Fides News - English Agency NewsenContent on this site is licensed under aASIA/LEBANON - Catholic University choirs at the "Concert of Resilience" among the archaeological remains of Baalbeck - The choirs of three Lebanese Catholic universities were among the protagonists of the great concert event hosted on the evening of Sunday 5 July among the imposing remains of the archaeological park of Baalbek, in the Beqa'a Valley, Lebanon.<br />In the serious political, institutional and economic crisis experienced by the Lebanese nation - and the effects of which were amplified by the lockdown of activities imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic -, the musical event - broadcast live on TV and social networks - took on the value of a real moment of national resilience and redemption. All the performances, and the great participation with which the population followed the event, testified the common desire to see Lebanon rise from the current state of frustration and institutional paralysis in which it seems to sink without escape.<br />The musical scores were performed by the 75 musicians of the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra and by the Sawt el atik choir of the University of the Holy Spirit of Kaslik, by the choir of the Antonina University and that of the University of Our Lady of Louaizé.<br />The initiative was sponsored by Lebanese President Michel Aoun, also as a moment of commemoration of the centenary of the proclamation of the Lebanese State, whose exact date will fall on September 1st. The orchestra and choirs also performed the Lebanese National Anthem, excerpts from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana and Giuseppe Verdi's Nabucco, Ludwig Van Beethoven's The Hymn to Joy, as well as performances from works by Lebanese authors, such as the theatrical piece "Ayam Fakhr Al-Din" by Ghadi and Usama Mansour Al-Rahbani.<br />The Baalbeck International Festival is held every year in the monuments and temples of the archaeological park of the Lebanese city, considered one of the most important annual cultural events in the Middle East. This year, due to social distancing measures put in place to curb the pandemic crisis, only a few hundred people were able to be physically be present at the evening-event on Sunday 5 July. <br />Mon, 06 Jul 2020 12:46:20 +0200AFRICA/KENYA - Bishops launch an appeal to end insecurity in Narok and Marsabit counties - "We are deeply concerned with continued insecurity and tensions in the Counties of Narok and Marsabit which have led to loss of lives, displacement of people and destruction of properties", says a statement from the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission signed on behalf of the Bishops of Kenya, by His Exc. Mgr. John Oballa Owaa, Bishop of Ngong and President of the CJPC.<br />The Bishops term as “regrettable” the reported cases of systematic killings of twelve people in Marsabit County including two university students, a secondary school student and a motorcycle rider stressing that "sanctity of life and human dignity is a value to be upheld at all times".<br />The Bishops underline that "the continuous loss of lives due to ethnic, clan hatred, competition over resources and leadership wrangles of human lives due to ethnicity, clan hatred, competition on resources and leadership disputes is unfortunate".<br />Marsabit, which neighbours Ethiopia and Somalia is considered a “conflict hotspot” with indigenous communities historically fighting over water and pasture for their animals and manipulated by local politicians for electoral purposes. "The dominant Kenyan political culture - denounce the Bishops - have exploited ethnic vulnerabilities for political and economic gain". Consequently, the common good is not pursued. <br />Narok, the County within the Catholic diocese of Ngong, has had frequent inter-ethnic violent clashes over land and cattle rustling among the dominant pastoralist communities.<br />"We strongly condemn these barbaric acts and appeal to the concerned communities to embrace peace, love and harmony. Only then will development be realized for their common good", says the statement.<br />The people of God in these places are facing a "myriad of challenges" also for the Covid-19 crisis, note the Bishops, and therefore it is necessary to avoid adding, "conflicts, killings and other forms of sufferings".<br />The Bishops call on Kenya’s Ministry of Interior to conduct "speedy investigations" and bring the culprits to justice, because the sense of impunity for those who commit these crimes must be put to an end. The authorities need to make sure that people "have faith in the systems of governance. Otherwise fear prevails and communities will continue to kill each other as if we are a lawless state". <br />Mon, 06 Jul 2020 12:36:38 +0200AFRICA/BURKINA FASO - Forgotten crisis: 2.2 million people risk starvation - In the coming months, over 2.2 million burkinabés are at risk of starving due to ongoing conflicts and extreme climatic conditions . In 2020, the number of people affected by the serious shortage of food is three times higher than last year. The emergency was launched, in a message to Agenzia Fides, by Father Constatin Sere, director of Caritas Burkina Faso, who declares: "the world has forgotten the crisis in the Sahel. Countries like Burkina Faso face a series of challenges and without help people will suffer terribly. Internally displaced people do not have access to food or water, which is essential for both drinking and personal hygiene".<br />In the note sent to Agenzia Fides, it emerges that the Country has become the epicenter of a dramatic regional conflict that has caused more than one million internally displaced persons. "It is one of the fastest-moving waves of internally displaced people in the world and unfortunately hundreds of thousands of people have neither food, water, nor adequate shelter", notes the document.<br />Father Sere also said that as the rainy season approaches, the conditions of the displaced people become even more critical, as most of them do not have adequate shelter to deal with the storms, strong winds and floods that will follow in the next three or five months.<br />To support some particularly critical areas, Caritas has launched a 600 thousand euro project to provide food to displaced persons and families, as well as an economic contribution until the end of October 2020. The project, which aims to help about 50 thousand people, will concentrate mainly in the dioceses of Kaya, Fada N'Gourma, Nouna and Dédougou. The food packages offered to about 1,500 families will contain enough food for a month.<br />As Father Sere reports, all burkinabés, and the internally displaced people in particular, continue to hope for peace and a return to normality. "If you ask a displaced person what they want most, they will answer that they want to return to their village of origin. I fear that this will not happen very soon, because violence shows no sign of diminishing. Despite commitment from the State, armed groups in our Country continue to sow terror and break lives". "The future is worrying, but we continue to place our faith in God and in the love of our brothers and sisters all over the world", concludes the director of Caritas.<br />Until not long ago, peace reigned in Burkina Faso. But for 4 years now, armed groups operating along the northern and eastern borders of the country have continued to kill and terrorize citizens, causing serious instability in the Country. <br />Mon, 06 Jul 2020 12:17:26 +0200ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Churches, associations, cultural groups: the new anti-terrorism law is draconian and unconstitutional - "The Philippines are facing the Covid-19 crisis but, despite the urgency of the situation, the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is committed to consolidating power. At the moment there is no concrete plan to stop the Coronavirus spread, however, President Duterte signed the draconian anti-terrorism law": this is what is stressed in a statement, sent to Agenzia Fides, from the "First Union" network that brings together organizations and leaders of religious communities, lawyers, union representatives, humanitarian groups, NGOs, associations.<br />The legislation, signed on July 3 by the President, after Parliament's approval, will officially enter into force 15 days after the President's signature. The text gives unprecedented powers to the executive. A new body called the Anti-Terrorism Council - made up of senior cabinets and military officials - will have the power to order the arrest, freezing of assets or surveillance of individuals and organizations suspected of being terrorists. "The fact that members of the executive exercise powers that only the judiciary should have, makes a mockery of the separation of powers under the Philippine Constitution", the statement said.<br />"Even more frighteningly - notes the First Union network - paves the way for authoritarianism on a large scale, allowing the president and the government to get rid of their political rivals and other dissidents. The broad definition of terrorism includes incitement to terroristic activities through speeches, writings and banners. Duterte’s administration has often referred to opposition politicians, political activists, trade unionists and human rights lawyers as 'terrorists' or 'communists' - equating activism and dissent with political violence, aimed at overthrowing the government. This legislation also allows the authorities to arrest suspected terrorists without a warrant and to detain them for 14 days, extendable to 24 days, without proven accusations".<br />The network strongly condemns the enactment of the anti-terrorism law, inviting Filipinos throughout the country and the rest of the world to join us to protest this attempt by "dictatorship introduced by the service door" in the Philippines by President Duterte.<br />The network of Christian bodies called "Church People-Workers Solidarity" also agrees with these positions, asking that the anti-terrorism law be immediately abolished, and affirming that it "will further endanger the human rights of the Filipino people".<br />"Legitimate protests, strikes and other forms of collective action by workers who only ask for wages, job security, health, can be labeled as a terrorist act under the aforementioned law", notes the CWS network<br />"Therefore, the anti-terrorism law will increase the repression of the basic democratic rights of workers, and of every citizen, to freedom of speech, expression and assembly", reads the note sent to Fides. The network notes that already some existing laws have been used to attack workers' rights, in a peaceful assembly, despite the legality and constitutionality of the aforementioned protest actions.<br />CWS reiterates that, at this difficult time amid the Covid-19 pandemic, "the government should prioritize people's basic and urgent needs and not a law that represses legitimate human rights and civil liberties".<br />Meanwhile, the first appeals have been filed at the Supreme Court against the anti-terrorism law. Various groups of lawyers, associations and NGOs have announced appeals which, on the one hand, ask for the immediate suspension of the effects of the law, until full constitutionality is recognized; on the other, petitions ask for its total revocation, declaring it unconstitutional. <br />Mon, 06 Jul 2020 12:09:45 +0200ASIA/PAKISTAN - Muslim leaders: the work of Friar Francis Nadeem will inspire many to true fraternity - "Friar Francis Nadeem was the backbone of the mission of interreligious dialogue in Pakistan: after his death we feel orphaned, we hope and pray his legacy inspire many Christians and Muslims in this mission": says to Agenzia Fides Mufti Syed Ashiq Hussain, Muslim scholar and a friend of Fr. Francis Nadeem OFM Cap, Provincial of the Capuchins in Pakistan and Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism who passed away in Lahore on 3 July.<br />"I worked with him in the last 17 years - notes Hussain - he was always very humble, dedicated to his mission. He never chased fame, he carried out his mission in silence, which was to spread love, peace and harmony among people of various faiths. He put all of himself to bring fraternity and unity among Christians and Muslims, he sensitized public and Islamic schools with a message of unity, reception and tolerance. He was twice honored by the President of Pakistan for his good work in strengthening peace and harmony".<br />Allama Muhammad Ahsan Siddiqui, Chairman of the Interfaith Commission for Peace and Harmony in a message sent to Fides, says: "He was a committed and zealous man, a great man and an excellent priest. He was a true ambassador of peace and a true patriot. Pakistan has lost a vibrant and dynamic personality. His death is a great loss for the cause of interreligious dialogue. His commitment to promoting dialogue and tolerance will always be remembered. We will do our best to continue that commitment".<br />Pastor Shahid Meraj of the "Church of Pakistan", part of the Anglican Communion, recalls Fr. Francis Nadeem as "a bridge of unity between Christians and people of other faiths". Fr. Pascal Robert OFM remembers him "always full of ideas, activities and projects to be implemented. He was a forward-looking leader", and quotes "an important book on the contribution of religious minorities to the development and progress of the country". Dominican Fr. Nadeem Joseph OP appreciates him "as a friar who, inspired by Francis of Assisi, followed in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, becoming an ambassador of peace and updating in his life the Prayer of St. Francis which says: Lord make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love ". <br />Mon, 06 Jul 2020 11:54:38 +0200AFRICA/IVORY COAST - Fr. Jean-Baptiste Akwandan elevated to the dignity of Chaplain of his Holiness: "a manifestation of God's blessing towards the Atchan people - "I didn't know what to say, I was surprised by the appointment, and the second reaction is a thank you not for me, but for the 125 Ebrié priests commonly called Atchan who came after me, for the 4 Bishops who followed me and for the Atchan people who aspire to live the Christian life: I say that the Lord knows what he does, it is a manifestation of the benefits of God towards the Atchan people", said Fr. Jean-Baptiste Akwadan Tanon, when he learned of his elevation to the dignity of Chaplain of his Holiness.<br />Fr. Jean-Baptiste Akwadan, chaplain of the Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus Center of Bingerville, then of the diocesan clergy of Abidjan, was elevated by Pope Francis on Saturday 27 June to the dignity of Chaplain of His Holiness. Now it holds the honorary title of monsignor.<br />"In reality it is not an office, it is an honor; a reward that the Pope grants to a priest aged 65 and over for the work he has done. In the Church there are situations which are called elevations of honor", he explained, adding that there are three: "the first, Apostolic Protonotary, the second Prelate of Honor and the third Prelate of His Holiness".<br />"Without being a Bishop, this distinction allows the priest who receives it to benefit from the title of "Monsignor" and to wear the cassock with purple decorations and a belt of the same color", said the new chaplain of his Holiness.<br />At the age of 78, Mgr. Jean-Baptiste Akwadan was ordained a priest on 1 May 1970 in the parish of Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours in Treichville in the archdiocese of Abidjan. First priest of the Atchan people, he has a licentiate in spiritual theology which he obtained in 1999. Mgr. Jean-Baptiste Akwadan is the founding parish priest of the the Holy Family parish of Riviera 2, in the archdiocese of Abidjan.<br />In the history of the Church in Ivory Coast, before Father Jean-Baptiste Akwadan, four priests received this honor: Fathers René Kouassi, first Ivorian priest, Denis Ayou of the diocese of Grand-Bassam , Robert Atéa of the diocese of Gagnoa , and more recently in 2016, Anaclet Frindethie of the diocese of Yopougon, in the west of Abidjan . <br />Mon, 06 Jul 2020 11:42:56 +0200VATICAN - Aid from the PMS Fund for the Covid emergency to the dioceses of Togo City - The isolation decreed by government authorities to contain the Covid-19 pandemic has caused serious economic and social consequences, even in Togo. In addition to the closure of places of worship, schools, training and aggregation centers, the slowdown or halt of production activities has worsened situations that were already frail. The scarce economic resources of dioceses and parishes have long been exhausted. For this reason the Emergency Fund established by Pope Francis at the Pontifical Mission Societies to support the Churches of mission countries in the face of the Covid-19 emergency continues its work, has sent the help requested, necessary to continue assistance and evangelization.<br />In the seven dioceses of Togo, aid will be used for the most urgent needs. In the diocese of Aneho, it will be used for the purchase and distribution of food kits and health kits for children in need, as well as ensuring support for children of catechism. The situation of priests is increasingly difficult due to the closure of churches and the lack of sustenance: they too, like seminarians and religious communities, will be given food and health kits.<br />In the diocese of Atakpamé, mostly rural, the closure of schools and other centers especially puts children at risk. Following the closure of places of worship, priests, religious, catechists and all pastoral workers, very active in evangelization, find themselves in a dramatic situation, as well as seminarians, novices and postulants, who continued their path despite financial difficulties. Aid will be used for these needs, as well as for strengthening the means of social communication, which are very important in this situation.<br />The diocese of Dapaong includes the poorest region of Togo: Christians, despite limited financial resources, farmers and breeders, have always been generous in providing financial support to parishes, but now the situation has become too difficult for everyone. It is necessary to help teachers, all volunteers, from Catholic primary schools, whose salary is usually paid by the diocese, in addition to purchasing teaching materials for students. Priests and pastoral workers, seminarians and the Formation Center of Catechists also need help.<br />The diocese of Kara also needs to help priests, parishes, catechists and the minor seminary, as well as diocesan institutions, which must also provide for the costs for the broadcasting of mass through Radio Maria and for the distribution of pastoral subsidies through the various internet platforms, which in this period of isolation are the only contact with the majority of the faithful.<br />Serious problems are also registered in the diocese of Kpalimé where Covid-19 has destabilized the already precarious economic balance of the population and, consequently, of the diocese. The priests live exclusively on the offerings of the faithful, as well as the catechists for several months a year, but the closure of churches has no longer allowed the collections and the diocese is no longer able to meet the basic needs of pastoral workers and of their families.<br />Due to the isolation to curb the pandemic, many families of the archdiocese of Lomé, are in a situation of need, so the parishes are taking care of a number of young people, providing them with food, medicines, masks and medical supplies. Many parishes, especially those in the rural area, economically weaker, need to be supported, as well as the parish priests and formators of the seminary, who live on the offerings of the faithful.<br />In the diocese of Sokodé, there is shortage of food for the orphanages managed by the Church, the funding of radio programs to compensate for the closure of schools and other aggregation centers, and the distribution of health kits. We also need help for those parishes that need to continue their pastoral commitment, as well as religious institutes, seminaries and novitiates, and the diocesan radio Sainte Therese that have had to close their activities and were an indispensable instrument of evangelization and training for catechists. <br /><br />Mon, 06 Jul 2020 10:59:26 +0200AMERICA/ECUADOR - America's most popular Andean Marian pilgrimage suspended due to Covid-19 after 150 years - The civil, ecclesiastical, military and police authorities of the city and of the province of Loja met to start working on the biosecurity protocol, for the transfer of the Image of the Virgin of El Cisne, from its Sanctuary to the city of Loja. During the meeting, important topics were discussed to be considered in order to prepare the prevention program by the institutions.<br />The news recently communicated was that for the first time in over 150 years of history, there will not be the great pilgrimage of the Virgin, considered one of the largest in America, due to the current situation that the country is going through due to Covid-19.<br />However, the image of the Virgin of El Cisne will leave by car from the Sanctuary and will begin its 74 km journey on Monday 17 August, will spend the night in San Pedro de la Bendita, and on 18 will leave for Catamayo where it will stay until 20 August, the day where it will leave Loja to stay in the Cathedral until November 1st.<br />According to the note sent to Fides by the Episcopal Conference of Ecuador, Mgr. Wálter Heras, Bishop of the diocese of Loja, underlined that the faithful welcomed the preventive measures, which were taken into account in the reopening of the churches, and hopes that the same will be for this important event. "We must live the faith, but we must be obedient, as Catholic faithful we must be very responsible and implement biosecurity measures ... take care of ourselves and take care of others", he said.<br />There will be no traditional Eucharist in the infantry brigade and other nightly demonstrations have been suspended. Finally, it was communicated that the Marian image will wear peasant costumes, in recognition of those who offered commitment and sacrifice in cultivating the land so that the military, police and doctors would have food, as a sign of appreciation for their contribution to the fight against Covid-19. <br />Mon, 06 Jul 2020 10:45:16 +0200AMERICA/CHILE - School after the pandemic: strengthening the school-family relationship - One of Chile's biggest problems is Public Education: for decades, different government systems have managed to propose new methods and different forms to restructure the country's education system. When this task seemed to have taken the right direction, social movements together with student groups mobilized to demonstrate against the authorities and the system that was not working. Now, with the Covid-19 pandemic, the situation has become even more critical.<br />The director of the San Tommaso d'Aquino Educational Network, Professor Sandra Urrutia Bravo, stressed: "We need to strengthen the school-family relationship and thus develop student autonomy".<br />"We are in a situation - says the expert - in which education has been hit hard, due to the pandemic. The school environment and the learning environment have changed, forcing educational systems to use technological tools to ensure children and adolescents the right to receive education".<br />"From the surveys conducted on students and parents, we obtained very relevant information that allowed us to improve, for example, online lessons. We have trained more than 600 teachers in the use of the Classroom platform and we have strengthened the figure of the school headmaster, so that he is the one who accompanies not only the students, but also their families. But we found the lack of autonomy of the students as a problem".<br />As for the results of the student survey, Professor Sandra Urrutia highlights the following data: 91.8 of respondents are not in favor of returning to face-to-face lessons if the pandemic is not under control, for fear of being infected. But there are other significant problems: 64.8% consider online lessons boring and 55.1% complain of a weak Internet connection.<br />"This is an important fact, the difficulties derive from the social context in which they live. There are difficulties with the Internet connection, along with the lack of encouragement and boredom".<br />The conclusion is however positive: "We are accompanied by 150 years of history, experience and, as our Bishops say, 'we will not save ourselves', but we will save ourselves in the community". <br />Mon, 06 Jul 2020 10:20:06 +0200NEWS ANALYSIS - Africa, Covid-19 has not stopped wars - When, in the last week of March, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres first, and then Pope Francis, just when the pandemic was taking on frightening dimensions, launched a heartfelt appeal to proclaim a universal cease-fire, the world seemed to listen to them. In Syria, Cameroon, the Philippines, Yemen, Congo, for example, signs of détente emerged and, thanks also to the terror of contracting the virus, some armies or militias of the 70 wars that inflame the planet silenced their weapons. Those encouraging signs had no result. The Pope's invitation to take the dramatic opportunity to "suspend all forms of war hostility" and encourage openness "to diplomacy, attention to those in situations of vulnerability" remained in many regions of the world a "dead letter". Since mid-April, in most of the places that had at least partially ceased the fighting, shooting started again, in all the others, in reality, it never stopped.<br />More than three months later, the messages of the Pope and Guterres can be said to have gone unheeded. Agenzia Fides spoke with representatives of the Catholic Church of three Countries in which the conflict has raged for years and tried to understand what the situation is and the reasons behind a refusal to suspend - at least temporarily - the war. - continues<br /><br/><strong>Link correlati</strong> :<a href="">Continue to read news analysis on Omnis Terra website</a>Sat, 04 Jul 2020 13:00:51 +0200ASIA/PAKISTAN - Farewell to Fr. Francis Nadeem, Capuchin friar engaged in interreligious dialogue - "We have lost a wonderful priest and friar, who humbly served in his community, and also reached people of other faiths with the Christian message of peace and love. A priest who was known, appreciated and loved not only among Christians, but also among faithful of other religions": is what Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw said to Agenzia Fides, commemorating Fr. Francis Nadeem OFM Cap, Provincial of the Capuchins in Pakistan, his confrere in the interreligious dialogue mission for over three decades. The friar, sick and dialysed, died in a hospital in Lahore after a heart attack on 3 July. The Archbishop thus remembers him: "He was full of ideas, always very creative in building bridges among people of different faiths. He was in communion and in excellent relationship with people of other faith, and he always worked to spread the message of peace and love, in the name of Christ, in all corners of the Country".<br />More than 2000 people were present at the funeral mass celebrated this morning, July 4, in the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Lahore. The celebration was presided over by Mgr. Sebastian Francis Shaw, Archbishop of Lahore, while Archbishop Joseph Arshad of the Diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Bishop Indrias Rehmat of the Diocese of Faisalabad, and numerous priests concelebrated. Leaders of other Christian denominations and other religions, who came to give the last farewell to Fr. Nadeem, were also present.<br />Fr. Francis Nadeem was a tireless promoter of interreligious dialogue and ecumenism for over twenty years in Lahore. He was Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism and led the "Mariam Sadeeqa" Custody of Capuchin Friars in Pakistan since September 2014. In 2017 he had been chosen by the confreres for a second term as Custos, which was due to end in August 2020.<br />Born on October 27, 1955, he entered the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor at the age of 19. After his solemn profession in 1984 and theology studies, he was ordained a priest. Before being elected Custos, he held the position of vice-provincial for two consecutive terms .<br />"He was a point of reference for us. He worked for his community of Capuchin friars and Christians, but his soul was also addressed towards non-Christians to build and strengthen a spirit of interreligious dialogue", says to Fides Fr. Morris Jalal OFM Cap, his confrere and old fellow student. Fr Jalal notes: "He set a good example in all his works and responsibilities assigned to him, both in parishes, being a leader of the Capuchin community in Pakistan, and in the important mission of interreligious dialogue. We will carry his commitment in our heart and his mildness, especially in times of persecution".<br />"Following the example of Francis of Assisi, he gave his life for interreligious dialogue: his vision was to promote and strengthen peace and harmony in Pakistan. As a man of peace and dialogue, he inspired countless people who are actively working for the same cause in Pakistan today, to build a peace-loving society", adds Fr. Qaisar Feroz OFM Cap, Secretary of the Commission for Social Communications.<br />He also states: "This is the legacy he leaves us: he was a man of God, well focused on his evangelical mission, who always persevered in his ministry of interreligious dialogue and ecumenism, establishing excellent personal relationships with people of other religions". <br />Sat, 04 Jul 2020 12:52:46 +0200AFRICA/KENYA - Corruption undermines the fight against Covid-19: the poorest pay the price - In Africa, 383,747 people are currently suffering from coronavirus, of whom 183 thousand are hospitalized in healthcare facilities, while the number of deaths has reached 9,691. In Kenya there are 6,190 cases and 144 deaths. The pandemic has increased slowly, but the effects on the population have been significant. This has led many international institutions, non-governmental organizations and individuals to support the Country's healthcare facilities, but the results are uncertain.<br />Of the billion Ksh donated by the World Bank to provide for personal protective equipment, medicines and to create isolation structures, it appears that 42 million Ksh were spent on the leasing of ambulances , 4 million Ksh for tea and snacks and 2 million Ksh for communication.<br />The work of the governors of the counties for inadequate expenses and misappropriation are under observation. In early May, four senior Kilifi County officials were arrested for tenders regarding the contract to build a Covid-19 center and for the maintainance of hospital equipment. The same governor of Bungoma County, Wycliffe Wangamati, is under investigation by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission for speculation in the county on the prices of healthcare articles.<br />Then there is an investigation into the donation made by Chinese tycoon Jack Ma in the early days of the epidemic. Investigators have confirmed to the BBC that the investigation will be extended to all donations that have arrived in Kenya to combat the coronavirus. The hypothesis is that millions of dollars and large quantities of equipment have been stolen. Local media recently reported that $ 2 million worth of personal protective equipment donated by the Chinese government has disappeared. President Uhuru Kenyatta has promised that all donations to fight the virus will be thoroughly analyzed.<br />"In Kenya - explains a high-level official who prefers to remain anonymous - things happen and we don't talk about it. Money and goods donated to the sick disappear: they steal everything and you can't do anything and can't say anything. Few get rich".<br />Catholic bishops have urged the government to ensure that emergency funds for Covid-19 are aimed at fighting the pandemic and to bring the Country back to normal. In a statement in May the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Kenya asked for clarity on the management of the funds donated to face the health emergency: "as a Church, we appreciate the different measures that have been adopted by the government to contain the spread of the pandemic in our Country. However, we are concerned about news regarding the misuse of some funds". <br />Sat, 04 Jul 2020 11:54:33 +0200EUROPE/SPAIN - Videoconference to present the report on the activities of the PMS in 2019 - The Pontifical Mission Societies of Spain have organized a virtual press conference to present their 2019 Activity Report, which will be held on Monday 6 July at 11.30 am via Zoom. As the note sent to Fides explains, the Report reflects the vast work of animation and missionary formation that the PMS carry out throughout the year, and which goes far beyond the main missionary gathering days, known by everyone: World Mission Day, Missionary Childhood Day, the Day of Native Vocations.<br />This 2019 edition of the report also includes the great missionary event celebrated in October 2019, the Extraordinary Missionary Month, announced by Pope Francis for the whole Church. The report also contains the latest statistics on Spanish missionaries and Spain's financial contribution to the PMS Universal Solidarity Fund in 2019, with which the Holy See supports the ordinary functioning of 1,111 mission territories. The videoconference will be attended by Don José Maria Calderon, National Director of the PMS in Spain; Manuel Diaz, at the head of missionary animation of the PMS in Pamplona; Salesian missionary Miguel Ángel Olaverri, Bishop of Pointe Noire, in the Republic of the Congo, who will comment on how the health crisis of Covid-19 is being lived. <br />Sat, 04 Jul 2020 11:27:28 +0200AFRICA/NIGERIA - Appointment of the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Fr. Solomon Patrick Zaku City - On February 27, 2020 Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, appointed Fr Solomon Patrick Zaku, of the diocesan clergy of Maiduguri as National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Nigeria, for a five-year period .<br />The new National Director was born on April 7, 1982 in Potiskum, Yobe State, and was ordained a priest on July 9, 2010. After attending St. Joseph Minor Seminary in Adamawa state, he studied philosophy at St. Thomas Major Seminary in Makurdi, and theology at St. Augustine major Seminary in Jos. He continued his studies at the "Floating Institute of Missiology" in Onitsha and the "Seminar and International Conference on Missionary Formation" in Rome. He has held various positions: parish priest, chaplain and deputy director of the diocesan PMS, Director of the PMS of the diocese of Maiduguri, national Coordinator of the PMS-Propagation of the Faith. <br />Sat, 04 Jul 2020 11:23:35 +0200AMERICA/MEXICO - "We cannot get used to crime and violence and be indifferent to death": the diocese in the face of the massacre of Irapuato - "The greatest massacre of the six-year period", "Unacceptable crimes", "Yet another battle and terrible massacre", "One of the worst events in the history of Mexico", "Justice is urgently needed in Irapuato", "The government promises not to abandon Guanajuato"," 26 dead, a massacre in Irapuato", are just some of the headlines in Mexico after what happened on the afternoon of July 1st. Gunmen, about 8, burst into an unregistered drug rehabilitation centre in central Mexico and opened fire, killing at least 26 people.<br />The mayor and state governor agree in commenting that this is a gang fight over land ownership. The rehabilitation center is not managed by the authorities nor does it have legal permits: these are so-called "social" centers which are sometimes dance centers and sometimes voluntary recovery centers for young people with drug problems. In Irapuato alone there are about 200 centers, in suburban areas or houses occupied by these young people. According to those who live nearby, many are just local gangsters. Mexico has long had problems with rehab centres because most are privately run, underfunded and often commit abuses against recovering addicts.<br />"The Bishop of Irapuato, priests and the whole Christian community, regret and strongly condemn the violent acts", reads a statement from the diocese, sent to Fides. "The blood of a brother can never remain in silence or in oblivion, it invokes justice before God. We cannot get used to crime and violence and be indifferent to death".<br />The statement concludes by citing the Bishops of Mexico, who recall: "It is the obligation of the state to make effective the justice that implies the safety of citizens, the punishment of those who are guilty of violence and organized crime, without making exceptions in the application of the state of right. Corruption and impunity are a combination that goes hand in hand and continues to challenge us in Mexico. It is also an obligation for every Christian to build the foundations for peace and respect for life". <br />Sat, 04 Jul 2020 11:19:39 +0200ASIA/AFGHANISTAN - From Prague to Kabul, a fundraiser for the needy, a sign of spiritual communion of the Church - A fundraiser which began in Prague reached the church of Kabul through the staff of the Czech embassy. This is the initiative carried out by the parish community of St. Gotthard, in Prague, led by the parish priest Fr. Milos Szabo, in support of the poor, destitute and most vulnerable Afghans. This is what Fr. Giovanni Scalese, Barnabite priest, at the head of the Missio sui iuris in Afghanistan reports in a note sent to Agenzia Fides: "In that parish, during the month of January, the faithful prayed for this Country and made a collection for the poor of our Mission. The result of the donations was entrusted to Czech diplomats in Kabul, but due to the rules for the containment of Covid-19, it was only possible to organize a meeting in June".<br />The donation was accepted by the Barnabite as a "sign of the spiritual communion of the Church": "When we recite the apostolic Creed, we affirm that we profess our faith in the communion of Saints. Generally, we give importance to this aspect especially on the feast of November 1st, but we often forget that the communion of saints unites all believing pilgrims on earth. Christian life can be compared to a pilgrimage, of course, but not an individual one: we walk towards God as a people, helping each other. The beautiful initiative of the parish of St. Gotthard is a good example of this communion".<br />The contact between the church of Prague and that of Kabul had occurred last October, with a letter sent by the Czech parish priest, which read: "We are a Roman Catholic parish in the Bubeneč district, which hosts diplomatic missions of many States in the Czech Republic. This gave us the inspiration to try to connect spiritually with the countries of the world. While representatives of international diplomacy work to facilitate cooperation and ensure that humanity lives in peace and security, we have decided to support this work through prayer. Each month we will pray for a specific country and its inhabitants regardless of their religion".<br />The Catholic presence in Afghanistan was admitted at the beginning of the twentieth century as simple spiritual assistance within the Italian Embassy in Kabul. In the Country, in fact, Islam is recognized as a State religion and conversion to other religions is seen as a crime of apostasy. In 2002, John Paul II established the "Missio sui iuris" in the Country. Today the Catholic mission continues to have a base in the diplomatic structure and is entrusted to the Barnabite father Giovanni Scalese. In addition, the Missionary Sisters of Charity and the "Pro Bambini of Kabul" inter-congregational association are operating in the Afghan capital. <br />Sat, 04 Jul 2020 11:09:18 +0200AFRICA/ZAMBIA - Appointment of the Bishop of Ndola City - The Holy Father Francis has appointed His Exc. Mgr. Benjamin Phiri, currently titular Bishop of Nachingwea and Auxiliary of the Diocese of Chipata, as Bishop of the Diocese of Ndola . <br />Fri, 03 Jul 2020 13:10:40 +0200AFRICA/CONGO - Episcopal ordination and the taking possession of the diocese of Kinkala - The episcopal ordination and the canonical taking of possession of His Exc. Mgr. Ildevert Mathurin Mouanga, new Bishop of Kinkala appointed on March 5 by Pope Francis to replace Archbishop Louis Portella Mbuyu, took place in the sign of protective measures against the coronavirus. .<br />According to local sources of Fides, the solemn ceremony was held on Sunday 28 June and was presided over by His Exc. Mgr. Louis Portella Mbuyu, first emeritus Bishop of Kinkala and principal consecrant. The Eucharist was concelebrated by His Exc. Francisco Escalante Molina, Apostolic Nuncio in Congo and Gabon,<br />Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the faithful went to the municipal stadium in Kinkala. The low mobilization rate was justified by the limited number of people authorized to attend the event. The faithful came from Brazzaville, Madzia, Kinkala, from the surrounding villages and from the various dioceses of the Republic of the Congo, always in strict compliance with the mandatory use of the mask and the observation of distances to assist in the consecration of the new Bishop.<br />It was 11 o'clock when the procession reached the center of the football field where the mass altar was set up. The priests of all the dioceses of Congo did not want to miss this event with an extraordinary mobilization, each with their own mask.<br />At the end of the ceremony, Archbishop Louis Portella Mbuyu gave a speech in which he thanked the Holy Father for choosing a confrere who will enlarge the Congolese episcopate. His Exc. Mgr. Daniel Mizonzo, Bishop of Nkayi and President of the Congolese Episcopal Conference, delivered a very moving speech: "The ordination of a Bishop is always a happy and joyful event". "The new Bishop must create a climate of trust with his collaborators, with the lay faithful. The bishop's door must remain open to welcome collaborators. We are very happy to welcome you in the Episcopal Conference. We thank Archbishop Louis Portella Mbuyu for all the pastoral work carried out in this diocese and in the context of the Episcopal Conference of the Congo. And for all the services rendered and to be rendered to the Church of the Congo. I hope you can continue to follow the construction works of the Catholic University of Congo, within the diocese of Pointe-Noire".<br />Ildevert Mathurin Mouanga who chose as his episcopal motto: "Compete well for the faith" 1Tim, 6-12, reminded that "there are many challenges to face in our Country and in our Church and that everyone will have to get their hands dirty".<br />The Pool region, of which Kinkala is the capital, was the scene of a low-intensity war between the government and the militiamen of Frédéric Bintsamou, aka Pasteur Ntumi, a Protestant pastor who had given birth to the "Ninja" militias. A peace agreement was reached with the government in 2017, but tensions remain in the region. <br />Fri, 03 Jul 2020 13:08:51 +0200VATICAN - The PMS Fund for the Covid emergency has sent aid to the dioceses of Benin, Madagascar, Senegal City - Benin recorded the first cases of Covid-19 in March and, as in other parts of the world, the pandemic caused profound changes on social, economic and health levels, with also psychological consequences, creating an atmosphere of anguish and fear. The government has taken the necessary measures to contain the pandemic, including the isolation and closure of places of worship and schools, prohibiting all activities and meetings. The Church has been committed from the first moment to being close to the sufferings of people and to try to respond to their needs. The prolonged critical situation has however used up the economic resources of dioceses and parishes, which asked for the help of the Emergency Fund established by Pope Francis at the Pontifical Mission Societies to support the Churches of mission countries facing the Covid-19 emergency . The aid sent to the dioceses will therefore allow them to continue their work of assistance and evangelization.<br />The Diocese of Abomey asked for help for the prevention and assistance activities of vulnerable children in diocesan centers, and of children and adults affected by the effects of Covid in the various pastoral sectors. The Diocese of Dassa Zoumé must provide for the sustenance of priests and pastoral workers, which the parishes took care of, but with the closure of the churches it is no longer possible to collect the offerings among the faithful. In addition, many people have been left without a job and Caritas are taking care of some elderly confined at home.<br />In the diocese of Djougou Catholic schools are a priority, as the parents of students are no longer able to pay school fees, being unable to meet even the basic needs of families. The diocese of Lokossa is a rural diocese, which even before the pandemic had no basic infrastructure, now the situation is even more serious. Among emergencies, teachers and school staff of Catholic schools have not received their salary for months, as the coffers of the diocese are empty.<br />The population of Natitingou received the first announcement of the Gospel in 1941, a population made up of farmers, breeders and small artisans, who live in precarious conditions. Priests and religious institutes that collaborate in evangelization are now deprived of sustenance.<br />In the diocese of N'Dali, the local Church provides food support, through the distribution of corn, rice, sorghum, and financial support for orphanages, the elderly, the poor and vulnerable children.<br />Support for seminaries and Catholic schools is of great urgency in the diocese of Parakou, while in Porto Novo priests and religious communities are in a difficult situation.<br />Also in Madagascar, in the diocese of Ambanja, aid from the PMS Fund is intended to support the school system. The environment is rural and young people leave school early as families lack the necessary financial means, so they fall into drugs and delinquency, many girls get pregnant at a very young age. The diocese has responded as it could to this situation by building several schools over the years, from kindergartens to high schools, to ensure an education for as many children as possible, but following the pandemic the situation of this school year is catastrophic: many have abandoned school and there is need to support pupils and teachers, who are unemployed.<br />The Archdiocese of Dakar, Senegal, has an essentially poor population, of low social level, made up of farmers, fishermen and workers. In almost all parishes there are educational and health structures that offer a fundamental service to the community. The consequences of the pandemic have been added to the adversities of the climate of previous years, thus making the situation increasingly difficult. There is therefore a need to support evangelization activities, teams of priests and catechists who continue their mission in this context, in addition to the two reception centers for children and the activities of spiritual and social reflection for children after the post-Covid period. <br />Fri, 03 Jul 2020 12:48:24 +0200AFRICA/EGYPT - Death sentence confirmed for one of the Coptic monks accused of the murder of Abbot Epiphanios - The Supreme Court of Cassation of Egypt confirmed on Wednesday 1 July the sentence of death sentence pronounced in previous judicial proceedings against Wael Saad Tawadros, former Egyptian Orthodox Coptic monk convicted of the murder by Anba Epiphanios, the abbot killed on 29 July 2018 at St. Macarius Monastery, in the Wadi Natrun region. The Court of Cassation instead sentenced monk Falta'os al-Makari to life imprisonment as an accomplice in the same crime, canceling the death sentence previously also imposed on him by the Damanhur Criminal Court.<br />The two previous death sentences had been issued by the Damanhur Criminal Court on February 23, 2019, and on April 24, 2019 they had received the nihil obstat from the Mufti of Egypt, the Islamic religious authority in charge of issuing the fatwas on relevant issues. In Egypt, a death sentence cannot be considered final unless approved by the Mufti.<br />The first double sentence of death sentence was immediately defined as "a catastrophe" by Anba Agathon, Coptic Orthodox Bishop of Maghagha. Bishop Agathon had immediately invited to pray for the two condemned.<br />The assassination of Bishop Epiphanios, abbot at St. Macarius Monastery, represented a real trauma for the entire Coptic community and in particular for the monastic environments. According to what was reconstructed during the investigations, disputes arose between the murdered abbot and the two condemned for economic issues and for several violations of the monastic rules by the two monks .<br />During the trial, the two accused continued to proclaim themselves innocent, and also retracted previous confessions of guilt which, they say, would were extorted through psychological pressure from the investigating bodies.<br />In the early hours of Sunday 29 July 2018, the body of Abbot Epiphanios was found by the monks lying in a pool of blood, inside the monastery, along the way that led from his cell to the church. It seems that the Bishop was hit on the head with a sharp, heavy object . The Abbot was 64 years old, a native of Tanta, a graduate in medicine, Anba Epiphanius had entered Saint Macarius the Great monastery, in 1984, and was ordained a priest in 2002. <br />Researcher and scholar, he had worked on the translation from Greek to Arabic of several books of the Bible. Anba Epiphanius lived intense relationships of spiritual communion with friends and monastic communities of the Catholic Church. <br />Fri, 03 Jul 2020 12:03:16 +0200