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

Fides EN - www.fides.org - 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".
Categorie: From the church

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

Fides EN - www.fides.org - 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.
Conclusion
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.

FRANCISCUS

Categorie: From the church

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

Fides EN - www.fides.org - 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.
Categorie: From the church

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

Fides EN - www.fides.org - 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.
Categorie: 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

Fides EN - www.fides.org - 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".
Categorie: From the church

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

Fides EN - www.fides.org - 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.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/PARAGUAY - In his visit John Paul II encouraged us "not to give up the dream and commitment to a reconciled and fraternal Paraguay"

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mer, 20/05/2020 - 12:27
Asuncion - "In the Year of the Word of God which celebrates our Church in Paraguay, God has sought ways to make the Good News more alive and present. The churches have been empty, but the pulpits have been filled with the Word of eternal life. We hope that, respecting the necessary hygiene and biosecurity measures, we will soon be able to meet again to share the bread and the sacraments of the Church. Let us keep our faith alive, let our hearts remain firm, as St. John Paul II told us". This is the exhortation that the Bishops of Paraguay addressed to the community of faithful on May 19. "The centenary of the birth of Saint John Paul II, who visited us 32 years ago as Pope, is the occasion for this pastoral message - they explain -. Let us recall his convinced and firm faith in his ministry and in his magisterium… Pope John Paul II visited us to confirm us in faith, hope and charity, encouraging us not to give up the dream and commitment to a reconciled and fraternal Paraguay".
In their message, sent to Fides, the Bishops recall that "months have passed since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out and we know that the end will not be soon". In the face of fatigue, fear, anguish over daily bread, the feeling of insecurity and vulnerability, questions for the future, they invite us: "to increase our prayers, so that scientific and international solutions can be offered from international and national, technical, economic and administrative solidarity to support life, protect coexistence and open new and better ways for humanity". The Bishops of Paraguay are "in solidarity with this adversity", and recall the words of Saint John Paul II on the enhancement of local culture in order to overcome trials.
The message is divided into five points, recalling the words of Pope John Paul II. The first, "Let us live hope, not fear", recalls that "as Christians we must be cautious, listen to the advice of doctors and protect ourselves. But even more, we must renew our commitment to Christ in every sick person, with the neighbor who is alone, in vulnerable conditions, away from his home and family ... To strengthen hope we must rely more on faith and love, that humanizes us and pushes us to do good". In the second point, entitled "We draw strength from weakness, to offer hospitality to the most vulnerable", they write: "Our Christian strength is manifested in the ability to take care of the foreigner, the abandoned, the visitor, the needy, sharing what we have , even if it is little".
Therefore, in the third point, they urge to support "the courage of solidarity". Many have lost their jobs and are unable to support their families, domestic violence and criminal acts are increasing, for this reason. "We must decide between selfishness or generosity, choose to build a more Christian and more human world, taking care of the integrity of people, of the life of families, joining everyone's solidarity efforts for bread, housing, work, health and education".
The fourth point calls for high-moral leadership, "committed to life and a new Paraguay". "Our mission as pastors and all Christians - they write - is to build a healthier society in moral life and full of peace in coexistence. Public morality is the premise that makes possible the greatest ideals of justice, peace, freedom and participation", therefore they emphasize that "the moment we are living must be understood as the call of God for those who occupy a position of command and for all citizens. It is time to make the right decisions, to make the necessary changes and to propose the appropriate plans for the integral development of our country for the benefit of all".
Finally the Bishops invite to turn to the Virgin of Caacupé: "She does not abandon us in our poverty, in our illness, in situations of social forgetfulness, and asks us not to be discouraged, to have faith in her Son Jesus, to listen to his Word and to continue together, as his disciples".
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/PHILIPPINES - After Covid-19, a "green change" in the economy is urgently needed, starting from agriculture

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mer, 20/05/2020 - 11:50
Manila - The Church in the Philippines sees the urgency and proposes a "green change" in the country's economy, especially in the post-Covid-19 period. According to the economists of the Jesuit-led University of Manila, the nation could rise from the pandemic, and have a better and lasting recovery if the government implemented reforms that encourage the development of a green economy, driven by agriculture.
These themes and reflections were re-launched and disseminated by various Catholic bodies and institutions during the celebratory week dedicated to "Laudato Sì", which is being held from 16 to 24 May on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of Pope Francis' encyclical.
The National Secretariat for Social Action /Caritas Philippines, in the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, launched for the occasion the "Green Campaign Laudato Sì", in order to "create greater awareness among people for the care of the environment and new development models", explained Fr. Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of NASSA.
The campaign promotes food security, protection of the environment and indigenous peoples, investments in clean and renewable energy. The Secretariat has launched a program to guarantee food safety in communities during and after the coronavirus pandemic. To this end, dioceses and parishes are encouraged to promote community agriculture and intensify their ecological campaigns.
In times of COVID-19, it is said, faith, proximity, solidarity and sharing are "vital weapons to save our fellow men".
To respond to this appeal, among the many initiatives registered in all the dioceses, the diocese of San Carlos, through the San Carlos Diocesan Social Action Foundation, Inc. has launched a program to reach out to the poor, launching the "Adopt a family" project. The aim is to identify those who are considered the poorest of the poor, people who are unable to work because of the crisis and therefore do not have the possibility to feed their family.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/COLOMBIA - Covid 19: social pastoral workers are a bridge among people in need

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mer, 20/05/2020 - 11:23
Malaga - The Catholic Church continues to pursue its commitment by accompanying, supporting, protecting and coordinating efforts to guarantee the minimum necessary that communities need in this period of pandemic. Thus the diocese of Malaga-Soatá, da Santander informed of the sharing with the most vulnerable.
The whole group that works in the leadership of the diocese has organized charity initiatives in the region, such as food assistance, access to health and finding accommodation, which have particularly alleviated the situation of the vulnerable and migrant population. Another of its contributions is the promotion of integral human development and training processes, mainly for the rural population, in order to generate sustainable, self-sufficient and supportive economies.
Responding to the needs that arise as a result of the health emergency that the country is facing due to Covid-19, Mgr. José Libardo Garcés Monsalve, the priests and parish priests of this circumscription, have promoted campaigns of encouragement and hope, in order to promote solidarity and generosity at a diocesan level and on behalf of the parishes. The collection of basic necessities has been very positive, thanks to the response of the community and especially of merchants, who contribute most to this cause.
In the note sent to Fides, Fr. Luis Alfonso Hernández, observes: "we do it because we recognize that this is the mission of the Church, it is our mission, our responsibility, because we understand that charity is the heart of the Gospel and without it there would be no sense or reason for being, what we do is what we are".
Since the quarantine began, awareness-raising and sharing actions have intensified, communication networks have been strengthened so that aid reaches the people who need it, in particular the elderly, the sick, people in prison, the most vulnerable families, migrants, the dispersed rural population and the unemployed.
"Social workers are a bridge among people who need access to food aid", says Fr. Hernández. In addition, the diocese managed and coordinated the actions with organizations such as the Food Bank, for example, with that of Bucaramanga, and dealt with 100 markets that were of great help to the vulnerable population.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/BOTSWANA - The "Sisters of Calvary" committed to helping the population: from face masks to spiritual support

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mar, 19/05/2020 - 13:18
Gabarone - "The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a drastic change in the life of the local Church of Botswana. Amidst the crisis, most parishes have adjusted to the cultural change" say, in a reflection sent to Agenzia Fides , the Congregation of the "Sisters of Calvary".
For five weeks the Country has been in lockdown to prevent the spread of SARS-Cov.2, the virus that causes Covid-19 disease. At this juncture, the nuns write, "The people of God have now come to understand the concept of the Family as the Domestic Church, the initial place where the young, baptized Christians learn their faith. God is honored, prayer is a normal event, and virtue is transmitted during this time of trial. They have slowly come to understand the possibility of spiritual communion when circumstances don’t permit the communal celebration of the liturgy. On - line Eucharistic celebration by the local clergy plays a role as they daily receive Gospel messages, although not all the faithful have the same opportunity", the sisters say.
As for the life of their order, the "Sisters of Calvary" say that "the lockdown has forced the sisters to cancel all the
planned programs during the month of April and May including annual retreats and meetings. We were forced to stop our ministries such as prison visits and closure of pre- schools in order to adhere to government directives".
The sisters in their local communities ensure that the vulnerable are offered the basic needs. Sisters who work as social workers are involved in the distribution of food baskets to the community. On the other hand, wearing of masks is mandatory.The sisters are busy and tirelessly making masks in order to help the society adhere to the health regulations. Nonetheless, psychosocial therapy is offered through the media to ensure mental stability and motivation despite the social restrictions they have to respect and adhere to for safety and protection. Finally, the sisters take care of the environment around us "Compassion for creation and hands on activity creates peacefulness and eliminates worry and anxiety posed by the Covid-19 pandemic", they conclude.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/KENYA - Covid-19: poverty bites in slums, but "the social and pastoral lifeline of small communities is extraordinary"

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mar, 19/05/2020 - 13:04
Nairobi - "Social distancing remains a difficult goal to achieve, in some cases absolutely unrealistic. We just have to hope that the contagion does not progress", says Father Andrew Bwalya, director of the Comboni magazine "New People" to Agenzia Fides, who describes the situation in Kenya, where the lockdown is active, with a curfew imposed at sunset until 5 in the morning.
The Comboanian religious reports an explanatory example: "In the capital, Kebira stands, the largest slum in Africa where an infinite number of people live in 2.5 square km . There is no urban plan, houses are often shacks with many families sharing the same bathrooms. There is no regular network of roads, so to reach a place you are forced to pass through the alleys and come into close contact with hundreds of people. And Kebira, is just one of the many ghettos where thousands of people in Kenya live piled up".
In early April, government authorities imposed the lockdown and curfew from 7.00pm to 5.00am, and the measures have been extended until the first week of June. The police, lined up on the streets, intervened harshly on those who contravened the measures. "Many people have to move to get to work and go to the city, transport in this stage is reduced and the risk of being around after 7.00pm is very real. The government has allocated $ 100 million to help those particularly affected by the pandemic and will distribute 2,500 shillings per poor family. Except that it will not be easy to identify needy families and allocate funds".
The lockdown, explains the missionary, has inevitably affected the Christian communities that are dealing with the impossibility of celebrating rites and meet. "Churches are all closed and nobody can go to liturgical celebrations because they risk being arrested. Fortunately, the pastoral care of social media is very active and it has always been possible to communicate through Facebook or via streaming. Easter was broadcast on the main TV and radio channels. The parishes are in turn divided into small groups and communities, more or less 20 families in the same area, who self-manage, coordinated by the parish priest, prayer meetings and help each other in mutual needs. In this difficult period, these small communities have represented an extraordinary social and pastoral lifeline".
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/KAZAKHSTAN - Agriculture and tailoring projects during confinement at Ark Village

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mar, 19/05/2020 - 12:50
Almaty - "We inhabitants of Ark Village could consider ourselves almost privileged, because we live in a six-hectare territory and we do not feel the weight of the restrictions imposed for Covid-19. Due to the fact that we have had a lot of free time in these weeks of confinement, we are dedicating ourselves to other projects, carried out in collaboration with the national Caritas. One of these concerns the construction and care of a greenhouse. It is an initiative that excites us greatly, because it could become a source of self-financing. Gradually, children are understanding its importance: before we only had a simple vegetable garden, now it is becoming a bigger commitment, to be managed with seriousness and professionalism". This is what Fr. Guido Trezzani, director of Caritas Kazakhstan and missionary in the community of the "Ark Village" in Talgar, near Almaty, tells Agenzia Fides, while in Kazakhstan the first re-openings are taking place, after the total lockdown phase, which started in early April, to contain the spread of Covid-19.
A second project, reports the missionary, involves the guests of the community in tailoring activities: "Inside the Village there is a tailor shop to which Caritas has commissioned the packaging of face masks, which we then donated to the children's surgery and oncology wards at the hospital in Almaty", says Fr. Trezzani.
On the life of the children hosted, the Director highlights: "For the inhabitants of 'Ark Village', a community that welcomes disabled children, orphans or those with family difficulties, school represents the most critical aspect in the lockdown phase. If, with the closure of schools, parents from all over the world have experienced the hard work of distance learning, these complications have multiplied for us because of the large number of school-aged children. Technological tools must be provided to all of them, but computers and the internet traffic are never enough. We follow waiting lists to give priority to those who have to do lessons and homework. It is a challenge that will continue for a few weeks. At the beginning, the children lived the obligation not to go to school with sympathy, but now they feel tired and do not always manage to obtain good results. Often, then, we have to deal with teachers who are not equipped and technically competent enough. There are many challenges, but the spirit of sharing, hospitality and solidarity in the Village continues".
Founded on June 1, 2000, the Village is home to about 70 children, orphans or families at risk, and about thirty have physical and mental handicaps. Since 2007, a medical center has been set up in the structure which has a dental, radiological and physiotherapy clinic. The first steps were taken in 1997, with the reception of the children of a state orphanage which was closing. Today, children from families destroyed by violence or alcoholism are also welcomed.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/PAKISTAN - The government announces the re-opening of Churches in Punjab: joy among the faithful

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mar, 19/05/2020 - 12:30
Faisalabad - "We are very happy for the announcement of the government of Punjab, which will allow the churches to reopen; however, we need some time to prepare everything: we must educate and sensitize the faithful on the procedures to be observed": says to Agenzia Fides Bishop Indrias Rehmat, at the head of the diocese of Faisalabad in the province of Pakistani Punjab. Rehmat also states: "As soon as we learned about the government's decision through mass media, we announced the news and allowed 30 people to enter and attend mass in the Cathedral. However, there are measures to be respected. Our people have been waiting for almost two months to participate again in the Holy Mass and now they rejoice because they can again receive the Eucharist. But we must continue to be cautious, because we do not want the assembly in church to be the cause of the spread of the virus". By respecting the provisions, the faithful will be able to return to the churches, notes the Bishop, and adds: "We await the written notification from the government. Next Sunday we will be able to celebrate two masses, each with 40 - 50 people in assembly. There is great joy among the people".
Fr. Qaisar Feroz OFM Cap, Executive Secretary of the Commission for Social Communications in the Catholic Bishops' Conference, speaking to Fides, says: "The news of the re-opening has been circulating in the mass media, but we await the written communication from the government of Punjab. The opening of Catholic churches depends on the general spread of the virus. We are happy, but we need everyone's collaboration to respect safety protocols and prevent any infections".
Fr. Asif Saleem, Catholic priest of Karachi, notes: "We appreciate the desire of the faithful to return to church, but protection and health are fundamental. We will celebrate the sacraments by observing the security measures".
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA - Covid-19 and the re-opening of churches in Africa: hope at the center of the mission

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mar, 19/05/2020 - 12:12
Kara - "The reality of closed churches has immersed many African Christians in the sad and painful experience of the sealed tomb, a symbol of despair and failure", writes Fr. Donald Zagore, SMA to Agenzia Fides. "Church doors are gradually opening and, despite the still active presence of the virus, Christians live in the immense joy of the open grave as a sign of resurrection and victory".
In the message sent to Fides, Fr. Zagore, Ivorian theologian of the Society for African Missions, says that "Covid-19 is certainly still present, but the Christian belief that it will be defeated against any anguish motivated by current realities remains alive. For Christians, evil, regardless of its virulence, will never have the last word. Triumph over evil is a guarantee. The certainty that God who does all new things now becomes the project of life, the living source of all Christian hope".
Fr. Zagore urges "not to risk sinking into indifference and irresponsibility". With these concepts in mind, the Ivorian priest invites us to insist on compliance with the preventive measures established against Covid-19 in churches as a fundamental and vital imperative: "God gives victory, but human action and responsibility is necessary. As Saint Augustine says, God created us without us, but he cannot save us without us".
"Resurrection does not completely annihilate evil - concludes Fr. Zagore - but releases a light of hope that pierces the clouds of anguish in order to open a new era. With resurrection, we are no longer forced to become trapped in a fatal fate that would only confirm the absurdity of the present moment".
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/MEXICO - Active in prayer and on social networks: the PMS during the Covid-19 period

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mar, 19/05/2020 - 12:04
Mexico City - "The pandemic has questioned the mission in its very nature: the mission in fact involves sending, going out to meet your neighbor. However, right now, faced with this situation of isolation, in almost all social strata there is the possibility of promoting evangelization through the media and, above all, social networks. After all, the goal is always to transmit the life of God". This is what Fr. Antonio de Jesùs Mascorro Tristàn, MG, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Mexico says in a conversation with Agenzia Fides and shares his missionary experience in this period of health emergency.
"It is also an opportunity - he continues - to strengthen our ties as a community, to be a reflection of God's mercy and to practice charity towards others without taking into consideration nationality or creed. Many have awakened the desire to help according to their situation".
The Mexican Church has adopted some particular initiatives during this period, such as the "Families without hunger" campaign promoted by the Episcopal Commission for Social Pastoral Care , and the Protocol for spiritual care for the faithful during the health emergency of Covid-19 published by the Episcopal Conference. "The Eucharist is celebrated daily at the PMS in Mexico, praying for the sick and the dead - explains Fr. Antonio de Jesùs -. Through a phone number and Facebook, people can send their prayer requests and share them during mass. A daily prayer is sent to members of Missionary Childhood and Adolescence to do with their family. This prayer is spread through digital platforms and social networks, reaching children and adolescents not only in Mexico but in all the Americas".
Among the concrete experiences that highlight the link between evangelization and charity, the National Director of the PMS cites the work of some priests who bring the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation to the sick, praying with them and offering comfort. Many doctors, nurses and health personnel who are believers, in addition to keeping in mind their responsibility as employees, give themselves to others with love, prolonging the shifts of their service more than they should, knowing that with their testimony they are evangelizing.
There are also several youth initiatives mentioned by Fr. Antonio de Jesùs Mascorro Tristàn, such as the realization of live broadcasts and/or recordings with reflections on the Easter Triduum and other topics that are then sent to mission places during Holy Week. During the octave of Easter other initiatives of accompaniment and missionary formation were born always through social networks, so that young people remain active and help others become aware of the mission of the Church. Other concrete actions are praying the Holy Rosary with relatives, outside hospitals, collecting food for needy families, supporting canteens and public dispensaries, etc.
"Regarding the PMS emergency fund wanted by Pope Francis, the invitation was made through our social networks and the official PMS website - underlines Fr. Antonio de Jesùs Mascorro Tristàn -, making one of our bank accounts available, but the response has been scarce so far. We must consider the situation of many infected, the loss of jobs, the increase in poverty and the situation of several dioceses, which are collecting funds to support those in need".
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/BRAZIL - The "Amazon needs you" campaign begins

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mar, 19/05/2020 - 11:22
Brasilia - "The Amazon needs you" is the campaign launched yesterday, May 18, on the social networks of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network in Brazil and of the Pontifical Mission Societies of Brazil . The initiative aims to mobilize the population to show solidarity with the Amazonian peoples.
The campaign counts on the support of the Special Episcopal Commission for the Amazon of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops , and is promoted in collaboration with the Pontifical Mission Societies and will be linked to the initiative of the CNBB and the Brazilian Caritas. "It is time to take care", but with the intention of raising funds, "especially for the most needy dioceses".
The data is alarming and the situation is very serious following the lack of food, the lack of hygiene and protective material, not to mention the countless unreported cases of people infected with the new coronavirus. In the campaign, any person or organization can participate with donations, which will be made by deposit or bank transfer in a specific account for this purpose. The donations will be sent by REPAM-Brasil and PMS to the local Churches through requests made by the dioceses or by the Prelates themselves. The requests will be analyzed by a team of representatives of the sponsoring organizations, who will carry out an evaluation of the requests and the resources collected, in order to help as many people and communities as possible living in a vulnerable situation.
Fr. Maurício Jardim, National Director of the PMS in Brazil, recalls that the PMS are an international network that supports the Pope in his concern for all the particular Churches. "In this moment of crisis, of pandemic, of many needs, the PMS have created a solidarity fund to help the most needy churches in mission territories all over the world. It is also an incentive for the creation of a national campaign as a way to help the most needy in their country", said the National Director.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/MALAWI - "No to political violence": religious leaders condemn the massacre in Lilongwe

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Lun, 18/05/2020 - 20:57
Lilongwe - "Every human life is sacred", said the Public Affairs Committee , a mother body of all religions in Malawi in a statement, after an alleged report on petrol bombing of a family in Lilongwe which claimed lives while some victims were terribly burnt.
The family resided in the premises used by the United Transformation Movement party, which was the target of the attack. The UTM is the party of Vice President Saulos Chilima, who broke the alliance with President Peter Mutharika.
"The incident is condemnable in strongest terms as it violates human rights and aims at intimidating the democratic contestation of ideas and at silencing alternative voices", the PAC lamented in their statement signed by the chairperson Mgr. Dr. Patrick Thawale, Vicar General of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lilongwe and Publicity Secretary Bishop Dr. Gilford Emmanuel Matonga from the Evangelical Association.
The PAC members cautioned that the "barbaric, cowardly and uncivilized acts of violence manifest a sense of desperation as Malawi moves towards the fresh Presidential Election".
For this reason, religious leaders have called for investigations of the culprits saying, "PAC wishes to add its voice to calls for prompt and impartial investigations on acts of political violence so that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions without discrimination", reads the statement of the body formed in 1992 during the Country’s political transition from one party to multiparty system of government.
"PAC calls for an open and inclusive dialogue in dealing withpolitical disputes – a mechanism that has full support of all peace-loving Malawians. We also call on all citizens to remain law-abiding and eschew all forms of political violence".
Political violence is on the rise in view of the vote on May 19, convened after the Constitutional Court canceled those held last May.
Categorie: From the church

OCEANIA/PAPUA NEW GUINEA - Catholics do not believe in magic: the commitment to eradicate the violent practices of superstition

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Lun, 18/05/2020 - 20:56
Bereina - "The police rescued two women while a crowd of five hundred people watched them being tortured, stabbed and burned with iron bars. A few weeks ago this news was on the front page of the national newspaper, in Papua New Guinea. How can it be that torture occurs under the eyes of so many people? What happened was an episode of violence, related to an accusation of witchcraft. But even sadder is having to talk about murders on witchcraft charges". Sister Anna Pigozzo, missionary of the Cavanis Fraternity of Jesus Good Shepherd in Bereina, spoke to Agenzia Fides.
"While the Coronavirus pandemic is reaping many victims, these reports remind us that there are people in the world who still suffer and die from terrible injustices", explains the missionary.
"Here in Papua New Guinea, in fact, believing in magic and superstition is still deeply rooted: if, for example, a person dies suddenly and without any visible disease, people tend to think that death was caused by a curse caused by an 'enemy'. For this reason, they try to identify the 'enemy' to punish him and avenge death. It is considered a form of justice and, until 2013, the law also took this cultural trait into consideration, easing the punishment of a murder sentence if there had been an alleged accusation of magic against the victim. In 2013 the law was modified and in 2015 the government approved the Sorcery National Action Plan, the implementation of which is still evidently long and difficult. In fact, Papua New Guinea, both in rural areas and in cities, has experienced an increase in violent attacks by large groups who, accusing the victims of witchcraft, want to do themselves justice. Eyewitnesses of the murder of a victim accused of witchcraft will not report the crime, for fear of losing their lives or that of their family members".
"Everyone talks about the importance of the development of Papua New Guinea, but focusing only on the economic aspect. Without moral growth, this country will not be able to progress. Today is the time to remove this great shame from our community, from our country, from our faith. Sister Anna underlines the fact that "violence and hatred cannot be fought with further violence and hatred and that, reflecting on these issues, we are even more convinced of how important it is to continue the work of evangelization and education in this country, where Christian faith arrived one hundred and thirty years ago. " The missionary also recalls: "Already in 2012 people were told that one cannot be Catholic and believe in sanguma , in potions, in witchcraft. Failure to report torture or murder of victims accused of witchcraft means believing in witchcraft. All this is incompatible with the Catholic faith".
"In this cultural battle - she concludes - we have education as tools, to develop critical thinking and a sense of responsibility, to learn to distinguish facts from opinions. We have prayer, the sacraments, our Catholic faith in which we profess to believe in God, Father, Almighty, to help ward off violence, superstition, hatred and any other sin. We cannot be silent witnesses of violence, abuse and crime. Every time and in any way, let us strive to share the charity and peace of Christ".
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/INDIA - The "Laudato Sì Week", for a better tomorrow

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Lun, 18/05/2020 - 20:55
Mumbai - "As a Catholic community in India we want to reflect, pray, discuss and act for a more just and sustainable tomorrow": says to Agenzia Fides Fr. Joseph Gonsalves, at the head of the Archdiocesan office for the Environment in Bombay, reporting how the Indian Church is celebrating the 5th anniversary of the encyclical "Laudato Sì", with the special "Laudato Sì Week" from 16 to 24 May.
The Archdiocesan Office for the Environment has prepared a short booklet suggesting various activities for groups and families, also during the confinement period, imposed to contain the coronavirus. We recommend behaviors and awareness initiatives for a sustainable lifestyle throughout the year, for parents, young people, students. In the meantime, Fr. Ivel Mendanha, Redemptorist, made a series of videos that reflect on Pope Francis' document: "Together with a daily reflection on a different aspect of the protection of Creation, we also provide activities that can be practiced every day, during the week from 16 to 24 May. Let us unite to protect our common Home", said Fr. Ivel to Fides. While the world is in lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we place our trust in God and do our part to build a better world. We are a family united with God, with humanity, with Creation: let's take care of each other, for future generations", adds Fr. Mendanha, urging all the baptized Indians to seriously take a path of reflection and action, following the criteria indicated in Laudato Sì.
Among the various communities and religious orders involved in raising awareness, the Indian Jesuits re-launched the importance of the encyclical Laudato Sì for schools, recommending a whole series of resources and actions. Students are encouraged to join "Tarumitra" , a large student organization in India, whose mission is "to protect and promote a healthy environment on Earth". The student movement was conceived and launched by the Jesuits of the Patna province in 1998 and is now a project of the Jesuit Conference of South Asia. The movement covers a network of hundreds of high schools and colleges across India: in the Laudato Sì week all members are invited to spread an ecological sensitivity and promote a spirituality and a vision of the world that are "friends of the earth" and do not consider the "common Home" as an environment to be exploited.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/BANGLADESH - Covid-19 among Rohingya refugees: "Prevention and awareness measures are urgently needed"

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Lun, 18/05/2020 - 20:55
Cox's Bazar - "It is a difficult job, but now the priority is to stop the infection. In these settlements, where it is almost impossible to keep social distancing, Rohingya refugees are at high risk for the rapid spread of the infection due to Covid-19. It is urgent to put in place all the necessary measures": says to Agenzia Fides the Bangladeshi Catholic George Mithu Gomes, who works in Cox's Bazar as "Program Manager for Disaster Response "of the NGO "World Renew". The alarm began after two women and three men of the Rohingya ethnic group were infected in the Lambashia camp, one of the 34 settlements that welcome refugees.
In the town of Cox's Bazar, just beyond the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh, the Bengali government is home to the largest refugee community in the world: 1.1 million Rohingya ethnic and Muslim refugees who have fled Myanmar live here. Of these, 700,000 arrived in 2017 while a bloody ethnic conflict took place in Myanmar between the army and Rohingya armed groups.
George Mithu Gomes tells Fides: "There is deep concern. In these precarious conditions of life, it is not possible to control the infection and could quickly spread in the 34 refugee camps where the Rohingya live. We must act promptly to stop contagion in refugee camps. "It would be necessary to carry out swabs and sanitary controls, to set up structures and places for quarantine. It is also necessary to sensitize the Rohingya, who know nothing about the disease, they must be taught the necessary behaviors to prevent and contain the spread of Covid-19", he continues.
Fides reports the words of some Rohingya refugees, who think that if the coronavirus infection spreads in the camps, they will not receive the necessary treatments: "We have not received adequate medical treatment in the camps: if the virus arrives, we will die without treatment", says Mahammod Jubiar, 65, Rohingya. Another Rohingya refugee, Iqubal Islam, believes that raising awareness among the refugees is urgent: "The fact that there are many illiterate, refugees do not know how the virus can spread, they do not know how they can defend themselves, they have no idea of the preventive measures". As reported to Fides, Caritas and other NGOs having been busy spreading information about prevention, by activating specific programs to inform refugees.
Abu Toha Bhuya, at the head of the health service of the Government Office for Relief and Repatriation of Refugees, explains: "Rohingyas often go out of the camps at night. They buy medicines and other goods for daily needs. Some are also involved in drug dealing: this is how the virus reached the camp". In addition, 30,000 workers of 140 Non-Governmental Organizations operate in the Rohingya camps in Cox's bazar, who often go to Dhaka and other cities. In this way, they could be coronavirus vectors.
In Bangladesh, 22,268 people are currently infected with Covid-19. Of these, 4,373 have been healed and 328 have died.
Categorie: From the church

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