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  • Celebrations Marking 125 Years of Catholicism in Accra, Ghana, Officially Launched

    CANAA || By Damian Avevor, Ghana || 25 September 2017

    launching 125 anniversary of accra archdiocese 2017The Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra, Ghana, Charles Palmer-Buckle has launched the 125th Anniversary of the Catholic Mission in Accra with a call on all Catholics to fully participate in the celebrations with fervent prayers and supplication to God.

    Archbishop Palmer-Buckle presided over the launch last Thursday, September 21, at the Holy Spirit cathedral in Accra, where he announced the three goals that will guide the celebrations: spiritual growth in Christ and the development of all Catholics; correct knowledge and intellectual appreciation of the Catholic faith and doctrines; and the spirit of fellowship and communion among the Church members, Church societies, parishes and in the Archdiocese, as well as with the universal Church.

    The year-long celebrations, which are set to officially start on the eve of the first Sunday of Advent on Saturday, December 2 and conclude on the Solemnity of Christ the King on Sunday, November 25, 2018, are to take place under the theme: 125 Years of Catholic Mission in Accra: Renewing Our Commitment to Evangelization.

    At the launch, the Archbishop inaugurated the members of the Planning Committee and Sub-committees who would co-ordinate the activities of the celebrations and emphasized the need for the celebrations to involve all Catholics in the Archdiocese in all Outstations and Parish communities, Church Societies and Pious Associations, Apostolates and Ministries.

    “We are going to have celebrations on deanery and Archdiocesan levels. Parishes and Deaneries are to put in place their own local organising Committees to work hand in hand with the Archdiocesan 125th Anniversary Planning Committee,” Archbishop explained.

    Ten youth of the Archdiocese who participated in the Anniversary Logo competition were recognized during the lauch.

    Enumerating the activities for the celebration, the Archbishop noted that it will be officially opened with Rosary pilgrimages and processions by Deaneries from vantage points to the Holy Spirit Cathedral, Accra, for the First Advent Vespers on Saturday December 2, 2017.

    He said the official Parish opening of the Anniversary will be on Sunday, December 3, 2017 while the whole of December will be dedicated to Children as God’s gift to the Archdiocese.

    Welcoming the over 1,500 Priests, Religious and lay faithful, Very Rev. Francis Adoboli, Vicar General of Accra and Chairman of the Anniversary Planning Committee said the celebrations would involve a lot of spiritual activities including a Candle-Light Procession to Sacred Heart Parish, Derby Avenue, which is the first church in Accra Archdiocese after the commemorative Mass on January 31, 2018.

    The Catholic Church in Accra began with the first Holy Mass on the soil of Accra on January 31, 1893, by Father Otto Hilberer and Father Eugene Raes, two priests of the Society of African Missions (SMA) who were sent from the Elmina Mission that had started in 1880.

  • Term Limits Battle in Uganda Draws Ambiguous Line from Religious Leaders

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 23 September 2017

    religious leaders on presidential term limits in uganda 2017Proposals to scrap a presidential age limit in Uganda, and allow President Yoweri Museveni - who has ruled since 1986 - to seek re-election in 2021. The issue has divided the nation, including religious leaders.

    Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni is always keen to celebrate his birthday, so when he skipped his 73rd birthday on August 4, many observers thought there must be a good reason.

    Most assumed he was trying to not draw attention to his age, since he is two years shy of the presidential retirement age in the country.

    The Ugandan constitution requires that the president must be between the ages of 35-75, and if the constitution is not changed, Museveni will be ineligible (to) run during the next election in 2021, when he will be 77.

    However, parts of the political machinery to change the constitution has been put into motion, and this has divided the nation, including the clergy.

    “Those who are planning to change the constitution are ruining the peace of Ugandans when we want a peaceful transition of power,” Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu, the president of the Catholic bishops’ conference, told AllAfrica.com.

    Members of the ruling party met last week to discuss scrapping the term limits, and allow Museveni - who came to power in 1986 - to continue his over 30 years in charge of the country.

    The opposition to the constitutional change cuts across denominational lines.

    “I do not support removal of the age limit,” said Anglican Bishop Dan Zoreka, of the Diocese of Kinkizi. “We have been waiting to see President Museveni hand over power peacefully. Changing the constitution is not good for the stability and peace of Uganda.”

    And Bishop Reuben Kisembo of the Anglican Diocese of Ruwenzori said that lifting age limits would be synonymous to locking out other potential rulers. He argued that Uganda has many qualified people who could be president, and therefore there was no pressing need to change the constitution.

    But many clergy were more circumspect when asked by AllAfrica.com to comment on the issue.

    Catholics Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga of the capital Kampala, Bishop Charles Wamika of Jinja, and Bishop Callistus Rubaramira of Kabale refused to comment either way.

    “We shall voice out our views in the right forum during our planned meeting for bishops in the whole country that is scheduled to take place soon,” Rubaramira told the website. “Giving individual comments on such a sensitive national issue might divide the Christians,” he added.

    Anglican Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, the head of the Anglican Church in the country, also refused to give an opinion either way.

    The fears of dividing the nation are not unfounded, as demonstrations in the country are growing more violent.

    At the Makerere University on Thursday, police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of students who came out to protest proposed the constitutional amendment.

    The students waved branches and chanted “K’ogikwatako!” - meaning “Don’t dare touch it!” in the local Luganda language - in reference to the constitutional clause on age limits.

    Meanwhile, security forces have been deployed in Kampala in what opposition MPs have described as an act of intimidation.

    “The regime knows how unpopular this move… for Museveni to rule until he dies is among the public,” Wilfred Niwagaba, an independent parliamentarian opposed to the proposed constitutional amendment, told Reuters. “He has now decided to use the army and police to instill fear in citizens and MPs.”

    Yet support for Museveni is still strong among a large part of the population.

    Compared to the political violence in many neighboring countries - Rwanda, Congo, South Sudan, and Kenya all border Uganda - the 30 years of his presidency can seem comparatively tranquil and peaceful.

    “President Museveni is a good leader. From the time he has been president in 1984, I have never run out of my country because of instability,” Evelyn Anite told the Los Angeles Times.

    Anite serves as Uganda’s Minister of Finance for Investment and Privatization, and a supporter of lifting the term limits, which she calls discriminatory and undemocratic.

    “If people want to choose a blind person to lead them, they should be able to do it. If they want to choose an old person to lead them, they should be able to do that,” she said.

    The push to let Museveni have another term in office is part of a trend in Africa.

    Many countries enacted term limits in the 1990’s and 2000’s as an antidote to the dictatorial reigns which characterized the continent in the post-colonial era.

    But there are still some holdouts.

    In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, 93, is seeking re-election next year. In Cameroon, Africa’s longest serving president - Paul Biya, who has been in power since 1982 - removed presidential term limits in 2008 to run again for the 2011 election, and he is likely to run again next year.

    In Togo, thousands of people have taken to the streets in protests against maneuvers that could guarantee Faure Gnassingbe another run for the presidency.

    In many countries, the Catholic Church has been at the forefront of the effort to protect constitutional term limits, as it is in Togo today

    This is less the case in Uganda. Although the bishops issued a statement condemning abuses by security forces in August, they have yet to issue one on the proposed change to the constitution.

    Museveni has hosted two popes during his rule: Pope John Paul II in 1993 and Pope Francis in November 2015 (Paul VI also visited Uganda in 1969.)

    The timing of the visit by Francis was considered controversial by some, since it took place just two months before Uganda’s general election, which Museveni won handily. Members of the opposition accused the president of using the papal visit as a campaign prop.

    Mohammad Nsereko, an opposition member of parliament, has called on religious leaders to imitate former Anglican Archbishop Janani Luwum, who stood up to to Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 1970’s.

    The archbishop was killed on February 16, 1977 - officially in a car crash, but his body was riddled with bullets when returned to his family. He is considered a martyr in the Anglican Communion.

    “Religious and cultural leaders should come out. Don’t bury your heads in the sand,” he said.

    Source: Crux… 

  • Collaborating North-to-South, Sisters Exemplify Changing World Demographics: Focus on Africa

    Global Sisters Report (GSR) || By The Life Panelists || 25 September 2017

    sisters fostering north to south collaboration 2017Openness to cultures. Psychological shifts. Economic differences. Succession planning. Forgiveness. This month our sister-panelists from all over the world speculate on the challenges and opportunities presented by the changing demographics of religious life, as the shift from global North to South becomes more evident. They addressed this question:

    What challenges and opportunities do you see as leadership shifts from the global North to the global South? 

    Agnes Wamuyu Ngure is an Elizabethan Sister from Kenya. After ministries in education and work with refugees, she currently serves as executive secretary of the Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK).

    Leadership shifts from the global North to South should not take anyone by storm. But we need to prepare, invest for retirement, and (as I once advised a family) start "preparing their children to be orphans."

    Though this is hard talk, we must enable those we bring to life to survive on their own, take responsibility and grow. Succession planning must be a part of leadership, and transition requires deliberate North-to-South collaboration.

    The shift from the global North to the global South is not just a geographical and cultural shift. It is also psychological. "Let go and letting be" requires growth in maturity.

    There is an excellent article from Global Sisters Report about leadership shifts from the global North to South by Winnie Ojo. The title, "Charism is carrying our community through global changes," says it all. We need to reflect on and internalize our charism, this great gift that we share.

    The Franciscan Sisters of St. Ann, a congregation founded in the Netherlands, is a beautiful story of Dutch sisters who recruited African vocations: Now there are over 160 sisters in Africa and about 30 Dutch sisters in Holland. What a gift! With no new vocations in Holland for 50 years, they held the general chapter in Africa and elected their first African general superior. In 2015, the generalate was moved to Nairobi, Kenya — the first international congregation with a generalate there. Holland is now a province.

    There was great excitement among the sisters in Africa at having their leadership closer and more readily available, but some would like to visit the original motherhouse and "see and touch something of what our founder touched and saw." Most of us religious women have an emotional attachment to our original motherhouse. Moving the generalate out of the motherhouse is a great challenge; imagine how hard it is for the elderly sisters to let it go.

    An article in Global Sisters Report about a discussion on the "diminishment in the wealthier global North and increases in the poorer global South" took me back to the early days of my congregation, the Franciscan Elizabethan Sisters. Mother Elizabeth Vendramini wrote in her diary about her struggles to provide even food and bedspreads for her sisters, but she and we know: God is always faithful to his promise.

    Immmacula Chukwunyere is a member of the Congregation of the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus. She was a headmistress and teacher in Nigeria and Kenya before moving to the U.S. in 1999 and now teaches high school English.

    The rising leadership of the South signifies the change from a capitalist economy (that benefited only the imperialists) to neoliberal capitalism that integrates the entire planet into a market-based economic system. Embedded within this "unprecedented" shift in power from North to South is the hope that this new economic system, powered by those who experienced poverty first hand, will be more attentive to global poverty and the devastating effects of irresponsible capitalism.

    Consequently, a discussion of the South's global leadership becomes not only a discussion of past mistakes, but also of the opportunities for creating a better world for all people. The term "global South" therefore becomes a metaphor for the call to participatory and collaborative leadership that prioritizes open dialogue among individuals in organizations and among nations in the global community, as we work for improved human conditions and a sustainable environment. 

    This shift brings with it the potential of enormous opportunities for equitable global development, but also poses major challenges and dangers that — if the South does not learn from the mistakes of the North, which has engulfed our world in constant violence and struggle for survival — the degradation of humanity and our environment will continue. //www.lse.ac.uk/researchAndExpertise/Experts/profile.aspx?KeyValue=a.mendez@lse.ac.uk" target="_blank">Alvaro Mendez, co-founder of London's School of Economics said, "With material progress comes huge responsibility for effective human and social development." The question becomes, how can the "South" maintain equitable material progress that prioritizes our global citizenship? Enmeshed in market-based capitalist economy, can the South — or all those who would benefit from global materialism — consciously avoid the exploitation of the poor and marginalized of our societies?

    Evidence abounds that now "national economic development" no longer means the development of the entire nation, but only the development of groups and individuals (usually the rich and powerful) who can successfully participate in the global economy. Charged with the task of ridding the world of economic and political oligarchy, can the South effectively recalibrate and reset the materialistic tendencies that create and sustain regional and individual inequalities by putting people and our environment first?

    The U.N. Development Program of 2013 called for the "emergence of global and regional frameworks that embody the principles of democracy, equity and sustainability." This call encompasses all sectors of the human society, including religious organizations.

    As the dwindling North turns to the South for the improvement and sustainability of humanity, the question remains, what are the southern churches, especially women religious congregations in Africa, doing to improve human life, social development and sustainability of our environment?

    Read more… Global Sisters Report…

  • Bishops Recommit to Dealing with Africa’s Challenges

    Vatican Radio || By Father Paul Samasumo || 25 September 2017

    bishops resolve to deal with africa challenges at dakar 2017The second continental meeting of Bishops - President of African Episcopal Conferences and Presidents of Caritas in Africa which ended recently in Dakar, Senegal has been described, by the Bishops themselves, as consisting of serious sessions aimed at finding relevant strategies designed to respond to the pastoral and social needs of the Church in Africa.  The Bishops say they appreciated periods of reflection, liturgical celebrations, and even cultural events during the three days of the Conference.

    In their final message and declaration, the Bishops expressed solidarity with Pope Francis’ message, recently, that Africa is not a land to be exploited but a friend to be loved.

    “We take the thought of Pope Francis on the plane that brought him back from Colombia, on 10 September 2017, according to which Africa is not a land to be exploited but a friend to love, to help to grow. We are grateful to the organisations of the sister churches that accompany us and reiterate our willingness to walk with them in Christian hope, fraternal communion, support and mutual reinforcement without substituting ourselves for the service of the most disadvantaged who are our brothers and sisters, letting us evangelize them,” the declaration reads in part.

    The Bishops reiterate their conviction that only the poor can truly develop themselves. They criticise some of Africa’s leaders for conniving with foreign powers at the expense of their own people. The prelates decry poor governance and misguided politics that stoke flames of ethnic and religious divisions on the continent.

    “Our hearts are bleeding to see that the misery of our people is often caused by some of our own leaders, in collaboration with foreign powers, while these very ones are supposed to fight poverty and stem it out. In the end, they force us to act as extinguishers of the hotbeds of tension which they light and feed, thus pushing our young people into exile or turning them into militants of political or religious extremism,” the Bishops say.

    The gathering of African Bishops from 17 to 21 September in Dakar, Senegal, brought together Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, international partners as well as national staff from various Caritas Africa offices under the auspices of Caritas Internationalis. In all, forty-three countries were represented making it a gathering of over 200 local and international delegates.

    The Archbishop of Manila and President of Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle opened the Assembly while Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Prefect of the Congregation for the Promotion of Integral Human Development closed the assembly. Present at the meeting was Caritas Africa President, Gabriel Anokye of Ghana.

    During the opening Eucharistic celebration, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle spoke of the interconnectedness of all human beings. 

    “We are one humanity. What happens in one part of the world affects others for good or for ill… - We affect one another. Imagine the power of praying for one another!” the Cardinal said.

    Cardinal Tagle invited the Assembly to pray for the Rohingya people and the visit of Pope Francis to Myanmar and Bangladesh in November.

    The theme of the continental meeting was,  "Organising charity service in Africa: the role of Bishops." The conference comes five years after the first assembly of African Bishops on Caritas held in Kinshasa (RDC) in November 2012.

    (below is the full statement of the Bishops' declaration)

    CARITAS AFRICA - FINAL DECLARATION

    "ORGANISING THE SERVICE OF CHARITY IN AFRICA:

    THE ROLE OF THE BISHOPS"

    OUR MEETING

    1. We Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, Presidents of Episcopal Conferences and National Caritas from 43 countries of the Caritas Internationalis Africa Region, thank God for having gathered us in Dakar from 18 to 20 September 2017 on the theme ’’Organizing the Service of Charity in Africa: the role of the Bishops’’. This meeting took place five years after the one in Kinshasa in November 2012 on the “Identity and the mission of Caritas in the light of the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est”, sanctioned by a strong final declaration, insisting on the ecclesial nature of Caritas and its specific mission to the light of the Gospel and the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church.

    2. We reaffirm the content of this declaration and invite those who engage in the Church's pastoral social action to continue to act and act as credible witnesses of Christ (Act 1, 8).

    3. We express our gratitude to the Holy Father, Pope Francis for the message addressed to us through H.E. Archbishop Michael W. BANACH, the Apostolic Nuncio in Senegal; this message is a sign of Pope Francis paternal solicitude towards our Churches.

    4. We thank the Church Family of God in Senegal for welcoming us and for its hospitality.

    5. Our gratitude and appreciation, with the assurance of our prayers, go to His Excellency Macky SALL, President of the Republic of Senegal 2 and to his Government for the exceptional facilities provided for us to hold our meeting.

    6. We have had the joy of rereading the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est and the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, as well as the Motu Proprio Intima Ecclesiae Natura and Humanam Progressionem, and to understand more fully how much the charity service is central to the mission of the Church as a community of faith and love (Jn 4, 7-11).

    7. The presence of His Eminence Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah TURKSON, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, His Eminence Cardinal Luis Antonio TAGLE, President of Caritas Internationalis, has been an encouragement to us and their interventions, inspiration in our responsibility as fathers of charity in our particular Churches. We welcome the creation of the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and encourage the start of its structuring and its approaches that we will take into account in our pastoral mission and organization.

    OUR FAITH

    8. We share the faith of all those who, in the small cells of the Christian life in parishes and local communities, to the more global structures contribute to the effectiveness of charity and the presence of the Church and of Christ in the world. The enriching positive experiences shared during this gathering give the image of a Church on the move, resolutely committed to the service of every person and humanity as a whole (Populorum Progressio, 14) despite many challenges and which call for more and more imagination and creativity in our pastoral mission.

    9. We take the thought of Pope Francis on the plane that brought him back from Colombia, on 10 September 2017, according to which Africa is not a land to be exploited but a friend to love, to help to grow. We are grateful to the organizations of the sister churches that accompany us and reiterate our willingness to walk with them in Christian hope, fraternal communion, support and mutual reinforcement without substituting ourselves for the service of the most disadvantaged who are our brothers and sisters, letting us evangelize them.

    10. Our limited means of action must not be an excuse for a wait-andsee attitude, for the development of the poor can only be achieved by the poor themselves. That is why we strongly encourage South-South 3 as well as North-South exchanges within our Churches, the capitalization of experiences and pooling of expertise and resources, harmonization at all levels of the guidelines that guide our collective commitment.

    11. Our hearts are bleeding to see that the misery of our people is often caused by some of our own leaders, in collaboration with foreign powers, while these very ones are supposed to fight poverty and stem it out. In the end, they force us to act as extinguishers of the hotbeds of tension which they light and feed, thus pushing our young people into exile or turning them into militants of political or religious extremism.

    OUR COMMITMENT

    12. We implore the assistance of the Holy Spirit in order to be in our churches the first craftsmen and the good guardians of the service of charity (Mt 24, 45; Tt 1,7).

    13. Hence we commit ourselves to:

     1) stand on the side of the communities and individuals, whose God given resources and means of livelihood, including their land, are under threat of exploitation by both internal and external interests;

    2) pay more attention to migration and refugee problems, to the consequences of political crises and natural disasters and, where appropriate, to work proactively upstream in order to better contribute to the eradication of the causes of poverty on a continent that is rich in its populations, especially its young people, its cultures and its natural resources;

    3) involve ourselves in the preparation and participation in the next synod of the young people who are the wealth of the Church and of the nation and to do everything possible to make them feel at home in the Church;

    4) create with our partners opportunities for these young people to contribute to their integral formation and to their Christian and citizenship growth;

    5) strengthen the participation of women and make visible their contribution to the development of our families and communities;

    6) encourage responsible leaders and elites who serve the common good and constantly denounce those who are corrupt and who maintain the 4 impoverishment of the masses as a strategy for the maintenance or conquest of power;

    7) progressively adapt our socio-pastoral structures to those of the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, according to the contexts of our particular Churches;

    8) contribute to the improvement of governance in our socio-charitable works, by adopting appropriate constitutive texts and by appointing competent and appropriate persons;

    9) integrate into the religious and priestly formation the systems of the social teaching of the Church and the minima of the principles of transparent management of the property of the Church belonging to the poor;

    10) develop a genuine synergy of action at the level of the continent, subregions (zones), Episcopal Conferences and dioceses with a view to productive ecclesial communion in the service of integral human promotion;

    11) strengthen fraternal solidarity with Sister Churches, interfaith collaboration and cooperation with civil society organizations for peace building and development in our regions, while respecting our Catholic identity and avoiding us to be guided by contemporary ideologies.

    May the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Africa, intercede for us.

    Dakar, 20 September 2017

    Source: Vatican Radio… 

  • South Sudan's Religious Renew their Strength amid Civil War

    Global Sisters Report (GSR) || By Chris Herlinger || 18 September 2017

    Walk with me, O my Lord,
    Through the darkest night and brightest day;
    Be at my side, O Lord,
    Hold my hand and guide me on my way.

    Sometimes the road seems long, my energy is spent,
    Then Lord, I think of you, and I am given strength.

    The entrance procession of a monthly Recollection service — a moment for religious serving in the Archdiocese of Juba, South Sudan, to recall and reflect on the work of the past month — wasn't just an invocation.

    The spoken rite came from lived experience, and everyone present knew why: South Sudan's religious are serving in the midst of an ongoing humanitarian crisis and civil war. They know the need for quiet, solidarity and renewal.

    Many attending the recent service on the campus of the Comboni Missionaries in Juba have themselves experienced some kind of trauma. Helping those who have lost family members to war. Fleeing shelling or bombing. In some cases, facing soldiers who have harassed them and members of their order.

    Time to be together, prayer, community and moments of solitude — all are essential, and the sisters practice these regularly and faithfully. But the monthly Recollection service, held the last Saturday of each month, is a particularly welcome respite from long days and constant challenges.

    The three-hour service is paced slowly, with stretches of quiet interspersed between prayers and singing.

    "After one month's work, it's a break," said Pauline Sr. Joyce Moraa, a Kenyan member of the Daughters of St. Paul. "The situation is hard. The place is hard. You can give and give until there is nothing more to give."

    Veterans of the country know that all too well. In an interview with Global Sisters Report, Italian Comboni Sr. Elena Balatti, who has worked in South Sudan for 16 years, spoke of South Sudan's hope and vitality. But she did not underplay South Sudan's considerable frustrations and difficulties, including poor infrastructure, that were present even before the civil war began in 2013.

    The current war — a conflict of warring political factions — is occurring in an impoverished country that had not yet recovered from a previous war that resulted in South Sudan's independence from Sudan in 2011. That two-decades-old war left approximately 1.5 million dead, according to BBC estimates, and a country facing extreme devastation. The current war, the Council on Foreign Relations says, has claimed more than 50,000 lives.

    "Anything can disappear," Balatti said of the war. A school painstakingly built by a congregation or community can be looted then destroyed.

    "It's a very long journey" to a resolution to the country's problems, she said. "We'd like it to be shorter. But it's a long journey."

    Balatti said religious are "made for what is joyful: peace, happiness, and good relationships. That's where we thrive." In contrast, the current situation "can be very tough, very tough. You don't wish for this to continue."

    Some in the Catholic Church, like Auxiliary Bishop Santo Loku Pio Doggale of Juba, say the national government is intimidating the church and other institutions in South Sudan.

    "In South Sudan, everybody is under intimidation, and so fear is instilled into people," he said. "It is the church that tries to give some voice, so they [the government] are not comfortable about that. That is why they also get frustrated when the voice of the church continues in many ways to be aloud and strong on the suffering of the people."

    Though firm statistics about religious affiliation are difficult to come by, it is believed that about a third of South Sudanese are Roman Catholics.

    Religious by and large say they must tread carefully about what they say publicly, with many counseling that patience is needed. But they also say they must continue ministering and witnessing to a population that depends on the church for succor, spiritual support and a sense of inspiration and hope.

    Sr. Anne Kiragu knows about all of these things. The Kenyan superior for the small Daughters of St. Paul community in Juba that includes Moraa has been in South Sudan since 2012. She is a beloved figure among her fellow sisters, who admire her commitment, sense of humor and her grit.

    Her 15- to 18-hour workdays include managing a local Pauline bookstore, checking in on the sick and infirm, distributing food and medicines when needed, and coordinating with members of other religious on shared pastoral projects.

    Troubleshooting with local officials is also part of her work.

    "I'm happy with my vocation as a religious, but I don't allow people to mess around with my life," Kiragu said. "If there are issues to deal with, we sit down to dialogue."

    That hint of steel has a spiritual undergirding, and Kiragu said that can result in a certain amount of needed courage. "If you're not courageous, everything would be difficult," she said. "Certain situations help you develop courage."

    And indeed, the experience of working in such a difficult environment "can make you a better religious," she said. "The religious life is beautiful. The work in South Sudan is more important than ever. It's more needed than ever."

    But sometimes, Kiragu said, it feels as if "the society is too broken." As a result, the religious themselves can feel tired, worn out, frustrated. No one working in South Sudan hasn't experienced those feelings, she said.

    Many have experienced fright and trauma themselves.

    Sr. Jeny Maila, a program coordinator for the Society of Daughters of Mary Immaculate, also known as the DMI sisters, an India-based congregation, recalled a round of artillery and shelling between battalions in July 2016.

    Some 250 residents came to the sisters' compound on the outskirts of Juba seeking protection. At one point, the fighting became so bad, Maila said, "We feared our place was a target, and we didn't know whether to stay or to run." Ultimately, the sisters and congregational leaders from India decided it was best to stay rather than flee. Within days, the fighting ended.

    "That was real trauma," she said. "The fear was real."

    The decision to stay came after prayer and the feeling that fleeing would send a wrong signal to the communities the sisters serve.

    "We have to expect the good so that the good comes," Maila said. "We take everything in prayer. God is the one working on behalf of us. It's God's work, not our work."

    That's a common refrain among the sisters in South Sudan that is expressed in the solidarity and unity the religious feel.

    "We're very close," Kiragu said of the congregations. "We're very bound together. We really support each other."

    The Saturday Recollection service proved that: Sisters, brothers and priests from different congregations mixed easily, both during the service and after. The time after the service was marked by easy banter: to catch up, laugh, exchange the latest news and gossip.

    One of those attending was Italian Little Apostles of Charity Sr. Carla Magnaghi, 75, who has been in South Sudan for 15 years. She oversees a center for disabled children in Juba and said the monthly services are a balm. Quiet, rest and reflection are important in such a stressful environment, she said.

    "When you work, work, work, and you're not taking care of yourself as a person, you lose the reason why you're here. And it's good to be reminded — the work is not for us, but for Jesus," she said.

    Moraa agreed, citing a quiet she believes is sacred.

    "It's like a day of resting, to be revived and return to the ministry," she said during a break of the Recollection service on the last Saturday in May. "It is good to have this quiet time with God so we can return, refreshed, energized, and re-enter the work. The balance is needed. The needs can steal that silence, the time of silence."

    She paused, thinking of the demands, pressures and challenges a war environment puts on everybody in South Sudan.

    "The needs are always there, always on your mind," she said. "But you need to embrace the quiet."

    [Chris Herlinger is GSR international correspondent. His email address is cherlinger@ncronline.org.]

    Source: Global Sisters Report…

  • Burundi Bishops Call for National Dialogue to Avert Renewed Civil War

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 21 September 2017

    burundi bishops for national dialogueEarlier this month, a United Nations inquiry claimed that crimes against humanity are being committed in Burundi. The report said killings, torture, sexual violence, degrading treatment, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests have been taking place since the controversial 2015 election. The bishops said in a statement, "We want to once again insist on the inclusive dialogue that must be prioritized for the greater interest of the nation and with a view to blocking the way to all those who choose the path of war."

    Burundi needs to bar the way to war with inclusive dialogue, according to the nation’s bishops.

    Burundi has been suffering instability since April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term, despite objections from the bishops and others that this would violate the country’s constitution.

    The president’s supporters said the first term did not count, since it was not through a popular vote, since he was elected by the National Assembly as the final stage of the country’s fragile peace process.

    According to Bishop Joachim Ntahondereye of Muyinga, and chairman of the Episcopal Conference of Burundi, democracy is not fully understood by many in the country, and has been reduced to simply organizing periodic elections while “ignoring the respect of its principles and values.”

    Nkurunziza eventually won re-election, and the nation has been plagued by political violence ever since.

    Earlier this month, a United Nations inquiry claimed that crimes against humanity are being committed in Burundi.

    The report said killings, torture, sexual violence, degrading treatment, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests have been taking place since the controversial 2015 election.

    “The Commission has reasonable grounds to believe that the above-mentioned crimes against humanity are attributable primarily to State officials at the highest level and to senior officers and members of the National Intelligence Service, the police, the army and the Imbonerakure,” the report said. The Imbonerakure is a youth group affiliated to Nkurunziza’s party.

    The report further chronicles torture methods which include “beatings with clubs, rifle butts, bayonets, iron bars, metal chains or electric cables,” with victims raped and forced to eat human excrement.

    The nation’s Catholic bishops say they have the moral obligation to guide the people towards the path of peace.

    “Everyone knows that disagreements between politicians have resulted in mutual exclusion, killings and assassinations,” the bishops said in a statement read at Mass in every church on September 10.

    The bishops issued the document after their plenary meeting, which took place September 6-9 in Bujumbura.

    “We want to once again insist on the inclusive dialogue that must be prioritized for the greater interest of the nation and with a view to blocking the way to all those who choose the path of war,” they said.

    The bishops said Burundi had suffered so much from war, and warned against creating the conditions for a new conflict. They underscored the need for unity in the fractured country.

    “Those who are in power or those who seek to conquer it must understand that all Burundians are like travelers who share the same road. Everyone needs the contribution of the other,” they said.

    They said delaying dialogue could further escalate an already tense situation.

    According to the United Nations and human rights groups, between 500 and 2000 people have been killed in political violence since 2015, and 400,000 have fled the country.

    Neighboring Congo alone hosts at least 44,000 Burundian refugees, yet they are not safe.

    At least 39 refugees - including a 10-year-old girl - were killed by Congolese security forces in eastern Congo last Friday, after a protest.

    Burundi suffered a civil war from 1993-2005, which - like neighboring Rwanda - pitted ethnic Hutus against the minority Tutsi population. The civil war led to the deaths of over 300,000 people, including Archbishop Michael Courtney, the papal nuncio for the country, who was murdered by rebels in 2003.

    “Everyone knows that misunderstandings and disagreements among politicians spiraled out of control, causing suspicion, bitter resentment, manhunts, murders and massacres,” the bishops warned in their statement.

    There are rising fears that the current political crisis could renew the ethnic conflict, especially with the increasing use of words like “bugs” and “cockroaches” being used - terms reminiscent of the reference that was made to Tutsis in the past, especially in neighboring Rwanda.

    The bishops said, “we ask that all of you make the commitment to build our country, Burundi, on the values of justice, love and freedom so that we can, at last, achieve lasting peace.”

    Source: Crux… 

  • Formation a Key Theme at a Nairobi Youth Symposium Ahead of 2018 Synod of Bishops

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 21 September 2017

    iys youth symposium 2017 ahead of synodThe need to form young people to enable them face various facets of life with maturity was a dominant theme at the recently concluded youth symposium, which was convened to contribute toward the preparation of the Synod of Bishops on the youth slated for October 2018 in Rome.

    Organized by the Institute of Youth Studies (IYS) at Tangaza University College (TUC) in Nairobi, Kenya, the two-day convention brought together some 200 participants who discussed themes that could help guide the deliberations of Bishops at their meeting in Rome next year.

    The formation of the youth to engage the media with due responsibility, the preparation of young adults for marriage, the value of having the parish experience and the active participation of young people in Small Christian Communities (SCC) were among the themes discussed at the 15th and 16th September conference.

    Other themes included the conceptualization of the identity of youth in Africa and the need realize the formation of the youth in institutions of higher learning.

    The participants of the symposium were drawn from different youth groups from parishes in the Archdiocese of Nairobi, various communities of young people undergoing religious formation and IYS students.

    On January 13, 2017, Pope Francis announced, in a letter addressed to young people, “that in October 2018 a Synod of Bishops will take place to treat the topic: ‘Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment,’” and went on to tell the youth, “I wanted you to be the centre of attention, because you are in my heart.”

    The Pope invited young people across the globe to contribute to the agenda of the Bishops’ Synod saying, “The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism.”

    “Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls,” Pope Francis emphasized in his letter to the youth.

    Facilitators at the IYS-organized symposium were drawn from different groups involved in youth apostolate, among them TUC’s office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor designate, TUC’s University Chaplaincy, Christ Work for Life Movement, Youth in Small Christian Communities, the Archdiocese of Nairobi Youth office, St. Martin’s, Nyahururu, Waumini Radio and the Kenyan Association of Vocations Animators (KAVA).

    Below is an overview of the key messages of the IYS Symposium.

    Formation of Youth Through Media

    In this presentation the speaker took the participants through the merits and demerits of social media especially with regard to contemporary youth. Although media is one of the very important features of contemporary life, it must be controlled so that it does not lead young people into negative behavior. The presenter suggested that before people post anything on social media there must be a clear indication that the message being transmitted is true, helpful, inspiring and kind.

    Youth Experience in the Parish

    Every person, willed into existence by a loving God, has a vocation to realise thus enjoying ‘fulness of life’. Family, school and church should support the young person in the realization of this vocation. When one examines, however, what happens in catechesis, one discovers that instead of supporting the discovery of vocation, catechesis tends to offer only a series of precepts to be memorized. Likewise, modern families tend to provide very little support for the process of discernment, leaving young people without any clear sense of life purpose. This has a negative effect on their ability to make sound moral choices, especially as they enter into adolescence.

    Conceptualizing youth in Africa

    Over the years, the understanding of what constitutes ‘youth’ has changed with the changes in society. Adolescence is now prolonged as the age of marriage is postponed. Youth should be able to understand who there are and at what time they are living so that they may be able to face the challenges surrounding them and deal with them in the context of their locality. Youth in Africa may face different challenges from those in America or Europe.

    Ministry to youth in the University concept

    Youth within University should be handled with a lot of care. They represent a big percentage of young people who need a lot of input in order to hold them together until the completion of their studies. A lot of challenges surround them and religious leaders, especially the chaplains, should engage them to make sure all or most of their energy is spent on the right things.

    Youth in Small Christian Communities

    Small Christian Communities are the basis and foundation of faith in the church in Africa. Young people should be involved in SCC matters so that their faith is consolidated from the family setting. In a SCC setting, a youth is able to fully participate and this will provide them with solid foundations that will enable them to participate more fully in the wider church context.

    Formation of Young Couples

    Young people need to make serious life decisions at some time. Most of them opt for married life. In marriage they are expected to fulfil certain obligations which are very core to the rest of their lives. It is clear that if young people do not make the right choice of spouse or learn how to handle their relationship they end up in a broken or abusive marriage. Good preparation is therefore very important to ensure that their relationship may last and their marital duties be fulfilled.

    James Gatuku, IYS Project Development Coordinator contributed to this news story

  • South Sudanese Bishop Invites Youth to be Part of “networks of peace”

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 21 September 2017

    bishop hiiboro on international day of peace 2017On this year’s occasion of the International Day of Peace, the President of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC), Bishop Barani Eduardo Hiiboro has called on young people in Sudan and South Sudan to be part of “networks of peace” to promote peaceful coexistence.

    The Bishop made the appeal in a letter titled “Young people YES we can make Peace but let us do it together in Respect, compassion and Justice!”

    The International Day of Peace, also known as World Peace Day, is observed annually around the world on September 21. Since 2013, the Secretary General of the United Nations dedicated the day to peace education as a way of preventing violent conflicts.

    “For us in the two SUDANS it is quite necessary for us to stop awhile and hold abreast to breathe and invite peace into our hearts, because we have lost everything to wars,” Bishop Barani stated in his letter.

    He lamented the heavy price of the “senseless violence” being witnessed in his country of South Sudan and recommended networks of peace.

    “Indeed, now and only networks of peace must increase – that we must reach to all with whom peace can become a reality– now and only such recommended networks of peace are by no means essential for the surviving of Sudan and South Sudan,” he said.

    “You can set an example for all of us through your dedication, resourcefulness, and sincerity in promoting peaceful coexistence and building a nation, rich in resources that can stand as a symbol for achievement,” Bishop Barani said, addressing his message to the youth.

    “I regard with profound respect the positive impact you can have on the future of our country, for you are the future,” the Prelate acknowledged the youth of Sudan and South Sudan.

    Below is the full text of the letter by Bishop Barani on the occasion of World Peace Day 2017

    Young people YES we can make Peace but let us do it together in Respect, compassion and Justice!

    September 21st 2017

    I greet you with great joy and empathy beloved young Sudanese and South Sudanese during this historical day dedicated for humanity to cherish peace. The International Day of Peace ("Peace Day") is observed around the world each year on 21 September. Established in 1981 by unanimous United Nations resolution, Peace Day provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace.

    For us in the two SUDANS it is quite necessary for us to stop awhile and hold abreast to breathe and invite peace into our hearts, because we have lost everything to wars. 

    Honestly we have paid heavily the price for our senseless violence now we must stop it by paying heavily for PEACE. Indeed, now and only networks of peace must increase – that we must reach to all with whom peace can become a reality– now and only such recommended networks of peace are by no means essential for the surviving of Sudan and South Sudan, where peace is threatened by the ruthless networks of injustice, violence, hate, negative ethnicity, indifference, lack of forgiveness, poverty and terror.

     Here, what I mean, such desired networks of peace must intertwined to face the disturbing networks of organized EVIL, that terrify us every day. We people of Sudan and South Sudan must intertwine in a network which will help us to build a better future for the human family and the creation in two nations.

    In his http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/peace.index.html">2017 Message for the World Day of Peace. . . (January 1) Pope Francis urges us to practice active nonviolence and work to prevent conflict by addressing its causes, building relationships, and facilitating healing and restoration.

    My dearest friends of Peace, the young people, I am writing this message purposely to each and everyone of you. Please read this message of mine, live it, share it and build on it!

    Over the past few years, I have had the bittersweet privilege to witness how quickly you grew, and how quickly you matured. The killings and incessant fighting that have plagued our beloved nation changed you and placed before you challenges that are normally unknown to your peers in other countries in the world. I feel your frustrations when on your faces, your voices, your attitudes, the way you walk, they way you dress, what you write on social media, what you sing, what you do, etc.

    My heart breaks at the thought that your childhoods are being taken away from you daily, but I know that you have not lost your vision, or your hope for a better future for yourselves and our countries. You still have your dreams and your determination to build a peaceful and prosperous nation.

    Let us work together to make sure that our children do not receive the same painful experiences you did and to build a nation all can be proud of. If anyone can be successful, it is you. I believe that God initiates his plans through the youthful zeal and passion of young men and women like you. And God’s plan is for us to forgive and build peace. We cannot achieve it through violence and hate speech. But we can achieve it by engaging with one another and building our nation together.

    It takes a lot of courage to take the first step, where our parents and elders have, sadly, FAILD. That is because unlike you, we are entrenched into our old habits, prejudices, hate, injustice and, even, pettiness, and it is not easy to let go of our selfishness for it is how we have been able to survive and preserve ourselves in these dark times. But now it is time to look forward and we, living in a small country, can do that together.

    I have faith in you, my young friends. “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

    Thus, you can set an example for all of us through your dedication, resourcefulness, and sincerity in promoting peaceful coexistence and building a nation, rich in resources that can stand as a symbol for achievement. Our brothers and sisters in other nations, especially Rwanda, have succeeded in achieving peace and prosperity. And you can lead the way in achieving this for our nation, Sudan and South Sudan.

    Who better than you can spread the word of the Lord through social media and other modern means of communications that your bright creative minds are so agile at? Help those you can reach out. Share Christian wisdom and partnership wherever you are – on social networks and on websites, on radio and television, during individual conversations, and other opportunities. Rally passionate young independent thinkers like you. Engage with all. Your actions can inspire and form the foundations for a better life for you and your children and for all of Sudan and South Sudan. And being a small nation, we can only do it together.

    Know this and take to heart, you are choice young people blessed with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I feel to say to you that the Lord has a special mission for each one of you, and as you live in accordance with gospel principles, the Lord will open up the way before you and assist you in solving your problems and making the right decisions throughout your life.

    We are, however, living in a period where there is much hatred, conflict, and contention. People everywhere are praying for peace and happiness. Jesus Christ is called the Prince of Peace, and his message is a message of peace to the individual and to the world. It is peace that makes us really appreciate mortal life and enables us to bear heartbreaking situations and tribulations.

    I regard with profound respect the positive impact you can have on the future of our country, for you are the future. Let us mobilize under your courageous leadership, your energies and pave the way for a responsible and meaningful dialogue and engagement. To that end, I will seek out every opportunity to listen to you as frequently as possible, to be inspired by your boldness, and to learn from your sacrifices.

    Young people YES we can transform our violent nations into PEACEFUL world!

    May the blessings of the Lord of PEACE be upon you.

    PEACE BE UPON EACH AND EVERYONE OF YOU!

    Barani Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio and President of Sudan Catholic Bishops Conference

  • Christian Children Face Pressure to Convert to Islam in Refugee Camps in Sudan

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 18 September 2017

    refugee christian children under pressure to convert to islamSouth Sudanese children in refugee camps in Sudan were facing “a terrible situation" by being pressured to become Muslim. There are nearly 2 million refugees fleeing South Sudan's ongoing civil war. The bishops of the country say the killing, torture, and rape of civilians being committed by both the government and rebel forces are war crimes.

    Children from South Sudan in refugee camps in neighboring Sudan are facing a difficult choice - either they start reciting the verses from the Quran, the Muslim holy book, or they die of hunger.

    According to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the children are being forced to pray Muslim prayers as a prerequisite for getting food rations.

    An ACN worker, who asked not to be named, said South Sudanese children in refugee camps in Sudan were facing “a terrible situation.”

    “We have heard stories where children are conditioned to say Islamic prayers before [being] given food. This is not right. These children are Christian. They should be respected as such,” said the worker.

    Conflict in South Sudan began around its founding in 2011, when the country - predominantly Christian - gained independence from Muslim-majority Sudan. Despite high hopes for the nation at its birth, political corruption and ethnic divisions overwhelmed the underdeveloped nation, causing famine and violence.

    For the past three-and-a-half years, a civil war has been raging between those loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to former vice president Riek Machar.

    The violence has pushed refugees into neighboring countries, including Sudan.

    The ACN worker also said the government of Sudan was barring aid agencies from providing much needed assistance to South Sudanese refugees in Sudan, who are estimated to number over 400,000 people.

    But the government’s capacity to provide nourishment is limited, with monthly rations for families lasting just about two weeks.

    According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, about a third of South Sudanese people are now food insecure, with statistics indicating that food security has deteriorated in the world’s newest country since the conflict brook out in 2013.

    The UN body estimates that at least 2.4 million people are facing emergency levels of food insecurity.

    Hunger and conflict have chased at least 1.9 million people from the country since the beginning of the civil war, with Uganda alone hosting at least one million South Sudanese refugees.

    Even in Uganda’s camps, the refugees still live in extremely difficult conditions. After visiting refugee camps in Uganda, Noah Gottschalk of Oxfam America described what he saw as “a story of tremendous heartbreak.”

    Speaking to NPR, he said there was a “tremendous disappointment of people who had, in many cases, been displaced for many years during the country’s long civil war, who had returned home to South Sudan only to find a few years later that they were being displaced again. That feeling of being uprooted when they had expected to be settled once and for all back home was really palpable and really so tragic and heartbreaking to see.”

    The Origins of a Crisis

    After decades of war in what was then a unified Sudan, a Comprehensive Peace Agreement brokered by the Pan-African Community, together with other relevant international actors, saw South Sudan get its independence from the rest of Sudan on July 9, 2011.

    The 2013 South Sudanese civil war erupted after President Salva  Kiir - an ethnic Dinka, the country’s largest ethnic group - sacked his deputy Riek Machar, who is from the second largest community, the Nuer.

    The crisis has left tens of thousands of people dead, driven nearly 4 million people from their homes, and left nearly 45 percent of the country’s population - some 5.5 million - in dire need of food aid.

    The festering conflict has pushed the bishops of South Sudan to issue a pastoral letter, lamenting their incapacity to influence the leaders of the two sides.

    “Our country is not at peace. People live in fear. The civil war, which we have frequently described as having no moral justification whatsoever, continues,” the statement said.

    “Despite our calls to all parties, factions and individuals to STOP THE WAR, nevertheless killing, raping, looting, displacement, attacks on churches and destruction of property continue all over the country. In some towns there is calm, but the absence of gunfire does not mean peace has come. In other towns, civilians are effectively trapped inside the town due to insecurity on the surrounding roads,” the bishops continued.

    They accuse both the government and opposition of attacking civilians, and warned about the ethnic dimension the conflict has taken.

    They said many people don’t have a place where they can go to avoid the violence.

    “Even when they have fled to our churches or to UN camps for protection, they are still harassed by security forces. Many have been forced to flee to neighboring countries for protection,” they wrote.

    Noting that the amount of hatred in South Sudan was rising, the bishops said the killing, torture, and rape of civilians was a “war crime.”

    “People have been herded into their houses which were then set on fire to burn the occupants. Bodies have been dumped in sewage-filled septic tanks. There is a general lack of respect for human life,” the bishops said.

    The bishops said they were going to take a more “proactive approach” to move forward, and that they were going to liaise with other churches in attempts to find lasting peace.

    “Through the Action Plan for Peace (APP) of our South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC), we intend to meet face to face not only with the President but with the vice presidents, ministers, members of parliament, opposition leaders and politicians, military officers from all sides, and anyone else who we believe has the power to change our country for the better. We intend to meet with them not once, but again and again, for as long as is necessary, with the message that we need to see action, not just dialogue for the sake of dialogue,” the statement said.

    Earlier in the year, the Vatican had to officially rule out a proposed October visit by Pope Francis to the war-torn country, citing security concerns.

    In June, the Vatican announced an initiative called “The Pope for South Sudan,” which involves the deployment of considerable Vatican funds to the country - $500,000 - to be used in the fields of education, health care, and agriculture.

    Source: Crux…

  • Catholic Bishops in Togo Advocate for Constitutional Reform

    CANAA || By Father Donald Zagore, SMA || 18 September 2017

    bishops in togo for constitutional reformsThe Catholic Bishops in Togo have invited the citizens of their country including political leaders to work toward institutional and constitutional reform in view of securing lasting peace.

    Early this month, Togo witnessed demonstrations when tens of thousands marched through streets of various cities demanding the resignation of the ruling government headed by Faure Gnassingbe who has been President since 2005.

    The numbers of the protesters were reported to have been unprecedented in some 10 cities, with the capital city Lomé recording the largest convergence of protestors who waved banners with the message such as “Faure Must Go!” and “50 Years Is Long Enough,” the latter referring to the dynastic character of the President.

    Faure Gnassingbe became president after his father, Gnassingbé Eyadema, who had headed the West African nation for 38 years, died.

    In a short statement issued Thursday, September 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Conference of the Bishops of Togo invited the people of Togo, civilians and political leaders to work for peace in Togo by carrying out both institutional and constitutional reforms.

    For the Bishops, without these institutional and constitutional reforms, it will be difficult to bring back peace in the country.

    In their message, the Bishops have invited the political leaders to adopt a responsible, sincere, and constructive attitude and deliberately work toward institutional and constitutional reforms as required by the people and the constitution of 1992.

    On their part, the Bishops have decided to organize in all the dioceses of the country a prayer for peace.

    The Church leaders have raised alarm against the threat of ethnic hatred nourished trough the social networks and continued to urge citizens to use their social networks to build peace in the country.

    They have stood against the use of violence by the army against the population during the various demonstrations.

    They have called on the army to be responsible, patriotic, and neutral.

    The Bishops also invited the population to avoid the use of violence and to always keep in mind that they are all brothers and sisters despite their diverse political affiliations.

  • Catholic Prelates in Nigeria Speak to “general sense of hopelessness and dissatisfaction” in Country

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 18 September 2017

    prelates in nigeria speak to helplessness in countryThe Catholic Bishops in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, have expressed solidarity with suffering and deprived citizens in response to what they have described as a situation “marked by tension, agitation and a general sense of hopelessness and dissatisfaction.”

    In a communique at the end their second weeklong Plenary Assembly, the Bishops have attributed the unfortunate situation in their country to “years of injustice, inequity, corruption, and impunity.”

    “Since the founding of our country Nigeria, too much attention seems to have been focused on “sharing the national cake” rather than on “baking that cake” by first building a strong and stable nation,” the Bishops stated in their collective letter titled “OUR HOPE IN DESPAIR: TOWARDS NATIONAL RESTORATION.”

    The Church leaders also expressed their appreciation to “Pope Francis for intervening directly to definitively resolve the crisis in Ahiara Diocese, which has lingered for nearly five years” and encouraged “all the priests and the lay faithful of Ahiara Diocese to unconditionally embrace the paternal gesture of the Holy Father.”

    The Bishops’ meeting took place at St. Charles Borromeo Pastoral Centre, Jalingo, Taraba State, from September 7 through September 15.

    Below is the full text of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), which was signed by the President, Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos and the Secretary, Bishop William A. Avenya of Gboko.

    OUR HOPE IN DESPAIR: TOWARDS NATIONAL RESTORATION

    A Communiqué issued at the End of Second Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) at St. Charles Borromeo Pastoral Centre, Jalingo, Taraba State, 7-15 September 2017.

    1. PREAMBLE

    We, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, held our Second Plenary Meeting of the year at St. Charles Borromeo Pastoral Centre, Jalingo, Taraba State, from 7 to 15 September 2017. Having prayerfully reflected on the issues affecting the Church and our country, we now issue this Communiqué.

    2. URGENT NEED TO ADDRESS GRIEVANCES

    Our country is currently passing through a phase that is marked by tension, agitation and a general sense of hopelessness and dissatisfaction. This we believe is as a result of years of injustice, inequity, corruption, and impunity. There are agitations in many sectors of the country against the one-sidedness in appointments to key institutions and sensitive national offices, against marginalisation, and unfair distribution of resources and amenities. There are also allegations of cases of selective application of the rule of law.

    In his inaugural speech as civilian President of Nigeria on 29 May 2015, the President sent out a message of hope and of his commitment to national integration and cohesion. He said: “Having just a few minutes ago sworn on the Holy Book, I intend to keep my oath and serve as President to all Nigerians. I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody. A few people have privately voiced fears that on coming back to office I shall go after them. These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores.”

    More than two years later, the reality on ground and the verdict of most of our people across the nation – irrespective of religious affiliation, ethnic group or social status – point to the contrary. The inability of the Government to address the inequitable situation in the country has provided breeding ground for violent reactions, protests and agitations, which exploit the grievances of different segments of the country. We call on Government at all levels to urgently address these anomalies, remove everything that smacks of injustice, and give everybody and every part of our country a sense of belonging. We insist that merit and ability should be the primary criteria in making appointments and genuine needs the criteria for the distribution of amenities. We also urge the Government to be always sensitive to the multi-religious and multi-ethnic configuration of the nation.

    As Catholic Bishops, we affirm that the legitimacy of every Government derives from its ability to listen to the legitimate yearnings and genuine cries of the people and honestly seek to address them. We therefore urge the Government at all levels to engage the aggrieved sections of the citizenry in a conversation worthy of a democracy. We are concerned that the deployment of soldiers in the midst of already restive youths could increase the nervousness among the populace with the potential of igniting a fire that could turn into an uncontrollable conflagration. On the other hand, we enjoin all aggrieved persons and groups to employ peaceful means within the framework of the existing laws of the land to express their grievances or even exercise legitimate pressure on the Government. Care must be taken by all to avoid actions and utterances capable of causing yet another armed conflict in the nation or any of its parts.

    We demand fair treatment from those State Governments in the North that deny some of our Dioceses their rights to own landed properties for mission work by their refusal to issue them with Certificates of Occupancy. People of different religions need to co-exist, communicate, and be allowed to freely practise their respective religions everywhere in this country.

    Furthermore, the other members of the political class in all the arms of government have, as a matter of urgency, to reduce drastically the immodest cost of running government in this country. If for no other reason, they have to do this as a sign of solidarity with most of their compatriots for whom the basic necessities of life – feeding, clothing, shelter, healthcare, energy, quality education – have almost become unrealizable dreams.

    3. ARMED HERDSMEN AND THEIR THREAT TO SECURITY

    The continued havoc caused by armed herdsmen in various parts of our country, can no longer be treated as mere clash between pastoralists and farmers. For apart from wanton destruction of farmlands and crops, some of these armed herdsmen are known to have laid siege on entire villages, killing, maiming, kidnapping, and raping. Besides, there are also reports that some of them are foreigners who have entered the country without proper checks by the competent authorities. Such persons are therefore to be considered a great threat to our national and individual security and their activities treated as acts of terrorism. We demand that adequate and prompt action be taken and be clearly seen to have been taken to stop their onslaught.

    4. SOME LIGHT IN THE MIDST OF DARKNESS

    Along with other groups in Nigeria, we acknowledge the modest success recorded in the ongoing fight against corruption, the substantial curtailing of the activities of Boko Haram, and the release of some of the Chibok Girls. We note the positive report about the economy gradually coming out of recession. Nevertheless, we expect the Government to put in place economic policies and strategies that will make positive impact on the lives of our people, thereby reducing hardship and advancing the socio-economic welfare of citizens.

    We commend the vast majority of Nigerians for standing together and remaining law-abiding citizens in the face of many difficulties, challenges and even provocation. We condole with the victims of terrorism, natural disasters, conflicts and violent crimes, while we continue to pray for the deceased. The solidarity shown by many Nigerians to those affected by the recent floods that affected some parts of the country is a sign of hope for our common peaceful co-existence. We equally commend the assistance rendered by individual Dioceses and other humanitarian agencies to the displaced and distressed persons. We appeal to the Government to carry the Church along in the work of the rehabilitation of such persons.

    5. NATION-BUILDING: A COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY

    Since the founding of our country Nigeria, too much attention seems to have been focused on “sharing the national cake” rather than on “baking that cake” by first building a strong and stable nation. The task of nation-building is a responsibility that rests on all the citizens of the country. We therefore call on all Nigerians to put more effort into working for the common good according to the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity. Individuals as well as smaller groups ought to have enough space for development while all contribute to the commonweal.

    Irrespective of nomenclature, we sincerely believe that most Nigerians earnestly desire a truly federal system of government that enhances the welfare of all citizens. This would not only address the allegations of marginalization, but also make the fight against corruption more successful. Nevertheless, no matter what system of government we adopt, without a true conversion of heart by all and the readiness to make sacrifices for the common good, especially by persons in public office, we shall only be reshuffling our problems without solving them and shifting the epicentres of our national tragedies.

    6. HIGH QUALITY EDUCATIOIN FOR ALL

    As a Church, we reaffirm our commitment to the integral development of the citizens of Nigeria, especially through the provision of quality education. In this regard, we once more call on all State Governments to return to the old tradition by which Church and State collaborated in the provision of high quality education for all our citizens

    We also enjoin the Federal and State ministries and departments of education to ensure adequate and comprehensive curriculum for Christian Religious Studies (CRS), in such a way that individual right to religious freedom and the right of the Church to teach and disseminate the Christian faith is not infringed upon. We totally condemn the so-called Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and dubious Maternal Health techniques that are not only contrary to divine law but also would encourage immorality. All health related programmes ought to show respect for the dignity and sanctity of human life, every human life, from conception to natural death.

    We note with great concern the ongoing strikes among various members of professional groups in our country. We appeal to the federal government to honour all legal agreements with these organisations so as to limit the grave damage that is already being done to our society.

    7. CHRISTIAN COMMITMENT TO NATION-BUILDING

    In our journey towards national restoration, the role of Christians, the Clergy as well as the Laity, is fundamental. As priests, our commitment to Christ in our total and obedient self-giving to him through prayers and service of our brothers and sisters not only makes us grow in holiness but also contributes immensely to the restoration of our nation. While not permitted to participate in partisan politics, clerics are urged to foster among people peace and harmony based on justice (cf. Canon 287). The lay faithful, on the other hand, are expected and encouraged to bear witness to the Gospel in their private, public and political lives. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “The Mission of the lay faithful is... to configure social life correctly, respecting its legitimate autonomy and cooperating with other citizens according to their respective competence and fulfilling their own responsibility” (Deus Caritas Est,22). We therefore earnestly call on the Lay Faithful to intensify their efforts in bringing the light of the Good News to those places only they can reach. They are by their life of witness to bring Christ into the temporal order such as politics, business, and in their places of daily engagements (Christifideles Laici 42). By their vocation they are to challenge government policies that negate fundamental human rights and their individual and collective right as Christians.

    8. THE MODERN MEDIA AS ALLY

    We observe that modern media, especially social media, can be effective means of information, education and evangelization. We, however, note that rather than tap their great potential benefits for expanding knowledge, many, especially our youth, have become exposed to such negative dimensions of the social media as organs for crime, the dissemination of hate speeches, slander, for peddling outright falsehood and misinformation. In these difficult times, we appeal to our people to be more circumspect and positive in the use of information obtained from and disseminated through the modern media.

    9. THE MARIAN YEAR – PRAYING FOR PEACE IN NIGERIA

    The Catholic Church in Nigeria declared the year 2017 a Marian Year, in honour of the Centenary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima, Portugal. We invite all Christ’s Faithful to participate actively in this national celebration and to its solemn conclusion scheduled to take place in Benin City from 12 to 14, October, 2017. During this celebration we shall re-consecrate Nigeria to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In doing so, we entrust Nigeria to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Nigeria, asking her to intercede on our behalf to stabilize the Nigerian ship of state. May she also obtain for us all the blessings and graces that we need as a nation. May she pray for us to attain peace in our hearts, unity, and tranquility.

    10. GRATITUDE TO GOD FOR EVENTS IN THE CHURCH

    We are grateful to God for the appointments, ordinations and installations of new Catholic Bishops in Nigeria: Most Rev Donatus AKPAN, ordained and installed Bishop of Ogoja Diocese on 7 July 2017; and Most Rev Hilary DACHELEM, ordained and installed Bishop of Bauchi Diocese on 17 August 2017. We heartily congratulate them and warmly welcome them into the CBCN. We are grateful to His Holiness Pope Francis for the appointment of a new Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido FILIPAZZI. We welcome him to Nigeria and pray that his tenure be blessed with a resounding pastoral and spiritual growth for our Church and the nation.

    We thank the Holy Father Pope Francis for intervening directly to definitively resolve the crisis in Ahiara Diocese, which has lingered for nearly five years. We urge all the priests and the lay faithful of Ahiara Diocese to unconditionally embrace the paternal gesture of the Holy Father.

    11. CONCLUSION: OUR HOPE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT US

    We, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, do hereby make a passionate appeal to all our Christians and the rest of Nigerians not to lose hope. We may be traumatized but we shall not be broken (cf. 2Cor.4:8). We advise that Nigerians look at themselves and the country in a better light. Much cheering news abounds in the land amidst the suffering and hardship, the pain and the feeling of helplessness. We are hopeful that Nigeria will survive the present hardship and will become the better for it. “And our hope does not disappoint us” (Rom 5:5). We all are stakeholders in the Nigerian project. We must therefore work hand in hand with a better understanding of ourselves to build the Nigeria of our dreams.

    We welcome back our President, Muhammadu Buhari, from his medical leave. We thank God who brought him back safely to the country to continue to work assiduously for the betterment of our land.

    May our Lady Queen of Nigeria continue to intercede for us now and forever. Amen.

     

    Most Revd Ignatius Ayau KAIGAMA,                                Most Revd William A. AVENYA,

    President (CBCN),                                                                 Secretary (CBCN),

    Archbishop of Jos.                                                                 Bishop of Gboko.

  • Catholic Bishop in South Sudan to Receive 2017 United Religions Initiative Africa Peace Award

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 18 September 2017

    bishop taban to receive 2017 africa peace awardBishop Emeritus Paride Taban of the Catholic diocese of Torit in South Sudan will this week be awarded the 2017 Africa Peace Award of the United Religions Initiative (URI) in recognition of his “outstanding work in promoting a culture of peace, interfaith harmony, cultural values, human dignity, human rights and promoting solidarity on common good for all.”

    The Bishop will be presented the award this Thursday, September 21 at All Saints Cathedral in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.

    The award was announced in a letter by the Regional Director of URI for Africa, Ambassador Mussie Hailu, dated April 5, 2017.

    “URI-Africa established the Africa Peace Award to recognize the committed, effective leadership exercised to bring sustainable peace, environmental protection, development, democracy and good leadership in the continent,” Ambassador Hailu explained in his letter to Bishop Taban.

    Bishop Taban’s “visionary and extraordinary leadership and great contribution” in founding the Holy Trinity Kuron Peace Village was also considered in identifying him for the 2017 award.

    Bishop Paride, 81, founded the Kuron Peace Village in the year 2000, an entity that seemed to realize his dream “of a community where people with different ethnicities and different religious backgrounds can live side by side with confidence, in harmony and fellowship.”

    He retired as Bishop of Torit in February 2004 and has since then focused his energies on peacebuilding in South Sudan.

    Situated in the former Eastern Equatoria State on the southeast border of South Sudan, Kuron Peace Village is guided by the vision: “To build Oasis of Peace where communities live in full harmony exploring their full potential to transform their lives/their villages i.e. form a true Sudan” and the mission: “To improve economic wellbeing of all communities as well as evangelization/spiritual life.”

    On his 80th birthday in July 2016, Bishop Taban shared his message of PEACE from Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura where he had gone to spread “the message of good news on nonviolence and peace.”

    According to Ambassador Hailu, URI-Africa Peace Award was initiated in 2007 in view of helping “create role models of peace-builders throughout Africa.”

    The award is given anuually “to distinguished African leaders, individuals and organizations who are doing exemplary work.”

    Below is the full text of the letter by the Regional Director of URI for Africa to Bishop Taban

    UNITED RELIGIONS INITIATIVE-AFRICA

    April 5, 2017

    Bishop Emeritus Paride Taban

    Founder

    Holy Trinity Peace Village Kuron

    Eastern Equatorial, South Sudan

    c/o Catholic Arch-Diocese of Juba

    P.O.Box 32

    South Sudan

    Dear Bishop Emeritus Paride Taban,

    RE: PRESENTING YOU THE 2017 AFRICA PEACE AWARD OF URI – AFRICA

    On behalf of 200 member organizations of United Religions Initiative from 31 African Countries I present warm greetings of peace to you and to your community at the Holy Trinity Peace Village Kuron

    We have been following with great interest your initiative in establishing Kuron Peace Village, an organisation that promotes peace between different South Sudanese ethnic groups and offers training in basic farming techniques. We also noticed very well your outstanding work in promoting a culture of peace, interfaith harmony, cultural values, human dignity, human rights and promoting solidarity on common good for all.

    As I indicated to you during our meeting in Kenya and South Africa it is my great pleasure to inform you that United Religions Initiative (URI) - Africa have decided to honour you with the Africa Peace Award of 2017.

    The Prestigious Africa Peace Award of URI-Africa will be presented to you in appreciation and acknowledgment of your tireless work in promoting a culture of peace, inter-religious & inter-cultural harmony, constructive dialogue among civilization, reconciliation, social justice, and for being a living example of the teaching of the Golden Rule which says “Treat others the way you want to be treated”.

    The award is also in acknowledgment of your visionary and extraordinary leadership and great contribution as the founding of Kuron Peace Village, an organisation that promotes peace between different South Sudanese ethnic groups and offers training in basic farming techniques.

    URI-Africa established the Africa Peace Award to recognize the committed, effective leadership exercised to bring sustainable peace, environmental protection, development, democracy and good leadership in the continent.

    The Africa Peace Award celebrates, acknowledges and honours the accomplishments of individuals or organizations who have exhibited extraordinary leadership to build a culture of peace, environmental preservation, reconciliation and harmony among different religions and cultures and promote the universal declaration of human right and bring overall positive change in peoples life.

    The Award helps to create role models of peace-builders throughout Africa. Since its establishment in 2007 URI-Africa have been giving the award ever year to distinguished African leaders, individuals and organizations who are doing exemplary work. For more information on the Africa Peace Award and the past recipients of the award I send you enclosed with this letter background information.

    I am happy to inform you that URI Africa join hands with the United Nations and African Union to bring religious leaders, faith-based and interfaith organizations in Africa to work together toward conflict resolution, peace-building, environmental protection, addressing the issue of climate change, counter violent extremism, radicalization, terrorism and promoting reconciliation and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa. It is working in creating awareness toward the achievement of the African Agenda 2063 to build the Africa we want which is peaceful, prosperous and united.

    URI is interfaith Peace organization with Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council and it is working to promote enduring daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence, and to create cultures of peace, healing and justice for the Earth and all living beings. Through its 175 member organizations in 31 African countries URI-Africa is cultivating peaceful co-existence among different religions and cultures by engaging people to bridge religious and cultural differences and work together for the good of their communities and the environment.

    The vision of URI-Africa is to see united, prosperous and peaceful Africa where there is no religious strife. URI –Africa has signed Memorandum of Understating with African Union Commission, IGAD, Regional Centre against Small Arms and lights Weapons and African Media Initiative.

    Bishop Emeritus Paride Taban I invite you to receive this award as noted above and looking forward to receiving your confirmation.

    May Peace Prevail in Africa

    In Peace and gratitude,

     

    Ambassador Mussie Hailu

    Regional Director of URI for Africa and

    Representative of URI at AUC, IGAD, UNECA&UN Office in Africa

  • Indian Church Reacts to Release of Abducted Indian Priest

    Vatican Radio || 13 September 2017

    indian church reacts to release of fr tomThe Indian Catholic Church has welcomed with immense joy and gratitude the news of the rescue of Indian Catholic priest Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil on Tuesday, following his abduction by unknown gunmen 18 months ago in Aden, Yemen.  The 57-year old Salesian priest of Don Bosco arrived in the Omani capital Muscat in an air force plane soon after ‎his release on Tuesday, Sept. 12.  ‎

    Catholic Bishops' Conference of India 

    “As we thank God for this unique grace bestowed on Fr. Tom and his family and the Salesian Congregation (The Society of Don Bosco) and the Catholic Church in India, we pray for his continued good health and complete recovery to resume active Salesian ministry for God and His people in his Congregation and the Church,” said a statement by ‎Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, SFX, Secretary General, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), on Tuesday‎.

    Born in Ramapuram, in Kerala state, Father Uzhunnalil belongs to the Bangalore Salesian province.  He was abducted on March ‎‎4, 2016 when four unidentified gunmen attacked a care home in Yemen's southern port city of Aden, ‎killing 16 people including four Missionaries of Charity sisters of Mother Teresa.  The 57-year old priest had been working for more than four years as a chaplain at the care home.

    Speaking on behalf of India’s Catholic bishops, the CBCI statement said, “As we express our profound gratitude to God, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India wants to place on record its immense gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Srimati Sushma Swaraj the Minister of External Affairs and the Government of India for persistently and perseveringly working to obtain the release of Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil.”  The bishops also thanked “Pope Francis who took personal interest in Fr. Tom’s release efforts and Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic of Southern Arabia, the Bishop in charge of the Middle East, and the Sultan of Oman, for their untiring efforts, the Rector Major and the Salesian Provincial of Bangalore Province for their patience and strong faith.”

    Salesians

    Fr. Joyce Thonikuzhiyil, the superior of the Salesian province of Bangalore, also thanked the government and the bishops for their efforts.  He also thanked the family of the priest for “their strength in faith and for perseverance."  He proposed that, in all Salesian Houses, a Mass of thanksgiving and half an hour of Eucharistic adoration be celebrated on Wednesday.

    The Archdiocese of Bangalore will join the Salesians province of Bangalore and the archdiocesan  branch of the Conference of Religious India (CRI), to celebrate an evening Mass on Thursday, 14th September, at Bangalore’s St. Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, to thank God for the release of Fr. Uzhunnalil, and also to pray for all those who were instrumental for his release, a note from the office of Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore said.

    Syro-Malankara Church

    CBCI president, Cardinal Isaac Cleemis Thottunkal, the head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church,  expressed his gratitude to all those who enabled the release of Fr. Uzhunnalil, especially the Indian  and Kerala governments.  “As a Church in India, we are grateful to Pope  Francis and the Holy see for realizing our dream in getting the release of Fr Tom," Card. Cleemis, who is also CBCI president, told AsiaNews.

    Syro-Malabar Church

    Meanwhile in Ernakulam, Kerala people flocked to St. Mary’s Cathedral of the Syro-Malabar Church on Tuesday to participate in a special thanksgiving service conducted after the release of Fr. Uzhunnalil.  Cardinal George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of Angamaly-Ernakulam and head of the Syro-Malabar Church to which Fr. Uzhunnalil belongs, said that prayers by millions across the world had helped in the release of the priest. Speaking after the special thanksgiving service, he thanked the Vatican and the Indian government for the efforts to get the priest released.

    MC Sisters

    Sr. Mary Prema, Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity, whose sisters had Fr. Tom as their chaplain in Aden, issued a statement saying, "I  am overwhelmed with this good news. And I praise God for his Mercy.”  She said, “We had never given up hope that one day father Tom would be released. His photograph is fixed on the tomb of mother.  The sisters , the poor and the people have been praying daily for his release. We give all glory to God and we thank all those who prayed and worked tirelessly for father Tom's release".

    Source: Vatican Radio…

  • Egypt’s Coptic Churches ‘Closed for Security’ Reopen

    Believers Portal News || 13 September 2017

    closed coptic churches in egypt reopenedEgypt’s Copts Christians in the village of Ezbat Al-Forn, in the Minya governorate, have their church re-opened after it was forced to close “for security reasons” last month, and celebrated this with a mass on Sunday morning (10 September) – the same day that another village church reopened elsewhere in Minya.

    The first mass at the reopened Saint Mary and St Michael Coptic Orthodox church, which meets in a private home owned by the Diocese, was led by Fr Daniel Babawy with Minya police forces present to provide security for fear of reprisals from the Muslim community, as reported by Coptic news site Watani. In fact, some Muslims visited the Copts to congratulate them at the reopening of their church.

    The community of 400 Coptic Christians in Ezbat Al-Forn were stopped from holding Sunday mass and banned from the premises by police on Sunday 20 August.

    Police said the Copts, who were meeting in a private home, lacked a permit to use the home to practise religious rites, but the official police report shows that the decision was taken following complaints by local Muslims, after which World Watch Monitor understands the police shut the church for the Copts’ protection.

    According to Watani the Coptic community in the village of Kidwan – also in Minya – also saw the reopening of their church last Sunday. Like the village church in Ezbat Al-Forn and many other Coptic places of worship, the Copts in Kidwan meet in an unlicensed building, which had been used for worship for several years before the local authorities closed it, under the pretext that local Muslims threatened violence should the church reopen.

    In a statement issued in August, Anba Macarius, Bishop-General of Minya, expressed his disillusionment “at the failure of negotiations with security authorities in Minya to reopen churches closed by security order” because churches either lacked security approval or were considered offensive to Muslims and therefore a threat to social harmony.

    Following the reopening of both churches, Bishop-General Macarius issued another statement, alongside one other local Coptic leader, saying that “the Copts of Minya and Abu-Qurqas offer their thanks to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi for his response to their call for help [to reopen the closed churches] and for his understanding of their suffering”. They also thanked Minya Governor Essam al-Bedeiwi, Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar, and the local security officials. The statement said the Copts were also grateful for the official promise to open other closed churches.

    Source: Believers Portal News… 

  • Youth Officer in Malawi Advocates for Gender Mainstreaming

    Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) || By Prince Henderson || 14 September 2017

    doreen mbendera of malawi for gender mainstreamingThe District Youth Officer (DYO) for Thyolo District Council, Doreen Mbendera has expressed the need for gender mainstreaming approach in the implementation of Hope for Youth project being championed by the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM) of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM).

    Cadecom is implementing Hope for Youth Project in five Catholic Technical Colleges namely: include Namitete in Lilongwe, Mitengo in Thyolo, and Thondwe Village Polytechnic and Namitembo in Zomba.

    Speaking at a day-long training for Cadecom staffs who will be implementing the project at Mitengo Technical College, Mbendera said gone are the days when women and girls were regarded as subjects; rather, they should receive equal treatment to men.

    She said women or girls just like men should strive to take up vocational jobs in technical colleges and get skills in courses like carpentry, break laying and plumbing.

    “Let this project engage more women to have the much needed knowledge in vocational skills just like men do. Who said women cannot do what men do. I am sure women can take up the challenge if given a chance,” said Mbendera.

    She said women or girls should also be ready to demonstrate that they can do hence win the trust of the donor community and those championing the campaign for women and girls’ empowerment.

    At least 3000 youths are set to be enrolled into Catholic Technical Colleges to learn various vocational and entrepreneur skills, thanks to the financial and technical support from European Union (EU) through Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF).

    The project is targeting youths of all denominations including those living with various disabilities and also HIV/Aids.

    “The project is aimed at empowering women and vulnerable groups through vocational and entrepreneurship skills education. The project therefore is promoting equitable and non-gender-based access and retention in five targeted vocational colleges,” said Cresentia Kansale, project officer for Cadecom.

    She encourage women to take part in this project as beneficiaries by not being let down that vocational trainings skills are only meant for men.

    She said the initiative is complementing government’s effort in uplifting the lives of the youth through technical colleges where they are trained various vocational skills.

    CADECOM is implementing the project with the tune of 1,092,303 Euros for the period of three years.

    Source: Episcopal Conference of Malawi… 

  • Churches, Places of Reference, Integration and Socialization for the Immigrant Population

    EurekAlert || By Rafael Cazarin || 12 September 2017

    churches as places for integrationA study by the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country describes Pentecostal pastors as cultural mediators in migrants' integration process

    For the migrant population of Sub-Saharan origin, religiousness is a key aspect in their process of integration; "a fairly significant relation is seen to exist between these two factors," pointed out Rafael Cazarin, a sociologist at the UPV/EHU's Department of Sociology II - INNOLAB research centre. "When they go to the churches to participate in the services, they have the chance to establish affective bonds with the community and build relationships of trust while sharing certain values and migratory experiences". In order to analyse the interrelation between religion, churches and pastors in the integration of migrants, Cazarin conducted an ethnographic study on the Evangelical-Pentecostal churches of Sub-Saharan origin, particularly looking at Nigerian and Congolese pastors.

    Evangelical Pentecostalism is the most important Christian movement in modern Sub-Saharan Africa; it has shown one of the highest growth patterns in the last 20 years amongst the four great world religions (Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam), but specially in Africa and the American continent. "Although local people may not consider the existence of these churches, in Bilbao for example, my research covered 6-7 Pentecostal churches. In Greater Bilbao there may be, surely, the double of this number or even more; yet it is true that they are very precarious and are found in marginalised locations. If you wander through the San Francisco neighbourhood, you can find a series of posters inviting people to attend the sessions held at weekends in the different churches," he explained.

    Beyond the services of worship, these churches are places that host a great diversity of events of interest for the immigrant population. "For instance a couple of times I have assisted an event that involved the embassy of Nigeria or heard about specific diplomatic procedures that Nigerians had to go through; or even managing cultural conflicts. This is so because of the strategic role of pastors as community leaders and influential people in the everyday life of migrants," said the researcher.

    As Cazarin specified, pastors act "as cultural brokers and people who inform the community by providing a range of knowledge of general interest for the people who, in many cases, are undocumented, such as places where they can register, the welfare benefits they can apply for, or how best to get around in certain provinces. They also speak several languages, something that is very important in the process of mediation, as they are people who have been here much longer. So they are very important figures for the community".

    The churches, places for integration and socialization

    One of the most noteworthy conclusions emerged from the research is that the churches are more than meeting points for a religious group; "it is place of reference for people with different cultures and nationalities who in other contexts would not mix," he said. This cultural blend leads, at the same time, to the rearrangement of values, morals and the way they interpret their conditions. In other words, migrant worshippers "tend to set aside traditional particularities from their cultures of origin while reinterpreting them as part of one big Christian culture; they negotiate their own social cohesion in the place of evangelical worship". This turns the churches into places for the socialisation and management of diversity beyond that of religion: "The pastors say that many people go to church to develop social relationships, to reinforce their affective bonds and to seek companionship, which are harder to come by in their daily lives owing to the isolation caused by the migratory process. When they meet, they talk about other things, and after the services there are sometimes other types of events, etc."

    Having this information in mind, Cazarin believes that "the state could acknowledge these churches and, more specifically, the pastors, to implement integration policies. Firstly, the view they have of that of place for religion only and that churches are very far removed from the notion of social, economic or cultural integration. Secondly, the function of the pastors in the immigrant community is not recognised. In other places with a more-deeply rooted history of migration flows, such as Germany or even Catalonia, these leaders are seen as allies and migrant communities are accessed more easily through state agents. While no greater outreach of the public integration services is forthcoming, these people will to continue to seek the pastor because he/she is the closest person to them, a social reference".

    Despite having focussed his research on Evangelical-Pentecostal churches, Cazarin pointed out that "the results can be extended to other religions or denominations in migratory contexts in terms of socialization, the management of cultural diversity and, above all, the role of the religious leaders in the group of worshippers."

    Additional information

    Rafael Cazarin (Brasilia, Brazil, 1986) was awarded with a PhD (cum laude) by the EHU-UPV with a thesis entitled: Religion, emotion and social transformation along migratory processes. The cases of African church leaders in Spain and South Africa. To perform this task, he conducted fieldwork in Bilbao and in Johannesburg (South Africa), and collaborated with various organisations, such as the ISOR (Investigacions en Sociologia de la Religio, identitat i memoria) of the Autonomous University of Barcelona; the African Centre for Migration and the Society of the University of Witwatersrand, and Oxford University's International Migration Institute.

    Source: EurekAlert… 

  • Archbishop in Malawi Urges Catholic Youth to Be Exemplary

    Nyasa Times || By Stella Zulu – ECM || 11 September 2017

    catholic youth in malawi urged to be exemplaryArchbishop Tarcisius Ziyaye of Lilongwe Archdiocese in Malawi has urged the country’s Catholic youth to be exemplary in their behaviour by being the light and salt of their society. The Archbishop called on the young people to become conversant with Catholic Social Teaching.

    “I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to use your Christian conscience properly to avoid the evil doings of this modern world. Your behaviour should inspire those who are not Christians. It's only when you are good Christians that you will be able to make wise decisions and follow various vocations in the Church and be the salt and light that you are supposed to be to the world,” Archbishop Ziyaye said.

    The Archbishop was speaking recently in Salima at Salima Technical College during the Eucharistic celebration marking the official opening of a three-day youth rally for Catholic youth drawn from the parishes of the Archdiocese of Lilongwe.

    During the rally, outgoing Diocesan Youth Coordinator, Fr. Michael Chimvalenji urged the youth to value the Holy Eucharist and the teachings of the Church. He told them that the Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,

    Fr. Chimvalenji reminded young people that the Catholic Church values the Bible and Sacramentals such as Rosary beads, Statues, Medals, Crucifix and Holy Water.

    “Respect these things and do not take them for granted, use them as your spiritual tools. When used for their intended purposes …. they will bring you closer to God since they are a sign of our faith and trust in God,” Said Fr. Chimvalenji.

    During the same rally, the new Archdiocesan Youth Coordinator, Fr. Kervin Khodola, was introduced. Father Khodola urged the youth to heed God’s call in their various vocations. 

     “(The Prophet) Jeremiah was called while he was still a youth. Initially, he was afraid but God assured him of his presence. He faced resistance from the people …  but still, he worked for the Kingdom of God. Always remember that God is still doing great things in your lives,” said Fr. Khodola.

    The three days youth rally organised by the Archdiocese of Lilongwe drew together youth from parishes of the Archdiocese. The young people also participated in various activities and engaged in group discussions. There were also activities for entertainment including sports. Winning teams walked away with new sports attire for their parish teams.  

    Pope Francis has announced that in October 2018, the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be held, on the theme: “Youth, faith and vocational discernment.”

    Source: Nyasa Times…

  • DR Congo is Doing “very badly”: Carmelite Missionary of Charity’s Testimony

    Aleteia || By Miriam Diez Bosch || 11 September 2017

    dr congo doing very badly 2017Sixty parishes profaned and closed, 31 Catholic health centers pillaged, 141 Catholic schools ruined and closed, 3,698 private homes destroyed, 20 towns completely demolished …

    The “Balkanization” of the Democratic Republic of the Congo—that’s how the country’s bishops define the chaos in the region.

    The bishops have denounced “the kidnapping and murder of children, people being abducted, and armed robbery, all of which have become common, and attacks against parishes and other structures of the Catholic Church.”

    In order to understand the situation on the ground better, we contacted Carmelite Missionary of Charity Maria-Núria Solà (born in Barcelona in 1943), whose dream when she was a child was to “go off to the missions.” She is currently located in the city of Kinshasa in the Congo.

    We asked about the reason for the attacks against Catholics. “The problem isn’t persecution of Christians, as could happen in other, Islamic majority countries,” she explained to Aleteia.

    The Church denounces the situation of corruption

    In the Congo, the majority are actually Christians. The Catholic Church is being attacked because “it has spoken out, written, and acted against injustice, violence, and the dictatorship masked as a democracy,” she added.

    The country is experiencing political deadlock due to the fact that, according to the Constitution, the current president, Joseph Kabila, cannot run for another term, and he is delaying elections.

    The Episcopal Conference had offered to negotiate an agreement between the opposition and the president, and an accord was signed on December 31, 2016 (Saint-Sylvestre Political Agreement). “However, nothing has been solved, and from time to time there are disturbances caused by the opposition,” the missionary laments.

    One problem is that some blame the Catholic Church: “There are Christian churches and sects favored by the government that weaken the Catholic Church’s denunciations, and that explains to some extent the attacks that have taken place in various parts of the country.”

    We live in an “uneasy peace; you never know what will happen tomorrow,” she admits.

    Those responsible for the attacks are groups that are out of control, seeking to create insecurity for the entire population.

    According to the Carmelite, “the Catholic Church has acted with courage. It continues to denounce acts of injustice, and cannot cease to do so if it wishes to be faithful to the Gospel, for the common good of the entire population. Our communities are living in insecurity, like any other citizen who opposes [the violence] and fights for freedom and justice.”

    The CENCO, the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo, issued a statement on June 23 in which it too mentioned the “unrest” and the “concern” for the “constant deterioration of the political situation.”

    The bishops stated that “the miserable situation in which we are living today is a consequence of the persistent socio-political crisis, due principally to the elections not being organized in conformity with our country’s Constitution.”

    The bishops said that “a minority of the citizens have decided to hold the lives of millions of Congolese hostage,” which is “unacceptable.”

    The state of poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is due to the scourge of continual wars, the exploitation of natural resources by large corporations, and extensive corruption. Young boys in the region are exploited as soldiers, and young girls are sexually exploited.

    The bishops declare that “the country is doing very badly” but they insist that people should “not give in to fear or fatalism.”

    Source: Aleteia… 

  • Police in Nigeria Arrest Suspected Killers of Catholic Priest

    Vatican Radio 08 || September 2017

    police in nigeria arrest suspect killers of priest 2017Police in Nigeria have arrested the suspected killers of Catholic priest, Fr Cyriacus Onunkwo, who was kidnapped last Friday and later found murdered in the town of Orlu. Orlu is the second largest city, after Owerri, in the southeast of Nigeria's Imo State.

    Nigerian Catholic Secretariat sources and Nigerian media confirmed the arrest of a gang of six persons led by an ex-police corporal, Jude Madu. The ex-police corporal, is said to be the leader of the persons behind the abduction and murder of the priest. 

    The sources at the Catholic Secretariat told Vatican Radio that the gang had confessed to the crime. According to the confession, Fr. Onunkwo was kidnapped with the view to extort ransom money from his family and the Church. He is said to have died out of suffocation because his mouth and nose were cello-taped by the criminals.

    In Nigeria, kidnappings and murders targeting priests and the religious have increased in recent years. 

    Fr. Onunkwo who was working in another diocese had returned to his home city of Orlu to make arrangements for the burial of his father when he met his untimely death.

    Source: Vatican Radio…

  • Pope Francis Decentralizes most Authority for Liturgical Translations to Local Bishops

    National Catholic Reporter (NCR) || By Joshua J. McElwee || 09 September 2017

    liturgical translations decentralized to local bishopsPope Francis has decentralized authority over how the texts used in the Catholic Church's liturgies are translated from Latin into local languages, moving most responsibility for the matter from the Vatican to national bishops' conferences.

    In a motu proprio issued Sept. 9, the pontiff says he is making a change to the church's Code of Canon Law so that the Second Vatican Council's call to make the liturgy more understandable to people is "more clearly reaffirmed and put into practice."

    The motu proprio, given the title Magnum Principium, modifies two clauses of Canon 838. The rewritten clauses say simply that the Vatican is to "recognize" adaptations of Latin liturgical texts approved by national bishops' conferences.

    A comparison of the Italian text of the prior and new versions of the canon makes the change clear. Where the Italian says the Vatican was tasked before with "authorizing" all liturgical translations, it is now asked simply to "review" translations made by the bishops' conferences.

    That review will partly come through a process of confirming that the translations appropriately reflect the intent of the original Latin, known as a confirmatio.

    The Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said in a note accompanying the release of the motu proprio that the confirmatio process "leaves responsibility for the translation, presumed to be faithful, to the pastoral and doctrinal munus of the bishops' conference."

    The congregation adds that the confirmatio "presupposes a positive evaluation of the faithfulness and congruence of the produced texts with respect to the Latin text."

    The process of crafting translations of Latin texts into local languages has been one of the most controversial and acrimonious in the Catholic church since the end of the Council, held from 1962-65.

    Read more from: National Catholic Reporter… 

  • Blessed Tansi: A Unifying and Healing Symbol for Nigeria

    Vatican Radio || By Father Paul Samasumo || 04 September 2017

    blessed tansi as a unifying symbol in nigeriaNotwithstanding its status as an economic and cultural giant on the African continent, Nigeria is still struggling to cope with all manner of challenges. These range from poverty, corruption, the Boko Haram insurgency, religious and political conflicts.

    Fr. Emmanuel Nwosu, the Nigerian Postulator of the cause of Blessed Tansi's canonisation, says that Tansi is becoming more and more a symbol of healing and unity in Nigeria, particularly among Catholics. Blessed Tansi' stature will be enhanced when he is finally proclaimed a saint of the Church. This is because everyone finds something attractive in the life of this humble priest.

    In their March 2017 State of the Nation pastoral statement, Nigeria’s Catholic Bishops lamented the rise in the politics of identity with citizens “retreating to the womb of ethnicity.” In their words, Nigeria was choking in fumes of violence and the endemic rise of militia gangs along ethnic lines. The Bishops were also concerned about an increasingly restive and disillusioned Nigerian youth.

    Fr. Nwosu believes that the growing devotion to Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi by Nigerians from all walks of life is a sign of Tansi’s unifying and enduring appeal.

    According to Fr. Nwosu, many Nigerians identify with Blessed Tansi who was a catechist, teacher, priest, and monk. Fr. Tansi was a man well-ahead of his time. Apart from being a very prayerful priest, Tansi was zealous in promoting Nigerian family life; the welfare of girls and women as well as championing the plight of the poor and marginalised in parishes where he worked. He firmly believed in the education and future of an enlightened youth. All these are themes that still resonate with Nigerian society, today.

    “The cause (for sainthood) has gone a long way. He (Blessed Tansi) is in the last hurdle to sainthood. That is, we need one miracle which will be accepted by the sacred congregation for the causes of saints in the Vatican. If we get that one miracle, the door to sainthood will be opened … We hope God will grant us that miracle. We cannot work a miracle. It is only God who can give us a miracle, but we can request for one,” said Fr. Nwosu.

    Blessed Tansi is popular in Nigeria, Africa and even in England where there is a sizeable devotion and pilgrimage to the monastery where Blessed Tansi once lived.

    “We believe that as a saint among us … this will trigger and spur evangelization even further and it will promote spiritual living and charity among people. This particular priest was very concerned about the poor, the welfare of the family and the welfare of those who are marginalised in our community,” Fr. Nwosu said.

    Fr. Nwosu vividly remembers the historical beatification of Blessed Tansi on 22 March 1998 in Oba, Nigeria, by Pope Saint John Paul II.

    At the time of the beatification, Nigeria had a military government. It was not easy to relate with the authorities then, Fr. Nwosu says. There was no stadium or arena for the beatification, just acres, and acres of land that was cleared for the event.

    “There was no rain but plenty of dust. Everybody got enough of it (dust) that day, but people did not care; transport -not enough; there were no seats, but people did not mind. Others spent two nights in the open before the beatification...,” Fr. Nwosu recalled.

    Iwene Tansi was born in 1903 in Nigeria. He is hailed for his charity, holiness, asceticism, and ability to cope with difficult situations.

    At the age of nine, Iwene was baptised, Michael. As a young man, he worked as a catechist and school teacher before entering the major seminary at the age of 22. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Onitsha in 1937. Later, Fr. Michael left Nigeria and went to England where he became a Cistercian monk. He took the name Cyprian because there was already another Michael in the community.  He lived in the monastery of Mount St Bernard’s Abbey for 14 years. He died in 1964 at the age of 61. He was buried at the monastery in England but later his body was exhumed and taken back to Nigeria.

    Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi’s feast day is 20 January.

    Source: Vatican Radio… 

  • Franciscans in Kenya Acknowledge Member’s Environmental Conservation Achievement

    CANAA || Sr. Antoinette Jecinter Okoth (FSSA) || 07 September 2017

    franciscans in kenya recognize fr borg for tree plantingThe various religious orders that follow the spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi, popularly known as the Franciscans, joined together Saturday, September 2, for their annual Franciscan Family Day gathering during which the members acknowledged Father Hermann Borg of the Order of Franciscan Minor (OFM) for his great achievement in environmental conservation.

    In a ceremony that was presided over by Kenya’s First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta in July 2017, Father Borg, a native of Germany, was among the recipients of the “2017 Tree Growing and Forest Conservation Awards” and received the “Unsung Hero” award following his involvement in planting 1 million trees the Kenya’s Subukia Valley.

    The chairperson of the Franciscan Family Association (FFA) in Kenya, Sr. Mary Benigna Aoko of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Anna (FSSA) acknowledged with appreciation Fr. Borg’s efforts in environmental conservation during their annual gathering saying, “One member of our family Fr. Hermann Borg, received recognition in Colombia for his work of planting a million trees for preservation of mother earth. Through his efforts, he makes the mother earth a place fit for people to live in by following the footsteps of our father Francis.”

    Asked in an interview about what motivated him to begin planting trees, Father Borg said, “I am not a trained ecologist in any way; I have not studied anything in relation to conserving the environment; I have no knowledge of the names of the trees or bushes. All I know is that it is our responsibility to conserve nature and I need to do a lot as a person.”

    He continued, “When I was in lower Subukia over thirty years ago, the dust was too much and there were no trees around. I did not know what it would mean to plant trees, but I thought it would be the best thing to do at that time to change the face of Subukia. So we started planting trees with my brothers in the compound of schools, Churches, out-stations and along the roads, but the results we see today is overwhelming we could not have imagined.”

    In Kenya, Father Borg has been nicknamed “Baba Miti,” which can be loosely translated as “father of trees.”

    “I feel happy today because about 30 to 40 thousand trees are planted in lower Subukia yearly, and those living in upper Subukia are also planting many trees annually,” he added.

    Father Borg challenged all those following the spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi to become role models in the conservation of the environment saying, “The Franciscan Charism in the different Franciscan entities is generally not lived to the full; the attitude of living together as community is well embraced but the involvement in activities is quite limited; formation programs are narrowed to spirituality, and prayer life but performance of activities is insufficiently included in these programs.”

    Father Borg continued, “We should know that when we protect nature, there is calmness which brings peace, positive influence and new self-awareness,” and added, “Through this inner peace, we get transformed and are able to spread this peace to others.”

    Meanwhile, the Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya and South Sudan, Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo who graced the FFA gathering, which took place in Langata, Nairobi, encouraged the Franciscans in Kenya to value interpersonal relationships among themselves.

    “Invest in one another for building up the community of the Church,” the Nuncio encouraged the Franciscans in Kenya who had gathered for the Eucharistic celebration and added, “Remember as Franciscans, you are called to respect, care and love all creation.”

    The Franciscans’ acknowledgement of Father Borg’s efforts in environmental conservation happened days after the Kenyan government started implementing a ban on the use of plastic bags on August 28.

  • Catholic Priest in Nigeria Kidnapped, Murdered

    Catholic News Agency (CNA) || 05 September 2017

    kidnapped nigerian priest murderedA Catholic priest was kidnapped and found murdered in Nigeria, local sources have confirmed.

    According to local news source Vanguard, Fr. Cyriacus Onunkwo was kidnapped from his car by gunmen on Sept. 1 in the village of Orlu in the state of Imo in southern Nigeria. Police report that earlier that day, another priest - Fr. Jude Udokwu - was also attacked by kidnappers in the same village, but managed to escape.

    Within 24 hours, the body of Fr. Onunkwo was found in the bush close to a nearby village, according to police. Priests of the local Orlu Catholic Diocese were called to scene immediately to help identify the body.

    Fr. Onunkwo’s body reportedly did not show any outward wounds, and so local authorities suspect that he may have been strangled to death.

    No arrests have been made in connection with the death thus far, though local police have said the investigation is ongoing.

    The news comes just a few weeks after Vanguard reported that three men were arrested in connection with the death of Fr. Raphael Pankyes, who was found murdered in Plateau State in the center of the country in July.

    Jesuit priest Fr. Sam Okwuidegbe also recently shared his story of being kidnapped by armed Fulani herdsmen in April. The Fulani herdsmen are a notoriously violent group whose clashes with farmers have killed thousands of people in Nigeria over the past two decades. They are considered one of the most violent groups in the world, according to the Global Terrorism Index.

    Violence against Christians in general has significantly increased in the country in recent years, with the Islamist terror group Boko Haram threatening safety in the north, and smaller violent gangs threatening security in the south. In 2016, one Nigerian bishop lamented that Christians had essentially become “target practice.”

    Source: Catholic News Agency…

  • “Uphold the independence, dignity and integrity of the Supreme Court”: Catholic Bishops in Kenya Urge

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 07 September 2017

    upholding dignity of supreme court in kenya 2017The Catholic Bishops in Kenya have called on all Kenyans and especially the political leaders to respect the decision made by the Supreme Court annulling the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

    “We, the Catholic Bishops, call on all Kenyans to uphold the independence, dignity and integrity of the Supreme Court and Constitutional institutions even when we do not agree with their decisions,” the Bishops have stated in their letter of Wednesday, September 6.

    On Friday, September 1, the Supreme Court in Kenya annulled the President Kenyatta’s re-election, which had been declared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on August 11.

    The Chief Justice, David Maraga said that the Court’s verdict had been supported by four of the six judges and irregularities, ordering a fresh poll within 60 days.

    In response to the ruling, President Kenyatta called for calm and respect for the ruling in a prepared speech. However, he later accused the court of going against the will of the majority of Kenyans, dismissing the Chief Justice and his three colleagues who had supported the ruling as “wakora” (crooks).

    “While every individual can criticize any institution that he or she disagrees with, attacks that diminish the integrity of the Judiciary and any other public institution should stop,” the Bishops have cautioned and added, “We call upon the Jubilee and other leaders to accept the ruling and stop the threats, intimidation and vendetta against the Supreme Court.”

    The ruling has been praised across Africa and elsewhere as a victory of the independence of the judiciary.

    Below is the full text of the Bishops’ statement.

    “Let one and all Arise … to build this our Nation together”

    We, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, meeting in Nairobi, have reflected on the words of the second and third stanzas of our National Anthem which form the basis of the title of this proclamation and also the message in the Holy Scripture which reads as follows: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

    Once again, we wish to address you our dear Kenyans and all people of goodwill regarding the various matters of national concern our Country Kenya is seized with.

    We, the Bishops, applaud the National Super Alliance (NASA) for heeding our call to present their petition to the Supreme Court to be heard and determined instead of taking the electoral dispute to the court of public opinion, which would have led to unmitigated conflicts and violence. This act of filing the petition at the Supreme Court of Kenya has enhanced the place of our Institutions, especially the Supreme Court in dispute resolution. 

    Now that the Supreme Court has discharged its obligation by delivering the ruling on 1st September 2017 within the fourteen days allowed for determination of the presidential petition, we call on all Kenyans to abide by and respect this decision and for all to implement the orders accordingly.

    We, the Catholic Bishops, call on all Kenyans to uphold the independence, dignity and integrity of the Supreme Court and Constitutional institutions even when we do not agree with their decisions. While every individual can criticize any institution that he or she disagrees with, attacks that diminish the integrity of the Judiciary and any other public institution should stop. We call for an end to this open intimidation and threats to the Judiciary and the Supreme Court.  We call upon the Jubilee and other leaders to accept the ruling and stop the threats, intimidation and vendetta against the Supreme Court. The singling out of Chief Justice David Maraga for vilification carries much more weight than criticism. We can only build our Country together where there is goodwill.

    We hail all Kenyans for coming out in large numbers on August 8th, 2017  to vote.  We urge you all in the same spirit to turn out in large numbers on October 17th to vote for your preferred presidential candidate as announced by IEBC. Ensure you engage in peaceful and respectful campaigns and turn out to exercise your democratic right and responsibility of electing leaders and the Government to serve you. Please uphold our national values to ensure the election is credible, free and fair and held in a peaceful manner.

    We welcome the orders of the Supreme Court ruling which asked IEBC to arrange and carry out a fresh presidential election within sixty days. Accordingly, we now urge all parties to support IEBC to deliver on its constitutional mandate. On one hand, we are particularly concerned by the NASA threats to boycott the fresh presidential election that was ordered by the Supreme Court if their ultimatums are not met. On the other hand, we have seen Jubilee leaders acting as spokespersons of the IEBC. These actions infringe on the independence and authority of IEBC. We, as Bishops, call on all Kenyans to develop constructive channels of dealing with the challenges IEBC is faced with and to stop attacking the Institution charged with the responsibility of managing elections.  We, should, as a Country, learn to have amicable ways and means of registering our grievances and resolving our challenges within the time we have before October 17th.  Even with the best intentions, there are actions that may not be completed in time. May the spirit of wisdom prevail.

    At the same time, we urge IEBC to be highly consultative and transparent in its preparations for the forthcoming presidential election. We, the Catholic Bishops, accept and support the calls for essential administrative, procedural and operational actions and reforms that may need to be carried out to ensure the fresh presidential election is conducted in strict conformity with the Constitution and the electoral laws as the Supreme Court directed. To this end, we offer ourselves, with the other members of the Mediation Panel of the Religious Leaders under the Multi-Sectoral Forum, to facilitate quick talks at the request of IEBC that will help build consensus and confidence around the preparations, processes and actions leading to the holding of the fresh presidential election in October 17, 2017. IEBC must work with utmost integrity to gain the confidence of the stakeholders and the citizens of Kenya.

    In conclusion dear Kenyans, the Catholic Church will continue to stand for the strengthening of institutions, dialogue and mediation and peace-building to ensure that Kenya holds a free, fair and credible election as ordered by the Supreme Court. As your Shepherds, we are available to accompany and pray with you at every stage of the journey as we endeavor to build our Country together in one accord.  Let all with one arise, with hearts both strong and true. This is our moment of patriotism and, we must show that our minds have been renewed and transformed.

    Fellow Kenyans, let us pray for our Country and live up to the call of our faith and National Anthem. We commend this Country to prayer for peace, justice and prosperity.

    Signed

    Rt. Rev. Philip Anyolo

    CHAIRMAN, KENYA CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS

    Wednesday, 6th September 2017

  • Church in Southern Africa Celebrates World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

    CANAA || By Father Paul Tatu || 01 September 2017

    prayer for care of creation 2017 for sacbcSeptember 1 marked marked the Celebration of Spring Day, and the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

    In South Africa, during Khanya House celebration of this day on Friday, September 1, Father Sakhi Mofokeng, the Secretary for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), department for Formation, Life, and Apostolate of the Laity, during his homily to the SACBC Staff, emphasised the important role human beings have to take in caring for the creation of God.

    Father Sakhi said that when God created human being His tone changed. God first communicated with members of the Trinity, and said, “Let us create man in our image.”

    God who is sovereign created man and entrusted him with the responsibility of taking care of the whole creation.

    “Because of this responsibility the goal of man is (to) show God’s righteous rule over all creation,” he said.

    Father Sakhi further said that humanity’s responsibility over the earth involves earth-keeping, wise use of the earth and its resources, raising Godly Children and converting the nations.

    He also quoted Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si, where the Pontiff refers to the earth as a Sister whom we share our life with, and a beautiful Mother who opens her arms to embrace us.

    He explained that in saying that, the Pope emphasizes the good relationship human beings should establish with the creation of God.

    Furthermore, Father Sakhi highlighted the negative impact the human beings have caused on the creation of God, instead of taking care of it. “This Sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her,” he said, quoting Pope Francis.

    Father Sakhi said that human beings have caused so much abuse to the earth. “Pope Francis through Laudato Si calls human being to conversion to find out the reasons why they were created as human beings different from the rest of creation,” he explained.

    “Human beings are created in the image of God, to resemble God by loving creation and the responsibility of communicate with others and encourage them to take care of Creation,” he said in conclusion.

    Meanwhile, Sr. Hermenegild Makoro, the SACBC Secretary General was among those who attended the celebration of prayer to celebrate the Spring Day and the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, which also marked the official opening of SACBC Awareness Campaign for the Care of Creation, under the title, “Cry of the Earth – Cry of the Poor.”

  • Kenya and Regional Conference of Catholic Bishops Discuss Financial Sustainability at Annual Conference

    Waumini Communications (KCCB) || Waumini News Today || 01 September 2017

    kccb amecea annual accountancy conference 2017The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) in conjunction with the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern African (AMECEA) recently concluded their annual accountancy conference, which brought together 102 Finance Administrators, Accountants, and Bursars from Catholic Dioceses, Congregations, and Institutions in Kenya.

    The weeklong Conference started on 28 August and ended on Friday, September 1. It took place at at Kaskazi Hotel in the coastal town of Mombasa.

    This year’s theme was “Financial Sustainability in the Catholic Church in line with the Emerging Economic issues.’’ In his opening remarks, the KCCB -Finance Commission, Bishop James Maria Wainaina welcomed all to the conference and thanked the organisers for taking time to organise the meeting despite the political climate.

    Bishop Wainaina called upon participants to be good stewards by noting that the world today is looking for men and women who can stand out as better stewards. 

    “This is because the social reality is such that to be a better steward, you must overcome great challenges of corruption and misuse of funds. This is more pronounced where the financial system is weak. Moreover, the classical challenge of unlimited financial needs against limited financial resources makes financial decision making difficult,” he said

    The Bishop expressed concern that the Church is living in a new reality characterised by reducing donor funding, increasing expectations from the Church and increasing demands by regulators such as on matters of taxation.  Many Church institutions have since embraced property development as one way of becoming financially sustainable, but this has brought about challenges such as cost of borrowing, more enlightened tenants, payment of VAT and so on.

    Rt. Rev. Wainaina said the accountant in such a situation becomes the representative of the owners in ensuring there is a good return on investment, the property taxes are paid on time and that the property is properly maintained.

  • Cardinal Sarah Critiques Father James Martin on Homosexuality

    Catholic Herald || By Staff Reporter || 01 September 2017

    cardinal sarah critiques father james martin on homosexualityThe Church cannot back down on its call to chastity, the cardinal said.

    Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, has said the Church cannot back down on its teaching on chastity when dealing with the gay community.

    In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, the cardinal critiques Fr James Martin’s book ‘Building a Bridge’, which calls for “dialogue” with the LGBT community while criticising Church figures for showing hypocrisy on the issue of chastity.

    Cardinal Sarah describes Fr Martin as “one of the most outspoken critics of the church’s message with regard to sexuality”, and argues that while Fr Martin is right to say there should be no double standards regarding the call to chastity, members of the LGBT community must be made aware of the fullness of Church teaching.

    “He repeats the common criticism that Catholics have been harshly critical of homosexuality, while neglecting the importance of sexual integrity among all of its followers,” Cardinal Sarah writes.

    “Father Martin is correct to argue that there should not be any double standard with regard to the virtue of chastity, which, challenging as it may be, is part of the good news of Jesus Christ for all Christians. For the unmarried—no matter their attractions—faithful chastity requires abstention from sex.”

    Cardinal Sarah says that while this may seem a high standard, especially in the modern world, it would be “contrary to the wisdom and goodness of Christ to require something that cannot be achieved.”

    “As a mother, the Church seeks to protect her children from the harm of sin, as an expression of her pastoral charity,” he added.

    Fr Martin responded by telling America magazine, of which he is editor-at-large, that he is not challenging Church teaching. Instead, he is calling for Catholics to ask why that teaching is so widely rejected by the LGBT community.

    He also praised Cardinal Sarah for using the term “LGBT” in his op-ed, which he calls a “step forward”.

    However, he said the cardinal “misses a few important points,” including “the immense suffering that LGBT Catholics have felt at the hands of their church.”

    “Building a Bridge is not a book of moral theology nor a book on the sexual morality of LGBT people. It is an invitation to dialogue and to prayer, and I’m sure that Cardinal Sarah would agree on the importance of both.” Fr Martin said.

    In his op-ed, the cardinal said that while experiencing attraction to people of the same sex is not in itself sinful, same-sex relations are “gravely sinful and harmful to the well-being of those who partake in them”.

    “People who identify as members of the LGBT community are owed this truth in charity, especially from clergy who speak on behalf of the church about this complex and difficult topic,” Cardinal Sarah added.

    He praised the example Catholics who experience same-sex attraction but live according to Church teaching, citing Daniel Mattson and his book “Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay: How I Reclaimed My Sexual Reality and Found Peace.”

    “These men and women testify to the power of grace, the nobility and resilience of the human heart, and the truth of the church’s teaching on homosexuality,” the cardinal said.

    Source: Catholic Herald…

  • Grave of Cameroonian Bishop Who Died Under Suspicious Circumstances Desecrated

    Catholic News Agency (CNA) || 02 September 2017

    grave of late bishop bala desecratedThe grave of Bishop Jean Marie Benoît Bala of Bafia, whom the Cameroonian bishops’ conference claims was murdered, was found desecrated with traces of blood on Monday, prompting the temporary closing of the cathedral where his body rests.

    Bishop Bala disappeared in late May, and his body was found a few days later in the Sanga River. The Cameroonian bishops' conference has asserted he was murdered, based on autopsy results, though civil authorities do not share the bishops' conclusion.

    Local sources have now reported that Bishop Bala's grave in Bafia's San Sebastian Cathedral was desecrated sometime between the night of Aug. 27 and the morning of Aug. 28.

    "There was a clear act of desecration in the cathedral of Bafia in the night...Traces of blood were found in the cathedral" on the grave of Bishop Bala, said Bishop Sosthène Léopold Bayemi Matjei of Obala, according to Agenzia Fides, a news service of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

    "The cathedral is closed to public worship until a penitential rite will be celebrated as prescribed by the Code and the liturgical rite” because of the nature of the desecration, Bishop Bayemi added.

    Bishop Bala, who was 58, disappeared the evening of May 30 after being seen leaving his residence alone. His body was found in the Sanga River June 2, about 10 miles from his car, in which was found a note that reportedly read: “Do not look for me! I am in the water.”

    The note gave rise to the suspicion that Bishop Bala had committed suicide, but the Cameroonian bishops later determined that he had been murdered, based an autopsy report that showed he had not died by drowning, and that there were signs of torture on his body.

    While local government authorities ordered investigations into the death, they have maintained that Bishop Bala committed suicide. The results of two autopsies conducted by Cameroon's bishops were never made public. An investigation commissioned by the intergovernmental organization Interpol concluded Bishop Bala had died by drowning.

    The bishops of Cameroon have called on local authorities to further investigate the case and to make clear the true cause of Bishop Bala’s death. They have also noted there have been a number of clerics and consecrated persons whose murders in the country have never been solved, including: Fr. Joseph Mbassi, killed in 1988; Fr. Antony Fontegh, 1990; Archbishop Yves-Joseph-Marie Plumey, 1991; a group of religious sisters in Djoum, 1992; and Fr. Engelbert Mveng, 1995.

    In a June statement, the bishops asked the government “to shed complete light on the circumstances and the motives” for Bishop Bala's murder and that those responsible be identified and handed over to the authorities.

    Source: Catholic News Agency…

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