Fides News Englishhttp://fides.org/Fides Agency Newsen-usAFRICA/MOROCCO - One hundred thousand children cannot attend school because of the floodshttp://fides.org/en/news/37008-AFRICA_MOROCCO_One_hundred_thousand_children_cannot_attend_school_because_of_the_floodshttp://fides.org/en/news/37008-AFRICA_MOROCCO_One_hundred_thousand_children_cannot_attend_school_because_of_the_floodsRabat - One hundred thousand Moroccan children have not been attending school since November due to severe floods and heavy rains that have hit southern Morocco, severely damaging bridges, roads and infrastructure. This situation has forced the closure of 622 schools in the provinces of the south of the chain of the Atlas, desert areas that are not used to so much water. In total 1,853 schools have been severely damaged, including 1,172 primary schools. Between November 20 and December 1, 47 deaths were registered and an unknown number of people have disappeared because of the collapses that occurred. Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/LEBANON - Appeal of the Chaldean Bishop of Beirut for displaced Iraqi Christianshttp://fides.org/en/news/37007-ASIA_LEBANON_Appeal_of_the_Chaldean_Bishop_of_Beirut_for_displaced_Iraqi_Christianshttp://fides.org/en/news/37007-ASIA_LEBANON_Appeal_of_the_Chaldean_Bishop_of_Beirut_for_displaced_Iraqi_ChristiansBeirut – There are more than eight hundred Christian families who have fled Mosul and Nineveh Plain and have found refuge in Iraq. Their condition is that of the "newcomers" in a Country already destabilized by the arrival of more than a million Syrian refugees. Most of them are in Beirut and have found support only from the local Chaldean Eparchy. Mgr. Michel Kassarji, Bishop of Beirut of the Chaldeans, has just issued a statement to solicit aid in favor of the Christian victims of religious extremism that has forced them to flee their homes and villages.<br />The Iraqi Christian refugees who have arrived in Lebanon - reports the Chaldean Bishop – do not have the status of asylum seekers, and live in the hope of obtaining permission to emigrate to Western Countries. They cannot find work, they are exploited by those who take advantage of their condition and they are without any help from civil institutions and international Organizations. "The impression – says Maronite priest Paul Karam, Director of Caritas Lebanon to Agenzia Fides - is that the whole system of international aid for Syrian and Iraqis refugees is on the brink of collapse. There are no more resources, and humanitarian organizations are no longer able to cope with such an emergency". Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AFRICA/EGYPT - Islamist threats against the Christmas celebration; Muslim leaders: we defend the churches together with Christianshttp://fides.org/en/news/37006-AFRICA_EGYPT_Islamist_threats_against_the_Christmas_celebration_Muslim_leaders_we_defend_the_churches_together_with_Christianshttp://fides.org/en/news/37006-AFRICA_EGYPT_Islamist_threats_against_the_Christmas_celebration_Muslim_leaders_we_defend_the_churches_together_with_ChristiansCairo - In Egypt even this year, as in the past, as the Christmas celebration approaches the Internet becomes a vehicle for attacks and threats against local Christian communities. Islamist sites warn Muslims to refrain from any form of participation, even indirectly, with regards to the Christian celebrations, attacking Muslims who give their best wishes to their Christian neighbors at Christmas. In the Islamist blogosphere there are also death threats and incitement to organize attacks against churches during the busy Christmas liturgical celebrations, with particular reference to the Christian communities in the governorates of Minya, Alexandria and Fayyum, where Islamist groups linked to Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood are stronger.<br />The seriousness of the threats this time has pushed authoritative and recognized Muslim academics to denounce and condemn the threats and diktat against Christians. Among others, even Amna Nosseir, professor of religion and philosophy and already dean of the Faculty of Islamic Studies at the al-Azhar University, has strongly advocated that anti-Christian slogans and anti-Christian intimidations relaunched in view of Christmas represent a betrayal of authentic Islam, and called on "Christians and Muslims" to protect the churches together from any threat, so that Egyptian Christians can celebrate their liturgical solemnities in peace.<br />Even Fawzi al-Zafzaf, former president of the Permanent Committee of al-Azhar for dialogue with the Holy See, repeated that incitement to religious hatred comes from "enemies of the Fatherland" who deny the true Islam, and asks for appropriate protection measures and serious investigations to identify the perpetrators of such intimidation.<br />"Threats and insults have been going on for years", explains Anba Antonios Aziz Mina, Coptic Catholic Bishop of Guizeh to Agenzia Fides, "but we try to live the days that separate us from Christmas with serenity. We do not feel intimidated. Also because the evil and fanatic attacks give way to many sincere Muslims to react. This, paradoxically, is a positive result of the threats. The fanatic currents have taken advantage of the liability and the silence of others for many years". Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/INDIA - Education, food and protection for orphaned girlshttp://fides.org/en/news/37005-ASIA_INDIA_Education_food_and_protection_for_orphaned_girlshttp://fides.org/en/news/37005-ASIA_INDIA_Education_food_and_protection_for_orphaned_girlsVisakhapatnam - The Sisters of St. Louis began their work in the Indian diocese of Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, in 1986. After arriving in the isolated village of Yellamanchilli they realized after some time that it was important to open an orphanage that would give the girls the opportunity of receiving education, food and protection. Most of them are orphans, the few who have a family are absolutely not able to be to give them food or an education. The nuns also have a primary and secondary school and ensure the needs of girls up to 15 years of age.<br />The head of the Centre, Sister Pushpa Rani, Indian, of the order of St. Louis, graduated in Medicine and specialized in gynecology in Turin, describes the situation to Father Adolfo Porro and the difficulties experienced.<br />"Our job is to welcome them, feed them, protect them from the many dangers that Indian orphan girls suffer, and not only that, we give them an education - writes the religious in the letter sent to Agenzia Fides -. There are many students who have finished their studies and now they work or are continuing their studies in high schools in the region. Unfortunately resources are beginning to lack in order to feed them. Two nuns work in a school in the area, as well as in ours, and I work in hospital, but with our modest salary we no longer are able to sustain the community and guests". Sister Pushpa concludes hoping that the generosity of people can help them and, most importantly, can help those she calls "our girls". Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AFRICA/LIBYA – Foreign staff on the run from a looted hospital; health care system collapsinghttp://fides.org/en/news/37004-AFRICA_LIBYA_Foreign_staff_on_the_run_from_a_looted_hospital_health_care_system_collapsinghttp://fides.org/en/news/37004-AFRICA_LIBYA_Foreign_staff_on_the_run_from_a_looted_hospital_health_care_system_collapsingBenghazi - The clashes in Benghazi, capital of Cyrenaica, between Islamist militiamen and soldiers loyal to General Khalifa Haftar are causing serious damage to the local health system. The Libyan press reports that the hospital in Hawari has been abandoned and its expensive medical equipment have been stolen. The Indian government has ordered the repatriation, via Tunisia, of 38 nurses of Indian nationality who worked in the hospitals in Benghazi. In the capital of Cyrenaica the only hospitals still open are the Benghazi Medical Centre and the Jalaa Hospital.<br />Among nurses, both in Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, there is a strong presence of Catholics and until the beginning of 2013 even Catholic nuns. His Exc. Mgr. Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli told Agenzia Fides that most of the religious congregations were forced to leave Cyrenaica because of strong pressures and threats received .<br />Meanwhile the clash between the two governments, one in Tripoli and the other in Tobruk, involves the different militiamen present in all areas of Libya. Yesterday, December 18, military sources of the government in Tobruk announced that 30 pro-Islamic militiamen of Fajr Libya were killed and 270 wounded in the clashes around the oil-rich area between Sirte and Benghazi. Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AMERICA/ARGENTINA – The Bishops: "Working together to build a more fraternal Country"http://fides.org/en/news/37003-AMERICA_ARGENTINA_The_Bishops_Working_together_to_build_a_more_fraternal_Countryhttp://fides.org/en/news/37003-AMERICA_ARGENTINA_The_Bishops_Working_together_to_build_a_more_fraternal_CountryBuenos Aires - In a message published on the occasion of Christmas, titled "Peace on earth to men", the Argentine Bishops' Conference urges the entire national community to "build a more fraternal Country" and to renew the commitment to peace, remembering that this gift is "always a challenge and a responsibility for all men and women of good will".<br />The Bishops therefore highlight: "what threatens peace is rooted in the human heart wounded by sin" and its consequences are seen "in the economic and social imbalances, in the contempt of life, which is the fundamental right of the individual; in the crime of drug and human trafficking".<br />"Christmas is the 'yes' of God to man to accompany him to create a more humane, more just and fraternal world" they underline. The message is announced at the end of n.169 session of the Permanent Commission of Bishops .<br />In the Latin American nation, social indifference is facilitating the spread of drugs, and the Church has long been committed to combatting this scourge and that of violence . Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AMERICA/PANAMA - Even Cuba will attend the Summit of the Americas: a dream come truehttp://fides.org/en/news/37002-AMERICA_PANAMA_Even_Cuba_will_attend_the_Summit_of_the_Americas_a_dream_come_truehttp://fides.org/en/news/37002-AMERICA_PANAMA_Even_Cuba_will_attend_the_Summit_of_the_Americas_a_dream_come_truePanama - Several statements have been sent to Agenzia Fides to comment the historic decision of the Governments of the United States and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations . Among these, a note from Panama reports that the President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, welcomes the "new era" of relations between the United States and Cuba and stressed that this will allow to fulfill "the dream" of having a "united region" on the occasion of the seventh meeting "Cumbre de las Americas", which will be hosted by his country in April 2015.<br />The Panamanian Foreign Ministry reiterated, on December 18, that "the invitation was sent to the Heads of State and Government of the region, so that, during the meeting, constructive dialogue can be created with the participation of all countries". According to the note sent to Fides, Cuba has already confirmed its participation in the summit, but did not specify who it will be represented by. President Obama has announced he will be present on 10 and 11 April. Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/INDIA - Christian leaders: "Christmas with a heavy heart because of the violence against Churches"http://fides.org/en/news/37001-ASIA_INDIA_Christian_leaders_Christmas_with_a_heavy_heart_because_of_the_violence_against_Churcheshttp://fides.org/en/news/37001-ASIA_INDIA_Christian_leaders_Christmas_with_a_heavy_heart_because_of_the_violence_against_ChurchesNew Delhi - "In view of Christmas we have a heavy heart because of the violence against our Churches in various parts of the country, especially in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and now in the territory of the capital city Delhi. The demolition of San Sebastiano church in Delhi, as well as other incidents of targeted violence, show contempt not only towards the religious feelings of our community, but also for the protection guaranteed in the Constitution of India". This is what Bishops and Christian leaders of all denominations said in a statement issued in Delhi and sent to Agenzia Fides. The statement was signed, among others, by His Exc. Mgr. Anil Couto, Archbishop of Delhi, by other Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant Bishops, and civil society leaders.<br />"These acts of violence – they explain - are not isolated incidents. They are part of a series of interconnected actions by various non-state actors. Many politicians have called for national laws against conversion, measures that affect the Christian and Muslim communities, although not mentioned".<br />In addition, the text continues, "the well organized campaign, also by senior members of Parliament belonging to the ruling party, is a threat to peace and national harmony and calls into question the identity and patriotism of different religious minorities in India", discrediting and exposing them to further violence.<br />The statement explains: "While the government won the election by presenting a platform of 'development and good governance', radical groups see their program of hatred and religious nationalism approved. It is a blatant attempt to sabotage the Indian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of every Indian citizen to profess, practice and propagate their religion".<br />The leaders note that the measures, paradoxically called "Laws for religious freedom", in force in several Indian states, have been in fact limited and "have been used against minorities, giving police the power to disrupt, arrest and punish priests, religious and church operators".<br />The Bishops have sent a memorandum to the government that lists various "representative episodes of hostility and discrimination suffered by Christians throughout India". They report cases of "social boycott" ; physical aggression ; desecration of religious buildings.<br />The text sent to Fides concludes: "India is a land where different religious faiths have always lived together. The founders are committed to ensure that the rights of all are protected regardless of religion, gender or caste. We hope and pray that this discrimination and targeted violence are stopped thanks to a strong political will of civil and political institutions". Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100EUROPE/GERMANY - The Star Singers want to "ensure healthy nutrition for children in the Philippines and around the world"http://fides.org/en/news/37000-EUROPE_GERMANY_The_Star_Singers_want_to_ensure_healthy_nutrition_for_children_in_the_Philippines_and_around_the_worldhttp://fides.org/en/news/37000-EUROPE_GERMANY_The_Star_Singers_want_to_ensure_healthy_nutrition_for_children_in_the_Philippines_and_around_the_worldAachen - For the 57th time, in the days leading up to January 6th 2015, the "Star Singers" of the Holy Childhood Association in Germany, will be on the country’s street-corners singing Christmas carols. "Bringing the blessing, to be a blessing. Healthy nutrition for children in the Philippines and around the world!" Is the motto for this year’s campaign, according to information sent to Agenzia Fides.<br />About 842 million people worldwide suffer from hunger or do not have enough food to lead a healthy life; 2.6 million boys and girls under five years of age die every year from the consequences of malnutrition. More than 162 million children are too small for their age and 50 million weigh too little for their height: both signs of malnutrition.<br />But the commitment of Holy Childhood Association in Germany is not only destined for malnourished children. Street children, orphans, children who cannot attend school or do not have access to clean water - in more than 100 countries around the world - receive help from the funds raised through the Campaign of the Star Singers.<br />Dressed in their costumes of Magi, with their Star and their songs during Christmas time and in the early days of the new year the "Star Singers" go around visiting German homes. About half a million children from Catholic parishes in Germany will carry the "C+M+B" blessing to the families, collecting donations for other children their age who suffer throughout the world. The "Star Singers" collection in Germany has become the largest solidarity initiative in the world, allowing children to help other people their age who are in need. Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/PAKISTAN - False accusations of blasphemy towards 11 Christianshttp://fides.org/en/news/36999-ASIA_PAKISTAN_False_accusations_of_blasphemy_towards_11_Christianshttp://fides.org/en/news/36999-ASIA_PAKISTAN_False_accusations_of_blasphemy_towards_11_ChristiansIslamabad - Eleven Christians in Islamabad, including a Protestant Pastor, have been accused of blasphemy by a woman, Naseem Bibi, for revenge after a private dispute. The woman in fact had been denounced and reacted by accusing Christians of alleged blasphemy. As reported to Fides by Christian lawyer Sardar Mushtaq Gill, the woman, in the past Christian, converted to Islam about 20 years ago and married a Muslim man and had three children.<br />The woman told the police that Pastor Karamat Masih and 50 other Christians had raided her home and threatened her. Four of the accused were also arrested and are in police custody.<br />Lawyer Gill told Fides: "There are always more and more frequent cases where the blasphemy law is used to target religious minorities or to settle cases of disputes and private rivalries, or simply as an instrument of blackmail. The State must arrest and condemn those who formula false accusations". Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AMERICA/UNITED STATES - Bishops: not only diplomatic relations with Cuba, but also cooperation in various fieldshttp://fides.org/en/news/36998-AMERICA_UNITED_STATES_Bishops_not_only_diplomatic_relations_with_Cuba_but_also_cooperation_in_various_fieldshttp://fides.org/en/news/36998-AMERICA_UNITED_STATES_Bishops_not_only_diplomatic_relations_with_Cuba_but_also_cooperation_in_various_fieldsNew Mexico - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops , in a statement signed by His Exc. Mgr. Oscar Cantù, Bishop of Las Cruces and President of the Episcopal Commission "Justice and Peace", expressed his joy at the announcement of diplomatic relations with Cuba, for the release of the American Alan Gross and the other prisoners accused of spying.<br />"We are also encouraged - is what is written in the note sent to Agency Fides – by the announcement made by the administration regarding important actions that promote dialogue, reconciliation, trade, cooperation and contact between our respective nations and citizens".<br />"We believe it is time for the United States to establish full diplomatic relations with Cuba", said Mgr. Cantù. Among the desirable actions he indicated the removal of all restrictions on travel to Cuba, the abandonment of the term "terrorist" used to refer to all the realities of Cuba, the promotion of trade and the anulment of restrictions on business and finance.<br />The Bishops also seek to facilitate cooperation in the fields of environmental protection, control of drug and human trafficking, and in the scientific field. "Participation is the way to support change in Cuba and support the Cuban people in their quest for democracy, human rights and religious freedom", concluded Mgr. Cantù. Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AFRICA/KENYA - Clashes among MPs on anti-terrorism law could put fundamental freedoms at riskhttp://fides.org/en/news/36997-AFRICA_KENYA_Clashes_among_MPs_on_anti_terrorism_law_could_put_fundamental_freedoms_at_riskhttp://fides.org/en/news/36997-AFRICA_KENYA_Clashes_among_MPs_on_anti_terrorism_law_could_put_fundamental_freedoms_at_riskNairobi - Clashes among MPs of the majority and the opposition in Parliament in Nairobi occurred during the vote on the controversial anti-terrorism law that would weaken, according to several members human rights organizations, the respect for fundamental freedoms . The seat of Parliament is manned by the police in anticipation of protests by opposition parties.<br />The amendment of the anti-terrorism law, says the government, was necessary in order to address the threat of Somali militants of Al Shabaab who have recently committed massacres of innocent civilians in northern Kenya .<br />To reinforce the fears of the opposition and civil society on the fact that the new anti-terrorist measures conceal the government's desire to impose a restriction of civil freedoms, is the authorities' decision to dissolve 510 NGOs, some of them accused of financing Al Shabaab.<br />In a joint statement, the Ambassadors in Nairobi of the United States, Great Britain, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, France, Sweden, Canada, say that it is important that the new legislation "while strengthening security, respects the rights of man and international commitments" undertaken by Kenya. Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/HOLY LAND - Christmas Message of His Beatitude Patriarch Twal: tragedies and hopes of a difficult yearhttp://fides.org/en/news/36996-ASIA_HOLY_LAND_Christmas_Message_of_His_Beatitude_Patriarch_Twal_tragedies_and_hopes_of_a_difficult_yearhttp://fides.org/en/news/36996-ASIA_HOLY_LAND_Christmas_Message_of_His_Beatitude_Patriarch_Twal_tragedies_and_hopes_of_a_difficult_yearJerusalem - The Holy City of Jerusalem "is under blood and tears" and religious antagonism jeopardizes its mission of "city of peace and inter-religious coexistence". The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, takes the opportunity of the traditional Christmas message to reconsider with eyes of faith the events that recently marked the lives of the peoples in Holy Land. An account in which pain and hope, despair and consolation intertwine, in a time marked by the visit of Pope Francis, the new Gaza war and the attacks against places of worship.<br />In his message, released by the media of the Patriarchate and sent to Agenzia Fides, the Patriarch describes "the pilgrimage of the Holy Father to the Holy Land successful on the pastoral and ecumenical level. His visit was followed by the beautiful prayer meeting in the Vatican gardens with President Abbas, former President Peres and Patriarch Bartolomew. Even though we did not obtain any concrete result from that meeting, however, every prayer is valid and the fruits may come much later, like the olive tree, planted on that occasion and which may produce fruits many years ahead". Then, the Head of the Church of the Latin rite of the Holy Land focuses on the violence and tragedies that have marked the last few months, from the devastating Gaza war to the facts of violence or revenge against innocent people, like the killing of people who pray in a synagogue, and attacks against mosques. "In one week", recalls the Patriarch in his message, "the Christian leaders of the Holy Land visited Har Nof synagogue to condemn the inhuman act that took place there, and at the same time visited Al Aksa Mosque to ask for the old Statu Quo to be respected".<br />The patriarchal message calls into question the "responsibility of political leaders - Israelis and Palestinians - to find and facilitate a solution. Great too is the responsibility of the international community to help these two parties to help themselves". Regarding the jihadist violence that disrupts the entire Middle East, Patriarch Twal highlights the "clear condemnation" of radical religious ideologies, expressed by "Arab and Muslim leaders".<br />In his Christmas message, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem also focuses on the issue of family reunification - that prevents many couples to live together, when the spouse of a Palestinian does not have Israeli citizenship. "We hope," writes the Patriarch, "that the Israeli High court will keep the 300 hectares of Cremisan Valley, as well as the two Salesian monasteries on the Palestinian side. Today we are anxious because the last developments of the recent hearing are giving a different signal. We are afraid that the Court might decide that the land belonging to 58 Palestinian Christian families, might be separated from Beit Jala. Such a decision will harm our community and we hope that the judges be inspired by ethical principles and not to submit to political pressure". Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AMERICA/COLOMBIA - For Mgr. Falla Robles: "The unilateral cease-fire should take place without any conditions"http://fides.org/en/news/36995-AMERICA_COLOMBIA_For_Mgr_Falla_Robles_The_unilateral_cease_fire_should_take_place_without_any_conditionshttp://fides.org/en/news/36995-AMERICA_COLOMBIA_For_Mgr_Falla_Robles_The_unilateral_cease_fire_should_take_place_without_any_conditionsBogota - "The unilateral cease-fire should take place without conditions", said the Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, His Exc. Mgr José Daniel Falla Robles, Auxiliary of Cali, upon hearing the announcement by the group of FARC guerrillas regarding a unilateral ceasefire, starting from 20 December.<br />"It must be a unilateral cease-fire in every sense of the word, that is, without posing any conditions to the government, since the State must continue to work to defend the sovereignty of the nation" highlighted the Bishop, according to information sent to Agenzia Fides. "If FARC are committed to this, it is necessary that this is accompanied with the end of seizures, illicit crop growing and other things like that, so the government is not forced to take action against them", said the Archbishop.<br />Mgr. Falla Robles stated that this action indicates the seriousness with which the FARC armed group is taking the peace process with the government. Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AFRICA/SIERRA LEONE - Ebola: appeal of the Hospital in Serabu; for FAO a million people at risk of hungerhttp://fides.org/en/news/36994-AFRICA_SIERRA_LEONE_Ebola_appeal_of_the_Hospital_in_Serabu_for_FAO_a_million_people_at_risk_of_hungerhttp://fides.org/en/news/36994-AFRICA_SIERRA_LEONE_Ebola_appeal_of_the_Hospital_in_Serabu_for_FAO_a_million_people_at_risk_of_hungerFreetown - "The situation due to the epidemic of Ebola is really horrible. Our health workers are subjected to very serious risks, and some of them have lost their lives", said Fr. Paul Sandi, Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference of Sierra Leone and Gambia, in an appeal launched to support the Catholic hospital in Serabu, 225 km from Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. The health facility has 80 beds and cares for 3,000 patients per year from six surrounding villages.<br />According to local Bishops the hospital urgently needs medicine, gloves, face masks and other medical equipment to cope not only with Ebola, but also cholera, malaria and typhoid fever, infections that are spreading because of social and economic instability caused by the epidemic of Ebola.<br />The Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia is having serious repercussions on the economic and social fabric of these Countries. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization one million people in the three Countries affected by the epidemic are at risk of food. "The closure of the borders, quarantine measures, the prohibition of hunting and other restrictions taken to stop the spread of the virus, hinders people's access to food", said a statement from FAO and WFP that launch an appeal for urgent action in favor of the affected Countries. Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/IRAQ - The Islamic State turns the monastery of St. George into a prison, the cross on the dome removedhttp://fides.org/en/news/36993-ASIA_IRAQ_The_Islamic_State_turns_the_monastery_of_St_George_into_a_prison_the_cross_on_the_dome_removedhttp://fides.org/en/news/36993-ASIA_IRAQ_The_Islamic_State_turns_the_monastery_of_St_George_into_a_prison_the_cross_on_the_dome_removedMosul - In the city of Mosul, captured by jihadist militants of the Islamic State in June, Christian churches continue to be turned into prisons.<br />Last weekend, the jihadists of the IS transferred at least 150 prisoners, blindfolded and handcuffed, to the ancient monastery of St. George, which belonged to the Order of St. Anthony Sant'Ormisda of the Chaldeans. This is what local sources report. The prisoners, previously held in the prison in Badush - were evacuated in anticipation of a possible attack by the anti-Caliphate coalition.<br />The latest photos of the monastery circulating on the internet document that the cross of the dome of St. George has been removed.<br />"The news and photos of churches occupied by jihadists - says Rebwar Audish Basa, Procurator of the Order of St. Anthony sant'Ormisda of the Chaldeans to Agency Fides – worsen the suffering of Christians who have fled from Mosul and Nineveh Plain and are preparing to spend the first Christmas away from those places they love. Churches and monasteries now suffer profanation by those who do not have to show any mercy, for nothing and nobody". Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100OCEANIA/PAPUA NEW GUINEA - The Bishop of Alotau’s appeal for the populationhttp://fides.org/en/news/36992-OCEANIA_PAPUA_NEW_GUINEA_The_Bishop_of_Alotau_s_appeal_for_the_populationhttp://fides.org/en/news/36992-OCEANIA_PAPUA_NEW_GUINEA_The_Bishop_of_Alotau_s_appeal_for_the_populationAlotau - "I launch an emergency appeal for the people of the Southeast of my diocese, Alotau. Thousands of people are suffering from a severe shortage of food and are starving because of Ita cyclone, which hit the southern coast of the Southeast last April, and destroyed most of their crops": is the message by Mgr. Rolando C. Santos, C.M, Bishop of Alotau, deeply concerned about a portion of the People of God entrusted to him. The Bishop told Fides: "Father Tony Young, MSC, pastor in Nimoa, has worked hard in demanding aid and distributing food to about 800 families. We have asked the help of the provincial government of Milne Bay. We are also appealing to local people, asking them to bring aid to the Church in these days of the Christmas novena", remarked Mgr. Santos. "Caritas Papua New Guinea provided humanitarian aid last May. However it is especially in this period that the people of Nimoa is experiencing a situation of serious need. We renew the appeal to the Caritas network but also to all other dioceses and institutions. We welcome any form of support". Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/PAKISTAN - Bishops: a minute of silence in Catholic schools, at Christmas prayer for peacehttp://fides.org/en/news/36991-ASIA_PAKISTAN_Bishops_a_minute_of_silence_in_Catholic_schools_at_Christmas_prayer_for_peacehttp://fides.org/en/news/36991-ASIA_PAKISTAN_Bishops_a_minute_of_silence_in_Catholic_schools_at_Christmas_prayer_for_peaceKarachi – Today the Catholic schools across Pakistan will observe a minute of silence and gathering during the morning prayer, remembering the victims of the Taliban attack in the military school in Peshawar: is the initiative launched by the Pakistani Bishops who, in a statement sent to Fides, condemn "the brutal violence" and express "full solidarity with the families of the victims". The official note, signed by the Archbishop of Karachi, Mgr. Joseph Coutts, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference, also calls on all the Christian communities of Pakistan to "celebrate Christmas in a sober manner, in order to respect the pain of the families and the entire nation".<br />Christmas, he says, will be an opportunity to "pray for the victims of Peshawar", but also for the Christian couple Shahzad and Shama Masih, burned alive by a mob of Muslims in Punjab in early November. "On the day of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, may all Christians pray for peace in Pakistan. It is the duty of every Christian to promote peace, reconciliation, harmony, unity".<br />The Bishops call on the government, political parties and religious leaders to "remain united before the tragic attack in Peshawar" and invite the institutions to take adequate measures to ensure protection in schools across the country. Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AMERICA/CUBA - "New horizons of hope brighten the lives of the Cuban people", says the Bishops' Conferencehttp://fides.org/en/news/36990-AMERICA_CUBA_New_horizons_of_hope_brighten_the_lives_of_the_Cuban_people_says_the_Bishops_Conferencehttp://fides.org/en/news/36990-AMERICA_CUBA_New_horizons_of_hope_brighten_the_lives_of_the_Cuban_people_says_the_Bishops_ConferenceHavana - "We thank the Lord because new horizons of hope brighten the lives of the Cuban people, because good relations without tensions between peoples, who are so close, are the foundation of a promising future". This is what the Bishops' Conference of Cuba says in a statement sent to Agenzia Fides and is signed by the General Secretariat of the COCC, written after the announcement of the resumption of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba.<br />"We express special gratitude to Pope Francis. We hope that the will expressed by the Presidents contributes to the material and spiritual welfare of our people. We greatly appreciate the return of the three Cubans released, as well as the humanitarian gesture towards the American prisoner who was able to meet with his family again".<br />The Vatican Secretariat of State published the following statement: "The Holy Father wishes to express his warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations, with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history. In recent months, Pope Francis wrote letters to the President of the Republic of Cuba, His Excellency Mr Raúl Castro, and the President of the United States, The Honorable Barack H. Obama, and invited them to resolve humanitarian questions of common interest, including the situation of certain prisoners, in order to initiate a new phase in relations between the two Parties. <br />The Holy See received Delegations of the two countries in the Vatican last October and provided its good offices to facilitate a constructive dialogue on delicate matters, resulting in solutions acceptable to both Parties. The Holy See will continue to assure its support for initiatives which both nations will undertake to strengthen their bilateral relations and promote the wellbeing of their respective citizens". Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AFRICA/BURKINA FASO - The Camilliani committed to face the threat of Ebola virushttp://fides.org/en/news/36989-AFRICA_BURKINA_FASO_The_Camilliani_committed_to_face_the_threat_of_Ebola_virushttp://fides.org/en/news/36989-AFRICA_BURKINA_FASO_The_Camilliani_committed_to_face_the_threat_of_Ebola_virusOuagadougou - So far there have been no recorded cases of Ebola in Benin, Burkina Faso and Togo, but the probability is very high because of the proximity to the countries that have confirmed the presence of the virus. To be able to face a possible spread of the Ebola virus, a five-day seminar on emergency management and risk reduction has just ended in Ouagadougou. It was attended by 27 members of the Camillian Family between religious Camillians, the Daughters of St. Camillus, Lay Camillian Family, Union Catholique des Agents de Santé de l'Action Sociale de Ouagaa . The meeting was presided over by Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo, Archbishop of the capital. <br />This workshop had the aim to teach participants the different tools for the organization of affected communities and to help develop their own action plan in their respective places in a specific situation of emergency. The seminar concluded with a visit to one of the refugee camps in the city of Sagniogniogo where participants and selected refugees put into practice the techniques learned. Wed, 17 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100