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AFRICA/SUDAFRICA - “Il fondo d’emergenza POM Covid-19, prezioso aiuto per le comunità locali” dice il Direttore nazionale delle POM

sam, 23/05/2020 - 13:52
AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA - "PMS Covid-19 Emergency Fund, precious help for local communities" says PMS National Director
Johannesburg - "Though the Faith has taken root and is well formed in segment of the Catholic population, the closing of Churches and suspension of all Eucharistic and other liturgical services for the public has made it very clear that the Faithful have in many cases not been adequately instructed and formed in their Faith. A large number of the Faithful are lost now that there is no one there to direct and guide them", says to Agenzia Fides, Fr. Gordon Paul Rees, National Director of the PMS of South Africa, in describing the impact of the containment measures of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Church in the Country.
"Many people are not mature Catholic Christians able to take responsibility for their own spiritual growth, even if various Bishops and Religious Institutions, like the Jesuit Institute, have been encouraging the faithful, helping them to place this experience within a wider religious context of the suffering people of God", adds Fr. Rees.
Various Church activities have continued through the various means of social media, but the PMS National Director stresses that "this pandemic has laid bare the discrepancies between the privileged and the underprivileged once again. Those with access to social media could benefit from the Church’s continued Mission, while the rest were excluded". "Where permitted, the social mission of the Church, like feeding the hungry, continued", explains Fr. Rees. "In some places these very bodies were deliberately impeded from doing their work", said Fr. Rees, who describes a dramatic situation: "The Church has always played an important role in caring for the poorest, the migrants,undocumented refugees; with the announcing of the Lockdown the sad reality is that the Government’s so called Feeding Schemes are not reaching the majority who live from hand to mouth. Moreover, no real provision is made for those who are without documents: refugees, migrants and the homeless".
"Numerous government officials have been caught stealing the food parcels, only giving to those who support the Party or even trying to sell them. NGO’s have in many cases been stopped and even people arrested for distributing food as the Government insists that they alone can distribute. In some places Church based Organisations and NGO’s are able to distribute food to the needy", says Fr. Rees.
"A number of Dioceses have requested help from the PMS Covid-19 Emergency Fund. The first few requests related to dealing with the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding before our eyes, where people are starving due to the fact that they are forced to stay at home and where Government Feeding and Relief Packages are not forthcoming", says Fr. Rees who describes some charitable initiatives of the Church: "The Diocese of Polokwane with the generosity of some of the Faithful have been able to make up some food parcels and distribute these to the most needy people in the area.
In the Parish of Orange Farm, outside Johannesburg, the Comboni Missionaries received help from some Catholic individuals from Johannesburg, and therefore could continue the charitable work they do in feeding the hungry.
The Diocese of Rustenburg was able to give some help to destitute people, undocumented refugees and migrants in the area with the help of a Caritas project, 250 food hampers and 250 bags of maize meal were distributed.
The Denis Hurley Centre , have been working hard to help the homeless and the poor during the Lockdown. The building itself is housing 100 elderly, disabled and sick people. Finally, the Nunciature has also taken the initiative to help the needy in these very trying times making a significant amount of money available for the distribution of food parcels.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/TAIWAN - Resignation of the Archbishop of Taipei and appointment of successor

sam, 23/05/2020 - 13:26
Vatican City - The Holy Father Francis has accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Taipei , presented by His Exc. Mgr. John Hung Shan-chuan, S.V.D.
The Holy Father has appointed as Archbishop of the same Metropolitan See and Apostolic Administrator of the Kinmen or Quemoy and Matzu Islands, His Exc. Mgr. Thomas An-Zu Chung, currently Bishop of Chiayi.
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/ARGENTINA - In isolation, the media have opened up new mission paths: social communications Day

sam, 23/05/2020 - 13:20
Buenos Aires - "Pope Francis has proposed to go out, not to remain still, to go on a mission, to go out to meet, living the spirit of the Church, and in a significant way, in this moment in which we are 'locked up' for quarantine, we realize that all of this can be done in exactly the same way, by changing forms and methodologies". This is what Mgr. Gabriel Bernardo Barba, Bishop of the diocese of Gregorio de Laferrere and president of the Episcopal Commission for Social Communications of the Argentine Bishops’ Conference says in a video message released for the 54th World Communications Day.
In many countries, such as in Argentina, the Day is celebrated on the solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, therefore Sunday 24 May. The Bishop points out in his video: "We were all surprised, priests, bishops, leaders of the various pastoral areas of the Church, by the fact that today 'we are reaching people who once cost us the most to reach', that we are obtaining a goal that we had not achieved before. Thanks to the media, a simple but powerful tool, we can reach people for the proclamation of the Gospel".
The Bishop in his reflection highlights that "today, as communicators, we are in a privileged position in the Church, and I believe that we are the first missionaries who will have to adapt their structures". "Today we are in a phase of isolation, behind closed doors, which cannot last a lifetime", he continues, when we go out we will find a new reality and therefore we must ensure that the Church does not lose "everything new that we have seen": "we must realize that a Church that had the doors of its churches closed, had occasions that it had never had before; that a Church that never closed remained more alive than ever, that the concept of 'domestic Church' was strengthened, and not being able to access the sacrament on a daily basis, made us realize that the Church is the sacrament of Christ where Jesus makes himself present".
Finally Mgr. Gabriel Barba urges to continue "to help, accompany, support those who need other efforts to bring the message", in particular "we must give space to young people and reflect on how to bring the message, knowing that Jesus is the center, is the backbone, and if Jesus is the center of the message, our communications will always be carried out well".
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/PAKISTAN - Religious leaders: "Let us protect life and health on the day of Eid-al-Fitr"

sam, 23/05/2020 - 12:43
Lahore - Pakistan lives Eid-al-Fitr, - the Islamic feast that starts on the evening of May 23 and lasts all May 24, for the closing of the holy month of "Ramadan". For the occasion, the Pakistani government announced the special opening of markets and shops, to facilitate the preparation of the feast in all Muslim families, the majority in the nation. However, compliance with sanitary safety measures such as spacing, the use of face masks and disinfectants has been arranged. The police closed some of the markets for not following the indicated measures. For this reason, religious leaders have invited the population to celebrate Eid, without losing sight of the protection of safety and health.
Father Qaisar Feroz OFM Cap, director of Radio Veritas Asia Urdu Service in a video message sent to Fides says: "Life is a gift from God and it is our responsibility to protect it. We must protect safety and public health during this pandemic period. Gatherings and crowds in markets can be a source for spreading coronavirus"
Fr. Qaisar Feroz, who is also Executive Secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Commission for Social Communications, says in the video entitled "Eid Shopping versus Coronavirus": "We must love our lives. We invite all our Muslim brothers to pay attention and follow the shopping procedures, acting as responsible citizens". Fr. Qaisar informs: "It was sad to see that 80% of people do not wear face masks or underestimate the virus. Radio Veritas wanted to contribute with a timely and relevant message".
The video collects messages from the leaders of various religions on the importance of respecting life and the precautions necessary for protection from the pandemic. Mufti Ashiq Rizwan, a Muslim religious told Fides: "There will be many other Eid festivals in our lives; today we must not put our lives at risk. Shopping becomes useless if we do not take care of ourselves and become carriers of contagion of the virus". Sikh leader Sardar Singh said: "I encourage people to avoid going out without good reason and to pay the utmost attention to protect themselves and others. We must take care of life. Only if we are alive will we be able to celebrate many other Eid festivals and other religious anniversaries in our future life".
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/CHINA - Mourning in the Episcopate: His Exc. Mgr. Joseph Zhu Baoyu

sam, 23/05/2020 - 12:05
Vatican City - On the morning of 7 May 2020, His Exc. Mgr. Joseph Zhu Baoyu, Bishop Emeritus of Nanyang, in Henan, died at the age of 99. The death occurred at the convent of the Sisters of the Diocesan Congregation of the Immaculate Conception, with whom he lived and prayed, imparting them the blessing every evening.
Mgr. Joseph Zhu Baoyu was born on July 2, 1921 in Pushan, Henan. His father died when he was 6 and his mother entrusted him to the Catholic orphanage in Jingang. Two years later he received baptism together with his mother. He attended primary school at Simeone Volonteri College, in the same Catholic complex. Then he entered the Sacred Heart minor Seminary, continuing to attend high school in the same college. From 1946 he studied philosophy and theology at the regional Seminary of the Archdiocese of Kaifeng.
He was ordained a priest in 1957 by His Exc. Mgr. Peter Fan Xueyan, Bishop of Baoding.
After his ordination he carried out his priestly ministry in several churches in the Diocese of Nanyang. From 1964 to 1967 he was sentenced to forced labor because of his faith. Later he was allowed to return to his hometown, Pushan, where he carried out his ministry in secret. In 1981 he was again sentenced to ten years of forced labor as an anti-revolutionary. Released in 1988, he was able to resume his ministry in several parishes.
On March 19, 1995, feast of St. Joseph, he was ordained Coadjutor Bishop of Nanyang by His Exc. Mgr. Jin Dechen, diocesan Bishop and His Exc. Mgr. Zhang Huaixin and His Exc. Mgr. Shi Jingxian as co-consecrants. He succeeded Mgr. Dechen as Pastor of the Diocese on November 23, 2002.
Due to his advanced age, in 2010 he submitted his resignation to the Apostolic See. Due to health reasons, he retired first in a hospice for the elderly in Jinggang and then at the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, where he died. In February he had been hospitalized and tested positve for Coronavirus, from which he was however cured.
His funeral was held in Jinggang on May 9, 2020. The diocese of Nanyang today has about twenty thousand Catholics, about twenty priests and hundreds of nuns.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/CHINA - Mourning in the Episcopate: His Exc. Mgr. Joseph Ma Zhongmu

sam, 23/05/2020 - 11:50
Vatican City - In the early afternoon of March 23, 2020, His Exc. Mgr. Joseph Ma Zhongmu, Bishop Emeritus of Yinchuan/Ningxia, not recognized by the government, died at the age of 101. He was the first, and so far the only Bishop of Mongolian ethnicity. His name in the native language was Tegusbeleg. Since 2005 he had retired to live in Inner Mongolia, precisely in the village of Chengchuan, where he was born on November 1, 1919 and where he served as parish priest.
Due to the distance from urban centers, Mgr. Joseph Ma Zhongmu began his primary education only in 1931. From 1935 to 1947 he studied in the minor Seminary of Sanshenggong, then went to that of Hohhot and finally that of Datong. He was ordained a priest on July 31, 1947 by His Exc. Mgr. Carlo Van Melchebeke, CICM. After a few years of studies at Fu Ren University, which was at the time in Beijing, he carried out his pastoral ministry in the parishes of Zhongwei and Genchou. Since 1956 he also taught at Hohhot Seminary for two years.
In 1958, after refusing to join the Patriotic Association, he was sentenced to forced labor. Ten years later he was released, but forced to work as a laborer in his village, in a water management plant. In April 1979 he was rehabilitated and was able to resume his priestly ministry. On November 8, 1983 he was consecrated Bishop by His Exc. Mgr. Casimiro Wang Milu, for the pastoral care of the Mongolian ethnic faithful of Yinchuan/Ningxia.
During the years of his episcopal ministry, Mgr. Joseph Ma Zhongmu was appreciated and loved by the faithful of the Mongolian community, for whom he wrote a catechism and other doctrine texts in their own language. In 2004 the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples sent him a pectoral cross as a sign of recognition and communion. In 2005 he resigned from the pastoral governance and, with the help of some faithful, and dedicated himself to translating the New Testament and the Roman Missal into Mongolian.
The funeral Mass of Mgr. Joseph Ma Zhongmu was celebrated on March 27 in the village where he resided, in the presence of His Exc. Mgr. Paul Meng Qinglu, Bishop of Hohhot, and two other priests. The presence of other priests and faithful was not allowed, also due to the risk of coronavirus infection.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/CHINA - Mourning in the Episcopate: His Exc. Mgr. Andrea Jin Daoyuan

sam, 23/05/2020 - 11:27
Vatican City - On the evening of 20 November 2019 His Exc. Mgr. Andrea Jin Daoyuan, Bishop "without jurisdiction" of the Diocese of Changzhi/Luan, in Shanxi, in Mainland China passed away.
The Prelate was born on June 13, 1929 in the village of Beishe, Lucheng district. He was ordained a priest in Beijing on July 1, 1956. In the serious context of the 1950s, Bishop Andrea Jin was arrested and remained in prison for about thirteen years.
He is remembered as a devoted and zealous Pastor towards his people. He dedicated himself in particular to vocational pastoral care, helping to form many priests and religious women. At the same time, Mgr. Andrea Jin Daoyuan personally dedicated time in the realization of the construction of several religious buildings in the Diocese of Changzhi/ uan.
The funeral was held on November 26 last year, with the participation of the local Catholic community.
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/PERU - Covid-19, the Salesians close to the last through concrete gestures of solidarity"

sam, 23/05/2020 - 11:13
Lima - "The decline or cessation of economic activities and the worsening of small businesses in Peru, following the global health emergency, was a real tragedy: during this quarantine period, many families were forced to use their few savings and spend them entirely. Many people in need come to us for help". This is what Father Humberto Chàvez, Provincial Vicar of the Salesian Congregation in Lima reports to Agenzia Fides, talking about the crisis generated by Covid-19 which is dragging millions of people across the Latin American country into a situation of poverty and misery. According to the national electoral process office, there are about 9 million people in Peru who live in vulnerable conditions and need financial support.
The Salesians have organized themselves to materially help the poor, who do not even have the minimum to survive: "Already during the first weeks of quarantine in order to provide for food needs in the various reception centers and other needs that emerged - explains Father Humberto - we immediately organized emergency groups to help the most humble and marginalized who are in forgotten areas: in Magdalena del mar, a district of Lima, for example, we continue to take care of more than one hundred Venezuelan children". To satisfy a growing request for assistance, the Don Bosco Foundation created the "I am Supportive" campaign: "The goal - the vicar points out - is to help the most vulnerable families, precarious workers, migrants, abandoned elderly and women who take care of their children alone".
Organizations such as Caritas, the Food Bank of Peru and companies such as Cineplanet have joined this campaign by donating a large variety of groceries. Two tons of food were transported to the suburban settlement of "Santa Rosa", on the northern outskirts of Lima, in favor of 200 families. The other main districts of the capital were also reached: "So far - explains Father Chavez - we have been able to give the populations residing in San Juan de Lurigancho, Chosica, Breña, Callao basic necessities. In the province we have managed to reach the suburb settlements in the city of Piura". "In the delicate moment we are going through - underlines Father Humberto - there are gestures of solidarity willing to give themselves for the good of others: do not lock ourselves in the house with despair and concern - he concludes - but we are thinking of continuing to help those who live in difficult conditions , in discomfort, in suffering".

Link correlati :Watch the video interview with Salesian Fr. Humberto Chàvez on Agenzia Fides Youtube site
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/ECUADOR - Bishops: the health crisis has highlighted the problems that the State has never faced and solved

sam, 23/05/2020 - 10:54
Quito - The Ecuadorian Bishops have denounced that "it is a very serious crime" to take advantage of this painful situation to get rich fraudulently. In a declaration entitled "Crisis and hope", the Bishops stress that "the serious health crisis has highlighted the endemic defects of the State that have never been addressed in a clear and decisive way".
The Bishops' message was published before the start of a new opening phase, following the severe restrictions adopted to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. A second phase, indicated with a yellow traffic light, allows the opening of the churches for personal prayer and the sacrament of reconciliation.
A new phase of "hope and reunion" which, however, for the Bishops, has left a "trace of pain and uncertainty" due to the serious health, economic, social and ethical crisis that the nation is experiencing and which "has discovered endemic failures which have never been addressed in a clear and decisive way "by a State, which today is "indebted and unable to fulfill its health, education, work and safety obligations".
In this context of fragility and mistrust, the Ecuadorian Church urges all social, political and economic actors to face the present with "decision and transparency in the search for the common good" and to assume their responsibilities in a "clear, consensual and ethical way", leaving aside personal or party interests.
After ex pressing gratitude to all the health workers and all those who have made a courageous and sacrificial commitment to assist and help the people most affected by the emergency, the Episcopate invites all citizens to undertake this new stage with "seriousness, prudence and responsibility "in compliance with the preventive measures that have been fundamental to "curb the contagion".
Ecuador records 36,000 cases and 3,060 deaths for Covid-19.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA - Laudato Sì week: mission in society, in economy, in the care of the "common home"

sam, 23/05/2020 - 10:47
Kara - "To the missionary archetypes essential for missionary activity in the 20th century, that exhort the search for justice, liberation, inculturation, contextualization, the theme of the care of Creation is added as an important part of the missionary activity of the Church in the 21st century". This is what Fr. Donald Zagore, theologian of the Society for African Missions writes to Agenzia Fides, at the end of the Laudato Sì Week, announced by Pope Francis on the fifth anniversary of his Encyclical on the care of the common home. The initiative will end tomorrow, May 24 with a world day of prayer.
"It is impossible to think about the missionary activity of the Church outside the ecological sphere - continues Zagore. The focus of this missionary orientation aims to make people aware that the commitment for the poor and marginalized, the cornerstone of missionary action in recent years, under the aegis of Vox victimarum vox Dei, should not be done without a decisive and prophetic commitment to the earth, which is today the poorest of the poorest, the most marginalized among the marginalized".
"The principle of mission as a commitment to the protection of Creation is fundamentally to transmit above all our political, economic, cultural, social, ecclesial dynamics, the cry of the earth, our common home, which is a cry of suffering and agony. In this missionary dynamic, - highlights the Ivorian theologian - we should avoid what has been the temptation of all times, which would only present the salvation of the earth as a prism of an authentic ecological conversion of man".
In the note sent to Fides, the missionary states that "if the ecological conversion of man is necessary to materialize this challenge, it is not exclusive, because no man can bring true salvation. Exclusive salvation comes from the risen Christ. Salvation in Christ is certainly a salvation embodied in the context of today's human reality, but which always moves towards a world of fullness. In this missionary dynamic, we must always maintain the link between commitment in secular structures and Christian eschatology to avoid having a missionary action that is completely eradicated and reduced to a simple human project of socio-ecological transformation".
Zagore concludes with conviction that "one of the important contributions of Pope Francis' pontificate to the life of the Church is that of making the theme of caring for the common home one of the important paradigms for the missionary activity of the Church today".
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/MYANMAR - Condition of the Rohingya: the Burmese government in the Hague

ven, 22/05/2020 - 13:51
Yangon - On Saturday 23 May the Burmese government must present its first report on the condition of the Muslim minority of the Rohingya in Myanmar, in compliance with a sentence of 23 January in which the International Court of Justice in The Hague imposed on the government to draw up a "first dossier" after four months and, subsequently, every six months. The Rohingya minority, until 2017 mostly resident in the Burmese state of Rakhine, now mainly resides abroad: above all in Bangladesh, which is home to about one million refugees, over 700 thousand of whom fled Myanmar in the summer of 2017. The case will be discussed in the Hague Court in two sessions: on July 23, 2020, when the Court will hear Gambia and on January 25, 2021, when it will be the turn of Myanmar.
The content of the report is unknown but in April the Burmese government published two decrees: n. 1/2020 orders ministries and governments of federation States to ensure that their employees "do not commit" the acts defined in the Genocide Convention; and n. 2/2020 which prohibits "destroying or removing" evidence of genocide.
In recent months the Burmese army has shown its willingness to collaborate with both local and international justice, arresting some soldiers suspected of torture and claiming to be an active part in the investigation into the killing of an operator of the World Organization of the Health in conflict areas. In addition, the army announced on May 10 a four-month truce - requested by the UN and the Pope in March and reiterated by Asian bishops and several countries - which however excludes the Chin and Rakhine states.
As for the repatriation of the Rohingya from Bangladesh, U Zaw Htay, spokesman for the presidency of the Republic, has just detected the discovery of Covid-19 cases in the Bangladeshi refugee camps at Cox's Bazar, thus indicating a probable delay in the repatriation process, which already presented many uncertainties.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/PAKISTAN - Quota reserved for non-Muslim students in Punjab universities: a positive step for minorities

ven, 22/05/2020 - 13:29
Lahore - Religious minorities in Pakistan appreciate the measure approved by the government of the Punjab province which sets a 2% quota for students enrolled in universities, reserved for religious minority students. Before the end of the last government, the former minister of higher education in Punjab, Syed Raza Ali Gillani, had formed a committee to decide on the introduction of a quota of enrolled students reserved for non-Muslim students, but representatives of public universities had opposed. Now the measure has been approved and announced by the Prime Minister of Punjab, Usman Buzdar, of the "Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf" , the party currently in the federal government in Pakistan, with its leader Imran Khan.
"This is extremely good news. Punjab is the largest province in Pakistan by population, territory and political importance. As a result, we hope other provincial governments will approve the same measure", said Shireen Aslam, member of the Committee for human rights in the Attock district.
Christians are the largest group among the religious minorities in the Punjab province, with about three million baptized. But very few young Christians and Hindus continue their university education and this continues to perpetuate that gap that sees poorly educated non-Muslim citizens and therefore engaged in low-end jobs .
In this situation, the approved measure has the potential effect of a positive shock: in a note sent to Fides, a Forum of civil society associations welcomes the measure, noting that it is the responsibility of the State to promote the development and education of minorities. "The government has done its part, now it is up to the citizens of the minorities themselves to exploit the benefits of this provision; even if the main obstacle to applying it will be the heads of the universities, who could refuse to comply with the law".
"It is an important moment of reflection and action for Christians in Pakistan. New educational opportunities are opening up. This decision deserves special attention from the State, governments, religious and political leadership so that we can grasp a favorable opportunity and derive concrete benefits from. The federal government should take up and apply this decision in the form of a parliamentary act", notes the Forum. Christian professor and researcher Sabir Michael, from the Department of Social Work at the University of Karachi, points out to Fides that "the measure, also valid in fields such as medicine, law and engineering, is going to fill an existing gap. There has been an educational decline of minorities in recent decades, and human rights activists have put pressure for special measures to be taken for the socio-economic-cultural emancipation of religious minorities. In Pakistan, affirmative actions should be taken based on the theory of 'positive discrimination', in order to face and decrease the margins of the weakest sectors of society".
Ayra Indrias Patras, member of the national delegation for minorities in Pakistan, who has strongly promoted the provision with advocacy and social and political awareness campaigns, is satisfied: "If implemented - he says to Fides - this provision will guarantee students of disadvantaged communities access to university education institutions and will promote inclusion and pluralism in society".
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/IVORY COAST - After the epidemic, we must think of "re-evangelization"

ven, 22/05/2020 - 12:49
Abidjan - "The United Nations has launched the appeal: 'We are on the verge of a global famine of biblical proportions, with over 250 million people at risk'. The African continent has been preserved from the catastrophic effects of Covid -19: infections and deaths are lower in numbers and in proportion to those recorded by other continents, but the other effects, such as economic and social, are already proving to be more deadly than the virus: people are hungry, food is lacking and there is no money for daily needs": this is what Fr. Marco Prada, priest of the Society for African Missions in Ivory Coast, reports to Fides, who talks about his conversation with two local inhabitants. The first, Jean Bosco Yao, lives in a popular neighborhood of Abidjan, Koumassi, - Fr. Prada writes to Fides - and the second, Alphonse Soro, in the largest city in the north, Korhogo, which welcomed more than one hundred thousand displaced people from the civil war the Country in the first decade of the century.
"The situation in Abidjan is catastrophic: loss of jobs, unemployed people without any measures of support, prices have soared in the city, the purchasing power of the population has decreased by 80%, the situation of those who live of informal economy is dramatic: these people and their families no longer have money and no longer know what to do to buy food", reports the missionary.
"Over half the population has no more than one meal a day", says Alphonse Soro, who is employed in a training and assistance Center for the Disabled, managed by the Sisters Daughters of the Cross, in Korhogo. "The private sector was the most affected by the closure of businesses and the layoff of a significant number of workers. Worse still for those who work in the informal sector. The Sisters who manage our Center have an endless queue of people at the door every day, knocking for some food".
"Among neighbors in my neighborhood - explains Jean Bosco Yao - we try to help each other. When you find some food to buy at a good price, one shares it. Some even offered to pay water and electricity bills for others: the government froze them for three months, but poor people are afraid of finding themselves later with a debt that cannot be paid". There were also gestures of solidarity in Korhogo: Catholic parishes and religious institutes distributed food, medicines, clothes, the doors are always open to listen, console and encourage desperate people, tradesmen in the city have donated food for the poorest.
But, Alphonse notes, "all of this is just a drop in the ocean of our people's needs". "Here in Koumassi district - says Jean Bosco in reference to religious life during lockdown - many followed mass broadcast on radio, in the morning at 6.20 and in the evening at 7 pm by Radio Espoir. On Sunday three masses were broadcast, one of which in English. Protestants and Muslims also used radio a lot to reach their faithful. "The Prefecture of Tankessé-Koun Fao also signals an original initiative by the parish priests of his area of origin: speakers were installed in the villages and towns, connected via radio with the parish, and the faithful had the possibility to listen to the rosary, the mass, biblical teachings, and even health information about the ongoing epidemic. This has been highly appreciated by people.
Alphonse Soro observes: "It was a great pain to remain without mass or prayer at the mosque, praying alone in the house. Of course, faith has remained in the hearts of most of the faithful, but some have said that they have lost faith in God, therefore, after this epidemic, we will have to think about re-evangelization".
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/KENYA - Street children during the times of COVID-19

ven, 22/05/2020 - 11:54
Nairobi - The life of the street children of Nairobi has never been easy since they appeared on the streets. They started calling them chokora . Over the years they have received a lot of media hype, they were the symbol together with the slums and skyscrapers of the big cities of Africa. Then, like everyone else, they grew up and found love and had children. Hundreds of thousands that governments began to "sweep" away from the city center to push them into the slums that surround them like a crown of thorns. No child zone, places where there is no place for children. Tens of thousands who survived amid theft, chores, garbage collection, charity and glue fumes. Even among the inhabitants of the slums they are turned away: their loathsome smell does not invite closeness.
In Kenya there has been a positive change of pace, the government, through the Street Families Rehabilitation Trust Fund , a government-based foundation for the rehabilitation of street people, has contacted several reception centers in Nairobi to welcome the children.
Eighty-seven were welcomed by Koinonia, a Kenyan organization founded by the Comboni missionary Renato Kizito Sesana who tried to make the words of the Gospel his own: "they persevered in listening to the teaching of the apostles and in fraternal communion, in breaking bread and prayers". At the time of the reception there was great enthusiasm and then the backlash of the crisis, but the hospitality continued, says the missionary. "Every week since the lockdown started, we have welcomed 10/20 new people. Jack, Bernard, Fred and Besh went to visit them in the most unlikely places, on the street, under flyovers, in parks, on steep terrain where they had made huts with branches or with plastic sheeting. Every day they convinced 20 or 30 to get help and to be brought to our facilities and others indicated by SRFTF, generally owned by several Christian churches. It was not easy to convince those in charge of these facilities and communities to accept the new problematic guests. They are now distributed in our homes in Ndugu Mdogo and Tone la Maji . For them, the missionary continues, with the lockdown, life on the street had become increasingly unsustainable: fewer people on the street, fewer odd jobs, fewer alms. The curfew put the children in total isolation during the night with possible aggravating circumstances of internal and external abuse of the group".
The missionary stops to think a little and then concludes "the numbers do not give a sense of the beauty of the life that has overwhelmed us, of the faces, of the smiles, of the looks. Of the desire to overcome the inevitable clashes and quarrels that arise in such a large group of people who live in limited spaces. Enthusiastic cheering during football matches in the various pitches inside our homes. Of the placid happiness that is seen contemplating a simple plate of rice and potatoes: they have nothing, but the heart is a mine of resources to explore".
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/VENEZUELA - Indigenous peoples: desperate situation that is worsing due to COVID-19

ven, 22/05/2020 - 10:51
Caracas - Venezuelan Bishops, together with the ecclesial organizations that deal with indigenous peoples, are in solidarity with the voice of the indigenous communities expressed in their "Document on the COVID-19 situation", and support "their cries, their pains and anxieties".
In the statement sent to Fides, dated May 20, it is emphasized that it is "a hopeless situation that is getting worse and worse due to COVID-19". The pandemic and the consequent isolation aggravate "the serious deterioration of the living conditions of indigenous peoples, caused by the systematic exclusion from their rights to the goods and services necessary for a dignified life". The document underlines that the uncertainty caused by the pandemic "is added to the situation of abandonment of indigenous peoples and to the harmful influence of mining that endangers the very future of these peoples".
6 priority points are therefore indicated. The existence of a specific protocol in the event of contagion from Covid-19 of indigenous peoples is unknown. In some communities, awareness raising activities are carried out without guaranteeing drinking water service and ignoring the economic situation of families. Dispensaries and health centers in indigenous communities have no stable presence of health workers nor the tools to address basic health needs. Many indigenous people have been stuck in the places where they were and there is no prospect of them returning to their families.
Isolation prevents indigenous people from dedicating themselves to cultivation and fishing, also the lack of transport does not allow their craft products to be transported to the markets, making the economic situation even more difficult. In particular, the educational situation is alarming: the lack of fuel has suspended transport, preventing students from reaching schools, while in the majority of communities there is no electricity, no television or internet signal. Uncontrolled mining activity causes armed raids and violence against indigenous peoples who oppose the destruction of their environment.
The signatories of the document, Venezuelan Episcopate , National Missionary Council , Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network of Venezuela, Pontifical Mission Societies , Venezuelan Conference of Religious , National Council of the Laity , demand "in the name of the God of Life", "to put an end to this barbarity", and "draw up a plan of attention for indigenous peoples in the face of this pandemic".
Finally, we recognize "the silent and heroic work of many missionaries who, facing immense difficulties, in the midst of so many sufferings, make God's love present". To the indigenous brothers and sisters they remind, once again, that "they are not alone", since "their yearnings and difficulties are also of the Church".
Catégories: From the church

VATICAN - Message of the Holy Father to the Pontifical Mission Societies

ven, 22/05/2020 - 10:23
Vatican City - Below is the full text of the Pope's Message to the Pontifical Mission Societies sent on May 21, feast of the Ascension of the Lord.

When they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth”. When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight .The Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. Nonetheless, they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs .Then he led them [out] as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them, he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God .
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Dear brothers and sister!
This year I had decided to participate in your annual General Assembly on Thursday, 21 May, the feast of the Ascension of the Lord. The Assembly was subsequently cancelled because of the pandemic that affects us all. I would now like to send this Message in order to share what I had intended to say to you personally. This Christian feast, in the remarkable times in which we are living, appears to me even more fruitful as a source of reflection for the journey and mission belonging to each one of us and to the entire Church.
We celebrate the Ascension as a feast, yet it commemorates the departure of Jesus from his disciples and from this world. The Lord ascends to heaven and the Eastern liturgy narrates the astonishment of the angels in seeing a man who in his flesh rises to be seated at the right hand of the Father. Even so, while Christ is at the point of ascending to heaven, the disciples, who had seen him risen, still do not seem to understand what is happening. He is about to bring his Kingdom to fulfilment and they are still caught up in their own ideas. They ask him if he is going to restore the kingdom to Israel . Yet, when Christ leaves them, instead of being sad, they return to Jerusalem “with great joy”, as Luke tells us . It would be odd if something had not occurred. Indeed, Jesus had already promised them the power of the Holy Spirit, who was to descend upon them at Pentecost. This is the miracle that changes everything. They become more confident when they entrust everything to the Lord. They are filled with joy. Moreover, that joy is the fullness of consolation, the fullness of the presence of the Lord.
Paul writes to the Galatians that the Apostles’ fullness of joy is not the effect of pleasant feelings that make them happy. It is an overflowing joy that can only be experienced as a fruit and gift of the Holy Spirit . Receiving the joy of the Spirit is a grace. Moreover, it is the only force that enables us to preach the Gospel and to confess our faith in the Lord. Faith means bearing witness to the joy that the Lord gives to us. A joy such as this cannot be the result of our own efforts.
Jesus told his disciples that he would send them the Spirit, the Comforter, prior to his departure. In this way, he also entrusted the apostolic work of the Church to the Spirit for all time, until his return. The mystery of the Ascension, together with the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, indelibly marks the mission of the Church: it is the work of the Holy Spirit and not the consequence of our ideas and projects. This is the feature that makes missionary activity bear fruit and preserves it from the presumption of self-sufficiency, much less the temptation to commandeer Christ’s flesh, ascended to heaven, for narrowly “clerical” projects and aims.
When the ongoing work and efficacy of the Holy Spirit is not appreciated in the Church’s mission, it means that even the most carefully chosen missionary language becomes like “words of human wisdom” aimed at glorifying oneself or concealing one’s own interior deserts.
The joy of the Gospel
Salvation is an encounter with Jesus, who loves and forgives us by sending the Spirit who comforts and defends us. Salvation is not the consequence of our missionary initiatives nor of our talking about the incarnation of the Word. For each one of us, salvation can take place only through the lens of an encounter with the one who calls us. For this reason, the mystery of predilection begins and can only begin with an outburst of joy and gratitude. The joy of the Gospel is that “great joy” of the poor women who on Easter morning went to the tomb of Christ, found it empty, then encountered the risen Jesus and raced home to tell the others . Only because we have been chosen and singled out can we bear witness to the glory of the risen Christ before the entire world.
In every human context witnesses are those who vouch for what someone else has done. In this sense, and only in this sense, can we be witnesses of Christ and his Spirit. As described in the conclusion of the Gospel of Mark, after the Ascension the apostles and disciples “went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs” . By his Spirit, Christ testifies to himself through the works that he fulfils in and with us. As Saint Augustine explains, the Church would not pray to the Lord to ask that faith be given to those who do not know Christ unless she believed that it is God himself who directs and draws our wills towards himself. The Church would not make her children pray to the Lord to persevere in the faith of Christ if she did not believe that it is the Lord himself who possesses our hearts. Indeed, if she asked him for these things, but thought that she could give them to herself, it would mean that all her prayers would be empty words, rote formulas or platitudes imposed by ecclesiastical custom rather than authentic prayer .
Unless we realize that faith is a gift of God, even the prayers which the Church raises to God are meaningless. Nor do they reflect a sincere passion for the happiness and salvation of others and for those who do not recognize the risen Christ, however much time we may spend on planning for the conversion of the world to Christianity.
If we recognize that the Holy Spirit ignites and preserves the faith in our hearts, everything changes. Indeed, the Spirit enkindles and enlivens the Church’s mission, bestowing all those individual accents and styles that make the proclamation of the Gospel and the confession of the Christian faith something different from all political, cultural, psychological or religious forms of proselytism.
I considered many of these features of mission in my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, and here I shall recall a few of them.
Attractiveness. The mystery of the Redemption entered into and continues to work in the world through an attraction that can draw the hearts of men and women because it is and appears more alluring than the seductions which appeal to the selfishness that is a result of sin. As Jesus says in the Gospel of John, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him” . The Church has always insisted that this is the reason why we follow Jesus and proclaim his Gospel: through the force of attraction wrought by Christ himself and by his Spirit. The Church, as Pope Benedict XVI has said, grows in the world through attraction and not through proselytism . Saint Augustine says that Christ reveals himself by attracting us. Moreover, he cites the poet Virgil, who states that all are attracted to what gives them pleasure. Jesus does not just persuade our wills, but awakens our pleasure . If one follows Jesus, happy to be attracted by him, others will take notice. They may even be astonished. The joy that radiates from those attracted by Christ and by his Spirit is what can make any missionary initiative fruitful.
Gratitude and Gratuitousness. The joy of proclaiming the Gospel always shines brightly against the backdrop of a grateful memory. The Apostles never forgot the moment that Jesus touched their hearts: “It was about four in the afternoon” . The reality of the Church shines forth whenever gratitude is manifested within her by the free initiative of God, for “he loved us” first and “it is only God who gives the growth” . The loving predilection of God surprises us, and surprise by its very nature cannot be owned or imposed by us. One cannot be “necessarily surprised”. Only in this way can the miracle of gratuitousness, the gratuitous gift of self, blossom. Nor can missionary fervour ever be obtained as the result of reasoning or calculation. To be “in a state of mission” is a reflection of gratitude. It is the response of one who by gratitude is made docile to the Spirit and is therefore free. Without a recognition of the predilection of the Lord, who inspires gratitude in us, even knowledge of the truth and of God himself would, presented as a goal to be achieved by our own efforts, in fact become a “letter that brings death” , as Saint Paul and Saint Augustine were the first to point out. Only in the freedom of gratitude can one truly know the Lord, whereas it is useless and above all improper to insist on presenting missionary activity and the proclamation of the Gospel as if they were a binding duty, a kind of “contractual obligation” on the part of the baptized.
Humility. Since truth and faith, happiness and salvation are not our own possessions, a goal achieved by our own merits, then the Gospel of Christ can be proclaimed with humility. One can never think of serving the Church’s mission by employing arrogance as individuals and through bureaucracies, with the pride of one who misunderstands even the gift of the sacraments and the most authentic words of the Christian faith, seeing them as merited rewards. One cannot be humble out of good manners or the desire to appear attractive. We are humble when we follow Christ, who said to his disciples: “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart” . Saint Augustine asks why, after the resurrection, Jesus let himself be seen by his disciples and not by those who had crucified him, concluding that Jesus did not want to give the impression of “challenging his killers in some way. For Jesus, it was actually more important to teach humility to his friends, rather than uphold the truth before his enemies” .
To facilitate, not to complicate. Another authentic feature of missionary work is its imitation of the patience of Jesus, who always showed mercy to others as they continued to grow. A small step forward in the midst of great human limitations can be more pleasing before God than the great strides made by those who go through life without great difficulties. A missionary heart recognizes the real condition of real people, with their own limits, sins and frailties in order to become “weak among the weak” . “Going forth” on mission to reach human peripheries does not mean wandering without direction and meaning, like those frustrated vendors who complain that people are too unsophisticated to be interested in their wares. Sometimes this means slowing our pace in order to lead a person who is still by the wayside. At times this means imitating the father in the parable of the prodigal son, who leaves the doors open and looks out each day awaiting the return of his son . The Church is not a customs office and anyone who participates in the mission of the Church is called not to impose unnecessary burdens on people already worn out or to require demanding programmes of formation in order to enjoy what the Lord gives easily, or to erect obstacles to the will of Jesus, who prays for each of us and wants to heal and save everyone.
Proximity to life “in progress”. Jesus met his first disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee while they were focused on their work. He did not meet them at a convention, a training workshop, or in the Temple. It has always been the case that the proclamation of Jesus’ salvation reaches people right where they are and just how they are in the midst of their lives in progress. Amid the needs, hopes and problems of everyday life we find the place where one who has acknowledged the love of Christ and received the gift of the Holy Spirit can offer an account of his or her faith, hope, and charity to those who ask for it. By journeying together with others, alongside everyone. Especially given the times in which we live, this has nothing to do with designing “specialized” training programmes, creating parallel worlds, or constructing “slogans” that merely echo our own thoughts and concerns. I have elsewhere spoken of those in the Church who proclaim loudly that “this is the hour of the laity”, while in the meantime the clock seems to have stopped.
The “sensus fidei” of the People of God. There is one reality in the world that has a kind of “feel” for the Holy Spirit and his workings. It is the People of God, called and loved by Jesus, who for their part continue to seek him amid the difficulties of their lives. The People of God beg for the gift of his Spirit: entrusting their expectation to the simple words of their prayers and never entertaining the presumption of their own self-sufficiency. The holy People of God are gathered together and anointed by the Lord, and in virtue of this anointing are made infallible “in credendo”, as the Tradition of the Church teaches. The working of the Holy Spirit equips the faithful People with an “instinct” of faith, the sensus fidei, which helps them not to err when believing the things of God, even if they do not know the theological arguments and formulas that define the gifts they experience. The mystery of the pilgrim people, who with their popular piety travel to shrines and entrust themselves to Jesus, Mary and the saints, draws from this and shows that it is connatural to the free and gratuitous initiative of God, apart from our pastoral planning.
A special care for the little ones and the poor. Any missionary impulse, if derived from the Holy Spirit, manifests predilection for the poor and vulnerable as a sign and reflection of the Lord’s own preference for them. Those directly involved with the Church’s missionary initiatives and structures should never justify their lack of concern for the poor with the excuse, widely used in particular ecclesiastical circles, of having to concentrate their energies on certain priorities for the mission. For the Church, a preference for the poor is not optional.
All these demands and approaches are part of the Church’s mission, guided by the Holy Spirit. Normally, in ecclesiastical language and speech, the necessity of the Holy Spirit as the source of the Church’s missionary activity is acknowledged and affirmed. Yet this acknowledgement can at times be reduced to a type of “ceremonial nod” to the Most Holy Trinity, a stock introductory preface to our theological discussions and pastoral plans. There are many situations in the Church where the primacy of grace appears to be no more than a theoretical concept or an abstract formulation. Instead of leaving room for the working of the Holy Spirit, many initiatives and entities connected to the Church end up being concerned only with themselves. Many ecclesiastical establishments, at every level, seem to be swallowed up by the obsession of promoting themselves and their own initiatives, as if that were the objective and goal of their mission.
To this point, I have sought to reiterate criteria and starting points for the missionary activity of the Church that I explained in greater detail in my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. I have done so because I believe that for the PMS it is beneficial and fruitful – and indeed urgently necessary – to discuss these criteria and suggestions in this stage of their journey.
The PMS at the Present Time.
Talents to develop, temptations and maladies to avoid
Where should we look in considering the present and future of the PMS? What are the dead weights that risk burdening the journey?
The identity of the Pontifical Mission Societies has certain hallmarks. In a manner of speaking, some are genetic, whereas others have developed through a lengthy historical process and are often overlooked or taken for granted. Yet these features can safeguard and enhance, above all in the present time, the contribution of this “network” to the universal mission to which the entire Church is called.
The Missionary Societies arose spontaneouslyfrom missionary fervour expressed by the faith of the baptized. There has always been a deep relationship between the Missionary Societies and the infallible sensus fidei in credendoof the faithful People of God.
The Missionary Societies, since their beginning, have movedalong two “tracks”, or better along two parallel channels, that in their simplicity have always been close to the heart of the People of God: those of prayer and of charity in the form of almsgiving which “saves from death, and purges all sin” , the “intense love” that “covers a multitude of sins” . The founders of the Mission Societies, beginning with Pauline Jaricot, did not invent the prayers and works to which they entrusted their hopes for the proclamation of the Gospel. They simply drew them from the infinite treasury of those familiar and habitual gestures of the People of God on its pilgrimage through history.
The Mission Societies, which arose spontaneously from the life of the People of God,in their simple and concrete configuration were recognized by the Church of Rome and her Bishops, who in the last century sought to adopt them as a unique expression of their own service to the universal Church. Hence the title “Pontifical” was conferred upon these Societies. From that time on, the PMS have always shown themselves to be an instrument of service in support of the particular Churches in the work of proclaiming the Gospel. In this same way, the Pontifical Mission Societies have readily served the Church as part of the universal ministry exercised by the Pope and by the Church of Rome, which “presides in charity”. In this way, carrying out their work and without becoming embroiled in complex theological disputes, the PMS have countered the claims of those who, also in ecclesiastical circles, wrongly contrast charisms and institutions, reading their relationship through the lens of a fallacious “dialectic of principles”. For in the Church even permanent structural elements, such as the sacraments, the priesthood, and apostolic succession are continuously to be recreated by the Holy Spirit and are not simply realities at the Church’s disposal .
The Missionary Societies, since their initial diffusion, have been structured as a widespread networkspread throughout the People of God, wholly anchored and indeed “immanent” in the network of preexisting institutions and realities in the Church’s life, such as dioceses, parishes, and religious communities. The particular vocation of persons engaged in the Missionary Societies has never been lived or perceived as an alternative path, a relationship “external” to the ordinary forms of the life of the particular Churches. The summons to pray and gather resources for the missions has always been exercised as a service to ecclesial communion.
The Missionary Societies, which in time became a network spread throughout the world, mirror in their own configuration the variety of accents, situations, problems, and gifts that characterize the life of the Church in the various parts of the world. This plurality can serve as a safeguard against ideological homogenization and cultural unilateralism. In this sense, the PMS reflect the mystery of the universality of the Church, in which the incessant work of the Holy Spirit creates harmony from different voices, even as the Bishop of Rome, in his service of charity, exercised also through the Pontifical Mission Societies, safeguards unity in faith.
All the characteristics described above can help the Pontifical Mission Societies to avoid certain pitfalls and pathologies on their journey and that of many other ecclesial institutions. Let me present a few of these.
Pitfalls to avoid
Self-absorption. Church organizations and agencies, quite apart from the good intentions of their individual members, sometimes end up turning in on themselves, devoting energy and attention primarily to promoting themselves and to advertising their own initiatives. Some seem to be dominated by an obsession to continually redefine their own importance and their own bailiwicks within the Church, under the guise of relaunching their specific mission. In this way, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger once said, they can foster the misleading idea that a person is somehow more Christian if he or she is occupied with intra-ecclesial structures, whereas in reality nearly all the baptized are daily living lives of faith, hope, and charity, without ever participating in Church committees or concerned for the latest news about ecclesiastical politics .
Control anxiety. Institutions and agencies sometimes set out to help ecclesial communities by employing the gifts generated in them by the Holy Spirit, yet over time they presume to exercise supremacy and control over the very communities they are meant to serve. This attitude is almost always accompanied by the claim that they are exercising the role of “overseers” called to determine the legitimacy of other groups. They end up acting as if the Church was a product of our own calculations, plans, agreements and decisions.
Elitism. An elitist feeling, the unspoken notion of belonging to an aristocracy, takes hold at times among those who are part of groups and organized institutions in the Church: a superior class of specialists who strive to increase their own influence in collusion or in competition with other ecclesiastical elites, and train their members according to secular notions of activism or technical-professional competence, but always with the main goal of promoting their own oligarchic privileges.
Isolation from the people. The elitist temptation in some organizations connected to the Church can be accompanied at times by a sentiment of superiority and of intolerance towards the rest of the baptized, towards the people of God who may attend parishes and visit shrines, but are not “activists” busy in Catholic organizations. The People of God is viewed as an inert mass, always in need of being awakened and mobilized through a “consciousness-raising” consisting in arguments, appeals and teachings. As if the certainty of faith was the consequence of persuasive speech or training methods.
Abstraction. Once they become self-absorbed, institutions and entities connected to the Church lose contact with reality and fall prey to abstraction. They needlessly multiply instances of strategic planning in order to produce projects and guidelines that serve only as means of self-promotion for those who come up with them. They take problems and dissect them in intellectual laboratories where everything has been domesticated and is viewed through the lens of their own ideology. Everything, even references to the faith or verbal appeals to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, once taken outside of their proper context, can thus end up rigidified and unreal.
Functionalism. Self-absorbed and elitist organizations, even within the Church, often end up staking everything on the imitation of secular models of worldly efficiency, like those rooted in competition, whether economic or social. Opting for functionalism gives the illusion of being able to “sort matters out” in a balanced way, keeping things under control, maximizing one’s own relevance, and improving the everyday management of existing structures. However, as I already said to you at our 2016 meeting, a Church afraid of entrusting herself to the grace of Christ and focusing on the efficiency of its bureaucracy is already dead, even if structures and programmes that favour the interest of “self-absorbed” clergy or lay people linger for centuries.
Recommendations for the Journey
Looking at the present and towards the future, and considering the resources needed for the PMS to overcome the pitfalls of the journey and move forward, I would like to offer a few suggestions as an aid for your discernment. Since you have undertaken your own process of re-evaluation of the PMS, which you would like to be guided by the thinking of the Pope, I offer for your attention some general criteria and starting points, without entering into details, not least because different situations may require adaptations and modifications.
1) To the best of your ability, and without undue speculation about the future, preserve or recover the role of the PMS as part of the larger People of God from which they arose. It would prove beneficial to seek a greater “immersion” in the reality of people’s lives. Following Jesus means emerging from our own problems and concerns. It would be worthwhile to enter into concrete circumstances and conditions, while seeking to reintegrate the capillary effect of actions and contacts of the PMS within the greater network of Church institutions . By prioritizing your specific presence in the People of God, with its bright spots and difficulties, you can better elude the pitfall of abstraction. One must provide answers to real questions and not just formulate and multiply proposals. Perhaps concrete contact with real life situations, and not just discussions in boardrooms or theoretical analyses of our own internal dynamics, will generate useful insights for changing and improving operating procedures and adapting them to different contexts and circumstances.
2) I suggest proceeding in such a way that the essential structure of the PMS remains bound to the practice of prayer and of gathering resources for mission, in all its simplicity and practicality. This would clearly demonstrate the relationship of the PMS to the faith of the People of God. With all necessary flexibility and adaptations, this basic design of the PMS should neither be forgotten nor distorted. Asking the Lord to open hearts to the Gospel and asking everyone to tangibly support missionary work: these are simple and practical things that everyone can readily do in this present time when, even amid the scourge of this pandemic, there is a great desire to encounter and remain close to the heart of the Church’s life. So seek new paths, new forms of service, but try not to complicate what in reality is quite simple.
3) The PMS are and must be experienced as an instrument of service for the mission of the particular Churches, against the backdrop of the mission of the universal Church. This is the ever-precious contribution that the Societies make to the spread of the Gospel. All of us are called to nurture by means of love and gratitude, as well as by our works, the seeds of divine life that the Spirit of Christ causes to blossom and grow where he wills, even in the deserts. Please, in your prayer ask above all that the Lord make everyone better prepared to recognize the signs of his activity, in order then to reveal them to the whole world. Even this can be helpful: to ask that, in the depths of our own hearts, our prayer to the Holy Spirit may not be reduced to a mere formality in our meetings and homilies. It is not helpful to theorize about super-strategies or mission “core guidelines” as a means of reviving missionary spirit or giving missionary patents to others. If, in some cases, missionary fervour is fading, it is a sign that faith itself is fading. In such cases, the attempt to revive the flame by strategies and speeches will end up only weakening it all the more, causing the desert to expand.
4) The service undertaken by the PMS naturally brings its staff into contact with countless realities, situations and events that are part of the great ebb and flow of the life of the Church on every continent. In this contact, we may encounter numerous problems and forms of inertia that can mark ecclesial life, but also the gratuitous gifts of healing and consolation that the Holy Spirit disseminates in daily life, in what might be called the “middle class of holiness”. Rejoice and savour these encounters that you experience thanks to the work of the PMS, and let yourselves be astonished by them. I think of the reports of many miracles that happen to children, who perhaps encounter Jesus thanks to the initiatives proposed by the Holy Childhood. Yours is a labour that can never be reduced to an exclusively bureaucratic-professional scope. When it comes to mission, bureaucracies or functionaries should never exist. Your gratitude can in turn become a gift and witness for all. With the means that you have at your disposal, and quite naturally, you can recount the comforting story of persons and communities in which the miracle of faith gratuitously shines with hope and charity.
5) Gratitude for the wonders worked by the Lord among his chosen ones, the poor and the little ones to whom he reveals those things hidden from the wise , can make it easier for you too to avoid the pitfalls of self-absorption and leave yourselves behind as you follow Jesus. The very notion of a self-centred missionary effort, which spends time contemplating and celebrating its own initiatives, would be absurd. Do not waste time and resources, then, in looking at yourself in a mirror, devising plans centred on internal mechanisms, functionality and the efficiency of your own bureaucracy. Look outside. Do not look at yourselves in the mirror. Break every mirror in the house! The criteria employed in implementing programmes should aim not at burdening the network of the PMS but at making structures and procedures more flexible. National Directors, for example, should be working to identify potential successors, taking as their sole criterion proposing persons with great missionary zeal, not just members of their own small group.
6) Regarding the collection of resources to help the missions, I have already spoken during our past gatherings about the risk of turning the PMS into an NGO, where everything is devoted to locating and appropriating funds. This depends more on the attitude with which things are done than the goals that are achieved. It can certainly be advisable and even appropriate when fundraising to use creativity and even updated methods for seeking funding from potential and worthy sources. However, if in some areas the collection of donations lessens, even because of the waning of Christian memory, the temptation may arise to resolve the problem ourselves by “covering up” the situation and gambling on some better fundraising system developed by groups specializing in large donors. Our pain at the loss of faith and the reduction of resources should not be covered up but rather placed in the hands of the Lord. In any case, asking for offerings for the missions should continue to be directed first and foremost to the larger body of the baptized, also through different ways of taking up the collection for the missions carried out in every country in October on the occasion of World Mission Day. The Church continues to advance thanks to the widow’s mite and the contributions of innumerable people healed and consoled by Jesus, who for this reason, overflowing with gratitude, donate whatever they have.
7) The use of the donations received is always to be evaluated with an appropriate sensus Ecclesiae regarding the distribution of funds in support of structures and projects capable of advancing the apostolic mission and the preaching of the Gospel in various ways and in diverse parts of the world. Attention should always be paid to the most fundamental necessities of communities while at the same time avoiding a welfare culture, which instead of assisting missionary zeal ends up making hearts lukewarm and feeding phenomena of parasitic dependency, also within the Church. Your contribution should aim at giving concrete answers to objective needs, without squandering resources in initiatives marked by abstraction, self-absorption or generated by clerical narcissism. Do not yield to inferiority complexes or the temptation to imitate those super-functional organizations that collect funds for good causes and then use a good percentage of them to finance their own bureaucracy and to publicize their brand name. Even publicity can at times become a way of promoting one’s own interests by showing how one works for the poor and those in need.
8) As for the poor, you too must not forget them. This was the recommendation at the Council of Jerusalem that the apostles Peter, James and John passed on to Paul, Barnabas and Titus, who came to discuss their mission among the uncircumcised: “Only, we were to be mindful of the poor” . Following that recommendation, Paul organized collections for the benefit of the brethren of the Church of Jerusalem . The preferential option for the poor and the little ones has always been present since the origins of the mission of proclaiming the Gospel. Works of spiritual and corporal charity on their behalf are expressions of a “divine preference” that serves as a constant challenge to the faith of all Christians, who are called to have the same attitude as that of Jesus .
9) The PMS, in their worldwide network, reflect the rich variety of the “people with a thousand faces”, gathered together by the grace of Christ and marked by missionary fervour. That zeal is not always intense and lively in the same way everywhere. Even so, the same urgency of confessing Christ dead and resurrected finds expression in a variety of accents and adapts to diverse contexts. The revelation of the Gospel is not identified with any one culture and when it encounters new cultures that have not yet received the Christian message, a specific cultural form must not be imposed along with the preaching of the Gospel. Today, also in the work of the PMS, there is no need for extra baggage but rather the effort to value differences and relate them to the essentials of the faith we share. Any attempt to standardize the form of our message may obscure the universality of the Christian faith, even promoting clichés and slogans fashionable in certain circles and in particular countries that are culturally and politically dominant. In this regard, the special relationship that unites the PMS to the Pope and to the Church of Rome represents a resource and a support for freedom from fleeting fads, certain unilateral schools of thought or the cultural homogenization associated with neo-colonialism. These are phenomena that, regrettably, are not absent from ecclesiastical contexts.
10) The PMS are not an autonomous entity in the Church, acting in a vacuum. Among their distinctive features always to be cultivated and renewed is the special bond uniting them to the Bishop of the Church of Rome, which presides in charity. It is comforting to know that this bond manifests itself in a work carried out joyfully, without seeking applause or staking claims. A work that precisely in its gratuitousness is intertwined with service to the Pope, the servant of the servants of God. I would ask that the distinctive sign of your closeness to the Bishop of Rome be precisely this: the sharing of the love of the Church, a reflection of her own love for Christ, experienced and expressed quietly, without pride or a concern for “turf wars”. Daily efforts born of charity and the mystery of gratuitousness, which support countless persons who remain deeply thankful, yet perhaps even unaware of whom to thank, since they may never have heard of the PMS. The mystery of charity, within the Church, works in this way. We continue to advance together, even amid trials, thanks to the gifts and the consolations of the Lord. In the meantime, and at every step, we joyfully acknowledge that all of us are useless servants, beginning with myself.
Move forward with enthusiasm! There is much to do on the journey that awaits you. If there are changes to make in procedures, it is good that these point towards unburdening rather than increasing the load, aiming at operational flexibility and not producing more rigid bureaucracies that involve the threat of introversion. An excessive centralization, rather than helping, can complicate missionary outreach. Even a purely national organization of initiatives can jeopardize the nature of the PMS network, as well as the exchange of gifts between the Churches and local communities lived as the tangible fruit and sign of charity among brothers and sisters in communion with the Bishop of Rome.
In any event, always demand that every consideration regarding the operational aspect of the PMS be illuminated by the one thing necessary: a spark of true love for the Church as a reflection of love for Christ. Yours is a service rendered to apostolic fervour, namely to that impulse of Christian life which only the Holy Spirit can bring about within the People of God. Think about doing your work well, “as if everything depended on you, while knowing that everything in fact depends on God” . As I already mentioned to you in one of our encounters, imitate the ready spirit of Mary. When she visited Elizabeth, Mary did not do so on her own: she went as a servant of the Lord Jesus, whom she carried in her womb. She said nothing about herself, but simply brought her Son and praised God. It was not about her. She went as the servant of the One who is the sole protagonist of missionary activity. Nonetheless, she wasted no time, going in haste and doing what was needed to look after her kinswoman. She teaches us this same readiness, the haste born of fidelity and adoration.
May Our Lady watch over you and the Pontifical Mission Societies, and may her Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, bless you. For before ascending to heaven, he promised to be with us always, to the end of time.
Given in Rome, at Saint John Lateran, the 21st of May 2020, the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord.


Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/CHILE - The church creates the Covid-19 Spiritual Accompaniment Service, a quick response to those who need it

ven, 22/05/2020 - 10:03
Santiago - Latin America is going through the worst health emergency. The cases of COVID-19 are increasing in almost all the countries of the American continent.
The Episcopal Conference of Chile, as a way to help and show solidarity with people affected by COVID-19, patients, relatives and health personnel, has created the "Covid-19 Spiritual Accompaniment Service", with the intention of helping to alleviate, the suffering, loneliness, anguish and the fear that all those affected feel daily.
The note sent to Fides by the diocese of Valparaiso, reports that this diocese has also created, through the diocesan pastoral care of health, the "COVID-19 Accompaniment" program, with the slogan "In Valparaíso, nobody saves themselves alone".
This diocese Covid-19 spiritual accompaniment service, due to the security measures and restrictions that the authorities have recommended, will be carried out in the following ways:
1. Every Tuesday the Holy "Pandemic Mass" will be celebrated
2. Telephone numbers and WhatsApp have been activated where those interested in spiritual accompaniment can quickly call and receive an answer to their concerns
The committed team is composed of a priest, a deacon, a group of religious and a group of lay people.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Chile has risen to 57,600 with nearly 600 deaths since the health emergency began.
Yesterday, protests and clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement agencies took place in popular neighborhoods.
The protest is for not having received aid from the State and according to the local press, the police used excessive force.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/CAMBODIA - The memory of the victims of the Khmer Rouge is an occasion to remember the Cambodian martyrs

mer, 20/05/2020 - 13:26
Phnom Penh - "Let us remember today the victims and the sufferings that occurred during the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. Let us also remember our martyrs. And let us pray for peace, dialogue and reconciliation in Cambodia and in the world": is the message sent to Agenzia Fides by Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, MEP, Apostolic Vicar of Phnom Penh, while on May 20 a Day is celebrated in Cambodia to commemorate the massacres committed by the Khmer Rouge and the Pol Pot regime. Cambodians define it "Day of Anger", and there are reconstructions or representations in various places in which students dressed in black recreate the harassment committed in the famous "Killing Fields".
But the Church wants to remember it and celebrate it as "Day of remembrance, of martyrs and reconciliation", rather than placing emphasis on feelings like anger and revenge. The Bishop explains to Fides: "This year we celebrate the 45th anniversary of the episcopal ordination of the first Cambodian Bishop, Mgr. Joseph Chhmar Salas, secretly ordained by Mgr. Yves Ramousse, on April 14, 1975, while the church of Notre Dame in Phnom Penh was being bombed. On April 17, 1975, the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh and the entire population fled or was evacuated. Mgr. Chhmar Salas was brought to the northeast of the country, to Tangkauk, where he died in 1977. He is the protomartyr in the our list of 14 martyrs whose beatification cause has been ongoing since May 15, 2015".
The Apostolic Vicar adds: "This year we also celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the resurrection of the Church in Cambodia: it was April 14, 1990 when Mgr. Emile Destombes celebrated Easter again in a cinema in Phnom Penh. It was a historic and great symbolic moment and of spiritual value: in the blackout of the dark years of the regime, the light of faith had not diminished and the flame of the paschal candle warmed and illuminated that dark room". "Today - continues Mgr. Schmitthaeusler - Catholics say with faith: Christ Jesus is alive! This is what we celebrated 30 years later, in our world invaded by the darkness of death, fear and solitude. We want to remember the last words of Mgr. Salas to Mgr. Ramousse, pronounced on April 17, 1975 before leaving for the dusty roads of Cambodia, which were: 'Talk about us to the world'. With this spirit we keep alive the memory of our martyrs and in Cambodia we live today the Gospel of peace and reconciliation".
During the Khmer Rouge regime, from 1975 to 1979, about two million Cambodians died due to executions, starvation or disease. Extermination camps dot the country, with over 20,000 mass grave sites containing over 1.38 million bodies, according to the Cambodia Documentation Center. The largest of the extermination camps was Choeung Ek, which is located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh and today serves as a monument to all those who died and survived, and to remind future generations of that immense suffering. Due to the proportions of the phenomenon and the impact on the total population, Cambodian extermination can be considered as an unprecedented case in the history of humanity.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/GHANA - "Covid-19 is bringing out the image of the Church as a family of God", says the PMS National Director

mer, 20/05/2020 - 13:09
Accra - "Covid-19 has encouraged families to pray together and to stay together, bringing out the image of the Church as a family in Africa", says to Agenzia Fides Fr. Isaac Ebo-Blay, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of Ghana .
"It has changed people’s perception of the Church as just a place to that of the baptized as the temple of the Holy Spirit and so form the church, the domestic church".
The PMS National Director also stressed that the suspension of the celebrations due to the pandemic "encouraged the church in Ghana in her mission to use the social media more to propagate the gospel to the faithful, which hitherto was no much used".
"The sacramental life of the people has been badly affected because they cannot go to Mass for the Eucharist, though they watch the Mass online and on the TV and pray for their spiritual communion, it is not the same", underlines Fr. Ebo-Blay. Furthermore, "pastoral life has been affected badly. Visits to homes, hospitals, prisons etc. have been put on hold. The aged and sick do not receive their communion".
The turndown of the activities in Church may well occasion "a rise in the influence of ecclesial groups, whose lay members generally give far more time than other Catholics to missionary work, and with more evangelic fervor or the emergence of small tight-knit faith communities within parishes, who meet regularly in homes, rather than in large parish events".
From an economic point of view, the PMS National Director says "the pandemic has taken a toll on the contributions from the people. Though electronic and digital payments are made by some of the faithful, greater percentage of the faithful are not paying. This adversely is affecting the mission of the church in Ghana".
In this difficult situation, "the church in Ghana must be commended for showing compassion and love to people who live in slums in our cities and towns", says Fr. Ebo-Blay. "The youth leaders in the church helped to distribute cooked and uncooked food to the people. However, in pursuit of mission, the church in Ghana would need to pay more attention to the poor in the church and society whose number has increased". The PMS Director recalls an important charitable initiative: "In the wave of the coronavirus hitting very hard on the poor people living in the “City of God” slums in Accra, which houses over 150,000 inhabitants for mostly poor and vulnerable , the Archdiocese of Accra with its shepherd Archbishop John Bonaventure Kwofie, CSSp, made a presentation of food items and Personal Protective Equipments to the residents".
"The downturn might also occasion a new zeal, and opportunity, for evangelization, as people shaken by the pandemic and its aftershocks find themselves looking for meaning", says Fr. Ebo-Blay.
With regards to the special PMS Emergency Fund for coronavirus victims, Fr. Ebo-Blay says that "though the information on PMS Emergency Fund for coronavirus has been received and disseminated to societies and institutions in the church, only one society has pledged its donation. We are still waiting for the response of other societies. Meanwhile some church societies have contributed to the efforts of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference to help victims of the coronavirus in Ghana".
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/ANGOLA - Life after Covid-19 will never be the same: hunger and poverty are on the rise

mer, 20/05/2020 - 12:47
Luanda - The first cases of coronavirus in the country were registered by the authorities in late March. A few weeks later, the government decreed a state of emergency, but "during the crisis, the constant presence of the Catholic Church alongside the population has been seen": this is what Angolan professor and sociologist José Ventura writes to Agenzia Fides. "With the state of emergency, Angolans entered isolation in order to mitigate the pandemic. Schools, churches, universities, public administration, private companies have been closed".
In the note sent to Fides, Professor Ventura underlines that "the Catholic Church is the largest religious denomination in the country and through the media, mainly through Radio Ecclesia, Radio Maria, diocesan broadcasters and state television has intensified its presence by broadcasting Sunday mass. Parishes remained close to people through social networks, a reality not very present before Covid-19. In some communities, for example, parish priests created profiles on Facebook, the most used social network in the country, of their parishes to remain more present in the life of the faithful".
Referring to the situation of social and economic life, the Angolan sociologist notes that "life in Angola has become more expensive from an economic point of view. The limits imposed by the state of emergency have weakened the informal market, absorbing a large part of the country's workforce. Since most citizens depend on the informal sector, poverty has increased and with it the difficulties of citizens. The situation tends to worsen due to the drop in oil prices, putting the country in a situation of rampant economic recession, which has lasted since 2014 and which aggravates the lives of populations. Day after day many families lose their purchasing power. Due to the extreme poverty situation, there are cases of death from hunger. Furthermore, adds the Angolan journalist - in Angola, the national health system is very fragile, even today many people die from malaria".
Ventura continues: "To mitigate the social situation caused by the pandemic, the government has implemented social assistance policies with free distribution of drinking water, non-perishable food, hygiene products. In the opinion of social experts, these government measures do not resolve the poverty situation in Angola. The Angolan executive is expected to review its public policies, linked to the emancipation of families, since the economic diversification plan announced in 2014 has not given good results. However, local authorities hope to return to normal life in the country soon, with the restoration of services, institutions and economy. One thing is certain, life after Covid-19 will never be the same again", concludes Professor Ventura.
Catégories: From the church