AFRICA - Pastoral care based on the legacy of African Saints

Fides EN - - Mar, 05/11/2019 - 12:48
Kara - In Africa today "it is necessary that African Saints occupy a fundamental place in programs of evangelization in general, and in particular of catechesis, so that they are better known by the Africans themselves, in order to continuously inspire their actions". This is what Ivorian theologian Fr. Donald Zagore, priest of the Society for African Missions wrote to Agenzia Fides, recalling the experience of the Holy Martyrs of Uganda, Saint Josephine Bakhita of Sudan, Blessed Marie Clementine Anuarite of former Zaire, Blessed Ghebre-Micheal of Ethiopia. "Africa is really present in Paradise. These African Saints are the tangible expression of the spiritual vitality of the African continent, but they are very often unknown and therefore cut off from the concrete life of the population", he notes. "Our Saints - he says - must have a concrete impact on the life of our people. Saints can and must play an important role in the renewal of the African continent. Their model of virtue, exemplarity, integrity and faith - the theologian concludes - remains a fundamental legacy to shape the conscience and action of our African Christians in all areas of life, especially in those socio-political contexts strongly marked by violence, hatred, division and corruption".
Categorie: From the church

VATICAN - Cardinal Filoni: "The Pope thanks everyone for the "great work" carried out in the Extraordinary Missionary Month"

Fides EN - - Mar, 05/11/2019 - 12:45
Rome - "At the end of the liturgical celebration presided over by Pope Francis, on the occasion of World Mission Sunday, October 20, the Holy Father, referring to the Extraordinary Missionary Month that was in progress, told me: 'Thank you for all the work you have done'. And it was a thank you obviously addressed to all, which embraces all the national directions of the Pontifical Mission Societies". This is what Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said in his opening address to the restricted Assembly of the Pontifical Mission Societies, currently underway at the International Center for Missionary Animation .
The Extraordinary Missionary Month, announced by Pope Francis for October 2019, was celebrated worldwide in Catholic communities, dioceses, parishes, associations, ecclesial groups. The central theme was "Baptized and sent: the Church of Christ on mission in the world". The objective of the Extraordinary Missionary Month was to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Pope Benedict XV’s Apostolic Letter "Maximum Illud", but also - remarked Cardinal Filoni - "to rekindle the ardor for mission".
The celebration of the Extraordinary Missionary Month was deliberately entrusted to the local Churches, in the five continents, that promoted prayers, liturgies, testimonies, in a widespread manner. To give an account of the missionary ferment throughout the world, Fides published a Dossier which contains the most significant news on the celebration of the Extraordinary Missionary Month.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Peace, dignity and justice for victims of extrajudicial killings: appeal by three priests

Fides EN - - Mar, 05/11/2019 - 12:35
Manila - Restoring peace, human dignity and justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines: is the appeal launched by three Catholic priests who recently led a demonstration and celebrated a mass in Manila. As Agenzia Fides learns, the three: Jesuit Fr. Albert Alejo, Fr. Flavie Villanueva and Fr. Robert Reyes organized a prayer vigil in memory of the innocent people killed during the "war against drugs" launched by the government of Rodrigo Duterte, which claimed about 30,000 victims in two years.
In the homily, Fr. Alejo urged the Filipinos to "talk about the injustices that occur in the country": "If the living are silent, how can the dead speak? Not only do we feel empathy for them, but we promise to fight and continue the lives of those who were killed. We will return honor to truth", he said. The victims of the executions, he said, "are not just numbers or statistics, because injustice is also killing the truth, faith and hope of the Filipinos, "invoking" respect for the "rule of law in the country, ignored today by the state institutions themselves".
The three priests were subjected to threats of violence in the past due to criticism of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, along with many other Church leaders in the Philippines and other human rights activists.
Thousands of poor drug addicts in the urban suburbs were killed in the Philippines in the "anti-drug campaign". Human rights organizations accuse the police of systematic cover-ups and summary executions which are estimated to have reached 30 thousand.
Categorie: From the church

OCEANIA/AUSTRALIA - The Church in prayer for the gift of rain

Fides EN - - Mar, 05/11/2019 - 12:25
Sydney - The Catholic Church in Australia is dedicating the month of November as a time to pray for those affected by crippling drought conditions that is affecting certain areas of the country. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the current drought is the worst in 100 years or more, with most parts of Australia’s eastern states declared to be in drought. At the invitation of the Australian Bishops' Conference, parishes, schools, families and other Catholic communities across the country are being encouraged to participate in the National Prayer Campaign for Drought.
In this regard, in a note sent to Agenzia Fides, Mgr. Columba Macbeth-Green, of the Paolini Fathers, Bishop of Wilcannia-Forbes explains: "Those people living where there is plentiful, or at least enough, water do not seem aware of how much suffering the drought is causing only adds to the hardship of those in drought-affected communities: The Church across Australia—lay people, religious, priests and bishops alike—needs to stand in solidarity with those suffering most acutely, offering prayers and practical support to those in most need".
The Bishop, at the head of a diocese that covers almost half of New South Wales, including some of the areas most affected by drought in the country, notes: "The month of prayer is an additional response to the local work being done in affected communities. Some of our Catholic ministries, along with other faith-based, charitable and government organisations, are doing remarkable work, supporting people with material needs, offering financial support and responding to people’s psychological and spiritual needs. But in a Catholic context, prayer must be a part of our response".
Even the Bible, explains the Bishop, presents stories in which rain represents God’s gift to the people who are suffering: "In times of drought like we are experiencing now, we should pray for God’s gift of rain, which will have the power to quench our arid lands and also lift many people’s fallen spirits", he concluded.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/BOLIVIA - The Church reaffirms commitment to justice, truth and the common good

Fides EN - - Lun, 04/11/2019 - 13:03
La Paz - With the declaration "Understanding and peace, with truth and justice", the Bolivian Bishops' Conference expresses its deep concern about the current situation in the country, calls for an end to the violence among Bolivians and encourages dialogue between the parties to resolve the conflict.
"We ask to listen to the people to maintain democracy, the only system that can guarantee freedom, the common good and development", the Bishops write in the document, sent to Fides, which is dated October 31st. "We consider that a complete, agreed and binding official revision could be the basis for definitive dialogue" the text continues, which explains: "Complete because it considers all the stages of the electoral process and not just the final vote; agreed because it welcomes the opinion of all those involved, and binding because everyone is committed to accepting the results".
The Bishops condemn violence and invitations to confrontations of any kind, between authorities and citizens, and conclude by inviting them to pray for peace in a moment when the country has a particular need for peace and justice.
In a subsequent statement, dated November 2, the General Secretariat of the Episcopal Conference categorically denies the accusations of the Minister of the Presidency, Juan Ramón Quintana, that the Church is responsible for promoting accusations of fraud during the last elections, defining them as "totally false and lacking any foundation", reiterating that the Bolivian Church" is at the service of justice, truth and the common good".
Meanwhile, the coordinator of the mission of the Organization of American States , Arturo Espinosa, has announced his resignation from the office, and immediately the OAS has informed that the work of verification of the electoral process and the calculation of the votes will go ahead with the thirty OSA technicians who will have a new coordinator as soon as possible. Last week Espinosa published a very critical article on the Bolivian elections and on Morales, above all on the extension of his presidential mandate.
The diplomat arrived in La Paz on Thursday 31 October, together with the team of technicians sent by the OAS, to investigate the alleged electoral fraud, denounced by the opposition, on the 20 October elections. Following the election of the electoral result by the Supreme Electoral Court , with the victory of outgoing president Morales, days of strong protests followed and violent clashes between the supporters of Morales and those of Mesa, which caused 2 deaths.

Categorie: From the church

VATICAN - The Pope and mission: “Without Jesus we can do nothing”

Fides EN - - Lun, 04/11/2019 - 12:29
At the end of the Extraordinary Missionary Month, we are providing a few extracts from the book-length interview of Gianni Valente from Fides News Agency with Pope Francis, in which the Pope emphasizes that “Either the Church evangelizes or she is not Church”. The book, published by Libreria Edictrice Vaticana and Edizioni San Paolo will be available in bookstores as of November 5th.

Rome - “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus”. Thus begins the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, published by Pope Francis in November 2013, eight months after the Conclave during which he was elected Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter. That programmatic text of his pontificate invited everyone to re-harmonize every action, reflection and ecclesial initiative with “the proclamation of the Gospel in today's world”. Six years later, the Holy Father called for an Extraordinary Missionary Month to be held in October 2019, and at the same time convened the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome dedicated to the Amazon Region, with the intention of suggesting new paths for the proclamation of the Gospel in the "green lung", martyred by predatory exploitation that violates and inflicts wounds “on our brothers sisters, and on sister earth” .
During this period, Pope Francis has included in his public discourses insistent references to the specific nature of the Church’s mission in the world. For example, the Holy Father has repeated numerous times that evangelization is not “proselytism”, and that the Church grows “by attraction” and by “witness” – a host of expressions all of which are oriented toward suggesting by association what is the dynamism of each apostolic work, and what its source can be.
Pope Francis speaks about all this, and much more, in the book-length interview entitled Without Him We Can Do Nothing”: a Conversation about Being Missionaries in Today’s World. Fides Agency provides a preview of some excerpts.

Holy Father, you said that as a young man you wanted to go to Japan as a missionary. Can we say then that the Pope never became missionary?
I don’t know. I joined the Jesuits because I was struck by their missionary vocation, of always going to the frontiers. At the time I could not go to Japan. But I have always felt that to proclaim Jesus and His Gospel always involves a certain outgoingness and being on the move.

You always repeat: "A Church that is on the move". Many have picked up this expression, and sometimes it seems to have become a hackneyed slogan, used by a growing number of people who spend their time lecturing the Church on what she should or should not be.
"A Church on the move" is not a fashionable expression that I invented. It is Jesus’ command, who in the Gospel of Mark asks His followers to go into the whole world and preach the Gospel “to every creature”. The Church is either on the move or she is not Church. Either she evangelizes or she is not Church. If the Church is not on the move, she decays, she becomes something else.

What does a Church that does not evangelize and is not in movement become?
It becomes a spiritual association, a multinational that launches ethical and religious initiatives and messages. There is nothing wrong with that, but that is not the Church. This is the risk of any static organization in the Church. We end up taming Christ. You no longer bear witness to what Christ does, but speak on behalf of a certain idea of Christ. An idea that you have appropriated and domesticated. You organize things, you become the little manager of ecclesial life, where everything happens according to an established plan, to be followed only according to instruction. But the encounter with Christ never happens. The encounter that touched your heart at the beginning doesn’t happen anymore.

Is mission itself an antidote to all this? Is the will and effort to “go out” on mission enough to avoid these distortions?
The mission, the "Church on the move", is not a program, an intention to be carried out by sheer force of will. It is Christ who makes the Church go out of herself. In the mission of evangelization, you move because the Holy Spirit pushes you, and brings you. And when you get there, you realize that He is already there, and is waiting for you. The Spirit of the Lord arrived first. He has already prepared the path for you, and is already at work.

In a meeting with the Pontifical Missionary Societies, you suggested that they read the Acts of the Apostles, as a habitual text to pray over. Why is it a narrative of the beginnings, rather than a “modern” strategic missionary manual?
The protagonist of the Acts of the Apostles is not the apostles. The protagonist is the Holy Spirit. The apostles are the first to recognize Him and testify to Him. When they communicate the decisions established by the Council of Jerusalem to the community in Antioch, they write: “We have decided, the Holy Spirit and us”. They realistically acknowledge that it was the Lord who daily added to their number “those who were saved”, rather than the persuasive efforts of men.

And is it the same today as it was back then? Has nothing changed?
The experience of the apostles is like a paradigm that is always valid. Just think of how things happen spontaneously in the Acts of the Apostles, without coercion. It is a human story, in which the disciples always arrive afterwards, they always arrive after the Holy Spirit has already acted. He prepares and works on hearts. He upsets their plans. It is he who accompanies them, guides them and comforts them in all the circumstances they find themselves living. When problems and persecutions come, the Holy Spirit works there too in an even more surprising way with His comfort, His consolations, as happens after the first martyrdom, that of Saint Stephen.

What happens next?
A time of persecution begins, and many disciples flee Jerusalem, going to Judea and Samaria. And there, while they are dispersed and fugitive, they begin to evangelize, though they are alone and without the Apostles who remained in Jerusalem. They are baptized and the Holy Spirit gives them apostolic courage. There we see for the first time that baptism is enough to become evangelizers. That’s what mission is. Mission is His work. There’s no point in getting agitated. There’s no need for us to get organized, no need to scream, no need for gimmicks or stratagems. All we need to do is ask to be able to repeat the experience today that makes us say, “We have decided, the Holy Spirit and us”.

And without this experience, what do the calls for missionary mobilization mean?
Without the Spirit, wanting to do mission becomes something else. It becomes, I would say, a plan to conquer, the pretext that we are conquering something. A religious, or perhaps an ideological conquest, perhaps carried out even with good intentions. But it’s another thing.

Quoting Pope Benedict XVI, you often repeat that the Church grows by attraction. What do you mean? Who attracts? Who is attracted?
Jesus says it in the Gospel of John, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself”. And in the same Gospel, he also says: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him”. The Church has always recognized that this is the proper form of every movement that brings us closer to Jesus and the Gospel. It is not a conviction, a rationalization, it’s not taking a position; not a pressure, or a constraint. It is always an attraction. The Prophet Jeremiah already said “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped”. And this applies to the apostles, to the missionaries, and to their work.

How does what you have just described take place?
The Lord's mandate to go out and evangelize comes from within, by falling in love, by loving attraction. One does not follow Christ, and even less become an evangelizer, because of a decision made sitting around a table, or by one’s own activism. Even missionary thrust can be fruitful only if it takes place within this attraction, and transmits it to others.

What is the meaning of these words with respect to the mission and the proclamation of the Gospel?
It means that if you have been attracted by Christ, if you move and do things because you are attracted by Christ, others will notice it without effort. There is no need to prove it, let alone flaunt it. Instead, anyone who thinks he or she is the protagonist or manager of the mission, with all the best intentions and declarations of purpose, often ends up attracting no one.

In the Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii gaudium, you recognize that all this can give us a certain vertigo. It is like those who dive into the ocean not knowing what to except. What did you want to suggest with this image? Do these words also concern mission?
Mission is not a tried and tested company plan. Neither is it a public spectacle organized to flaunt how many people are associated with it thanks to our marketing. The Holy Spirit works as He wills, when He wills and where He wills. And this can cause a certain vertigo.
Yet the high point of freedom rests precisely in this letting oneself be carried by the Spirit, renouncing the need to calculate and control everything. This is precisely how we imitate Christ Himself, who in the mystery of His Resurrection learned to rest in the tenderness of the Father’s embrace.

Mission’s mysterious fruitfulness does not consist in our intentions, in our methods, in our impulses and in our initiatives, but rests precisely in this vertigo: the vertigo we perceive when we hear Jesus’ words: “without me you can do nothing”.
You also often repeat that the Church grows “by witnessing”. What are you trying to suggest by insisting on this?
The fact that attraction makes us witnesses. This witness testifies to what the work of Christ and His Spirit have really accomplished in our life. After His Resurrection, it is Christ himself who reveals Himself to the apostles. It is He who makes them witnesses. In addition, this witness is not self-serving. We are witnesses to the Lord’s works.

Something else you repeat often, in this case in a negative sense: the Church does not grow through proselytizing, and the mission of the Church is not proselytism. Why do you insist on this so much? Is it to maintain good relations with other Churches and dialogue with other religious traditions?
The problem with proselytism is not only the fact that it contradicts the ecumenical journey and interreligious dialogue. There is proselytism wherever there is the idea of making the Church grow by putting less emphasis on this attraction on the part of Christ and the work of the Spirit, focusing everything on any type of "wise discourse". Therefore, proselytism first of all cuts out Christ Himself and the Holy Spirit from the mission, even when we claim to speak and act nominally in Christ’s name. Proselytism is always violent by nature, even when it is hidden or exercised with white gloves. It does not tolerate the freedom and graciousness with which faith can be transmitted from person to person by grace. This is why proselytism is not only something of the past, of bygone colonialist times, or conversions forced or bought with the promise of material advantages. Proselytism can also exist today even in parishes, communities, movements, religious congregations.

So what does it mean to evangelize?
To evangelize means delivering Christ's own testimony in simple and precise words, like the apostles did. But there is no need to invent persuasive discourses. The proclamation of the Gospel can even be whispered, but it always passes through the overwhelming power of the scandal of the cross. And it has always followed the path indicated in the letter of the Apostle Peter, which consists in simply "providing reasons" of one’s hope to others, a hope that remains a scandal and foolishness in the eyes of the world.

How do we recognize a Christian "missionary"?
A distinctive feature is that of acting as facilitators, and not as controllers of the faith. Facilitating, making easy, without us placing obstacles to Jesus' desire to embrace everyone, to heal everyone, to save everyone, not being selective, not imposing "pastoral tariffs", not playing the part of the guard at the door controlling who has the right to enter. I remember parish priests and communities in Buenos Aires who set up many initiatives to facilitate access to baptism. In the last few years, they realized the number was growing of those not being baptized for various reasons, even sociological ones, and they wanted to remind everyone that being baptized is something simple, that everyone can request it, for themselves and for their own children. The path taken by those parish priests and those communities had one objective: not to add burdens, not to make claims, to remove any cultural, psychological or practical difficulties that could push people to postpone or drop the intention to baptize their own children.

In America, at the beginning of evangelization, missionaries discussed who was "worthy" to receive baptism. How did those disputes end?
Pope Paul III rejected the theories of those who claimed that the Indians were by nature "incapable" of accepting the Gospel and confirmed the choice of those who facilitated their baptism. They seem to be things of the past, yet even now there are circles and sectors that present themselves as ilustrados [enlightened], and even sequester the proclamation of the Gospel through their distorted reasoning that divide the world between "civilized" and "barbaric". What irritates them and makes them angry is the idea that the Lord might have a predilection for many cabecitas negras [a derogatory term]. They consider a large part of the human family as if they were a lower class entity, unable to achieve decent levels in spiritual and intellectual life according to their standards. On this basis, contempt can develop for people considered to be second rate. All this also emerged during the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon.

Some tend to drive a wedge between the transparent proclamation of the faith and social work. They say that we must not reduce mission to a type of social activity. Is that a legitimate concern?
Everything that is within the scope of the Beatitudes and the works of mercy is in agreement with mission, is already proclamation, is already mission. The Church is not an NGO, the Church is something else. But the Church is also a field hospital, where everyone is welcome, as they are, where everyone’s wounds are healed. And this is part of her mission. Everything depends on the love that moves the heart of those who do things. If a missionary helps dig a well in Mozambique because he is aware that those he baptizes and evangelizes need it, how can it be said that that work is separate from evangelization?

Today what are the new focusses and sensitivities to put into practice in the processes aimed at making evangelization fruitful in the various social and cultural contexts?
Christianity does not embrace only one cultural model. As John Paul II acknowledged, “while remaining completely true to itself, with unswerving fidelity to the proclamation of the Gospel and the tradition of the Church, Christianity will also reflect the different faces of the cultures and peoples in which it is received and takes root”. The Holy Spirit embellishes the Church, with the new languages of persons and communities that embrace the Gospel. Thus the Church, taking up the values of different cultures, becomes “sponsa ornate monilibus suis”, “the bride bedecked with her jewels”, of which the Prophet Isaiah speaks. It is true that some cultures have been closely linked to the preaching of the Gospel and to the development of Christian thought. But in the period we are living, it becomes even more urgent to bear in mind that the revealed message is not identified with a particular culture. And when meeting new cultures, or cultures that have not accepted the Christian proclamation, we must not try to impose a determined cultural form together with the evangelical proposition. Today, in missionary work as well, it is even more important not to carry heavy baggage.

Mission and martyrdom. You have often recalled the intimate bond uniting these two realities.
In Christian life the reality of martyrdom and evangelization both have the same origin, the same source: when the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit gives strength, courage and consolation. Martyrdom is the maximum expression of the recognition of and the testimony rendered to Christ, which represents the fulfillment of mission, of apostolic work. I always think of the Coptic brothers slaughtered in Libya, who quietly uttered Jesus’ name while they were being beheaded. I think of Saint Mother Teresa’s Sisters murdered in Yemen, while they were taking care of Muslim patients in a home for disabled elderly people. The sisters were wearing work aprons over their religious habits when they were killed. They are all victors, not "victims". And their martyrdom, to the point of the shedding of blood, illuminates the martyrdom that everyone can suffer in everyday life, with the witness rendered to Christ every day. It’s what can be observed when visiting old missionaries in their nursing homes. They are often battered by the life they have had. A missionary told me that many of them lose their memories and no longer remember anything about the good they did. "But it does not matter", he told me, "because the Lord remembers it very well".

Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/PUERTO RICO - Celebration in the diocese of Caguas for the beginning of the diocesan synod and the journey towards CAM 6

Fides EN - - Lun, 04/11/2019 - 11:42
Caguas - The diocese of Caguas in Puerto Rico yesterday celebrated its 55th anniversary with the beginning of the first stage of the diocesan synod and the diocesan journey towards CAM 6 , Puerto Rico 2023. The Bishop of Caguas, Mgr. Eusebio Ramos, opened the diocesan synod with a decree read by the diocesan Chancellor, Father Ángel Molina, during Sunday Mass. At the end of the Mass there was a procession of fire and candles, chosen as symbols of CAM 6, together with the flag delivered to each diocese.
The national launch of the Sixth American Missionary Congress Puerto Rico 2023, took place on October 19, at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico. The Executive Committee, formed by the Presidential Committee and the Coordinators of the Commissions and by the delegate of the Diocese of Ponce, seat of CAM 6, held the first meeting on October 28, for the organization of the continental event. Each Commission has a vital role, at a strategic and service level, in the journey of the Church of Puerto Rico and the American continent towards 2023.
According to information sent to Fides from the PMS of Puerto Rico, the CAM 6 organizational structure is already in motion. On 19 October, hundreds of people from all over the island enthusiastically participated in the launch of CAM 6, which took place with a very rich program, which initially included the message of Mgr. Daniel Fernández Torres, Bishop of Arecibo and National Director of the PMS. Therefore Fr. José Orlando Camacho, General Coordinator of CAM 6, and Fr. Carlos Manuel, Coordinator of the office in Ponce, informed about the organization and the commitments of the Committees. Mgr. Ghaleb Moussa Abdallah Bader, Apostolic Delegate for Puerto Rico, then addressed a brief speech to the people of God, before the Mass concelebrated by all the Bishops. Photos and videos on social media testify the enthusiasm and commitment of hundreds of faithful already involved in the preparation of CAM 6.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/NIGERIA - National Mission Congress; "A very successful event of great importance for the Church in Nigeria", says the Director of the PMS

Fides EN - - Lun, 04/11/2019 - 11:27
Abuja - "The Congress was a very successful one, in comparison to the third one, in terms of attendance and active participation by the cross section of the faithful of the Church in Nigeria", said Fr. George 'Segun Ajana, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Nigeria, at the end of the Fourth National Mission Congress held from 22 to 27 October at the Bishop Kelly Pastoral Center, in Benin City, capital of the State of Edo .
The Congress, which was attended by 350 delegates from the 9 Ecclesiastical Provinces of Nigeria, with the theme "Baptized and sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in Nigeria", which resumed that of the Extraordinary Missionary Month. The last day of the congress was in fact dedicated to the closing of the Extraordinary Missionary Month. The closing ceremony was attended by 2,500 faithful from the host archdiocese.
On this occasion the life and virtues of Vivian Ogun, the young girl who refused to be defiled by the criminals who kidnapped her. She was one of the 25 people identified as people of exemplary Christian life for the Extraordinary Mission Month, was brought to the attention of the faithful.
"Of particular interest was the number of the members of the Church’s hierarchy, present at the congress and the increase in the number of lay faithful participants. The determination and resilience of the participants at enhancing evangelization in the country and ad extra was very encouraging and a clear indication that the Church in Nigeria is progressing gradually in her missionary apostolate, even in the face of persecution and other challenges", stressed Fr. George. "For the Church in Nigeria, the light at the end of the tunnel, in the context of her evangelization apostolate is very bright and encouraging", concludes the National Director of the PMS.
Categorie: From the church

EUROPE/SPAIN - The Extraordinary Missionary Month has revitalized missionary enthusiasm in the dioceses

Fides EN - - Lun, 04/11/2019 - 10:21
Madrid - "The Extraordinary Missionary Month has ended, but what cannot end is the impetus that the Holy Spirit has placed in the hearts of Christians. Mission has ceased to be something which belongs to a few. Now it belongs to all Christians". This is how Fr. José María Calderón, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of Spain, summarizes, in a note sent to Agenzia Fides, the hundreds of events held in all the Spanish dioceses during this period.
At a national level, a missionary congress gathered more than 380 participants in Madrid in September, including theologians, missionaries and people involved in missionary animation .
At a diocesan level, recalls the PMS note of Spain, more than 300 events were held in different parts of the country: about 180 masses and missionary prayer meetings, 10 exhibitions, 50 conferences and round tables, 3 speeches, 9 concerts and missionary festivals, 5 marches ... Activities that were open to all people, of all ages and ecclesial conditions, who had missionaries as their main protagonists and as their sole objective to remember that all the baptized are missionaries. "It is not yet time to take stock or make naive or utopian projects for the future, but to verify that ‘something new is being born, do you not perceove it?’ : the desire that Christ is known and loved by all", concludes Fr. José María Calderón.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA - Large areas of East Africa devastated by floods

Fides EN - - Mar, 29/10/2019 - 13:50
Nairobi - The violent floods that hit several areas of East Africa have caused death and destruction in South Sudan, Kenya and Somalia. In Kenya, at least 29 people died in the floods that hit 25 counties in the Country. Among those most affected are the counties of Mandera, Marsabit, Turkana, Wajir, Iamu and Kwale. Caritas Kenya has launched an appeal for the collection of funds, food and first aid to help those affected.
In South Sudan, His Exc. Mgr. Stephen Nyodho Ador Majwok, Bishop of Malakal, the largest diocese in the country, said that 238,000 km2 of the territory of the diocese is flooded. The Bishop has asked the government to declare a state of national disaster to deal with the emergency.
According to a UN report, "unusual strong seasonal rains have devastated vast areas of South Sudan since July, affecting approximately 908,000 sq. Km. Rains should continue at least until the end of November putting additional people at risk". According to the report, the drama is accentuated by the fact that "in the 32 counties flooded in the States of Jonglei, Upper Nile, Warrap, Eastern Equatoria, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity and Lakes, more than 3 million people were already in need of assistance before the beginning of the rains". In fact, South Sudan is struggling to get out of the disastrous civil war that broke out in December 2013, which caused a high number of refugees and internally displaced persons.
In Somalia, according to another report, at least 182,000 people have been displaced by floods, which have devastated fields, infrastructure and roads. In the state of Hirshabelle, the Shabelle River overflowed in the city of Belet Weyne and surrounding areas on 26 October. Three people, including two children under the age of 10, drowned. Yesterday, October 28, a boat with 20 people turned upside down near Belet Weyne, causing at least a dozen victims.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/NICARAGUA - "The people of Nicaragua are no longer afraid", says the Bishop of Matagalpa

Fides EN - - Mar, 29/10/2019 - 13:39
Matagalpa – Mgr. Rolando Álvarez, Bishop of the Diocese of Matagalpa, issued a video interview, shared with Fides, in which he analyzes the reality of his diocese and that of Nicaragua. First of all, Bishop Alvarez underlines the poverty of the population: from the recent census in the area it was discovered that 70% of the population of Matagalpa does not have the money to send their children to school. "Either we eat or we study", and these cases increase more and more.
Regarding security, he said that the Cathedral of Matagalpa has been surrounded by police on several occasions in recent weeks. It was also discovered that during the procession of Our Lady of the Rosary there were violent elements who wanted to create confusion and tension, but the same people recognized them. The faithful of Matagalpa have thus expressed their faith and also their thoughts.
"Walking on the street - the Bishop emphasized - means manifesting faith and love. The population, who with loyalty and love to the nation wants to demonstrate to demand respect for the country, and also to express an opinion contrary to the type of government or management.
With regards to the hostility towards the Church by pro-government groups in Esteli, Masaya, Managua and now in Matagalpa, the Bishop commented: "The only thing I can say is that we, before being believers, must take a humanitarian position, the laity are on the side of the weakest".
"The Church proposed a text in May 2014, which reached the President, we gave it to him as Pastors of a people that suffers and in the face of the need for dialogue with all sectors, to avoid precisely what we now live in the country, but nobody listened to us. In May of this year, 2019 once again we proposed a path of development and social life, where everyone's rights must be respected, where the dignity of people is recognized, freedom of expression, where the truth goes together with justice to have peace. There are 5 points: but if freedom does not exist ... nothing exists".
For the record of the country, the Bishops continue to be considered "coup leaders", and Mgr. Alvarez underlines in this regard: "We are open to dialogue. We continue to do our work: catechesis, social work, human promotion, etc. with greater strength when situations are difficult. We Bishops have chosen to accompany the people".
Faced with the climate of violence in many parts of Nicaragua, which also affects the Church, the Bishop of Matagalpa responds with these words: "I do not live with fear. I go with the people. The Church is not afraid, lives, celebrates and helps others. Furthermore, Nicaragua is no longer afraid, fear stops you. The people are no longer afraid".
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/INDONESIA - Cardinal Suharyo: "The Pope appreciates the Pancasila"

Fides EN - - Mar, 29/10/2019 - 13:18
Jakarta - "The Pope appreciates the values of the Pancasila at the base of the Indonesian nation, which strives to contribute to building peace in the world, developing true brotherhood": this is what Indonesian Cardinal Ignazio Suharyo, created Cardinal by Pope Francis in the Consistory of 5 October. As Agenzia Fides learns, during the celebration of a holy thanksgiving mass in the Cathedral in recent days, the Cardinal said: "I am sure that my appointment is a recognition to the Catholic Church in Indonesia, which continues to try to grow in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council". Mgr. Suharyo stressed that "the Holy See very much appreciates the harmony promoted by the Indonesian people, especially in their relationship with the Muslim faithful".
Catholics in Indonesia, the Cardinal added, who is also President of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference, "have played an active role in the struggle for Indonesian independence, and today they are committed to the social life of the nation".
Mgr. Suharyo linked the appointment of the new Cardinals to the Extraordinary Missionary Month, announced by the Pope for October 2019, stating that "for this reason the call is very clear, it is the Pope's invitation to continually renew his evangelizing mission in the whole world".
In this process of "renewal" and "conversion", which never ends, the Archbishop of Jakarta continued, "the Indonesian Catholic Church is called to be a Church that, in fidelity to Christ, is increasingly relevant for its own community and ever more significant for society".
This "renewal", he noted, starts from the life of prayer, and quoted the Gospel of Luke , where Jesus invites "to pray always without becoming weary".
Nourishing the relationship with God, concluded Cardinal Suharyo, man receives "apostolic courage, evangelical humility and diligent prayer", key factors for the renewal of the Church.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/IVORY COAST - Closure of the Extraordinary Missionary Month: "Missionary awakening is part of our daily lives", says the Director of the PMS

Fides EN - - Mar, 29/10/2019 - 12:39
Yamoussoukro - "Missionary awakening must not be limited just to the month of October, decreed by Pope Francis, but must be part of our daily life", said the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the Ivory Coast, Fr. Jean Noel Gossou on Sunday 27 October, during the closing Mass of the celebration of the Extraordinary Missionary Month in the Ivory Coast.
The Mass was marked by the delivery of the certificates to the winners of the singing, poetry and theater competitions initiated by the National Direction of the Pontifical Mission Societies on the occasion of the Extraordinary Missionary Month .
The competition that had the objective of carrying out a mass catechesis on the theme of the World Extraordinary Missionary Month, "Baptized and sent, the Church of Christ on mission in the world", saw the participation of four of the fifteen Ivorian dioceses: those of Yopougon, Daloa, Abidjan and Agboville.
"It was a wonderful experience for me and the message I wanted to convey through my poetry is that as baptized we must always announce Christ through our various activities", said Nassitodé Kouamé Romaric, winner of the poetry competition.
At the end of this competition, the first prize for poetry and theater went to the diocese of Agboville, respectively with a laptop worth 300,000 CFA francs and a sum of 500,000 CFA francs. The diocese of Daloa was awarded the first prize in the singing category with a prize of 750,000 CFA francs.
Categorie: From the church

OCEANIA/PAPUA NEW GUINEA - Extraordinary missionary Month: new technologies as a tool to "preach from the roofs"

Fides EN - - Mar, 29/10/2019 - 12:27
Port Moresby - The continuous evolution of the mass media and communication landscape requires a proactive approach on behalf of the Church, so that it can remain close to people. This is what Agatha Ferei Furivai, secular Catholic, President of "Signis" in the Pacific region and director of Caritas Fiji, explains in a message sent to Agenzia Fides on the occasion of the Extraordinary Missionary Month: "Communication among individuals has changed significantly in the last 20 years. The new generations are composed of digital natives and have technological know-how, but more and more people are moving away from face-to-face communication in families and communities. For this reason, parents, grandparents, community leaders and all those involved in the care and growth of a child must walk hand in hand with them". The words of Agatha Ferei Furivai come on the sidelines of the Missiology Symposium focused on the theme "Mission in the age of media and instant communication", organized in recent days on the occasion of the Extraordinary Missionary Month, at the Catholic theological institute of Bomana, in Papua New Guinea.
The need for a return to "real relationships" had been addressed by Pope Francis in the message for World Communications Day.
"In the new culture marked by the presence of the computer person, the Church can tell the world her message, listen more clearly to the voice of public opinion and enter into debates and into the common search for solution to the many urgent problems of humanity. We must embrace the new technologies to proclaim the Word of Christ, just as we would do if we preached from the roofs", says the director of Caritas Fiji.
She then remarked that "the mission of the lay faithful is a journey into interpersonal relationships, to recognize Christ in others. In this journey we can use the media in the media to amplify our voices". Furivai noted that even in the Pacific, social media platforms have become established as a means of communication, inviting them to "use the media to extend the divine plan of our Creator and spread the Word of God".
"We are all users and producers of messages that go into the circle of communication. This is a good reason for a collaborative effort between the Church and the media", she concluded.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/INDIA - In the extraordinary missionary Month, biblical convention in Madhya Pradesh

Fides EN - - Mar, 29/10/2019 - 11:13
Indore - The nine dioceses of Madhya Pradesh, in central India, organized a three-day "biblical convention" in Indore, from 25 to 27 October, bringing together over 6,000 faithful, including bishops, priests, religious and lay people who came from different parts of the state, on a central theme: "Baptized and sent". In the gathering they shared pastoral and evangelization activities carried out during the month, "to create missionary awareness", said the coordinator of the event, Father Joby Anand.
Celebrating the closing mass on 27 October, the Archbishop of Bhopal, Mgr. Leo Cornelio, said: "October 2019 was announced by Pope Francis as an extraordinary missionary Month on the theme of "Baptized and sent", which we wanted to make ours. It is important to proclaim Christ with enthusiasm. Our convention on the Bible, organized every year, aims to increase interest and love for the Holy Scriptures among Christians, so that we can then share the proclamation of the Gospel".
Father John Paul, president of the Forum of Christian mass media in Indore, explained: "Every year we organize a Bible Festival for the spiritual renewal of the faithful. This year we linked it to the extraordinary missionary Month".
The three-day convention was characterized by biblical meetings and in-depth studies, special liturgies, celebration of Mass and prayer of the Rosary.
Mgr. Chacko Thottumarickal, Bishop of Indore, thanked all those present "hoping for an impact of the Word of God on their lives": "We can build together a happier world, making sure that reading the Bible is part of our life and part of the family routine", he said.
At the conclusion of the Festival, a procession carried the Holy Bible and statues of Mother Mary and Saint Mariam Teresia in procession in the city of Indore, as a sign of public Christian witness.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/BRAZIL - Bishops on beach pollution: there is no future for humanity without respect for the common home

Fides EN - - Mar, 29/10/2019 - 10:52
Brasilia - The patches of oil and oily waste that have reached the beaches of the Brazilian Northeast since the beginning of September, causing the death of animals and damage to tourist resorts, have led the Bishops' Conference of Brazil to call for a "deep and immediate ecological conversion".
Thousands of people are engaged in cleaning over 200 beaches in nine states on an area of over 2,000 kilometers. According to experts, this could be the worst disaster ever occurred in the area, whose causes are still unknown. The federal prosecutor's office accused the government of Brasilia of not organizing a response to the disaster.
"The mining processes that contaminate and kill must be monitored and duly held responsible by the public power, since there is no future for humanity without the indispensable respect for the common home" writes the Presidency of the CNBB in the text sent to Agenzia Fides.
The Synod of Bishops for the Amazon has reinforced the need for "an authentic ecological conversion", they continue, citing as an example for every person on the road to conversion, "the magnificent work of the volunteers who dedicate themselves to cleaning the beaches of the Northeast. Men and women who take risks in contact with toxic oil to save the environment".
Faced with this environmental disaster, the Bishops ask the competent authorities "effective actions to recover the natural balance", as well as making the necessary investigations "to find the origin and causes of this ecological tragedy". "The courage and solidarity of the volunteers touch the hearts of everyone, especially the rulers, so that the defense of life and the planet is always a priority", the note concludes.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/ETHIOPIA - "No to the attempt to provoke an ethnic and religious crisis", says the Premier, Nobel Peace Prize

Fides EN - - Lun, 28/10/2019 - 13:20
Addis Ababa - "An attempt to provoke an ethnic and religious crisis". Thus the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed Ali, described the violence that caused the death of 67 people last week in the great country of the Horn of Africa. The violence broke out on October 23 in Addis Ababa, the capital, to then extend to the region of Oromia, following the complaint launched by the activist, Jawar Mohammed, of having been the object of an assassination attempt or kidnapping by the forces of security.
Supporters of Jawar Mohammed took to the streets of the capital and those of other cities, clashing with the police. The violence soon degenerated into inter-communal clashes.
Jawar Mohammed is an activist who played an important role in the Oromo youth uprising that forced former Prime Minister Haile Mariàm Desalegn to resign in February 2018, paving the way for current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali. The latter launched a program of political reforms and national reconciliation and this year received the Nobel Peace Prize for how he handled the delicate political transition phase, marked by the access to the Premiership of an Oromo, the biggest ethnic group in the Country that had so far been marginalized by power, and for the peace achieved with Eritrea.
Jawar Mohammed, after returning from the USA where he lived, began to criticize the reforms initiated by Abiy Ahmed Ali, which are aimed at reducing the tensions between the different ethnic groups in the Country.
During the clashes three Orthodox Coptic churches and a mosque were also attacked.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/CHILE - Bishop Vargas: a country in the search and commitment to find solutions

Fides EN - - Lun, 28/10/2019 - 13:15
Temuco - "In the face of the painful events we have seen these days, beyond the urgent need to face its serious consequences for the good of the entire population, with responsibility and according to the requirements of the rule of law, it is necessary to reconstruct social coexistence, the common good, dialogue based on civic friendship, with full respect for the life and dignity of each person. Transgressing these values, somehow, we all have a share of responsibility, and therefore we are all in the search and commitment to find solutions. It is an ethical imperative". Thus stated Mgr. Héctor Vargas, Bishop of the Diocese of San José di Temuco, in a note sent to Agenzia Fides.
"The solution is complex, it requires a profound structural reform for our institutions, in order to consider the new forms of citizen participation, able to respond to their expectations. This implies the strengthening of public ethics, which, first of all, requires the overcoming of asocial individualism and openness to a sense of community. Thus, the key question is not what fits an individual or a social group, but what is appropriate for the country", emphasizes Mgr. Vargas.
"It is a principle that has remained in words for too long, in modern and contemporary political societies, above all because of the influence exerted by individualist and collectivist ideologies", continues the Bishop of Temuco.
"As a result, politics should help to bring out the best in people and groups that constitute otherness and social diversity, without losing the unity of the concrete human community. In this sense, the role of the State, public policies, the active autonomy of the social community and intermediate organizations, are substantial to take steps towards a more just and fraternal Chile", concludes the text.
In Chile, since last night, an official curfew has been removed "with the aim of helping Chile to restore institutional normality", reads a government note.
The president, Sebastián Piñera, on Saturday 26 said: a possible change of cabinet and the revocation of the states of emergency, decreed in various parts of the country.
Although Piñera had declared that he wanted to resolve the situation of popular protest, up to that day the number of deaths due to violence in Chile reached 19, because of the massive anti-government protests. The Piñera administration has been accused of excessive use of force.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/NIGERIA - Archbishop Dal Toso closes the National Mission Congress: now may each one of us evangelize through words and with our lives

Fides EN - - Lun, 28/10/2019 - 12:43
Benin city - It is not enough to organize a Congress on the topic of evangelization if this does not have an impact on the life of all those who have participated, so that each one of us may evangelize through one’s words and with one’s own life: stressed Archbishop Giampietro Dal Toso, President of the Pontifical Mission Societies on 26 October, during the final celebration of the National Mission Congress of Nigeria, held in Benin city from 22 to 26 October .
Thanking the Lord for this opportunity, the Archbishop reiterated in his homily that "the center of evangelization is Christ, the real Christ, able to attract even those who are most distant, to give life, to make our lives fruitful" and that "every pastoral activity, even this Congress, should help us to fix our gaze on Jesus Christ, so as to obtain true life". Therefore, inspired by the liturgy of the day, he focused on four fundamental points of the mission: the proclamation of faith, history, conversion, God's mercy.
Taking inspiration from the first reading, in which St. Paul writes to the Romans: "There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" the Archbishop stressed that the good news that God wants to communicate is the salvation given to each one through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. God loves us and is present in us with His Spirit: "We are called to constantly invoke the Spirit of God in prayer, the Spirit that gives life and strength to our mission and encourages us to proclaim the truth of the Gospel, which is the love of God for each man and His desire to save".
Thus, commenting on the Gospel, Mgr. Dal Toso emphasized that Christ evangelizes taking inspiration from the concrete history of the people who listen, from facts that seem absurd and unjust, but that can acquire meaning in Him. He therefore urged us to let ourselves be questioned by what happens in our lives and in that of others. "In this way, even life’s daily occurrences become a way in which God speaks to us", he stressed. "As Church, we are called to discern God’s voice and read history not just with human criteria but especially in the light of God’s word - he continued -. And there we can discover where the Lord wants to lead us, as a Church, as a society, as a single faithful".
The events surrounding life, even the most painful ones, do not call for judgement, but discernment. In fact, they are a call to conversion. It is an authentically Christian attitude of transcending our personal way of seeing things, of interpreting history from a different perspective that allows us to come out of ourselves and meet the gaze of Christ, who has conquered all evil. "It is precisely by contemplating His love that we are transformed".
A Christian is called to conversion every day. "Through conversion we meet a God who is merciful towards us. We too, today, are here in this celebration to come to know and experience the mercy of God, so that those who meet us may discover in us the mercy of God". Recalling the theme of this Extraordinary Missionary Month, "Baptized and sent: the Church of Christ on mission in the world", the Archbishop then urged: "We are all baptized and sent as Church to be missionaries in the world, to be witnesses, to preach that the word of salvation that Christ has made resound in our hearts has the power to constantly convert us to Him, to give us the experience of mercy and thus change our lives".
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/UZBEKISTAN - The Catholic community restarts from the extraordinary missionary Month

Fides EN - - Lun, 28/10/2019 - 11:16
Tashkent - "In the extraordinary Month that the Church wanted to dedicate to missions, we decided to meet every day to recite the prayer of the Rosary. For this reason, we meet with the faithful in the parish of Tashkent every day: in our intentions there are missions from all over the world and in particular ours. The missionary month represents for us a new starting point, which we entrust to the hands of God". Thus the Apostolic Administrator of Uzbekistan, Franciscan Fr. Jerzy Maculewicz, tells Agenzia Fides the initiative organized by the community of the baptized in Uzbekistan on the occasion of October 2019, announced by Pope Francis as an extraordinary Month dedicated to the mission.
After the summer break, which saw the priests present in Uzbekistan alternate to go to their countries of origin, the activities of the local community started again in October, with the feast of St. Francis: "Here in Uzbekistan, among the priests, we are largely Franciscans , therefore October 4 represents a very important day for us. This year we celebrated by gathering with the faithful and experienced a moment of prayer followed by a small party. The date also gave us the opportunity to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of my perpetual vows", said fr. Maculewicz.
The preparation of the sacraments will also begin in October. In this regard, says the Apostolic Administrator: “From this month the catechumenate has started, to prepare adults to receive baptism. It is a beginning in full harmony with the theme of the Missionary Month: "Baptized and sent". At the moment there are about 10 people, but we are sure that more will come later. Furthermore, we have started catechism for children and young people, in preparation for their First Communion. We do all we can to serve all the people who come to our parishes".
The Catholic presence in Uzbekistan is made up of about 3,000 baptized, distributed in the five local parishes: to the approximately 700 faithful active in Tashkent, there are others present in Samarkand, Bukhara, Urgench and Fergana.
Categorie: From the church