AMERICA/CHILE - The first eco-socio-economically sustainable papal visit

Fides EN - - 1 ora 10 min fa
Santiago - The visit of Pope Francis to Chile will be the first eco-socio-economically sustainable. The organizers have developed a precise strategy in this regard. Animated by the request of the Holy Father in Laudato Sì "to limit the use of non-renewable resources to the maximum, to moderate consumption, to maximize the efficiency of the use of resources, to re-use and recycle" as much as possible, five measures for environmental sustainability have been included, five more for the economic aspect and as many for the social one, with the aim of "making prudent use of natural resources and to avoid pollution in areas where mass events will take place", explains the organizing committee presenting the visit. Among the "good practices" identified there is the measurement of "carbon traces", which will be reduced and will be economically compensated, according to the law in force, with similar provisions for the reduction of waste generated, recycled and re-used where possible; and a campaign for the care of the environment, with repeated messages to remember the rational use of resources such as water, essential for the arid areas of the north, in the austral summer.
Moreover, as subsidiary material for the formation of volunteers and the adequate preparation of the pilgrims, the World Catholic Movement for Climate have prepared two guides for "the care of nature", where it is recommended, among other things, to use the numerous solar cell recharging towers and to try vegetarian food, since the production of meat causes more than 14% of the gas emissions greenhouse effect worldwide.
On behalf of state authorities, from an environmental point of view, pilgrims are advised to take water with them in reusable bottles , to avoid the use of plastic bags, even in case of purchases, and to replace them with their own rucksack, to keep the waste until one finds a rubbish bin and separate them for recycling . Those present are invited to prefer public transport, also for greater efficiency in transfers to the ceremonial sites. The economic transparency in the financing and expenses of the visit will be constantly monitored, according to the Chilean law of access to public information, and information will be provided on the organization's web page The visit will also be universally inclusive, promoting the participation - and effective access - of pilgrims and volunteers with disabilities or belonging to any minority, such as natives and immigrants.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/COLOMBIA - UN and Catholic Church committed to re-launching the Government-ELN peace talks

Fides EN - - 1 ora 31 min fa
Bogotà - The Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, has appealed to the Colombian government and ELN to end "armed actions" and re-launch "serious and constructive dialogue, in order to satisfy the expectations generated by the commitment of the parties to reach a solution to their conflict through political means as soon as possible".
Guterres' declaration was made at the end of his two-day visit in Colombia, where he was able to see firsthand the progress in implementing the agreement with the Farc .
Regarding the peace process with Eln, Guterres appointed his representative in Colombia to "take all necessary measures to facilitate the return of the parties to the negotiating table".
Guterres’ visit to Colombia, Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 January, was the first of the UN Secretary-General in a Latin American country since he took office on January 1, 2017. His request came a few days after the armed group ELN resumed the violent actions against some infrastructures, thus closing any possibility of prolonging the ceasefire established at Christmas 2017.
On behalf of the Catholic Church, Father Darío Echeverri, Secretary General of the National Conciliation Commission, one of the Church leaders who is following the peace process, told the local press that the ELN group does not seem to have understood the opportunity that they are wasting to re-launch peace talks. Father Echeverri was one of the protagonists of the "historic respite" of 101 days of humanitarian relief, especially for the provinces of Arauca, Chocó, Norte de Santander and Nariño. The population fully enjoyed a peaceful Christmas and New Year 2017.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/DR CONGO - Cholera in Kinshasa: the commitment of health institutions and Caritas to combat the epidemic

Fides EN - - 3 ore 37 min fa
Kinshasa - There are over 50,000 cases of cholera registered during 2017 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Between 25 November and 28 December 2017 the capital Kinshasa counted 133 new infections, with the death of 12 patients.
With floods at the beginning of the year in Kinshasa, health minister Oly Ilunga fears the worst: "cholera is a water-related disease, therefore the risk of spread is high".
Didier Bompangue, coordinator of the National Program for the Elimination of Cholera and the fight against other diarrheal diseases , says that the spread of cholera comes from a series of causal factors that have been added over time:
- global warming, which causes many epidemics in various Countries of the world;
- the fact that cholera has become endemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1994;
- the succession of epidemics not sufficiently controlled and, consequently, not completely eradicated;
- anarchist urbanization in cities like Kinshasa.
Of the 35 health centers in Kinshasa, 14 have already reported cases of infection. Two treatment units have been set up to treat affected patients, including that of Camp Luka in the municipality of Ngaliema, opened on 8 January. Regarding the solutions to be adopted to counter the spread of the epidemic, PNECHOL-MD does its duty, but its coordinator recognizes the need for collaboration. "The health system manages only a small part of the problem. The problem of cholera is a multisectorial problem. It is really time for REGIDESO , civil hygiene and finance to come together to face this challenge".
François Mbutshitshi, Head of the Emergency and Social Protection Program of Caritas, talks about the involvement of the Catholic Church in Kinshasa in these terms: "We participate in the reflections with other partners, to know how to provide an answer. This requires to disinfect water with chlorine, it is necessary to disinfect the environment affected by the epidemic, the affected people must be identified and the medical service must take care of the patients already affected. This is the work carried out by the volunteers of Caritas Kinshasa.The coordinator of PNECHOL-MD is optimistic about the fact that it will be possible to eradicate the epidemic because - he concludes - "we know exactly what we must do"

Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/ZIMBABWE - A missionary: the political transition is fictitious, a truly inclusive government is urgently needed

Fides EN - - 3 ore 38 min fa
Harare "In Zimbabwe everyone is holding their breath. We are trying to understand what will happen in the coming weeks and months. Nobody takes a position": says a missionary to Fides, who for security reasons wants to remain anonymous, describing the situation in the country after the upheavals that led to the fall of Robert Mugabe and the rise to power of his former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa. "In fact - the religious continues - we are not experiencing any transition. As in the past, the ruling party, the Zanu-Pf, is controlled by the secret services and the armed forces. And then it was the forces that supported Mnangagwa in his internal struggle to prevent Mugabe's wife Grace from coming to power. Nothing has therefore changed".
Emmerson Mnangagwa took office on November 26 and immediately declared he wanted to relaunch the economy in Zimbabwe, which after the disastrous policies of Mugabe , is unable to improve. Currently 72% of the population live below the poverty level and the GDP does not increase.
"The crocodile - the missionary observes - intends to relaunch economy. So far he has not made any important decisions and I believe he will not do anything in the period before the elections. When will one go to the polls? It is not known exactly. If the Constitution is respected, the seats should open before September. However, it is said that the new president wants to organize the elections as soon as possible, in order not to give time to international organizations to set up a mission of observers. Mnangagwa wants a popular consecration, but without controls".
So far, the passage of power between Mugabe and Mnangagwa has not found any obstacles in the party. No prominent exponent has put himself sideways. "It is a question of opportunities - the religious continues -. Many party bigwigs have not lined up waiting for developments. The next few months will tell us which positions they will line up".
And the Catholic Church? "The Episcopal Conference of Zimbabwe - concludes the source of Fides - together with the leaders of other confessions has called for an inclusive transitional government. Unfortunately they have not been heard. It must be said, however, that the Catholic Church played an important role and, in particular, the Society of Jesus. It was Father Fidelis Mukonori who convinced Mugabe to leave power without bloodshed. Mnangagwa had the power on his side, but he did not want to use it for fear of international protests".

Categorie: From the church

ASIA/IRAN - Confirmation of the ordination of a deaconess in the Armenian Apostolic Church

Fides EN - - Lun, 15/01/2018 - 12:40
Teheran - Twenty-four year old Ani-Kristi Manvelian, an anesthesiologist by profession, was ordained as deaconess in the Cathedral of St. Gregory the Illuminator of Tehran last September by Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian, the Primate of the Armenian apostolic Archdiocese of Teheran.
Ani-Kristi Manvelian - reports the blog - is a lay person and does not belong to any female monastic congregation. Her ordination took place while the Armenian Apostolic Church has yet to formally restore the office of female diaconate. "What I have done is in conformity with the Tradition of the Church and nothing else", said Archbishop Sarkissian, whose archdiocese falls under the jurisdiction of the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenians. The Archbishop also stated that his decision was to "revitalise the participation of women also in our church’s liturgical life".
Among the Eastern Churches, also the Synod of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria in Egypt, in November 2016 had decided to restore the institute of female deacons, and had appointed a commission of Bishops "for a thorough examination of the matter".
The discussion on the possibility of restoring female deacons and on the potential role of female deacons in the pastoral activities and missionary animation has been open for some time within the Chalcedon Orthodoxy theological institutions.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/PERU - Puerto Maldonado, a historic meeting that will give more visibility to the natives of the Amazon

Fides EN - - Lun, 15/01/2018 - 12:24
Puerto Maldonado - Pope Francis has always had special attention and affection towards the Amazon and its inhabitants, especially the native peoples. The encyclical Laudato Sì or the creation of the Panamanian Ecclesial Network are examples of this attitude.
Puerto Maldonado promises to be, as Hector Sueyo Yumbuyo, indigenous leader of the Harakbut people of Madre de Dios confirmed to Agenzia Fides, "a historic meeting", a demonstration that the natives are "supported by the Catholic Church through its highest authority, Pope Francis, a spiritual support to all the activities that the indigenous people carry out to survive and face problems, such as the demolition of trees, illegal mining and social problems that this activity generates".
The indigenous leader of the region who will be visited by the Pope, continues to explain that he sees in the journey a "recognition of the evangelizing work of the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Maldonado", initiated in 1920 by a missionary whom the Indians knew as Apantonek, Papá Viejo. Some of the wisemen with whom he lived will perform a welcome ritual chant of the Harakbut People.
In this same sense, also Julio Cusurichi Palacios, president of the Federation of the natives of Madre de Dios, awarded with the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2007, emphasizes to Fides the singular importance of the meeting, in which "the lack of legal security of the territories must be highlighted, making known the danger of some rules that the Peruvian Congress is adopting, such as road projects that would pass through the indigenous territories of isolated peoples or protected natural areas". According to Cusurichi, it will be a moment to make "the great contribution that indigenous populations give to forest conservation visible and which help mitigate major environmental problems". Despite this contribution, he continues to explain,"we are hardly recognized, benefits do not reach indigenous peoples, they remain at an environmental or governmental institutions level".
Julio Cusurichi sees in the meeting an opportunity for "the Pope to insist that governments assume their responsibilities and work on public policies to include the demands of the indigenous peoples, so that governments can reach their social inclusion". "The Pope will strengthen unity among all the indigenous peoples and commit the Peruvian state so that it can meet the needs of the territory, the economy and the organization", concludes Hector Sueyo, and reiterates that this "is an opportunity to make the problems of the indigenous people of the Amazon, as well as cultural wealth, ancestral knowledge visible, so that the state can recognize them as a cultural heritage of the nation and safeguard future generations".
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/SRI LANKA - Christians committed to promoting religious harmony

Fides EN - - Lun, 15/01/2018 - 12:05
Colombo - The Church in Sri Lanka is strongly committed to promoting religious harmony and to building a peaceful and reconciled society, after the wounds of the civil war. Christians try to be present in all parts of society, through social services, educational programs and health services: is what Sister W. Jeewani Fernando, of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Castres, explains to Agenzia Fides. The leaders of different religions - she notes - have formed a common movement to promote religious harmony and peace in society.
"We are called to live in peace and harmony and to work for the common good of society The Church is trying to relate to other religious communities with solidarity and love", adds Sister Fernando, noting that "the responsibility of working for the progress of Sri Lankan society belongs to everyone".
Sri Lanka, an island nation, has suffered a lot in the past due to civil war and guerrilla movements. After the end of the civil war between Singhalese and Tamil "the nation is gradually making efforts to strengthen peace and harmony", says the religious.
In Sri Lanka, a nation of 21 million people, tensions are focused on the differences between the Singhalese ethnic majority, which represents about 74% of the population, and a Tamil ethnic minority, made up of Hindus and Christians. A Muslim community mostly descended from Arab and Malaysian merchants, is added in the composition of society.
A certain nationalist movement, religiously influenced, began in the years after independence , when a Singhalese-Buddhist coalition led by Solomon Bandaranaike tried to support the majority, in response to accusations that the British colonial government had favored the Tamils for work in the public administration. This rebirth of Buddhist nationalism was opposed by the Tamils and therefore ethnic-based tensions and violence degenerated into a civil war during which over 100,000 lives were lost before the Tamil insurgents were finally defeated in 2009.
Currently, while the economy is in a fragile state, extremism and nationalism thrive in situations of general malaise. To complicate matters, it should be noted that Sri Lankan Buddhists follow the Theravada tradition which is more conservative than the Mahayana tradition.
While Buddhists are more than 70% of the population , Hindus make up 16% of the population and are dominant in the northern and eastern provinces of the island. About 8% of the inhabitants of Sri Lanka belong to Islam , while Christians make up 8% of the Sri Lankan population, and are mainly Catholics.
Christianity first came to Sri Lanka when the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century. Catholicism spread and many Catholic schools were established for the Singhalese and Tamil. With the arrival of the Dutch the Dutch Reformed Church spread and in 1772 Christians were 21% of the population, a percentage that fell with the end of the colonial rule.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/TOGO - A nun: "To be artisans of peace, thanks to the courage that comes from faith"

Fides EN - - Lun, 15/01/2018 - 11:06
Kolowaré - "The year that just ended was marked by severe moments of tension due to the socio-political crisis in the whole country and in particular our central region of Togo. It is not easy, in the face of unrest and unprecedented violence, to be artisans of peace. We try to be peacemakers in our small way, in our daily life": says Sister Antonietta Profumo to Agenzia Fides from the community of Our Lady of the Apostles, head of the health center in Kolowaré . "We have welcomed numerous sick, young and old people from every part of the country in our Health Center", continues the nun. "Thanks to the support of so many benefactors, we have been able to take care of a large number of poor people and offer them the necessary for better health. Several malnourished children have been able to improve their life and health. This is our contribution to promoting development, peace and the common good of the country", she continues.

"Our 53 AIDS patients were able to participate in pastoral initiatives organized for them. There were weeks full of initiatives for them and for the animators, moments lived in the joy of being together and sharing. They attended repetition courses offered by the village children, films, games, dances and even medical check-ups, more in-depth analysis, group meetings", says Sister Etta.

Furthermore, "the project to intervene for the treatment of cataracts continued throughout the year. 149 people were operated and others are on the waiting list. We hope to give sight to the latter too. We always dream of a good and fraternal world, where each person has his place with dignity and love. Courage comes to us from our faith in the Lord, from the love that his Gospel and his bread of life sow in our existence", concludes the religious.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/SENEGAL - Caritas Senegal: "Let us give back hope to young people; migration is not the only way for the future"

Fides EN - - Lun, 15/01/2018 - 10:49
Dakar - "Give back hope to our young people". This is Caritas Senegal's goal during its 54th Ordinary Plenary Assembly, which opened in Thiès on January 13th and ended on Sunday 14th.
In his opening address, His Exc. Mgr. Jean Pierre Bassène, Bishop of Kolda and President of Caritas Senegal, said: "reading the dramatic situations that young people live individually, especially in Africa, we feel concerned as a Church and as Caritas. The constant tragedies on the routes of illegal migrations, human trafficking, slavery and violence inflicted on young migrants are of great concern to us. The young people who remain in the Country also face other challenges, of which the last is not that of employment. This is the reason for the theme proposed this year for our reflection: "Faced with socio-economic challenges, youth entrepreneurship as an alternative. Problems and perspectives".
"Therefore, we must seek, with all those responsible, ways to give hope to our youth", continued Mgr. Bassène. "Because if we are aware of the modesty of our means and of our action, we know, on the other hand, that together with others, including young people themselves, we will find ways to create a better present and give a future to young people" .
In addition the Bishop of Thiès, His Exc. Mgr. André Gueye, underlined the expectations that young people place in the Church. "Young people expect a lot from the Church", he said, "they have the right", even if, according to him, "some poorly informed young people even dare to ask for the complicity of the Church to realize their dream of emigration". All this, according to the Bishop of Thiès, recalls the responsibility of the Church "in the formation of mentalities and consciences, a duty to raise awareness, without forgetting our effort, as an institution to reflect on strategies and perspectives to offer young people".
Senegal is the fourth country in sub-Saharan Africa and the first in West Africa for the number of emigrants. Official estimates for 2011 report that over 400,000 Senegalese have emigrated, but taking into account illegal emigration this number could be two or three times higher.
The delegates of Caritas Senegal at the end of the 54th general assembly, made the following recommendations:
• Include the development of volunteering in a dynamic of animation of strengthening of skills and enhancing their contribution;
• Strengthening solidarity within the network and mobilizing communities within the Church for an adequate response to emergencies and the challenges of integral development;
• Establish an emergency fund of Caritas of Senegal with resources mobilized at dioceses level to allow the network to have a rapid mechanism of response to disasters;
• Identify and invest in new actions in the field of rural hydraulics in a process of reform that entrusts the private sector with the management and maintenance of infrastructures, guaranteeing the supply of drinking water to the populations;
• Capitalize on relevant experiences of youth integration, based on local government partnerships, training system, civil society organizations, technical and financial partners and the private sector.

Categorie: From the church

ASIA/JAPAN - Appointment of the Rector of the interdiocesan Seminary "Japan Catholic Seminary"

Fides EN - - Lun, 15/01/2018 - 10:26
Vatican City - Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, appointed the rev. Francis Xavier Hiroaki Nakano, of the diocesan clergy of Kagoshima, as Rector of the Interdiocesan Seminary "Japan Catholic Seminary".
The new Rector was born on April 15, 1951 in Kagoshima city and was ordained a priest on April 2, 1978 for the diocese of Kagoshima. He went to the minor Seminary in Nagasaki and then to the Fukuoka Saint Sulpice Major Seminary. He then studied dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana University. Among the positions held: director of the diocesan monthly newspaper, parish priest in different communities, rector of the Minamikyushu Minor Seminary, diocesan chancellor. Since August 2011 he has been the formator in the "Japan Catholic Seminary", of which he was vice-rector since April 2013.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/TURKMENISTAN - The Oblate Sáez Martín: "The Catholic community grows with enthusiasm"

Fides EN - - Ven, 12/01/2018 - 13:31
Ashgabat - "The period spent in Turkmenistan was a very positive experience. The participation in the catechesis held in the church of Ashgabat was very high: the entire community of the capital was present - about 100 people - but there were also those who came from other parts of the country. In the days following Christmas, then, we priests reached the faithful who live far from the city". This is what Father Diego Sáez Martín told Agenzia Fides: the Oblate of Mary Immaculate, a missionary in Turkmenistan from 2010 to 2013, who has just returned to Italy after spending three weeks in the Central Asian State to help his confreres in the preparation and in the carrying out the liturgical celebrations during the Christmas period.
The theme of catechesis held by Fr. Diego was "You will be like God", the phrase with which the devil tempted Adam and Eve: "I explained how the Father really makes us like him, if we do not turn away from him, as our biblical ancestors erroneously did. I tried to explain it in practical, not theological terms. On the day of departure, for example, my flight was delayed and I arrived at the destination exactly five minutes before the start of the first catechesis. I did not prepare myself well: I let the Spirit act".
Fr. Diego says: "In the following days I left with Fr. Rafał Chilimoniuk to visit the places where there are other Catholics who could not reach Ashgabat. We traveled about 2000 km, meeting also people of Muslim faith, who wanted to know our faith. We also visited a family converted from Islam to Christianity: a family: father, mother and two children, who live in a small village, 750 kilometers from Ashgabat.
Providence allowed me to meet them about six years ago, when I was permanently on a mission in Turkmenistan. At the time I went to visit them once a month for the preparation for baptism, which they then received".
Regarding religious conversion, the priest explains: "In Turkmenistan, the Constitution grants religious freedom and protects the possibility of converting to another faith. Problems for those passing from one belief to another can arise from the family of origin or neighbors, who sometimes do not accept this change, and consider it a betrayal".
According to the Oblate, the Catholic community in Turkmenistan is undergoing a process of transformation: "In the past, the group of the faithful was composed mostly of people of Russian, Ukrainian, Polish or German origin. At the same time, the percentage of Turkmen ethnic faithful is increasing".
"The community grows with enthusiasm and could be even bigger, because there is great interest and curiosity and people are open to friendship with Catholics. The problem is that, currently, there are only two priests for the whole country and this represents a great limitation", concludes Fr. Sáez Martín.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/TUNISIA - "Tunisia has won the bet for democracy but not for economic development"

Fides EN - - Ven, 12/01/2018 - 13:20
Tunis - "There is an economic problem that then becomes social", says to Agenzia Fides Fr. Jawad Alamat, parish priest of Carthage and general secretary of Catholic schools, commenting on the recent protests that have shaken different areas of Tunisia. "The revolution of seven years ago had two demands: freedom and democracy, therefore civil and political rights, on the one hand, and social justice, therefore jobs and improvement of the general conditions of life, on the other" explains Fr. Alamat.
"On the first dossier, that of democracy, Tunisia has had an incredible development, and it can be said that it has managed to meet the expectations of most of its citizens. One thinks of the new Constitution, the recognition of fundamental freedoms, the democratic path with free elections that saw the strong mobilization of civil society. Therefore political and democratic maturity with strong distinctions compared to other parts of the Arab world have been reached", says the priest.
"However, the economic problem remains, linked not only to the local situation but also to the regional situation. Young Tunisians in these seven years since the fall of the Ben Ali regime have strongly hoped to find jobs with no results. On the contrary, the cost of living has increased, also due to the devaluation of the Tunisian Dinar, while salaries have remained low", says Fr. Alamat.
At least 778 people have been arrested in clashes with police in several Tunisian towns that took place in recent days.
"In the midst of the protests, criminal elements have infiltrated, taking advantage of the protests to loot and rob shops and public offices", said the priest. "There have been serious incidents, and hundreds of people have been wounded, including several policemen. The majority of Tunisians, however, do not want violence and looting even if they share the reasons of the protest".
After days of tension, calm seems to have returned, apart from some sporadic incidents in Siliana, in the northwest of Tunisia.
"However, other protests are foreseeable: Sunday, January 14, on the occasion of the seventh anniversary of the revolution, the day in which a major demonstration is scheduled in Tunis. The government and the institutions must therefore take on the social responsibility", concludes Fr. Alamat.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/CHILE - Jesuit Fernando Montes: the strategy of tension that obscures the "Mapuche issue"

Fides EN - - Ven, 12/01/2018 - 13:05
Santiago de Chile - The episodes of violence recorded in recent years and connected to the "Mapuche issue", including the fires of Catholic and Evangelical churches, have the effect of sabotaging every serious assumption of responsibility in the face of the problems posed by indigenous peoples: "There is the danger that all the attention of Chileans focuses on these facts of violence, and not on the situation of injustice, violation of rights that has its roots in the past and still continues". The alarm was raised by Chilean Jesuit Fernando Montes Matte, former rector of the Alberto Hurtado University. 78 years old, a figure present in the Chilean public debate, Father Montes led the Chilean Jesuit University from 1999 - the year of its foundation - until 2016. And in the early sixties of last century he was also a fellow student of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, today Pope Francis.

Violence and forest enterprises
In Chile we discuss the nature of acts of violence carried out with claims that refer to the Mapuche cause. Some ask if they can be read as acts of terrorism or if they are isolated gestures of delinquency. Several trials have been opened by the judicial authorities. "It is deplorable", declares Father Montes to Agenzia Fides, "that attention is focused on the repressive measures to be adopted and on the presence of the police, rather than on the problems underlying these isolated and certainly deplorable acts. "It is a fact", the Jesuit continues "that violence comes from minority groups, and cannot be attributed to the Mapuche people as such. Of course, it is important to oppose violence, but it is essential that attention should not be diverted from what should be involved as a priority: extreme poverty of places, the trampled rights of native peoples and the lack of respect for their culture".
In recent years - Father Montes pointed out in his conversation with Agenzia Fides - large forest enterprises have established themselves in the region, which have had serious effects on ecology due to the type of plantations they produce. It could be said that much of the violence was exercised against these forest enterprises".
In this situation, according to the former rector of the Jesuit University, the Church can also contribute to highlighting the real condition of the Mapuche people, taking the requests for the return of at least part of the lands claimed seriously and recalling the necessary social development of all the area. "If one really wants to integrate Mapuche citizens in Chile," the Chilean Jesuit points out, "it is also essential that they acquire levels of appropriate participation in the conduct of the entire Country". It is necessary to "defend the victims from acts of violence", without forgetting that those who have been trampled on their rights are victims of violence". Christians can help to take into account all the factors at stake in the Mapuche issue, so as to favor "a just, fraternal and peaceful relationship with the entire original people of that area".

The Jesuits, the Church and the Mapuche issue
When Pope Francis, for his short trip to Chile, chose the city of Temuco among his destinations, located in the ancestral territory of the Mapuche people, "we all understood", Father Fernando Montes recalls today "that this choice expressed the Pope's interest in the problems that currently exist with the original people of our Country". According to the Chilean Jesuit, the Pope "could help everyone to ask forgiveness, with humility, for the things we have been responsible for. His presence should help us not to divert our attention from the underlying problem".
The Jesuits today have a community in the heart of the Mapuche territory. And the link between the spiritual children of St. Ignatius and the history of the Mapuche has deep roots.
"The Mapuche" recalls Father Montes "managed to resist the Inca empire. The Spanish discoverer of Chile had to leave and return to Peru. When the conquerors returned, the Mapuche killed the first governor and one of his successors. Then, the Jesuits learned the language of the Mapuches, and went to speak with the King of Spain to say that one could not impose faith by force, and convince him to end the offensive war against that people". The Society of Jesus already in 1620, during its general provincial congregation, drew the attention to the need to put an end to enslaved work, and to favor other conditions. "It was", remembers the former rector of the University Alberto Hurtado, "a first-class social document. And it attested a conquest carried out in a shameful manner".

Categorie: From the church

ASIA/PAKISTAN - The Bishops: the government must approve policies for the protection of children

Fides EN - - Ven, 12/01/2018 - 12:37
Lahore - "The whole nation cries for this sin. It is a sin that makes us feel ashamed. Let us try to find the courage to take all the necessary measures and to protect the lives of our children in every possible way, so that these crimes are never repeated": these are the heartfelt words of the Archbishop of Islamabad Joseph Arshad, President of the National Commission "Justice and Peace" , which intervened to strongly condemn the rape and murder of Zainab, a seven-year-old girl, found in a landfill in Kasur. The episode caused anger and pain throughout the country. In a note sent to Agenzia Fides, the Commission firmly calls for the government of Punjab to take severe action against perpetrators and launch serious political measures to protect children.
"Pakistan once again has failed to protect its children. According to international reports, Pakistan is the eleventh country in the world with the highest rate of child abuse or sexual violence, with 2,500 cases each year. 11 cases of child sexual abuse are recorded every day. Kasur, a city adjacent to the provincial capital of the Punjab province, has become the center of massive sexual violence against minors since 2014 and 2015, estimating over 3,500 cases of child abuse in 2014 alone, of which 67% in rural areas": this is the disturbing data released by the Justice and Peace Commission that strongly condemns the rape and murder of Zainab.
The note sent to Fides by the Commission recalls: "In 2015 the biggest child abuse scandal was registered in Kasur, in Pakistan: 25 criminals promoted cases of extreme pedophilia and child pornography for 10 years. With regards to child protection, in 2017 there were 1,764 cases of pedophilia in Pakistan and 12 cases of rape and murder of girls aged between 5 and 8 in Kasur".
The recent tragic case of kidnapping, rape and murder of Zainab is one of these 12 cases: the police are investigating and questioning 272 suspects "reaching the conclusion of the involvement of a serial killer". The Commission asks the competent authorities to "take into consideration all other cases related to child abuse and bring those responsible to justice for exemplary punishment".
Among the proposals sent to the institutions, the Commission points out: the Office for the protection of minors should be active at a district level throughout Pakistan, defining its role, responsibility and function; cases of missing children and abduction of minors should be given priority by law enforcement; the government should form a judicial commission to develop adequate legislation to address the issue of child abuse and child pornography.
The Bishop's Commission concludes: "Children are the future of our nation: the government must abide by its social, moral and international commitments to the rights of the child. We hope that the government will seriously address the issue and work for the protection and security of all children throughout Pakistan".
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/PERU - 30 years after the last visit of a Pope in the Country

Fides EN - - Ven, 12/01/2018 - 12:14
Lima - "Peru is a country where the arrival of Pope Francis generates great expectation for its very high religiosity. This is something that the Pope will be able to verify, and I think he will be very happy", says to Agenzia Fides Peruvian political analyst Luis Benavente, director of the research Vox Populi company, that on behalf of the Faculty of Pontifical and Civil Theology of Lima, conducted a survey in the country according to which almost 80 percent of the Peruvians interviewed consider religion important.
In a conversation with Agenzia Fides regarding the two visits made by Saint John Paul II to Peru 30 years ago, Benavente recalls that they occurred in the so-called "lost decade": "the eighties were an economic disaster due to the lack of investments, corruption, terrorism and inflation - explains the analyst -. John Paul II came in that context and at the time his arrival was characterized by great hope". "Today - he adds - there is institutional disorder due to corruption and political instability which is added to the crime that makes us lose hope, despite Pope Francis’ trip. The Country has a chronic need for hope and I believe that religion and the Pope can respond to this request better than politicians who have proved to be incapable".
Ángel Sánchez, president of the Peruvian Federation of Journalists, commenting to Fides the fact that the Supreme Pontiff reaches young people especially through the use of social networks, explained that "in the case of St. John Paul II, communications were not so open as now.
Information is much faster, direct and close, so the feeling you get for Francis' journey is that a friend is coming, a brother is coming home, unlike John Paul II who seemed more distant".
Meanwhile, speaking on the same topic, Ricardo Sánchez-Serra, journalist and former director of communications of the Archdiocese of Lima, told Fides that John Paul II came to Peru after the attack he suffered, so there was great expectation in this regard. "Now with social networks, we are close to the Pope and so there may be a lack of interest in going to see him - he points out - there will always be young people who want to approach, touch and receive his blessing, the Pope is the Pope, but at the time of John Paul II it was possible to see him only on television. Today you can see him live on media and social networks. Surely it was a different generation and other contexts, which is why it is difficult to make comparisons".
Sánchez-Serra explains to Fides a historical similarity between Pope Francis and Saint John Paul II: "In front of Paul VI, who was perceived as a more distant Pope, Pope John Paul II communicated a feeling, with his gestures, his smile, his closeness, 'he was known as the itinerant Pope' - continues the journalist -. And now the image is similar. Benedict XVI was a theologian, profound, German Pope with another personality, now Francis is perceived as more charismatic. My generation was able to enjoy the visit of John Paul II", concludes Sánchez-Serra.
According to estimates by the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism, the arrival of Pope Francis in Peru should mobilize a total of 816,000 visitors during his tour in the cities of Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo. According to the organizers, 1.2 million tickets have been distributed for the mass that Pope Francis will preside in Lima on Sunday 21 January.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/ERITREA - Clinics and schools closed: the regime prohibits Christian social activities

Fides EN - - Ven, 12/01/2018 - 11:38
Asmara - "In Eritrea, the regime has begun to persecute religious confessions and, in particular, the Catholic Church. The objective is clear: to try to prevent its influence on society: not by prohibiting worship, but social activities". This is the alarm launched by Mussie Zerai, a priest of the eparchy of Asmara, for years a chaplain of the Eritreans in Europe and active in saving migrants in danger in the Mediterranean. «Since 1995 - explains the religious to Fides - there has been a law in force in the country according to which the State wants to carry out all social activities. Therefore, the latter cannot be carried out by private or even by religious institutions. So far, the law has been applied in a bland manner and has not seriously affected the network of services offered by Christians and Muslims. In the last few months, however, there has been an acceleration».
Public officials have decreed the closure of five Catholic clinics in various cities. The minor seminary was closed in Asmara. Also several schools of the Orthodox Church and Muslim organizations had to close their doors. The closure of an Islamic institute, at the end of last October unleashed the harsh protests of the students.
"Beyond the economic damage to individual religious confessions - continues abba Mussie – those who pay a high price is the population who no longer has serious and efficient structures to turn to. In Xorona, for example, they closed the only dispensary in operation that was run by Catholics. In Dekemhare and Mendefera, the authorities have banned the activity of Catholic medical centres by stating that they were a duplication of state ones. In reality, public facilities do not work: they do not have medicines, they cannot operate because they do not have suitable equipment and often not even electricity".
But what is the reaction of the population? "To rebel is not easy", explains the priest. "The Muslim uprising was stopped with weapons. And there were many dead and wounded. Last month, seven thousand young call-ups joined and, together, called for a meeting with President Isayas Afeworki to denounce the harassment of their officers. The president received them and listened to them. At the end of the talks the boys were taken to a concentration camp near Nakfa and, as a punishment, were left outdoors, under the scorching sun, with very little food and water. Many fell ill. After the parents’ protests, the regime said that it will send them to the barracks to finish the naja. But under what conditions?".

Categorie: From the church

ASIA/INDIA - Appointment of the Rector of the Interdiocesan Seminary "Papal Seminary" in Poona

Fides EN - - Ven, 12/01/2018 - 10:58
Vatican City - On 21 July 2017 Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, appointed Fr. Bhausaheb Sansare of the Society of Jesus as Rector of the Interdiocesan Seminary "Papal Seminary" in the diocese of Poona, India.
The new Rector is 47 years old and was currently the Provincial Superior of the Jesuits of Pune. He had experience in the formation field as Provincial Coordinator of formation. He holds a Masters degree in Theology from Innsbruck, Austria, and a Masters in Pastoral Management from Poona.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/DR CONGO - The Bishops call for the intervention of the President of Congo Brazzaville in the crisis in Kinshasa

Fides EN - - Gio, 11/01/2018 - 14:07
Kinshasa - "The elections are sustainable" said Fr. Donatien Nshole, Secretary General of CENCO , in reference to the presidential, legislative and provincial elections to be held in the Democratic Republic of Congo on December 23, 2018. These elections must regulate the succession of President Kabila, whose second and last term ended on December 20, 2016 according to the Constitution, which allows the President to remain in office until the inauguration of an elected successor.
Fr. Nshole expressed his opinion in Brazzaville where he was part of the delegation of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo that met the President of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso, in his capacity as President of the International Conference of the Great Lakes , the regional body to which Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia belong.
The CENCO delegation asked President Nguesso to "avoid the worst" after the violent repression of the 31st December demonstration called by the Catholic laity in Kinshasa that made relations between the Church and power tense.
The situation in the DRC was recalled by Pope Francis in his speech to the members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. "The international community - the Holy Father said - cannot forget the suffering of many parts of the African continent, especially in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Nigeria and the Central African Republic, where the right to life is threatened by the indiscriminate exploitation of resources, terrorism, the proliferation of armed groups and protracted conflicts".
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/TAJIKISTAN - The new year dedicated to evangelization and charity

Fides EN - - Gio, 11/01/2018 - 13:55
Dushanbe - "In 2018, with the help of God, we hope to extend our presence in other cities of Tajikistan and to undertake new charitable projects in favor of the population". This is what Fr. Pedro Ramiro López, a priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, responsible for the Missio sui iuris of Tajikistan since 2013, but on a mission in the state of Central Asia since 2004, tells Agenzia Fides.
"Let us begin the new year in a strong manner thanks to what we received during the Christmas period: a time of grace, rooted in the Eucharist and characterized by meetings with the families of the parish", explains Fr. Ramiro López. "We tried to guarantee the liturgical celebrations for all the linguistic communities present in this country. On December 24, there was a mass in English for foreigners and for the diplomatic corps in the capital Dushambe, and another in Russian for the rest of the faithful. At the same time, the Vigil Mass was celebrated in the church of Qurǧonteppa, a city about 100 kilometers from the capital. In addition, given the presence of a group of Italians who are working to build a dam, on Christmas Day my confreres and I went to a place two hours from the capital to live the Eucharist in their language. And in the days following Christmas we celebrated daily mass with our entire parish community".
Particular attention was given to the families and children of the parish of Dushambe: "Throughout Advent, we visited the faithful, bringing them an icon of the Little Child and blessing their homes, where the image of Jesus remained for some days before being brought to other homes. With the same families, we lived two more beautiful moments: the living representation of the Nativity, made by the children of the oratory, and the day of retreat on the occasion of the Feast of the Holy Family".
2017 was a particularly important year for the Tajik Church, which experienced the twentieth anniversary of its rebirth, after the Soviet period: it was, in fact, 1997 when John Paul II established the Missio sui iuris, entrusted to the priests of the Institute of the Incarnate Word. "We celebrated this moment with the right solemnity, in the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio, of the general superiors of our order and a multitude of faithful, religious and priests who over the years have provided their service", says Fr. Pedro Ramiro López.
The Tajik Church, as reported by the priest, now has about 150 faithful, assisted by 3 Argentine priests of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, 5 Missionary Sisters of Charity and 3 religious women of the Institute of Servants of the Lord and of the Virgin of Matarà.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/PAKISTAN - Child abuse: it is urgent to end impunity

Fides EN - - Gio, 11/01/2018 - 13:32
Lahore - "The issue of sexual abuse and crimes against minors is a big problem in Pakistani society. We are all involved in questioning the roots and possible solutions. A strong signal from the government is urgently needed, which puts an end to impunity": says to Agenzia Fides, lay Catholic, Michelle Chaudhry, at the head of the "Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation", a Catholic-inspired foundation based in Lahore, committed to the care and education of needy children. Pakistan reopened the debate on the phenomenon of child crimes in the aftermath of the case of little Zainab, a 7-year-old Muslim girl found dead on January 9 in a landfill in Kasur district , after being repeatedly raped and then strangled. The crime triggered strong public protest, degenerated even in acts of violence, and in a spontaneous demonstration of national mourning.
Michelle Chaudhry expresses "pain, bitterness and anger because the state has failed to protect the lives of children" and notes with concern that "the phenomenon is endemic: only in recent days five more cases of child abuse and crimes have emerged".
"Civil society has been raising its voice for years asking for greater efforts to implement child protection policies and above all to put an end to impunity", she says. In the same area - recalls Chaudhry - in 2015 a scandal broke out regarding an organized and ramified gang of criminals involved in the sexual abuse of over 200 children, and among them there were also some notables, but "after so much noise nothing was done and those responsible remained unpunished: this is unacceptable", she observes.
"This crime against defenseless minors is inhumane. It is a serious social problem and concerns children of every religion. Let us ask ourselves in conscience, before God: what society are we? What society do we want to build if we tolerate these barbaric acts against the most vulnerable?", asks the activist.
And she points out to Fides: "It is urgent for the government to take steps to implement the existing regulations on child protection, to strengthen them and to guarantee exemplary punishment towards the guilty", confirming the commitment of her Foundation and many other civil society organizations for an awareness campaign. In addition, Chaudhry calls for the ratification and compliance of international Conventions on childhood by the state of Pakistan and deems "the full support of international organizations to stem this tragic phenomenon in our country" necessary.

Categorie: From the church