EUROPE/ITALY - In time of Coronavirus, the commitment of the Blessed Scalabrini is always present, at the forefront of calamities

Fides EN - www.fides.org - ter, 02/06/2020 - 14:08
Rome - "Today more than ever, in times of pandemic, the commitment of Blessed Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, who was at the forefront of those calamities, remembered as the protagonist of a daily, generous and hidden charity to many people in need, to the point that he was called 'prince of charity'. Today we celebrate him because he is a sign of a man capable of perceiving the greatest needs of his time, with the missionary's passion, hopes, dramas and contradictions of his time". This was underlined by Sister Neusa de Fatima Mariano, Superior General of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo/Scalabrinians, in a note sent to Agenzia Fides on the occasion of the Feast of Blessed Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, founder of the Congregation, on 1st June.
"His celebration this year falls at a particular time, when the whole world is on its knees due to the Covid-19 pandemic - adds Sister Neusa - It is also the year of the 125th anniversary of the foundation of our Congregation, which leads us to remember the faithful donation of every Scalabrinian missionary". The Superior General speaks of the founder as a man with a "strong and lovable, concrete and creative character", with "organizational skills" that led him to support Italian migrants who went with hope to Latin America. "In Scalabrini we find a renewed stimulus to continue and grow in our charismatic identification with him, which feeds the journey and the daily vocational response - she adds - To have a Scalabrinian style, with a female face of the charism, we repeat what Blessed Scalabrini did with the migrants of his time, but inspired by his evangelical testimony we have a mission to be preserved, a legacy to be transmitted, frontiers to be inhabited as places of interrelation". To the Scalabrinian nuns, to the laity, the superior asked to "make this celebration an opportunity to make known Blessed Giovanni Battista Scalabrini and his always current work, to awaken his devotion".
Categorias: From the church

AFRICA/MALAWI - Covid-19 and election campaign for the presidential elections: tensions increase

Fides EN - www.fides.org - ter, 02/06/2020 - 13:58
Blantyre - "Tension due to the election campaign and serious episodes of violence are being registered", writes to Agenzia Fides the missionary, Anna Tomasi of the Franciscan Auxiliary Lay Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception , that deal in particular with health, education, assistance in prisons in Malawi. The President of the Republic, Peter Mutharika, had ordered the confinement of the population due to the coronavirus, but the judiciary has collected the appeals of civil society by suspending its entry into force. Indeed, the restrictions would put the lives of the poorest at risk, given the absence of food aid from the government.
The missionary continues: "Everything has been suspended, it is not known when schools can reopen and numerous meetings can be held. Let's say that the epidemic is under control here even if the numbers of infections have increased. There are just over 300 in the whole Country". "Gatherings are prohibited in the Country with over 100 people, but parties continue to carry out crowded election campaigns, with thousands of supporters gathered in view of the presidential election".
The tension escalated when the President of the Malawi Electoral Commission Jane Ansah resigned one month before the presidential election. The vote on 23 June had been scheduled after the cancellation of the May 2019 vote due to "serious" irregularities. Ansah's resignation represents a victory for the hundreds of protesters who took to the streets in 2019 against the government of President Peter Mutharika, asking for greater electoral transparency. In recent weeks, the Supreme Court of Malawi confirmed the previous ruling with which, in February, the Constitutional Court had canceled the victory of President Peter Mutharika in the last general elections, denouncing the "widespread, systematic and serious" irregularities recorded on the occasion of the ballot.
What has further aggravated the situation is the escape of some refugees from an isolation center set up in a stadium in Blantyre. According to local information, the police and health workers are unable to stop the fugitives due to the lack of adequate protective equipment. At least 46 of them were tested positive for coronavirus.
Categorias: From the church

ASIA/TURKEY - Covid-19, ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew: governments cannot impose rules on the celebration of the Eucharist

Fides EN - www.fides.org - ter, 02/06/2020 - 13:46
Istanbul - The Orthodox Churches have followed the dispositions imposed by the civil authorities of their respective Countries to combat the coronavirus pandemic, closing the churches and celebrating the divine liturgy without the participation of the faithful. But now, after the months of quarantine, and places of worship are beginning to reopen, the "authorities of this world" cannot expect to dictate ecclesial dynamics that affect the celebration of sacred mysteries, starting from the way the divine Eucharist will be distributed to the faithful. This is how Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, "Primus inter pares" among the Primates of Orthodoxy warns governments and civil institutions, in a letter sent to other Patriarchs and Heads of Churches to request their opinions and define a pastoral approach shared before the controversies that arose in Countries where local political authorities claim to impose new protocols for the celebration of the sacraments and in particular for the distribution of the Eucharist, on the basis of hygienic-sanitary considerations linked to the policies to combat the Covid- 19 pandemic.
Government consultants in particular argue the method of distribution of the Eucharistic: bread and wine, which Orthodox priests administer to the faithful using the same spoon to be immersed in the only chalice, where bread and wine are mixed. Government-related bodies have already said that this method of distributing the Eucharist does not comply with the health provisions imposed by the pandemic emergency. Controversy arose in Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and other Countries where a large part of the population is of Orthodox Christian faith.
With his letter, signed on May 17 and made known on Sunday May 31, Patriarch Bartholomew claims the role of the "Mother Church of Constantinople" in coordinating the uniformity between the local Orthodox Churches on the extremely important question of the divine Eucharist and how to distribute it to the faithful". Bartholomew stresses that the Orthodox Churches have adhered to and obeyed the provisions imposed by the health and political authorities before the planetary spread of the virus, and adds that "the condescension of the Church" can go as far as "the cross", but cannot submit "to the authorities of this world when the Divine Eucharist is called into question". In the life of the Church - adds the Patriarch - "the interpreter of the evangelical and apostolic exhortations, but also of the spirit and letter of the divine and holy canons is the Holy Tradition, indissolubly woven with daily ecclesiastical practice and kenotic experience". Tradition has always recognized that the Church lives in the world "thanks to the Divine Eucharist and in the Divine Eucharist, or, to put it another way, that the Divine Eucharist is the revelation and experience of the divine-human mystery of the Church". For this reason, given that during the pandemic "some inconvenient opinions were heard on how to deal with the immaculate mysteries", according to the Patriarch it became "impossible for us to remain silent in the face of such an ambiguous situation, and inactive in the face of developments and the government regulations and prohibitions related to it".
Categorias: From the church

ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Unemployment and new poverty: lockdown due to the pandemic has a serious economic and social impact

Fides EN - www.fides.org - ter, 02/06/2020 - 13:29
Manila - The pandemic and the lockdown imposed to contain Covid-19 have a serious impact on millions of destitute, marginalized or people who survive thanks to a daily wage in the Philippines. According to experts, the crisis will have strong economic repercussions and create millions of new poor people, worsening economic and social inequalities. This is what Catherine Dela Cruz, Catholic volunteer engaged in Manila in assistance and solidarity programs promoted by the Church, confirms to Fides: "The poor are experiencing the uncertainty of food supply and the certainty of hunger. The poor communities in urban areas are heavily affected by the community quarantine. Many have lost their jobs and, with the lockdown imposed since 15 March, many have no way of obtaining food".
Ecclesial organizations are helping the poor in many ways and in different areas with basic necessities such as rice, food, vegetables, meat and fish, in collaboration with government agencies and civil society associations. Flaviano Villanueva, founder of the "Arnold Janssen Kalinga" Foundation, committed to feeding the poor of Manila, tells Fides that "in this difficult moment everyone must take part in the mission and that is to show love and solidarity with those who need it". The Foundation is a place to accompany homeless people to change their lives. It provides a holistic, systematic and dignified approach to help destitute or marginalized people improve their lives and re-integrate the social fabric.
Recently, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of Manila, urged everyone to charity as a "gateway" to holiness, calling for mutual support among people during the epidemic.
Given that the country was already facing huge social and economic inequalities, there are many sectors of the population affected economically by the epidemic, although the government has eased restrictions since 1 June to restart the economy. About 70% of businesses can reopen in June. However, according to observers, 70% of workers may not return to work as many businesses or small businesses have started to lay off workers because of the block and loss of income.
Among the most disadvantaged categories, over 75,000 drivers of small and large transportation in Manila have had no salary in the past three months. And more than 50,000 part-time teachers in colleges, schools and universities have been victims of the "no lessons, no salary" policy.
Academics, political advisors, finance experts and civil society leaders are discussing the impact of Covid-19 on the economies and people of the Philippines and Southeast Asia, evaluating opportunities for greater regional cooperation.
According to the Manila-based Asian Development Bank , the coronavirus pandemic threatens health, livelihoods and social well-being in much of Asia and the Pacific. The ADB has responded to the crisis since its earliest stages, focusing on a wide range of challenges related to the public health emergency, its economic fallout and the path of incentives towards recovery.
Over $ 5 billion from the ADB has helped alleviate tax tensions in developing economies in countries such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia and the Philippines.
Categorias: From the church

AMERICA/UNITED STATES - Peaceful dissent and prayer for the death of George Floyd in El Paso

Fides EN - www.fides.org - ter, 02/06/2020 - 13:21
El Paso - In an atmosphere of violence and generalized tension for the many demonstrations in different places in the United States for the death of George Floyd, in El Paso the Catholic faithful tried to express themselves differently. The Bishop of El Paso, Archbishop Mark Seitz, led a group of priests in a prayer vigil in memory of the man from Minneapolis. The priests observed a moment of silence and knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the same amount of time that a police officer kneeled on Floyd's neck before he later died in custody, according to police records. In El Paso a large demonstration was announced at Memorial Park, but it was canceled, given the clashes that had already taken place in previous days.
Even the American Bishops expressed their thoughts: "The killing of George Floyd was senseless and brutal, a sin that cries out in heaven for justice. How is it possible that in America the life of a black man can be taken away while requests for help are not answered and his killing is being recorded?", said Mgr. José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles and president of the United States Bishops' Conference, in a statement released yesterday.
"The cruelty and violence suffered does not, however, reflect what most good men and women who work in law enforcement are, who carry out their duties with honor. We know that. And we trust that the civil authorities will investigate carefully and do justice", underlines the note.
"Racism has been tolerated for too long", continues the text. "This time we have to listen to what people say through their pain" but "the recent violence is self-destructive. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost". "Burning and looting communities, ruining the livelihoods of our neighbors, does not advance the cause of racial equality and human dignity. We should not say that George Floyd died for no reason. We should honor the sacrifice of his life by removing racism and hatred from our hearts and renewing our commitment to fulfill the sacred promise of our nation: to be a community loved by life, freedom and equality for all", concludes the president of the American Bishops' Conference.
Already on Saturday 30 May, the presidents of seven Commissions of the United States Bishops' Conference had declared solidarity with the black communities of the country, asking for an investigation that would lead to truth and justice.
Categorias: From the church

AFRICA/CAMEROON - "Today in Cameroon apart from known, reported or detected cases, one does not have an idea or the exact proportion of the development of COVID-19", says a priest

Fides EN - www.fides.org - ter, 02/06/2020 - 13:04
Yaoundé - "Although all ten regions of the Country are affected, there are very different levels of contagion, with some epicenters from which the contagions spread in the rest of Cameroon. These epicenters are the cities of Yaoundé, Douala and Bafoussam", writes Fr. Moïse Tam Nkudé, CICM, parish priest of the parish Notre - Dame de la Paix Gadji, in the diocese of Batouri, in eastern Cameroon.
"Road transport was an important factor for the spread of the infection from the centers most affected to the rest of the Country", said the priest, who refers to the data reported by the authorities.
"Of course, people tested positive in Cameroon as a whole do not show the real situation. It is possible that there are many more people who are infected. Health centers within the Country and regional hospitals do not have sufficient equipment or materials to carry out systematic tests", explains Fr. Nkudé. "Already taking care of ordinary patients is problematic. Today in Cameroon apart from known, reported or detected cases, one cannot have an idea or the exact proportion of the development of Covid-19".
Cultural factors also have a strong impact on the progression of the pandemic in the Country. "The disease often begins within the family without the patient and family members knowing about it, thus exposing themselves to contagion, like the neighbors who visit him. It is known that in Africa, and particularly in Cameroon, when someone is sick, a large number of family members, neighbors and friends visit the patient. It is an anthropological and sociological problem", underlines Fr. Nkudé. "Once it is ascertained that the person has contracted Covid-19 disease, family members and friends are also subjected to controls, with consequent psychological crises".
The drama is accentuated in the event of the patient's death, because health rules prohibit the bodies of being returned to the family. The authorities proceed to the immediate burial by specialized teams. Only a few family members are allowed to attend the burial. The custom wants families to transport the deceased to the village of origin, to organize the funeral with all the risks that this entails. It is for this reason that bodies are not returned to families. Traditional body washing and dressing operations are also prohibited for health reasons.
"Clashes have occurred between families and health service personnel and law enforcement. Some families contest the death certificates issued by doctors, which attest that their loved one had contracted Covid-19. There are doctors who issue fake death certificates for a fee to allow funerals to take place", says the priest.
Of course, economic activities are severely affected by the lockdown, especially those who work every day in the informal sector. Family violence is on the rise, as well as thefts and robberies. "In parishes the collections have dropped drastically. Appeals have been launched to help priests in difficulty", says Fr. Nkudé who concludes by launching an appeal: may the Virgin Mary "sustain the suffering humanity, so that life triumphs over death".
Categorias: From the church

VATICAN - Other aid from the PSM Fund for the Covid emergency in Sao Tomé and Principe, Sierra Leone, Chad and Guinea

Fides EN - www.fides.org - ter, 02/06/2020 - 12:53
Vatican City - The Emergency Fund set up by Pope Francis at the Pontifical Mission Societies to support the Churches of mission countries facing the Covid-19 pandemic , continues to examine the numerous requests that arrive and to send aid to the dioceses. We present brief notes on the situation they are experiencing and on the most urgent needs of some African dioceses to which subsidies have been granted.
The African diocese of Sao Tomé and Principe habitually lives in a situation of great poverty and the shortcomings have been further aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic: wages are low and life is very expensive. The majority of the population lives thanks to tourism, but the closure of the airport due to the pandemic has resulted in the closure of hotels and restaurants, with repercussions for all related industries. The suspension of masses with the participation of the faithful forced the use of television and radio to broadcast celebrations and moments of prayer, which however entail high economic commitments for the local Church, which is unable to cover the expenses for ordinary management.
The diocese of Kenema, in Sierra Leone, includes a predominantly rural area, where most of the population depends on subsistence agriculture. Unemployment affects 70 percent of the population. Priests and religious communities depend on the offerings of the faithful for their livelihood, and now, with the closure of churches due to the pandemic, the situation is serious. One of the main emergencies is the lack of information on Covid-19: people do not know the virus, its consequences and how it spreads, therefore they do not follow the hygiene rules of prevention, first of all social distancing. Sierra Leone is a poor country with a very fragile health system, the possible increase in infections would cause a general collapse.
Most of the inhabitants of the diocese of Sarh, Chad, also obtain their livelihood from agriculture. Since March 21, the liturgical and pastoral activities of the diocese have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic and the severe regulations issued by the government to deal with it. Schools have also been closed, as well as the two existing seminaries in Sarh. Diocesan and parochial Caritas are facing enormous difficulties, as it also coordinates health centers. Through radio programs the Church informs about the coronavirus and the precautionary rules to follow. Aid is urgently needed for diocesan Caritas, for the purchase of cereals, and for priests and religious communities who are deprived of all sustenance in this situation.
The diocese of Kankan, in Guinea, which is already experiencing a very difficult economic situation, sees with particular concern the consequences of the pandemic. Most of the population works hard to earn a living through small businesses, field jobs and jobs in the informal sector. The norms issued to combat the pandemic have led to an increase in the prices of food and transport, while the closure of churches and pastoral activities has had terrible effects, endangering the life of faith. In fact, communities need a regular presence of priests, men and women religious and pastoral workers who keep faith and commitment to evangelization alive. Despite their dedication and commitment, they must move from one place to another and very often find themselves exposed to every kind of risk, therefore they need assistance to be able to continue their mission.
Categorias: From the church

AMERICA/MEXICO - If the virus knows no boundaries: the caravan toward the USA does not stop

Fides EN - www.fides.org - ter, 02/06/2020 - 11:50
Mexicali – The southern border of California, in the United States, is where many citizens of the United States arrive who live in Mexico for different reasons. Retirees who live alone or with their family, who continue to live in Mexico for work or social life, in the face of the health emergency and with the news that the hospitals in Mexico are collapsing due to Covid-19, have now left for California.
Mexicali, the capital of Baja California, has the third highest confirmed number of Covid-19 cases in Mexico.
Other California border regions are heavily trafficked, with thousands of trucks and workers passing through them every day back and forth. Infections in the city of Imperial are on the rise and the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has tripled during the month of May. Mexicali fire department chief Rubén Osuna explained to the press that his paramedics sometimes have to wait hours to transfer suspected Covid-19 patients to hospitals because emergency rooms are overcrowded. Some are not admitted, three or four suspected coronavirus patients die every day in their homes in the city.
"It is amazing how this disease has taught us that borders do not exist", said Adolphe Edward, executive director of the Regional Health Center. The hospital staff includes 60 people who cross the border from Mexicali to go to work every day. About 1.5 million Americans live in Mexico and over 250,000 of them live in cities in southern California. Those areas were the most affected by the coronavirus compared to any other place in Mexican territory.
More than 300 doctors in Tijuana and its surroundings have been infected, according to Yanín Rendón Machuca, head of the local trade union of health workers.
At the city's general hospital, only a quarter of the staff remain at work. Ambulance drivers in Mexicali sometimes wait hours while hospital operators make room in the corridors to accommodate more patients with Covid-19. Some crowded public clinics in the border town no longer accept patients.
Precisely because of the continuous growth of cases in this area, the Archdiocese of Tijuana has informed that it will not open the churches, which should have been reopened today, until further instructions from the Ministry of Health.
Through social media, people continue to participate in mass and in various meetings of reflection and prayer, but priests have always gone to hospitals to bring a message of solidarity and Christian love to the sick.
In Mexico, the health emergency has registered 93,500 cases with more than 10,000 deaths, but these official figures are lower than the country's press reports.
Categorias: From the church

AMERICA/VENEZUELA - "Solidarity Gesture": food distribution to 24,000 families

Fides EN - www.fides.org - ter, 02/06/2020 - 11:10
Margarita - The "Solidarity Gesture" campaign has managed to distribute food aid to 24 thousand families in many cities of the country. In the area of Margerita and Coche island in Venezuela alone, food was distributed to more than 900 families. "Solidarity Gesture" is a campaign of the Catholic Church which involves missionaries, parishes, Caritas and other Catholic movements to assist the poorest and most vulnerable in this quarantine due to Covid 19.
According to the note sent by the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference to Fides, the campaign is led by Mgr. Fernando Castro, Bishop of the Diocese of Margarita, and coordinated by Mgr. Ireneo Valbuena, together with priests, religious and Pastoral Social groups from the various parishes in Margarita. After a study to identify the most needy people in the different areas, they distributed 903 food packages across the island directly to people, including: the elderly, single mothers with small children and people with disabilities.
In Venezuela, the health emergency due to Coronavirus has registered 1662 cases with 17 deaths, but these official figures are lower than those reported in the country's press.
Categorias: From the church

ASIA/LEBANON - Neither monolithism nor indifferentism. Maronite patriarch defends the Lebanese institutional model

Fides EN - www.fides.org - seg, 01/06/2020 - 15:34
Bkerkè - The Lebanese political model, in its historical singularity, represents a heritage to be protected and applied, and not a negative remnant of the past from which to emancipate. This is what Maronite Patriarch Boutros Bechara Rai stressed, taking a position in the debate in Lebanon by the voices of those who, in the face of the economic-political crisis of the Country of the Cedars, return to question the Lebanese institutional system, which also provides for the division of political and institutional positions according to the different denominational affiliations.
In Lebanon, the delicate national institutional model reserves the position of President of the Republic to a Maronite Christian, while the role of Prime Minister must be strictly assigned to a Sunni Muslim, and the office of President of Parliament is reserved to a Shiite Muslim . The Ta'if agreements, which sanctioned the end of the civil war season in 1989, provided for the numerical parity between the parliamentary seats reserved for Christian and Muslim deputies.
In recent days, in a televised speech held on the occasion of the feast of Eid al-Fitr, at the end of the Islamic month of prayer and fasting of Ramadan, the Shia Sheikh Jafarite Ahmad Qabalan had severely attacked the Lebanese political-institutional system confirmed by the agreements of Ta'if, defining it as a "farm of sects", which ended up increasing corruption and sectarianism, starving the people. The Lebanese system - added the Shiite leader - was created "on a sectarian and tyrannical basis to serve an imperialist and monopolist project".
To the harsh words of the Shiite representative, the Maronite Patriarch replied indirectly, without mentioning him, during the homily celebrated on Sunday 31 May, the solemnity of Pentecost. Lebanon - said Cardinal Bechara Rai - represents a political model that respects all faith communities, without imposing a state religion or a specific religious book as the source of laws and the national legal system. It is a singular model, which must be protected by those who, with the excuse of wanting to correct its defects, actually aim to cancel its fruitful "anomaly".
On Saturday 30 May, celebrating a mass on the occasion of the feast of the Catholic television network Noursat-Télé Lumière, Patriarch Bechara Rai had already remembered that the dream of the founders of Lebanon was to create a "Fatherland for all", where also the different communities of faith could coexist escaping both the religious "monolithism" of Eastern societies and the "undifferentiated fusion" of identities that prevails in Western societies.
Categorias: From the church

AFRICA/IVORY COAST - "Attractiveness, gratuitousness and humility" are the key words of the Pope's message to the PMS for the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies

Fides EN - www.fides.org - seg, 01/06/2020 - 14:54
Abidjan - "We read with great joy and enthusiasm the Holy Father's message to the Pontifical Mission Societies, which motivates and strengthens us and provides us with guidance for the work we are doing in the context of the Pontifical Mission Societies", said Fr. Jean Noel Gossou, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of Ivory Coast, with regards to the Pope Francis’ Message published on Sunday May 21st, feast of the Ascension of the Lord.
Pope Francis, as usual, meets the PMS during their annual General Assembly in Rome. This year, however, due to the health crisis caused by Covid-19, the meeting could not be held and the Pope wanted to deliver this message to them, in which he explains that the mission is a free gift of the Spirit, and warned against the pitfalls that can prevent missionary activities.
The PMS Director in Ivory Coast highlights three aspects of the Pope's message: "Attractiveness, Gratuitousness and humility".
"First of all, the Pope speaks of a mission that is not ours, that belongs to God. He also speaks of gratitude and gratuitousness that push us to project ourselves in the missionary commitment. Finally, the Pope evokes a concrete closeness in the mission, and this closeness asks us to go to the heart of man's existential need, and therefore to have a preference for the little and the poor", says Fr Gossou.
Regarding the pitfalls to be avoided in missionary work and which the Holy Father warns in his message, the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Ivory Coast wants to "put the Pope's recommendations into practice when it comes to bureaucratic work to avoid and take into account all of the pastoral realities of our Country, starting from children in their movement, in their expression of faith, to young people, teenagers and adults, so that the Pontifical Mission Societies in Ivory Coast can highlight and implement the recommendations of Pope Francis".
Categorias: From the church

AMERICA/BRAZIL - "Tempo de Cuidar": aid campaign for the most vulnerable people during the Covid-19 crisis

Fides EN - www.fides.org - seg, 01/06/2020 - 14:11
Belo Horizonte - Food packages containing rice, beans, sugar, flour, pasta, milk, eggs, oil and sardines, as well as personal hygiene items such as soap and bleach for cleaning are part of the aid distributed by the Catholic Church through the "Tempo de Cuidar" campaign to the most vulnerable sectors of the Country. The campaign, launched at Easter, was promoted by the Brazilian Bishops' Conference together with Caritas and the support of the Banco do Brasil Foundation which aims to strengthen solidarity in a period severely marked by the coronavirus pandemic like the current one. "It is time to rebuild and open a new path. It is time to live a new experience of solidarity, to collaborate and help the most needy", said the president of the Brazilian Bishops' Conference, Mgr. Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo, Archbishop of Belo Horizonte.
"Today Brazil is the country most affected by the pandemic in the region, with over 400 thousand infections due to Covid 19", reads a note sent to Agenzia Fides, "and national Caritas reacted to the crisis by providing food in just one month and kits for the protection and personal hygiene of 114,000 people.
The campaign was launched in 58 dioceses and affects hundreds of cities. 60% of those who have received aid so far are unemployed and especially single mothers. Many migrants, refugees and homeless people are among the beneficiaries of the project.
Caritas Brazil is working with an extensive solidarity network that includes volunteers, parishes, pastoral workers, communities and social organizations to guarantee assistance to the most vulnerable people.
Categorias: From the church

ASIA/INDIA - Ecumenical prayer for Pentecost: to bring new hope for India

Fides EN - www.fides.org - seg, 01/06/2020 - 14:03
New Delhi - "In these difficult times, while we are fighting Covid-19, we pray for the healing of the sick and for the recovery of our land. As a family of God, we are united in one accord and united in faith in this solemn prayer". This is how Cardinal Oswald Gracias, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, espressed himself in a message on the occasion of the great ecumenical prayer that all Christian denominations in India celebrated Pentecost on May 31. All the faithful pledged to bring hope to the nation through prayer, praise and thanksgiving. Christian communities in every corner of the Country, belonging to all denominations and communities , celebrated what was titled "Prayer of Hope".
"Let us raise our voices, our songs and our prayers and ring the church bell to ring the sound of hope in every corner of our country" announced a statement from the Christian Media Forum, sent to Fides, while, at noon, the bells of all the churches rang, as a sign of hope.
The program included prayers for "silent heroes" who fight coronavirus, such as doctors, nurses and health workers. Christians in India also prayed for the police and for all those who, in the midst of the pandemic, continue to work to ensure essential services, Father John Paul, a member of the Christian Media Forum, told Fides. "Everyone who is at the forefront in fighting the virus needs special protection from God", he said. "The feast of Pentecost, 50 days after the Resurrection, is the day on which the Church was formed and is therefore a very solemn and important day for the community: it is nice to give a sign of unity", he explained.
The central moment of ecumenical prayer, which united the faithful of all confessions on Indian territories, was the simultaneous recitation of the "Our Father" for the nation. The program also ended with the common song of the national anthem, as a sign of full membership of Christians in Motherland India.
Categorias: From the church

ASIA/PAKISTAN - Violence against religious minorities: the emergency continues

Fides EN - www.fides.org - seg, 01/06/2020 - 13:32
Islamabad - Episodes of violence against Christian and Hindu religious minorities continue to cause concern in Pakistan and to arouse indignation in civil society. Ironically, violence takes place while the debate on the new Commission for religious minorities, just created within the government, is lively among the institutions. Local and international NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch, currently complain that the Pakistani government has excluded the long-persecuted Ahmadi community from the Commission, believed to be a "sect" by Sunni Islam, and demand that the body is to be truly inclusive. and independent.
As Fides learns, in recent days Protestant Christian Pastor Haroon Sadiq Cheeda and his family were brutally hit and forced to leave the area where they lived, in the city of Rahim Yar Khan, in the Pakistani province of Punjab.
In previous days, seven Muslim armed men attacked the "Pentecostal Trinity Church" in the Kala Shah Kaku area, in the district of Sheikhupura, 56 km from Lahore, capital of the Punjab province. Pastor Samuel Hidayat, speaking with Fides, said: "It was shocking to hear these fundamentalists chanting slogans to burn the church and the Christians living in the surrounding colony. They broke the back wall of the church, the main door and the cross at the entrance". Pastor Samuel adds: "It was a moment of great tension: in order to stop the armed men, I immediately phoned the police and the attackers ran away when they heard the police were arriving. "The police filed the "First Information Report" indicting the men for damage to places of worship and assault.
Haroon Imran Gill, Christian member of the Punjab Provincial Assembly, speaking with Fides, said: "We condemn this attack on the church and Christian groups. It is sad that places of worship and religious minorities are attacked even during this period of lockdown because of the Covid-19 epidemic. The police have stopped two of the attackers, we are asking for justice".
Also in Punjab, a 100-year-old Christian cemetery in Khanewal was attacked by some Muslim men who wanted to misappropriate that land and destroyed many of the graves in the cemetery. With the immediate intervention of a Christian member of the provincial assembly, Ejaz Alam Augustine, the cemetery was saved. Ejaz Alam Augustine, speaking with Fides, informs: "We managed to make the administration have the cemetery enclosed to delimit its borders. Christians are citizens like the others, and have the same rights and the same dignity".
Another disturbing episode concerned Catholic lawyer Khalil Tahir Sindu, a member of the Punjab Provincial Assembly, who has always been committed to the legal defense and protection of the Christian community. His home in Lahore was attacked by four gunmen who fired shots at the house.
If most of the violence against Christians occurs in Punjab, the Sindh province in southern Pakistan is the epicenter of violence towards Hindus, a substantial religious minority in this part of the country. Recently some Muslims from Hala, in Mitiari district, burned the houses of the faithful, beating Hindu men, women and children. In another attack in the Tadados village of Tharparker, 21 Hindu homes were burnt down by militants and many children were injured.
Rahat Austin, a lawyer and human rights activist, told Fides: "Hindus have lived in Sindh for more than a thousand years and are now treated as intruders or inferior beings. Concrete measures are needed by the government to ensure their protection and ensure sustainable living conditions and freedoms".
In its 2018 election manifesto, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, now ruling in the country under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, had promised to protect and promote rights for all religious communities in the country.
Categorias: From the church

AMERICA/NICARAGUA - "Living charity and a people-based economy", the voice of the Church on the feast of Pentecost

Fides EN - www.fides.org - seg, 01/06/2020 - 13:18
León - "We must understand from the Lord that it is necessary to have charity, to be more detached, that it is necessary to transform the mentality that we had before, we must renew a mentality in which the most important thing is not the economy itself but the economy based on people ... This is why today we renew the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially in these times when we feel overwhelmed, defeated", this is what Mgr. René Sándigo, Bishop of the diocese of León, Nicaragua, said on the feast of the Pentecost celebrated yesterday in the Cathedral of his diocese.
The Bishop stressed that "as a society, we must improve and return to God with sincerity, maturity, with perseverance. These gifts must enrich us".
The Church in Nicaragua has guided the faithful in these very difficult times. Two days ago, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Managua published a message to motivate the celebration of Pentecost, in which it reads: "With the people of God we look towards the uncertain future that looms over our country, both in the economic and in the health field. The distrust of the population towards the health system is clear, it is better to stay at home. On the other hand, people suffer from the excessive increase in the prices of basic services and fuel prices".
Nicaragua is the only country in Central America that has not declared an official quarantine. Political tension between the government and the opposition has taken the place of the health emergency, which to date has resulted in 800 cases and 35 deaths, according to official figures.
Categorias: From the church

AMERICA/CHILE - Bishop-elect of San Felipe: "We need structures of justice"

Fides EN - www.fides.org - seg, 01/06/2020 - 12:35
San Felipe - The Bishop-elect of the diocese of San Felipe, appointed by Pope Francis on May 26, gave a long interview to "Kairos News Chile", where he presents himself as a person and as a priest, and offers a Christian perspective to a country that suffers in many ways. Fr. Gonzalo Arturo Bravo Álvarez reported aspects of his family, of his vocation, of his studies in quantum physics which instead of distancing him from God made his faith grow. He then shares his vision of the country experiencing moments of crisis and major social and political changes.
"In Chile there is a great hunger for bread. But there is also a great hunger for love, there is a hunger for respect. We have programs with children, for example one called FutValores which educates through football. There are about 500 children in Valparaíso, also in Quilpué. In this program all we do is find ourselves in the discrepancy of differences. Many times these children stop having breakfast and I see that there is hunger ... There is a lack of structures, we need structures of justice", reads the note sent to Fides.
In the face of the emergency, he comments: "There is a possibility that Chile will come out of this situation in a more human, more supportive way".
Categorias: From the church

VATICAN - "Here I am, send me": Pope Francis' Message for World Mission Sunday

Fides EN - www.fides.org - seg, 01/06/2020 - 12:24
Vatican City - Pope Francis released his annual Message for World Mission Sunday 2020 on Pentecost Sunday. It’s theme is taken from Isaiah: “Here am I, send me” . World Mission Sunday is celebrated on October 18 in 2020.

«Here I am, send me»
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I wish to express my gratitude to God for the commitment with which the Church throughout the world carried out the Extraordinary Missionary Month last October. I am convinced that it stimulated missionary conversion in many communities on the path indicated by the theme: “Baptized and Sent: the Church of Christ on Mission in the World”.
In this year marked by the suffering and challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic, the missionary journey of the whole Church continues in light of the words found in the account of the calling of the prophet Isaiah: “Here am I, send me” . This is the ever new response to the Lord’s question: “Whom shall I send?” . This invitation from God’s merciful heart challenges both the Church and humanity as a whole in the current world crisis. “Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying ‘We are perishing’ , so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this” . We are indeed frightened, disoriented and afraid. Pain and death make us experience our human frailty, but at the same time remind us of our deep desire for life and liberation from evil. In this context, the call to mission, the invitation to step out of ourselves for love of God and neighbour presents itself as an opportunity for sharing, service and intercessory prayer. The mission that God entrusts to each one of us leads us from fear and introspection to a renewed realization that we find ourselves precisely when we give ourselves to others.
In the sacrifice of the cross, where the mission of Jesus is fully accomplished , God shows us that his love is for each and every one of us . He asks us to be personally willing to be sent, because he himself is Love, love that is always “on mission”, always reaching out in order to give life. Out of his love for us, God the Father sent his Son Jesus . Jesus is the Father’s Missionary: his life and ministry reveal his total obedience to the Father’s will . Jesus, crucified and risen for us, draws us in turn into his mission of love, and with his Spirit which enlivens the Church, he makes us his disciples and sends us on a mission to the world and to its peoples.
“The mission, the ‘Church on the move’, is not a programme, an enterprise to be carried out by sheer force of will. It is Christ who makes the Church go out of herself. In the mission of evangelization, you move because the Holy Spirit pushes you, and carries you” . God always loves us first and with this love comes to us and calls us. Our personal vocation comes from the fact that we are sons and daughters of God in the Church, his family, brothers and sisters in that love that Jesus has shown us. All, however, have a human dignity founded on the divine invitation to be children of God and to become, in the sacrament of Baptism and in the freedom of faith, what they have always been in the heart of God.
Life itself, as a gift freely received, is implicitly an invitation to this gift of self: it is a seed which, in the baptized, will blossom as a response of love in marriage or in virginity for the kingdom of God. Human life is born of the love of God, grows in love and tends towards love. No one is excluded from the love of God, and in the holy sacrifice of Jesus his Son on the cross, God conquered sin and death . For God, evil – even sin – becomes a challenge to respond with even greater love . In the Paschal Mystery, divine mercy heals our wounded humanity and is poured out upon the whole universe. The Church, the universal sacrament of God’s love for the world, continues the mission of Jesus in history and sends us everywhere so that, through our witness of faith and the proclamation of the Gospel, God may continue to manifest his love and in this way touch and transform hearts, minds, bodies, societies and cultures in every place and time.
Mission is a free and conscious response to God’s call. Yet we discern this call only when we have a personal relationship of love with Jesus present in his Church. Let us ask ourselves: are we prepared to welcome the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, to listen to the call to mission, whether in our life as married couples or as consecrated persons or those called to the ordained ministry, and in all the everyday events of life? Are we willing to be sent forth at any time or place to witness to our faith in God the merciful Father, to proclaim the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ, to share the divine life of the Holy Spirit by building up the Church? Are we, like Mary, the Mother of Jesus, ready to be completely at the service of God’s will ? This interior openness is essential if we are to say to God: “Here am I, Lord, send me” . And this, not in the abstract, but in this chapter of the life of the Church and of history.
Understanding what God is saying to us at this time of pandemic also represents a challenge for the Church’s mission. Illness, suffering, fear and isolation challenge us. The poverty of those who die alone, the abandoned, those who have lost their jobs and income, the homeless and those who lack food challenge us. Being forced to observe social distancing and to stay at home invites us to rediscover that we need social relationships as well as our communal relationship with God. Far from increasing mistrust and indifference, this situation should make us even more attentive to our way of relating to others. And prayer, in which God touches and moves our hearts, should make us ever more open to the need of our brothers and sisters for dignity and freedom, as well as our responsibility to care for all creation. The impossibility of gathering as a Church to celebrate the Eucharist has led us to share the experience of the many Christian communities that cannot celebrate Mass every Sunday. In all of this, God’s question: “Whom shall I send?” is addressed once more to us and awaits a generous and convincing response: “Here am I, send me!” . God continues to look for those whom he can send forth into the world and to the nations to bear witness to his love, his deliverance from sin and death, his liberation from evil .
The celebration of World Mission Day is also an occasion for reaffirming how prayer, reflection and the material help of your offerings are so many opportunities to participate actively in the mission of Jesus in his Church. The charity expressed in the collections that take place during the liturgical celebrations of the third Sunday of October is aimed at supporting the missionary work carried out in my name by the Pontifical Mission Societies, in order to meet the spiritual and material needs of peoples and Churches throughout the world, for the salvation of all.
May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of Evangelization and Comforter of the Afflicted, missionary disciple of her Son Jesus, continue to intercede for us and sustain us.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, 31 May 2020, Solemnity of Pentecost
Franciscus

Categorias: From the church

EUROPE/SPAIN - PMS National Director: "Pauline Jaricot is a gift for the Church"

Fides EN - www.fides.org - seg, 01/06/2020 - 12:14
Madrid - "Pauline is a gift for the Church" says Don José María Calderón, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of Spain in a message sent to Fides, in which he comments the publication of the Decree that opens the way to the beatification of Pauline Marie Jaricot Foundress of the "Council of the Propagation of the Faith" and of the "Living Rosary" .
"In his message to the PMS on Thursday 21 May - continues the National Director -, Pope Francis highlighted that mission must not seek self-promotion, but discretion and service: it seems that he spoke of the foundress of the most important Pontifical Missionary Society: the Propagation of the Faith!". Don José María Calderón underlines: "Pauline Jaricot went unnoticed in her time, despite being the most effective promoter of love for the mission and of helping the missionaries. The miracle that the Church now recognizes will contribute to enhancing the precious spirituality that she lived and transmitted".
The note refers to the circumstances of the miracle through the intercession of Pauline Jaricot. The miracle approved by Pope Francis' decree occurred in 2012, on the 150th anniversary of Pauline's birth. Little three-year-old Mayline Tran lost consciousness. The little girl, hospitalized in a desperate state after suffocation and a 20-minute cardiovascular arrest, was considered dead. Despite the suspension of medical treatment, the family refused to stop artificial life assistance. A novena to Pauline Jaricot was begun. Shortly thereafter, the girl woke up, but with brain damage. However, against all hope, she completely healed. The healing was submitted to the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Lyon, which examined the case from 20 July 2018 to 28 February 2019. Its conclusions were sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The medical commission then validated the inexplicable nature of the healing.
Categorias: From the church

EUROPE/FRANCE - Mgr. De Brésillac and Pauline Jaricot: protagonists of the extraordinary season of missionary commitment of the 19th century

Fides EN - www.fides.org - seg, 01/06/2020 - 11:58
Rome - Among the decrees that the Holy Father authorized to publish on May 26, in addition to the recognition of the miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Pauline Marie Jaricot , there is also the one concerning another important figure in the missionary world: the Servant of God Melchiorre Maria de Marion Brésillac, whose heroic virtues were recognized, who was titular Bishop of Prusa, formerly Apostolic Vicar of Coimbatore, Apostolic Vicar of Sierra Leone, Founder of the Society of African Missions , of which 150 years of activity have been celebrated . He was born on December 2, 1813 in Castelnaudary, France, and died in Freetown in Sierra Leone on June 25, 1859.
"It is a happy coincidence that combines the recognition of the heroic virtues of Mgr. De Brésillac with the recognition of a miracle due to the intercession of Venerable Pauline Jaricot, born a few years before him and foundress of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith", comments to Agenzia Fides Fr. Antonio Porcellato, Superior General of the Society of African Missions . "They are both linked to the city of Lyon - he continues - she was a committed lay woman, dedicated to prayer and supporting the financial help to missionaries, he founder of a missionary society which started in that city, both protagonists of the extraordinary season of missionary commitment in the 19th century".
As Fr. Porcellato recalls "the two knew each other: Brésillac was financially supported by the Society founded by Pauline Jaricot both as Apostolic Vicar of Coimbatore in India, and as Apostolic Vicar of Sierra Leone and as Founder of SMA. It was the era of the 'Foreign Missions', now the context has changed radically, but from this very strong collaboration between the faithful in Europe and missionaries abroad what strongly emerges is that the missionary dimension belongs to the whole Christian people. We are all disciples and missionaries as Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium, and as we recalled in the recent Extraordinary Missionary Month of October 2019".
On the meaning that this recognition of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, approved by the Holy Father, could have for the missionaries of the SMA and, in general, for the missionary world, Father Porcellato underlines: "The fact that Brésillac is now officially 'Venerable' fills with joy the Society of African Missions founded by him and other Institutes linked to it, such as the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of the Apostles, founded by his first collaborator and successor, Fr. Agostino Planque. The Society of Foreign Missions of Paris , the first of the Missionary Institutes with the exclusive purpose of foreign missions, also rejoices. Brésillac was a member for about fifteen years, until he founded the Society of African Missions in 1856. The Church in India rejoices, in particular the Diocese of Coimbatore, of which he was the first Apostolic Vicar, with a great action to give birth to a prepared and respected local clergy. Finally, the Church of Sierra Leone, of which he was the first Apostolic Vicar, rejoices, even if he lived there only for 40 days, victim of an epidemic fever which in 1859 killed him and all his companions".
The life and work of this missionary Bishop, now venerable, therefore touched three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. "Today perhaps more than then - continues the SMA Superior General - we realize that we are really all interconnected and that only together can we face the great challenges of today. Pope Francis' ‘Laudato Sì’ reminds us of it, but in our own small way we too experience it in the Society of African Missions, where missionaries of European, African and Asian origin, each with their specific contribution, contribute to making the mission possible especially in areas of the African continent which are further away and less in contact with the Gospel".
"For me and I hope for many of us, this stage in the Cause of beatification of our Founder also means the confirmation that his is a way of holiness - concludes Father Porcellato -. Above all, it confirms the personal and deep relationship that we can have with him. Finding out that the relationship with him is that of a brother and a father who is close to us, who enlightens us and encourages us in the difficulties of the mission. We insistently ask him to intercede for the release of our confrere Fr. Maccalli, Sister Gloria, Fr. Joel and all the other kidnapped missionaries".
Categorias: From the church

AFRICA/NIGERIA - Appointment of Auxiliary Bishop of Umuahia

Fides EN - www.fides.org - seg, 01/06/2020 - 11:27
Vatican City - On May 30, 2020, the Holy Father appointed as Auxiliary Bishop of the diocese of Umuahia, Nigeria, the Reverend Michael Kalu Ukpong of the clergy of Umuahia, currently Chancellor of the same Diocese and parish priest of Saint Theresa’s parish, assigning him the titular Igilgili.
The Reverend Michael Kalu Ukpong was born on 15 December 1964 in Amaekpu Ohafia, in the Diocese of Umuahia. He attended the Immaculate Conception Minor Seminary in Ahiaeke . He carried out his studies in philosophy at the Seat of Wisdom Major Seminary in Owerri and in theology at the Saint Joseph Major Seminary in Ikot Ekpene . He studied canon law at the Klaus-Mörsdorf-Institut für Kanonistik at the Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität in Munich and then theology at the University of Regensburg, where he was awarded a doctorate 2008-2014). He was ordained a priest on 7 August 1993 for the clergy of the diocese of Umuahia.
Since priestly ordination he has held the following offices: parish vicar at Saint Finbarr’s parish in Umuahia ; secretary to the bishop of Umuahia ; parish priest ad item at Saint John’s parish ; editor of the Lumen Newspaper, of the diocese of Umuahia ; and chaplain at the Christ the King Chaplaincy in Umudike . From 2004 to 2014 he carried out his higher studies in Germany, also serving as parish vicar of Saint Joseph’s parish in Reinhausen in the diocese of Regensburg, Germany ; parish vicar of the Assumption parish in Ascholtshausen, diocese of Regensburg, Germany ; parish vicar of the Berathausen-Pfraundorf parish unit, diocese of Regensburg, Germany ; head of the Coronata Secondary School in Asaga Ohafia ; and chancellor of the diocese of Umuahia and parish priest of Saint Theresa’s parish in Umuahia .
Categorias: From the church

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