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  • After Peace Agreement Eritrea's First Step Must Be Helping Youth, Priest Says

    Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Hannah Brockhaus || 26 July 2018

    After a peace accord signed this month ended 20 years of conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia, an Eritrean Catholic priest said the country needs to focus on opportunities for youth, to stem the flow of emigration.

    “Peace is the base. Now we need to start to build a better future for our youth,” said Fr. Mussie Zerai, a 2015 Nobel Peace Prize nominee and founder and president of Habeshia, an organization which helps immigrants and refugees in Italy.

    A peace agreement was signed in July by Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed, formally ending a lengthy war between the two countries, which are located in the Horn of Africa.

    Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a border war from 1998 to 2000, and intermittent border clashes have continued since then. The July 8-9 summit formally ended the border conflict, restored diplomatic relations, and opened the nations' mutual border.

    The priest told EWTN that the peace agreement has fulfilled 20 years of dreams and given people hope for the future, but should be followed by guaranteeing freedom, education, healthcare, and jobs, to “reduce the exodus of young people.”

    Eritrea is a one-party state whose human rights record has frequently been deplored. Isaias has been president of the country since it formally gained independence in 1993.

    Zerai, who was involved in the peace-building efforts, said he and others had been trying to promote dialogue as the solution for the two countries.

    Religion, as well, had a role, he noted, since the prime minister of Ethiopia “invited all religious leaders” to become involved in preparing “the people for reconciliation and for tolerance and for good relations between neighboring countries” following the accord.

    Religious freedom has long been a concern in Eritrea, which was highlighted in the U.S. State Department’s annual report on the state of international religious freedom, released May 29.

    The report documented the arrest of hundreds of independent Protestant Christians in Eritrea, where the government reportedly coerced numerous individuals into renouncing their faith.

    Catholics make up about 5 percent of the country’s population and Oriental Orthodox nearly 40 percent. The Eritrean Catholic Church uses the Alexandrian rite.

    Zerai said the Catholic Church in Eritrea is very active in all aspects of society, including evangelization, charity, education, and healthcare, but faces government discrimination.

    Authorities recently shut down eight free Catholic-run medical clinics, he explained, which prevented the Church from serving the poor people in those areas. Authorities said the clinics were unnecessary, because of the presence of state clinics, he said.

    “Our hope is that with peace maybe the internal policy will change,” Zerai said, decrying the lack of rule of law over the last two decades.

    “Now with peace I hope the country, the government, will start to build this important infrastructure and structure for the country.”

    Source: Catholic News Agency…

  • Nigerian Archbishop Hopes Relic Will Help Heal Violence-stricken Country

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Anna Weaver || 27 July 2018

    For the first time, a relic of St. Marianne of Molokai has been given to a diocese outside of the U.S.

    That diocese is Kaduna, in north-central Nigeria, and its leader hopes that sharing the story of St. Marianne will be a positive symbol in his war-torn country. The north and central regions of Nigeria in particular have experienced a rise in violence in recent years.

    "On a daily basis, hundreds of people are being killed," said Kaduna Archbishop Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso. "Communities are being wiped out."

    Fighting has primarily been between farmers and nomadic herdsmen over land use. Lake Chad and grazing lands have shrunk with rising temperatures. Majority Muslim herdsmen compete with primarily Christian farmers for space.

    Recent violence resulted in the killing of 19 people, including two priests, at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Ayar Mbalom, Benue state, on April 24. Fifty houses in the village were also burned.

    "Human life has become like chicken life," the archbishop told the Hawaii Catholic Herald, Honolulu's diocesan newspaper. "We want the international community to know this is happening."

    "We are pleading on behalf of all Nigerians that are being killed today," he said during a visit to Hawaii.

    Archbishop Ndagoso and his fellow Nigerian bishops have called on President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military leader and Muslim who was elected president in 2015, to do more to stop the violence or resign.

    "His duty is to make sure that he secures our country, to make every Nigerian, regardless of your religion, regardless of your tribe, feel secure," the archbishop said. "Right now there is division. Where there is division, you need to bring healing."

    Archbishop Ndagoso visited Hawaii July 12-19. His trip included a July 14 stop with Honolulu's Bishop Larry Silva to the Kalaupapa peninsula on Molokai.

    There, Bishop Silva gave Archbishop Ndagoso a tour of the Hansen's disease settlement. The archbishop also celebrated Mass to honor past and present Kalaupapa residents and the service of Sts. Damien and Marianne of Molokai.

    During the pilgrimage, Sister Alicia Damien Lau, of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, presented the archbishop with a piece of St. Marianne's coffin, a second-class relic, on behalf of her religious community.

    On July 15, Archbishop Ndagoso took the relic to Sacred Heart Church in Pahoa on the Big Island (Hawaii Island) to celebrate Mass and meet families displaced by the Kilauea eruption.

    St. Marianne's coffin fragment relic was held in a reliquary made of native Hawaiian woods by craftsman Manny Mattos, a parishioner of Resurrection of the Lord Parish in Waipio, Oahu.

    "She's a model of leadership that we can hold up," said Archbishop Ndagoso of why he wanted to take the relic back to Nigeria.

    He pointed out of her willingness, as the superior of the Syracuse, New York, Franciscan sisters, to come to Hawaii herself along with a group of sisters when called to help with nursing needs in the island. "She didn't just ask others to go, she actually led them."

    Having St. Marianne's relic will be a great example of that servant leadership, the archbishop said.

    "Marianne and Damien, what they did in Molokai was to heal people, to bring them fullness of life, to give them their dignity."

    Mother Marianne Cope and six companion sisters arrived in Hawaii in 1883 from Syracuse to help care for patients with Hansen's disease, or leprosy. She succeeded St. Damien de Veuster, a Belgian priest, in this health care ministry.

    St. Damien, who died in 1889, was Kalaupapa's first saint. He was canonized in 2009. St. Marianne died in 1918 in Kalaupapa and was canonized in 2012.

    Archbishop Ndagoso came to Hawaii for the first time last year at the invitation of his friend and Hawaii resident Darlene Namahoe. Namahoe met the future archbishop in the late 1990s in Rome, when both were living in the city and attending Mass at Chiesa di San Patrizio.

    Manny Mattos was his guide during his four-day visit in 2017, which included a stop at the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu. There, Archbishop Ndagoso prayed in front of the relics of St. Damien and St. Marianne.

    Mattos recalled the effect the cathedral visit had on the archbishop. "As soon as he walked out of the church, he said, 'Manny, is there any way I can take a relic of Mother Marianne back to Nigeria?'"

    Mattos spoke with Sister Alicia Damien, who worked on acquiring the coffin fragment for Archbishop Ndagoso.

    With about 196 million people, Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa and has the seventh highest population in the world, according to current U.N. statistics.

  • Church in Uganda Proud to be Part of History of 50-year-old Continental Bishops’ Conference, Kampala Catholic Archbishop Confirms

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 27 July 2018

    The Catholic Church in the East African country of Uganda is happy and proud to be part of the history of the existence of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), which will be 50 years old in July 2019.

    This was confirmed by Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala, Uganda on Friday, July 27 at the start of a workshop on the celebrating SECAM Golden Jubilee. 

    Church leaders representing regional conferences of Catholic Bishops in Africa are gathering in Uganda’s capital Kampala in view of launching a yearlong celebration of SECAM’s 50-year existence on Sunday, July 29.

    As the host of the function of the launch of SECAM golden jubilee, speaking on behalf of the Catholic Bishops in Uganda, Archbishop Lwanga said, “I wish to welcome all members present. Thank you for coming; thank you for remembering Uganda. We feel happy and proud because we are part of the history of SECAM, since in 1969, when Pope Paul VI came over for the very first ever papal visit to Africa, he launched SECAM.”

    “As we celebrate, we remember God’s goodness to us, beginning with the missionaries who evangelized us; we remember all people who have involved themselves in one way or another,” Archbishop Lwanga told CANAA in an interview on Friday, July 27 at the Speke Resort Munyonyo, Kampala, the venue of the workshop.

    The Shepherd of Kampala said that SECAM’s Jubilee celebration will include remembering the different groups of people who have contributed to the progress of the Church in Africa.

    “Let us not just focus on Bishops,” Archbishop Lwanga said, explaining, “Let us remember catechists, teachers, families, all the lay people who have been very instrumental, as well as the religious; we also need to remember the youth, the children, who are part of us, and are making sure that the future is bright.”

    He called for a spirit of renewal during the yearlong celebration of the Church in Africa saying, “Whenever we celebrate jubilee, there is also the element of renewal. In this case, let us evaluate, whatever has been going well, we strengthen it; whatever has not been going well, we renew ourselves, and find better ways, new ways of proceeding with a new evangelization.”

    During the interview with CANAA, the Archbishop also spoke about the need on the part of the Church leaders in Africa to provide visibility to SECAM at the various levels of the Church saying.

    Referring specifically to the Bishops in Africa who are all members of SECAM, the Archbishop said, “We have the duty to disseminate information, because there is much that is being done that the people of God don’t know, and I think the blame is ours.”

    “Africa has its own positive things, and one of them is the Catholic Church,” Archbishop Lwanga said and added, “If you consider the amount of work the Church has done, both spiritually and otherwise, it is immense – the schools, the hospitals, the parishes, all have contributed to the fundamental changes of people.”

    So, let us feel proud of our Church; let us strengthen what has been started, and then pray God almighty blesses our work, so that eventually we get his life in its fulness.

    “I pray to God almighty that He continues to bless us, that He blesses our continent,” Archbishop Lwanga concluded.

    Some of the Bishops’ conferences represented at the Kampala SECAM workshop include the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa (ACEAC); Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa Region (ACERAC); Regional Episcopal Conferences of West Africa (RECOWA/CERAO); Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy of Egypt (AHCE); Regional Episcopla Conferences of North Africa (CERNA); Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA); Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA); Madagascar and Episcopal Conferences of Indian Ocean (CEDOI); and the host, the Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC).

  • Workshop Toward Launch and Yearlong Celebration of SECAM Golden Jubilee Kicks Off in Kampala, Uganda

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 27 July 2018

    A workshop organized to prepare for the launch of the yearlong celebration of the existence of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) kicked off Friday, July 29 in Kampala, Uganda with representatives from various Regional Bishops’ conferences and other continental institutions in attendance.

    Some of the Bishops’ conferences represented include the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa (ACEAC); Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa Region (ACERAC); Regional Episcopal Conferences of West Africa (RECOWA/CERAO); Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy of Egypt (AHCE); Regional Episcopla Conferences of North Africa (CERNA); Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA); Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA); Madagascar and Episcopal Conferences of Indian Ocean (CEDOI); and the host, the Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC).

    The workshop sessions, which were facilitated by SECAM’s Theological Committee (COMITHEOL) were preceded by a word of welcome from SECAM President, Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi of Lubango, Angola who also acknowledged with appreciation the initiative of the Church leaders in Africa to speak with one voice through SECAM.

    Pope Paul VI inaugurated SECAM in 1969 in Kampala, the first ever papal visit to Africa.

    Various facilitators provided the context of the Golden Jubilee, explaining the objectives and the calendar of the yearlong celebration to be marked with prayer sessions and particular actions in the local churches in Africa.

    “As Christians, we are all in the context of the Jubilee year, a call to return to our ancestral roots, in our case, a return to our baptismal promises, proclaiming the gospel in thanksgiving for who we are, remembering the progress we have made in the last 50 years, naming what we are grateful for,” Sr. Teresa Okure, a member of SECAM’s COMITHEOL told delegates during the workshop sessions, adding that the jubilee celebration would include repentance for the messes “we may have been in, and then renewed commitment to witness to Christ in Africa and Madagascar.”

    “Since it is a celebration of SECAM, the Bishops in Africa need to take the lead in evaluating itself, in terms of why it was formed and the extent to which the purpose has (or has not) been achieved,” Sr. Okure clarified, drawing delegates toward providing suggestions for a Kampala Document as part of the yearlong celebration of the Golden Jubilee.

    A primary activity during the Jubilee celebration will be monthly prayer intentions to be guided by particular scriptural texts, which could be enriched by local examples and related concrete activities to be identified by and implemented in the local churches on the continent.

    For August 2018, the focus will be on Church communities, with a proposed meditation that focuses on the example of the first Christian communities and rooted in the celebration of Holy Eucharist. This intention will be guided by Acts 2:42-47.

    There is no theme for July 2019, because it is the concluding month when all the Jubilee intentions will be reconvened and reflected upon. In this regard, each month lived is not left behind but instead brought together progressively toward the climax of the golden Jubilee celebrations in July 2019.

    COMITHEOL facilitators encouraged local Churches to take particular initiatives to live the monthly intentions, exercising creativity for the good of the people of God on the continent in celebrating the Jubilee as inserted in the universal Church, on which each monthly intension is grounded.

    Bishop Mathieu Madega Lebouakehan of Mouila, Gabon who is the first vice President of SECAM and COMITHEOL Chair reiterated the need to engage the clergy, religious, and especially the laity in the activities of SECAM Jubilee explaining that such engagement of all Church members is a sure move toward the promotion of the growth and progress of the Church in Africa. 

    “Unity and collegiality is significant so that dioceses, national and regional conferences strive to have common activities in living through the jubilee year,” Bishop Lebouakehan emphasized.

    The yearlong Jubilee celebration will be launched Sunday, July 29 at the Sacred Heart Cathedral at Rubanga in Kampala, Uganda, under the theme: Church – family of God in Africa; Celebrate your jubilee! Proclaim Jesus Christ your Savior.

  • Calling the Church out on its Inequality

    Spotlight.Africa || By Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya || 20 July 2018

    Sadly, the Equality Report produced by the South African Human Rights Commission in South Africa makes for dismal reading and calls on all of us to play our role in creating a more equitable and just society. Here, Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya calls the Church to its own ‘mea culpa’ in bringing inequality when it comes to one of society’s most basic needs – education. 

    It was hardly a “stop the presses” moment when the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) released its Equality Report 2017/18.

    The SAHRC notes that “South Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the world measured in terms of both income and wealth. Poverty has increased in recent years, whereas economic growth has slowed to a point where the objectives set out in the National Development Plan seem unlikely”.

    You would be hard-pressed to find anyone surprised or who disagrees with the finding that South Africa has for decades competed with India and Brazil for the most unwanted title of being the most unequal state in the world.

    One must add that this is not for lack of trying, especially by the post-1994 state, to create better living conditions for all.

    The latest World Bank country overview report states that “South Africa has made considerable strides toward improving the well-being of its citizens since its transition to democracy in the mid-1990s, but progress is slowing. Based on a poverty line of $1.90 per day at Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), poverty fell from 33.8% in 1996 to 16.9% by 2008. Factors driving this included social safety nets, real income growth, as well as decelerating inflationary pressure on households, the expansion of credit, and growth in formal housing. Yet progress has slowed in recent years due to structural challenges and weak global growth since the global financial crisis of 2008. Poverty was 18.9% in 2015, having increased slightly since 2011. High unemployment remains a key challenge, standing at 26.7% in the last quarter of 2017. The unemployment rate is even higher among youths, close to 50%”.

    The World Bank report further notes that South Africa remains a dual economy with one of the highest inequality rates in the world, perpetuating both inequality and exclusion.

    “According to Statistics South Africa, the Gini coefficient, measuring relative wealth, reached 0.65 in 2014 based on expenditure data (excluding taxes), and 0.69 based on income data (including salaries, wages, and social grants). The poorest 20% of the South African population consume less than 3% of total expenditure, while the wealthiest 20% consume 65%.”

    While making broadly the same finding as the World Bank, the SAHRC tells us why we must be bothered.

    “The South African Human Rights Commission has simultaneously observed one of the manifestations of inequality in racism and hate speech,” notes the Equality Report.

    “According to certain surveys, income inequality – not race – constitutes the most divisive feature of South African society,” notes the SAHRC.

    Pope Pius VI’s famous words, “If you want Peace, work for Justice” find a special resonance in our times.

    “Justice will bring about Peace” (Cf: Is 32:17). We repeat this today in a more incisive and dynamic formula: “If you want Peace, work for Justice”.

    These words must stand uncomfortably among those of us who wish that “we all got along nicely”. Social peace is an outcome of social justice.

    While there can never be any good excuses for crime, hate speech and racial bigotry and discrimination, Pope Pius suggested that unless we do something about the kind of society that brings forth such evils, we must work harder at creating a world where the opposite virtues are the norm.

    “It is difficult, but essential, to form a genuine idea of Peace. It is difficult for one who closes his eyes to his innate intuition of it, which tells him that Peace is something very human. This is the right way to come to the genuine discovery of Peace: if we look for its true source, we find that it is rooted in a sincere feeling for man. A Peace that is not the result of true respect for man is not true Peace. And what do we call this sincere feeling for man? We call it Justice,” said the pope in his New Year’s Day message in 1972.

    In our case today, justice must include comprehensive social and economic justice.

    In the South African scenario, access to education – from the earliest possible date to skills forming post-school learning – remains one of the most reliable ways out of the inequality described by the SAHRC.

    The Catholic Church, together with other Christian churches, has for the most part of its 200-year existence in South Africa been a key part of bringing quality education opportunities to those who otherwise would not have had them.

    Today such education opportunities are enjoyed by the wealthy regardless of their skin colour. Whether by design or not, the church’s education system feeds and feeds off the system of the haves and the have-nots.

    It is simply untenable that the Catholic Education system runs on the same parallels as the apartheid era Department of Education and Training (for black people) and the various provincial education departments serving white children and teachers.

    There can be no illusion that the answers we seek will not come easily. But they have to be sought.

    Pope Pius again: “It is an invitation which does not ignore the difficulties in practising Justice, in defining it, first of all, and then in actuating it, for it always demands some sacrifice of prestige and self-interest. Perhaps more greatness of soul is needed for yielding to the ways of Justice and Peace than for fighting for and imposing one’s rights on and adversary, whether true or alleged. We have such trust in the power of the associated ideals of Justice and Peace to generate in modern man the moral energy to actuate them, that we are confident of their gradual victory.”

    Source: Spotlight.Africa…

  • Seeing 'Africa' with New Eyes

    Global Sisters Report (GSR) || By Laura M. Leming || 23 July 2018

    For the last three years, the Center for Social Concern at the University of Dayton, Ohio, has dedicated a portion of its Lenten almsgiving campaign to a small health center run by the Marianist Sisters in Kpatchilé, Togo. In May, I was blessed to visit this center in this small village in the savannah of Western Africa — "now my eyes have seen" (Job 42:5).

    Those words kept ringing in me during the week that six other faculty colleagues and I traveled through Togo as part of our Global Education Seminar. Three weeks in Ghana and Togo were the culminating experience of a yearlong seminar aimed at developing deeper global firsthand knowledge that our faculty can bring into our teaching and research.

    For me as a Marianist Sister, visiting Togo fulfilled a lifelong dream. I have been hearing about the Marianist family's presence in Western Africa since I was a postulant. Being able to visit in person was both exhilarating and humbling.

    The center of our ministry in Kpatchilé is a health clinic and maternity ward that make medical and childbirth assistance available in a part of the world where it was previously not accessible. Sr. Anne-Martine Diwizie is a physician's assistant and supervises the clinic, while other sisters do the clinic bookkeeping, run a girls' hostel to facilitate female education, and assist in nursing and pastoral care in the clinic and at the local parish.

    It should be noted that health care was not a founding element of our Marianist mission. But our founders' insistence on Mary's words at Cana, "Do whatever he tells you," has led us here — in Togo and more recently also in Ranchi, India.

    It's not likely that we will build and staff many hospitals, but when access to simple health care is the most urgent need of the people with whom we find ourselves, it ends up sounding like what he — and Mary — are telling us to do, despite our seeming inadequacy.

    Like many villages in Western Africa, the only electricity available is solar. It is striking to be in rural Africa and see a few solar-driven streetlights and cell-charging hubs. But the simplicity of the maternity ward and birthing room are stark reminders of the many inequities, especially in health care, between overdeveloped parts of the world and those where people fight for meager resources.

    The nurse on duty showed us a "recovery room" with only six wood frame beds with 4-inch plastic-covered foam mattresses and mosquito nets. But this simple room provides more space and opportunity to rest and bond with their infants than women would otherwise have — as well as someone to watch for any postpartum complication.

    On the day I visited with one of my other seminar colleagues, there was a vaccination clinic for young infants in the area. We were welcomed into the "round house," a sturdy building whose structure closely resembled the circular thatched shelters that typify West African village life. We counted 29 mothers with infants seated on the benches lining the walls, some nursing and soothing their children after their weight check and shot, some chatting with others as their children slept in their arms.

    As they left, they tied their infants on their backs in the manner of West African mothers. A common feature of all the Marianist chapels in the five Togolese cities we visited is an African Madonna, where young Jesus is reaching out from his mother's back or hip. Such a common sight on African streets!

    In talking with Sr. Agnès Konlani, the hostel coordinator, about what she thought we should take back to the University of Dayton about life in rural Africa, she insisted on the need for quality education, especially for girls. The annual fee of 7,000 Congolese francs (currently, approximately $11) for public schooling makes it prohibitive for families to send all their children to school.

    As in other parts of the world, it's the girl children who are most often left behind. And early marriage is still a problem. Quality education is what Agnès wants us to join the struggle for — in her mind, the most effective intervention for grinding poverty, and the best path to development. That's why everywhere else we visited in Togo, the Marianists had a school of some sort, from elementary to college prep.

    Focusing here on health and educational needs, however, doesn't do justice to the wonderful capacities we saw in Ghana and Togo. We marveled at the strength and dignity of a people who had been ravaged by the slave trade; the depth of the wisdom of local peoples handed on through generations; the beauty and color of the clothing that make our wardrobes in the U.S. and Europe seem drab by comparison; and most especially the vision and hope of so many young Africans we met — both students and young professionals in education and development work. They aspire to a great future and we witnessed the energy and enthusiasm they are investing to make that a reality.

    This year of growth in my familiarity with Ghana and Togo has opened my mind and heart in many ways. For instance, I don't think I was ever conscious that there are 55 countries in the African Union. That's more than one-quarter of the countries in the world!

    And yet so often in the West, we simply condense their immensely diverse and rich cultures to "Africa." It is something small that I will work on as I move forward. I can't speak for people of African descent, but I can share what I've learned about the people and cultures of Ghana and Togo.

    I happened to change my seat on the plane leaving Accra, Ghana, to get a window seat (still economy!) on my flight to France. On boarding, I was seated alongside a young man. In conversation, I learned he was Ashanti and Catholic and studied economics.

    After working in finance for a few years, he decided to dedicate his energies to strategizing for nongovernmental organizations on how best to meet the U.N. sustainable development goals. He was reading the memoir of a government minister (also Ashanti) because, as he told me, he thinks it's important for young people "to be inspired by the wisdom of our elders to stay strong in the work for the people."

    It was such good fortune — which really struck me as providence — to be able to converse with him. Kofi and I exchanged contact information, and I sincerely hope he may be able to visit the University of Dayton someday, to share the wisdom he has gleaned, to strengthen our global friendships and expand our imaginations about the peoples of the African continent.

    I also hope that we can return the gracious welcome and hospitality we received and to find more ways to work together to build a more just, equitable and loving world.

    [Marianist Sr. Laura M. Leming is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Dayton and serves on the Board of Trustees of St. Mary's University.]

    Source: Global Sisters Report…

  • Pope Calls for Respect for Migrants amid Rising Number of Deaths at Sea

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Junno Arocho Esteves || 23 July 2018

    With the rising death toll of migrants and refugees attempting the treacherous voyage across the Mediterranean Sea, Pope Francis urged world leaders to act to prevent further tragedy.

    "I make a heartfelt appeal to the international community to act decisively and promptly in order to prevent such tragedies from recurring and to guarantee the safety, respect for the rights and dignity of all," the pope said July 22 after reciting the Angelus prayer with an estimated 25,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

    According to the International Organization for Migration's Missing Migrant Project, an estimated 1,490 migrants have died in the Mediterranean Sea this year. The pope expressed his pain "in the midst of such tragedies" and offered his prayers "for the missing and their families."

    In Italy, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has barred several rescue ships from docking and has vowed to stop any foreign boats carrying rescued migrants into the country. The move has hampered rescue efforts of migrants trying to escape war, violence, persecution and poverty.

    Before making his appeal, the pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading in which Jesus invites his disciples to rest after their first mission, but the gathering of a large crowd prevents them from relaxing and eating.

    "The same thing can happen today as well," the pope said. "Sometimes we don't succeed in carrying out our plans because something urgent occurs that messes up our plans and requires flexibility and availability to the needs of others."

    In those situations, he continued, Christians are called to imitate Jesus who wasn't upset but rather was compassionate toward the people because "they were like sheep without a shepherd."

    "Jesus' gaze isn't a neutral gaze or, worse, cold and distant because Jesus always looks with the eyes of the heart. And his heart is so tender and full of compassion that he is able to see even the most hidden needs of people," the pope said.

    The same compassion, he added, is the "behavior and predisposition of God toward humankind and its history."

    "With Jesus at our side, we can proceed safely, we can be overcome trials, we can progress in love toward God and toward our neighbor. Jesus has made himself a gift for others, becoming a model of love and service for each one of us," Pope Francis said.

  • Family, Media, Youth, Migrants, Corruption, among Issues Addressed by Eastern Africa Bishops

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 23 July 2018

    The Catholic Bishops belonging to the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) on Sunday, July 22 concluded their ten-day Plenary Assembly held in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa by issuing a statement highlighting various issues that touch the lives of their ministry among the people of God within the Eastern Africa region.

    Family and marriage, digital media, the youth, migrants, corruption are among the issues addressed in the Bishops’ 21-point communique.

    “We are cognizant of the critical position of the family as the smallest unit of the Church and society,” the Bishops stated and added with regard to family and marriage and added, “A stable family is a foundation for positive vibrant diversity, equal dignity and peaceful unity in God in the AMECEA region and beyond.”

    On digital media, the Bishops expressed awareness “of the very positive steps taken towards evangelizing through mass media” and commended “efforts made to invest on creation of interactive Catholic content in diocesan and parish websites as well as social media platforms, catholic radios, televisions and newspapers.”

    The Church leaders acknowledged with appreciation “young people in their dynamism and diversity as citizens of the world” who “are equally transcultural and significant members of the Church.”

    On migrants, the Bishops stated, “We acknowledge that AMECEA region is a home to many migrants, internally displaced persons and refugees. This is due to the lack of the respect for diversity, human rights and inclusive economic development.”

    During the Plenary Assembly, the Bishops elected Bishop Charles Kasonde of Solwezi, Zambia, to head their nine-country association, succeeding Berhaneyesus D. Cardinal Souraphiel of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

    The Bishops also appointed Father Anthony Makunde of Mbeya Diocese, Tanzania as new Secretary General of their regional conference, to take over from Father Ferdinand Lugonzo of Kakamega diocese in Kenya.

    Rev. Prof. Stephen Mbugua who has been serving as the Vice Chancellor of Tangaza University College was appointed Vice Chancellor of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), succeeding Prof. Justus Mbae.

    The Plenary Assembly was held under the theme, “Vibrant Diversity, Equal Dignity, Peaceful Unity in God in the AMECEA Region”.

    Below is the full text of the Bishops’ communique at the conclusion of their Plenary Assembly


    19th AMECEA Plenary Assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; 

    (13th to 23rd July, 2018)

    “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus…..”(Galatians 3:28)

    The Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), comprising of the Episcopal Conferences of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan/South Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and the affiliate members of Djibouti and Somalia met for their regular quadrennial Plenary Assembly from 13th – 23rd July 2018 under the theme: “Vibrant Diversity, Equal Dignity, Peaceful Unity in God in the AMECEA Region.”

    To the family of God in AMECEA region and all people of good will.

    We, the Catholic Bishops in the AMECEA region, together with our Patrons, their Eminences the Cardinals, greet you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Peace be with you!

    APPRECIATING the spirit of Pope Francis on synodality of the Church and with prayerful thanksgiving to the spiritual guidance of the Holy Father.

    ENCOURAGED by the presence and solidarity of the Apostolic Nuncio to Ethiopia - His Excellency Luigi Bianco; Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples - Most Rev. Protase Rugambwa which signified our communion and solidarity with the Holy Father, Pope Francis for which we are grateful; Secretary of the Dicastery of Integral Human Development - Msgr. Bruno-Marie Duffe, and His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Tobin, the Chair of the subcommittee for solidarity fund for the Church in Africa and representative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

    INSPIRED by the vision of the AMECEA founding Fathers, we are determined and inspired to forge ahead with confidence and solidarity towards addressing pastoral and social issues of common concern in our region.

    1.     A Word of Gratitude

    As Catholic Bishops in the AMECEA region, we express our sincere appreciation to the people of Ethiopia, the ‘Land of Origins’. We acknowledge with deep gratitude the Ethiopian Catholic Church: Bishops, Clergy, Religious men and women, Lay Faithful, the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and all Ethiopians of good will for accepting to host the 19th AMECEA Plenary Assembly and for all the highly appreciated preparations to host this event.

    We also appreciate the support of all partners who made enormous contributions to the success of our Plenary Assembly.

    Furthermore, we thank the outgoing Chairman, His Eminence Berhaneyesus D. Cardinal Souraphiel, Archbishop of Addis Ababa, the Patrons, the outgoing members of the Executive Board, the AMECEA Secretariat, the Ethiopia Catholic Bishops Conference (ECBC) and its Secretariat, the organizing committee of this Plenary for their support and active participation. May the Almighty God bless you all.

    2.    Vibrant Diversity of all People of God

    AMECEA region is endowed with many good things which are not always similar. As AMECEA Bishops, we acknowledge this diversity as a positive thing to be cherished and not to cause divisions. This is in line with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which underscores that differences belong to God’s plan (Cfr. No. 1937). Differences among people should encourage mutual complementarity in the AMECEA region and beyond.

    As Shepherds, we therefore, strongly condemn any form of manipulation of differences in our region that undermines the dignity of the human person. This is in line with what the Catholic Church teaches that “…all men have the same nature and the same origin. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, all are called to participate in the same divine beatitude: all therefore enjoy an equal dignity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1934).

    We call upon the family of God in AMECEA countries to bear witness to this tenet of faith we profess and promote in our society. For this reason we strongly condemn negative ethnic diversity that divides our societies.

    3.   Equal Dignity

    In the light of the above doctrine about human dignity, we AMECEA Bishops, affirm the teaching of Vatican II Council that “… although rightful differences exist between men, the equal dignity of persons demands that a more humane and just condition of life be brought about. For excessive economic and social differences between the members of the one human family or population groups cause scandal, and militate against social justice, equity, the dignity of the human person, as well as social and international peace” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 29). We appeal to all Catholics and people of good will to promote, defend and uphold the equal human dignity of each and every person created in the image of God (Imago Dei). Consequently, soci0-economic, political and cultural development in the society is intrinsically connected to human dignity.

    4.  Integral Human Development

    As AMECEA Bishops, we uphold that integral human development cannot be limited to mere economic growth alone. In order to be authentic, it must first focus on the human person, should be holistic and cover all aspects of life of the human person and geared towards the common good.

    Therefore, grounded in the principles of the Catholic Social Teaching, we commit ourselves to promote positive vibrant diversity, equal dignity of all people, peaceful unity in God for integral human development in the region.

    5.  Promotion of Peaceful Unity

    We uphold and endeavor to promote the Church’s basic peace building plan which has four principles: recognition and defense of equal dignity of all members of the human family, promotion of integral human development, support for international institutions and forgiveness in AMECEA region. These peace building blocks are the basis for enhancement of human dignity that must be enjoyed by every human being through respect of human rights.

    6.   Solidarity with our Eritrean and Ethiopian Brothers and Sisters

    During our Plenary Assembly in Addis Ababa, we have witnessed the coming together of Eritrea and Ethiopia breaking the barriers that divided the two countries for two decades. It is with great joy that these two countries have accepted the new steps for peace and dialogue. The Catholic Church in both countries had been raising their voice to denounce the fraternal conflict and war, prayed together and gave hope to the people throughout by remaining firm to solve the situation peacefully and showing solidarity with the peoples of both countries. We thank the AMECEA solidarity delegation which visited Eritrea in November 2017. As this process of reconciliation continues, the Catholic Church urges the stakeholders to ensure that justice and peace are restored and let the peoples of these countries be involved in the process, their voices heard and captives return to their families. The steps taken by the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea show that Africans have the wisdom to solve their own problems amicably.

    7.   Peace in South Sudan   

    Our hearts are gladdened by the progress in the South Sudan peace talks. We continue praying for the quick resolution of the conflict so as to alleviate the suffering of the people and end the loss of innocent lives. As Catholic Bishops in AMECEA region we are willing to offer any necessary help within our ability that will contribute to lasting peace in South Sudan.

    We ask our Catholic faithful and people of good will to remember South Sudan in their prayers and to attend with a helping hand to their urgent needs.

    8.   Family and Marriage

    We are cognizant of the critical position of the family as the smallest unit of the Church and society. A stable family is a foundation for positive vibrant diversity, equal dignity and peaceful unity in God in the AMECEA region and beyond. We note that the family is under siege because of various challenges including poverty, high unemployment rates, and inequalities in society.

    As shepherds, we continue to support the development and implementation of pedagogy and programmes for on-going formation and catechesis for families through  AMECEA institutions and National Conferences. We intend to collaborate with like-minded organizations to provide catechesis, formation and pastoral care of families at all levels.

    9.   Digital Media

    We commend the formation of the new Dicastery of Communication at the Vatican and affirm our commitment to collaborate with it to bring the Gospel message to the region.

    Aware of the very positive steps taken towards evangelizing through mass media, we commend efforts made to invest on creation of interactive Catholic content in diocesan and parish websites as well as social media platforms, catholic radios, televisions and newspapers as a means of evangelization and implementing the theme of this Plenary Assembly.

    At the same time, recognizing the role of the media in the process of integral human development we exhort media practitioners to be responsible, credible and accurate in providing information to society.

    10.   Young People

    We acknowledge and appreciate that young people in their dynamism and diversity as citizens of the world are equally transcultural and significant members of the Church. We undertake to continue developing effective youth pastoral care and programmes, focusing on faith, vocation discernment and morals, value based education and tackling challenges of youth unemployment, peaceful unity, leadership development, chaplaincy development and accompaniment. 

    11.     Integral Ecology

    In line with Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, we invite the AMECEA family to recognize and respect creation as a gift of God to mankind. We agree that all human beings are equally affected by the crises of climate change, misuse of natural resources, waste and pollution, and poverty. Everything is interconnected; we cannot understand the social or natural world or their parts in isolation.

    While we admit that the use of natural resources cannot be avoided, we must be truthful; let no one hide or distort facts in order to gain selfish advantage. We must engage in honest, transparent, constructive dialogue based on the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, working for the common good, universal destination of goods, and preferential option for the poor and for the earth. Let everyone knows that the mother earth is “our common home.”

    12.    Collaboration with other Agencies for integral human development

    We appreciate our like-minded partners and collaborators in our mission as shepherds of the Church in AMECEA Region.

    As AMECEA Bishops, we endeavor to position AMECEA as a key player in relevant activities on integral human development of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), United Nations and its agencies, African Union, the East African Community (EAC) and the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD). This is also important for the promotion of Good Governance and the realization of integral human development in our region.

    We commit to strengthen Parliamentary Liaison Desks in all conferences to build capacity of Catholic Parliamentarians to champion laws that promote Integral Human Development and Preferential Option for the Poor in AMECEA countries.

    13.    Social Security Structures for the Clergy and Religious

    As AMECEA Bishops, we appreciate the important role played by the Clergy and Religious men and women in evangelization and management of our institutions in AMECEA region. However, Catholic institutions where agents of evangelization do belong must collaborate with like-minded partners to establish social security measures and self-reliance initiatives to support the social security of the clergy and religious men and women.

    14.   Migrants, Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees

    We acknowledge that AMECEA region is a home to many migrants, internally displaced persons and refugees. This is due to the lack of the respect for diversity, human rights and inclusive economic development.

    In our collegiality, we support Pope Francis’ pastoral initiatives and ministry to migrants and refugees and their concerns. We commit to support the global compact on migrants and refugees as proposed by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.  We call upon all people of the AMECEA family to exercise this moral obligation in the spirit of charity.

    15.    Catholic Universities and Institutions of Higher Learning

    We are encouraged by the growth of Catholic institutions of higher learning in the AMECEA region. We recognize the pivotal role these institutions play in promotion of vibrant diversity. Catholic universities should be universities for integral human development through teaching the Social Teaching of the Church, through dialogues in research, exchange programmes among students, faculty and staff, continuous dialogue about the social teaching of the Church.

    In this regard, we call upon all Catholic institutions of higher learning in AMECEA region to mainstream Social Teaching of the Church in their curricula. The curricula must integrate topics on human dignity, integral human development, integral ecology, unity in peace, justice, conflict resolution and good governance.

    We urge Catholic universities and Theologians in AMECEA region to re-think about new academic areas in Theology that focus on issues of diversity, equal dignity, peaceful unity, integral human development and traditional African cultures that promote cohesion among the people in AMECEA region.

    16.   Accountable Management of Church Institutions

    Our responsibility of stewardship requires us to demonstrate values of integrity, accountability and transparency in the management of all our Church institutions in AMECEA Region. Our intention is to have policies that promote proper governance of our institutions in the AMECEA Region.

    In the spirit of collaboration with the laity and to tap from their valued talents, we commit to work towards building a regional network of Catholic professionals for sharing best practices in integrity, auditing, inclusion of the laity in governance and leadership of church institutions.

    17.    Religious Extremism, Radicalization and Terrorism

    Aware of the continuous threat that faces the youth in relation to radicalization and terrorism and the effects it has on peace and security in the region, we commit to build capacity of pastoral agents to respond and care for these categories of young people.

    While respecting human dignity and human rights, we will continue to support as well as collaborate with governments’ efforts on counter-violent extremism and deradicalization.

    18.   Corruption

    The society continues to be disturbed by the rampant corruption in AMECEA countries. The vice of corruption undermines integral human development and peaceful unity. To foster increased integrity and accountability as ways of combating corruption in, we urge Pastoral agents to focus on formation of its Christians anchored on Catholic Social Teaching and formation of conscience to prepare them to become leaders of integrity in the society.

    19.   Synodality of the Church

    We acknowledge Pope Francis’ magisterium on the synodality of the Church; a central theme of his pontificate, which he says is “a constitutive element of the Church”.

    As shepherds, we undertake to be a listening Church in the AMECEA region because we believe in the contribution of every one of the faithful in attainment of the prophetic mission of the church. We remind the faithful that Synodality does not mean decentralization of the Church, but rather, must always be interpreted as being in full communion with Peter.

    20.  Safeguarding of Minors

    We affirm the dignity of every human person and all minors. We strongly condemn abuses against minors and vulnerable persons. In conformity with the church’s policy on protection of minors and vulnerable persons, we appeal to all responsible persons and institutions under the leadership of the church to mainstream guidelines for protection of minors. The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and AMECEA Pastoral Office are reference institutions to support the development of National Bishops Conferences policies for this regard.

    21.     New Evangelization

    As AMECEA Bishops, we are saddened by the reality of the dissonance of the Christian faith and Gospel values among our Christians vis a vis all actions that undermine vibrant diversity, equal dignity, peaceful unity and integral human development. Mindful of the negative response to the gospel values we see the need of re-evangelization. The re-evangelization must be based on communion with God, must purify and evangelize culture and hence requires new methods and digital means.


    We thank Almighty God, for bringing us together to share and experience vibrant diversity, equal dignity, peaceful unity in God in the AMECEA Region. As your shepherds, we assure you of our prayers and reiterate the words of St. Paul to the Philippians, “I constantly pray with you in every one of my prayers for all of you … because I hold you in my heart” (Phil 1:4, 7). We entrust you to the intercession and maternal care of our Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Our Lady of Africa.

    Signed:  Rt Rev. Charles Kasonde                Date: 22 July 2018, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


  • Catholic Bishops in Eastern Africa Encouraged to Embrace Diversity as An Enriching Opportunity

    AMECEA Online News || By Sr. Antoinette Jecinter Okoth, FSSA || 19 July 2018

    AMECEA Bishops have been urged to bank on the diversity of their members within the region and beyond as an opportunity of enriching the world with goodness so as to manifest the divine greatness of God.

    Speaking during a presentation (at the ongoing Plenary Assembly of AMECEA) on 18th July, 2018, the Vice Chancellor designate of Tangaza University College, Kenya Rev. Fr. Stephen Mbugua Ngari … emphasized that diversity was God’s creation and should be utilized positively to enrich the world with goodness so as to manifest the divine greatness of God.

    He further explained that most AMECEA countries have been negatively affected and diversity has been used to divide and discriminate people in terms of race, gender, politics and even tribes.  

    In an interview with AMECEA Online News, Fr. Mbugua urged the Bishops to aspire changing the world view from micro to macro diversity where people see themselves as citizens of the world and as brothers and sisters. 

    He said that the Church must always look into the root causes of the negative diversity that destroy the society and come up with better resolutions.

    “I would like the Catholic Church in AMECEA countries to constitute commissions that will identify the root causes of negative diversity, be it economic, political or social to help improve the integration of the people in the AMECEA region and beyond,” Fr. Mbugua said adding, “The curriculum in schools should include issues of universal citizenship, and AMECEA should also create avenues where people appreciate and integrate others.” 

    He said that diversity was created by God himself and that creation itself is diverse not only among human beings but among plants and animals too. “The whole creation is diverse,” he said.

    Fr Mbugua said that diversity has affected the AMECEA region both negatively and positively, explaining, “Positively that we are one family who proclaims the word of God and it also gives us the identity as Catholics as a universal Church. Negatively, when diversity causes conflicts which lead to destruction and loss of innocent lives.”

    Fr Mbugua wanted the Catholic Church in AMECEA to address the root causes of conflict in the region in order to solve the problem of the negative diversity.

    Source: AMECEA Online News…

  • Church Leaders in Sudan's Nuba Mountains Say They Support the People

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Paul Jeffrey || 19 July 2018

    Caught between a repressive government to the north and a civil war to the south, residents of the Nuba Mountains of Sudan face difficult choices as they ponder their future. What they can count on, Catholic leaders say, is that the church will continue to accompany them on whatever political path they choose.

    "We live in the mountains because we fled from the Arabs who came here to make us their slaves. If the SPLA-North wasn't militarily strong, the Arabs would have entered here and raped all the women and girls, killed all the men, taken all the property, and enslaved anyone who survived," said Father Daniel Tutu Kuku, the parish priest in Heiban. He referred to the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North, a rebel group that controls much of the Nuba Mountains, a small enclave inside Sudan along its border with South Sudan.

    "We won't be slaves. If Khartoum won't give us our freedom, we will continue fighting. By peaceful means when possible, because the gun can't win. It only destroys," he said. "But it is the means by which we protect ourselves. We prefer peaceful means, but when they force us to use the gun, we use it."

    Despite decades of conflict, the future of the Nuba Mountains remains unclear. While the Nuba fought alongside other southerners against the North during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005), their fate was set aside by the 2005 peace treaty that placed what became South Sudan on the road to independence. Instead, war dragged on for the Nuba, with the government in the capital, Khartoum, sending Russian planes to regularly bomb agricultural land, chasing farmers into caves in the hillsides and leaving the population short on food. While Khartoum stopped the bombing in 2016 during a diplomatic offensive to convince the West to end sanctions, its military standoff with the liberated enclave has continued.

    U.N. agencies refuse to enter the Nuba Mountains, unwilling to antagonize the Sudanese government. A handful of international aid groups, insisting on anonymity, provide some humanitarian assistance, but all have problems with access. For years the Catholic Church flew cargo planes of food and medical supplies into the region, but halted those after Khartoum started targeting the flights.

    Talks to allow greater humanitarian access have gone nowhere, with Khartoum insisting that all aid be channeled through the North, and the SPLA-North demanding a humanitarian corridor from the border with neighboring South Sudan.

    Dr. Tom Catena, a Catholic lay missionary from the United States, said any aid that comes from the North would automatically be suspect.

    "When you've lived here during the attacks, you're not going to trust anything from Khartoum. You assume it's poisoned. You're going to assume that any vaccines they send are to sterilize the people. It's not something that's negotiable," said Catena, who directs the Mother of Mercy Hospital in Gidel. "That's the position of the SPLA leadership, and most people agree. I wouldn't trust them, either. They've tried to kill us with bombs, so what's to stop them from killing us in other ways?"

    Comboni Sister Angelina Nyakuru, a Ugandan who serves as head nurse in the hospital, said the people of the Nuba will never surrender. "They are fighting for their liberation. They've had it with the North and want to be free," she said. "They already have their own national anthem. And people in Gidel came to us sisters for cloth to make their own flag. We didn't have all the colors they needed, but we gave them what we had."

    No one here proposes unifying with South Sudan, which has been plagued by civil war since 2013. With both merger and independence off the table, Catena said some sort of semi-autonomous status might work.

    "We had high hopes for places like Kurdistan, but it's kind of collapsing. So I don't know how it would work. The Nuba is landlocked and poor. On the other hand, the people don't need much. They'll farm, and there's gold here and there. They'll find their way. But at the moment, I don't see any viable political solution," he said.

    Catena said he urges his neighbors to think beyond war to achieve their ends.

    "Fighting and killing Arabs isn't going to solve their problems," Catena said. "They should prepare themselves to be better than them. Get their revenge that way. Become so excellent in medical care that the Arabs will come here for medical care. Is an Arab guy going to think that he's better than you when he sees you standing over him with a knife about to operate?"

    What's clear to church leaders is that they must prepare people for whatever political future emerges. One key element is education. Besides health care, a primary emphasis of Catholic work in the region has been opening and operating schools throughout the Nuba Mountains, as well as a teacher training institute in Kauda.

    The schools have been largely financed by a Nairobi-based foundation run by Bishop Macram Max Gassis, the retired bishop of El Obeid. For years he has run church operations inside the Nuba Mountains on behalf of the Sudan-based diocese, whose current bishop is not allowed by Khartoum to enter the rebel enclave.

    Yet runaway inflation -- the Nuba use the troubled South Sudan pound as their currency -- coupled with financial shortfalls in Nairobi have pushed several school directors in the Nuba Mountains to attempt to raise school fees this year, a move opposed by most parents. The church has now trained sufficient local teachers that there's almost no need to import costly foreign teachers from Kenya and Uganda, as has been the practice for years, but the schools still face difficult financial challenges.

    "The church puts effort into education because the church looks ahead. It looks to the future," said Father Zacharia Osman, the parish priest in Lugi. "Without education, nothing good will happen. It's how we're creating our leaders for the future. The Arabs in the North educate themselves but don't care about the education of people here. So we need to do it ourselves."

  • US Bishops’ Conference Approves Project Funding for Africa, Eastern Europe

    Catholic News Agency (CNA) || 19 July 2018

    Subcommittees at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have approved more than $6 million for pastoral projects in Africa and Central and Eastern Europe.

    The grants partner with local bishops’ conferences and Church organizations in dozens of countries to respond to specific needs within the communities.

    “The Catholics of the United States show that we stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Africa and recognize their courageous commitment to peace, justice, reconciliation, and Christian hope throughout the continent,” said Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, who chairs the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa.

    The subcommittee recently approved 54 grants providing $1.4 million for pastoral efforts in Africa, which include religious formation, seminarian and lay leader education, evangelization, and family ministry. Money for the grants comes from the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa.

    Among the projects funded by the grants will be the establishment of child protection measures in the Diocese of Wa, Ghana. The new Child Protection Office in the diocese is organizing training sessions on the protection of children and vulnerable adults, safe environment creation, policy development and collaboration with government agencies.

    Funding will also be given to the bishops’ conference in Rwanda, which is continuing its peace and reconciliation efforts after the 1994 genocide in the country by translating conflict prevention resources for use in local Catholic schools.

    In Lesotho, a grant from the U.S. bishops’ conference will support Radio Maria in establishing three new transmitting stations, so that their educational faith programs can reach the entire national population.

    In addition, the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe has approved $4.9 million in funding for 209 projects in 22 countries. Used to support the Church in nations that previously saw oppression under communism, the funding will go toward construction projects, formation of Church leaders, and education and evangelization efforts.

    These include a seven-week formation program to help develop youth ministries in Romania, where only one-third of the parishes in the Archdiocese of Alba Iulia currently have youth programs, and the expansion of a homeless day center run by Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in Rijeka, Croatia.

    A rehabilitation center for children with cancer in Minsk, Belarus, will also receive a grant. The facility, run by Caritas, offers free housing and psychological support for poor families whose children are going through cancer treatment.

    Youth summer camps for children internally displaced by war in East Ukraine will also receive funding. Caritas Donetsk will host two summer camps for 100 young people, who will be offered medical health care from professionals and spiritual care from priests.

    “As the people of Central and Eastern Europe continue to build a new future after decades of repression, we are all inspired by the example of great hope they give to the world that it is possible to bring healing to the wounds of the past,” said Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe.

    “We can take pride that our steadfast support makes a significant contribution to all their efforts in renewing their communities and passing on the faith of their ancestors to the next generation,” he said.

    The grants are funded by the annual Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, which is generally collected in churches throughout the U.S. on Ash Wednesday each year.

    Source: Catholic News Agency…

  • Bishops in Africa Set to Launch Yearlong Golden Jubilee Celebration of Continental Conference in Uganda

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 19 July 2018

    Catholic Bishops in Africa under their umbrella body of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) are later this month set to launch a yearlong golden jubilee celebration to mark the establishment of their continental conference.

    The five-day event to be hosted by the Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC) is set to take place in the outskirts of Uganda’s capital, Kampala, at Speke Resort Hotel and Conference Centre, Munyonyo from Thursday, July 26 through Monday, July 30.

    “The church in Africa, 50 years ago, took the historical initiative to constitute herself as the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) at Kampala in 1969,” reads in part SECAM Golden Jubilee Instrumentum Laboris (Working Document) shared with CANAA ahead of a series of planned activities.

    The objective of SECAM Golden Jubilee is “to celebrate in thanksgiving God’s wonderous deeds, His gift of baptism and of the Church; to reflect on the progress made so far, with the aim of deepening our faith, rooted in Christ, and to resolutely engage ourselves in the mission of proclaiming the gospel in words and actions”.

    Some of the activities planned during the five days include prayer sessions, a series of workshops on Instrumentum Laboris divided in six sessions, a meeting of SECAM Presidency, Treasurer and Secretaries General, an extraordinary meeting of SECAM Standing Committee, a meeting of staff from SECAM and UEC Secretariats, among other activities.  

    The Eucharistic celebration to officially mark the launch of the Jubilee celebrations has been planned for Sunday, July 29 at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Rubanga.

    The Golden Jubilee will be launched under the theme: Church – Family of God in Africa, Celebrate your Jubilee, Proclaim Jesus Christ your Savior.

    Participants will have time to visit the Uganda Martyrs’ Shrine at Namugongo, where they will have their evening prayers on Sunday, July 29.

    Those set to take part in the five-day program include members of SECAM Standing Committee, representatives from Regional Bishops’ Conferences, UEC, CARITAS Africa, staff from the Accra-based SECAM Secretariat, COMMITHEOL facilitators, SECAM Canonist, members of the media, and a team of translators.  

    “In celebrating the Golden Jubilee of SECAM, each faithful, every Christian community in Africa and Madagascar, is invited to let the call to this mission resonate in him/her and respond to it with zeal,” the Working Document reads.

    On the occasion of the establishment of SECAM in Kampala in 1969, “Pope Paul VI came and confirmed the Church in Africa in her faith, and declared: You Africans, you are now your own missionaries; You can and ought to have an African Christianity.”

    Below is a summary of the year-long SECAM Golden Jubilee list of activities contained in Instrumentum Laboris

    SECAM Golden Jubilee Activities

    Thanksgiving for:

    • The Church-Family of God, community of faith.
    • Our identity as baptized people and our mission as witnesses to the Gospel.
    • The gift of the Eucharist which brings us together, sanctifies, strengthens and commits us to become "Eucharist" so that others through us may have life in fullness.
    • SECAM and all the other structures and ecclesial institutions within Church for the past 50 years.
    • The pastoral and social works that have enabled the Church to be close to those in need: (Mt 25:31-46)
    • Cultural and educational works.

    Memories of the accomplished path

    Identifying the initiatives or activities of the Church-Family of God at all levels: personal, family, parochial, diocesan, national, regional and continental (successes, failures, joys and difficulties encountered).

    • How do we, in our families, parishes, religious congregations, nations, regions, and continent, acknowledge the progress made by the Church-Family of God?
    • What measures have we put in place to promote justice, reconciliation, peace and development and to help internalize, assimilate and testify truly that we are God's Family?
    • What mutual support do we offer each other in response to the fact that we are the Church-Family of God? 
    • What kind of spiritual and material resources do we dispose of?

    Repentance and Conversion

    • Identify the activities to be undertaken towards the way of repentance and conversion in our daily life
    • Promote personal and community approaches of forgiveness,
    • To be aware of our shortcomings and negligence in acknowledging and developing the immense human and natural resources of Africa in favour of our populations.
    • Recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the methods of evangelization used till today and to update the necessary pastoral initiatives.    
    • Develop activities for reconciliation and unity at all levels: family, Christian communities, villages, regions, countries and continent.

    Renewed commitment to bearing witness to Christ

    • Renewing our life with Christ
    • Strengthening the sense of personal responsibility to the Gospel among the lay faithful, the Religious and the pastors.
    • Organizing formation sessions to deepen our knowledge of Christ and his Gospel
    • Identifying socio-cultural and economic barriers to responding to the demands of the Mission.
    • Rethinking and promoting the involvement of Christians in political life.
    • Developing, in institutions of formation (universities, seminaries, novitiates, and associations), initiatives of communion and action for deeper evangelization and transformation of society.
    • Promoting an organic solidarity among ecclesial service structures in a spirit of subsidiarity and complementarity (cf. Pauline image of the church as body of Christ).
    • Promoting some pastoral actions or strategies, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, proper to different groups and associations as well as socio-professional institutions (family businesses, cooperative structures, community groups for economic purposes, etc.), in view of integral human development.
    • Recognizing and promoting the roots and cultural values of Africa to meet the major challenges for her transformation.
    • Indicate the commitments to be promoted in order to further respond to the mission of the Church-Family of God.
    • Identify the strengths and weaknesses of the Church-Family of God, as well as the opportunities and threats for a far-reaching evangelization.
    • Stimulate and encourage ecumenical actions and Interreligious Dialogue.
    • Remember that the grace of God is gratuitous and dismiss any aspects of simony in the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals.
    • Create awareness for pastoral care of the needy (sick, old, prisoners, refugees, migrants, etc. (Lk 6: 17-19).
    • Strengthen pastoral care for the children and the youth
  • ‘If you want to go far, go together’: Sister of Mercy’s Memories of South Africa

    Global Sisters Report (GSR) || By Sr. Jean Evans || 16 July 2018

    If you want to learn about a culture, read its proverbs. You can understand a lot about a particular group of people by getting to know their sayings. One brief sentence can illustrate a certain mindset or approach to life.

    In the U.S., we have proverbs collected in Ben Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac. Many of them reflect our Puritan heritage praising personal industry, thrift and wealth: "A stitch in time saves nine."

    Pithy sayings were a part of our family, too. My dad often quoted Ben Franklin to us as children: "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man [sic] healthy, wealthy and wise." Moreover, from Grandpa Evans we often heard, "No friend so true as a buck or two."

    Proverbs or witty sayings, indicators of mindset, approach, values, were also very much a part of the South African cultures that I experienced.

    I remember one in particular that shines a light on African culture: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." This proverb speaks to me, and contrasts with our American culture.

    It's true. We Americans can often go very fast by ourselves, though at times we may end up going in the wrong direction without a little help from friends. Bred as intrepid individualists, we forge ahead in spite of many obstacles to win the race, to achieve the goal, to reach whatever seems to be our Everest.

    However, in Africa, where community, not individual achievement, is a paramount value, this is not the case.

    It may be difficult for us in the U.S. to appreciate this emphasis on group effort, but history shows that significant achievements are rarely the work of individuals.

    New Zealander Edmund Hillary topped Mount Everest with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. United States astronaut John Glenn stepped onto the moon's surface with the whole of NASA behind him, many of them African-Americans as we saw in "Hidden Figures." Yes. If you want to go far, go together.

    In 1964, Nelson Mandela was put on trial for treason in the South African High Court. His crime: attempting to overthrow the South African government because of its unjust racist policy of apartheid, separate development.

    Mandela recounts his trial and imprisonment in his book Long Walk to Freedom. Sentenced to life imprisonment, Mandela began serving his sentence on Robben Island, situated several miles off the coast of Cape Town — South Africa's version of Alcatraz.

    During the "winter months" of June and July (Southern Hemisphere seasons are the reverse of mine in the U.S.) on the Cape of Storms, the weather on the island is inhospitably cold, windy and wet.

    As a punishing indignity, authorities did not allow African prisoners to wear long trousers like their white counterparts did. It was only in 1974 that this practice was discontinued, when Helen Suzman, the only woman member in the South African Parliament, visited Robben Island and reported this inhumane treatment to the International Red Cross.

    The prisoners spent their days performing mindless labor like breaking rocks in the lime quarry on the island, resulting in many eye problems due to the harsh glare of the sun, the sea and the limestone.

    However, this did not stop Mandela and his co-accused from "going together." During their time on Robben Island, they began an informal and unsanctioned school where the more educated among the prisoners took turns teaching young freedom fighters with little or no education. Using hollowed-out alcoves, mere niches in the walls of the limestone quarries, prisoners avoided the guards' watchful eyes and shared their knowledge and skills with fellow inmates. Their motto was "Ngamnye ufundisa omnye," that is, "Each one teach one."

    Ultimately, many young members of the African National Congress completed their high school educations. Some went on to graduate with baccalaureate and even law degrees by taking correspondence courses from the University of South Africa. "If you want to go far, go together."

    Nelson Mandela served 27 years of his life sentence for treason, and when released from prison joined the country's political leaders in negotiating a settlement for a new non-racist government.

    In 1994, Mandela was elected the first president of the new South Africa. His was a long walk, a slow walk, lonely at times to be sure, but not solitary. Despite many adversities, Mandela went on to lead South Africa into a new democratic dispensation, but he did not go alone. He went as a loyal and disciplined member of the African National Congress.

    He went with the support of anti-apartheid activists and churches throughout the world whose insistence on international sanctions on South Africa affected the economy so significantly that the apartheid government was forced to negotiate.

    Though Mandela may have felt alone, the whole world was with him, supporting him and all South Africans in their struggle for liberation. "If you want to go far, go together."

    Before I went to South Africa, I had an intuition that God was weeping over the suffering of Africans there. I asked my community if I could go volunteer for one or two years with the Sisters of Mercy in Johannesburg.

    When I arrived in South Africa in 1984, I was not prepared for what I saw: structures and laws that made ordinary life for most people extremely burdensome and degrading.

    Africans could not use the same entry into post offices or liquor stores as whites. They could not dine in restaurants or go to cinemas. Interracial marriage was illegal. Schools were strictly segregated according to race: white, "coloured" (mixed-race), Indian and Bantu (a derogatory term for Africans).

    Black South Africans could not be treated in whites-only hospitals; they rode in separate public bus systems and went to work in segregated railcars. They could not live where they wished, nor could they own property until 1989. Their old-age pensions were only a percentage of what white South Africans received.

    The policy of apartheid imposed untold suffering on the individuals, families and communities who made up 87 percent of South African's population.

    A state of emergency was declared in the country from 1985 to 1994. There were many dark nights and days in Soweto, when army and police patrolled in militarized vehicles. Children came home from school and found one or both parents missing. It was a dangerous time for all.

    During the school boycotts and unrest in the township, we ministered as best we could — offering retreats to the teachers, working in parish and catechetical ministry at Regina Mundi Parish, visiting the hospital and prison, doing outreach in outlying communities south of Soweto.

    Despite the frustration and fear, it was our great privilege to be with the people in their struggle for full human dignity and freedom. Though it seemed we did not go very far, we never felt alone.

    In a few years, at Mandela's election, we rejoiced with millions of South Africans in celebrating the rainbow nation coming together in its first democratic election. "If you want to go far, go together."

    [Jean Evans is a Sister of Mercy from California who ministered for 28 years in South Africa, where she worked in Johannesburg with victims of the apartheid regime. Back in the U.S., she is currently doing vocation ministry, substitute teaching, spiritual direction and grant writing.]

    Source: Global Sisters Report…

  • Bishops of Central African Republic ‘outraged’ by Threat against Muslim Population

    Crux || By Crux Staff || 16 July 2018

    Catholic leaders in the Central African Republic are “outraged” over the calls by a self-styled Church defense group for Christians to carry out revenge attacks on Muslims.

    The spokesperson of the self-appointed League for the Defense of the Church, François Nzapakéyé, signed a communiqué July 7, calling on Christians to engage in revenge killing against Muslims.

    “Since the beginning of the war, the Church has never stopped from being the target of attacks,” the communiqué reads, and blasted the head of the Catholic Church in the country, Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga and the government for failing to address the continued killing of Church leaders in the conflict-ravaged nation.

    “Priests and pastors are systematically assassinated,” they said in the communiqué, and cited Father Paul Emile Nzalé, murdered during an attack by 200 armed men who struck the Notre Dame of Fatima Church on May 2.

    “The priest was assassinated like a dog,” the “league” statement said.

    The statement also mentioned several other Christian clergymen killed in the country over the past year.

    “We, Christians of the Central African Republic want the national and international community to know that we will avenge the killings of the many Church leaders and men of God, killed in the exercise of their functions. Muslims or Christians, we shall see,” the “league” threatened.

    The bishops responded by condemning the organization, and said they were involved with “anti-Christian activities.”

    They called on the faithful not to give into faith-based manipulation and incitement to hate.

    “The Bishops of the Central African Republic want Central Africans to be vigilant. There are always enemies of peace who want to create a conflict between Christians and Muslims to show that Christians and Muslims cannot live together in the Central Africa Republic,” the bishops said.

    “We believe in Jesus Christ, the face of the Father’s mercy, who saves us from sin and its consequences…He came to unite men and women with God and bring them together in a big spiritual family. He distinguishes himself from over-zealous nationalists by preaching non-violence and love of the enemy,” the bishops’ statement continued.

    Government institutions have also joined religious bodies in condemning the incitement to hate. On July 10, the Higher Communication Council of the Central African Republic brought together ecclesiastical authorities, the association of Central African bloggers, the collective of Central African Muslim organizations (COMUC) and many other structures to unanimously denounce that message of hate.

    “We, leaders of the media and the civil society in the Central African Republic, insist that the statements of this so-called ‘League for the Defense of the Church’ which denounces what it considers the lethargy of Church leaders as well as national and international institutions in the face of the crimes committed in the Central African Republic are erroneous and unfounded, and are intended to sow trouble among the population, divide the people and stall the efforts made in the interest of peace and living together.”

    The country has experienced instability since 2013, when Seleka, a Muslim-majority militia movement, overthrew the government. The Christian-dominated Anti-Balaka militia then formed to fight the Seleka. French and African peacekeepers were deployed in January 2014 and drove the Seleka forces from the capital, Bangui.

    With the government unable to exert authority beyond Bangui, armed groups and militias have taken control of more than 70 percent of the country.

    The United Nations says the conflict has left at least 1.1 million people destitute and homeless, with about 2.5 million people - more than half of CAR’s four million inhabitants - now in need of humanitarian assistance.

    Pope Francis visited Bangui in 2015 and met with Muslim leaders, emphasizing the need for inter-religious peace and dialogue.

    Christians make up about 80 percent of the population of the Central African Republic, and Muslims about 15 percent.

    The Muslim population is concentrated in the north of the country that touches on the Sahel region of Africa, although there are many Muslim traders in the south.

    The country’s religious authorities have long sought to avoid painting the conflict as religion-based, and blamed external forces for trying to divide the country.

    The country’s bishops have emphasized the need to “correct the confusion propagated by some national and foreign media giving the impression that the conflict has to do with religion, whereas it is above all else, a political and military conflict.”

    Source: Crux…

  • Vatican Media Renews Desire to Collaborate with East African Bishops

    Vatican News || 16 July 2018

    On Sunday, the new Prefect for the Dicastery for Communications sent a message to the Bishops of AMECEA gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for their 19th Plenary Assembly.

    “I could not let this opportunity pass me by”, begins Dr Paolo Ruffini, the new Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, in a message sent on Sunday to the Bishops participating in the 19th Plenary Assembly of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA). Bishops from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia are members of AMECEA.

    We want to tell the world about the Church of Africa

    After recalling the intense collaboration between Church-run radio stations in Africa and Vatican Radio, Dr Ruffini looks forward to continued collaboration with through the Vatican’s new digital platforms. He expressed the Dicastery’s determination to communicate the muti-faceted reality of the Church in Africa, alongside its mission of proclaiming the message of Pope Francis.

    Full text of Dr Paolo Ruffini’s message:

    Message from the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Communication of the Holy See to the 19th AMECEA Plenary Assembly.

    The Chairman of AMECEA, Your Eminence – Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel
    Their Eminences, the Cardinals;
    Your Excellencies, Archbishops and Bishops;
    Religious Superiors, members of the Clergy, Men and Women Religious;
    Distinguished AMECEA partners;
    The Lay Faithful;

    Even though I have only just been appointed by the Holy Father to be the Prefect of the Dicastery for Communications of the Holy See, I could not let this opportunity of your august assembly pass me by.

    Let me start by expressing, on behalf of the Dicastery for Communications of the Holy See, how pleased we all are to have been invited to be part of the Nineteenth Plenary Assembly of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA).

    Your Eminences, Your Excellencies: I am keenly aware that after the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops in 1994, AMECEA countries invested heavily in Diocesan Radio stations. This investment has been prophetic and served the Church of this region well. Over the years, in collaboration with Vatican Radio, your diocesan radio stations have not only brought the Gospel but also the voice of the Holy Father to many a Catholic home. Thank you for your courage and foresight.

    I am happy to inform you that the reform of the Vatican Media being carried out by the Dicastery is beginning to bear fruit. We can now see growing consolidation, collaboration and coherence among the Holy See’s hitherto autonomous media outlets.

    Vatican Radio, for example, which until now interacted with your radio stations in the AMECEA region has been integrated into the Dicastery for Communication. This incorporation was necessitated, in part, by a changing media landscape in the world. The context that we are now living has seen significant digital media convergence. It is a reality that the Holy See could not ignore.

    On 4 May 2017, Pope Francis told us in his message to the Secretariat for Communications, during the Dicastery’s first-ever plenary assembly that given the new digital culture throughout the world, digital media would need to be part of a primary platform for spreading the Gospel.

    Notwithstanding the Vatican media reform, Pope Francis in that historical message of May 2017 also made categorical his wish that attention and care be accorded to countries with little access to new digital technologies. The reform of the Vatican media would neither neglect nor abandon such countries - a significant number of which are in Africa. Vatican Radio to this day continues to broadcast on new digital platforms but also maintains its traditional outlets such as Shortwave frequencies for countries that still need this service.

    Your Eminences, Dear Bishops: As AMECEA you can count on continued collaboration with the Dicastery for Communication. In the future, it is to be hoped that we can collaborate more closely in the World Day of Social Communications – a day that celebrates the Holy Father’s message. Furthermore, apart from bringing the Gospel message and the Holy Father’s voice into the homes of Catholics, the Dicastery is determined to bring to the world, news about the vibrant Church of Africa – in all its successes, blessedness but also with its challenges and pain.

    Lastly, is it not wonderful that AMECEA is meeting in Addis Ababa at a time when Eritrea and Ethiopia are making peace?

    Pope Francis summed it all when he said, two weeks ago, “In the midst of so many conflicts, it is right to point to an initiative that can be defined historical –and we can say that it is good news: In these days, after twenty years, the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea have come back to talk about peace together. May this meeting kindle a light of hope for these two countries of the Horn of Africa and the entire African continent.”

    Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, though not physically present with you in Addis Ababa, allow me to conclude by assuring you all that my office is open should you be in Rome.

    Finally, I pray that the existing collaboration between AMECEA and the Dicastery for Communications of the Holy See not only continue but also grow in strength.

    Dr Paolo RUFFINI
    Dicastery for Communication

    Source: Vatican News…

  • Catholic Bishops in Eastern Africa Celebrate “vibrant diversity” Alongside Partners at Launch of Plenary Meeting in Ethiopia

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 16 July 2018

    The Plenary Assembly of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) taking place in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, was officially launched Sunday, July 15 in a celebration of “vibrant diversity” that has been described as a “colourful Eucharistic celebration conducted in the Ethiopian Catholic Rite”.

    The nine countries constituting the regional Catholic Bishops’ conference, AMECEA, are represented by over 100 Church leaders, among them Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Apostolic Administrators, among other leaders of various Church institutions. The nine countries include Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Malawi, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. Somalia and Djibouti are affiliate members.

    According to Vatican News, “The Ethiopian Catholic Church has two liturgical traditions, namely, the Ethiopian Catholic Ge-ez Rite and the Latin Rite. The Catholic Ge-ez Rite is similar to that of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Rite. The majority of Ethiopians are members of the Orthodox Church.”

    The Church leaders are meeting throughout this week under the theme, “Vibrant Diversity, Equal Dignity, Peaceful Unity in God in the AMECEA Region”.

    “It is a timely subject because it deals with conflicts that we experience in Eastern Africa and here in the horn of Africa,” the Principal Celebrant at the Sunday event, Berhaneyesus Cardinal Souraphiel has been quoted explaining the theme of their Plenary Assembly, adding, “During this plenary, we will not only be looking for solutions, but we also pray for lasting peace in the region.”

    Describing ethnic diversity that defines the Church in Eastern Africa as a divine gift to be treasured, Cardinal Souraphiel has explained, “We feel that ethnic diversity is a positive thing given by God and it is important that we respect each other and respect each other’s ethnic background and at the same time emphasize the human dignity that is in each one of us.”

    During the week, AMECEA Online News has reported that there will be a workshop by the Dicastery on the Promotion of Integral Human Development, study sessions, and business sessions. The closing ceremony will take place on Sunday, July 22.

    AMECEA Church leaders are holding their meeting alongside delegates from various Church institutions including the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop (USCCB), Missio, SIGNIS, the Catholic Media Council (CAMECO), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Vatican Radio, Church in Need, Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa (ACWECA), the Catholic international development charity in England and Wales (CAFOD), among others.

  • Q & A with Sr. Reine Marie Badiane in Senegal, Helping Women and Children Claim their Dignity

    Global Sisters Report (GSR) || By Joyce Meyer || 03 July 2018

    Although outlawed in the 1800s, slavery in Senegal still exists. Nearly 50,000 children as young as 3 still live in slavery conditions in Islamic schools called daaras, where spiritual guides, marabouts, teach them to read the Quran and speak Arabic.

    The Senegal government has made some progress in shutting them down, according to a report from the U.S. State Department, but Islamic leaders and poor families who cannot care for their children resist, closing their eyes to the deplorable conditions in which the children live. Thirty to 40 children are crowded into poorly ventilated dormitories and sent out each morning to beg for food. Sometimes they are even sent to work in mines to earn money to keep the daaras going.

    Efforts to end child slavery in Senegal began even before it was outlawed in Europe in the 1800s. Bishop Aloyse Kobès, a Spiritan from Alsace in France, was committed to building strong Christian families that were self-reliant and making sure children had both academic and practical education to free them from ignorance throughout Senegal.

    He built a cotton-production factory and started a farm to teach food production and preservation. Needing help with this mission, he enlisted African women to work with him, founding the first religious congregation of women on the African continent in 1850. The Daughters of the Holy Heart of Mary took on his mission to promote education and self-sufficiency, and they continue this mission today.

    I met their current leader, Sr. Marie Diouf, in January on the day she was elected vice chairperson of the Confederation of Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar (COMSAM), in Yaoundé, Cameroon. It was exciting for me to learn about her congregation and to experience the pride the sisters have in being the very first congregation of sisters founded on the African continent.

    When I asked to interview Diouf, she referred me to her first councilor, Sr. Reine Marie Badiane, who lives in Senegal.

    This interview, which was conducted via email, was moving, and the privilege to meet sisters from the first African congregation of women was exciting. The sisters' story reveals their determination to follow the lead of the unfailing power of the Holy Spirit that prevails amid the most difficult circumstances and setbacks. They planted a strong seed of religious life in Africa.

    GSR: Sister Reine Marie, please tell me a little about yourself and your vocation to the Daughters.

    Batiene: I was born in 1965, the oldest of four children. I was sickly, so my parents took me to a nearby dispensary of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary from France. I was so scared of them, but they were so kind to me that I wanted to be like them. It was from this experience that my desire to be a sister grew.

    I went to primary school in my village and then to a house for girls aspiring to be sisters in the southern region of Casamance. Here, Canadian sisters formed girls like me for local congregations like ours. I went to secondary school with them, where I learned to like English. After three years, I did high school in Ziguinchor, the regional capital, and lived in a house of my congregation's for aspirants. After graduating, I went on to further religious life formation as a postulant and novice.

    After religious profession in 1991, I was sent to study French, English and history for six years. Because I was good at English, I went to the University of Dakar, where I got a master's degree in English and a teaching diploma to teach high school. After that, I taught school, was in administration and was a general councilor for my congregation. I am now the assistant general superior and a school principal for a school with 2,145 students from primary to secondary levels. We do not have many sisters or funds, so we all need to work for salaries.

    You have had a busy life. Please tell me about the beginnings of your congregation in Senegal.

    We have an interesting story. We were founded as soon as slavery was abolished in Senegal. Monsignor Kobès was anxious to educate orphans and youth of all ages, and he had great concern for women. He thought an aboriginal congregation of sisters would be the best answer because these women were used to the climate and they knew the language and customs of the people. He said: "It was necessary that African nuns familiar with the languages and customs of the country, able to circulate and stay everywhere, would catechize people of their sex, visit and care for the sick, knowing how to put themselves at the level of the native woman, and to inspire confidence."

    Did he do the formation of the first sisters?

    No, we benefited from the gracious collaboration of a Sister of St. Joseph of Cluny, Mother Rosalie Chapellain. The Cluny sisters mentored us until the second half of the 20th century, when we took over for ourselves. But it was not easy for the first generations of our sisters. They suffered a lot but never gave up.

    Tell me why they suffered.

    They did not have much. Life was hard, and they were not much educated. They struggled, and at one time, they were almost forced to renounce their local congregation and join another one, but they were very determined to keep going. In our annals, they said, "We'd rather have died as Daughters of the Holy Heart of Mary than go to another congregation." We are very proud that our founder trusted black women and believed that they deserved religious life, too.

    Read More from Global Sisters Report…

  • Save Nigeria from Avoidable Doom or Step Aside, Catholic Bishops Tell Buhari

    This Day || By Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Paul Obi in Abuja and Seriki Adinoyi || 03 July 2018

    The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) Monday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently save Nigeria from avoidable doom or step aside as the country was sliding into anarchy.

    The bishops, in a statement signed by the CBCN President, Most Rev. Augustine Akubeze, and Secretary, Most Rev. Camillus Umoh, said the ongoing killings in the Middle Belt and other parts of the country by suspected Fulani herdsmen were clear signposts to anarchy.

    The bishops spoke against the background of persistent carnage in the country, particularly, the recent massacre of over 100 persons in three local governments in Plateau State, where the government Monday relaxed the dusk-to-dawn curfew it imposed in the aftermath of the bloodbath.

    The military, whose heavy presence in the troubled area had failed to contain the bandits’ aggression, in an update of its operations Monday, said it had made 11 more arrests of suspects, bringing its total haul to 21.

    The bishops said the latest massacre of scores of innocent Nigerians, especially children and women, including pregnant women in Plateau State by the bandits who seemed to be operating without hindrance in the country showed that its last statement had been completely ignored by those who had the responsibility to protect lives and property of Nigerians.

    Pained by this development, they said: “Once again, we ask President Muhammadu Buhari to please save Nigeria from further pain and avoidable chaos, anarchy and doom,” adding: “If the president cannot keep our country safe, then he automatically loses the trust of the citizens. He should no longer continue to preside over the killing fields and mass graveyard that our country has become.”

    They said the country would witness another mass burial as a result of the serial murderous activities of a group that it said clearly seemed to be above the law in the country, and who by their actions and words had insisted that human lives were far less than the lives of cattle.

    “This shameful inversion of values portrays our country as barbaric and our society as brutish,” the bishops stated.

    They argued that the killings were not mere coincidence given the temerity of the Fulani herdsmen in perpetrating the killings.

    The bishops stressed: “We are equally sad as the federal government continues to find it difficult to proactively address the issues of these wanton killings.”

    Military Arrests 11 More Suspects

    Meanwhile, the Military Special Task Force (STF) in charge of security in Plateau State code named “Operation Safe Haven” (OPSH) has disclosed that it has so far arrested 21 suspects in connection with the recent killings and civil disturbances in Jos.

    The suspects were paraded before newsmen Monday at the STF Headquarters Jos by the media officer of the task force, Major Adam Umar, and the Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO), Tyopev Terna.

    Umar, who spoke to newsmen during the parade, said: “Out of the 21 suspects arrested so far, 11 of them are those arrested in connection to the killings in Barkin Ladi and environs, while 14 of them were arrested from the scene of the civil disturbances after the attacks.”

    He added: “The suspects we are parading were arrested with arms, some of them with locally made guns, revolver and other dangerous weapons, which they are not supposed to have as citizens.

    “Information we extracted from the original suspects led us to trace some other accomplices and we have also arrested them. And there is the possibility of making more arrest over those killings as we intensify our efforts to get to the root of the killings in pursuant of our mandate to prevent further killings and restore total peace in the state.”

    Jang, Secondus, Kaigama React

    The announcement of more arrests by the military did not entirely mollify many people aggrieved by the wanton killings. Former Governor of Plateau State, Senator Jonah Jang; Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus; and former President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, intervened Monday, condemning the killings.

    Jang, who was accused of complicity in the crisis, dismissed the allegation as nonsense. “Doesn’t that sound funny that Jonah Jang, a Berom man from Plateau State is organising Fulani herdsmen to come and kill Beroms or which killings are they talking about?” he told journalists in Jos.

    The senator said he had been hearing somebody making noise on the television alluding many things, and that he had directed his lawyers to write him and let him explain or else he would go and explain in the court.

    In his own reaction, Secondus asked for internationally-supervised inquest into the killings across the country to ascertain those behind them.

    He said the call became necessary because of the lacklustre response of the federal government to the heinous crime and some attempts by agents of the government to divert attention of the public away from the issue.

    Speaking while receiving one of the presidential aspirants in the party, Alhaji Tanimu Turaki, at the Wadata House National Secretariat of the party Monday, Secondus said an enquiry by the international community would help halt the bloodletting in the country.

    Also reacting to the crisis, Kaigama said the recent killings in Plateau State was a shameful projection of the image of Nigerians.

    Kaigama, who is on a working visit to Canada and the United States (US), said in a statement that the killings had continued to paint Nigeria negatively across the international community.

    “The flagrant and despicable taking of human lives and the continued destruction to homes and means of livelihood is a disgrace to humanity and a shameful projection of a negative image of Nigerians,” he said, adding, “The gruesome murders have robbed me of the enthusiasm, energy and pride with which I came to Canada and America.”

    Source: This Day…

  • New Madagascar Cardinal Focuses on Peace and the Gospel

    Vatican News || By Jean-Pierre Bodjoko, Françoise Niamien and Paul Samasumo || 01 July 2018

    The Archbishop of Toamasina, Désiré Tsarahazana, one of the Cardinals created by Pope Francis on Thursday, says he is cognizant of the responsibility that is now his own in Madagascar.

    The self-effacing new Cardinal of Madagascar has said his appointment as Cardinal came to him as a total surprise.

    "I had just made my pastoral visit where I administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to 165 people. I was ready to take a good nap because I was tired. Someone called me from the (capital city) Antananarivo, informing and congratulating me on my new appointment as Cardinal,” he says.

    His first reaction was that perhaps there was some misunderstanding. Then came several other phone calls, which prompted him to call the Apostolic Nuncio to Madagascar to seek clarification. Eventually, when the Nuncio got back to him, he confirmed the new appointment from the Holy Father. The night of the appointment was a sleepless one for Cardinal Tsarahazana. Looking back, he says the support of the people coupled with their joy comforted him. “And here I am for the Consistory!”

    A responsibility that goes beyond the confines of the Church

    The Archbishop of Toamasina was surprised that after his appointment, Catholics, people from different religious denominations, political parties, congratulated him but also expressed to him their concern for the future of the country. It then dawned on him that his new appointment carries with it, a responsibility that goes beyond the confines of the Catholic Church.

    It is mission to give hope to the people

    "I feel a mission has been thrust upon me to comfort the people of Madagascar so that they have a little more hope in the future. People expect a lot from me. I wonder how I will respond to all their expectations, all these many desires,” said Cardinal Tsarahazana.

    The new Cardinal is convinced that the Church must continue to be a voice for the poor and voiceless because the country’s politicians have misgoverned the nation for years. He says the Bishops will continue to raise concerns regarding the country’s socio-economic welfare, without necessarily being involved in the politics of the country.

    In April, differences over Madagascar's new election laws led to violent street protests in the capital, Antananarivo. The country’s High Court later ruled that the new election laws were unconstitutional.

    Appointment is recognition for the people Madagascar

    Cardinal Tsarahazana says that above all, his appointment is a significant recognition from the Holy Father for the people of his country. It is also a challenge for Madagascar to work to alleviate the suffering of many poor people in their society. Although the country is rich in resources, "we are among the poorest countries in the world," observed Cardinal Tsarahazana.

    Church must continue to proclaim joy of the Gospel

    The new Cardinal also spoke about the challenges of his Archdiocese (Toamasina). Most of the difficulties stem from a general lack of infrastructure and roads. This makes pastoral work difficult. Notwithstanding the challenges, the new Cardinal says the Church must continue to encourage peace among citizens and as a Church live and proclaim the joy of the Gospel to all Madagascans.

    In an earlier interview with the Catholic Church organisation, Church in Need, Cardinal Tzarahazana also spoke about his worries concerning the encroachment , in the northern parts of the country, of a certain brand of Islam bent on expansionism.

    Source: Vatican News…

  • Italian Bishops Hold their Ground against Anti-immigrant Government

    Crux || By Claire Giangravè || 04 June 2018

    While U.S. bishops rallied at the border with Mexico in a show of support for immigrants and in opposition to President Donald Trump’s controversial “zero tolerance” policy that’s led to the separation of children from their families, Italian bishops also held their ground against a new, strongly anti-immigrant government.

    When Matteo Salvini, minister of the interior and leader of the right-wing populist party Northern League, prohibited ports from accepting immigrants into the country, the Church in Italy was among the loudest voices objecting.

    “It’s Jesus coming to us on a vessel, it’s him we see in the man or child who dies drowning, it’s Jesus who looks through the garbage in search of a little food,” said Cardinal Francesco Montenegro, archbishop of the southern Italian town of Agrigento on July 1.

    The cardinal’s remarks were the latest of a flurry of comments objecting to the Italian government’s new stance on immigration. The last straw was Aquarius, a vessel carrying over 600 immigrants that was denied entry into Italy and Malta last month and was instead forced to travel to Spain to find a secure port.

    Since then, other ships carrying asylum seekers have been sent away from the Italian coasts, and Salvini has promised that the crackdown will continue until traffickers give up.

    But the Italian Church, which had been silent for the past few years as the country faced a period of political uncertainty, has issued repeated and forceful calls to the government to open Italian ports and hearts to immigrants.

    “It’s a society but unfortunately also a religion that dismisses human rights, that creates the poor and then doesn’t want them because they are a bother and lets them die,” Montenegro said during his homily celebrating the feast of Saint Calogerus last Sunday.

    “Immigrants, the poor, are a thermometer for our faith,” he continued. “Not welcoming them, especially closing our hearts to them, means not to believe in God.”

    Salvini has made no effort to hide his being inspired by Trump, refashioning his phrases with the motto “Italians first” and adopting policies on immigration that are geared toward ensuring border security. But many Italian bishops and cardinals are not buying it, insisting that there is no difference between an Italian citizen and an immigrant.

    “Every immigrant is a story and a life that whether we like it or not is intertwined with ours,” Montenegro said from the pulpit. “The poor and the migrants have a name like us, they dream like us, they are filled with fears like us, they hope like us, they want a family like us, they believe in something or someone like us, they dare as much or more than us, they wish to be treated like us.”

    Italy, with rampant unemployment rates and a staggering debt to GDP ratio, has been left with a handful of other south European countries to carry most of the load concerning immigrant flows into the continent. Salvini’s hope is to present an uncompromising front that would force Europe’s hand in modifying the laws that regulate immigrant distribution among member states, in particular the 2013 Dublin Regulations.

    So far, the populist leader’s political calculus has not led to significant results during the European summits that took place last week despite the rise of populist sentiment on the continent. However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has recently capitulated to issuing stronger policies against immigration, and French President Emmanuel Macron has been considering harsher detentions for undocumented immigrants.

    In Italy, the Church’s staunch defense of immigrants has sometimes led to outrage on the part of many citizens who feel that migration flows pose a threat to safety and well-being in the country. While Montenegro was free to speak his mind in Church, the homily of another priest in Italy was not met with the same enthusiasm.

    Last Sunday, parish priest Don Federico Pompei invited his faithful to welcome immigrants, the poor and Roma people into their homes, and condemned Salvini’s policies.

    Many Massgoers left the parish, outraged by the priest’s remarks, and spoke to local news outlets about the need for the Church to stay out of politics.

    “We are all equal, the Church says,” an elderly man told reporters. “But it’s not like that … first come the others, and then the Italians. I never voted for the [Nothern] League but during the next elections I will do so gladly, because now it’s time to think about the Italians.”

    “It’s a shame that a parish priest does politics in Church during Holy Mass,” said another angered woman. “He should have just said that we need to help our neighbor and that’s it, what’s the point of calling out Salvini?”

    The leader of the Northern League is currently the most trusted politician in Italy, a recent poll shows. According to a study for the Italian daily Il Giorno, up to 56 percent of Italians trust him, placing him comfortably above his competitors.

    The fact that Salvini enjoys the support of over half the country does not seem to weaken the resolve of Italian clergy, which continues to voice its opposition, from high-ranking cardinals to the Franciscans in Assisi.

    “It’s true that we cannot solve complex issues such as immigration and poverty but as Christians we have a duty toward compassion, one of the most beautiful names for charity,” Montenegro said, concluding his homily.

    Source: Crux…


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