Fides News - English Agency NewsenContent on this site is licensed under aASIA/PAKISTAN - Catholic Bishops’ shows solidarity to the Sri Lankans after the horrific attacks - The National Commission for Justice and Peace of Catholic Bishops Conference of Pakistan has strongly condemns these horrific and deadly attacks on people of Sri Lanka held on Easter Sunday and expresses deep sadness on the loss of precious and innocent lives.<br /><br />In a joint statement His Excellency Archbishop Dr. Joseph Arshad, Chairperson NCJP, Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf National Director and Mr. Cecil Shane Chaudhry Executive Director stated that this attack is evidence of a rising tide of extremism and radicalization all over the world. Therefore governments across the world need to improve security measures specifically for worship places.<br /><br />The President of Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference and Chairperson of NCJP, His Excellency Archbishop Dr. Joseph Arshad strongly condemned this inhuman act on Easter day and also prayed for the souls of the deceased and their families, and offered his condolences to those affected. He especially prayed for the speedy recovery of injured. <br /><br />Archbishop Joseph Arshad said: “the entire Christian Community and Church in Pakistan are deeply saddened by this horrific act. While we pray for the souls of the departed, we ask the Lord to give strength to the wounded and the grieved families. And the perpetrators of this heinous act be brought to justice.” <br /><br />“It is very saddening and heartbreaking that this Easter terrorists attacked various churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. I condemn these horrific attacks that killed more than 300 and around 500 are injured,” this is what Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw said while addressing the gathering held in Sacred Heart Cathedral of Lahore in this week. <br /><br />“We have called a gathering to pray for the victims of these horrific attacks, we especially invited our Sri Lankan friends serving in Pakistan to show them our solidarity and unity and we appreciate the good works of our Sri Lankan Priests, Religious Men and Women and Lay people serving and served in Pakistan especially in field of education,” Archbishop Sebastian F. Shaw informed fides. <br /><br />He adds: “We assured them that we are with the people of Sri Lanka at this time of suffering, and special prayers are held for the people passed away in this terrible incident, we lit candles in their memory and presented flowers to our Sri Lankan brothers and sisters to show them our love, concern and unity.” <br /><br />Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw also led a peaceful demonstration and Press Conference on Easter Tuesday with His Muslim friends to show solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka. The school Children from Catholic Schools and Islamic Schools also joined the peaceful demonstration holding the posters containing the messages to show solidarity with the people affected due to the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. <br /><br />‘we pray for Sri Lanka’, ‘Peace is caring, violence is depressing’, No to Terrorism – Yes to Peace’, ‘we want peace’, ‘accept, love and respect others to promote peace’, ‘Lord! Make me a channel of your peace’ were some of the slogans written of the posters hold by the students in the peaceful demonstration held during the gathering. <br /><br />Archbishop Sebastian Shaw further said: “I am receiving the pictures and videos of the attacks, and I am very much depressed looking at the pictures of the Children died during the attacks they are dressed in white during their funeral, they have recently received their first Holy Communion on Holy Thursday.” He adds: “We are sad and show our solidarity to our brothers and sister, but we will not tolerate these acts of terrorism, the World has to get in unity to battle against these satanic powers to make our World a peaceful place.” <br /><br />Bishop Samson Shukardin OFM of Catholic Diocese of Hyderabad prayed for the victims of these suicide bombings during the Easter Mass on Sunday morning. He also prayed for the recovery of the people injured. Speaking to the Fides Bishop said: “It is very much saddening for the whole of humanity, the terrorists are doing their things freely and they are killing people. None of the religions teaches this and none of the terrorists are following any of the religions.” He adds: “I think they have their personal hidden agendas, I encourage the Government of Sri Lanka to provide proper security to the religious places for the protection of their innocent people.” <br /> <br />Thu, 25 Apr 2019 13:41:35 +0200ASIA/SRI LANKA - Colombo Cardinal condemns bombs attacks in Sri Lanka, SRI LANKA -- The Archbishop of Colombo, Albert Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, condemned the deadly attacks on churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday in a series of bomb blasts that claimed at least 290 lives and leaving more than 500 people injured.<br />The police said that it was the worst violence to hit the island since its devastating civil war ended a decade ago in 2009.<br />Cardinal Ranjit urged Sri Lankans not to "take the law into their own hands" after a series of explosions targeting churches and people hotels.<br />"I condemn, to the utmost of my capacity, this act which has caused so much death and suffering," he told Fides.<br />He also urged people to donate blood to help the injured and pray for their speedy recovery. It is so sad, so tragic and shocking. The dastardly attack was mainly on Christians in Churches and others in hotels.<br />“We are saddened for all those who loved lives in this violence. Our prayers are for each of them,” the Cardinal said.<br />One of the explosions was at St. Anthony's Shrine, a Catholic church in Kochcikade, Colombo, a tourist landmark.<br />A second blast hit St Sebastian's Church during Easter Mass, killing dozens. Pictures from the site showed bodies on the ground, blood on the church pews and a destroyed roof.<br />Soon after the first two church blasts, police confirmed that the Zion church in the east coast town of Batticaloa had been hit, along with three high-end hotels in the capital - the Cinnamon Grand, the Shangri-La and the Kingsbury.<br />Later in the afternoon, two people died in a strike at a hotel in the south of Colombo, and a suicide bomber killed three police officers as they raided a house in a northern suburb of the city.<br />There were fears the attacks could spark a renewal of communal violence, with police reporting late on Sunday there had been a petrol bomb attack on a mosque in the northwest and arson attacks on two shops owned by Muslims in the west.<br />In the meantime, the President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference Charles Cardinal Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, sent a letter of solidarity and condolence to Cardinal Ranjith on 21 April in the wake of the serial bomb blasts that rocked the island nation.<br />In a quick response to the unfolding tragedy which occurred during the Easter Sunday morning services Salesian Cardinal Bo wrote, “Allow me to express my sincere anguish at this tragedy that has taken the toll on scores of innocent human lives on the very day when we celebrate world over the victory of life and goodness over death and evil.”<br />The Myanmar Cardinal offered his fraternal support saying, “As I place my humble prayers for all the victims of this senseless violence, I also pray for the care givers and relief agents.”<br />“We need to plead the mercy seat of the Risen Lord Jesus, the Prince of Hope and Peace, to strengthen all people of good will to help stabilize the situation of fear and suspicion that has arisen following the blasts,” the cardinal prayed.<br />The head of 19 Episcopal Conferences of Asia concluded his letter stating, “I also extend the prayers of Brother Bishops and Faithful of all member countries of the FABC.”<br />In the years since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009, there has been some sporadic violence, with members of the majority Buddhist Sinhala community attacking mosques and Muslim-owned properties. That led to a state of emergency being declared in March 2018.<br />Theravada Buddhism is Sri Lanka’s biggest religion, making up about 70.2% of the population, according to the most recent census. It is the religion of Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority.<br />Hindus and Muslims make up 12.6% and 9.7% of the population respectively.<br />Sri Lanka is also home to about 1.5 million Christians, according to the 2012 census, the vast majority of them Roman Catholic.<br />Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan government imposed a nationwide curfew after the blasts that also left 500 wounded. The curfew was lifted on Monday but schools and colleges remained closed on Monday and Tuesday.<br />Soldiers armed with automatic weapons stood guard outside major hotels and the World Trade Center in the business district.<br />The news came hours after it was revealed that an improvised bomb discovered at the main airport in Colombo had been defused.<br />Sri Lankans accounted for the bulk of those killed or injured, although government officials said 32 foreigners were also killed. These included British, US, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Portuguese and Japanese nations.<br />"Additionally, while nine foreign nationals are reported missing, there are 25 unidentified bodies believed to be of foreigners," the Sri Lankan foreign ministry said.<br />The attacks were mostly targeted at high-end hotels in the capital and churches where worshippers were attending Easter services.<br />Social media access, including Facebook and WhatsApp, has also been curbed to restrict "wrong information" spreading in the country.<br />Sri Lanka's small Christian minority - just 6 per cent of the 21 million-strong population - has been targeted by violence in the past, but never to such brutal effect, Maline Fernando, a Catholic lay woman, told Fides.<br />There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the police on Monday said 24 people have been arrested.<br />Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said "so far the names that have come up are local", but that investigators would look into whether the attackers had any "overseas links".<br />The police were investigating whether suicide bombers were involved in all of the blasts.<br />Sri Lanka's State Minister for Defence Ruwan Wijewardene said the country's Criminal Investigations Department is working with the police and the military to investigate the attacks.<br />"We believe that all the culprits who have been involved in this unfortunate terrorist incident will be taken into custody as soon as possible," he said, adding that suspects have been identified.<br />According to Sri Lanka's police chief Pujuth Jayasundara issued an intelligence alert to top officers 10 days ago, warning that suicide bombers planned to hit "prominent churches".<br />"A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo," the alert said.<br />The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that was linked last year to the vandalisation of Buddhist statues.<br />Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe acknowledged that "information was there" about possible attacks and that an investigation would look into "why adequate precautions were not taken".<br />Ethnic and religious violence has plagued Sri Lanka for decades, with a 37-year conflict with Tamil rebels followed by an upswing in recent years in clashes between the Buddhist majority and Muslims.<br />While there have been attacks on Christians, their community had been left relatively unscathed until now.<br />Many world leaders like US President Donald Trump and Pope Francis among others have condemned the attacks.<br />“We condemn these violent acts. Violence of any kind are not acceptable and non-negotiable! They have no place in our world today. The perpetrators much be brought to book. We call upon all to maintain peace and harmony and to ensure that such acts are not repeated anywhere and on anyone. On this Easter week we pray for healing and that justice, truth, love and peace may reign in the hearts and minds of all men and women,” Jeevani Pereiera, a Christian youth, told Fides.<br />“Violence of this nature was never seen before. All are in a state of fear and shock,” she added. Mon, 22 Apr 2019 12:46:10 +0200ASIA / PAKISTAN - Christians ask for the postponement of college exams scheduled for the Easter Triduum - "The Department of Education of the province of Sindh has the duty to take into account the dates of religious festivals and to set up the schedule of examinations. It is not difficult to know. We ask for the postponement of the exams foreseen during the Easter Triduum": this is the appeal given to Fides by Bishop Samson Shukardin OFM, at the head of the Catholic diocese of Hyderabad, one of the two dioceses of the southern province of Sindh.<br />The Bishop says: "Also last year the exams of Classes 9 and 10 were rescheduled, initially foreseen on days when Christians celebrated religious celebrations. We urge the Department of Education of the Government of Sindh to take action and respect our fundamental rights”.<br />The Christians of Sindh have launched a campaign on social media through Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter to ask for the reprogramming of the exams for classes 11 and 12 to be held during the Easter Triduum. The Christian community has asked to reschedule the examinations to be held on 18, 19 and 20 April, i.e. Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.<br />Sabir Michael, a minority rights activist, told Fides: "It is very important for every religious community to celebrate its religious events without any pressure. It would be a good step for the Sindh government to reprogram exams and provide an opportunity for Christian students to participate in their religious ceremonies in serenity ".<br />And he adds: "According to the Constitution of Pakistan it is our right to raise our voices and report these issues. I hope that the Sindh government will listen to us. We also ask Bilawal Zardari, President of Pakistan's Peoples Party, and Mr. Anthony Naveed, the only Christian parliamentarian of the Sindh government, to present our request to the Chief Minister of Sindh".<br />Pastor Adeel Patras Chaudhry, vice president of the "Jesus Life TV", commenting on the matter, said: "Holy Week is a challenging and busy time for the Church, not only for Priests, but also for every Christian. It is the heart of the whole year. The faithful participate with great devotion to the religious celebrations. We request the higher authorities of the Government of the Sindh to reschedule exams."<br />Furthermore, it is requested that "Good Friday be granted a vacation to Christian personnel serving in public administration and private companies to ensure that they can reflect and participate in the mystery of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ". Tue, 16 Apr 2019 13:52:00 +0200AFRICA/MALAWI - Bishops offer support to flood victims – “We are here to stand with you to fulfill our duty to help those in need” said His Excellence Monsignor Thomas Luke Msusa, Archbishop of Blantyre and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malawi , during an ECM delegation visit of victims of the floods caused by cyclone IDAI in March. <br />After speaking with the people sheltered at the evacuation camps for Makina, Matiya and Mwalija, Mons. Msusa said “Our Bishops understand the struggle that the people are experiencing. Consequently, we have asked the partners of the Catholic Development Commission - Aid to the Church in Need, Cordaid, Sign of Hope, Caritas Australia and Caritas Korea by way of Caritas Internationalis to help us in a way that allows us to help the flood victims. We are truly grateful because with their help, we are able to resolve some of problems you are facing” <br />Thanks to the resources already available, the Bishops Conference through the Catholic Development Commission will build 450 houses, 150 for each of the districts hit hardest by the floods: Zomba, Chikwawa and Phalombe. As part of the project the plan is to supply potable water through the drilling of local wells.<br />The floods have claimed at least 57 victims while close to one million people have been affected by the aftermath of heavy storms in 14 districts. <br />Sat, 13 Apr 2019 09:52:10 +0200ASIA/INDONESIA - President of the Bishops' Conference: “No to corruption and violence, yes to clean politics” – “It is important to differentiate between clean politics, in the highest sense of the word, and electoral competition. In Indonesia healthy politics is overshadowed by pervasive corruption implicating politicians, officials, civil servants, and government bodies. With a lack of moral conscience, the public has lost faith in their leaders”, Agenzia Fides is told by Mons. Ignatius Suharyo, Archbishop of Jakarta and President of the Bishops' Conference of Indonesia, soon before the parliamentary elections to take place on 17 April, meanwhile in the mass media the debate is still heated between the opposing sides, at the peak of the election campaign.<br />“Clean politics – the Archbishop recounts- means a clean race and honest and a transparent administration of power that benefits all citizens. When bad practices, such as violence and corruption, become commonplace, a general moral crisis takes place. Citizens are no longer able to distinguish good from bad. Without a moral guide, people are unable to have a good social life”<br />“In this situation, the Church should encourage Catholics, fulfilled by the values of just politics, to participate in the government framework. Such action, the involvement of Catholics in politics should be pursued at present”, he revealed, taking note of the 151 Catholic candidates on the ballots. Politics can and should be revived by a sense of “healthy nationalism”, he explains, understanding the theme in a more “inclusive” sense, as national protection, rather than a nationalistic ideology that even attempts to take advantage of fanatic religion to gain power, adversely affecting religious minorities. <br />The nation, he explains, belongs to every citizen, all religions: Monsignor Suharyo mentions in regards to the “iconic missionary” of Jesuit Franciscus Georgius Josephus van Lith SJ of Holland , the first missionary of Indonesia, that lived in Java, in 1922 didn’t hesitate to support the Javanese in their conflict against the Dutch Government which had colonized the archipelago. With the same spirit, he recalls, Mons. Albertus Soegijapranata SJ, the first native Indonesian Priest, has been driving the Archdiocese of Semarang.<br />Meanwhile in Indonesia, the political climate is heating up and on the eve of the elections the former General Prabowo Subianto, opponent to the exiting President of Indonesia Joki Widodo, during a recent speech has openly invited the public to refuse the result of the voting , calling for a uprising of the people in the aftermath of the elections. Appeal, this one, deemed dangerous and irresponsible by many observers, since it could lead to a violent uprising. <br /><br /><br />Sat, 13 Apr 2019 09:51:10 +0200AFRICA - Farewell missionary and journalist Father Paolo Costantini – Missionary and journalist: is how Paolo Costantini defined himself, already an established director of the press agency of Padri Bianchi in Brussels, then of the magazine <<Africa>>. Father Paolo, 78, passed away suddenly between the evening of 11 and 12 April in Treviglio . He entered the seminary at a very young age. It was there that he learned about the Missionaries of Africa and decided to dedicate his life to the cause. His first post was in Algeria and later RD Congo , where he spent many years before being sent to Belgium. In Brussels he worked for the press agency of the Padri Bianchi. Upon his return to Italy he was then assigned to Treviglio, where he was responsible for the newsroom and administration of “Africa”.<br /><br />“I carried out my missionary work first in Africa and then through the media. Both experiences, for which I care for deeply, have enriched my life” he said earlier during a press meeting in Treviglio. Father Paolo was a devout priest, and messenger of a humble yet deep spirituality. Attentive to evangelical values conveyed to those who knew him, living by example and his professional commitment. <br /><br />These very same abilities convinced him to drive the transition which is now leading the magazine “Africa” toward a new asset, which no longer has the Padri Bianchi as a the main owner. “The Padri Bianchi are old and dwindling – he said in numerous accounts – but they don’t want the magazine to be discontinued. The tradition should continue, carried forward by lay people that believe in it.” A prophetic vision left to his fellow missionaries and readers of "Africa". Fri, 12 Apr 2019 09:47:30 +0200AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - “South Sudanese touched by the act of Papa Franceso done in their name.” – “South Sudanese were left positively stunned as they witnessed Papa Francesco plead on his knees and kiss the feet of politicians of South Sudan. The video and images of the event are circulating television networks, social media and mobile devices of the general public” says Agenzia Fides Sister Elena Balatti, a Combonian missionary, who is in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. Yesterday, 11 April, at the conclusion of the South Sudan political leaders’ spiritual retreat, lead by Domus Sanctae Marthae in Vatican City , Papa Francesco kneeled before them imploring consideration for the future of the new State, to be established 12 May, while kissing the feet of President of the Republic, Salva Kiir Mayardi, and of the Vice Presidents elected, among whom Reik Machar and Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior. “The people recognize and immensely appreciate the efforts of the Holy Father, the Bishop and the local Church for everything that they are doing to promote peace in South Sudan” says Sister Elena Balatti. “We were all moved by the Pope’s insistence in reminding the politicians of their duty to the people that are suffering dearly, that have experienced numerous losses, without mentioning those who have had to leave the country. This was the meaning behind the kneeling, he did it in the name of the people of South Sudan. It is a gesture much appreciated by the people here in South Sudan” concludes the missionary Fri, 12 Apr 2019 09:46:30 +0200ASIA/SOUTH KOREA - The Catholic Bishops: "Abortion is always a sin” – Bishops of South Korea express “profound regret” for the Contitutional Court decision against a ban that makes abortion illegal, part of a law passed in 1953 that is still enforced. In a landmark sentence passed yesterday, 11 April, the Court established that prohibiting the voluntary termination of a pregnancy is unconstitutional. According to regulation, women can be fined and imprisoned for having an abortion, with exceptions made for victims of violence, incest, or life threatening purposes. The Court mandate called for a rewrite of the law within 2020.<br />“The Constitutional Court sentence negates the fundamental right for a fetus to live, a life without the possibility to defend itself” says a Korean Bishop’s statement sent to Agenzia Fides and signed by Igino Kim Hee-jung, President of the Catholic Bishop Conference. “Additionally it imputes the responsibility of an unwanted pregnancy to women only, unjustly excluding men’s right to have a say”, reveals the texts. <br />“Abortion is a sin, as is killing an innocent life in the womb for any reason: this is the doctrine of the Catholic Church that can never justify such a practice”: the statement also says.<br />The Bishops emphasizes that, “the Catholic Church of the Republic of Korea will continue to assist and support women and men that, finding themselves in despair, are drawn by the temptation to consider abortion, to choose life.” Furthermore, he affirms, “Our doors are open to women suffering emotionally, physically and spiritually, and wish to reconcile and heal from a past abortion. <br />The Bishops confirm that the Church will do everything in its power “to uphold and promote life” and recall that “protecting life at the time of conception is the responsibility of every member of society.” The Catholic Church in Korea, “urges the executive and legislative powers of the State to introduce laws that encourage women and men, in difficult circumstances, to choose life over death”, so as to support them in avoiding the choice of the abortion. <br />In Seoul, after the sentence was passed, two different demonstrations were held: one of the citizens in favor of legalizing abortion, pleased by the Court’s decision; another of those in favor of keeping abortion illegal, a rule that over the past years has caused a heated debate among the public opinion. Fri, 12 Apr 2019 09:45:38 +0200AFRICA/ERITREA - When assigning funds the " European Union must guarantee respect for freedom and human rights"<br />Asmara – The Europea Union has a duty to control the use of funds assigned to Eritrea, because the money given by the EU may fund forced labour. This observation comes from the Eritrean Foundation for Human Rights and the Habeshia Agency who say that to build roads from Eritrean ports of Massaua and Assab to the border with Ethiopia, there is a danger that minors may be involved in 'so called' never ending unpaid 'national service', in situations of semi slavery. <br />Official national service in Eritrea, as part of efforts to "reduce illegal migration", involves using these young men. The EU says it is aware that young men of military service age will work on the roads but they will be paid and recently the tariffs have increased. Eritrean sources report that since 2016 these "military” are said to receive 120 dollars a month. But part of this sum is detracted for expenses and they are left with only 17 dollars a month.<br />"Anything that promotes peace is welcome", Fides was told by Abba Mussie Zerai, a priest of the Asmara Eparchy and representing Habeshia Agency , "but it is difficult to imagine real peace in Eritrea, without the vital components of freedom and respect for human rights, without, that is, a vast operation of truth and justice regarding events in the last 20 years".<br />The EU according to the priest must keep check on the projects it funds. Wed, 10 Apr 2019 18:11:52 +0200AMERICA/MEXICO - Bishops multiply efforts to welcome migrants but the situation is catastrophic<br />Coahuila – The Catholic Bishops in north east Mexico have united to welcome convoys of migrants attempting to enter the country and pass the border with the United States of America. Bishop Alonso Garza Treviño, of the diocese of Piedras Negras, Coahuila, says he intends to open a new Migrants Home in that area. Similar decisions have been taken by the Archbishop of Monterrey, Rogelio Cabrera López, the auxiliary bishop of Monterrey, Mons. Heriberto Cavazos Pérez, and the Bishop of Saltillo, Raúl Vera López, O.P. For some time these dioceses have assisted migrants since the issue has reached the international level.<br />Bishop Alonso Garza Treviño, reports that Caritas Centres work swiftly but the activity of the civil authorities is slower. In Piedras Negras many migrants drowned attempting to cross Rio Bravo. Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera Lopez says the situation is now an international matter calling for the attention of everyone, Pope Francis contiinutes to call for more assistants for migrants.<br />Bishop Heriberto Cavazos Pérez. Mentre Mons. Raúl Vera López reports on his arrival in the diocese of Saltillo worked with Fr Pedro Pantoja to open a Home for Migrants.<br />"While the government in Washington says it has no power to stop asylum seekers it asks Mexico to detain them" said Lawyer Jaime Barrón, who works in Dallas, Texas to assist migrants. "In my opinion this situation is disputable to force people not to ask for asylum" he added. "People fear being held in Mexico for months, years and these are people without shelter or food " warns Barrón.<br /> <br />Wed, 10 Apr 2019 17:24:42 +0200ASIA/THAILAND - “The cycle of time resumes ”: risen with Christ, Christians look to the future Mai – “Easter in Thailand falls at the start of the torrid season of new year , the beginning of a new cycle of life, a feast, a feast for the elderly and for families ”: Fides was told by Attilio De Battisti, Italian fidei donum missionary in Chiang Mai, as the annual major Christian feast days approach. <br />The missionary tells us: “In these important weeks we note several significant customs. One of these is the feast of ‘Cedi’ little mounds of sand. According to Buddhist tradition at the start of every new year people are asked to bring to the Temple the dust gathered by their sandals during the year. So children, young people and adults walk to the temples with their buckets of sand in order to start the new cycle of time. Everywhere we see heaps of sand marked by a flower or little flag. It is also the custom to re-create in sand copies of the most famous Cedi ”.<br />“The meaning is clear: at a time when the cycle of history starts anew, when everything is repeated, when new birth marks the spiritual cycle of history, putting things back in place becomes an important gesture. Anything removed is returned, anything disappeared is again visible. This is similar to the Jewish Jubilee” the priest explains. <br />“Perhaps this feast of Songkran may distract Christians from the rites of Holy Week, but at the same time I am happy that they have found a popular manner of expressing the sense of re-birth” Fr Attilio says. “It is important to reflect on these customs in the light of the Christian faith: to start anew. History lived is not annulled, the hands of the clock are not simply turned back. Quite the contrary. Christians look ahead, aware of their fragility, carrying their dust, but strengthened and renewed by Christ who confirms once again his alliance with his creatures. Jesus does not start again by cancelling the past, instead he assumes the past transforming it . Lost opportunities will not return but Christians receive once again the grace of Christ to enable them to be more confident and generous” concludes the missionary.<br /> <br />Wed, 10 Apr 2019 16:17:37 +0200ASIA/INDIA - Christians pray for peaceful elections and the good of the nation<br />New Delhi - In view of the next general elections which will start 11 April, India's Christians are praying that a peaceful and transparent vote may bring "well-being and harmony" for the future of the country. Involved as citizens, at least 5,000 Indian Christians, including bishops, clergy and Christian faithful of various confessions joined recently in the capital Delhi to pray for the nation .<br />Fides was informed that addressing those present Catholic archbishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto, who leads the archdiocese of Delhi, urged the faithful "to fast and pray for the good of the country ", and expressed the hope that the people "will choose leaders with great vision for the development of society and the nation and asked them to work for good of humanity". "We pray to God that peace and harmony may prevail in India", said the archbishop.<br />In recent weeks hundreds of intellectuals, journalists, artists and activists spoke in public urging citizens to "put aside the policy of hatred", promoted by the prime minister Mr Narendra Modi, running for a second five year mandate. Under his government, Christians and Muslims all over the country have experienced attacks of violence often organised by nationalist Hindus.<br />Expressing his concern Catholic lay leader John Dayal, and also human rights activist, told Fides: "In five years , this government has succeeded in nullifying the progress achieved in India, regarding the struggle for freedom and human rights over the past 100 years. This has affected the principles of equality and above all brotherhood".<br />Some 900 million Indians are called to the polls to elect 543 members of the Federal Government in a process articulated in 7 stages, beginning on 11 April and closing on 19 May. Among its population of 1.3 billion India has 966 million Hindus, equal to 80%. Muslims constitute 15% and India's Christians comprise 2.3% . Wed, 10 Apr 2019 15:26:56 +0200ASIA/KOREA - Bishop of Busan appointed City – The Holy Father Francis has appointed Bishop of the diocese of Busan in Korea, Bishop Joseph Son Sam-seok, until now auxiliary of the same diocese . Wed, 10 Apr 2019 14:32:25 +0200ASIA/JORDAN- King Abdallah II: Christians are an “integral part of the tissue of the Arab world"<br />Amman – "Christians are an “integral part of the tissue of the Arab world ”, and Jordan intends to continue its commitment to safeguarding ecclesiastical properties. This was strongly affirmed by King Abdallah II of Jordan, when on 10 April in Amman he received Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Orthodox Syriac Patriarch of Antioch. King Abdallah, in the meeting with the Primate of the Syrian Orthodox Church, underlined that the Hashemite Monarchy will also continue to play its historic role in the protection and care of the Islamic and Christian Holy Places in Jerusalem.<br />The Kingdom of Jordan has never hidden its proper nature as an Islamic nation, ruled by a dynasty that legitimates its power on the grounds of descent directly in line from Mohammed, the panarab secularist or progressive theories which in the 1970s spread in neighboring countries from Syria to Egypt to Iraq, never affected Jordan.<br />Inter-fusion between the Islamic religion and state institutions happens without second thoughts. Grand Mufti and Imam in the mosques are appointed by the civil authorities which oversee their activity. High ranking Islamic dignitaries are consulted about the conformity of government decisions with the precepts of the Koran. <br />Jordan Christians have never raised objection of principle regarding the Islamic legitimization of the institutional structure limiting themselves to benefiting from the “moderate” application of the Koranic rules on the part of the Jordan Royalty. Islam is the state religion but the Constitution of 1952 sanctioned equality of all Jordanians before the law with no discrimination based on «race, discipline or religion». Jordan guarantees «freedom of expression for all forms of worship and religion in keeping with the customs observed in Jordan», and also freedom of teaching.<br />King Abdallah periodically asserts his role as protector of the Islamic and Christian Holy Places in Jerusalem. . <br /><br /><br />Wed, 10 Apr 2019 14:28:16 +0200AMERICA/ARGENTINA - Religious today “more contemplative, more humble, more committed to the common good and the rights of individuals” – Religious today “more contemplative, more humble, more committed to the common good and the rights of individuals”<br /><br />Buenos Aires – “These times of rapid and profound change, challenge us to have continual discernment, interiority that leads to integrity, to step out of our self-referentialness. We also see the evolution of our method of analysing situations, being more contemplative, humble, committed to the common good, respectful of the diversities in which we live”. This was affirmed by the Argentinean Conference of Religious men and women in a statement issued at the end of its first general Assembly of 2019, held at the La Montonera House Cenacolo in Pilar, with the motto "Do as He tells you, now is the moment". <br />The final statement, sent also to Fides, explains that during the meeting the major superiors and regional delegates reflected on the challenges facing the Church in these times, in the light of the word of God from the theological, sociological, psychological and methodological point of view. <br />“We let ourselves be questioned by the icon of the Wedding Feast in Cana proposed by CLAR for this new term, which prompted personal and community conversion - the Religious write in the statement -. It led us to question our place at this moment of history; inviting all of us to be attentive like the Mother of Jesus, to be present in the various situtions today where the wine of joy and hope are lacking”.<br />The assembly devoted a day to reflection and discussion on the reality of abuse within the Church, acknowledging the pain of the victims and in view of it, commitment to “leaving behind the attitude of defence and striving to identify remedies and means of prevention, with an attitude of solidarity with those who suffer such abuse".<br />Lastly, recalled the upcoming Beatification of the martyrs of La Rioja , scheduled for 27 April , the Argentinian religious recall “their commitment for justice and for the poor and the excluded persons”. They then conclude : “their blood is also the new wine which challenges and encourages us to work for the common good, respect for dignity and the rights of individuals. We see this as the mission of the Church today as consecrated persons to assist the brothers and sisters of this society ever more impoverished, whose rights are continually violated”. Wed, 10 Apr 2019 11:52:04 +0200ASIA/TURKMENISTAN - The Catholic community prepares to live Holy Week - “We are working on a programme for all the events of Holy Week in view of Holy Easter. Easter for us, a small flock of Catholics in this land, is an opportunity to bear witness to our faith. On Palm Sunday there will be a public procession of all the members of our community: usually we represent the entrty of Jesus in Jerusalem with the participation of many people who line the street with flowers, olive branches and clothes”. Fides was told by Fr. Andrzej Madej, a Polish priest of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and Superior of the Missio sui iuris of Turkmenistan.<br />Fr Madej is at present re-organising the activitie of the local Cathollic community after a long period of absence for institutional reasons. “I returned from Indonesia only a few days ago: in Jakarta, in recent weeks there was an important meeting for Oblates which I attended: every year our Superior General and his Council visits a continent and gathers together all the members of our Order in that specific geographical area, to verify and progamme our activity. Besides myself representing the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Turkmenistan, there were brother Oblates from the 14 countries of Asia in which we are present”. <br />Fr. Madej began his lengthy journey last February: he came to Rome to take part in the meeting on protection of minors in the Church and for the ad limina visit of the Bishops of Central Asia, held 25 February to 4 March. This appointment was followed by the another in Jakarta.<br />The Turkmen Catholic community comprises 250 faithful, who gather in the chapel of the Transfiguratione of the Lord, in Ashgabat the capital Two Oblates of Mary Immaculate priests lead this small flock, and they should welome a new priest in July this year. The local Catholic Church was born anew in 1997, when Pope John Paul II instituted the local Missio sui iuris. For thirteen years the presence of the Oblates was permitted only as “diplomatic representation Embassy of the Holy See”. In those days Catholics met in private homes and Mass was celebrated only on the diplomatic territory of the apostolic Nunciature of Ashgabat. In 2010 the presence of the Catholic Turkmen community was officially recognised by the government Tue, 09 Apr 2019 09:34:26 +0200AFRICA/ALGERIA - Peaceful protests, the people of Algeria become “actor of change for the future””<br /><br />Algiers – “ Demonstrations taking place are peaceful. Even the people are surprised at the serenity of the action. Society desires and demands a new future”. Graziella Rapacioli, Caritas Algeria secretary general, reports to Fides on the social and political situation in Algeria. For two months now the country has seen massive demonstrations in the streets. Initially the demonstrators opposed the re-candidacy of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika who, although in office for 20 years and a sick man, had announced his desire to recadidate himself in the May elections. However continuing demonstrations forced Bouteflika to withdraw from the electoral race. Nevertheless protests continue. Every Friday the people take to the streets demanding renewal of the entire political class.<br />What is astonishing is the composure and peaceful attitude with which Algerians are living this deleicate moment of change. Perhaps this is due to fear of another spiral of violence like the one which gripped the country from 1991 to 2002 and caused, it is calculated, between 60 and 150 thousand victims.<br />“We see - Graziella Rapacioli continues – marches passing peacefully in front of our windows, there are families with children. We are the first to be surprised by this serenity which is however accompanied with determination. Algerians are calling for serious change: on this point they refuse to be dissuaded”.<br />According to Algeria's Costitution a new date for election must be set soon. “The path of change – Rapacioli affirms – has been opened . Perhaps not everything will change at once. Perhaps a radical change will take time. But it is interesting to see that something is moving and this change is the result of the desires and the will of the people of Algeria. They have become the main actor of change and of their future”. Tue, 09 Apr 2019 08:46:37 +0200AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - South Sudan Leaders in spiritual retreat with Pope Francis SUDAN – South Sudan Leaders in spiritual retreat with Pope Francis <br /><br /><br />Roma - “We will accompany the Presidency on this journey to sing together the anthem of South Sudan” said Fr . James Oyet, combonian, Secretary general of the Council of Churches of South Sudan, confirming the participation in response to the invitation from Pope Francis in the spiritual retreat of the leaders of South Sudan President Salva Kiir, former vice President Vice Presidente Riek Machar, Vice President James Wani Igga, and other leading persons . “During the retreat we will recite and contemplate the key themes of the nation's Anthem” said Fr. Ovet. "We will work through the Hymn ... reflecting on the heart of peace, and the challenges of peace”. The presence is expected, probably at the end of the meetings, of Anglican Archbishop Primate Justin Welby and Archbishop John Baptist Odama, Gulu, Uganda.<br />The National Anthem of South Sudan reads: <br />“ Oh God,<br /> We praise you and we glorify you <br /> for the grace of our South Sudan,<br /> Land of great abundance<br /> that holds us united and in harmony.<br /><br /> Oh motherland,<br /> we stand, we raise the flag with the Pole Star <br /> singing hymns of freedom with joy,<br /> for justice, freedom and prosperity, <br /> will reign forever.<br /><br /> Oh great patriots,<br /> keep us in silence and respect ,<br /> to hail our martyrs whose blood<br /> reinforced our national foundation,<br /> with their promise to protect our nation<br /><br /> Oh God, bless South Sudan”. <br /><br /><br /> Tue, 09 Apr 2019 07:40:21 +0200VATICAN - CIAM hosts Formation course for English speaking PMS National directorsà del Vaticano – Following the French speaking National Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies , this week, the international Animazione Mission Centre hosts 33 members of the English speaking National Directors. This formation course was also organised in view of the Extraordinary Missionary Month in October this year 2019. The course will take place from the 7th to 12th April and the participants comprise 33 priests, Religious men and women from 15 different countries : 7 from Africa, 3 from Europe, 2 from Asia, 2 from Oceania, 1 from America. The work was opened by Fr Fabrizio Meroni, PIME, Secretary general of the Pontifical Mission Union , Director of CIAM and of the Fides Agency with a paper on the Extraordinary Missionary Month. Archbishop Giampietro Dal Toso, President of the Pontifical Mission Societies followed with a talk on “The Church, Mission and the PMS”. The programme includes an excursus on “Missione Ad gentes” in Papal Teaching , from Maximum illud to Evangelii gaudium, by Fr. Anthony Chantry, National PMS Director in England and Wales and moderator of the course. Other programmed events focus on the theme of the Extraordinary Missionary Month, “Baptised and Sent; mission ad Gentes in the Acts of the Apostles and Mission in the Digital world”. Other speakers include PMS Secretaries General and there will be a presentation on the situation of the PMS in the different countries. The programme includes participation at the General Audience of the Holy Father Francis in the Vatican and a pilgrimage to Assisi. <br />Tue, 09 Apr 2019 17:39:46 +0200AMERICA/BRAZIL - Four priorities to elaborate the National Mission Programme – Missionary formation, mission ad gentes, missionary animation, prophetic social comittment : these four priorities identified by the 36th assembly of the National Mission Council , 4 - 7 April in Brasilia, at the head offices of the Pontifical Mission Societies, will be taken into consideration for the National Mission Programme. <br />According to information issued by the Bishops' Conference and sent to Fides, COMINA continues to work on the text to present to the May assembly of the Brazilian Catholic Bishops Conference . For each priority, three projects intend to help reawaken missionary activity in the Church in Brazil, not only in the cases regarding mission specifically. <br />The COMINA meeting was attended by 64 participants, including representatives of various mission councils, lay organizations, institutes of religious life from all 18 of the CNBB regions. "Once approved, the plan will offer guidelines which each region may achieve according to the local situations" said the Auxilary Bishop of São Luís also president della CNBB Commission for missionary work, Bishop Esmeraldo Barreto Farias. The aim is to help the Church in Brazil "become more missionary and, walking together, living this missionary spirit, help to build a Brazil more just, more peaceful and fraternal”.<br />The COMINA assembly was preceded by a meeting between the Commission and the bishops reponsible for missionary activity at the regional level. The bishops worked on the conclusions of the process of eleboration of the National Missionary Programme, fruit of assemblies held in the regions all through 2018. During the meeting the work of the Commission in the four year period was assessed with special attention for missionary experiences, missionary congresses and popular missions. "All this helped us to open to missionary awareness and this is what we desire: to render every baptized person, every Christian, to feel called by God to follow Jesus Christ and to live mission in the family, and in the different walks of life" said Mons. Esmeraldo Barreto Farrias.<br />The Bishops reflected on the project for mission ad gentes, on initiatives within CNBB and regions, on missionary life outside Brazil: "It is a time of surprises to see what is happening in East Timor, and the missionary presence in Mozambique, there are more than 115 Brazilians men and women, priests, lay men and women, priests, religious men and women. And about 30-40 Brazilians are on mission in Guinea Bissau”. <br />Tue, 09 Apr 2019 17:36:24 +0200