerable" says Chairman of the Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Seafarers

Fides EN - - mar, 16/06/2020 - 14:34
Nairobi - "The people living on the streets in towns and those suffering from mental illness are in a more precarious situation with a high risk of contracting, spreading, and being overwhelmed by COVID-19", said His Exc. Mgr. Virgilio Pante, Bishop of Maralal and Chairman of the Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Seafarers of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, KCCB during his homily g on Sunday June 14, Solemnity of Corpus Domini.
Bishop Pante expressed the concern of the Kenyan Bishops about the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations including refugees, internally displaced persons, people on the move such as truck drivers, pastoralists, persons living on the streets, and people with mental illness.
The Bishop of Maralal recalled the particolar situation of truck drivers who contribute immensely to the economic health of the Country. “The continual rise in numbers of truck drivers contracting COVID-19 indicates a gap in addressing their safety and health. Therefore it is a matter of great concern to all of us. We appeal to the Government to urgently address the challenges the truck drivers, are facing in order to curb the rising spread of the virus", said Mgr. Pante.
Bishop Pante said concerted efforts have to be made in addressing the plight of internally displaced persons and refugees who live in congested places without proper facilities to deal with the surge in infections.
"The refugees and internally displaced people who reside in densely populated camps face a risk of contracting Corona-virus. We appeal that more deliberate mitigation measures are urgently implemented to protect these vulnerable groups", he said.
Finally, Bishop Pante recalled the situation of the nomadic communities dedicated to sheep farming, "Although reported cases of Covid-19 among the pastoralist communities are low, there is a need for sensitization of the communities on COVID-19 risk factors and preventive measures".
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/PERU - Corpus Christi Mass in the Cathedral of Lima behind closed doors, but with 5 thousand photos of the dead for Covid-19

Fides EN - - mar, 16/06/2020 - 13:36
Lima - Photos of people killed by COVID-19 covered the benches and walls of the Cathedral of Lima on Sunday for a Corpus Christi mass in tribute to the victims of the coronavirus, officiated by the archbishop of the Peruvian capital, Carlos Castillo.
With the cathedral behind closed doors, the images of the fatal victims of the pandemic were the only attendees of this homily that was broadcast on national television and by social networks.
The photographs sent in the previous days by the relatives of the deceased not only covered all the benches of the main Catholic center of Peru but also covered the great columns and walls of the temple.
"On the solemnity of Corpus Domini we join in one voice to pray for our dead, to honor their memory and to thank them for what they left in our lives", reads the Twitter account of the Archbishopric of Lima.
During the mass, which had the motto "With your body, O Christ, touch and resurrect our dead due to the pandemic", Archbishop Carlos Castillo declared himself "pleasantly and deeply surprised by the response of our people" to carry out this collective farewell.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/IVORY COAST - Cardinal Jean Pierre Kutwa suspends the activities of the Sacerdoce Royal apostolate

Fides EN - - mar, 16/06/2020 - 13:12
Abidjan - "Various reports of former members of the Catholic Apostolate of Evangelization Sacerdoce Royal have appeared on social media, involving Mr. Do Oulaï Franklin Delaneaux, known as Abraham Marie Pio", said Cardinal Jean Pierre Kutwa, Metropolitan Archbishop of Abidjan in a press release. In recent weeks publications have appeared on the social networks of former members reporting testimonies of sexual abuse, extortion and psychological manipulation, committed on them by the founder and animator of this group of apostolate, Abraham Marie Pio.
Cardinal Kutwa said that "such circumstances require us to exercise justice and truth on our part" and therefore decided that "in application of the measures provided for in canons 305, 321- 326, 1339 and 1717 of the Code of Canon Law of 1983, orders hic et nunc the suspension of Do Oulaï Franklin Delaneaux, called Abraham Marie Pio and the Sacerdoce Royal from all activities". The Cardinal also commissioned an ad hoc committee "to investigate the reported facts".
The Metropolitan Archbishop of Abidjan invited interested parties to exercise moderation on social media, in order to allow members of the Committee to carry out the canonical procedure in the best possible way. The Cardinal hopes that "the Catholic faithful, affected by this situation and in particular the members of the Sacerdoce Royal, receive comfort and peace of heart from the Lord, remaining united in prayer".
The Catholic Apostolate of Evangelization Sacerdoce Royal was founded on July 10, 2010 by Do Oulaï Franklin Delaneaux, known as Abraham Marie Pio. In addition to the Ivory Coast, it has offices in France, the United States and Canada.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/INDIA - Churches in the State of Gujarat reopen for personal prayer

Fides EN - - mar, 16/06/2020 - 13:00
Ahmadabad - The Catholic Church in Gujarat, western India, opened its churches on June 15 to allow the personal, silent prayers of the faithful, while the nation is still under lockdown, due to Covid- 19. As Fides learns, public masses in churches continue to be suspended until the health crisis improves. The federal government allowed the partial and possible reopening of religious places of worship starting from June 8, under the guidance of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
"The government is doing its best to contain this pandemic and we have fully collaborated with the directives given. We hoped to be able to start celebrating Holy Mass with the people in the churches again from June 8, but the cases of contagion for coronavirus in Gujarat increase every day, and we do not really know how many asymptomatic Covid-19 patients exist among us", reads a statement of the Catholic Bishops of Gujarat, released on June 13. The Bishops note that people have become "more vulnerable than they were before" and that one could enter, even unconsciously, "in the phase of transmission of the virus to the community".
Sensing the need to be careful and prudent, the Bishops have ordered that only the churches in some areas, where the presence of the virus is averted, have reopened for worship for the Corpus Christi feast. All the other churches can instead be opened daily to allow people to pray, in a strictly individual and private way, at set times.
Archbishop Stanislao Fernandes, apostolic Administrator of Baroda, explains that each parish priest will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the government protocols prescribed for religious places, including social distancing, the prohibition of entry for people over the age of 65 and under 10 years of age, the ban on collecting offers, the regular disinfection of the premises.
In India, Christian churches have remained closed and all catechetical, liturgical and pastoral activities have been suspended since March 25, since the beginning of the national lockdown imposed by the government for Covid-19.
Catégories: From the church

VATICAN - New aid from the PMS Fund for the Covid emergency in Africa, Asia and America

Fides EN - - mar, 16/06/2020 - 12:54
Vatican City - The Emergency Fund established by Pope Francis at the Pontifical Mission Societies to support the Churches of mission countries in the face of the Covid-19 emergency continues its work taking into consideration the numerous requests that come from all over the world and sending aid to the dioceses, according to availability. Most of these territories entrusted to the Missionary Dicastery habitually live in extremely precarious economic, social and health situations, which the Covid-19 pandemic is further exacerbating, thus hampering the work of evangelization and human promotion. Among the latest aid sent by the PMS Emergency Fund regard some ecclesiastical circumscriptions from Africa, Asia and America.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Archdiocese of Conakry, Guinea, has experienced growing pastoral and economic difficulties. The closure of places of worship and pastoral activities has forced the use of television and social networks to somehow continue the work of evangelization, while the restrictions resulting from isolation, in the context of an already fragile economy, have not even spared the local Church, which finds itself having to ensure support for priests and religious institutes, which usually live on the offerings of the faithful.
In Chad, one of the poorest countries on the planet, two dioceses have benefited from aid from the PMS Fund. In the Diocese of Mondou most of the population lives on an informal economy.
The local Church provides an appreciated service to society through schools and health care, managed almost entirely by men and women religious, but the sudden closure of schools and assistance centers following the coronavirus emergency will leave indelible traces on an educational, psychological, economic and health level, which are already visible. To help alleviate the effects of the health and food crisis on the most vulnerable population of the diocese of Lai, in Chad, where agriculture is the prevailing occupation, aid will be used to purchase seeds and ensure the functioning of the agricultural means of transport. A hundred people, for each parish and various health centers, will benefit from the aid as well as providing food support to the apostolic staff and to the diocesan radio, which through its programs sensitizes the population to the coronavirus.
Three dioceses in Madagascar have received aid. Antsiranana, in the far north of the country, has a young population, 55 % is under 18 years of age, therefore the pastoral commitment is aimed above all at education and families. Due to the pandemic, this school year is likely to be catastrophic: many students no longer go to school and many schools risk closure, many headmasters have no resources to pay teachers, and the parents themselves are unable to contribute financially.
In the diocese of Antsirabé the pastoral structure particularly affected by the pandemic is the Diantana Center, called "the lung of the diocese". The structure hosts formation meetings, spiritual retreats, meetings and other community activities, pastoral workers, members of ecclesial movements, men and women religious, groups ... Every month a meeting of the priests of the diocese is held there. Since March, all the Centre's activities have been suspended and there are no financial resources to ensure its maintenance.
Even in the diocese of Miarinarivo the Church's pastoral commitment is carried out above all through teaching in schools, including two institutes for the poor. For some time, teachers have no longer received their salary following the suspension of lessons and the closure of churches. Due to the fact that they do not receive subsidies from the State, they have difficulty eating even once a day. The aid sent will also be used for the sustenance of seminarians, religious institutes and in particular prisoners, the elderly and orphans, who are among the weakest groups affected by the pandemic.
Even in the diocese of Ziguinchor, in Senegal, with the suspension of all liturgical and pastoral activities, parishes are facing enormous difficulties in ensuring food survival for priests and religious women, who collaborate decisively in the mission of the Church.
The coronavirus has not yet reached the Apostolic Vicariate of Inirida, in Colombia, but it is present at its immediate frontiers, therefore prevention measures are particularly rigorous. This has caused a strong economic crisis, which weighs on ecclesiastical structures, in an area already marked by the difficulties of access which have always represented a big limit for its economic development.
Finally, in Asia the Archdiocese of Dili, in East Timor, is mainly composed of young people. Support from the Fund will therefore support several hundred families, counting that each has an average of 2 to 5 children, through a subsidy in food and basic necessities.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/TURKEY - Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople: calls for opening Hagia Sophia to Muslims and Christians prayers

Fides EN - - mar, 16/06/2020 - 12:16
Istanbul - The Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople Sahak Mashalian has endorsed the idea of restoring Hagia Sophia’s status as a place of worship, today visited by tourists as a simple monument after being transformed into a mosque for 500 years. The issue of the status of Ayasopya has returned to the center of controversy in past weeks after Turkish authorities made it clear that it can also be used again as a place of Islamic worship
Patriarch Sahak II, at the head of the largest Christian community in present-day Turkey, entrusted his arguments to a series of messages disseminated through his twitter account. "Hagia Sophia" remarked the Patriarch via twitter - was built with the labor of 10,000 workers, spending a fortune. It has gone through numerous renovations and all those efforts were meant to keep it as a worship place but not to serve as a museum. I believe that believers’ praying suits better the spirit of the temple instead of curious tourists running around to take pictures". Based on these considerations, the Patriarch hopes that the former temple will be reopened for both Muslim and Christian prayer, thus becoming a tangible sign of a possible "alliance" between Islam and Christianity. The site - remarks Sahak II - "is large enough to allocate a space for Christians", so that "the world can applaud our religious peace and maturity". The Patriarch further stated that humanity was praying for such unity and suggested sharing the dome of Hagia Sophia: "Even though our faiths are different, don’t we believe in the same God?" Having been a place of worship for Christians for 1,000 years and another 500 years for Muslims, he stated that Hagia Sophia won’t mind it.
Hagia Sophia, the place of "Holy Wisdom", will inform you that there was nothing more precious than peace in the history of humanity". The patriarch, implicitly offering a bank to the "neo-Ottoman" ambitions of the current Turkish leadership, also underlines that in the current world "we cannot afford the luxury of a new conflict between the cross and the crescent. The salvation of the world is the covenant of the cross and the crescent. And the honor of manifesting such peace to the world is worthy of the Republic of Turkey".
The declarations of Armenian Patriarch Sahak II on the future of Ayasofya are likely to rekindle controversy on an issue that in recent weeks has also returned to fuel tensions and oppositions, including geopolitical ones . In early June, Turkish media published rumors that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself had given instructions to change the statute of the monumental complex of Agyasofya, so that it can also be used again as a place of Islamic worship, without closing the building for tourist visits. The Turkish Council of State, in a session put on the agenda for next Thursday 2 July, will consider opening the monumental complex of Ayasofya to Islamic worship again, reversing the decision with which, in the 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 pronouncement of the Council of State will represent a strong institutional response, which will allow to evaluate the realistic possibilities of success of the pressure put in place by sectors of the Turkish political leadership to reopen the ancient Byzantine Basilica of Haghia Sophia again to Islamic worship.
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/PERU - "Give them some food" (Mt 14,16): initiative to feed 10,000 people a day

Fides EN - - mar, 16/06/2020 - 11:46
Lima - Due to the health emergency that we are experiencing for Covid-19, the economic crisis is seriously affecting the whole world and Peru is no stranger to this reality. Poverty in the country worsens with the passing of days and with it the vulnerability of populations in conditions of poverty.
The Fundación Teletón, which promotes an annual fundraising event to help the rehabilitation of hundreds of children from the San Juan de Dios clinic, puts itself at the service of all Peruvians in this situation. Therefore, the San Juan de Dios Foundation joins the Peruvian Episcopal Conference, through its initiative "Give them some food yourselves" , as part of the program "For a Peru without hunger": a great crusade of national solidarity which intends to provide food to the most vulnerable families across the country.
This campaign, according to the note sent to Fides, is an invitation to solidarity of all Peruvians. With the donations obtained, it will be possible to supply 100 parochial canteens, distributed in the 46 ecclesiastical jurisdictions, which are located in all regions of Peru and which are a point of reference every day for 10 thousand people. In Peru 233 thousand cases of Covid 19 have been confirmed with 6,860 deaths.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/ANGOLA - A missionary: on the outskirts of Luanda the poorest are always the most generous

Fides EN - - mar, 16/06/2020 - 11:42
Luanda - "Here in the great northern suburbs of Luanda, Kikolo area, the cases of infected by Covid-19 are many more than those declared by the government", writes to Agenzia Fides Fr. Renzo Adorni, priest of the Society for African Missions. "From civil society estimates across Angola, we are talking about a few thousand, instead of the hundred stated in official figures. Most of them are young people, but the dead are few. And then 'God is African', as people say here, and takes care of them with more benevolence"- adds the missionary engaged in the Bom Pastor parish".
Certainly our people have more strength and antibodies - he notes - also due to the various pandemics suffered throughout their history. However, we have now gone from 'curfew' to 'state of disaster': Luanda is always isolated and surrounded by the army. One cannot go out and enter our province. The rivers that serve as the border of the Province are also guarded. But at least they allowed to keep the market open three days a week, otherwise people would have starved".
"In our suburbs of Luanda - explains Fr. Adorno - there is great chaos: the large market in Kikolo is still closed because the government wants to delimit it with a very long fence. The small traders then turned the streets of the neighborhood into an immense and chaotic market. And so everyone pours into the streets, driven by hunger and the need for basic necessities. As a parish we have taken action to meet the needs of the most destitute and desperate. We have already distributed food aid to a few hundred people in dire need. Since we are a little more free to resume religious activities, I have already begun to receive people in our parish office . I confess, I listen to personal and community problems and collect the offer that our Christians make to financially support the parish. The poorest are always the most generous!".
The missionary stresses that "the most serious problem will arise when Sunday, June 21 mass celebrations will be allowed to resume in churches": "It is difficult to find ways to prevent the assault on our Church of the Good Shepherd , after three months of Eucharistic abstinence for our Christians. At the 7 am mass there are about 1,500 normal participants; the children’s mass at 9 am is attended by about 600-700. And then again the 11 am mass, with a thousand young people. We have little space in the courtyard, occupied by the construction works for the expansion of the church. Not to mention the dozen chapels scattered throughout the parish territory, where catechists organize Sunday prayers. We call them chapels, but they are quite large".
Speaking of the conditions imposed by the health authorities, Fr. Renzo underlines the great work of the volunteers and scouts. "Here we are only two priests: Fr. Jacques and me, 81 years old. The danger will be in July: the government has decided to reopen the schools, although many health and public order experts have advised not to. Schools are overcrowded everywhere, thousands of pupils crammed in classrooms. The average number of pupils per class is over 50, in addition, public schools even lack toilets. With us it is customary to see teachers go and ask neighboring houses for permission to use their toilets".
The missionari therefore highlights: "How can we maintain social distancing in our parish school? Maybe we will have to organize three shifts per day to decrease the number of pupils. But we need more teachers, so staff costs will increase. This is our daily reality: may the Lord continue to protect Angola".
Catégories: From the church