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AFRICA/GHANA - Covid-19: the Archbishop of Accra asks to suspend students' exams

il y a 3 heures 23 min
Accra - An appeal to suspend the students' final exams was launched by His Exc. Mgr. John Bonaventure Kwofie, Archbishop of Accra, at the head of the educational sector of the local Bishops' Conference. Three weeks after final-year students of junior and senior high schools in Ghana returned to school to prepare for exit exams, there are reports of Covid-19 infections in some in western Ghana. Some Catholic schools in Ghana had recorded one or more confirmed cases of COVID-19, and parents expressed fears despite the assurance that safety measures were in place. "We are caught between two waters", said Mgr. Kwofie, noting that students to not want to be in school with the coronavirus, but they also need to prepare for exit exams. "I think this is an occasion for our leaders to do something more radical, more foundationaI".
"The decision must be foundational and radical because the Covid is not just in Ghana", he added, underlining that "the suspension of the 2020 West African Secondary School Certificate Examination and the Basic Education Certificate Examination will prevent the further spread of the virus, particularly among students".
In a July 13 statement, the National Council of Parent-Teacher Associations asked Ghana to send all school students waiting to take their final examinations home. "In the current circumstances, the children are psychologically unstable and would, therefore, not be of sound mind to successfully carry out exams", says the note. "We, therefore, suggest that these examinations be postponed till the situation is brought under control".
Nigeria has delayed the re-opening of schools for exams, but the Ghana Education Service has stated that exams will be held.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/MALAWI - President asks citizens to join him in prayer and fasting to ask for God's help to defeat Covid-19

il y a 3 heures 32 min
Lilongwe - The President of Malawi, Lazarus Chakwera, urged his compatriots to join him in fasting and prayer against the spread of coronavirus in the country. The President urged "all citizens and residents of Malawi" to fast and pray for three days, starting today, July 16. The President also declared a "National Thanksgiving Day" on Sunday 19 July.
In a statement signed by the Minister of Information, Gospel Kazakh, the President asked "to intensify prayers for the healing of those affected by the virus; for the protection and support of frontline health workers in the struggle; for the protection and zeal of those who have not contracted the virus".
President Chakwera is a former pastor of the Assemblies of God church in Malawi, which he has led for 24 years. He became leader of the then Malawi Congress Party in 2013, without having any previous political experience, and was elected in the elections of June 23, after defeating outgoing President Peter Mutharika.
President Chakwera raised strong expectations in Malawi, one of the poorest Countries in the world, plagued by corruption. His Exc. Mgr. John Alphonsus Ryan, Bishop of Mzuzu, during a ceremony for the distribution of aid to families affected by the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus, hoped that President Chakwera and Vice-President Chilima are true leaders who put themselves with a spirit of service to guide the country. "The President and Vice-President have emphasised the idea of servant leadership. That they are there to serve. Our prayer is that they will continue with that servant leadership in leading Malawi".
Mgr. Ryan then asked the new government to implement strong measures to protect everyone from the coronavirus pandemic and stressed that parents are concerned about lives of their children who can no longer attend school because it is risky. The diocese of Mzuzu has committed itself to using its few resources to support the families most affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
Malawi has so far recorded 2,614 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 1,005 recoveries and 43 people have died. With the discovery of the first case in a prison, human rights organizations ask the government to release some of the prisoners to alleviate the conditions of local prisons, whose hygiene and sanitation situation is inadequate.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/EGYPT - Alarm of the Coptic Churches: there are those who give "false Bibles" and "false Gospels" contrary to the Christian faith

il y a 4 heures 4 min
Cairo - Spokespersons of the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Coptic Catholic Church have both expressed concern about the growing spread of volumes distributed free of charge among the population, characterized by titles that recall the Gospel or the Bible, but whose contents appear totally incompatible with the truths of faith reported in the Old and New Testaments.
Coptic Orthodox priest Boutros Halim, spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church, denounced the growing spread of deceptive books, which seek to attract the reader's attention by inserting on the cover the title "Authentic Gospel of Christ", asking the competent authorities to intervene in order to block the spread of these works aimed at confusing believers and creating further points of social tension. Father Halim also invited everyone to choose Bibles and Gospels printed and distributed by authorized publishing companies, such as the House of the Bible.
The spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church denounced the massive dissemination of texts through digital social networks, which behind mystical titles hide real counterfeits of biblical texts and the Gospels. Some of these texts, in particular, pass themselves off as "authentic" versions of the "doctrine of the apostles", or propose themselves as "mystical readings" of the Gospel of John. Similar warnings have also recently been expressed by the Coptic Catholic Bishop Hani Bakhoum Kiroulos, at the head of communications for the Coptic Catholic Church.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/MALAYSIA - Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur to the faithful: "Stay safe and be holy"

il y a 4 heures 8 min
Kuala Lumpur - "Stay safe and be holy": is the exhortation that Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim, at the head of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, addressed to the faithful while Malaysia is gradually easing the lockdown of gatherings and religious assemblies, imposed because of Covid-19. In a pastoral letter sent to Fides, the Archbishop states: "We are grateful to Almighty God for the blessings received: we have seen a significant drop in the number of new Covid-19 cases and zero mortality. But we are reminded by the authorities public health services that we are not entirely out of the emergency and must continue to be prudent, while placing our faith and trust in God".
Archbishop Kim asks the faithful to "be patient while the Church takes a gradual approach to allow everyone to return to church safely, to avoid a new wave of this pandemic and to protect the most vulnerable members".
As of July 15, the government announced that "there will no longer be a limit to the number of people who can attend a conference, social gathering or prayers in mosques or places of worship". However, in light of the government health care protocols, such as social distancing, only a third of the capacity to welcome people to church is allowed. Different parishes have issued guidelines for attending Sunday mass, with different registration and booking methods, which vary from parish to parish .
In the letter, Archbishop Kim encouraged parishes to contact as many Catholics as possible, willing to attend weekly masses.
"I understand that due to the only mass allowed on each Sunday, due to the limited capacity of seats and the restrictions imposed by the authority, many will not be able to attend mass weekly. But those who are unable to attend Sunday mass are exempt from the obligation, or will be able to continue to use the mass media".
According to government indications, the elderly and children are encouraged not to participate in gatherings in places of worship: it is a public health warning and not an absolute ban. Baptisms of children can be celebrated in church according to the Archdiocese guidelines, but must take place outside the celebration of mass, and only with one child at a time, and his/her family.
The Archbishop also asked the parish priests to contact the "extraordinary ministers of Communion" to distribute Holy Communion in the houses, to those who cannot personally come to mass. Sunday catechism schools are suspended until further notice.
"All the parishes of the archdiocese are working to make our churches and chapels again centers of spiritual, pastoral and sacramental life, but we want to do it safely and prudently", concludes the Prelate.
Catégories: From the church

OCEANIA/AUSTRALIA - The help of the Church to Rohingya refugees, between Covid-19 and natural disasters

il y a 4 heures 17 min
Sydney – To provide information on the prevention of Covid-19 and offer basic sanitation in Cox’s Bazar area, Bangladesh, where over one million Rohingya ethnic refugees from Myanmar have camped is the commitment of the Australian Church, active in Bangladesh with projects related to health care, human rights and the protection of creation. As reported in a note sent to Fides, the city of Cox’s Bazar, an area of very high demographic intensity, already hit by Cyclone Amphan, is experiencing a surge of contagions from Covid-19 and a strong monsoon season. In this context, the note reads, the situation of the Rohingya refugees, who arrived in Bangladesh from neighboring Myanmar in 2017 to escape brutal repression, is somewhat precarious.
In the refugee camps used for their reception, based right in Bengali city, one lives in dramatic conditions: "Refugees live in overcrowded areas and lack all the essentials: food, clean water, adequate toilets and education. Social distancing is almost impossible: data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees show that 93% of the population lives below the emergency standard of 45 square meters per person. At the same time, water, soap and masks are scarce".
To compensate for these shortcomings, Caritas Australia and its national partners have installed special areas for hand washing and the distribution of soap and masks, but also to repair toilets and water wells.
According to Eleanor Trinchera, coordinator of the Caritas Australia program for Bangladesh, Nepal and the Philippines, staff and volunteers are working tirelessly to respond to the emergency: "Health facilities in the camps are limited, so some medium-term reception areas have been converted to quarantine areas. Rohingyas are currently extraordinarily exposed to overcrowded conditions, natural disasters, inadequate health and nutrition. All this hinders efforts to curb the spread of the virus: we are doing our best".
Active since 1964, Caritas Australia, directly dependent on the Catholic Bishops' Conference, responds to humanitarian emergencies of about 23 countries by providing immediate assistance to affected communities and long-term reconstruction.
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/BOLIVIA - Mgr. Scarpellini has died: a great missionary who gave his whole life for the Bolivian Church

il y a 4 heures 26 min
El Alto - "With deep sorrow we announce that Bishop Eugenio Scarpellini, Bishop of the diocese of El Alto, died on the morning of Wednesday 15 July, after the contagion from Covid-19", reports the Bishops' Conference of Bolivia, recalling that he was a "missionary in Bolivia since 1988, a pastor of the Church who distinguished himself for his dedication to the poorest and his tireless struggle for justice. Monsignor Scarpellini was hospitalized in the Sagrado Corazón hospital in the city of El Alto, and was being treated for Covid-19, today he had two cardiac arrests and the doctors were unable to do anything".
Born in Verdellino on January 8, 1954, ordained a priest on June 17, 1978, and on January 11, 1988 Eugenio Scarpellini arrived in Bolivia as a Fidei donum missionary of the diocese of Bergamo. In the archdiocese of La Paz he held several positions: parish priest, treasurer, college director. In 2004 Mgr. Scarpellini was appointed National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Bolivia and in 2006 Coordinator of the Pontifical Mission Societies of the American continent. On July 15, 2010 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of El Alto, in 2012 he was elected Secretary General of the Bolivian Episcopal Conference, and on June 26, 2013 Pope Francis appointed him Bishop of El Alto. Tireless missionary animator, one of his greatest commitments was the celebration of the Fifth American Mission Congress held in Bolivia, in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, in 2018.
Mgr. Waldo Barrionuevo, current PMS National Director appointed on 27 February, recalled Mgr. Scarpellini during the celebration of the Eucharist, as "a precious person" and highlighted that we are all called to be instruments in the hands of God: "all of us are missionaries by call and vocation of the Lord, the Lord calls each of us to witness our Father". Mgr. Scarpellini accompanied the Bolivian Church as Director of the PMS for so many years.
Mgr. Ricardo Centellas, Archbishop of Sucre and President of the Bolivian Bishops' Conference, underlines: "We have physically lost a brother, but his spirit will always accompany us, this spirit of struggle and work, especially of an unshakable belief in the dynamics of the mission, he was convinced that the Church should live its missionary dimension". The Archbishop recalls Mgr. Scarpellini as the great missionary who gave his whole life for the Bolivian Church, a Bishop who was always at the service of the Bolivian Bishops' Conference: "from the PMS, from the diocese of El Alto, he motivated the Church Bolivian to go forward in its missionary experience".
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/NICARAGUA - The Archbishop of Managua postpones the feast of Santo Domingo, the feast of the capital, due to the pandemic

il y a 4 heures 45 min
Managua - The archdiocese of Managua has suspended, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, any activity that promotes the gathering of people, such as processions, as well as the feast of Managua, which every year takes place in honor of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, starting from August 1st.
It is the largest and most popular feast in Nicaragua: thousands of devotees go to the temple in honor of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, in the south-east area of Managua, to give life to a great pilgrimage that travels about ten kilometers, to accompany the small image of the Saint in a parish that bears his name, in the north of Managua, where he will remain for ten days. The procession is accompanied by music and dances.
Cardinal Archbishop of Managua, Leopoldo Brenes, invited to avoid any gathering of people due to the measures that the health crisis imposes, "postponing the celebrations to another moment", urging however to live the celebrations according to an authentic devotion, "united spiritually and virtually through the media at our disposal". The patronal feasts of the Archdiocese of Managua will be lived "as a domestic Church", "with the devotion and creativity of our love for Christ, for the Blessed Virgin Mary and for our Patron Saints".
Cardinal Brenes, with the authority of his pastoral office, also granted devotees who participate in the pilgrimage every year to fulfill their promises made to the patron saint of Managua, to replace him this year with acts of prayer, penance and charity, "as an offer of love to the Lord and to our intercessory Saints".
Finally, the Cardinal invited believers to be "an example of responsibility, solidarity and collaboration in the face of the challenges of this moment" and asked all the faithful to be "an example of respect, unity and piety".
According to official data from the Ministry of Health , coronavirus cases in the country are 2,846, with 91 deaths. But the records of independent organizations question these numbers. The City Observer, for example, records 7,893 infections and 2,225 suspected deaths due to Covid-19. The Catholic Church from the first moment avoided the gatherings of people to avoid possible contagions from coronavirus, celebrating masses without faithful, which are broadcast through social networks.
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/ARGENTINA - Priest found dead in his church in Tucumán

il y a 5 heures 7 min
Tucumán - A priest, Father Oscar Juárez, was found dead on Wednesday 15 July: he was handcuffed in the church of San Martín de Porres, in the capital of the province of Tucumán. Police are investigating for murder. The press release sent to Fides by the archdiocese of Tucumán reports: "in dialogue with the judicial authority, we have been informed that he was killed and the reason could be because of theft. We believe that this painful loss is part of the numerous insecurity facts we are experiencing in Tucuman. Our pilgrim church in Tucumán suffers the same anguish". "We ask justice to find those responsible for this terrible act - continues the statement -. We also ask the authorities to strengthen security".
Fr. Oscar Juárez, priest of the secular clergy, was born on February 6, 1953 in San Miguel de Tucumán.
He entered the major Seminary on March 7, 1972. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Blas Victorio Conrero on March 17, 1979 in the Cathedral church. Sent to study in Rome, he graduated in Canon Law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1983. Upon his return, he was appointed Professor at the Archdiocesan "Our Lady of Mercy and St. Joseph" major Seminary and at the "Santo Toribio de Mogrovejo" Higher Institute of Religious Culture.
For a short period, between 1992 and 1993, he was judge of the interdiocesan ecclesiastical court of Tucumán. He was appointed Cooperating Vicar of the Parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on April 9, 1979; Parochial Administrator of the Parish of Our Lady of the Rosary in Burruyacú, February 3, 1985; Parish priest of the Holy Family parish of the Alderetes on March 25, 1992; Parish priest of San Martín de Porres Parish since 7 March 2004.
Fr. Oscar Juárez was found by a cleaner inside the church. According to initial reports, the man reported to the police that the priest had been handcuffed and injured. Further investigations are underway to find out the dynamics and causes of his death.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/NIGER - 22 months after the kidnapping of Fr. Gigi Maccalli, man who used "the weapon of peace"

il y a 5 heures 20 min
Niamey - "It is blindly believed that only through the use of weapons and spilled blood one can achieve peace: what happens in the Sahel, with the dead, injured, displaced, refugees or kidnapped, is a tangible and measurable example of this. But this is peace of arms, a peace of sand. Pierluigi always used exclusively the weapons of peace", writes Fr. Mauro Armanino priest of the Society for African Missions, 22 months after the kidnapping of his confrere Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli from the Bomoanga mission . The confreres and the local Church await and continue to hope for his release, keeping the memory of the missionary's story alive.
"It is good to remember - writes Armanino - the 'weapons' that Fr. Gigi had imported into West Africa where he found himself fulfilling his missionary vocation. Already in Ivory Coast and precisely in Bondoukou, a town over 400 kilometers from the economic capital Abidjan, he had built a reception center for the disabled. Many people and in particular boys and girls had been able to get up and walk with dignity after being operated on their legs in the center of Bonoua", reports the missionary. "He drove them himself by car, after having accepted, recognized and convinced them to risk the journey for a possible recovery. They returned home and were able to walk again. His attention went to the sick, to those who did not have enough food and water to live with dignity, the priority of those who did not care about anyone because they were poor and farmers lost in the savannah on the border between Niger and Burkina Faso. Invisible citizens of a country that considers them 'doubly foreign' because they are mostly Christians".
In memory of his kidnapped confrere, Fr. Armanino concludes by stressing: "Gigi knew well that without justice, freedom, truth and dignity, no building site of peace could ever have seen the light. The 'Basilica' he was proud of and probably contributed to his kidnapping, was the Church, which finds the only wealth that is allowed, in the poor. In reality, his 'weapon' of peace was the poor. Now, in these 22 months of captivity, he is himself, precisely because he is defenseless, the most powerful weapon of peace he could ever bring to Niger".
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/NIGERIA - The faithful pray for the prompt release of Fr. Amadasun Idahosa, victim of kidnapping for extortion

mer, 15/07/2020 - 13:32
Abuja - Thousands of Catholic faithful yesterday trooped down to churches across Edo State to offer special prayers for the release of Rev. Amadasun Idahosa who was kidnapped a few days ago along the Benin-Auchi road by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
Rev. Amadasun, a former administrator at the Holy Cross Cathedral, Benin city was on his way from the Edo State capital to the university town of Ekpoma where he teaches at the major seminary in Uhiele Ekpoma, Esan West Local Government Area when the armed herdsmen abducted him.
Several persons who were also kidnapped by the gunmen during the operation last Thursday, July, 9 and marched into the forest are still being held pending the payment of a handsome ransom by either their families or friends before letting go of them.
The catholic faithful in the state embarked on intensive prayers to force his abductors to urgently release him unconditionally as there is a directive by the catholic mission in the world not to give a ransom to kidnappers if any priest or church worker is kidnapped.
According to the Nigerian press, at least 30 other people were kidnapped on 12 July in the State of Kaduna, by heavily armed men, who passed themselves off as policemen, who carried out checks along the bridge that connects the city of Kaduna and Millennium City. A person who tried to escape the kidnappers was killed.
Faced with the wave of kidnappings for extortion purposes in different areas of the Country, the Federal Senate approved a bill that amends the penal code, bringing the sentence for kidnapping to 10 years to life in prison.
According to the 2019 report on extortion kidnappings by the company Constellis, which provides risk management services, Nigeria is one of the four Countries that recorded 40 percent of global kidnapping cases in 2019. The other Countries are Cambodia, Togo and the Philippines. According to the report, Africa has the most cases while Europe has the least.
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/CHILE - On the journey with the Virgin of Carmen, united to build a more just and supportive society

mer, 15/07/2020 - 13:12
Santiago - "The precariousness and fragility, in addition to the pandemic, forces all of us, in particular the authorities, representatives and leaders of society, to put aside personal and sectoral interests to truly resume the ways of dialogue with generous agreements. We are a people on a journey, only if we are united we will be able to overcome injustice and get out of this crisis".
Thus writes the Standing Committee of the Bishops’ Conference of Chile in the message published for the solemnity of the Virgin of Carmen, which is celebrated on July 16th. The founding fathers entrusted the life of Chile and the Chileans to her. According to popular tradition that is passed on from generation to generation, every year the festival is solemnly celebrated with a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Maipù, where prayers, religious dances and festive moments in honor of the Virgin take place.
"The civil calendar marks a holiday on July 16, as a sign of the gratitude of a people who entrust themselves to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in her title of Our Lady of Carmen, Mother and Queen of Chile, consoler of the afflicted", write the Bishops, who emphasize: "This year, for July 16, we lay our prayers, popular devotion and religious dances at the feet of the Mother, together with enormous sadness, pain and worries of this time of pandemic that we are experiencing, by living, finding comfort and hope in her".
Many this year will not be able to make the pilgrimage to Marian churches and shrines to celebrate this feast as usual, "because we have to take care of each other" is what is written in the message. "The Virgin of Carmen embraces all of us and whispers to us that Jesus is always with us and never abandons us. Her maternal hand, sweet and always open, lifts us up and makes us return to her beloved Son, and to find Him in the suffering brother and sister".
The Bishops therefore emphasize that Mary "encourages us to be present, rather than with words, through physical or remote presence alongside those who suffer". "We want to be, together with the large family of those who live in Chile, builders of a more just society, with a more austere life and greater care for the most fragile and for all Creation - it what is written in the final part of the message -. Today we strongly experience our weakness and the suffering of our brothers tears us apart; therefore we will continue to do what is within our reach to be close to those who are alone and abandoned. With you, Virgin of Carmen, together on this journey, today we entrust to you what we are, what we have and what we live".
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/IVORY COAST - "Thanks for the good seeds that you have sown during your life": the Church remembers the late Prime Minister Coulibaly

mer, 15/07/2020 - 12:57
Abidjan - "Brothers and sisters, when we are no longer in this world, what we will leave are the seeds that we have sown in the hearts of men. All the rest is vanity", said His Exc. Mgr. Alexis Touably Youlo, Bishop of Agboville and Apostolic Administrator of Yamoussoukro on 14 July, during the homily of the suffrage mass for the late Ivorian Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, who passed away on 8 July . Citing the parable of the Sower, Mgr. Youlo urged everyone to sow good wheat every day, taking for example that sown during his lifetime by the Prime Minister.
"Prime Minister Coulibaly, thank you for sowing in us the seed of work and then the seed of faithfulness to the commitments to serve the nation, faithful to the end", he underlined. "If everyone who follows Gon Coulibaly could be faithful to his commitments, we could have a wonderful Country".
"Your Excellency, we have a small Catholic community within the government and this community supports itself and plays its role as daughters and sons of the Church in the government to ensure that we can continue to live our faith", said Cardinal Jean Pierre Kutwa, speaking at the end of the mass. The Cardinal indicated that the message that Amadou Gon Coulibaly leaves us is the love of one’s neighbor. By launching a strong appeal to abandon the path of hatred, the Cardinal invited Ivorians to learn to forgive themselves and above all to love each other.
The funeral of Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly officially began on July 14 with the tribute of the nation on the square of the presidential palace, in the Abidjan Plateau, and continues today, July 15, with the homage of his political party RHDP, at the Parc des sport d'Abidjan Treichville, followed by the transfer of the body to Korhogo, where he will be buried on 17 July.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/TURKEY - Ayasofya, Erdogan’s Party responds to criticism: religious freedom has increased with our governments

mer, 15/07/2020 - 12:47
Ankara - "Our silent revolutions in the field of religious freedom" is the title of the dossier prepared in record time by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Party as a response to the negative reactions aroused around the world due to the decision to re-open to Islamic worship the ancient Byzantine basilica of Hagia Sophia, transformed in 1934 into a museum at the behest of the "Father" of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, after being used as a mosque for almost five centuries.
The memorandum was collected and published by the Human Rights Department of the Justice and Development Party , the conservative Islamist political formation founded by Erdogan in 2001. The dossier collects and exposes all the improvements that according to the AKP, have been registered in Turkey in the real condition of non-Muslim faith communities for the past 18 years, that is, since Erdogan’s Party came to power. Among other things, the dossier, relaunched by the Turkish press, refers to the support offered by government policies to schools and educational institutions headed by Christian minorities and the Jewish community, whose students were exempted from the Islamic religion exam required in order to be admitted to higher study courses.
The report points out that most of the buildings and land that once belonged to ecclesiastical institutions or other religious communities, confiscated by the Turkish State after the end of the Ottoman Empire, were largely returned to the foundations that belong to religious minority communities, and the Armenian community obtained reimbursements for 400 real estate properties available to the State. Moreover over the last three decades different churches have been restored and opened for worship in Turkey, and the management of churches and mosques has been entrusted directly to the foundations that are headed by the various minority religious communities.
At the beginning of 2020, as reported by Fides , in some statements relaunched by the Turkish press Sahak II Masalyan, the newly elected Armenian Apostolic Patriarch of Constantinople, had said that "All minorities in Turkey agree on the fact that: we are experiencing the most comfortable era during the Justice and Development Party administration, since the founding of the Turkish Republic". In his exaltation of the current condition of minorities in Turkey led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Patriarch mentions the changes made in 2008 in the Foundations law. Sahak II, elected Patriach on 11 December, had also added that "the concept of minorities has been used to interfere in Turkey's internal affairs since the Ottoman Empire", and that his community was pleased about the state's interest and care, noting that they can easily contact President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, while ministers pay frequent visits and the Prefect of Istanbul always devotes close attention to their concerns".
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/HAITI - Appointment of the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Fr. Junior Phares Larosiliere

mer, 15/07/2020 - 12:20
Vatican City - On April 19, 2020 Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, appointed Fr. Junior Phares Larosiliere, of the diocesan clergy of Port au Prince as National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Haiti, for a five-year period .
The new National Director was born on 23 October 1967 in Cavaillon and was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Port au Prince on 27 December 2000. After his primary studies, he entered the Saint Martial minor Seminary in 1991 and then studied philosophy and theology at the major Seminary. From 2007 to 2010 he studied Biblical Theology in Rome, Jerusalem and Germany. After ordination he was deputy parish priest and parish priest, seminary professor and in other communities, diocesan director of the PMS, preacher of retreats.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA / INDIA - The coronavirus crisis does not stop violence against Christians

mer, 15/07/2020 - 12:16
New Delhi - The Covid-19 pandemic and the long lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the virus have not stopped inter-religious violence and cases of attacks on Indian Christians. The first half of 2000 saw 121 incidents of violence against Christians in 15 states of the Indian Federation, as reported by a report sent to Fides by the "United Christian Forum" of New Delhi.
According to the report, the incidents have taken the lives of two Christians, while among the attacks, 95 were "mob violence" committed by a crowd of extremists. Several churches attacked were either illegally occupied or sealed shut. An additional 20 incidents of social boycott or discrimination against the faithful took place in several areas, notes the UCF.
The States wherein violence against Christians have been reported are: Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh , Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh. UCF and its networking partners – Alliance Defending Freedom India , Religious Liberty Commission of Evangelical Fellowship of India and Christian Legal Association have managed to get 19 churches reopened, thanks to the work of lawyers and legal actions taken, 28 pastors released on bail or acquitted of false charges and obtained positive outcomes in 45 cases of "false conversion" charges in various courts of India.
"These incidents reveal that the freedom to practice one’s faith is being curtailed in 15 of 28 states in India. Likewise, 95 out of 121 incidents are criminal rather than religious attacks", notes the UCF organization, expressing concern because "no political party takes a strong position against such acts of violence".
UFC highlights in the note sent to Fides: "Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. It is worrying to see these horrendous acts of mobocracy even after a slew of directions to the government from the Supreme Court Bench. The police and local administration who are responsible for law and order, must take quick action against anyone who involves themselves in mob violence", said UCF national president Michael Williams.
Modus operandi followed in all these incidents is similar: a mob, accompanied by the local police, arrives at a prayer service shouts slogans, beats up the men, women and children. Then the Pastors are arrested or detained by the police under the false allegation of conversion.
Meanwhile, another new norm, the trend of not filing First Information Reports against the perpetrators of violence, continues to grow unchecked. First Information Reports were registered only for 20 of the 121 incident.
The data on record with UCF and its partners shows the dangerous trend of violence against Christians has been steadily increasing, said A.C. Michael, convener of the UCF, citing data relating to past years: the numbers of incidents recorded were nearly 200 in 2015, over 200 in 2016, 250 in 2017, 300 in 2018, 328 in 2019.

Catégories: From the church

ASIA/BANGLADESH - Archbishop Moses Costa was a "living saint", "an authentic missionary", a "Bishop-catechist"

mer, 15/07/2020 - 11:50
Chittagong - "Archbishop Moses Costa was our friend and brother. He was a zealous servant of God. He made a valuable contribution not only to the communities of Dinajpur and Chittagong, but to the whole of Bangladesh": this is what Mgr. Gervas Rozario, Bishop of the Diocese of Rajshahi and Vice President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Bangladesh , tells Agenzia Fides, remembering Archbishop Moses Costa, who was at the head of the metropolitan archdiocese of Chittagong, who died on 13 July and buried there.
Bishop Gervas Rozario adds: "Archbishop Moses Costa was an announcer and witness of God's love. He brought abundant love of God to the faithful. He loved others without measure, and took nothing for him. He fought hard for justice and to establish peace. He was a living saint. He led his life in a holy way. He lived in suffering in a holy way and his life was like the evangelical grain of wheat, which dying bears fruit". The Bishop says that "we will be able to respect the late Archbishop Costa if we keep and carry forward his ideals and his active faith in our lives".
Sister Renu Maria Palma, religious of the Congregation of Our Lady of the Missions, shares her experience on behalf of the religious with Agenzia Fides and remembers him as a man of profound spirituality: "He was our source of encouragement. He shared the missionary work and, thanks to him, we were strongly motivated to participate in evangelization. We remember his great enthusiasm for missionary work. He was appreciated not only by Christians, but also by Muslims", says Sister Renu Maria Palma, headmistress of Santa Scolastica women's high school.
Father Gordon Dias, Vicar General of the Diocese of Chittagong, on behalf of the diocesan priests, shares his memory of Mgr. Costa and defines him as "a Bishop-catechist": "As we know - he says to Fides - catechists promote and preach the Gospel. Archbishop Moses preached the gospel in remote areas of the archdiocese of Chittagong. He had a profound respect for priestly life. He saved and helped priests in cases of vocational crisis. He also worked to increase vocations to priesthood and religious consecrated life in the local Church".
Bishop Lawrence Subrato Hawlader, Bishop of the diocese of Barisal, says that Archbishop Moses was his point of reference: "When I was in the seminary, he was the rector of the institute. At that time, I wanted to be like him and after becoming a priest, I also became rector of the seminary: his faith and humility were a source of inspiration for me. He was a solid reference in the work and management of pastoral life.
In the administration, he did not hesitate to spend money on the needs of the faithful, while he led his life in an extremely simple manner". "As a leader and spiritual mentor - he continues - he taught and was a credible witness of Christ not only for priests and nuns, but also for many young Catholics. Having been president of the Bishops’ Commission for young people, I have seen hundreds of messages of real appreciation and gratitude towards him, left by young people on Facebook", says Mgr. Lawrence.
The Catholic Michael Rodrick, Bishop Costa’s collaborator, remembers him as a man always dedicated to the development of the people of the community and says: "He was a man of integrity, he knew how to listen, he was a good administrator. We will miss him very much".
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/BRAZIL - Bishops on President's vetoes: "they deny fundamental guarantees for the life of indigenous peoples"

mer, 15/07/2020 - 11:38
Brasilia - "These vetoes are ethically indefensible and inhuman, as they deny the fundamental guarantees for the lives of indigenous peoples", reads the document signed by Mgr. Walmor Azevedo de Oliveira, president of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil sent to Fides. President Bolsonaro has issued 16 vetoes claiming that he is not able to fully approve the law because it would force him to use resources that are not foreseen in the budget .
According to the Bishops of Brazil, the president's argument is fallacious, since Congress has already voted for a constitutional amendment on the "war budget", due to the crisis triggered by the coronavirus, which allows to exceed the expected expenses voted before the pandemic. The Catholic Church has asked the legislative power to take a "strong, decisive and definitive position in favor of life" which results in the lifting of the president's vetoes.
The CNBB published an "Open Letter to the National Congress" on Monday 13 July to appeal for the defense of the rights of indigenous and traditional peoples. The Bishops react with "indignation and repudiation" to the 16 presidential vetoes, which they consider "ethically unjustified and inhuman", because they affect "fundamental rights and guarantees" for the life of traditional populations, such as access to safe drinking water.
The CNBB Episcopal Commission for the Amazon and the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network also contested the decision of Jair Bolsonaro, considering that it is a "life or death problem" in cities, villages and urban suburbs, where the virus has already arrived.
The Indigenous Missionary Council stresses that the presidential vetoes "reiterate the prejudice, hatred and violence of the current government in relation to indigenous peoples, quilombola and traditional populations" .
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/BURKINA FASO - The drama of children left without school, between violence and poverty

mer, 15/07/2020 - 10:46
Ouagadougou - "In the regions of Burkina Faso on the border with Mali and Niger there is no more school, several school buildings have been set on fire, and many teachers murdered. The devastation is the work of terrorist groups that rage in the area", reads a note that Father Marco Prada, priest of the Society of African Missions, sent to Agenzia Fides.
The missionary cites a recent report presented by Virginia Gamba, special representative of the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, for the protection of children living in Countries in conflict.
"We have received numerous reports on attacks on schools, but also on cases of murder and mutilation of children in the north of the country, attributed to terrorist militants of the Islamic State in West Africa or affiliated with Boko Haram", stresses Fr. Gamba referring to the drama that children live in Burkina Faso.
"The consequences of this violence - he continues - are terrible: the education system in the north of the African Country has completely fallen apart for more than a year. There is a strong movement of displaced people, hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing the burning North, and want to go to the south of the country. Furthermore, these children will not be deprived of education only: they risk above all becoming the target of forced recruitment by jihadists, and being employed as child soldiers, as already happens with these extremely violent groups".
Violence has no mercy: in recent days, a group of unidentified armed men killed at least 50 people in Burkina Faso during the attack on a Petabouili village, 50 km from Gorom-Gorom. The victims also include women and children. The Banh region of Burkina Faso has been the scene of terrorist attacks since 2018.
Due to indiscriminate attacks, about one million people have had to leave their homes since 2015. In this scenario, the missionaries are committed to trying to guarantee the right to education for children. According to a recent report by the NGO "Human Rights Watch", the increase in attacks by terrorist groups against teachers, students and schools in Burkina Faso, from 2017 to 2020, had a devastating impact on children's access to education, with 350,000 children deprived of school because of terrorism. The most useful tool to combat jihadist formations - the religious note - is education, given that the values transmitted in teaching are based on respect for human rights and on building social and inter-religious coexistence.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Churches re-open and pastoral activities begin again; St. Nino parish burns in church fire

mar, 14/07/2020 - 13:20
Manila - "We have resumed celebrating masses, with due caution and respecting the measures indicated by the government.
We have seen some people cry and were moved in taking part in the Eucharist, after a closure of more than three months. But we cannot let our guard down because the situation of the pandemic in Manila is still worrying. The sick are increasing and the peak has not yet been reached": this is what Father Simone Caelli, PIME missionary and parish priest in the parish dedicated to the "Queen of the Apostles" in Paranaque city, in Metro Manila tells Agenzia Fides. After a three-month suspension caused by the coronavirus, the doors of Catholic churches in the Philippines were reopened on July 13, "but the fear persists among the faithful", reports Fr. Caelli.
This is what also Father Ned Nazareno, parish priest of the Church of the Child Jesus in the city of Molino, south of Manila confirms to Fides. He welcomes about 60 people at a time in a building that could host over 600. "Many faithful are still opting to listen to mass on TV, on the radio or online, in vogue after the lockdown imposed on March 15th".
Despite permission from the authorities, however, several parishes in various Filipino dioceses have decided not to hold public masses as the number of Covid-19 cases is still increasing.
In this situation of uncertainty, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, addressed a message to the faithful, inviting them to "be confident in the midst of the pandemic". "In the past few weeks, we have been hit hard. Coronavirus infection is on the rise. Unemployment continues to affect people. Numerous companies are closing or downsizing. The country's economic situation is bleak", he stressed. In this difficult phase, the adoption of the controversial anti-terrorism law has generated further fears, criticisms and discontent in society". In times of sadness - warns Mgr. Pabillo - let's turn to the Bible. As Psalm 37 says, the wicked will not last. God will not allow it. Don't be sad. Goodness, truth and justice will prevail", he said.
The Bishop also urged Catholics to pray for a parish in Manila devastated by a serious accidental fire, which engulfed the parish church of St. Niño, in the Pandacan district of Manila, on 10 July. "Let us pray for the immediate recovery of the parish. It is good news that no one was injured and that no other buildings were damaged", said Bishop Pabillo in a statement. Bishop Pabillo visited the area and urged the parishioners to support the rebuilding of the church.
The parish, built by the Franciscan friar Father Francisco del Rosario in 1732, housed a statue of the Child Jesus which dates back to four centuries ago, and was a place of pilgrimage and devotion for thousands of faithful. The statue was carved out of dark wood that is similar to the dark Mexican wood of the images of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo and the Black Madonna of Antipolo. The local parish priest, Father de Claro urged the parishioners "to be strong in this tragedy": "Let us start again and build the marker of our faith. Stop crying. Let us get up, stronger and united", he said, informing that the fire did not damage the tabernacle of the consecrated hosts.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - Appointment of the Rector of the St. Paul Inter-diocesan Major Seminary of Juba

mar, 14/07/2020 - 12:48
Vatican City - On 12 May 2020 Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, appointed Fr. Baptist Karim Bazawi Michel Moura, of the diocesan clergy of Tombura Yambio as Rector of the St. Paul Inter-diocesan Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Juba, South Sudan.
The new national Rector was born on December 20, 1966 and was ordained a priest on May 5, 1996.
He attended the St. Paul Major Seminary in Khartoum, where he obtained his baccalaureate in Theology, and the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, where he obtained his licentiate and doctorate in moral Theology. After ordination he was deputy parish priest, parish priest, rector of two diocesan seminaries, episcopal vicar for the clergy.
He is currently a professor and formator at the St. Paul Inter-diocesan Major Seminary in Juba.
Catégories: From the church