Fides News - English Agency NewsenContent on this site is licensed under aAFRICA/UGANDA - Catholic journalists must only give the truth - Communicators have a powerful and mysterious mission, and Catholic journalists are called to report the facts and try to act as "evangelists of our times", said the Secretary General of the Ugandan Episcopal Conference , Msgr. John Baptist Kauta.<br />Speaking from the local Church, Kauta said he was grateful for the great role these professionals play, also in ensuring that the ecclesial structures of the region , grouped together in the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa , interact with each other and with the universal Church. Addressing the participants in the annual meeting of Catholic correspondents, the Secretary General also thanked them for the qualified service they provide in the activities of the local Church. "Thank you for being who you are, continue bearing witness to the Gospel".<br />The Secretary of the UEC insisted inviting the participants to desist from disseminating false news, only to give in to the media pathology of sensationalism. "Even if the general public likes rumors, Catholic Journalists must only give the truth to the people".<br />All members of the Ugandan Bishops' Conference said they were satisfied with the work of Catholic communicators in the region and in the Church as a whole. <br />Mon, 28 Nov 2022 13:18:03 +0100AFRICA/DR CONGO - A march for peace: two women kidnapped by an armed group in the east of the Country - Two peace-seeking activists in South Kivu, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, were abducted by an armed group led by a deserting Congolese army officer .<br />Sarah Atosha and Pamela Jannety Mugisha were brutally arrested in the late morning of November 26 by an armed group that broke into the village of Bigaragara in the hall where a preparatory meeting was being held for the peace march scheduled for December 1. This was reported to Fides by the citizen movement "Jeunesses Conscientes".<br />Responsible for the action - according to reports from "Jeunesses Conscientes - are the Twigwaneho rebels based in Kabingu less than 15 km southeast of Bigaragara.<br />"After the attacks against the civilian population on November 10 in several villages in the Fizi territory with the killing of civilians, the destruction of fields, the burning of houses, arbitrary arrests and unlawful detentions, targeted kidnappings, etc., by the coalition of armed groups Gumino, Android and Twigwaneho, the two women undertook an action to mobilize the civilian population for the organization of a large-scale peaceful march to denounce these barbaric acts with tribal connotations due to community divisions", says Jeunesses Conscientes.<br />The mobilization actions had started on November 12 in several villages of the southern axis with the aim of organizing the peaceful march on December 1.<br />From November 12 to 14, the two women organized preparatory meetings with women and youth leaders in the villages of Kahila and Rugezi, whose inhabitants are victims of serious atrocities committed by these armed groups, followed by other meetings in other villages.<br />On November 20, Sarah Atosha and Pamela Jannety Mugisha received a phone call from defecting FARDC Colonel Mitabu Kavuzamigeri from the armed group Twigwaneho, threatening them for their commitment to organizing the peaceful march.<br />Mitabu Kavuzamigeri is a former FARDC officer commander of the regiment based in Kibumba, who after being convicted of rape, was imprisoned in Goma Central Jail in 2017. In 2018 he fled to Nairobi before returning to the DRC in 2021 to put himself at the head of the many armed groups raging in the east of the Country. <br />Mon, 28 Nov 2022 13:02:08 +0100AMERICA/COLOMBIA - Dialogue and reconciliation: let us not lose hope if immediate results are lacking - "The mission of reconciliation that we all want to take on and renew must be accompanied by a high dose of hope, and we lack this, as servants of our communities, but it is also lacking in our communities". These are the words delivered by Monsignor Luis José Rueda Aparicio, Archbishop of Bogotá and President of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, in the concluding homily of the "IX National Congress of Reconciliation", celebrated from November 22 to 24 on the theme "Opening ways of dialogue and hope" . The Archbishop warned of the possibility of losing hope in the absence of immediate results: "hope can be lost because sometimes we see more the negative than the positive. For many years we have been reflecting, praying, working, committing ourselves to the theme of peace and reconciliation and as the psalmist says, when we say peace, others cry out for war. It seems we have finished one phase of the war and started another and not just regionally and nationally, but internationally".<br />The Congress concluded with the missionary sending out to the approximately 450 participants in the event: each one set out with the commitment to be an "Artisan of Peace", to bring a message of reconciliation, peace and hope.<br />Father Rafael Castillo, director of the National Secretariat for Social Pastoral Care, at the end of the Congress underlined that hope is not a simple decision of personal will, nor is it a pure gift of God completely unrelated to personal responsibility, rather, it is a combination of both. He then invited "to look and take stock of the positive and the good that has happened, on the achievements that have been achieved" to take the next step. It is also important to take advantage of what history teaches and "strengthen yourself with the memory of the testimony of all those who, ordinary people like us, in situations similar to those in which we live today, were able to patiently wait for the winter floods to pass, without giving up to their beliefs". Finally, he urged us to keep in mind the nation project that young people are showing us with the various social sectors, and invited us to "not lose heart, because the signs of a new dawn are already beginning to emerge".<br />Meanwhile, peace talks between the Colombian government and the rebel ELN group have resumed in Caracas, Venezuela. According to information gathered by Fides, the participating delegations expressed optimism about the ongoing dialogues, invited other nations to join the three guarantor countries of the peace agreements, which are Venezuela, Cuba and Norway, and asked the United States to be present in the work of a special envoy. <br />Mon, 28 Nov 2022 12:53:57 +0100ASIA/SOUTH KOREA - Advent season for forgiveness and peace on the Korean peninsula - The Advent season is a propitious time to reflect on forgiveness, peace, reconciliation and to act so that a path of dialogue and rapprochement can be resumed between North and South Korea. This is what the more than one hundred Catholic priests, scholars, religious and theologians from all over the world affirmed, during their participation in the "Forum for sharing peace on the Korean peninsula" which in its seventh edition, was held on Saturday, November 26 at the Catholic University of Korea. Organized by the "Committee for Reconciliation of Korea", a body within the Archdiocese of Seoul, the Forum focused on awareness of the role of the Catholic Church in South Korea for peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. The baptized in Korea - says a note sent to Fides by the Communications Office of the archdiocese of Seoul - wish to seek ways and means to foster authentic peace on the Korean peninsula. "We are called to seek ways of love and solidarity for reconciliation and unity between the two Koreas", said those present.<br />Professor Hong Yong-pyo, Director of the Institute for Peace and professor of Hanyang University, observed in his speech that "the forum intends to compare the awareness of peace between the general public and Catholics; analyze how the Catholic faith affects awareness of peace; understand the pastoral vision of the Catholic community".<br />Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-taick, OCD, Archbishop of Seoul and Apostolic Administrator of Pyongyang, recalled: "The Forum for Sharing Peace on the Korean Peninsula began as a moment to commemorate the visit of Pope Francis in August 2014 and the mass he celebrated in Myeongdong Cathedral, in which the Pontiff prayed for inter-Korean dialogue and recommended providing humanitarian assistance to our North Korean brothers". Archbishop Chung said he was "deeply saddened by the current situation on the Korean Peninsula", underlining that "true forgiveness, reconciliation and reflection are needed today more than any other time in history". Concluding his speech, Archbishop Chung hoped that "the Forum will be an opportunity to reaffirm the teaching of Pope Francis on the fact that no political interest or relationship should prohibit dialogue and interreligious exchanges".<br />Archbishop Alfred Xuereb, Apostolic Nuncio in South Korea, addressing the assembly, observed: "The Holy See supports Korea in its deepest aspirations, starting with the process of reconciliation and prosperity of the entire Korean peninsula". And he added: "Peace, as the Holy Father underlined at the recent Congress of religious leaders in Kazakhstan, is born thanks to fraternity, it grows by fighting against injustice and inequality, it is built by being kind towards others". The Nuncio encouraged "a discussion to explore concrete paths for our common commitment to the ideals of peace and reconciliation on Korean soil".<br />The Advent season, those present at the Forum concluded, is a time of "vigilant and active waiting": today, although the scars of conflict remain, peace will be possible through forgiveness and reconciliation, and these are the tracks on which the Church of Christ proceeds, even if it is a long and difficult journey. In prayer, in this special time which brings us closer to the Incarnation of the Word, the baptized Koreans make their own the prayer attributed to Francis of Assisi: "Lord, make us instruments of your peace". <br />Mon, 28 Nov 2022 12:46:32 +0100AMERICA/ARGENTINA - Appointment of the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies: Fr. Fernando Sanchez Donati CM City - On October 25, 2022, Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle appointed Fr. Fernando Sanchez Donati, of the Congregation of the Mission as National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Argentina for a five-year period .<br />The new National Director was born in Tancacha on November 1, 1973 and was ordained a priest on June 17, 2000. He was parish vicar and parish priest in different communities, responsible for youth animation and vocational promotion. He worked in vocational Pastoral care and in popular missions, he was National and Latin American advisor for Vincentian youth, member of the itinerant missionary group. In the period 2021/2022 he was a missionary in Beni, Bolivia. He attended the Course for Missionary Animation in Rome and other courses in Colombia. <br />Mon, 28 Nov 2022 12:04:46 +0100VATICAN - The Holy See: "surprise and regret" over installation of Chinese Bishop which did not take place in conformity with the Provisional Agreement City - The Holy See took note "with surprise and regret" of the news of the “installation ceremony” that took place on November 24, in Nanchang of "His Exc. Msgr. Giovanni Peng Weizhao, Bishop of Yujiang as ‘Auxiliary Bishop of Jiangxi’, a diocese not recognized by the Holy See". <br /><br />"This event", reads the statement of the Holy See released today, November 26, "has not taken place in conformity with the spirit of dialogue that exists between the Vatican parties and the Chinese parties and what was stipulated in the Provisional Agreement on the Appointment of Bishops of 22 September 2018. Furthermore - the text of the statement continues - "the civil recognition of Bishop Peng was preceded, according to the news received, by prolonged and intense pressure by the local Authorities". <br /><br />The Holy See - the statement concludes - "hopes that similar episodes will not be repeated, and awaits appropriate communications on the matter from the Authorities and reaffirms its full willingness to continue the respectful dialogue concerning all the issues of common interest". <br /><br />Sat, 26 Nov 2022 13:47:59 +0100ASIA/SOUTH KOREA - A film on St. Andrew Kim, pioneer of human dignity and equality among men - "The film 'A Birth' narrates the life of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon. The examples and virtues of our saint raise spiritual questions about how to live today. The title of the film is a reference at the birth of Saint Andrew Kim in our hearts, which is nothing but the resurrection and life in Christ in each one of us". This is what Fr. Paolo Lee Yongho, priest of the diocese of Daejeon, former Rector of the Sanctuary of Solmeo, birthplace of St. Andrew Kim Taegon , told Fides, commenting on the news of the Korean saint, on the eve of the official release of the film dedicated to him. The film, titled "A Birth", traces the life of Korea's first priest and martyr and, at the same time, the blossoming of the Christian faith on the Korean peninsula. Born into a family of Christian converts in 1821, Andrew traveled to Macau where he studied and later became Korea's first Catholic priest, ordained in 1845 in Shanghai. Upon his return, he was persecuted and arrested by the Joseon Dynasty for his missionary work and was martyred in 1846 at the age of just 25.<br />Written and directed by filmmaker Park Heung-shik and co-produced by the Korean Catholic cultural center "Alma Art", the film will be released in Korean cinemas on November 30. Cardinal Lazarus You Heung-sik, prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for the Clergy when he was bishop of Daejeon, supported the project on the occasion of the bicentenary of the saint's birth, celebrated last year.<br />Starting from this anniversary, Fr. Paolo Lee Yongho remarked: "In 2021, the Church in Korea celebrated the bicentenary of the birth of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon. To commemorate this anniversary, liturgical celebrations, cultural meetings, charitable initiatives were organized. <br />As part of this, the Church of Korea wanted to promote a film on the spirituality and life of Saint Andrew Kim", he explains.<br />More than 200 years ago, the priest recalls, the Korean peninsula was under the domination of the Joseon dynasty, in a feudal society, ordered by caste. At that time, the Joseon dynasty had a policy of being closed to the outside world. At the same time, it is a time when infectious diseases such as cholera and smallpox spread throughout the country via diplomats traveling to and from China.<br />"At that time - he continues - there were young people who were looking for the truth: in 1784, young people from Joseon went to China to learn the Catholic faith. They received baptism there and began to spread the Catholic faith in the Joseon kingdom. The faithful of Joseon longed for Korean priests. Responding to this desire, the French missionaries chose Andrea Kim and two other young men and sent them to Macao, China, where they began their life as seminarians in the "Society of Foreign Missions in Paris".<br />It was a fruitful journey of Christian faith for them: "During their formation in the seminary, the first Korean seminarians learned to know and experience the love of God and joyfully accepted the truth that all human beings are born with the same dignity, given by God the Father. They therefore became convinced that by giving this truth, the people of Joseon could be saved. This is what gave impetus to Andrew's mission: "Our saint - said Father Paolo Lee Yongho - believed that every person's life was precious and should be cherished. Andrew Kim was a pioneer of human dignity, spreading the truth that all men and women are equal and have the same dignity, in a caste-ordered society. This truth is still relevant in a society that pushes the capitalist economic and social system and its inequalities to the extreme. This leads to a culture of disregard for human life." "When he returned to the Joseon Kingdom as a priest, he recalled, he abandoned his noble caste and sought to live in equality with everyone. He preached faith in God and was a man who opposed feudal society in the name of the dignity of every person, made in the image of God."<br />This approach, he notes, is very topical: "We see that in today's society there are new forms of castes and inequalities. It's in the sharing of goods, that is to say in charity, that is the Christian way to overcome a crisis such as the pandemic. For example, it is from this reflection that the movement of sharing vaccines was born, which for us is the sharing of the life and love that we have received from God", observes Father Lee.<br />The priest went on to point out another aspect: "Our saint was also a man of openness, not closure. Saint Andrew Kim was the first Korean who saw the world beyond Korea, China and Japan and recognized the interconnection of all the societies of the world. He experienced and promoted the need for academic and cultural exchanges for a better world. He studied Western languages and, for example, drew a map of the Joseon Kingdom, writing many Korean place names in the Western alphabet for the first time and thus introducing them to the world. He was also the first to write the name of the capital of the Joseon Kingdom with the correct name of Seoul. From the outside, therefore, he knew how to take the good: for example, from the French missionaries, he learned and disseminated measures to prevent epidemics such as cholera and smallpox, for the benefit of the Korean people". Recounting his life today, he concludes, is "an opportunity for the Korean Church to rediscover and update a message that can still say a lot to the modern world". <br />Sat, 26 Nov 2022 13:05:55 +0100AMERICA/VENEZUELA - Bearing witness to Jesus Christ on a daily basis: the experience of a "family on mission" in the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Ayacucho - Learning to distinguish between mañoco and yucuta, and know what manaca is and what seje is; knead the food with his own hands, to enjoy it with the brothers of the indigenous communities of Parhueña. This has been daily life for Yagnora and Martin, a married Venezuelan couple, since moving with their teenage daughter Flor to the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Ayacucho, located in the Venezuelan Amazon in 2021.<br />"Leading one's own life with that of other men, women and children in a context far from one's own original condition, trying to be useful every day by providing material support and above all human closeness: asking to be able to confess faith in Christ in the little things of every day, by listening to the sufferings, the difficulties, the expectations and the hopes of the people whom he meets while following his own singular missionary vocation. This is Yagnora and Martin's experience.<br />Yagnora, attracted by the mission from a young age, thanks also to various experiences shared with the local Pontifical Mission Societies , got married and, with her husband and her two children, Flora and Martin, lived a family dimension that has always been a missionary. When the children grew up, the couple decided to live the experience of a missionary family and went to live in Parhueña, in a context marked by poverty, a shortage of means of transport that often makes travel difficult, sometimes impossible, and where there is often an atmosphere of tension due to internal conflicts.<br />Among the daily activities to which they devote themselves is study assistance. When the right conditions are lacking, reading and mathematics are often transmitted through games invented by Flor herself, who followed her parents in their missionary experience . Yagnora teaches sewing to women and Martin introduces men to agriculture. All three are responsible for various pastoral services as missionaries of the Word and of the Eucharist.<br />There are many episodes that Yagnora and Martin can tell to describe the warp of their missionary daily life: from helping the elderly man with a badly infected wound, to helping the couple desperate for their daughter barely a year old, dehydrated and with a high fever due to the lack of adequate medication. Every day they share a question, which is at the same time a prayer: "It causes us a lot of pain when sometimes we cannot take care of them as we would like. That is when we ask God to help us every day, so that we can share more and more of their experiences, their difficulties". Asking Jesus to let the light of his consolation and the gift of his salvation shine in the midst of everyday problems. <br />Sat, 26 Nov 2022 12:36:43 +0100ASIA/MYANMAR - The contribution of women in the struggle for freedom and in the defense of human dignity - Burmese women are making a crucial contribution in the fight for respect for human dignity, for the restoration of freedom and democracy and in opposing the violence of the military junta in Myanmar. As stated in the webinar “Burma: Women at the forefront of democracy” held on November 24, in the People's Defense Forces born in the nation in the aftermath of the February 2021 military coup, “there are many young women, students, workers", underlined Cecilia Brighi, general secretary of the "Italia Birmania Insieme" Association. "Many others - she continued - make non-violent opposition: women in various professional fields such as health or public administration, refuse to work for the military junta".<br />Khin Ma Ma Myo, a woman who heads the trade ministry in the "National Unity Government" of Myanmar, the shadow government formed in exile by the opposition - which welcomes 8 women including the leader Aug San Suu Kyi - recalled: "Already in the last decade there was an active participation of women in political life and in civil society, and many women were involved in the strategic plan for the peace process carried out in Myanmar in the decade 2011-2021". "Today - she continued - women give their contribution to the struggle, with courage, under all aspects". "The military junta in power - she said - has no mercy and is very vindictive towards women. Those arrested are sexually abused. According to data from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, 307 women were killed and more than two thousand arrested in one year and means of rebellion. Women are offering their lives for the future of the country".<br />After the coup, Burmese women emerged as symbols of resistance to military power. Some are combatants, actively engaged in armed resistance. Others have taken leading roles in the civil disobedience movement and are dedicated to social and solidarity work. The Burmese Women's Union , founded in 1995, recently released a documentary book entitled "Women Trailblazers – Call for a New Era of Reform" which talks about the female participation against discrimination and oppression in Myanmar, since the years of the military dictatorship that began in 1962, including women of the Karenni , Chin Karen, Mon, Shan ethnic group, but also Burmese women from Yangon and Ayeyarwady. "This book will inspire Burmese women. I think it can create opportunities for women to develop a movement together, to make them more aware of their role", said Ma Thwe Zin Toe, of the Burmese Women's Union.<br />Among the women "on the front line" is Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng, a Catholic nun and nurse in the city of Myitkyina, in Kachin state. In February 2021 the nun knelt down begging the military not to kill the young protesters and the photo of that spontaneous intervention went viral around the world. Today Sister Ann Rose says she was stopped several times by the security forces, who checked her phone, and that she no longer enjoys the freedom she did a year ago. Currently, the nun works in refugee camps that house displaced people in Kachin state. There, like thousands of other women, Benedette Marang Ji Grawng, a 43-year-old Catholic woman from Kachin, mother of three children, a resident of a camp for internally displaced persons run by "Karuna", Caritas in the diocese of Myitkyina, reports: "Every day that passes, life becomes even more difficult, with increasing challenges and difficulties. But we trust in God who is close to us and answers our prayers. Every day with my husband Paul we find time to read the Bible with our two teenage children, 16 and 18. The Lord gives us the strength to carry on". <br />Fri, 25 Nov 2022 13:17:09 +0100ASIA/IRAQ - Around 20 families a month: Patriarch Sako laments the emigration of Iraqi Christians - Iraqi Christians, living mainly in the cities of the Nineveh Plains and other areas of northern Iraq, continue to leave the country. This is happening "at a rate of around 20 families a month," said Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, in a reflection on the situation of Christians in Iraq. In a statement released by the Chaldean Patriarchate, the cardinal recalled that that more than half of Iraqi Christians have emigrated in the last five years and many others are "on the waiting list".<br /><br />In this context, the Chaldean Patriarch points to the many sociological, political and environmental factors that favor the slow and silent exodus of native Christians from their homelands, recalling political and social instability, insecurity, lack of equal opportunities, discrimination and penalizing measures suffered in the workplace, lack of legal provisions to protect the full equality of citizens - including Christians - before the law. The Primate of the Chaldean Church calls into question the lack of a law on the civil status of Christians, which he believes paves the way for sectarian discrimination and, last but not least, forces Christians to consider civil status issues according to laws based on the Islamic legal tradition and which refer directly or indirectly to the Sharia.<br />In his text, the patriarch also deplores the use of religious words and symbols in propaganda and in political controversies. The Patriarch also gives examples of some cases of corruption and discrimination that have come to his attention recently. "If someone does not want us to remain in our country as citizens with equal dignity", concludes the Iraqi Cardinal "then we should be told openly so that we can address the issue before it's too late". <br />Fri, 25 Nov 2022 13:03:53 +0100AFRICA/NIGERIA - New kidnapping of a priest together with a group of faithful; released another priest kidnapped last week - Father Peter Abang Ochang, parish priest of the St. Stephen Roman Catholic Mission church in the diocese of Ogoja, in the state of Cross River, has been kidnapped in a still undefined area of the state of Nasarawa, along with several members of the St Jude Society. The priest and an unknown number of members of the Society of St Jude were on their way to Abuja yesterday, November 24, to attend some ecclesiastical functions when they were attacked and taken by force to the bush.<br />The news of their kidnapping was released today, November 25, during morning mass by Father Fidelis Kajibia, administrator of the Cathedral of Saint Benedict, Igoli Ogoja.<br />The news was later confirmed by the president of the Diocesan Council of Education of the Catholic Diocese of Ogoja, Peter Nandi Bette, on his Facebook page.<br />Police authorities in both states have yet to make any statement about the kidnapping.<br />Meanwhile, Fides Agency has received news of the release of Fr. Victor Ishiwu, parish priest of St. Jude Church in Eburummiri, Ibagwa-Aka, Igbo-Eze South local government area of Enugu State, who was kidnapped in the early hours of Saturday, November 19, while officiating adoration prayers.<br />"Father Victor was released in the mountains two days ago," Father Benjamin Achi, director of communications for the Enogu diocese, told Agenzia Fides. “He is in good health,” he adds.<br />According to the testimonies collected, the kidnappers broke into the place of worship after midnight and began shooting into the air. Father Ishiwu, along with the worshipers, had managed to escape and hide in different places.<br />However, the bandits, who spoke both Pidgin English and Fulani languages, followed the cleric to the rectory and threatened to burn down the parish premises if he refused to leave, and then broke into the rectory and forcibly kidnapped the priest. <br />Fri, 25 Nov 2022 12:36:48 +0100AMERICA/BOLIVIA - Strike in Santa Cruz: "That the problem be solved once and for all and that daily life be resumed immediately" Cruz - "The Pastors of the Catholic Church of Santa Cruz, stand in solidarity and echo the cry of the people, asking that, once and for all, the problem be solved and that the City and Department can resume activities, jobs and daily life immediately". This is the latest appeal launched by the bishops to unblock the situation. In fact, for 34 days, the department of Santa Cruz, the largest and most economically important in all of Bolivia, has been carrying out a general strike with roadblocks to demand that the Government carry out the Population Census in 2023 and not in 2024, since the postponement would cause the region economic damage and political representation in the next elections. <br />The strike has triggered a series of clashes, including violent ones, between supporters and opponents of the government, which have acquired political connotations and have spread to other Bolivian cities. Bishops, religious and lay people have spoken on several occasions calling for an end to violence between brothers, the suspension of roadblocks that affect the weakest sectors of the population above all, and the solution of the problem by the competent authorities, leaving aside any personal, partisan or sectoral interest, looking at the common good and the service for which they were elected .<br />According to the latest news gathered by Fides, the leaders of Santa Cruz have accepted that the population census be carried out in 2024, since their proposal to carry it out in 2023 is not technically viable, and yet they have confirmed the regional strike waiting for Parliament to pass a law on the census. The announcement was made in a joint statement by the governor of Santa Cruz, Luis Fernando Camacho; by the Vice-President of the Regional Civic Committee, Stello Cochamanidis, and by the Rector of the Gabriel René Moreno Autonomous State University , Vicente Cuéllar. <br />The Bishops of Santa Cruz de la Sierra therefore launched a new appeal, significantly entitled "Peace be with you" , in which they underline that the prolongation of the general strike and the blockades in the Department, in addition to causing serious damage to citizens, institutions and the educational, health, labor and social world in its daily life, "represents a great sacrifice and causes particular suffering and pain to the poor, the sick, the lonely elderly, occasional workers and the countless vulnerable and needy brothers and sisters".<br />Although they appreciate the spirit of courage and love for this land with which the protest over the census issue is taking place, however, the bishops stress that "this situation is becoming more unbearable every day and threatens to turn into rebellion, with unforeseeable consequences, due to the indifference and lack of response from the authorities and state institutions".<br />The Bishops of Santa Cruz conclude their message, which bears the date of November 24, 2022, invoking the "Mamita de Cotoca", Patroness of Santa Cruz and the Bolivian East, so that she "touches the hearts of the authorities and of all citizens, stop violent and confrontational attitudes, work for the common good and not for particular interests, look for what unites us and we can all live as brothers and in peace". <br />Fri, 25 Nov 2022 12:12:56 +0100AFRICA/ETHIOPIA - Peace talks raise hope: 'But people are exhausted and need help' - "Despite the enormous difficulties caused by the crisis, the effects of the conflicts, climate change and the severe drought that are afflicting our country, the population at least finds relief in the fact that a 'climate of peace' is beginning. We have followed with confidence the development of the peace agreements and now we wait with hope that they will produce effects. People are exhausted by the war, which has destroyed lives, property, relationships between communities", said Father Teshome Fikre Woldetensae, General Secretary of the Ethiopian Episcopal Conference to Fides on the sidelines of the Caritas Internationalis Conference.<br />"The Church in Ethiopia has long been committed to resolving the conflicts in Tigray and in the Oromia region in the west of the country", said the General Secretary, recalling the many emergencies that characterize the current dramatic situation: "Due to the war the number of displaced persons increased. Some of them are still in refugee camps, others are returning to their homeland. We are also currently dealing with climate change, with a drought that has become very bad. The southern and eastern parts of the country are hardest hit. The crisis of the war between Russia and Ukraine, which has led to an increase in the cost of living around the world, has also hit us hard, with the poorest suffering the most".<br />Regarding the situation of schools and education, Father Teshome Fikre Woldetensae recalled the problem of schools, which have been closed for years in many areas of the country due to the Covid 19 pandemic and the conflicts. "In recent years, we have tried to help children and internally displaced people in refugee camps who lack everything, even basic necessities. In addition, many families have lost their resources and livestock due to the drought, leading to an increase in malnutrition rates of children and the elderly. The Church, together with Caritas in the parishes, tries to feed as many children as possible, in families, schools and refugee camps".<br />With regard to the peace agreement, the priest expressed confidence. "For the past two years we have heard nothing but war, destruction and betrayal, and now it is hopeful to learn that the two warring factions are meeting to negotiate peace. We hope and continue to pray that this will happen. We hope that systems will be put in place to check that the promises and commitments made by the parties are actually being kept. The first positive results are being seen, the humanitarian corridors are open and many organizations are sending their support in convoys. The Catholic Church also makes a contribution in close cooperation with international partners in the country. If there is political commitment and the parties to the conflict are willing not to focus on their own interests but on the concerns of the people, of the poor and the afflicted, everything can be solved more easily, people are happy, they are the ones who have paid the bitter price. It is the poor who have lost everything they own, who have died in wars and conflicts". <br />"As with all negotiations, there may be delays", the cleric added, "but I see there is interest and political commitment on both sides, and the international community has been encouraging the parties to the conflict to engage in dialogue and intervene in a timely manner to deal with humanitarian emergencies". The Tigray region is experiencing a moment of great hope, not least because of the aid that is arriving".<br />"The Church", adds the Secretary General of the Ethiopian Bishops' Conference, "has always been with the people, the Bishop of the Eparchy of Adigrat is there, the missionaries are there! We keep in touch as much as possible. We are in contact with the staff of the diocese and the parishes when they have the opportunity. We used all possible channels to get humanitarian aid. When we sent missionaries and our workers to the Tigray region, we met with Bishop Tesfaselassie Medhin. Last July, the director of Caritas Ethiopia was in Adigrat, along with leaders of other Caritas organizations, and they too spoke to him, who certainly has many problems, because everything is really lacking, and he, as a pastor who lives among the suffering people, has little opportunity to do anything now and it hurts him. <br />All Ethiopian bishops and the bishops' conference have tried, through Caritas, to help as best they can and to share the suffering of the people".<br />Fr. Fikre adds that pain and desperation are not unique to the Tigray region: "There is another conflict in the western part of the country that the media does not report on and no international organization is interested in. There are also many displaced people there, and every day many people are dying in the guerrilla fighting in that area. Now that the conflict in Tigray has attracted international attention, we also need to look at the other flashpoints that involve so many other parts of the country. In general, little attention has been paid to this emergency, there is still little humanitarian aid for the displaced people. Again, this is a very serious situation in which the victims are, once again, poor farmers". <br />Fri, 25 Nov 2022 11:46:21 +0100ASIA/SYRIA - Armenian Catholic Patriarchate: let us pray for the end of Turkish military operations in north-east Syria - The Armenian Catholic Patriarchate has issued an invitation to pray during the Advent season, asking the coming Savior Jesus, to also bring peace, the end of suffering and danger to the population of northeastern Syria. Area that has long been the target of shelling and military raids carried out by the Turkish armed forces against Kurdish targets. This is the request, of a spiritual nature made primarily to the communities scattered in the Middle East and the rest of the world, by the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate, while aerial bombardments, attacks with drone strikes and artillery attacks carried out at the instigation of the Turkish government against the cities of Hassaké and Qamishli and against the peoples of the Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Raqqa, Deir ez Zor and Hassakè continue. The military attacks - reads the call to prayer issued by the communication office of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate - affect the infrastructure and thus block the supply of water and electricity, to the detriment of local populations. A scenario of pain and suffering in which - the appeal reads - it is necessary to implore in prayer that the Lord help peace to return to those lands and populations tormented by endless situations of conflict. The Turkish military incursions are justified with the aim of attacking Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria, an area de facto under the control of the Damascus government and subject to the so-called Autonomous Administration of Northeast Syria, led by the Syrian Democratic Forces, , an alliance of Kurdish-led forces and militias formed during the years of the Syrian conflict. Syrian army soldiers and civilians in the area have also been victims of the military escalation. Recently, in Hassaké, an attack on a gas plant caused a colossal fire, killing and injuring workers, while Turkish shelling in the Deir ez Zor area also alerted US military posts there. After a drone bombardment of the El-Hol camp, dozens of jihadist detainees linked to the Islamic State managed to escape. According to several analysts, the Turkish military offensive in all Syrian areas along the border could pave the way for a ground invasion. Thu, 24 Nov 2022 13:40:13 +0100AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - Promote reconciliation between communities for sustainable peace - The civil war that has lasted for years continues to cause the death of thousands of people, the displacement of different areas and the destruction of infrastructures. Failure to comply with the 2018 peace treaty fuels political instability that gives rise to violence and inter-ethnic conflict. Despite the compromise reached in February 2020 between the rival groups led by Salva Kiir, president, and Riek Machar, the country's first vice president, to date there is neither peace nor stability. Many provisions of the 2018 deal remain unimplemented due to ongoing disputes between the two rivals. The Archbishop of Juba, Stephen Ameyu Martin, launched an appeal to promote peace and unity in the East Central African nation. The occasion was a thanksgiving mass celebrated on November 21 in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul on the occasion of the centenary of the diocese of Torit. "Be pillars of stability, peace and unity in your communities and work for the good of your people", said the Archbishop, noting that members of the clergy must be aware of the role they have before the people of God. "You must be an instrument of reconciliation between people of the community, it is your role as priests as messengers of God. We priests must promote reconciliation between communities for a sustainable peace". The local ordinary of the Archdiocese of Juba, who is also apostolic administrator of the diocese of Torit, urged those present to practice good deeds in their daily lives for the good of the Church and the communities. "We must learn to do things the right way, commit ourselves to think the right way", he said, adding that by living the mission fully, everyone will be safe in the Church and will continue to be safe in the State. "May God give us peace to live together and be able to work for the good of our Church and our country", the leader of the Catholic Church said in conclusion. There are 8.9 million people who need help in South Sudan. The crisis that is plaguing the country is due to various causes, to which must be added the climate impact due to the floods that increase every year and worsen the conditions of agricultural land and livestock, the main sources of subsistence. The transition period that was supposed to lead the country to elections in 2023, after several postponements, was extended by 24 months in early August due to the lack of progress on many provisions of the agreement. <br />Thu, 24 Nov 2022 12:54:29 +0100AMERICA/CHILE - Card. Aós: The University and the "dialogue for unity". A lot of prayer is needed "if we really want dialogue" - There are two very useful instruments in democracy to confront and present ideas: debate and dialogue. The debate has one goal, which is to win. One wants to win an argument, so he tries to convince the other, he opposes, he looks for the opponent's weak argument. Dialogue is very different, because the goal is not to win, but to understand. One tries to find a way to explain himself and asks the other to explain himself, he looks for a way to listen and for the other to listen. It takes self-discipline, tolerance, and resilience to listen to things that can be quite uncomfortable. These are the concepts highlighted by Alfredo Zamudio, director of the Chile Mission of the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue, at the inaugural conference of the VI Social Congress UC , organized by the Direction of Pastoral Care and Christian Culture. Zamudio insisted on the need to build a shared future, in which there is not necessarily unity, but where diversity can be shared. The meeting, oriented to the "Dialogue for Unity", and was attended by about 300 people from 100 civil society organizations, including foundations, institutions and companies, who wanted to explore the issues that mark national life and, to the light of the social doctrine of the Church, identify the ways to build a better country. In this context, the Rector of the UC, Ignacio Sánchez, underlined the importance of promoting this type of meeting: "Our public role as a university is manifested in the capacity of our institution to promote and strengthen dialogue in our country. This is very necessary for our society. In this sixth edition of the Congress we want to respond to the invitation of Pope Francis when he visited Chile and asked us to dialogue for unity. For this reason, I want to invite you in this Congress to establish a dialogue for unity, for our country and for the university". Cardinal Celestino Aós, Archbishop of Santiago and Grand Chancellor of the UC, led the recitation of the Prayer for Peace attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, and underlined: "St. Francis of Assisi grew in his love for the Church and for society, and became a peacemaker and instrument of peace. That is why we know that intelligence is not enough. If we really want to dialogue, we have to start spending a lot of time looking at Jesus on the cross, praying. Without this, we will not be able to open our hearts". The Congress was divided into three thematic panels which guided the reflection on the most urgent needs: "Craftsmanship of peace", "Recognition of a 'we'" and "Towards a shared human project". In addition, some topics were proposed to be discussed in small groups of eight people. In the exchange of experiences, among other topics, civic friendship, migration, social economy, integral ecology, etc. were addressed. Father Jorge Merino, Major Chaplain of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, highlighted the atmosphere and attitude of the participants: "With great joy, we saw many people participating; we saw that there was a desire to share, to learn, to dialogue to build peace and unity". He then reiterated the role of the university in this context: "We echo the words of Pope Francis when he says that the University must offer a contribution to society. Today we see that in Chile a lot of dialogue is needed, a lot of unity is needed and, therefore, with simplicity on the part of the University, guided by the Pastoral care, we want to contribute to promoting dialogue". Benjamin Cruz F., Director of the UC Pastoral Care, stressed that it was the first time that the Congress was once again in person: "It was precious to meet again, to regenerate networks and ties between institutions and people. The great challenge with which we leave this congress is the desire to contribute to Chile, to contribute to a more just and fraternal society". "This year's congress is very relevant to the context in which we live socially, politically and culturally. This is a very strong response, not only to continue the dialogue, but also to mobilize for action". The reflections and commitments resulting from the VI Social Congress of the UC will be collected in a digital book. More than two months after the plebiscite that rejected the draft of the new Constitution, Chile continues to experience a deep political, social and economic crisis that affects people's daily lives and has caused deep rifts in society <br />Thu, 24 Nov 2022 12:34:55 +0100AFRICA/MALI - The Episcopal Conference: "We have no news of the fate of Fr. Hans-Joachim Lohre" - "At the moment we have no further news or contacts with the kidnappers of Fr. Hans-Joachim Lohre" sources from the Mali Bishops' Conference told Agenzia Fides regarding the kidnapping of Fr. Hans-Joachim Lohre, the white father of German nationality who disappeared on Sunday, November 20 . <br />"At the moment, only the statement from Cardinal Jean Zerbo, Archbishop of Bamako, has been released, in which he expresses the closeness of the Church of Mali to the missionary's family", the sources say. In his communication of November 23, Cardinal Zerbo writes that "as I write these lines, we still have no news of Fr. Hans Joachim". "We send special thoughts to his biological family in Germany and pray in communion with all people of good will that the Lord return him to us without delay and in good health". Cardinal Zerbo, clarifies the circumstances of the disappearance of Father Hans-Joachim, who was supposed to celebrate Sunday mass in the Christian community of Kalaban-Coura at 8:30 am. But the missionary did not show up for the celebration. "It was late Sunday afternoon when his confreres realized his absence. His gray Peugeot Partner car had been parked in front of the house since morning. This prolonged absence suggested a kidnapping and the confreres contacted the police of the 5th district", says the Cardinal Archbishop of Bamako, who concludes with a prayer for the speedy release of the missionary and all the kidnapped: "May Our Lady of Mali, intercede for him, for us and for all the kidnapped and hostages not only in Mali, but throughout the world". <br /><br />Thu, 24 Nov 2022 12:08:02 +0100AFRICA/ESWATINI - Bishop of Manzini: “Media are used as weapons. Who fuels the violence?” - "Fear seems to be another element that has become part of our daily lives", writes to Agenzia Fides Msgr. José Luis Ponce de León, IMC Bishop of Manzini, in the kingdom of eSwatini , in offering testimony on a crisis largely ignored by the rest of the world.<br />Following what was already reported to Agenzia Fides , Msgr. Ponce de Léon, recalls that the crisis that began in June 2021 is centered on the lack of dialogue between the government, the opposition and civil society. "There seems to be a common agreement that a national dialogue is needed", writes the Bishop of Manzini. "I believe that every voice who has spoken since June 2021 repeated the same appeal". But so far these appeals have fallen on deaf ears. A void that is increasingly being filled by violence. Not only of the army which has now joined the police, but also of the Swaziland Solidarity Forces , an armed opposition group which claims to "want to free the country from King Mswati".<br />"The arson attacks and killings are attributed to the SSF", says Msgr. Ponce de León. Their members "threaten to kill or set alight the properties of those who do not do as they are told. Not sure if anyone knows who they are and who is financing them. These questions – important as they are – are hardly asked".<br />Therefore the population is caught between two fires: the police and the members of the SSF. In this context of fear and uncertainty, the role of the media is fundamental. "This is another area where we have seen changes. I used to say in the past that little could be found about eSwatini on social media", says the Bishop. "There was a kind of self censorship in many: 'It is better not to talk'. Information is hardly “independent” and “impartial” as media houses proclaim". "We all need to ask ourselves about what is being said what is not. One can point out that state media limits what is reported on the violence that takes place but the same thing could be said on those who choose not to report anything positive being done by the government because it might not suit them. It seems to be important to portrait the other as the enemy that needs to be dealt with". "Both sides say things on social media that have not been proven and which – the other side – denies being true: “mercenaries have come into the country” and “there are foreigners among the soldiers in our army” are two familiar examples".<br />"Violence and the media seem to go hand in hand", underlines the Bishop. "Information can be used as a weapon to instill anger, fear and violence. Even here one needs to ask: who is paying for it?. Sometimes on Twitter it is possible to find the same posts from different “people” who most probably do not exist. It is all set up with one goal: to support one side or the other and to influence the way people read the situation", says Msgr. Ponce de León who concludes with a reflection on the global media: "These days it is interesting to see the lack of information on eSwatini from beyond our borders. Media, who used to report so much in the past about our unrest, now keeps quiet. There seems to be no interest on what is happening here". <br />Wed, 23 Nov 2022 13:27:17 +0100AMERICA/COLOMBIA - Thousands of Venezuelans, Haitians and Ecuadorians face "the hell of Darién" in order to escape poverty and violence - "The migrant community, which brings together various nationalities, has shared with us all the vicissitudes they have to face to reach Necocli, and the fears of crossing the so-called 'Darien hell', due to situations of illness, theft, violations, accidents and exploitation by those who see in them an opportunity for great economic gains, without any institutional, local or national control". <br />The dramatic denunciation comes from the Bishops representing the Presidencies of the Episcopal Conferences of Venezuela and Colombia, who met on November 21 and 22 to address the migratory crisis of thousands of Venezuelans, Haitians and Ecuadorians, who cross the dangerous Darién jungle on their way to the United States. The meeting took place within the framework of the campaign "At the feet of the migrant", organized annually by the diocese of Apartadó. This is the second meeting of the Episcopal Conferences of the two countries to address the migration crisis, after the one held in October 2022 in the city of San Cristóbal .<br />According to information released by the Episcopal Conferences of both countries, the Colombian and Venezuelan bishops met some migrant families in the port of Necoclí, in the Urabá region of Antioquia, where thousands of migrants arrive before heading to the border with Panama. In the facilities of the Nuestra Señora del Carmen parish, they listened to their painful stories of uprooting, the reasons that led them to want to settle in Colombia or to decide to migrate to other countries. The Bishops also went to the docks of the port, and distributed kits to people in transit. The action of the Catholic Church is permanent in the cities of Necoclí and Acandí through the daily work of the National Social Pastoral and that of the diocese of Apartadó, Caritas Colombiana, the Clamor Network, the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate and the Juanist Sisters.<br />The two-day agenda also included a meeting of the Bishops with representatives of local authorities, the Ombudsman's Office, Migration Colombia, UNICEF, IOM, UNHCR, the Colombian Red Cross, Mercy Corps and WORLD VISION. The topics discussed were the characterization of the latest wave of migrants, families with children, adolescents and the elderly; human trafficking; sexual and labor exploitation; unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents. Aware that the problem is not a single nation but a regional one, the Colombian and Venezuelan Bishops have committed to prioritizing all initiatives and projects to help migrants through social ministry and Caritas Colombia and Venezuela.<br />In the final statement issued at the end of the visit, the bishops point out that "the mixed migratory flow in Urabá Darién continues, and continues to generate continuous challenges for all the actors." They then recall that migrants and refugees, forced by poverty, political conflicts and violence, "have been forced to leave their countries of origin, in search of better living conditions and future opportunities for their families". <br />Thanking the different organizations that work in coordination to guarantee the respect and human dignity of immigrants, the Bishops have launched an appeal so that "the right to human mobility is respected, foreigners are welcomed, all closed and violent nationalism is overcome, and stop all xenophobic actions, contempt and mistreatment of foreigners." In addition, immigrants must be accompanied by all means, especially in the institutional sphere, to avoid human trafficking, all kinds of violence, exploitation... They must be offered opportunities for integration, as individuals and as families "All public bodies must commit to promoting safe routes that respect human rights". <br />Wed, 23 Nov 2022 13:09:00 +0100ASIA/INDONESIA - Serving the poor, in harmony with Muslims: living faith in Christ in Indonesia - In the city of Yogyakarta, a city where universities and educational institutes flourish, Catholic and Muslim students share paths of study and experiences of solidarity towards the poorest. On the island of Flores, the "Catholic heart" of Indonesia, the Camillian religious carry out food assistance programs for hundreds of families with economic difficulties. <br />In Indonesian Borneo, in the West Kalimantan province, a new Trappist monastery is being built, which will join three others already present in the Asian nation. In Bandung, on the island of Java, Sr. Gerardette Philips, a missionary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who has been in Indonesia for 22 years, as a sign of spiritual communion, shares the fast lived by Muslim believers during the month of Ramadan, sacred in Islamic tradition. In Jakarta, the organization "Sahabat Insan" , founded by Indonesian Jesuits, assists migrant workers and victims of human trafficking, restoring their dignity and freeing them from slavery.<br />They are all different experiences - and, alongside these, there are many others - with which in the vast Asian archipelago of 18,000 islands, characterized by some 400 native ethnic groups and 742 languages with different dialects, "Indonesian Catholics live the mission of Christ showing the face of the Catholic Church”, explains Antonius Subianto Benjamin, OSC, Bishop of Bandung, recently elected president of the Indonesian Episcopal Conference.<br />In a final declaration of the Assembly of Bishops of Indonesia, which has just concluded in Bandung, Msgr. Subianto reaffirms the path "to achieve a truly synodal community, where fraternity, participation and the spirit of mission are lived". In this sense, "the Indonesian Catholic Church shows unity in diversity, like the universal Church in miniature", he points out, since the bishops of the various dioceses, so different in culture and tradition, "come together in faith, hope and love".<br />Msgr. Antonius Subianto Benjamin wanted to highlight that the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Francis 'Praedicate Evangelium' "will help the Indonesian Catholic Church to become more present, friendly and open-hearted", to "be salt, light and leaven in society". "The Indonesian Church - he added - intends to respond to the call of Pope Francis in the Apostolic Exhortation 'Gaudete et Exultate', bringing, in the name of the Gospel, a message of consolation and joy to all Indonesians, especially those poor, the weak and the forgotten". Msgr. Subianto concluded by citing the motto formulated by Albertus Soegijapranata, the first native bishop of Indonesia: "Everyone baptized is 100% Catholic and 100% Indonesian".<br />The Indonesian Jesuit Father Ignatius Ismartono, who was secretary of the Indonesian Episcopal Commission for Interreligious Dialogue, comments to Agenzia Fides: "In our daily commitment, we baptized in this country with a large Islamic majority, with 87% of the Muslim population, live in peace, under the banner of respect for differences and interreligious harmony. We are present together with the most vulnerable and exploited. We seek to be a community that promotes, even in difficulties, communion between all components of society. Caring, without distinction, for our poor and suffering brothers, in whom Christ is present, is our priority. This is our synodal path". <br />Wed, 23 Nov 2022 12:57:03 +0100