Fides News - English Agency NewsenContent on this site is licensed under aEUROPE/POLAND - Appointment of the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, rev. Maciej Bedzinski City - On 15 January 2021, Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples appointed rev. Maciej Bedzinski, from the diocese of Radom as National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Poland for a five-year period .<br />The new National Director is 39 years old and has been a priest for 13. After seven years of ministry as parish vicar, since 2014 he has been National Secretary of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith and of St. Peter the Apostle. In the same year he obtained his doctorate and subsequently completed his post-graduate studies with a specialization in spirituality at the Department of Christian Mysticism; he also attended Seminars for press officers at the Wyszynski University in Warsaw. He is part of numerous Catholic associations, he is a member of the Pontifical Missionary Union, for years he has been among the organizers of "missionary holidays" for the young people of the diocese. Author of PMS formation texts, organizer of missionary Congresses, he is also involved in the School for missionary animators and has made several trips to mission territories. <br />Fri, 16 Apr 2021 13:35:45 +0200AFRICA/CAMEROON - The Catholic Church takes on the role of mediator: "People have great confidence in the Church" - "In Cameroon, the Catholic Church takes on the role of mediator in the dialogue: In this sense, we try to mediate between the two parties, even if they have to solve the problem themselves through dialogue. In the English-speaking regions, 40% of the population say they are Christian and our presence is aimed at promoting peace. We work a lot with the local population, but also with the military and separatist fighters so that the dialogue can lead to a solution. It must be said that our work to promote peace has resulted in the high price of violence against our lay people and priests", Msgr. Andrew Nkea Fuanya, Archbishop of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Bamenda, told Agenzia Fides in a review of the painful situation in which the Anglophone regions of the country have lived since 2016 and which is characterized by conflict, extreme violence, poverty and terror.<br />The Archbishop explains why staff, including priests and religious, ended up in the crosshairs of the violence, even though they acted as mediators: "This situation arose because of a dramatic underlying misunderstanding. Everyone here believes in the Church, regardless of their position there was a time when the government portrayed us as "rebel advocates" while how separatists saw us as "pro-government" for condemning violence against civilians, but we know the Church of Christ is persecuted as He himself said in the Gospel 'they will persecute the Masterer and his disciples'. So it is not a new situation for us who choose to continue paying the price until we achieve peace for our beloved regions and our beloved people".<br />In an international context, said the Archbishop, the recent trip by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who visited Cameroon last January, aroused many expectations and high hopes. The State Secretary of the Vatican was the first representative of a foreign authority to visit the people of the north-eastern and north-western regions of Cameroon since the crisis began in 2016.<br />Archbishop Nkea Fuanya notes, <br />"I believe that the Cardinal's visit will be a crucial step towards peace. Cardinal Parolin came to Bamenda to hand me the pallium as the new Metropolitan of the diocese, but above all to express the Pope's closeness to people in need. It was a great consolation for priests and bishops, religious and faithful because the Pope is close to us. Cardinal Parolin met the priests and bishops at a meeting: it was a great incentive to remain faithful to our mission and a great encouragement for the people. The Cardinal showed that the Pope is closely following our situation with deep concern. Despite the threats from the opposition to those who took part in the events, the population was not deterred and this shows without a doubt how happy the people were to meet the Pope's envoy, who had come with a message of peace. His visit was a milestone on the way to peace for our regions. It is important for us to know that the Holy See desires peace and seeks to actively promote it by speaking to both sides. The Church's engagement at the universal and local levels is fundamental. We as bishops keep the Holy See informed of every step, and thus the Holy See can contribute through the activities of the local bishops. The population has great confidence in the Church and that is why many parties see the Holy See as a credible actor who can support dialogue and reconciliation". <br />Fri, 16 Apr 2021 13:30:31 +0200AMERICA/CHILE - The drama of migrants continues, amid hypocrisy, Covid and a new, more rigid lawón - "The most painful thing of all this unfortunate situation is that the migratory process in Chile has revealed a chain of anomalous situations and the hypocrisy that sustains it. I hope that this new law will repair the pain it has caused, especially in recent years, to thousands of migrants": this is what the Archbishop of Concepción, Mgr. Fernando Chomali wrote, in a letter published by the national newspaper "El Mercurio". The text, entitled "Pure hypocrisy", sent to Agenzia Fides, addresses the situation currently experienced by thousands of migrants in the country.<br />The Archbishop of Concepción takes his cue from an event that happened in the Chilean capital: "A large group of migrants camped in an office in the center of Santiago, to try to 'regularize their situation' in light of the new immigration law. They were driven by despair, anguish, lack of information and fear. The scenario was grim: a gathering in the middle of a pandemic, causing more infections and more deaths. This was predictable and avoidable".<br />Then Mgr. Chomali describes the Chilean reality: "They let them in - we remember the planes coming from Haiti that arrived at dawn and the flow of people who arrived for long months from the north - and once they arrive here they are not offered civil or work guarantees. They are threatened with expulsion, and so they, with apparent calm, take care of the sick or the elderly that no one wants to take care of, they transport food in the rain or the infernal heat, in deplorable working conditions, poorly paid, without any kind of future and they live in crowded places, in subhuman and expensive places".<br />"Many of those who have worked on this long-awaited and belated law, probably have migrants who work in their homes or in the homes or businesses of people they know. Migrants must be treated as we would like them to treat us, if we were to undertake the painful experience of leaving our country".<br />Chile is facing the plight of migrants in a very difficult situation. Healthcare facilities are under great pressure due to the increase in Covid cases, which the vaccination campaign fails to stop especially in some cities. In addition, the hospitals are receiving all the patients who do not have Covid but other diseases, and who can now no longer delay medical assistance. Another reason for friction is given by the new migration law, which replaces the current one, one of the oldest immigration laws in Latin America, conceived in 1975 during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet , when the military regime tried to limit the entry of migrants. There already seems to be controversy over the new law, because it proposes greater "rigidity" on border control and acceleration of deportations, also requiring a visa from the country of origin, in order to prevent foreigners from entering as tourists and changing their status into immigrants to be able to look for work.<br />The enactment of the law takes place at a time of migratory boom, especially on the northern border, between Chile and Bolivia, where in the months of February and March thousands of immigrants were registered illegally, causing the collapse of several small border towns. <br />Fri, 16 Apr 2021 13:19:19 +0200AFRICA/MOZAMBIQUE - New attack on Palma; UNICEF warns of an escalation of the humanitarian situation - The city of Palma in northeast Mozambique was attacked again yesterday evening. Just three weeks ago, after a large-scale jihadist attack, dozens were killed and thousands were forced to flee . According to military sources, there were shootings between soldiers and jihadist fighters. The situation is now under control again.<br />One element that suggests that the so-called Al-Shabaab militias made a qualitative leap is the fact that while the fighters carried out the attack in Palma, further attacks were carried out at two locations within a 200 km radius. "Mueda, Pundanhar and Palma were attacked almost simultaneously", said a spokesman for the military. <br />However, the attack on Mueda has not yet been confirmed by other sources.<br />Meanwhile, the children's aid organization UNICEF warns of an escalation in the humanitarian situation of the people of northern Mozambique and the Mozambicans who have sought refuge in neighboring Tanzania. "Today almost 13% of children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition, of which almost 4% are severely affected. And these figures refer only to the areas we have access to", said Manuel Fontaine, Director of Emergency Aid at UNICEF. <br />There are currently around 700,000 displaced people and there is a risk of a million by June, if the situation does not improve.<br />The President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, expressed his solidarity with the Mozambican government and the people of the country. <br />"An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. We stand united. Therefore, we cannot sit back and allow the insurgents to continue their actions without a solid regional response", Mnangagwa said, addressing members of his party. "Last week I attended the South African Development Community summit in Mozambique, where the regional leadership decided to immediately send technical missions to restore peace and stability", said the President of Zimbabwe, with a view to planning possible SADC military operations.<br />The Defense Ministers of Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa, who currently form the Troika, will meet on April 28 to prepare an extraordinary meeting on the situation. <br />Fri, 16 Apr 2021 13:08:49 +0200ASIA/SOUTH KOREA - Catholics who follow masses online due to the pandemic are increasing: Bishops want to a return to the churches after the end of the pandemic - The number of Catholics watching Sunday Mass on social media and television is increasing in South Korea.<br />According to a report published by the Catholic Bishops' Conference in South Korea, the number of viewers from the Catholic Peace Broadcasting Corporation on the special YouTube channel that digitally broadcasts live liturgies and pastoral events have increased in the last year. Given the health protocols in place, many Catholics have generally chosen to attend mass online, the report said.<br />However, this trend raises pastoral concerns. "Many church members of our parish chueches have striven to participate in Eucharists streamed on televisions and YouTube amid difficulties stemming from COVID-19, but the value of in-person worships, the core of Catholic life, should not weaken", says a note from the Bishops' Conference.<br />Of the country's total population of 52.9 million, the Roman Catholic population account for 11.2 percent. The number of Roman Catholics here was 5,923,300 as of the end of 2020, up only 8,631, or 0.15 percent, from the previous year, according to the annual statistics compiled by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea . The Bishops say they understand the widespread concern among the people about health problems and therefore the decision, made by many, not to physically attend church masses. The data also showed that baptism cases plunged 62.6 percent on-year in 2020 to 30,285, while the number of marriages recognized by the Catholic Church fell 43 percent to 7,915. The statement by the Korean bishops said that in 2021, too, the attendance of believers in church services will be low, given the recent development of the pandemic situation in the country. In doing so, the bishops point out that online or television services cannot be a complete substitute for a celebration attended by local believers. The human and interpersonal relationship, which is concrete and real, is fundamental to the Christian faith and cannot be replaced by a virtual or digital relationship. Like Pope Francis, the bishops recall that in the digital environment, "sacraments cannot be administered virtually. For this reason, as soon as the health crisis calms down and the pandemic data improves, the Church of Korea will encourage believers to return to the churches. <br />Fri, 16 Apr 2021 12:33:00 +0200AMERICA/NICARAGUA - "Justice and Peace" Commission expresses concern about high unemployment rates and increasing poverty and crime - The "Justice and Peace" Commission of the Archdiocese of Managua comments on the current situation in the country and is concerned about "high unemployment rates, poor living conditions, low wages and the worsening of poverty" in Nicaragua.<br />The message which is addressed to Catholics and to all people of good will, mentions in the title the biblical verse “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water” and reminds us that after the Passion and Death of the Lord, we joyfully celebrate his Resurrection, which always brings us the hope of a new life. "The Spirit of Life always accompanies us in difficulties. Thanks to this Spirit, the disciples of Christ can face the difficulties of the society in which they live with new hope", affirms the message. <br />Given the current situation marked by problems and difficulties, the Commission calls on us to take inspiration from the words of Pope Francis in his encyclical "Fratelli tutti", which states: "Some economic rules have proved effective for growth, but not for integral human development. Wealth has increased, but together with inequality, with the result that “new forms of poverty are emerging”. .<br />The Commission notes with concern: "In the current context we see an increase in general crime and institutionalized violence, accompanied by criminal laws that do not solve these problems and rather lead to selective convictions".<br />Finally, the Commission recalls the words of Pope Francis: "All Christians and people of good will are called to fight for the protection of life in all its forms, to improve conditions of detention, while respecting human dignity of persons deprived of their liberty, also with a view to life imprisonment, which is basically equivalent to a hidden death". <br />Fri, 16 Apr 2021 12:06:42 +0200ASIA/AFGHANISTAN - Barnabite Fr. Scalese on the withdrawal of US troops: "The risk is to plunge back into civil war and instability" - "The most serious risk deriving from the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan is that the country could fall back into civil war. So far, the negotiations between the government and the Taliban, provided for in the Doha agreements, have never started seriously or have not led to any results. The plan was to form a transitional government, of national unity, to then reach free elections, which would decide who should govern. But if the parties do not speak to each other, how can a joint government be formed? It is much easier to make weapons speak". This is what Fr. Giovanni Scalese, Barnabite priest, Superior of the Missio sui iuris in Afghanistan, speaking about the announcement of the withdrawal of American troops made two days ago by the President of the United States Joe Biden and expected by 11 September 2021.<br />"In any case - continues Scalese in the note sent to Agenzia Fides - even if the Taliban should have the upper hand, because they are better organized and financed, I do not think they can be under any illusions about restoring the Islamic Emirate, as if these twenty years did not exist. They may impose a new constitution , but they will not be able to claim to cancel the freedoms or ignore the rights that Afghans have become accustomed to in recent years. Let us not forget that young people did not know the Emirate and grew up in this new reality. Contrary to popular belief, women are a large, qualified and active presence in Afghan society; it would be unthinkable to want to lock them up again at home or in a burqa".<br />The Barnabite, who resides in Kabul, in the Catholic chapel set up in the premises of the Italian Embassy, points out that the choice could undermine the security and economy of the country: "Will the Afghan government be able to guarantee security? It is legitimate to have some doubts in this regard. Just as it is more than legitimate to raise some doubts about the real ability of the government to make the State machinery work without being able to count on the financial support of Western countries. It is true that everyone now swears that they will not abandon Afghanistan and will continue to support it; but one thing is the interventions of the Cooperation, another is the regular subsidy of the institutions. It do not think that much has been done in recent years to relaunch the Afghan economy, also because the situation did not allow it; so I do not know how a country can continue without a functioning economy".<br />However, according to Fr. Scalese, it is difficult to express an opinion on the choice of the US government: "It is better to simply take note of the decision, which had already been taken by the previous American administration. Those who thought that a change of the guard in the White House would be enough to provoke an afterthought obviously did not realize that by now the American military commitment had become unsustainable and, in fact, without prospects. All that remains is to wait, to see how the situation evolves. As Christians, we can only hope for a positive evolution, which, after so many years of violence, will give this country a bit of serenity", he concludes.<br />It was April 1978 when a coup d'état overthrew the government of Mohammed Daud Khan, initiating a state of war that has lasted for more than 40 years in Afghanistan. That coup was followed by the Soviet occupation from 1979 to 1989 and, from the early 1990s, by a bloody civil war that later favored the rise of the Taliban. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan they established remained until 2001, when Bush attacked the country in response to the 9/11 attacks. <br />Fri, 16 Apr 2021 11:50:00 +0200EUROPE/HOLLAND - Appointment of the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Rev. Vincent Goulmy City - On January 1, 2021 Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, appointed Rev. Vincent Goulmy, of the diocese of Roermond National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the Netherlands for a five-year period .<br />The new National Director was born in Amsterdam, and is 58 years old and has been a priest for 34. After primary school in Heerlen and the preparatory year in Liège, he continued his studies in Belgium. He studied philosophy in Kerkrade, the Netherlands , then he deepened his biblical studies of theology in Louvain , where he is attending a master's in theological research. He is currently Episcopal Vicar for missions, parish priest of several parishes in Brunssum, chaplain of the French military stationed in Brunssum. He is a member of the National Council of Missio Holland and is President of the missionary office of the diocese of Roermond. <br />Thu, 15 Apr 2021 15:18:01 +0200ASIA/MYANMAR - "The nation is entrusted to God's mercy" - "We are in God's hands. Our land is entrusted to his Divine Mercy. In a period of tension, suffering and uncertainty about the future, Christ is our rock. This is the path we walk when we see demonstrators who continue to gather every day in cities, large and small, to protest against the military government and to ask for democracy.<br />Numerous prayer vigils are organized in public and private places": this is how a group of religious in Myanmar who askfor anonymity for security reasons, describes the social situation and the spiritual hardship that the Catholic faithful are experiencing in this dramatic phase of national life.<br />As the nuns report, the path that the Burmese Church is walking today is the one traced by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo during the Mass celebrated on April 11, 2021, on Divine Mercy Sunday, who desires "a faith that is accompanied by works".<br />"The Resurrection - recalled the Cardinal, giving the faithful indications on how to live the Easter season - is the celebration of hope. It is the conviction and certainty that God himself can work wonders even from a tomb. Life will sprout from death, when the time of the Lord comes". "The last year was a year of darkness and death, marked by so much human suffering. Let the heart of Christ Jesus heal everyone: the oppressor and the oppressed", said the Cardinal.<br />"The Church", Cardinal Bo remembers with an explicit reference to the city of Myitkyina in northern Myanmar in the state of Kachin, "was itself involved in the struggle of our people and is called to accompany our people with blood and tears. It has truly traveled an authentic Way of the Cross. For many of you, the thirteenth station of the Way of the Cross, where our Mother Mary weeps over her son's body, has become a reality. We live in a country where hundreds of mothers live with heartbroken tears, whose hearts are hurt at the sight of their children being tortured and killed. For all these mothers and all those directly involved, let us pray for the grace that pours out of the heart of Jesus".<br />Religious, priests, nuns, Christian laity have offered a profound testimony of faith, showing the merciful face of the Catholic Church during the crisis".<br />The Cardinal noted: "With assemblies and prayer vigils you have accompanied your people in moments of trial. The name Myitkyina became known internationally thanks to the inspiring testimony of Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng of the Sisters of St. Francis Xavier. The world has seen the precious testimony, ready to sacrifice, in the face of the tsunami of evil. I commend to all the testimony of Sister Ann Rose's saving love, which has inspired many to appreciate the Catholic Church and religious life. Out of the darkness, simple acts of generosity shine with great power".<br />"This message of redeeming love - he explained - is in synthesis the message of divine mercy. Forgiveness in the face of darkness, love in the face of hatred is the message that the Lord gave to Sister Faustina Kowalska in her many apparitions. God is merciful, let us no longer seek Jesus among the dead, because he is alive and has become the Lord of life. The mystery of the resurrection is revealed through the mercy of God".<br />"Amidst all the great challenges we face today, we seek God's mercy. The times are dark, the way seems challenging. We need the light of God's mercy in Myanmar…. Let us entrust every house and the whole nation to God's mercy", the Archbishop of Yangon concluded. <br />Thu, 15 Apr 2021 15:12:53 +0200AFRICA/IVORY COAST - Prisoners' Day: Catholic Church expresses closeness to prisoners - Every year the Catholic Church of Ivory Coast celebrates the Day of the Prisoners on the Feast of Divine Mercy. This goes back to an initiative of the Episcopal Commission for Justice, Peace and the Environment and the Office for Prison Chaplaincy. <br />The central celebration took place last Sunday, April 11th, as part of a service chaired by Archbishop Joseph Yapo of Gagnoa in the parish of Saints Peter and Paul of Divo in the Archdiocese of Gagnoa.<br />However, on behalf of Mgr. Bruno Essoh Yedo, Bishop of Bondoukou, who heads the Justice and Peace Commission as President, Fr. Charles Olidjo Siwa, General Secretary of the Commission and Chaplain for Pastoral Care in Prisons, expressed the recognition of the Church for the efforts made towards the detainees, but also expressed concern about the overcrowding in places of detention. "The Church encourages the authorities to pay special attention to detention centers in view of the largely worrying overcrowding that is prevailing".<br />"The Abidjan Pre-trial and Correctional Custody Center, which has an actual capacity of 2,000 inmates, now houses more than 7,000 inmates, and this seriously undermines the dignity of the human person, which must be respected at all times and at every opportunity", reads the message for the National Day of Prisoners.<br />"The Church asks the authorities for an act of clemency and mercy towards people who are in pre-trial detention and who can benefit from presidential pardon".<br />The Church notes in its message that "almost all of our pre-trial and correctional detention facilities lack a structure for vocational training and professional development that could help the inmates with social reintegration after their release".<br />At the end of the Eucharist, a delegation led by Fr. Siwa visited the prisoners in Divo to express the closeness of the Catholic Church. The representatives of the Catholic Church distributed food and hygiene items to the prisoners. This solidarity action is carried out in all 34 prisons in Ivory Coast on the occasion of Prisoners' Day.<br />A food collection campaign has also been announced for the pastoral year 2020-2021, with the aim of helping to overcome the food shortage in the country's prisons. <br />Thu, 15 Apr 2021 14:35:13 +0200AFRICA/BENIN - President Talon re-elected; tensions on the eve of the vote: representatives of religious confessions in meditation at the tomb of Mgr. Isidore de Souza - Patrice Talon, outgoing President of Benin, obtained a second term in the elections held on Sunday 11 April. This was announced by the Electoral Commission according to which Talon was re-elected with 86% of the vote. President Talon was first elected in 2016, but his first term was marked by strong criticism from the opposition, which denounced the repression of opponents, many of whom are either in prison, in exile or have been prevented from taking part in the vote.<br />Some international observers said the turnout was "low", but voting was carried out peacefully, despite tensions and protests, before the elections, in which two people died. Tensions and violence that had caused fear for the degeneration of the situation in the months preceding the vote.<br />The major religions of the country met on March 24 for an intercessory prayer for peace. The Catholic clergy together with representatives of other religious confessions and the traditional kings of Benin gathered to visit and pray at the tomb of Archbishop Isidore de Souza, buried at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mercy in Cotonou.<br />Mgr. Isidore de Souza was Archbishop of Cotonou from 1990 to 1999, and was also President of the National Sovereign Conference of Benin, the event that allowed the country to move from a single party to a multi-party. Following the example of Benin, other African countries in the French-speaking area took similar initiatives to switch to multi-partisism.<br />Furthermore, on March 25, his Excellency Mgr. Roger Houngbédji, Archbishop of Cotonou, celebrated a Mass in the Church of Saint Michel de Cotonou to implore the goodness and mercy of the Lord for Benin and to invite the reconciliation of hearts. <br />Thu, 15 Apr 2021 13:17:43 +0200ASIA/PAKISTAN - The government rewards Catholic nun "mother of the Forgotten" - "We are pleased and proud that the Pakistani government has bestowed Sister Ruth Lewis 'posthumously' with the Sitara-e-Imtiaz for her services to the society of this country. This award is among the highest civil honors in the Pakistani State and is awarded for special service to the nation in the field of culture and public life", said Cardinal Joseph Coutts, Archbishop Emeritus of Karachi, speaking with Agenzia Fides, and expresses appreciation to the Pakistani government for having rewarded a Catholic nun, who passed away in 2020, who dedicated 52 years of her life to the abandoned and marginalized children in Pakistan.<br />Cardinal Joseph Coutts states: "We thank Sister Ruth Lewis and the Sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of Christ the King for their great work with children", said Cardinal Joseph Coutts. "In 1959, the FMCK sisters responded to the growing demand in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi and agreed to accompany and care for children with mental and physical disabilities. After the death of the nursing home's founder, Sister Gertrude Lemmens, Sister Ruth Lewis assumed responsibility for running the home, which was dependent on donations. Thanks to her patient and constant work, Dar-ul-Sukun, i.e. the 'House of Peace and Love' has become the largest institution of its kind in the city with over 21 million inhabitants".<br />Recalling her faithful service at a service in memory of Sister Ruth, Cardinal Joseph Coutts remarked: "Sister Ruth Lewis was a very calm and humble person, she developed tremendous strength in serving these mentally and physically challenged children. She was known in civil society and among civil society NGOs in Karachi. The government of Sindh Province valued her and the good works she did for 52 years. In the city she was known as the "mother of the Forgotten" and she lived up to her right to the last breath".<br />Sister Ruth Lewis lost the fight against the consequences of an infection with the coronavirus on July 20, 2020 . She had been on treatment since July 8 after testing positive for Covid-19. She was infected during her tireless services in the home where 21 children were found positive for Covid-19 in June 2020. The Pakistani government awarded her the posthumous award on March 23, 2021 on the occasion of "Pakistan Day". The award was received by Cookie, a former foster child of the home, who is now an employee of Dar-ul-Sukun. Cookie remembered the deceased Catholic nun as "her mother" and said: "Sister Ruth was the mother of all the children of Dar-ul-Sukun. She took care of all of us like a mother takes care of her children".<br />For her selfless and passionate service to "special children" Ruth Lewis was awarded the "Pride of Karachi" award on January 18, 2014. In 2018 she was awarded the "Hakim Mohammad Saeed" award by the governor of Sindh for her service to humanity. As a sign of gratitude for the social work done, the Sindh government financed the construction of a three-story building on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of Dar-ul-Sukun to meet the growing number of children in need. <br />Thu, 15 Apr 2021 12:56:34 +0200AMERICA/URUGUAY - Christian churches are demanding special cohesion in the pandemic - "Hope is not created through magic, but when we see signs that allow us to continue believing and fighting .... Signs that we can already see in so many people in our society who are faced with the Covid-19 pandemic and have given rise to many initiatives of solidarity". This was underlined by the Council of Christian Churches of Uruguay in a message addressed to the Uruguayan brothers and sisters, published "at this dramatic hour for our country , whose life so threatened by the pandemic and its consequences".<br />"We believe that in the face of this drama we are experiencing in the last few weeks, we all share similar feelings", the message says. "That is why we would like to unite with everyone with our solidarity and willingness to help those in need . It is also what our churches have tried in this difficult year". That is why the Council of Christian Churches invites "not to give in to the temptation to shut ourselves up in our pains", but to remain available "to comfort one another and to take care of one another".<br />The Council regrets "the polarizations we see in our coexistence" and stresses the need for dialogue and agreements "between all sectors of society and social organizations": "We have to talk, listen to one another, look ahead together, try to to understand each other and not to ignore the possible contributions of those who think differently".<br />Among the signs of hope they cite "the good progress of the vaccination campaign" and call for vaccination "to be seen as a contribution to the common good" and underline: "We need many more signs in this sense, especially from the authorities, from those who have some form of public responsibility, including our Churches, but also on the part of every citizen".<br />The message ends with an encouragement: "For those who trust in Christ Jesus despite all our disagreements, Easter is full of signs of life that give us hope ... and today, at this difficult hour, we want to proclaim to all that Jesus, who generously and humbly lived his life with special preference for the poorest, smallest and most afflicted people, speaking to us about the infinite power of love". <br />Thu, 15 Apr 2021 12:25:48 +0200AMERICA / MEXICO - Bishops ask for "co-responsibility" in school education while the number of Catholics decreases City - The Episcopal Conference of Mexico has expressed its dissatisfaction with the improvised way in which the Secretariat of Education is reviewing the free basic level texts for the 2021-2022 school year . "This review - underlines the CEM through a press release - is carried out through consultations and sui generis commissions, in a short time and without scientific, legal and institutional rigor, when it comes to a very delicate issue: the contents aimed at the basic level learning of children".<br />In this statement sent to Fides, the Bishops underline that the participation of society in education, provided for by the recent amendment to article 3 of the Constitution, has not been implemented, and there has not been an institutional dialogue, when what should prevail is the best interest of the child.<br />Similarly, the Bishops recall that the situation in which education is found in the country requires a global, articulated, generous and consensual response, considering the impact suffered by the pandemic and the growing dropout from school, which today reaches 5 million Mexicans, according to data from the Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática .<br />Finally, to solve the problem of education in Mexico, the CEM called for joint responsibility in tasks, as well as the design of protocols that recognize the different cultural realities of school communities and that promote participation and self-regulation, giving priority to right of primary children to be educated.<br />The Bishops' declaration is released in a special context, a few days after the publication of the results of the INEGI and with the opening of the Plenary Assembly of the CEM. At the opening of the Assembly, the reflection proposed by Archbishop Franco Coppola, Apostolic Nuncio, focused on the most delicate point of INEGI's final report: the sharp decrease in the number of Catholics in Mexico.<br />"When we are before him , the Lord of the harvest, he will ask us to account for the many talents he has entrusted to us: a Catholic people, faithful and devoted to Saint Mary of Guadalupe. But we have not lost one of the hundred sheep ... but a quarter of the sheep!" he stressed, participating in the inauguration of the 110th Ordinary Assembly of Mexican Bishops.<br />"The decrease in the Catholic population in this Guadalupana land is extremely worrying. Now we are seeing, with greater clarity, how much - in the last decades - the formation in the faith has not reached everyone; nor has it succeeded, as perhaps we think or as we would have liked, to deeply involve the baptized", said the Archbishop.<br />The 2020 census data showed a 5% reduction of Catholics in the Mexican population due to the advance of secularism and Protestantism. The INEGI report indicates that 77.7% of the Mexican population declares itself Catholic in 2020, compared to 82.7% in 2010.<br />Mgr. Coppola invited the Mexican Bishops to reflect on the fact that "traditional" methods do not work today, in any field of evangelization.<br />The Catholic population amounted to 97.8 million people in 2020, compared to 84 million in 2010. But the census also recorded 14.09 million Protestants or Evangelicals, which is equivalent to 11.2% of the population and an increase of about 4 million people compared to 7.5% ten years ago.<br />The Catholic Church found it "even more surprising" that there are now 10.2 million Mexicans "without religion", 8.1 percent of the population, almost double compared to 10 years ago.<br />Likewise, for the first time, INEGI documented 3.1 million people "believers but without religious affiliation", 2.5 percent of the total. <br />Thu, 15 Apr 2021 12:10:22 +0200AFRICA/KENYA - "No to the forced return of refugees to their countries of origin"; the Bishops oppose the closure of the Kakuma and Daadab camps - "The Government should reconsider their position and treat all refugees with care and concern especially during this period of Covid-19 pandemic when humanity is faced with serious economic and psychological challenges", says the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops by calling on the Nairobi government not to close the Kakuma and Daadab refugee camps.<br />In the statement, sent to Agenzia Fides, signed by His Exc. Mgr. Philip Anyolo, Archbishop of Kisumu and President of KCCB, the Kenyan Catholic Bishops have raised concern on the involuntary repatriation amidst the global pandemic. "In the Daadab camp the Somali are the majority, under the International law the refugees can return to their country once there is good governance, a democratic government that respects human rights and rule of law is in place and conditions have changed".<br />Due to Covid-19 pandemic, "these brothers and sisters of ours living in the camp have become more vulnerable", says the KCCB, which calls for health measures to be adopted to ensure the protection of more than 400,000 refugees housed in the Dadaab and Kakuma camps.<br />In their statement, KCCB recommends that Government engages in dialogue with the stakeholders to find a long lasting solution for the refugees because the situation in Kenya requires a well-detailed approach to those that need protection granted by the state in the case someone who has left their home country due to political reasons and support to those that return voluntarily. <br />The Kakuma refugee camp in northwestern Kenya was established in 1992. <br />It originally housed refugees from Sudan, joined by Ethiopians and Somalis. Dadaab, in the center-east, has long been the largest refugee camp in the world, and is actually made up of a collection of camps. <br />The first three camps were created in the early 1990s. Other camps were then added starting in 2011, due to the food crisis in the Horn of Africa.<br />In addition to Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia, the two camps also welcome refugees from Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.<br />Citing terrorist infiltrations into these structures in November 2016, the government of Nairobi had announced its intention to close them, without implementing the decision, already strongly contested by the bishops at that time .<br />However, on March 24 of this year, the Interior Cabinet Secretary, Fred Matiang'i, announced the government's intention to close the Dadaab and Kakuma camps, giving the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees two weeks to present a plan to this effect.<br />"UNHCR is concerned about the impact this decision would have on the protection of refugees in Kenya, especially in the context of the current Covid-19 pandemic. We will continue to dialogue with the Kenyan authorities on this issue", UNHCR said. <br />On April 8, the High Court of Kenya temporarily suspended the government's decision to close the two structures. <br />Wed, 14 Apr 2021 14:14:16 +0200ASIA/IRAQ - The government of the autonomous region creates a Committee to counter illegal expropriations of property in Iraqi Kurdistan - The Kurdistan Regional Government’s Council of Ministers issued an order to form a Committee to solve the phenomenon of illegal expropriation of properties - houses and land that are mostly owned by members of ethnic and minority faith communities, starting with Christians. The Committee will consist of representatives of the Presidency of the Kurdistan Parliament, Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Presidency of the Supreme Judicial Council, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Municipalities, and Ministry of Finance. The Committee will be chaired by Diya Butros Sliwa, Chairperson of the Independent Human Rights Commission, who recently submitted a memorandum to the Government of the autonomous region on the urgency of addressing the problem of property illegally seized from Christians and other minority groups in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the need to protect property rights under the law.<br />The willingness to establish an ad hoc government committee to verify and stop the systematic illegal expropriations suffered in recent years by Christian property owners in Iraqi Kurdistan and especially in the Dohuk governorate, has matured from requests from the Independent Commission of Butros Sliwa and has gained momentum from a contribution received in August 2020 by the Government of the Autonomous Region : The investigating commission will have to collect documentation, also listening to the requests and justifications of the parties involved to draw up a real mapping of the property of Christians turned into the object of abusive expropriation in the years in which the entire northern-Iraqi zone lived the dramatic experience related to the conquests of the Daesh jihadist militias and the creation of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.<br />Large-scale expropriations of land and real estate belonging to Chaldean, Syriac and Assyrian families in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, as reported by Agenzia Fides were denounced with particular vehemence in 2016. According to the complaints submitted, the illegal expropriations were carried out by Kurdish fellow citizens, acting on their own account or in collaboration with other members of their tribal clan. Already at that time, Dr. Michael Benjamin, director of the Nineveh Study Center, reported that in the Dohuk governorate alone there was a list of 56 villages in which the area of land illegally stolen from Christian families amounted to 47,000 acres. On April 13, 2016, several hundred Syriac, Chaldean and Assyrian Christians from the Nahla region organized a demonstration in front of the Parliament of the Autonomous Region of Iraqi Kurdistan to protest against the illegal expropriation of their real estate assets suffered in previous years by influential Kurdish personalities, and denounced more than once, before a competent court.<br />In recent years, illegal expropriations have focused mainly on the lands and homes belonging to Christians who left the area especially since the 1980s, to flee regional conflicts and sectarian and tribal violence that exploded with greater virulence after the military interventions of international coalitions.<br />Meanwhile, in recent days, the Iraqi press has released the content of a letter addressed by Pope Francis to Nechirvan Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region. The letter, dated March 15, was delivered in recent days to Barzani himself by Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, Apostolic Nuncio in Iraq. In the letter, the Pope refers to his recent trip to Iraq and thanks Iraq and the Kurdistan Region for having valued "religious, cultural and ethnic diversity". In the letter, among other things, the Pope expressed his gratitude for the warm welcome he received "to his Excellency, to all the authorities accompanying him and to the entire Iraqi people, in particular the beloved Kurdish people". Pope Francis also thanked President Barzani for his attendance at Sunday Mass at the Franso Hariri Stadium in Erbil, a participation "that demonstrates in you the spirit of tolerance, harmony, brotherhood and humanity". <br />Wed, 14 Apr 2021 13:58:37 +0200ASIA/SOUTH KOREA - The Korean Church joins the fund to donate the anti-Covid vaccine to poor countries - The Archdiocese of Seoul has launched an appeal to the faithful to join the special fund, created in the Vatican, to give the anti Covid-19 vaccine to people who live in poor countries or who have inadequate access to vaccines for COVID-19. In Korea the campaign is open to everyone and will last until November 27, the last day of the Jubilee underway for the 200th anniversary of the birth of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, the first Korean Catholic priest. As reported to Fides by the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of Seoul, in the Easter homily, Cardinal Yeom recalled the "Urbi et Orbi" message of Pope Francis, recalling that "the Pope has repeatedly requested the universal access to vaccines in the event of a pandemic. He has urged the entire international community, in a spirit of global responsibility, to commit to overcome the delays in the distribution of vaccines and to facilitate their distribution, especially in the poorest countries". "In solidarity with the Pope's exhortation - the Cardinal announced - the Bishops' Conference of Korea , in its March assembly, decided to launch a vaccine distribution campaign, in support of the anti- Covid vaccine distribution program, in particular to the poor countries of the world".<br />The Cardinal also added: "We are living difficult times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic and social crisis remains serious, especially for those living in poverty. Since the weak and the poor suffer most when a crisis arrives, we would like to transform this crisis into an opportunity to show our solidarity to parishes, organizations, congregations around the world, offering help to those in need".<br />To support and disseminate the campaign in the Korean nation, the "Catholic Peace Apostolate Council" of Seoul and the "Catholic Peace Broadcasting Corporation" will jointly manage a campaign of fundraising by phone, as well as producing an advertisement and music video to be broadcast in the Catholic media to inform and inspire people across the country to participate in the vaccine donation campaign. <br />Wed, 14 Apr 2021 13:31:19 +0200AMERICA/BOLIVIA - The service of Catholic education in society: a contribution to the common good - The service of the Church in the field of public education, both in schools and in universities: this is the central theme of the CVIII Plenary Assembly of the Episcopal Conference of Bolivia, which was inaugurated in the Casa Cardenal Maurer of the Archdiocese of Cochabamba, and will last until April, 16. As Agenzia Fides has learned, in the opening speech, Mgr. Ricardo Centellas, President of the CEB welcomed the new members of the CEB and, as a first point of reflection, presented the theme of the service of the Church in Bolivian reality, saying: "We live a setback of values, where lies were exploited to defend interests, as the Scripture says: The soldiers who received a lot of money said: 'The disciples of Jesus came at night and stole the body while we were sleeping' . A statement like this distorts the reality of the facts. There is no worse slavery than living clinging to deceptions, one's own or someone else's, as a pretext for not taking responsibility for obvious facts". The President of the CEB has continued: "Democracy is weak, unstable and without institutional support, it does not respect the dignity of the person, does not seek the common good and does not promote complementarity among all. It seems to have become an end, at the same time that it is a means to achieve the integral development of all Bolivians. Democracy is not an opportunity to exploit the few resources that Bolivia has at its disposal: it is about seeking a social pact so that through dialogue and consensus we can find what Bolivia really needs".<br />The bishops point out that the Church in Bolivia has become a protagonist of the country's socio-political life since the pandemic and new political figures put pressure on a population that is tired, hungry and affected by Covid.<br />Last Sunday, Bolivia returned to the polls after the first round of March 7, when 336 mayors and nine governors were elected, with a participation of 86% of the national register. But only a few days before, significant events took place in Bolivia: the former interim president of Bolivia, Jeanine Áñez, was arrested on Friday, March 12, on charges of "sedition and terrorism," charges linked to an alleged coup against the former President Evo Morales. At that time, the Bolivian Episcopal Conference had urged the government to desist from "total control of power, revenge and persecution", in reference to these arrests . In the face of strong social tension, Bishop Centellas, president of the CEB, had asked, respecting due process, which is part of the fundamental rights, recognized at the international level, the immediate release of the detainees. <br />Wed, 14 Apr 2021 13:19:29 +0200AMERICA/HAITI - In the face of kidnappings, common prayer and "national strike" of Catholic activities au Prince - "We ask Catholic schools, religious schools, universities and all other Catholic institutions to observe the interruption of activities on April 15. We ask priests, religious, pastoral workers to accompany and keep the people of God in hope as Pope Francis wants. We ask that all church bells ring on Thursday, April 15 at noon. We ask that in the Masses celebrated in all the churches they pray to ask God for a change for Haiti. In the metropolitan region of Port-au-Prince we will celebrate Mass in Saint-Pierre Church in Pétion-Ville, with all the Bishops of Haiti on the same day at noon": this is what the Bishops of the Haiti Episcopal Conference say , speaking, in a note sent to Agenzia Fides, on the dramatic situation of the kidnapping of 5 priests, 2 nuns and 3 lay people in Haiti . <br />The CEH denounced what it calls the "kidnapping dictatorship" in Haiti and states: "We must not leave the power to kill, rape and kidnap to bandits. We must unite in prayer to obtain a better country". To give a resounding sign of dissent, with the aim of stopping the kidnappings and restoring legality and peace, the Conference of Bishops and the Conference of Haitian religious have recommended the interruption of activities to Catholic institutions in the country inviting the population to a common prayer, in all the churches, tomorrow April 15. <br />The silence, the prayer, the interruption of activities intend to shake up the national conscience and urge the authorities to consider and address urgently the issue of kidnappings. <br /><br />Wed, 14 Apr 2021 12:49:12 +0200AFRICA/BENIN - The Church of Benin celebrates 160 years of evangelization - "The missionary work was the seed from which the Beninese clergy and entire generations of convinced Christians germinated, whose vision and action have contributed to making our Church in Benin a Church capable of enriching the entire universal Church with its gifts". Thus writes Romain Hounzandji, a Catholic university professor, on the occasion of 160 years of evangelization in Benin. It was April 18, 1861 when Fathers Francesco Borghero and Francisco Fernandez, missionaries of the Society of African Missions , reached the Slave Coast, as South Benin was then called. They were not the first missionaries to come into contact with the subjects of the powerful Kingdom of Dahomey, but for the first time there was a project by the Catholic Church to create a stable presence of missionaries in those lands, already frequented by Europeans for the trafficking of slaves.<br />Father Didier Affolabi, rector of the major Seminary of Saint-Gall de Ouidah, remembers that one of the first actions of Fathers Borghero and Fernandez, already in 1862, was to open a school for children in the area. Today, in a country of only 8.8 million inhabitants, of which 27% are Catholic, there are 523 Catholic educational institutions, including 113 kindergartens, 266 primary schools, 138 secondary and preparatory schools, 5 universities and a School for teacher training.<br />A Catholic journalist speaking about the challenges of the future of the Beninese Church comments: "The Church of Benin faces the immense task of in- depth evangelization and unfortunately many Catholics still have one foot in the church and one foot in the various sanctuaries of traditional religion, where they are promised power and wealth at a good price".<br />"In this century and a half of presence, the Catholic Church has contributed to building the Beninese nation, and has had a great influence in the social sectors of education, health, politics, the formation of consciences, culture of peace", highlights Modeste Kpodéhoto, financial operator who spoke for the occasion regarding evangelization in the country.<br />"We must succeed in transforming the Beninese man from his roots with the rod of the Gospel; reached by the message of Christ in the depths of his being can be a light that radiates good around him, for the well-being of the Church and the Nation", concluded the philosopher Paul Kiti. <br />Wed, 14 Apr 2021 12:30:48 +0200