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AFRICA/IVORY COAST - First-Ever Congress of Clergy in Ivory Coast planned for July

Lun, 27/01/2020 - 13:05
Abidjan - "Some time ago, in order to express their closeness to their priests and help them, support them in their pastoral and ministerial efforts, the Bishops decided to organize an extraordinary congress of the clergy in the Ivory Coast", said His Exc. Msgr. Gaspard Béby Gnéba, Bishop of Man, apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Odienné and Episcopal Chair of the Commission for Clergy, Seminaries and Pastoral Care of Vocations in Ivory Coast, during a press conference.
"Last year the diocesan phase was held; the priests gathered around a preparatory document for the congress to reflect, pray and make proposals to the Episcopal Conference to help and effectively accompany the priests of the country to live the grace they have received and to fulfill their ministry. This year we are entering the national phase", said Mgr. Gnéba, who announced that the Extraordinary Congress of the clergy will take place from 1 to 5 July on the theme: "The priest in Ivory Coast in the face of situations that challenge his life".
In this perspective, the Ivorian Bishops have developed and adopted a five-year pastoral plan based on the challenges of the Ivorian society and the Church of the family of God in Ivory Coast, characterized by two essential points: the announcement of the Gospel of unity, of communion, reconciliation and brotherhood; the promotion of the Gospel of compassion and mercy through the service of integral human development.
In the extremely fragile socio-political context which the Ivory Coast is currently living, a few months before the presidential elections of October 2020, which arouse great concern among the Ivorian population, the Congress will allow priests to return to their fundamental mission. "The crises of the world, of our times and of contemporary Ivorian society challenge the priests and ask them for pertinent and unprecedented answers. They invite them to rethink their lives and their ministries", stressed the Bishop of Man.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/IRAQ - Nessuna notizia sui 4 membri di SOS Chrétiens d’Orient scomparsi a Baghdad

Lun, 27/01/2020 - 12:45
Baghdad - Four men working in Iraq for SOS Chretiens d'Orient , a French Christian charity, have been missing since Monday 20 January in Baghdad. The missing workers were in Baghdad to renew their visas and register the association with Iraqi authorities. For security reasons and to protect the men’s safety, their names have not been made public. In a press release issued on social networks on Friday 24 January, SOS Chrétiens d’Orient reported that it had lost contact with its four employees since the previous Tuesday, and that it had reported the disappearance of the four to French and Iraqi authorities.
The French NGO stresses that the four missing employees are experienced people, all in good health and with a good knowledge of the crisis areas in which they operate, and who have always carried out their initiatives in full compliance with safety standards continuously updated to respond to new emerging pitfalls in that region.
SOS Chrétiens d’Orient has its headquarters in Paris, and presents itself as an organization dedicated to supporting the Christian communities of the East, also through the financing of social and educational projects. Currently, the organization is present with "permanent missions" operating in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt. The founders of the association, formed in 2013, are Charles de Meyer and Benjamin Blanchard, former collaborator of the Front National Marie-Christine Arnautu MEP. The director of the Organization's initiatives, François-Xavier Gicquel, was also an old Front National militant. According to data reported in 2019 by Le Figaro étudiant, since the beginning of its activities the Association has sent about 1500 employees and volunteers to carry out their projects in the Middle East. In February 2017, the organization was recognized as a "national defense partner" by the French Ministry of Defense.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/MEXICO - "Violence against the latest caravan of migrants", denounces a priest

Lun, 27/01/2020 - 11:48
Tapachula - About 500 Central American migrants of the caravan of migrants in the first group of 2020 took refuge in the diocesan "Belen" home-refuge in the diocese of Tapachula .
In a note sent to Fides, Fr. César Augusto Cañaveral Pérez, diocesan coordinator of the pastoral dimension of human mobility, stigmatizes the mental association "migrant equals criminal".
"I would like to know why the National Guard does not deal with organized crime; migrants come because of necessity, they are not criminals, and Mexico does not respect the right to free transit", says Fr. Pérez, who denounces: "Mexican society helps to criminalize migrants: human wall is worse than a material wall".
The priest recalls that the Catholic Church is building solidarity bridges to assist migrants, as the help that the government has promised has not yet come. Caravans of migrants pass through Mexico trying to reach the United States. Along the way, migrants suffer all kinds of abuse, especially the weakest, women and children.
Fr. Cañaveral Pérez says that the refuge welcomes between 200 or 300 people every day. This is the constant flow throughout the year, but now, after the caravans have dispersed, the number of people seeking shelter has increased considerably, several people have had to look for other reception facilities. The priest reports that on the day of January 24, 120 migrants arrived, almost all in need of medical and psychological care due to the violence and mistreatment inflicted on them by the National Guard. Fr. Cañaveral Pérez reprimanded the Mexican authorities for behaving worse than the United States.
The capacity of the hostel is 140 people, but the number has now tripled. In addition to this, there are other parish centers that have welcomed migrants in the municipalities of Costa, Soconusco y Sierra de Chiapas.
In recent days there have been violent attacks on members of the last caravan of Central American migrants heading towards the United States by law enforcement officers who accuse them of not having respected the indications regarding the number of people who could access the different places of border.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/PAKISTAN - Human rights abuses, sectarian violence and discrimination in society: a new Report

Sab, 25/01/2020 - 13:17
Islamabad - The standard of respect for human rights in Pakistan is worrying, especially for those who live in poverty, are of lower social status or belong to ethnic or religious minorities: this is what is said in a new Report published by the organization "Christian Solidarity Worldwide", committed to monitoring the condition of Christians and religious minorities in the world. The new report sent to Agenzia Fides, entitled "Pakistan: Religious freedom under attack", notes "a class and caste dimension in the phenomenon of discrimination, on an ethnic or religious basis, which is still deeply rooted in Pakistani society".
Furthermore, the document notes, the situation of religious freedom continues to deteriorate: numerous violations continue to occur, even since Prime Minister Imran Khan, at the head of the "Tehreek-i-Insaf" party, is in government. The death of Asma Jahangir, one of Pakistan's most prominent human rights lawyers and activists, who died on February 11, 2018, "left a mighty big hole in the community of people and organizations who are committed to promoting the country's human rights", says the text.
The CSW document reports that "cases of blasphemy, sectarian violence and targeted attacks on religious minorities and human rights defenders continue to be registered", while groups with an Islamist agenda such as Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan are flourishing . The TLP is led by a leader supporting the contoversial "Blasphemy Law", Khadim Hussain Rizvi, defined as "preacher who spreads a sectarian and radical movement". "The country - reads the Report - has further moved away from its secular and pluralistic roots, while religious minorities face an increasing discrimination, hostility and injustice".
The CSW NGO is concerned about the increasing politicization of blasphemy laws, formed by Articles 295a, 295b and 295c of the Penal Code of Pakistan, and by the hostile legislation to the "Ahmadiyya community. Such laws, the text says, "are used by Islamist groups not only against religious minorities, but also to gain political consensus". The conversions given by the government to political-religious groups such as the TLP, following the acquittal of Asia Bibi, "continue to challenge the state and its institutions, highlighting the weaknesses of both. "These developments - it is noted - "have questioned Imran Khan's "Naya Pakistan" and its commitment to promoting tolerance and protecting minorities, as the judgment on cases of blasphemy has moved from the Courts to the squares".
"A disproportionate number of accusations and denunciations of blasphemy - notes the text sent to Fides - is presented against religious minorities: these accusations have an extremely harmful effect on the lives of the accused and their families". It then remembers "the brutal murder of Mashal Khan, a Muslim university student killed in 2017, because accused of publishing blasphemous content online". "Although his murder has rekindled the debate to reform the blasphemy laws - CSW notes - the state has been reluctant to introducing reforms due to the strong resistance of society and vehement opposition from Islamist groups, unwilling to accept its revision".
Representatives of religious minorities and leaders of civil society "continue to suffer targeted attacks in a context of community violence, provoked by Islamist groups", denounces the Report, which continues: "Numerous factors have contributed to the increase in religious intolerance: hate speeches by radical Muslim religious leaders, Islamist religious groups, also present in the mass media, which have a negative influence on young Pakistani people". These speeches, explains the text, "portray members of religious minorities as 'second-class citizens' generating intolerance, prejudice and discrimination against religious minorities". "Christian and Hindu communities - it continues - remain particularly vulnerable, especially women and girls, kidnapped and forced to convert and marry Muslim men", while "their families face serious threats and intimidation". This phenomenon is aggravated "by the unwillingness of the police to act and the weaknesses of the judicial system".
"Pakistan continues to struggle in the grip of terrorism. The attacks amplify the sense of insecurity and fear", concludes CSW, while the general scenario sees an erosion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, given the phenomenon of politicization of religion and the spread of a culture of hatred.
The Report calls for the National Human Rights Commission , established in 2017, to investigate and prevent human rights violations, as well as to raise awareness about respect for human rights in the country.

Categorie: From the church

VATICAN - A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event: initiatives in local Churches

Sab, 25/01/2020 - 12:57
Vatican City - "A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers". This is the hope expressed by Pope Francis in the Apostolic Letter Aperuit Illis with which he instituted the "Sunday of the Word of God" to be celebrated on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time, in 2020 on January 26. The Pope's exhortation finds a response in different countries of the world, with national, diocesan and parochial initiatives, of which Agenzia Fides cites only a few.
The coincidence of the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Catholic Biblical Federation, in April 2019, and of the 1600th anniversary of the death of Saint Jerome, the great translator of the Bible, in 2020, gave the Federation the opportunity to call a "Year of the Word of God", from the first Sunday of Advent to the feast of St. Jerome , inviting all those involved in the biblical pastoral care of the different nations, to renew their efforts to put ever more the Word of God at the center of the life and mission of the Church.
In Latin America, the month of September has long been celebrated as the "Month of the Bible" and is characterized by various initiatives in all countries, at all levels, to promote reading and knowledge of the Scriptures and their impact on the lives of Christians. This month was chosen because on September 30, the liturgy celebrates the feast of St. Jerome, and on this occasion "Bible Day" is also celebrated.
In Argentina, the National Department of Biblical Animation and Pastoral Care of the Episcopal Conference has elaborated a brochure for the animation of the Sunday of the Word of God, in which it recalls that this celebration does not replace the traditional "Biblical Sunday" which since 1961 has been celebrated on 30 September: "the Sunday of the word of God and the biblical Sunday complement and enrich each other, stimulating us in the following and missionary discipleship of Jesus Christ, which we know every time we approach the Scriptures with humility, where it manifests itself to us as Complete word of God".
The Bishops of Paraguay have proclaimed 2020 as the Year of the Word of God, "time of grace", adhering to the proposal of the Catholic Biblical Federation. In their message to the faithful they write: "We encourage all people, all parishes and chapels, all groups, movements and families to open the Bible, to read together some passages of the Word of God and to share what the Holy Spirit inspires them. In this way the lectio divina will burn our hearts and be a source of Christian life and commitment. May every family have a Bible! May the Word of God resound everywhere every day! May it be announced to all!".
The tradition of dedicating the month of September to the Bible also takes place in Africa. In Malawi during the last month of September, the faithful of the eight dioceses of the country were invited to read a passage from the Word of God every day, for a deeper knowledge of the Catholic faith and to be able to become heralds and witnesses. The children of the Archdiocese of Lilongwe were also called to read the Bible, to pray with the Bible and to preach the word of God in their daily lives, during Children's Missionary Day, 11 January. In Malawi the theme of the feast of the Pontifical Society of the Holy Childhood was: "Children are baptized and sent to preach the word of God".
Also in the Democratic Republic of Congo, September is the month of the Bible and various activities are organized to highlight that Sacred Scripture is the main source of the Christian faith. Among the initiatives promoted: a Bible for every family, if not for everyone; family and individual reading; biblical media broadcasts; biblical courses in parishes; meetings for young people, mothers, adults and leaders of the basic Church Communities to organize the reading of the Bible in their environments and to request greater attention to the Gospel proclaimed in the Mass.
The theme of the Bible Day, celebrated last December in Bangladesh, "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path" will be the leitmotif of the evangelization path of the Church in Bangladesh for 2020. Archbishop James Romen Boiragi, Bishop of the Diocese of Khulna and President of the Commission for Catechesis and the Biblical Apostolate, said: "In this new year we ask the Catholics of Bangladesh to know and deepen their responsibilities as baptized, who are sent to announce the Good News, according to the Bible. May the Bible become our light, make our life divine: this is my prayer".
The Commission is committed to promoting the biblical apostolate in all dioceses, assisting and collaborating in the preparation and dissemination of catechetical and biblical materials in local languages, providing training for catechists and teachers of the Catholic religion.
In the Philippines with the Presidential Decree 124 of 5 January 2017, President Duterte declared the month of January of each year as a "national biblical month", culminating in the last week of January as a "national biblical week". In this month, all Filipinos, including those who work in government offices, explains the Auxiliary Bishop of Manila, Mgr. Broderick Pabillo, are therefore invited to focus on the importance of reading and studying the Bible. The government recognizes "the religious nature of the Filipino people and the high influence of religion in human society". In the Philippines, "Sunday of the Bible" has been celebrated on the last Sunday of January of each year since the 1970s, in order to promote among Filipino Catholics the importance of the Word of God in the life and ministry of the Church and to support the biblical apostolate.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/KAZAKHSTAN - Week of prayer for Christian unity: the Council of the traditional Kazakh Church is born

Sab, 25/01/2020 - 12:26
Almaty - The Kazakh Catholic Church, together with the Russian Orthodox Church and the Lutheran Church present in Kazakhstan, gave birth to the "Council of the traditional Christian Church of Kazakhstan". This is what was reported at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by Mgr. José Luís Mumbiela Sierra, Bishop of the diocese of Almaty and President of the Bishops’ Conference of the Central Asian country.
The Bishop explains to Fides: "The Council was presented on the occasion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: the first official appointment was held on 13 January, while on Saturday 25 January we organized an ecumenical prayer meeting also inviting the Protestant faithful. The initiative, promoted and implemented also by the Apostolic Nuncio, is a great sign of unity. We are very happy that it is taking shape, because it also allows us to increase our relationships in the area".
Mgr. Mumbiela, who besides being President of the Bishops’ Conference, presides over the national Caritas and is responsible for the Social Communications of the Kazakh Church, says that these two pastoral sectors are also experiencing a phase of great growth: "Caritas is strengthening its network of action and the same is happening to the social communications sector. We have a great desire to grow and dream big, for the testimony and spread of the Gospel, responding to Jesus' invitation: Duc in altum. It is a desire that also concerns our diocese of Almaty: in fact, we are working hard to create a new parish in a country 130 km from Almaty and we plan to establish others".
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA - Comboni missionaries, "men of the Word of God" on the African continent

Sab, 25/01/2020 - 12:20
Rome - In the first half of the last century the Comboni Missionaries in Africa had produced - in addition to specialized studies disseminated in various articles for magazines and books - 63 grammars, 88 vocabularies, 114 catechisms, 23 books of Sacred History , 54 prayer books, 137 school texts: syllabaries, reading books, arithmetic, history, geography, hygiene, etc. This vast production, it is important to underline, was not the result of individual religious, but of a job that was nourished by daily contact with people, the questions asked, attentive listening and passionate observation.
When a missionary is sent to a so-called 'mission' area, he has the main task of studying the languages and culture of the people. Knowledge of the language is essential because the missionary's job is to proclaim the Gospel. Furthermore, at the basis of this effort there is an attitude of appreciation and esteem for people and their culture of their ability to understand and 'embody' Christian truths.
A missionary is a "man of the Word". But the Word of God must be made in people's jargon. The need to translate it into the local language therefore arises, but it is not a simple thing. "How do we translate Javhé, temple, pagan, sin, grace, justify, save? What does God do when he forgives?". This testimony of a Comboni missionary then Bishop, Mgr. Giuseppe Sandri, who translated, together with a team of local people, some books of the Bible in South Africa's Xitsonga language - part of a vast project of the translation of the Bible of the South African Biblical Society - highlights the difficulties of translating the Bible into the expressive categories of the population.
Before the II Vatican, the book of Christian formation was catechism, in particular the catechism of Pius X, in the shortened version of 1912. The translations of the Bible were limited to some 'biblical stories' translated as 'aid' to the truths of faith contained in the catechism. The first translations of entire books of the Bible are the work of missionaries from the churches of the Reformation. The translation of the Bible in the Catholic field will be one of the fruits of the II Vatican, favored by the new climate of ecumenical openness and by the rediscovery of the Holy Book in the life of the Christian. When the translation into local languages is the result of a joint effort with the missionaries of other Christian churches, the so-called Deuterocanonical and Apocryphal Books will be added to the Bible, i.e. those books of the Old Testament not included in the Hebrew canon and not accepted by the churches of the Reformation but present in the Catholic tradition .
What is interesting is the statement of Mgr. Sandri on how the translation of the Bible proceeded: "Even after having found the true meaning of the Hebrew or Greek text, it is necessary to render it in current Xitsonga".
In my African experience - I worked 30 years in Africa between Uganda and Kenya - I have always been amazed at the desire of African Catholic Christians to read the Bible and their knowledge of biblical facts and characters - a desire certainly stimulated by the examples of many Christians from other churches for whom the Bible is the essential tool of prayer and Christian formation. Now the Bible is in people's homes, it is read in the family and in the various circumstances of life: the birth of a child, a wedding, a funeral, a visit to a sick person are very much felt by the members of a small community and there is always a catechist or leader ready to guide those present in the reflection of a biblical passage.
Above all, it is the instrument of prayer and formation in the Small Christian Communities where one meditates, prays, shares reflections and applies what the Sacred Book tells in today's life. The Word of God, helps the poor to discover the presence of God in their life and to have that hope that sustains them in the struggle to improve the difficult conditions in which they find themselves; the painful events of the people of Israel are included in the often painful and difficult life of the people and the words of Jesus give strength to fight and not be discouraged in the face of the difficulties and often the tragedies of life.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/LEBANON - "Fratelli Project": Lasallians and Marists together to help Syrian and Iraqi children

Sab, 25/01/2020 - 09:38
Beirut - The cooperation of the religious "Fratelli De La Salle" and "Fratelli Marists" bears fruit in Lebanon: the "Fratelli Project", promoted jointly by the two religious institutes, is a sure point of reference for many families and a meeting place for many kids. The project kicked off in 2016 with the aim of welcoming refugee children from Syria and Iraq and vulnerable Lebanese children. There are two socio-educational centers hosting the children, one in Beirut and the other on the outskirts of the city of Saida.
"We want to avoid an entire generation of children to get lost in the expectation of being able to return to their native countries or of being able to settle permanently in a new country", reports a project educator, Reem Bazzal. Attention and psycho-social support towards the person have always been a priority in the educational philosophy of Lasallians and Marists: "All the educational and social work that is done here - she explains - contributes to reducing the tasks of local institutions. Children ready to enroll in public school are selected and school support is given to others, but above all we work to normalize stressful situations, we provide a safe place to have fun and socialize. Furthermore, healthy stimuli are offered to children and young people who would otherwise be on the street with nothing to do: a high-risk situation from a social point of view".
The two centers currently assist more than 600 children and young people per day , aged 3 to 15, who normally participate in the various educational programs organized from Monday to Saturday.
The school starts early in the morning and continues until late afternoon.
The teaching, explain the religious, is inspired by the values of peace, justice, fraternity and hope that animate the two Congregations, and involves people, children and adults, of all religions.
During the months of July and August the ordinary programs stop and the "Summer School" begins followed by a "Summer Camp" which offers spaces for recreation, creativity, art and excursions and sports activities for children. In these centers, moreover, there is a training and professional start-up program for young adults, who are often the mothers or siblings of the children present: "Computer and sewing courses are active" says the educator. Children and mothers acquire useful skills to give economic support to the family, also finding a place to socialize. "Also in the summer - volunteers of various nationalities come from the Lasallian and Marist backgrounds to animate the colony of children, as well as young people from the ecumenical community of Taizé, to demonstrate that 'Fratelli' is truly a place of aggregation for all".
The positive effects of this work on a country system severely tested by the presence of a million and a half refugees are evident for many Lebanese, and this means that the project is viewed favorably by the civil community: educational and social programs are, in fact, in line with the indications of the ministerial authorities and of Unicef.
The living conditions of many Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Lebanon are below the poverty line. The main problems are run-down houses, the lack of drinking water and food, insecurity and difficult access to education. About 58% of children aged 5 to 17 do not attend school, without considering the trauma of the war they experienced in their home countries.

Link correlati :Watch the video on the project on Agenzia Fides Youtube channel
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/CHINA - Catholics remember a young Chinese priest and missionary of Tibetan ethnicity, who devoted his life for the Gospel

Sab, 25/01/2020 - 09:07
Di Qing - Everyone remembers him as a holy man and as an ardent missionary: on the night of January 17, the feast of St Anthony Abate, a hermit, a man of solitary life and prayer, Fr. Joseph Ma Zha Xi, who led his life inspired by the saint, in daily prayer, died at the age of 39. Fr. Joseph lived in a solitary way , in poverty and in constant prayer. Young priest of Tibetan Chinese ethnicity, dedicated his whole life to the evangelization of the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Di Qing in the southwest province of Yun Nan.
His life was a radical testimony and a mission of Christ in the immense area of the territory of that Prefecture. A violent liver cancer ended his young life. As the faithful who knew him say, "Fr. Joseph is one who can afford to say the words of the apostle Paul with pride: I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith".
According to Fr. Peter Zhao vicar of the Archdiocese of Beijing, "the priest worked hard for evangelization, integrating and living in contact with the people of the mountains, always keeping the Lord, the Gospel, the Church and faithful in his heart. He was a true model for today's Chinese priests". Now on the websites, social networks, Chinese Catholic blogs, there are photos and the story of this young Tibetan priest, who traveled with his motorcycle on muddy and impervious roads only for pastoral and evangelical service.
Fr. Joseph Ma Zha Xi was born on February 27, 1981, he entered the minor seminary of the diocese of Kun Ming, the provincial capital in 2006. He was transferred to the southwest regional major seminary in Si Chuan in 2008, he graduated in theology in 2014 and was ordained a priest in June 2016. Immediately after ordination, he began his pastoral service in the Tibetan area of Yun Nan. The parish where he worked is composed of exclusively Tibetan parishioners.
When the bells rang, on Sunday, to announce the beginning of the Holy Mass, all the faithful of the village gathered together around their zealous and nice young parish priest to give glory to the Lord. He took care of the communities of the faithful, he rode his motorbike and crossed the mountain paths every day, covering many kilometers, visiting the sick, bringing the Eucharist. The faithful of his community say: "He was a man of God and a true missionary, always ready with a smile to spread the seed of the Gospel".
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/IVORY COAST - Cardinal Kutwa announces a march for peace ahead of the October elections

Ven, 24/01/2020 - 12:13
Abidjan - "Let us go towards peace" is the theme of the march for peace called by His Eminence, Cardinal Jean Pierre Kutwa, Archbishop of Abidjan, which will take place on February 15th.
Over 20,000 young Catholics are invited to take part in the first march of its kind in the history of the Catholic Church in the Ivory Coast, a few months before the presidential elections considered at high risk. In their Message published at the end of the 114th Plenary Assembly, held from 13 to 19 January, the Bishops expressed their concern for the socio-political situation in the Country a few months before the presidential elections in October, and launched an appeal for national pacification .
"The march will be an opportunity for young people and women to raise awareness about peace and pray for elections to take place peacefully", said Cardinal Jean Pierre Kutwa in a statement.
The march will start in the early morning from Place de la République on the Abidjan Plateau to reach Saint Paul's Cathedral where a message of peace will be delivered.
The march will take place two years after the gigantic gathering of young people from the diocese of Abidjan at the Félix Houphouët-Boigny stadium on March 4, 2018, which saw the participation of about 35,000 young people.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/MALAWI - The Word of God at the center of Holy Childhood Day

Ven, 24/01/2020 - 11:51
Lilongwe - "The Catholic Church wants you also to participate in the celebration of the Year of the Bible, and hence, we ask you children to read the Bible and understand together with your fellow children, with your parents and teachers what God is speaking", said the Most Rev. Tarcisio Ziyaye, the Archbishop of Lilongwe on 11 January 2020 at St. John’s Msamba Parish, on the occasion of the celebration of Missionary Day for children as part of the Epiphany celebration, whose theme was "Children are baptized and sent to preach the word of God" . The Archbishop reminded the children that the Holy Father wants every Catholic to spend some of his/her time reading the bible, praying with the Bible and preaching the word of God in their daily life.
Over 3,000 children from all the parishes of the Archdiocese gathered joyful at St. John’s Parish. Most of them opened their hearts to the calling of Jesus Christ. Together, they prayed the Missionary Rosary, celebrated the Eucharist, Sung joyful including the Christmas songs and danced together, offered their gifts.
Following their motto, ‘Children helping Children’, they happily brought their tin box where they make weekly offerings in their parishes when they are attending the catechetical missionary formation.
The event, in addition to Archbishop Tarcisio Ziyaye, saw the presence of the PMS National Director, Fr. Vincent Mwakhwawa, PMS Diocesan Director, Fr. Francis Lekaleka, Priests, men and women religious, the Lay leaders and Animators of the children. Sr. Rabecca Mathole, working for the Association of Women Religious Institutes in Malawi , emphased the need to put much effort in giving holistic missionary to children. She encouraged animators, parents and other pastoral agents to pay attention to the spiritual, physical, social and emotional needs of Children so that children grow with dignity as desired by the God the Father.
Categorie: From the church

OCEANIA/PAPUA NEW GUINEA - Bishops and Caritas against human trafficking: a social alarm

Ven, 24/01/2020 - 11:44
Port Moresby - "Illegal activities, prostitution, drug laundering of arms and money continue to increase as foreign human trafficking operations are becoming dramatically "normal". This is the warning launched by Caritas of the Country together with the "Justice and Peace" Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, sent to Agenzia Fides.
The Church of the Country has declared that it wants to collaborate with the police forces already involved in this sector and said it is convinced that before giving adequate indications it is necessary to examine the phenomenon through a multidisciplinary approach, to understand the problem, its causes, identify the processes and people involved.
Human trafficking in Papua New Guinea is a very complex problem given its variety of forms, the different nature of the victims and criminals who perpetrate the abuses. A recent report, published by the local newspaper "Post Courier", showed that several foreign multinationals carry out activities not foreseen in their licenses and even contrary to the laws of PNG.
The note from Caritas PNG, sent to Fides, ends with two practical recommendations: the first asks for prompt judicial proceedings for traffickers of the various abuses and for those who benefit or benefit from them, at different levels. The other requires greater cooperation, defense and awareness of human trafficking, both at a national and international level through government networks, businesses, religious communities and civil society.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/PERU - Message from the Bishops: Elections are a great opportunity to influence the course of events

Ven, 24/01/2020 - 11:39
Lima - At the conclusion of the 115th Plenary Assembly of the Peruvian Episcopate , the Episcopal Conference has published its message, sent to Fides, which concerns the parliamentary elections of 26 January, 2020. The Bishops remind the national community that "the election of the new Parliament offers citizens a great opportunity to influence the course of events in the Country, expressing a responsible vote, according to their personal beliefs". According to the teaching of the Church, in fact, "politics is a high form of charity. Pope Francis reminds us that politics must be above all at the service of the common good and not be trapped by individual ambitions, nor by the arrogance of groups or centers of special interests. Real policy is to work for the common good".
Finally, the Bishops present a request to future members of Congress: "We urge you to make a commitment to reconnect politics to citizens' concerns, addressing the problems of the Country and placing the fight against corruption, impunity among its priorities, citizens' insecurity, family violence, feminicides, unemployment". The message ends by highlighting the duty of the authorities: "the government must establish adequate and efficient communication channels, with the people and with all the powers of the state, for the good of the Country".
Pope Francis' visit to Peru in January two years ago marked the participation of the Catholic Church in the political and social life of the Country, which intervened on the migration of Venezuelans and mediated in the social conflicts, for example . The Episcopal Conference had outlined a very detailed picture of the national situation in which we read: "We see a systematic process of corruption caused by the divorce between ethics and politics, reinforced by personal and group ambitions, exacerbated by impunity and mistreated by a system that ignores justice. We have reached a point of political break: a new beginning requires not only a change of command but also the ethical and moral recovery of the country at all levels, because high levels of corruption steal hope, especially for the poor and the young", .
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/KAZAKHSTAN - Caritas project for children with disabilities: new collaboration with the state and with companies

Ven, 24/01/2020 - 11:13
Almaty - In 2020, the project dedicated to children with down syndrome carried out by Caritas Kazakhstan will grow, thanks to new partnerships in the public and private sector. This is what the National Director of the charitable organization, Don Guido Trezzani tells Agenzia Fides: "This year we will take the project to a different level. In recent days, we met representatives of a national civilian commission that could support our work with disabled children in the next 12 months and beyond, for the future. This would give us the opportunity to increase the number of children involved and to employ specialized personnel".
To underline the desire to "start 2020 with a different step", explains Don Trezzani, Caritas Kazakhstan organized a meeting during the Christmas period: "For years, with the families of the children participating in the project, we have respected the tradition of Soviet heritage of the 'tree festival', which welcomes the new year. This time, we thought of making a qualitative leap, involving new partners, such as some important national companies. Their response was positive: we were granted the hall of an important five-star hotel in Almaty. At the same time, a foundation bought nominal gifts for each individual child and the president of the airline company "Air Astana" attended the day, donating gadgets".
"Traditions are an important part of our life, because they give a sense of stability and security. Sometimes, however, the time comes to take risks and go beyond the expected standard. So we decided to risk the adventure of an event capable of making our project known to more people. The result went beyond the brightest expectations, not only for the success of the event itself, but also for the prospects of new collaborations that have opened", says Don Trezzani, remarking that "these partnerships will have the beneficial effect of expanding the number of disabled children and assisted families". They also "explicitly acknowledge and appreciate the social and charitable action of the Catholic Church in Kazakhstan", concludes the Director, and this aspect has a positive consequence for all the other activities proposed in the future.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/LEBANON - 10 Christians and 7 Muslims (4 Shiites and 3 Sunnis) among the ministers of the next Lebanese government

Ven, 24/01/2020 - 11:02
Beirut - Almost three months after the resignation of the government led by Saad Hariri, in a political and social climate still marked by unresolved tensions, Lebanon is preparing to have a new government team, led by the Sunni, Hassan Diab , 60 years old, former professor at the American University of Beirut. The new executive will be formed by the Premier and 19 ministers, 13 men and 6 women. Also this time, from a confessional point of view, the government team will represent a projection of the composite Lebanese religious map: among the 19 new ministers there will be 4 Maronite Christians, 4 Shiite Muslims, 3 Sunni Muslims, 3 Greek Orthodox Christians, 2 Druze, 2 Greek Catholic Christians and an Armenian Orthodox Christian.
The names of the government team were announced on Tuesday, which put an end to an impasse of several months, triggered by street protests against the government establishment that had caused the resignation of former Prime Minister Hariri on 29 October 2019.
The new government, which enjoys the support of the coalition which also includes the Shiite Hezbollah party and the Free Patriotic Movement , is expected to gain the confidence of Parliament next week, even if it does not seem to satisfy the demands of the anti-system demonstrations that have shaken Lebanon for months, and which have been marked by violence and street clashes in recent days. The new executive appears in fact composed of technicians linked to the Parties who also supported the previous coalition, while among the protesters there were those who asked to entrust the solution of the very serious national economic and social problems to technocrats totally independent of the forces that have dominated the Lebanese political scene. "The media are pessimistic, but we are optimistic", said parliament president Shia Nabih Berri on Tuesday. And also Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, already on Wednesday 22 January underlined the opportunity to "give a chance" to the new executive, while the persistent street mobilizations confirmed the persistent closure of forces and sectors that intend not to grant any credit openings to the new executive.
In Lebanon, in the institutional system based on the balance between the different confessional components, the head of government must be a Sunni Muslim, while the President of parliament must be a Shiite and the President of the Republic must be a Maronite Christian.
Categorie: From the church

VATICAN - "Sunday of the Word of God": the contribution of missionaries to translations into local languages

Ven, 24/01/2020 - 10:46
Vatican City - Sunday, January 26, the first "Sunday of the Word of God" will be celebrated in the world, announced by Pope Francis with the Apostolic Letter "Aperuit Illis", so that "the life of our people be constantly marked by this decisive relationship with the living word that the Lord never tires of speaking to his Bride" . The Pope stresses that "the Bible cannot be just the heritage of some, much less a collection of books for the benefit of a privileged few. It belongs above all to those called to hear its message and to recognize themselves in its Words" . In this perspective, many missionaries have dedicated a substantial part of their commitment to evangelization to translations of the Scriptures into local languages, to encourage the growth and formation of Christian communities. We cite just a few examples below.
Blessed Fr. Gabriele Maria Allegra , Franciscan missionary, OFM, is known for the first translation of Sacred Scripture into Chinese. Sent on a mission to China, after studying the Chinese language, the translation of the Old Testament from Aramaic began in 1935, which ended in 1944. Unfortunately, he lost more than half of the text translated during the war, so he called several Chinese confreres to help him. In 1945 he founded the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Beijing, which was transferred to Hong Kong in 1948. After completing the translation of the Old Testament in 1952, he went to the Holy Land for a period of formation. Returning to Hong Kong in 1955, he began translating the New Testament from Greek. In 1968 the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum published the Bible in Chinese for the first time in history.
On December 21, 2019 the "Baibil Khumur", the Holy Bible in the Tiwa language, was officially published. The Tiwa or Lalung community is an indigenous tribe that lives mainly in the Indian states of Assam and Meghalaya, in north-eastern India, and also in some parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. The translation work was led and coordinated by the Salesian , Fr. UV Jose, who worked on it for over five years spending up to 14 hours a day. Before him, another Salesian, Fr. Michael Balawan, had translated the New Testament into Tiwa, as well as writing a Tiwa-English-Khasi dictionary and editing several books on religious subjects.
Fathers Piergiorgio Cappelletti and Mario Frigerio, PIME missionaries, have lived and worked in Cameroon for half a century, and a significant part of their missionary commitment has poured into the translation of the Word of God into the language of the Tupuri. They translated the Sunday Lectionary and the New Testament, and are working on the Old Testament. Also in Cameroon, Father Giuseppe Parietti translated the Deuterocanonical books and the festive Lectionary into Fulfuldé, while Father Antonio Michelan translated the Bible and the Sunday Lectionary in Guiziga. The translation of the liturgical texts into the language of the Santal ethnic group is due to Father Carlo Calanchi, a missionary in Bangladesh. While in Guinea Bissau Father Luigi Scantanburlo worked on the translation of the liturgical and New Testament texts into the Felupe language; in Balanta some Gospels; in Criolo some liturgical texts, of the New Testament and the entire Bible . Father Giovanni De Franceschi, missionary in the Ivory Coast, translated the liturgical texts into Baulé.
In Mexico, after 25 years of work, in 2015 the translation of the Bible into the Tzotzil language was completed, a language that comes from the Maya and is spoken mainly on the Chiapas plateaus, by the peoples of the Tzotzil ethnic group, about 350,000 people. The work was carried out by the Missionary priests of the Sacred Heart and Santa Maria di Guadalupe, together with some priests from the area and especially the catechists of the parishes. In Guatemala in 2011 the Bible was published translated into k'iche, the most popular of the 22 main languages in the country, the result of the work of a group coordinated by the French priest Bernardo Guos and Isabel Sucuquí, of Mayan language, originally from Chiché, El Quiché. The translation of the Scriptures was done but from the original language, through a process of constant revision by k'iché catechists, to reach the final text of a Bible that allows reading without the help of other languages.
In the 1960s, the Consolata Missionaries collaborated on the translation carried out by the local Church, in Kenya and Tanzania, of the Bible in Kiswaili, Kimeru, Kikuyo. Giuseppe Frizzi oversaw the Xirima translation of the Macua people in Niassa, Mozambique. The translation was revised by the "Centro de Inserção Makhuwa-Xirima", center of cultural and artistic studies founded by him in the mission of Maúa, and was published by the Diocese of Lichinga, published by the Consolata Missionaries. The publication of the Gospels took place in 1997 and of the complete Bible in 2000, on the occasion of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000. Fr. Frizzi in this regard recalls an anecdote: "When I finished translating the Bible in Maca-Scirima language, an authoritative Muslim cheikh of Maúa, named Txirani: asked me if I could also translate the Koran. I had to turn down the invitation because I do not know Arabic, but I greatly appreciated his request: it expressed both his full trust in a Christian and his desire to make the sacred text of Muslims available in the local language, a desire born from appreciation for the work of Christians, who translate the Word of God into the various languages of the world".
Categorie: From the church

EUROPE/CYPRUS - Middle East Council of Churches: may East Jerusalem be "the capital of the independent Palestinian state"

Gio, 23/01/2020 - 13:20
Larnaca - In the conflicts that damage the Middle East, Christians in that region can experience "the mystery of God's love", his compassion and his love for every human being even in the midst of many difficult circumstances. This is underlined in the statement released by the Executive Committee of the MECC Middle East Council of Churches, gathered on Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 January in Larnaca , for two days of coexistence and common work lived in the context of the Week of prayer for Christian unity. The meeting, hosted by Chrysostomos II, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus, also included Yohanna X, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatios Aphrem II, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch", and among others also Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans.
In the joint document released at the end of the work, the participants in the MECC Executive Committee ask to preserve the faith and hope of many Christians in the Middle East, an area still afflicted by "bloody events". At the same time, it is underlined that the sufferings are not suffered only by Churches and by Christians, but affect entire peoples of the region. The document recalls all the church realities involved in the ecumenical organism to intensify its presence "alongside every suffering, displaced person and migrant, who has lost loved ones or possessions because of violence and wars, so that Churches remain an icon of God's tenderness and closeness".
In addition to sharing reflections, concerns and suggestions on the condition of peoples and churches in different countries, the committee members also listened to the report of Professor Souraya Bechealany, Secretary General of the MECC, concerning the work done in the past year and the prospects and future initiatives of the ecumenical body. The participants of the meeting also asked in common prayer to know the fate of Boulos Yazigi and Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, the two Archbishops of Aleppo - the first Greek Orthodox, the second Syrian Orthodox – who disappeared on April 22, 2013 in Syria. Then, focusing on situations and events concerning individual countries, the participants in the meeting stressed the instances of social justice and the fight against corruption that are characterizing the protests taking place in Iraq. With regard to Syria, the MECC Executive Committee underlined the urgency of involving all local and international components in the process aimed at restoring peace throughout the territory and promoting the return of internally displaced persons and refugees to their homes. Explicit support was also expressed towards the mobilizations of the Lebanese people who express impatience towards corruption and non-fullfilment by the national political class. Regarding Cyprus, which hosted the ecumenical summit, the members of the Executive Committee of the MECC explicitly asked for an end to the occupation that led to the division of the island, while regarding the situation in Palestine they expressed support to those who suffer "the consequences of the occupation, apartheid policy" and the indiscriminate expansion of illegal settlements on Palestinian territory, while demanding respect for the freedom of following the rites and practices related to one's faith for all Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, also in East Jerusalem, defined in the document as "the capital of an independent Palestinian state". The final MECC release also expresses support for the Egyptian people committed to free themselves from violence and extremism and to consolidate the principle of citizenship as an essential factor in civilian life. "Inviting the peoples of the region to make the principle of citizenship prevail, together with rights and duties" reads the press release "requires a review of the systems and laws" that helps to combine national unity and recognition of diversity, and free civil life from any sectarianism.
The Middle East Council of Churches, founded in 1974 in Nicosia and currently based in Beirut, has the aim of facilitating the convergence of Middle Eastern Christian communities on issues of common interest and favoring the overcoming of confessional contrasts.
Professor Souraya Bechealany, a Maronite Christian, teaches theology at the Université Saint-Joseph de Beyrouth. Souraya was elected Secretary General of the MECC in January 2018, and together with her collaborators she undertook a process of restructuring the departments of the human body.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/BOLIVIA - An electoral process that is peaceful, democratic and transparent, to look to the future with confidence

Gio, 23/01/2020 - 12:00
La Paz - "In this historical moment, in this pre-election period, when we are preparing for new elections, we need political parties to be able to present promising projects for the Country, where the priority is to seek the common good, the growth and well-being of our people. In the face of uncertainty, let us try to be artisans of peace, artisans of reconciliation and artisans of the common good": said the executive secretary of the Commission of the Ecclesial Communion of the Episcopal Conference of Bolivia, Fr. Diego Plà, during the Eucharistic celebration last Sunday, in view of the elections of May 3rd.
Mgr. Eugenio Scarpellini, Bishop of the Diocese of El Alto and National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, interviewed by a local television, said: "Once again, as a Catholic Church, we hope that the electoral process is carried out as peaceful and democratic as possible ... The people need to recreate trust in the authorities, they need a transparent process, to look to the future with new rulers elected by the people and who think of the common good and truly positive development".
Bolivia celebrated Plurinational State Day yesterday, January 22nd, and for the occasion interim President, Jeanine Añez, asked to draw up a plan to ensure the security of the vote in the upcoming elections on May 3, 2020. "I asked the defense and national government ministers to organize a common plan before, during and after May 3, so that the vote of the Bolivians is protected", she said in a message to the country on this occasion. The celebration of the Dia del Estado Plurinacional has been taking place every year since 2009, when, according to the new Constitution, Bolivia ceased to define itself as a republic.
Jeanine Áñez, who took over the presidency after the anomalies discovered in the last elections, stressed that, precisely for these reasons, "the elections of May 3 will become the best accompanied Bolivian electoral process and most observed in our history". The OAS, the United Nations, the European Union and the Catholic Church have expressed their desire to support and accompany the electoral process.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/MALAYSIA - Human promotion and solidarity: Caritas Malaysia set up

Gio, 23/01/2020 - 11:45
Kuala Lumpur - Being more present in Malaysian society with initiatives of charity, human promotion, solidarity development, a sign of closeness to every man and a powerful sign of God's love: with this spirit, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malayia, Singapore and Brunei decided to set up Caritas Malaysia, reorganizing and promoting the existing Office for human development existing within the Conference. As learned by Fides, in recent months the Bishops of Malaysia have had a close exchange with the leaders of Caritas International and, after having clarified the organizational and institutional aspects, have decided unanimously to open a national Caritas Office, which encompasses all the dioceses in peninsular Malaysia and those in the territories of Malaysian Borneo, namely Sabah and Sarawak.
The Office will be based in Kuala Lumpur and Bishop Anthony Bernard Paul, at the head of the diocese of Melaka-Johor, has been appointed first president of Caritas Malaysia. The Bishop will invite the representatives of the nine dioceses to a first consultative meeting within the first quarter of the year, to start the coordination work of all the charitable activities already in place and to draw up a Caritas work program for the next few years.
Caritas Malaysia is part of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of over 160 members, present in almost all the countries in the world. A direct expression of the Catholic Church, Caritas offers concrete help to the poor, the vulnerable and the excluded, regardless of ethnicity, culture and religion, to build a world based on justice and fraternal love.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/DR CONGO - "No to new wars"; a cry of alarm of the Bishops of the DRC, Rwanda and Burundi

Gio, 23/01/2020 - 11:33
Kinshasa - The social situation remains worrying, in the first place in light of the persistent insecurity in some areas, in particular at the borders of three countries", say the Bishops of the Standing Committee of the Association des Conférences Episcopales de l'Afrique Centrale , in the final communiqué of the ordinary meeting which was held in Bukavu , from 15 to 18 January.
ACEAC, which brings together the Bishops of Burundi, Rwanda and the DRC, also denounces that in their three countries, "the purchasing power of the population has decreased further, forcing many families to live below the poverty line".
"And since bad luck never comes alone, the Ebola virus and torrential rains in recent months have caused several victims and significant material damage and left several people without shelter" continues the statement sent to Agenzia Fides.
The Bishops appreciate the "dynamism" of Caritas and the Commissions of Justice and Peace which, despite the scarce resources available, have brought relief to the affected populations, and invite Christian communities to continue to be in solidarity with the victims.
The Bishops deplore the deterioration of the climate of trust among political leaders in the region, which risks increasing the possibility of armed clashes to the detriment of local populations: "We appeal to the conscience of rulers to keep in their hearts and minds the duty to protect the populations and to work for the prosperity of people who must fully enjoy their rights as creatures created in the image of God".
The Bishops renew their commitment in 2013 to work with other religious denominations to establish lasting peace in the region "through the testimony of life, gestures and words". To this end, in the coming months they will publish their own pastoral program for the conversion of hearts and the promotion of social cohesion, and invite the faithful to recite the prayer for peace of Saint Francis of Assisi every day.
Categorie: From the church