Fides News - English Agency NewsenContent on this site is licensed under aAMERICA/BRAZIL - Mgr. Vieira: "It is urgent to address the problems of our prison system" - The Archbishop of Natal , His Exc. Mgr. Jaime Vieira Rocha, released a statement on the massacre that took place on Saturday night, January 14, in which at least 26 prisoners were killed during a fight among gangs in the Penitentiary of Alcaçuz State, in Nísia Floresta, metropolitan region of Natal.<br />"No doubt, we need an urgent reflection on the conditions of our prisons. We beseech the good Lord to calm these brothers and to renounce violence, and call on society and the State to seek dialogue and find ways to address the problems that plague our prison system", the statement said.<br />According to data collected by Fides, twenty-six inmates were killed, most of them beheaded, in the revolt which broke out in the Penitentiary Alcaçuz, which has become the most violent in the history of Rio Grande do Norte. The incidents began in the afternoon and ended only in the morning of the following day. This is the third case with dozens of deaths in the country's prisons in 2017, in early January similar massacres in Manaus and Boa Vista took place . The biggest problem for the coexistence within prisons is the lack of space for prisoners, both as individuals and as groups or gangs. According to data of the Secretariat for Justice and Citizenship , the body responsible for the prison system in Rio Grande, the prison of Nísia Floresta is the largest prison in the state, it has a capacity of 620 prisoners, but is home to about 1,150. In this State there are 33 prisons with 3,500 places, but the prison population exceeds 8,000 inmates. <br />Mon, 16 Jan 2017 13:22:57 +0100AFRICA/DR CONGO - The failed assault on the prison in Beni, further sign of a guerrilla resurgence - Failed assault on the central prison in Beni, in North Kivu, by an armed group that is presumed to be formed by May May militiamen. According to information sent to Agenzia Fides, a group of armed men attacked the prison between 2 and 2.30 am yesterday, Sunday, January 15.<br />After putting to flight the prison guards, the militiamen tried to force the prison door, but were put to flight by the intervention of the army that killed an assailant.<br />At the same time an escape attempt was foiled in the reformatory of the city, just one of the boys managed to escape. According to local NGOs CEPADHO , the two escape attempts were coordinated, and we are not talking about simple acts of banditry but the attempt of the local guerrillas to replenish the ranks freeing arrested comrades.<br />According to CEPADHO the militiamen who attacked the prison in Beni are the same ones who attacked the same prison and the town of Beni last December 20. This group apparently is affiliated to the May-May Corps du Christ, in turn linked to the Ugandan ADF rebels. The leader of the May-May Corps du Christ, Bwambale Karole, announced he is leading a new rebellion to "liberate North Kivu".<br />CEPADHO warned the authorities in Kinshasa that a new war in North Kivu is being prepared, following the threats of Bwambale Karole and the disappearance of several men of the old M23 rebellion who had taken refuge in Uganda. <br />Mon, 16 Jan 2017 13:12:05 +0100ASIA/TURKEY - Deputy cites the Armenian Genocide in the Turkish Parliament: Suspended for 3 sessions - The Armenian deputy of the Turkish Parliament Garo Paylan, representative of the Peoples Democratic Party on January 13 was suspended for three parliamentary sessions after referring to the Armenian Genocide, during the plenary debate on the subject of the new Turkish Constitution.<br />In his speech, according to Anadolu Agency - the deputy cited the period in which, since 1913, Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and Jews present in the Anatolian Peninsula were "banished from these lands or subjected to violence,to the point of suffering massacres and genocide". The Armenian people - stressed Paylan "know very well what happened .... I call it genocide, whatever way you define it".<br />Paylan’s speech caused the resentful reactions of AKP deputies, the ruling party, who requested and were granted the disciplinary measure taken against the Armenian deputy. <br />Mon, 16 Jan 2017 12:58:20 +0100ASIA/INDIA - The Jesuits committed to social harmony – To overcome ignorance and prejudice and above all to educate young people to promote peace and social harmony, peace which is an urgent need today: this is what the Indian Jesuit theologian Michael Amaladoss, director of the Institute for dialogue with cultures and religions at Loyola College in Chennai and consultant for mission and evangelization of the World Council of Churches says to Agenzia Fides.<br />"We need to build relationships and help people not only to tolerate, but to celebrate difference as a creative gift from God. <br />We have to build a multi-religious coalition to counter any type of fundamentalism and communalism in all religions. We should especially take care of the formation of young people, so that they grow by acquiring a mentality that overcomes prejudice and promotes social harmony", the Jesuit told Fides.<br />According to Amaladoss, "the use of new digital media and social media is needed to reach a growing number of people and form networks. We could disseminate information, provide training programs and also facilitate meetings through the Internet", he notes<br />On the theme of dialogue, Fr. Vincent Sekhar, another Jesuit, underlines the importance of the ministry of inter-religious dialogue in India, starting from the current religious-political situation of the country, useful to discern new paths: "This is why we must be proactive and resist what hinders the values of pluralism and secular India, cultivating all possible ways to promote love and friendship, trust and cooperation. <br />At present it is urgent to build bridges to reconcile different communities", he notes.<br />"Policy that exploites religion, the challenges of religious fundamentalism and provocation of communalism seriously affect the two pillars of democracy and secularism in India", said Fr. Sekhar.<br />"We must recognize - he continued - that the essence of all religions is love, service, peace and harmony. The recognition that every human person is the home of a Supreme Being leads to mutual respect. We also believe that the respect and appreciation of the teachings of the scriptures of all religions lead to the appreciation and acceptance of each other, helping us to live peacefully".<br />In this spirit, the Jesuits organize prayer meetings and the celebration of religious festivities in collaboration with members of different religions, encouraging understanding and solidarity and pledge to bringing reconciliation and harmony in contexts where there is violence. <br />Mon, 16 Jan 2017 12:50:46 +0100AFRICA/KENYA - New Bishops' appeal to save lives - medical staff on strike for more than a month - The Catholic Bishops of Kenya, once again appeal to the striking doctors to resume essential medical duties especially regarding patients in danger of life and those who need urgent care. The medical staff working in public health facilities have in fact been on strike since 5 December. The protest is causing untold suffering to patients and, according to news sent to Agenzia Fides, dozens of people have died for lack of care. The Bishops had already addressed an urgent appeal to health workers so that they guarantee essential services to save lives .<br />In a statement sent to Agenzia Fides, His Exc. Mgr. Philip Anyolo, Bishop of Homabay and President of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops , expressed the Church's concern for the suffering caused by the strike. Mgr. Anyolo thanked the staff of public and private health facilities who, despite everything, continues to respond to medical emergencies. "We know you continue to be overstretched and overworked to a point of burn outs", the statement said. "We also thank the private and non-state medical Institutions that continue to go out of their way to respond to medical emergencies and help save lives despite the pressure on your resources, especially when the affected cannot afford to pay their medical bills in full".<br />The Bishops addressed an urgent appeal to the government, trade unions and workers to "make decisions and take actions that ensure normal medical services are restored without further delay". <br />Mon, 16 Jan 2017 12:31:19 +0100AMERICA/EL SALVADOR - Dialogue between the government and gangs for peace and genuine reconciliation is still necessary Salvador - "The country needs political consensus, this means dialogue", said yesterday the Auxiliary Bishop of San Salvador, His Exc. Mgr. Gregorio Rosa Chavez, in the usual Sunday press. "The spirit of peace must be retrieved tomorrow, because we signed the peace, but we do not live in peace, and even less reconciled" said the Bishop remembering the date of 16 January 1992, when at the presence of the UN Representative, the government and the FMLN guerrilla group signed a peace agreement to end the civil war which in 12 years caused more than 75,000 dead.<br />This anniversary, according to the Bishop, comes at "a time of deep crisis and great despair", in part due to the lack of political agreements: "We are without a State budget for this year, and there is great social violence".<br />Mgr. Gregorio Rosa Chavez informed that the Catholic Church is ready to support dialogue between the authorities and gangs, only if its participation is required and if there are favorable conditions of mutual trust and always in the context of established norms. During the press conference, he stressed the importance of genuine dialogue: "I believe that dialogue is necessary, it all depends on how it is done. Many times we have seen that there was an attempt of dialogue, but it was behind a position of force, claimed to see who was the strongest, the police or gangs. This scheme was also used during the war".<br />He then recalled that in an attempt to negotiations in 2012, His Exc. Mgr. Fabio Colindres had participated personally: "They asked him and he accepted". As reported then by Fides , Mgr. Colindres who was in touch with the leaders in prison of the two main armed gangs in the country, and had managed to reach a truce. The same Mgr. Colindres had nevertheless recognized even then that the pact was not a permanent solution to the problem of extreme violence that was bloodying El Salvador, a country of just over 6 million people, where in 2011 there were 4,354 murders, according to official data.<br />The hard work to support the ceasefire and create sincere dialogue lasted more than a year, even with the contribution of the Organization of American States which in April 2013 signed a cooperation agreement with the government of El Salvador which was proposed to set up a mission of security assistance to support the social peace process, which he considered positive, the first achievement of the truce among the gangs . <br />Mon, 16 Jan 2017 12:01:45 +0100AMERICA/CANADA - Worldwide, 119,000 children are born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome each year - A study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada published the first-ever estimates of the proportion of women who drink during pregnancy.<br />According to data published in The Lancet Global Health, an estimated 10 per cent of women drink alcohol during pregnancy, and 119,000 children are born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome each year . <br />The study, sent to Fides, reveals great differences between regions and Countries. In some Countries, more than 45 per cent of women consume alcohol during pregnancy. In Canada, which has clinical guidelines advising abstinence during pregnancy, an estimated 10 per cent of pregnant women still drink. Nearly 15 per 10,000 people around the world are estimated to have FAS. FAS is characterized by mental, behavioural and learning problems, as well as physical disabilities. <br />The five countries with the highest alcohol use in pregnancy were in Europe: Russia, United Kingdom, Denmark, Belarus and Ireland. <br />As a region, Europe also had a 2.6 higher prevalence of FAS than the global average. The lowest levels of drinking and FAS were found for the Eastern Mediterranean and South East Asia regions, as there are high rates of alcohol abstinence in these regions.<br />Not every woman who drinks while pregnant will have a child with FAS. It is estimated that one in 67 mothers who drink during pregnancy will deliver a child with FAS. Although it is well established that alcohol can damage any organ or system in the developing fetus, particularly the brain, it is still not known exactly what makes a fetus most susceptible, in terms of the amount or frequency of alcohol use, or timing of drinking during pregnancy, there are other factors, such as the genetics, stress, smoking and nutrition that also contribute to the risk. <br />Mon, 16 Jan 2017 11:48:52 +0100ASIA/THAILAND - Children's Day "playing with army weaponry" - In Thailand, since 1955, Children's Day is celebrated on the second Saturday of January. During this day children visit the seat of government, Parliament, they go to natural parks, participate in concerts and street events. However, the small "celebrate" this anniversary "playing" with real army weaponry. In fact they visit military barracks, where vehicles and military weapons are exhibited. This year, Saturday, January 15, one of these events ended in tragedy when a Saab 39 Gripen fighter crashed after performing a simulation attack maneuver under the watchful eyes of children. <br />Mon, 16 Jan 2017 11:10:40 +0100AFRICA/EGYPT - The case of the old Copt woman from Karm, beaten and stripped naked by fanatical Islamists, suspended for "lack of evidence" - Prosecutors in Egypt's central governorate of Minya have suspended investigations into an assault on a 70-year-old Coptic Christian woman, Suan Thabet, who was stripped naked and paraded in the streets by a Muslim mob last May. The woman's lawyer - refer Egyptian sources consulted by Agenzia Fides - announced that on Saturday, January 14 the prosecutors cited "lack of sufficient evidence". The old woman, interviewed by a US-based Christian TV station said that she and her family are unable to return home to this day because of threats by Muslim extremists in the village.<br />The explosion of sectarian violence in Karm, which took place a few days after the meeting in Rome between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyib, had drawn the attention of public debate in Egypt, especially for the violence and humiliations perpetrated against the elderly lady. The armed Muslim mob that assaulted the 70-year-old woman also looted and torched seven Christian houses belonging to Copt Christians.<br />The attack on the woman followed a rumour that her son, an Egyptian Copt, had an affair with a Muslim woman. Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II had issued a statement, which raised the possibility that the facts in al Karm could be used to trigger a new spiral of sectarian clashes. The same President Abdel Fattah al Sisi had appealed to the competent government departments so that those responsible for the violence in Karm were promptly identified and punished. In the weeks that followed the attack, at least 8 people were arrested among 14 suspects of having taken part in sectarian violence. <br />Mon, 16 Jan 2017 11:10:04 +0100ASIA/SYRIA - Patriarch of Moscow Kirill invited in Syria - Scholars and official representatives of Syrian Islam, together with the Syrian Ministry officials for endowments and religious affairs , sent an invitation to the Patriarch of Moscow Kirill to visit the country. The news was given by the Russian media, reporting that the invitation was sent to the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church through the Mufti of Moscow Albir Krganov, who recently led the visit to Syria of a Russian Islamic delegation. In the program of a possible trip to Syria Patriarch Kirill - added Krganov, who is also a member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, an institution aimed at "protecting the rights and freedoms of citizens" and to encourage the growth of Russian civil society - would certainly include a visit to Maalula, a Christian village where people still speak Aramaic, occupied twice by the jihadi militias of al Nusra Front between 2013 and 2014.<br />The Russian Islamic representative also reported that the creation of an interfaith Foundation under the aegis of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, to be used as a tool to convey humanitarian aid in Syria, is being studied.<br />The Patriarchate of Moscow continues to strengthen its ties with the Orthodox Churches of the Middle East, also giving its material resources. Already in August 2013 the donation of one million and 300 thousand dollars arrived from the Russian Orthodox Church to the Patriarchate of Antioch in order to help the people overwhelmed by the conflict.<br />Patriarch Kirill, also accompanied by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, had already been received by President Assad in Damascus on November 13, 2011 , when the revolt of the opposition groups had begun a few months before. During that meeting, Assad had praised Syria as "an example of peaceful coexistence of different religious communities". <br />Sat, 14 Jan 2017 12:25:21 +0100AFRICA/UGANDA - “Non Violence: A style of Politics for Peace”: Archbishop of Gulu’s appeal to promote peace - During the 12th Gulu Episcopal Provincial Annual Prayer Peace week, Mgr. John Baptist Odama, Archbishop of Gulu made a passionate plea to the hearts of those who promote violence throughout the world, to stop the vise; but rather support one another in a peaceful manner. <br />"May each heart not promote violence! May each mouth not promote violence! May each physical effort not promote violence!” prays Odama. The meeting, held in Gulu from January 9 to 13, brought together among others over 5000 'Pilgrims for Peace' from Northern Uganda, South Sudan, the Archdiocese of Gulu, from the diocese of Nebbi, Arua and Lira . The theme: “Non Violence: A style of Politics for Peace”, "was chosen from Pope Francis’ prayer for peace in the world and I would like to ask every human being to practice non- violence as a way of promoting peace", said the statement sent to Fides.<br />Mgr. Odama appealed to the pilgrims to pray for the countries in the world where violent conflict still occur and enumerated them as South Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Mali, Libya, Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo , Central African Republic , Nigeria, Gambia and Uganda.<br />Archbishop Odama, who is also the Chairman of Episcopal Conference of Uganda and chairman of Acholi Religious Leaders’ Peace Initiative played a key role in ending the over two decade of the Lord’s Resistance Army war in northern Uganda. <br /><br />Sat, 14 Jan 2017 12:15:34 +0100AMERICA/UNITED STATES - Catholic Bishops "disappointed" of the sudden change of the Cubans protection policy - The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has expressed "disappointment" for the abolition of the policy measure that protected the Cubans who arrived in the country, promising to work with the next government of Donald Trump in order to provide "humane treatment" for asylum seekers.<br />In a statement sent to Fides, the Bishop of the Diocese of Austin , Mgr. Joe Vasquez, chairman of the Committee on Migration of the Episcopal Conference, pointed out that this "sudden change" decided by outgoing President Barack Obama, will create difficulties for vulnerable groups seeking protection: groups such as Cuban asylum seekers, who almost always consist of children and victims of human trafficking. <br />Sat, 14 Jan 2017 12:01:33 +0100ASIA/PAKISTAN - The Prime Minister defends religious minorities - "It is not far off when Pakistan will be recognized as a friendly country of minorities; the government is taking measures to improve the lives of religious minority groups": said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his participation at the inauguration of the Hindu Kata Raj temple in Chakwal in Punjab, after its restoration. The reopening of the 900 year old structure was the symbolic opportunity to launch an appeal for the respect of religious minorities in the country.<br />The government of Pakistan, assured Sharif, promotes the belief that everyone should have the right to profess one's faith, adding that "it is the common humanity to keep the country together". Believers of all religions, he added "should have equal rights in Pakistan", and the contribution they offered "to create and defend the country" should be recognized. Sharif referred to the history of Islam stressing that respect for minorities is part of the Islamic faith. The Prime Minister said he had urged government officials to spare no effort to accommodating non-Muslim pilgrims in Pakistan. As stated in the Qur'an, said Sharif, "God is the God of everyone, not just Muslims", and this is why "any distinction on the basis of caste, race or faith" should not exist because "we are all human beings". "I myself am the Prime Minister of all Pakistanis, and not only of Pakistani Muslims", he added.<br />Hindu and Christian representatives in Pakistan, the main religious minorities in the country, expressed their appreciation for the words of the Prime Minister. Christian Nasir Saeed, Director of the NGO "Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement" remarked to Fides that these words "will definitely help promote harmony and peace in the country".<br />Fr. James Channan, Dominican Director of "Peace Center" in Lahore, engaged in interfaith dialogue, on welcoming Sharif’s statements, recalled a symbolic initiative, promoted by the government in the last days: "During the Christmas period a special train-museum dedicated to Christians visited the major cities of Pakistan, which brought to light the contributions of minorities in Pakistan's history. Many political and religious leaders and many ordinary people, of all religions, visited it. It was an important gesture to build harmony and we must thank in particular the efforts of the Christian federal minister, Kamran Michael. The government wanted to give a message of unity to the country and the recognition of religious minorities. Pakistani Christians have contributed a lot in the field of education, health and the armed forces. The train also hosted a special tribute to two personalities: Catholic minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Captain Cecil Chaudhry". <br />Sat, 14 Jan 2017 11:41:51 +0100AMERICA/ECUADOR - On mission in canoe at the Amazon borders - For 6 months a lay Ecuadorean, who has chosen to support one of the works of the traveling group of the Society of Jesuits in the Amazon has been committed to doing voluntary work at the triple border of the Amazon area, the dividing line between Brazil, Colombia and Peru, an area inhabited by ethnic groups: Tikunas, Kukamas, Yaguas, Uitotos. The woman’s experience was made known by Caritas Ecuador, that highlights the commitment carried out in such a fragile area of the American continent.<br />According to information sent to Fides, her actual work is of a pastoral nature, among the indigenous communities. In her work of evangelization she is concerned to proclaiming faith, starting from formation to Christian values. The woman lives in Leticia, the capital of the department of Amazonas, Colombia, and travels between the cities of Tabatinga and Santa Rosa de Javari . She takes care of the environmental situation of the area and the pollution caused by the oil and mining exploitation and waste from plastic waste. <br />Fri, 13 Jan 2017 12:52:42 +0100EUROPE/ITALY - Look at the face of children to really understand the phenomenon of migration today - "The Pope has given this World Day for Migrants and Refugees a key to important reflection that passes through migrant children. We must look at them in order to truly understand the phenomenon of migration today". This was stated in a note sent to Agenzia Fides, by Sr. Neusa de Fátima Mariano, Superior General of the Scalabrinian religious congregation that since its foundation provides assistance to migrants worldwide.<br />The Holy Father’s theme for the 2017 World Day is “Child Migrants, the Vulnerable and the Voiceless”. "Today those children are uprooted from their homes - says Sister Neusa -. At an age when everything is a dream they are forced to flee, to leave their families . Everything leads us to really understand what is the measure of an endless tragedy".<br />"Every year, in every continent, there are thousands of faces of children that we meet – she continues -. They are the face of migration: they have the eyes of those who have seen many, too many tragedies and the smile of those who nevertheless continue to hope. They have no voice and quietly continue their escape to a world that is not theirs". <br />Fri, 13 Jan 2017 12:36:40 +0100AFRICA/CHAD - The Bishops: "The Country is in crisis, but we must resist the temptation of discouragement and violence"'Djamena - Chad is going through a very difficult time because "of disputes on the presidential election management, the non-payment of wages and the austerity measures taken by the government to tackle the economic and financial crisis" write the Bishops of Chad in their Christmas message, only now sent to Agenzia Fides. Politically the Bishops complain about "the lack of dialogue" between government and opposition and between institutions and civil society that constitutes "a serious threat to democracy".<br />Since Chad has been exporting oil "the Country has lost its agricultural and pastoral vocation" stressed the message. "But the mismanagement of oil revenues and the brutal fall in international oil prices have brought to light, as expected, the fragility of an economy based on a resource that arouses against so many ambitions".<br />The lack of interest in the primary sector and the advance of desertification are causing "bloody conflicts between shepherds and farmers, causing human and material losses".<br />The Bishops ask everyone to do their part to get the Country out of the crisis by inviting the population to "resist the temptation of violence and discouragement". "The future of the Country belongs to you. It is up to you to draw a new path, away from beaten paths marked by the errors of the past. This happens if there is tolerance, respect for differences and beliefs and mutual acceptance". <br />Fri, 13 Jan 2017 12:22:13 +0100AFRICA/DR CONGO - One must overcome the ambiguity of the New Year’s Eve Agreement - The agreement on New Year's Eve to get the Democratic Republic of Congo out of the political crisis for the lost presidential elections , has positive aspects but also presents ambiguous aspects that are highlighted in a report sent to Agenzia Fides by the Peace Network for Congo.<br />"The agreement provides for the simultaneous organization of the presidential, national and provincial legislative elections. An operation of three elections in one day, to be organized in less than 12 months, in a vast Country, with little infrastructure and logistical means, seems an operation destined to unfold in complete confusion, facilitating the risk of irregularities and electoral fraud", the report said. According to some observers, by November - December 2017 it would only be possible to organize the presidential and national legislative elections. If one wants to organize three elections simultaneously, on the same day, it will be necessary to wait maybe 2018.<br />In addition, according to the agreement, the post of prime minister is entitled to the Opposition Grouping. According to the negotiations currently in progress, the future Prime Minister would almost certainly be a member of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress . At the same time, the Presidency of the National Council for monitoring the implementation of the agreement and electoral process would be reserved to the President of the Committee of Wise Men of the same Grouping Opposition, Etienne Tshisekedi, as well as President of UDPS.<br />An inevitable conflict of interests seems obvious, since two people, members of the same political Grouping and the same political party would carry out two roles in itself antithetical in the new institutions: that of controller and that of the controlled . "This conflict of interest would become even more outrageous if the Opposition Grouping presented Felix Tshisekedi, Etienne Tshisekedi’s son, as a candidate for Prime Minister". To avoid such conflict of interests, it would be desirable to have a better distribution of responsibilities", the report concluded. <br />Fri, 13 Jan 2017 12:06:55 +0100AMERICA/ECUADOR - For the February elections Bishops call for "a moral regeneration of politics" - A little more than a month before the presidential elections to be held on February 19, 2017 , the Ecuadorian Bishops' Conference issued a pastoral letter, sent to Agenzia Fides, where it asks several commitments to society in general. Among the demands there is the need for a "moral regeneration in politics" for the future of the Country and to fight corruption.<br />During the presentation of the document, which was held yesterday, the Deputy Secretary of the Bishops' Conference, Father Omar Mateo López, indicated the main paragraphs of the text.<br />"It is outrageous that there is corruption at a time when thousands of people are living unemployment and poor families experience severe needs. Citizens want an honest exercise of power. Corruption clearly shows the lack of control and supervision of the various institutions" said father Mateo Lopez. Part of corruption, emphasized His Exc. Mgr. Julio Parrilla, Bishop of Riobamba, also means taking the money out of the country to avoid paying taxes.<br />The Bishops wanted to clarify that this document does not represent a political interference, but it is their duty to guide citizens and enlighten their conscience to exercise the right to vote consciously. "Our goal is just to guide the faithful to be coherent with their faith, which also has a social dimension" noted His Exc. Mgr. Eduardo Castillo Pino, Auxiliary Bishop of Portoviejo.<br />The president of the Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference, His Exc. Mgr. Fausto Gabriel Trávez Trávez, OFM, Archbishop of Quito, appealed to all sectors involved in the electoral process "not to use aggressive tones, as it is a duty to keep a high level of respect". Finally he called on all Ecuadorians, to go consciously to the polls, in freedom of conscience. <br />Fri, 13 Jan 2017 11:43:28 +0100ASIA/CAMBODIA - The Apostolic Vicar of Phnom Penh: "The time of mercy for Cambodia starts now" Penh - "How many times this year, in our Vicariate, I saw God in the faces of children and in your faces! Once again, these days, I have seen God in our midst many times: I saw him in the few faithful of St. Paul's Church, Thmey that welcomed 100 poor people and elderly, offering them friendship and smiles; I saw him in hundreds of poor Buddhists and Muslims who come to share a moment of fraternity with the sisters of Mother Teresa; I saw him in 3,000 children in Takeo who joyfully celebrated Christmas; I saw him in Takeo prison, when Buddhists, Muslims and Christians united to encourage prisoners; I saw him in the theater in Chomkacheang, where young people represented the Nativity": this is the "memorial" delivered by Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler in the message released at the beginning of 2017 to the baptized of the Vicariate of Phnom Penh.<br />In the text of the pastoral letter for the new year, sent to Agenzia Fides, the Apostolic Vicar remarked: "God is here, in our country, and is present in the youngest, the poorest, the severely disabled, the landless, in migrants, in our families, sometimes separated due to infidelity, gambling, violence, drugs; God is in our workplaces marked by bitterness and destructive power. He invites us to become builders of a culture of mercy", to promote "the mercy of the revolution", he remarked.<br />Mgr. Schmitthaeusler recalls that the Catholic community in the Vicariate experienced "three years of charity", which ended in the celebration of the Jubilee of Mercy: "We are called to promote a culture of mercy based on rediscovering the encounter with others, a culture where no one looks at others with indifference or walks away from the suffering of his brothers", and adds that the works of mercy are a kind of "handicraft products", meaning they are made by the hands of men, and "none are made in the same way". "God inspires them all, and they are all the same style and material, but each takes a different form", he points out.<br />The text continues: "This is the time of mercy. Every day of our journey is marked by the presence of God who guides our steps with the power of the Spirit and pours it into our hearts to make them capable of loving. This is the time of mercy for each and for all, it is the time of mercy for those who are weak and vulnerable and alone" as "for the poor and sinners".<br />Looking in particular at the national context, Mgr. Schmitthaeusler recalled that after the Khmer Rouge regime, "education, culture, religion and economy were largely destroyed. Today, 60% of the population is under 22 years of age. These younger generations are born to parents who have experienced the difficulties of survival" and at a time when "there was a break in the transmission of traditional values". <br />The new generations, explains the letter, grew up looking at models of families in the Korean series on TV or those on social media, based on consumerism, selfishness, individualism. This is why it is important today "to offer young people a good model of the family", he notes. <br />Another focal point is "the scourge of poverty which is the root of violence, drugs, alcohol and addiction to gambling". "Through Catholic NGOs and charitable groups in each parish, we try to give dignity to the poorest families to help them build their lives, to find work, to send their children to school, and to be able to take care of them", he says.<br />We must not underestimate the phenomenon of emigration: "About 10% of the Cambodian population is outside of Cambodia and works in Thailand, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore. Many adults leave the children at home with grandparents and parents see their children once a year. How can these 'children without parents' become good parents in the future?"<br />Finally the Vicar notes the challenges of interfaith marriages, "90% of Catholic Cambodians were baptized recently and many Catholics marry a Buddhist. This means that they come from a Buddhist family and go back to a Buddhist family. The preparation for marriage provides an opportunity to teach the vision and the values of a Catholic family and to ask them to educate their children in the Christian faith. It is a major challenge for the Church to accompany these new couples and give them appropriate training".<br />"I wish our Church in Cambodia becames increasingly a Church that follows and guides teenagers and young people at the beginning of their love life; a church that bears witness of God’s mercy and tenderness; a Church that is truly 'mother and father'; a Church that listens and sees the needs of families, that lives compassion and empathy to illuminate their lives and consciousness, especially in a Buddhist context; a Church that calls on all Catholic families to show mercy, dialogue, solidarity and peace". <br />Fri, 13 Jan 2017 11:14:07 +0100ASIA/PALESTINE - President Abbas will inaugurate the Palestinian Embassy to the Holy See – On Saturday, January 14 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas , is scheduled to meet with Pope Francis in the Vatican and inaugurate the new Palestinian embassy to the Holy See, situated in Rome, in via Porta angelica. <br />The inauguration will take place on the eve of the International Conference for Peace in the Middle East, convened in Paris on January 15, where there will be the presence of 70 countries, but not Israel and Palestine.<br />The bilateral diplomatic agreement between the Holy See and the State of Palestine came into force in January 2016. In the message written on the occasion of Christmas, the Palestinian President had announced his visit to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis. "In our meeting - stressed Mahmud Abbas – we will examine several topics of mutual interest, including the advancement of justice and peace in the region, as well as the encouragement of interreligious dialogue with a view to greater understanding and respect. We will emphasize our firm position that no holy Book should be used as a reason to justify all kinds of crimes and violations. We will also talk of the historic agreement between the State of Palestine and the Holy See, an example for the rest of the region on how to strengthen the Christian presence and its institutions". <br />Fri, 13 Jan 2017 11:13:27 +0100