AFRICA/EGYPT - Al Sisi starts development projects in the area of St. Catherine's Monastery

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mar, 14/07/2020 - 12:45
Cairo - While Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reopens the former Byzantine basilica of Hagia Sophia for Islamic worship, in Egypt President Abdel Fattah al Sisi launches development projects aimed also at promoting the influx of pilgrims to St. Catherine's Monastery, in the south of the Sinai Peninsula, considered one of the oldest Christian monastic complexes in the world.
On Sunday 12 July, during an operational meeting dedicated to the launch of large-scale urban and infrastructure projects, the Egyptian Head of State urged Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and other members of the government to accelerate the development program already outlined around the city of Saint Catherine, aimed at enhancing and making the historical and spiritual heritage concentrated in the southern Sinai region more accessible.
In some statements made to the national media, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Damianos of Mount Sinai thanked the Egyptian authorities for the attention and the resources they invested in projects aimed at facilitating the influx of pilgrims to St. Catherine's Monastery. The development program under study by the Egyptian government also provides for the construction of an airport in the region, which would allow for the organization of pilgrimages with direct flights coming mainly from Greece and Cyprus, guaranteeing pilgrim tourists the possibility of reaching the monastery in complete safety.
St. Catherine's Monastery, on the slopes of Mount Horeb, currently houses about twenty Greek Orthodox monks subject to the authority of an Archbishop/abbot, and enjoys a status of autocephaly. It is considered the oldest still active Christian monastery, and in 2002 it was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco for its Byzantine architecture, its precious collection of icons and the collection of ancient manuscripts.
In recent years, the life of the monastery has gone through difficult times, also having to face a serious financial crisis due to the total stop of the tourist flow, which in the past brought tens of thousands of pilgrims to the ancient monastic complex every year. The temporary closure of the monastery to visitors, which was ordered by the Egyptian authorities starting from 2013, after a few incidents - including the kidnapping of a monk - had raised the alarm about possible terrorist attacks against the religious Greek-Orthodox community.
In March 2014 , the monks of St. Catherine were accused by retired general Ahmed Ragai Attiya of having changed the topography of the area, of having hidden the so-called 12 streams of Moses , of having taken possession of 20 percent of the land in southern Sinai, of having hoisted the Greek flag on the Monastery in some special occasions and of having turned the monastery into an area occupied by Greece and by the European Union. Taking a cue from these attacks, some media outlets close to the Salafists had accused the Monastery of connivance with the Israeli intelligence services, accusing the monks of even posing a threat to national security. Agenzia Fides, 14/7/2020)
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/KENYA - Covid-19: churches re-open for worship next Sunday

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mar, 14/07/2020 - 12:30
Nairobi - Catholic Churches in Nairobi are set to reopen on July 19 in strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols from the Government.. "I urge you to take these guidelines seriously so that we may adequately prepare the faithful for the second phase of the reopening of our places of worship", said Cardinal John Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi, who asked each each Parish to form a COVID-19 response team to assist faithfuls to stick to the Health Ministry guidelines. The churches will be expected to provide hand washing stations or alcohol-based sanitizers for faithfuls to use before and after the gathering.
They will also be required to ensure that anyone who enters the church is wearing a face mask that covers the nose and mouth. Further, where possible, thermal guns will be used to detect those who may have indicators of illness.
Cardinal Njue further directed that during the COVID-19 pandemic baptism services for infants will remain suspended while anointing of the sick will be limited.
Ministers will be required to maintain social distance and wear face masks at all times.
On July 6, President Kenyatta announced the phased reopening of places of worship in the country but only if they comply with set regulations for public gatherings. The President established that people under the age of 13 years and those over the age of 58 as well as those with underlying health conditions shall not attend worship. Kenya has so far recorded 9,726 cases of coronavirus, 2,832 recoveries and 184 deaths.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/MALAYSIA - The issue of migrants has a strong impact on freedom of press and expression

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mar, 14/07/2020 - 12:24
Kuala Lumpur - The management of the relationship with migrants in Malaysia, characterized in recent months by deportations and arrests, has raised concerns on behalf of organizations defending human rights and freedom of expression, also given the threats against journalists who dealt with the case. A video shot and posted on the net in recent days - the work of the Qatari broadcaster "Al Jazeera" - documents the arrest of undocumented migrants during the Covid-19 pandemic. The documentary "Locked Up in Malaysia Lockdown" - was criticized by the authorities as "inaccurate, misleading and unfair" and the Ministry of Defense called on the mass media to apologize claiming that the allegations of racism and discrimination against undocumented migrants were false. The police have announced an investigation into the Arab station's staff for crimes such as potential sedition, defamation and violation of the Communications and Multimedia Act. Qatari TV has rejected the accusations: but the whole affair is a sign of the conflict that has arisen between the government and journalists. Yet Reporter Sans Frontieres , the largest organization to defend press freedom, recently wrote that "after the surprise defeat of the party of ex-premier Najib Razak in May 2018, a breath of fresh air began to blow on the freedom of the press; the blacklisted journalists and mass media were able to resume their activity and the general environment in which the journalists operate has significantly eased; self-censorship has shrunk enormously and the country's publications now present much more balanced views between the opposition and the majority".
The honeymoon ended with the Covid-19 pandemic. The first signs came after an investigation by the "South China Morning Post" newspaper on the condition of migrant workers and in particular after an article documenting the violent arrest of hundreds of migrants within three dormitories in a "red zone" in the capital Kuala Lumpur on 1 May.
In Malaysia, RSF reports, "the executive still has an absolutely draconian legislative arsenal to crack down on press freedom: the Sedition Act of 1948, the Official Secrets Act of 1972, the Press and Publications Act of 1984 and the Communications and the multimedia Law of 1998, which hangs like a sword of Damocles on journalists".
Malaysia is not the only country in Asia to have tightened the knit of freedom of expression, as the case of Philippine journalist Maria Ressa shows: in civil society appeals have multiplied in her favor. In Myanmar, several journalists have been charged with interviewing guerrilla groups called "terrorists".
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/SENEGAL - Covid-19; The Bishops of Senegal postpone the opening of the churches

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mar, 14/07/2020 - 11:54
Dakar - "Despite our common thirst to find our way back to our churches, we, your Bishops, urge you to be patient in faith and in Hope", say the Bishops of Senegal in announcing the decision to keep churches closed even after the government eased COVID-19 restrictions.
"The present situation, from the opinions we have been able to gather, does not militate in favour of an immediate opening of our churches for worship", they explain in a statement signed by his Exc. Mgr. Benjamin Ndiaye, Archbishop of Dakar, in which the Bishops highlight they have gathered the opinion of doctors and health personnel of the community.
The statement continues by recalling that the "daily communication of the Ministry of Health and Social Action reports a persistence of new cases of COVID-19. It also points out two phenomena: on the one hand, the spread of the pandemic in areas and regions initially spared and, on the other hand, the steady rate of the curve around 9 percent to 10 percent of the subjects tested, a rate that could increase in the days or weeks to come".
On July 4, Senegal’s government announced it has decided to roll back some lockdown restrictions in the country after two nights of violent protests against the prolonged curfew and lockdown.
Interior Minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye said the start of the dusk to dawn curfew would be pushed back by two hours, to 11:00 pm and that restrictions on travel between Senegal’s regions would be lifted. Gatherings in public or private places, churches, restaurants, gyms, casinos will also benefit from these relaxation measures.
The West African nation has reported at least 8,135 cases of COVID-19 including 5,446 recoveries and 148 related deaths.
In their statement, the Bishops stressed the need to "assess the pandemic situation after the reopening of markets, the resumption of intercity transport, the reopening of classes and the lifting of the state of emergency", but also stress that "the increase in the number of cases follows the non-respect of preventive measures by the in the fight against COVID-19".
The Bishops also warn of the probability of a "second wave of contamination that could lead to another lockdown" adding that these trends show how "delicate the current situation is and how much caution and wisdom is required".
The Senegalese Bishops’ Conference envisage the reopening of places of worship and the resumption of pastoral activities around mid-August "if the situation improves" and for this reason it asks the parish communities to "carry out a pastoral reflection on health measures adapted to each locality".
"In the name of our faith, which invites us to pray in all circumstances, also in the name of our duty as citizens working in solidarity and the duty of Christian charity, we ask you to persevere in this fight by respecting the standards of health safety which are constantly reminded to us by the competent services. In so doing, we are preserving our lives and the lives of others", conclude the Bishops.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/VENEZUELA - Towards the Youth Missionary Congress and Missionary month of October, despite the crisis

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mar, 14/07/2020 - 10:47
Caracas - "We live immersed in general chaos present at all levels of social and personal life: often non-existent basic public services, political actions separated from the common good and development, insecurity and helplessness, vulnerable family life in its ability to manage and meet its needs, inflationary and dollarised economy, affecting almost the entire population, paralyzed education ... The Covid-19 pandemic has spread exponentially in different states, currently reaching several thousand infections and dozens of people have died. This pandemic was, at the same time, a paralyzing element of a substantial part of ordinary activities and highlighted the already present crisis, in particular aggravated by the weakness of the health system, the sad situation experienced by emigrants returning to their country, without resources or safe life expectancy, as well as a shortage of petrol and other necessary supplies". With these words the Argentine Bishops’ Conference describes the current situation in the country, in an exhortation published at the end of their Ordinary Assembly, entitled "Your God is with you, he will not leave you and will not abandon you" , with the date of July 10th.
The Bishops stress that the pilgrim Church in Venezuela is also affected by this profound crisis, and they urge to look at reality in the light of faith, certain that the Lord never abandons his people. "This full trust in God puts us in action - they urge -. We Christians are called to rebuild the Venezuelan reality, impregnating it with prayer and with the transforming power of the Gospel, but also with action".
As part of the work of the Ordinary Plenary Assembly of the Episcopate, which was held in a virtual manner, Fr. Ricardo Guillén, national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Venezuela , who presented the missionary agenda for the coming months, especially for the missionary month of October. According to the note of the Bishops’ Conference, the PMS National Director informed that the October missionary campaign wants to offer the Church in Venezuela the opportunity to reflect on the opportunities and challenges that today's reality offers us. The campaign has the theme "Life is mission" and is illuminated by the biblical quote of Isaiah 6,8 "Here I am, Lord, send me". "Mission is a way of being in the world of Christians, who live in the joy of meeting God and the community, are bearers of abundant life and with their testimony they attract others to the experience of discipleship", explained Father Guillén.
Mission month of October will have 4 thematic areas: the missionary vocation at the service of life; the missionary Church, to defend and promote life in abundance; refugees and migrants, fragmented lives; ecological conversion for the life of the world. These themes can be developed following the indications of various prepared aids. Father Guillén also announced 4 webinars that will address the missionary vocation, the missionary Church, refugees and migrants, the ecological conversion for life in the world.
Another special missionary animation event is the 6th National Congress of Young Missionaries, to be held online from 21 to 30 August 2020, the central theme of which will be "The young and the current challenges of the mission", in the light of the Apostolic Exhortation Christus vivit and in the context of the preparation of the National Pastoral Assembly.
The PMS National Director concluded his speech at the Assembly of Bishops by sharing a message from the Venezuelan mission Ad Gentes in the diocese of Tete, Mozambique.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/ECUADOR - A group of Bishops has asked President Moreno for the resignation of the Minister of Health

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mar, 14/07/2020 - 10:33
Quito - The Bishops of 10 cities in Ecuador have sent a public letter to President Lenín Moreno asking for the resignation of the Minister of Health, Juan Carlos Zevallos. The Prelates ask President Lenin Moreno to authorize the use of a bleaching agent, chlorine dioxide, as an “alternative medicine” to treat COVID-19. The document also asks Moreno for the resignation of all officials who have proven to be "corrupt and inefficient" and among them the Minister of Health.
The Bishops declare that they feel outraged by news of bribery in reference to the apparent irregular delivery of documents for people with disabilities or to the alleged price premium in the purchase of supplies for nursing homes.
"On several occasions, communications have been sent to the Ministry of Health, but the responses have been negative on this matter", they indicate in the letter.
Categorie: From the church

EUROPE/ITALY - The Ministers of the Sick celebrate their founder: "The pandemic we are going through is not a divine scourge"

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Mar, 14/07/2020 - 10:13
Rome - "In a situation that makes us aware that we are all potentially sick, for us, animated by the charisma of Camillo de Lellis, the announcement of Christian hope becomes even more urgent and perhaps even more audible by our brothers and sisters in humanity". This is the message shared among the members of the Charismatic Family and sent to Agenzia Fides from the communications office of the Ministers of the Sick who today, 14 July, celebrate the feast of their Founder.
"The difficult experience of having to face a pandemic like the one triggered by the coronavirus is proving to be an almost deafening shock. The pandemic changed everything in an instant. If before we were used to living 'a lot of space' in 'little time', we suddenly found ourselves living in 'little space' with 'a lot of time' available", continue the Camillians.
"We have begun to understand, even in our religious or family and professional communities, that in a room, even a small one, you can feel isolated or alone depending on whether the solitude in which you live is able to give human and spiritual contents that allow our heart to be open, and not lose hope. We are learning that solitude and isolation are not the same thing: one can feel alone even in the midst of a large crowd. We have learned to 'stay apart', but solidarity, fraternity and communion among us, between religious communities, between religious institutes, at an ecclesial and/or civil level, have been even more intense, joyful, spontaneous and genuine: face masks, gloves ecc…have ceased to be simple albeit necessary personal protective equipment".
In the note sent to Fides, all the topicality of the fourth Camillian vow emerges which calls for consecration to the service of the sick even with the risk of life. "We have seen it heroically lived by many religious but also by many lay professionals from the healthcare world, who have accepted and reinterpreted it within the ethics of their healthcare profession - underline the Camillians.
"We were penalized by the fact that in some care facilities we were unable, for precautionary reasons, to physically reach the sick: however, we saw, with amazement, that confreres and sisters, consecrated, volunteers, health workers, lay people have re-invented themselves for these sick people, 'family members' in affections, 'friends' in solidarity, 'priests' in the comfort of faith, 'companions' in fear and hope, sacrificing, for weeks, their personal affections, friendships, families and communities, up to the exhaustion of their physical energies and in several cases up to contagion and death. This is exactly the experience of Camillo de Lellis, when he threw his first companions in the trenches of the hospital, domestic hovels or great epidemics: in works and words, master of resilience in fear, fear and sacrifice, aware that this attitude generates presence, embracing risk, to create authentic proximity".
"The pandemic we are going through is not a divine scourge, conclude the Ministers of the Sick - it is a sign to be read with humility and to be brought with patience and compassion. Suffering never leaves us equal: it makes us better or makes us worse. The death of some, the suffering of many and the fear of all are a sign that calls us to a humble and serene awareness: we are all human! Prayer is a safe anchor and, in this historical moment, as Camillians/we are called to announce the Gospel of life, compassion and care, which entails the ability to evangelize and humanize suffering and death".
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/BRAZIL - Church solidarity campaign for the pandemic: aid for 540,000 people

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Lun, 13/07/2020 - 14:11
Brasilia - Today, July 13, the Bishops’ Conference of Brazil and Caritas Brazil are launching a series of audio reports that will illustrate the territorial initiatives of the Church's Solidarity Emergency Action in Brazil "It's time to care", which mobilized the country to help people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic afflicting the great Latin American nation. The campaign was launched on Easter Sunday, April 12 in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, to stimulate solidarity through donations and attention in the human, emotional and religious field.
According to the data of the latest survey of the campaign, sent to Agenzia Fides, the initiative involved 114 dioceses and reached 540,000 people, about 3,161,552 tons of food were collected, 305,285 ready-to-eat foods, 231,841 articles for hygiene, 156,131 personal protective equipment, 147,852 articles of clothing and footwear, and contributions of R $ 2,557,401.00. The mobilization continues to help people in situations of socio-economic vulnerability, as well as to carry out solidarity actions in "geographical and existential peripheries".
As highlighted by the note released by the CNBB, after 13 weeks of mobilization, "the campaign has positively contributed to the lives of many assisted families in various regions of the country and now enters the fourth phase with the launch of the series of reports" which will be broadcast by Catholic Radio Network and will be available on the digital platforms of CNBB and Caritas Brasileira, such as SoundCloud.
At the start of the mobilization, Brazil had just over 5,000 confirmed deaths due to Covid-19. Today, almost four months later, the country registers more than 68,055 deaths. The number of people deeply affected by the inability to keep their professional activity is growing every day, due to social distancing.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/BURKINA FASO - Tensions over the postponement of the parliamentary vote; for the Bishops "the Country's political and institutional stability is at stake"

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Lun, 13/07/2020 - 14:03
Ouagadougou - Tensions continue in Burkina Faso, where yesterday, July 12, the president of the Supreme Communications Council , Mathias Tankoano, and his escort managed to escape unscathed from an attack with an explosive device, improvised in the eastern region. Several areas of the Country are out of government control, ending up in the hands of some jihadist groups. Citing the insecurity of these areas, the government has decided to postpone the parliamentary elections for a year, prompting protests from the opposition and sectors of civil society.
The authorities are also under accusation after the publication of a Human Rigths Watch report that established that at least 180 people were victims of extrajudicial killings by security forces in Djibo, in the north of the Country. According to the testimonies collected by the NGO, "the dead had been abandoned between November 2019 and June 2020, in groups of 3 to 20, along the main roads, under the bridges, as well as in the fields". Many of them were found blindfolded and with their hands tied.
Again according to the inhabitants of Djibo, most of the victims belonged to the nomadic people of the Fulani or Peul. This community is believed to support armed Islamists. Most of the fighters recruited by jihadists come from their ranks. And the victims of these Islamist groups are generally the agricultural communities, in particular the Mossi , the Foulse and the Gourmantch.
In mid-June, at the end of their Plenary Assembly , the Bishops wrote: "The security context, more worrying than ever with its share of displaced persons, appears such that the inhabitants of the Sahelian regions are no longer certain of their future in their native land. For the shepherds of this part of Burkina Faso, as elsewhere in the Eastern, Central-Northern, Northern, Boucle du Mouhoun and Cascades regions, in particular, it is a great pain not to be able to join the faithful in some places or see them flee from terrorist violence without guarantee of security. The Bishops therefore turn to state authorities for a more rigorous management of this situation. The future of the nation depends on this on the eve of the different electoral deadlines. The Church of God in the Sahel and elsewhere is suffering the consequences".
As regards to the elections, the Bishops recalled that, given that the active and passive right to vote is guaranteed by the Constitution, "the question arises of how to face this important challenge by effectively securing the electoral process and taking into consideration the internally displaced people in their particular situation".
"Carrying out the elections on time is a great challenge, because it is necessary to avoid adding an institutional crisis to the already worrying security crisis. The ideal would be to organize elections throughout the national territory and ensure the full participation of all populations, wherever they are, in order to guarantee full legitimacy for the President-elect and give all provinces the opportunity to be represented in the National Assembly", say the Bishops, who underline: "the political and institutional stability of our Country as well as its territorial integrity is at stake. It is a challenge to be faced at all costs, it is a challenge for the whole nation and we must pool our energies. This is possible! This is testified by the solidarity aroused at all levels by the Covid-19 pandemic!".

Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/IVORY COAST - Last tribute to Anne Marie Say Tanoh, icon of the sacred choral song, "her life was a program for God"

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Lun, 13/07/2020 - 13:48
Abidjan - Anne Marie Say Tanoh, icon of the sacred choral song in Ivory Coast and vocal guide of the Maitrise du diocèse de Yopougon died on Monday 15 June and was buried on Saturday 11 July in the cemetery of Maféré , her native village.
In the suffrage mass celebrated in the cathedral of Saint André in Yopougon, Fr. Donatien N'Guessaly Low, Vicar General of Yopougon, stressed that Anne Marie Say Tanoh's life was "a life program for God", having sung the message of Christ's resurrection.
The farewell to Anne Marie Say Tanoh was made in the presence of priests, friends and acquaintances, in strict compliance with the protective measures against Covid-19. For all, Anne Marie was a witness of Christ thanks to the praises of Christ sung by her in Ivory Coast and in the world. For her third son, Pierre Antoine Yao, "there is sadness, but at the same time, her determination in faith in Jesus is a sadness accompanied by joy".
She was a teacher, mother of 4, 55 years old, Anne Marie Say Tanoh was one of the celebrities of choral singing in Ivory Coast, and died after a short illness, after spending more than 30 years at the service of the choir of Yopougon . On September 10, 1990 in Yamoussoukro, during the inauguration of the basilica of Notre Dame de la Paix, in the presence of Saint John Paul II, she had impressed the then President of the Republic of Ivory Coast, Félix Houphouët Boigny with her voice.
She is remembered for having sung the Te Deum in 1995, in Grand Bassam, on the occasion of the first centenary of the Catholic Church in Ivory Coast, and her participation in the requiem mass of President Félix Houphouët-Boigny in 1993, in the Basilica of Notre-Dame of Peace. Anne Marie Say Tanoh released two albums: "Liberation", released in 1998, and "Maître, me voici je viens à toi", in 2000, a legacy that she leaves today to the entire group of soloists that she formed.
Categorie: From the church

OCEANIA/PAPUA NEW GUINEA - Covid-19, a Salesian: "No man is an island, let us reflect on the importance of life"

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Lun, 13/07/2020 - 13:19
Port Moresby - "From the lockdown imposed due to the Coronavirus pandemic in March, until the reopening of flights in the Philippines, we remained isolated together with the other Salesian brothers who, in turn, would go out for community commissions", writes to Agenzia Fides Fr. Conrad Vamilat, Sdb. "Lessons suspended, Church services prohibited along with other public gatherings. Together with brother Pio Ehava, we managed to leave the country on June 21 with a charter flight sent by the government of Papua New Guinea. After our arrival at Port Moresby International Airport, all of us passengers from the Philippines were subjected to a 14-day quarantine at the expense of the government, including food and lodging".
"The lockdown, the quarantine, led us to reflect on the importance of life. No man can live like an island, but in this situation of isolation we had to endure the effort of being alone - reads the note sent to Fides -. In these two weeks of isolation, however, it was possible to make personal plans. As human beings - writes Fr. Vamilat - we have three fundamental inalienable instincts which are life, love and strength. Since there is no vaccine for Covid-19, our natural instincts push us to preserve life. In fact, as human beings, we all tend to life and not to destruction or death. We would like life to continue unperturbed and never as in this period has the world come together in this struggle, through the security measures provided by individual governments and the United Nations".
The Salesian concludes by stressing that "quarantine was not a waste of time and money, and thanked the government for providing extraordinary support. Above all, we thank God who preserved us from the Coronavirus".
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/BANGLADESH - Archbishop Moses Costa dies due to the consequences of Covid-19

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Lun, 13/07/2020 - 13:09
Dhaka - He contracted Covid-19 and had been hospitalized for a month. Weakened by the infection, Archbishop Moses M. Costa, CSC, 70 years old, Archbishop of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Chattogram, died today, July 13, at Square Hospital in Dhaka. After hospitalization, Mgr. Costa had improved. But later on, despite testing negative for Covid-19, his situation deteriorated. For the past 48 hours he was in intensive care, where he had a series of strokes caused by cerebral hemorrhage, which proved fatal. The small Catholic community of Bangladesh is deeply affected and saddened by the loss of the Archbishop, who was also Secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Bangladesh .
As Fides learns, Bishop Paul Ponen Kubi, Bishop of Mymensigh, celebrating the funeral mass in Dhaka today, said to the faithful: "Archbishop Moses Costa was an attentive and caring Shepherd. He sincerely took care of his faithful. He was always united with the faithful of the people of God in difficult times, when they were persecuted. He was a leader of profound spirituality".
He continued: "The Archbishop was an eminent figure of the Catholic Church in Bangladesh and a leader highly appreciated also by non-Christians. His loss arouses pain, mourning and sadness in the entire Bangladesh Catholic Church, but also in society, in various educational and social organizations in Bangladesh".
"Archbishop Moses loved young people. He had a special pastoral attention for young people, who in turn loved him very much. He carried out his apostolic service in the Bishops' Commission for Youth and dedicated his time to the human and spiritual growth of young people, accompanying them on their journey of maturity. Many young people found the light of life thanks to his loving human, spiritual and pastoral care. He was a man of prayer, but also a good administrator, a farsighted leader, a reflective writer and speaker, a master of culture. Through his thoughts and his work of human and Christian promotion, and thanks to his enlightened guide, he made an exceptional contribution to many parishes and dioceses. His death is an irreparable loss for the Church in Bangladesh. May the merciful Lord grant him eternal peace".
Mgr. Moses Cosa was ordained a priest in 1981 and elected bishop in 1996. His mortal remains will rest in Chittagong. Bangladesh is the fourth most populous Muslim nation in the world. About 90% of the 160 million inhabitants are Muslims, about 8% Hindus. There are about 600,000 Christians, 400,000 of whom are Catholics.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/MIDDLE EAST - Churches and ecumenical bodies in the Middle East: the "reconversion" of Ayasofya is a sabotage of the new paths of brotherhood between Christians and Muslims

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Lun, 13/07/2020 - 12:33
Istanbul - The decision of the current Turkish leadership to reconvert the monumental complex of Ayasofia in Istanbul as a mosque represents "an attack on religious freedom", also protected by international rules. This is what the Middle East Council of Churches underlines in a statement in which it firmly deplores the umpteenth change of use of the ancient Christian basilica sanctioned by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In its pronouncement, the MECC
also invokes a strong stance on this matter of the UN and the League of Arab States, and also suggests filing an appeal before the Turkish Supreme Court to enforce "the historical symbolism represented by the church of Santa Sophia". The most insidious figure of the whole affair - underlines the message signed by the Secretary General of MECC, Lebanese professor Souraya Bechealany - consists in the fact that the Turkish decision takes place in a historical moment marked by the attempt to increase the relations of peaceful and supportive coexistence between Christians and Muslims, also in light of the Document on Human Brotherhood for peace in the world signed in Abu Dhabi on 4 February 2019 by Pope Francis and sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, Grand Imam of al Azhar. The move made by the Turkish leadership on Ayasofya - underlines the MECC statement - represents a serious blow to all Islamic-Christian dialogue initiatives launched in the last three decades, also as a response to the pitfalls of extremism and sectarian fanaticism.
The Chaldean Patriarchate also expresses "sadness and sorrow" for the fate of the monument which had become a symbol of the possible solidarity of coexistence between Christianity and Islam, at a time when it is convenient to face together conflicts of a religious nature and the global threat of the pandemic. "The Muslims of Istanbul", stresses a pronouncement of the Chaldean Patriarchate "do not need a new mosque in Istanbul, where there are already countless mosques". The leaders of the Chaldean Church, led by Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, deplore the fact that Turkish President Erdogan did not take into the slightest consideration the fact that his choice would be welcomed with regret by millions of Christians around the world, also forgetting the fraternal welcome reserved by many Christians to Islamic immigrants who have come to Europe after difficult and dangerous journeys. The pronouncement of the Chaldean Church ends with an invocation addressed to Almighty God, so that he may free humanity from "extremism and the politicization of religions".
On Friday 10 July, in a speech addressed to the nation, President Erdogan announced that Ayasofya will be reopened for Islamic worship starting from the prayer of Friday 24 July, stressing that the conversion of the symbol of Istanbul into a mosque represents a "sovereign right" of Turkey. A few hours before Erdogan's speech, the text of the sentence was released, by which the Turkish Council of State had canceled the decree of 24 November 1934 of the then President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, which had transformed the ancient Byzantine basilica of Hagia Sophia, which became a mosque after the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks . "I think of Santa Sophia, and I am very saddened", said Pope Francis, addressing the faithful present in St. Peter's Square after the Angelus prayer on Sunday 12 July.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/SRI LANKA - Appointment of the Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Lun, 13/07/2020 - 12:16
Vatican City - The Holy Father has appointed as auxiliary of the metropolitan archdiocese of Colombo, Sri Lanka, the Reverend Anton Ranjith Pillainayagam, of the clergy of the same archdiocese, currently vice-rector of Saint Joseph’s College in Colombo and director of the Tamil Theologate, assigning him the titular see of Materiana.
The Reverend Anton Ranjith Pillainayagam was born on 23 September 1966 in Jaffna, in Sri Lanka. He carried out his primary and secondary studies in Colombo and in Jaffna. He studied philosophy in the Saint Francis Xavier Major Seminary of Jaffna, and theology in the Kandy National Seminary. He holds a degree in mathematics from the University of Jaffna, a Master’s degree in education from the University of Middlesex, United Kingdom, and a Master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Jaffna.
He was ordained a priest on 16 September 2000 in Saint Lucia’s Cathedral in Colombo, for the same archdiocese.
Following priestly ordination, he was first part of the staff of Saint Peter’s College, Colombo , and then attended a Master’s degree course at the University of Middlesex in the United Kingdom . He subsequently held the following roles: member of staff at Saint Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa and at Saint Joseph’s College, Colombo ; and vice-rector of Saint Peter’s College, Colombo . Since 2014 he has served as vice-rector of Saint Joseph’s College, Colombo, and since 2009, as director of the Tamil Theologate.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/MYANMAR - Appeal to political and religious leaders: seize the opportunity for peace

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Lun, 13/07/2020 - 12:14
Yangon - "In view of important national elections and the 21st century Panglong Conference, we appeal directly to all Myanmar leaders and religious leaders to listen to each other and decide to seek the good of all. A golden opportunity is now given to us in the new conditions and new challenges facing the world. We invite everyone to seize the moment, given the crisis triggered by the coronavirus. This is the message released, on behalf of the Catholic Church in Myanmar, by Archbishop Charles Maug Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, who expresses the desire for peace and reconciliation of the Burmese Catholic community and the entire population.
The message sent to Fides highlights: "We are tired of the war, worn down by enmities. War dishonors everyone. Why does Myanmar's conflict not end? Where is the responsibility? Of course, the belligerence of the army can be accused , also its obstinacy in refusing a complete ceasefire to allow the nation to cope with the pandemic. One can deplore the weak authority of the civilian government or the lack of a fair trial in the judicial system. One can accuse leaders of ethnic groups who draw profit from the jade or drug trade. One can deplore the attitude of religious leaders who are too shy to protest against injustice".
The Church recalls that Myanmar is involved in a triple global crisis: the first is that of the coronavirus; the country is also one of the five countries most affected by climate change in this century. Thirdly, the issue of racial relations has returned to the world agenda, very topical in Myanmar, where "people still cling to the madness of assuming a ranking of ethnic differences".
The text asks: "What can we do in order not to return to senseless divisions? What future do we want for our young people? For decades they had no opportunity at home and so they went abroad, often becoming slaves. How can we give health, benefits and dignity to our people? With what courage and creativity can we claim our right to respect, equality, sustainable prosperity and lasting peace for Myanmar?".
The message recalls that many powerful nations close to Myanmar "look at the country's great wealth and natural resources with interest and notes that "while we fight each other, our land is devastated, our young people are destroyed by drugs and thousands of young women and men leave the country alone, losing dignity and life". "It is time to stop", hopes the message inviting all political, social leaders and religious "not to be deceived again" and to build a nation where one is not afraid of the difference, but rather learns to negotiate, dialogue and rejoice in what one is".
The appeal then invites us to deepen negotiations, and protect the rights of the poor, to work hard to convince all the players in the field that "peace is also in their interest".
It is urgent to "invest in hope and prepare for the future world after the pandemic". Addressing the leaders, the text urges: "Listen to the cry of Mother Earth. Respect each other. Encourage our young people to study. Our cultures are treasures, built over the centuries. The forests of Myanmar are the lungs of Asia. Our natives know how to preserve them. The rice fields of Myanmar are the rice bowl of Asia. Our farmers deserve only a reward. The young people of Myanmar are responsible for peace in the ASEAN countries in the future. Prepare them to the fullest".
Finally, it is recalled that "Buddhists, Christians and Muslims in Myanmar can live and witness the message that the world yearns to hear, promoting a peaceful, just and inclusive world".
The document concludes: "The people of Myanmar deserve peace, not an endless war. There can be no peace without justice. There can be no justice without truth. Let us allow the birth of a new Myanmar of hope, peace and prosperity as we march towards the goal of democracy through elections. Let us take this opportunity".
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/COLOMBIA - The Nuncio: "In order to achieve reconciliation, one must have the intention and I believe that a large part of Colombia wants it"

Fides EN - www.fides.org - Lun, 13/07/2020 - 12:00
Bogota - "To achieve reconciliation, one must have the intention and I believe that a large part of Colombia wants it, especially in the regions most affected by the war. But it cannot be achieved overnight. It takes a lot of experience, a lot of perseverance, because there are ups and downs and other desires to channel and attract. There will always be adversaries, and convincing them is a task that requires a lot of patience. There must also be material conditions. The State must be present in all regions, protect all its inhabitants and prevent illegal groups from imposing their law with weapons. The task of politicians is to create a consensus on practical things and, on the common good ", are the words used to describe the current situation in Colombia by the Archbishop of Colombia, Mgr. Luis Mariano Montemayor, Apostolic Nuncio in Colombia, in an interview released on Saturday 11 July to the Colombian newspaper "Semana". His words are intended to point out everything behind the lack of reconciliation:
"It is not only politicians who block it, there are other groups that do not want peace because business ends - he underlines in the interview -. I am referring to those behind illegal economies. Returning to these politicians, I would say that we must learn to overcome historical resentment. History has a weight in each of us and in social life, it cannot be denied, but we cannot be slaves of this history by repeating the same mistakes and clashes. We must put the common good above all because, as the Holy Father says, we are on the same boat. Not everyone suffers the same way, but we are all on the same boat, and in the end, if the boat sinks, we all hurt ourselves.
Mgr. Montemayor, appointed Nuncio in Colombia less than two years ago, suggests a way out of this situation of violence that has also involved drug trafficking groups: "Colombian conflict is not easy, there are many and different actors at stake. The common factor is the absence of the State in many regions and the lack of territorial control. A problem that we cannot continue to ignore. The State, which is not only the armed forces, must be brought to these areas. We must demonstrate to the population that there is political will, but this cannot be done overnight", he concluded.
Categorie: From the church

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