Fides News - English Agency NewsenContent on this site is licensed under aEUROPE/POLAND - The evangelization of the world entrusted to Our Lady of Czestochowa – To deepen the missionary spirit and entrust the missionary work of the Church to Mary's motherly protection: with this spirit over 400 people attended the evening prayer vigil for the evangelization of the world that took place at the Marian Shrine of Jasna Gora, in the night between 2 and 3 December. The vigil, traditionally organized each year by the Pontifical Missionary Union on the occasion of the feast of St. Francis Xavier, was preceded by a missiological session, attended by members of the PMU and the Missionary Apostolate of the Sick, the living Rosary and seminarians.<br />As reported to Fides by Mgr. Tomasz Atlas, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Poland, the Mass presided by His Exc. Mgr. Piotr Turzyński, Auxiliary Bishop of the diocese of Radom, opened the missiological session. The Bishop, in his homily, indicated Mary as an example of openness to the Holy Spirit. At the end Mgr. Turzyński thanked the Pontifical Mission Societies because they support the missionary work of the Church through prayer and sacrifice, and because they remember that being a Christian is accepting and proclaiming the word of God without keeping it for oneself. After the Eucharist, the scientific session began, which focused on missiological and Mariological topics gathered under the theme "Mary as an example of bride of the Holy Spirit", which was opened by Mgr. Atlas, followed by various speeches. Father Marek Tatar, professor at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University, spoke of Mary as a model of obedience. He emphasized that Mary did not receive the missionary mandate directly from Jesus, but with obedience and openness to the gifts of the Holy Spirit she became an example of disciple and a missionary in the Last Supper, in the teaching of John Paul II she is called "Star of Evangelization".<br />Fr. Leon Nieścior, OMI held the lecture on the apostolate, the prophetism and motherhood of Mary from the perspective of the first centuries of Christianity. The evangelizing and formative phenomenon of the culture that flows from the Marian shrines in Latin America, was presented by Fr Tomasz Szyszka SVD, professor of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University. This was followed by the testimony of Sister Aldona Wysocka SSpS, a missionary in Togo, who, speaking of her ministry among the Togolese, found that the heart of man is the most important missionary territory. The session ended with the screening of a video on the Pontifical Missionary Union and the presentation of the book by the Italian missiologist Gianni Colzani.<br />After the Appeal of Jasna Gora the prayer vigil began, during which the special protection of Mary was requested for Father Miroslaw Gucwa, of the diocese of Tarnow, elected new Bishop of the diocese of Bouar, in the Central African Republic, where he has been working for 25 years. The prayer of the Rosary was led by a group of seminarians of the major Seminary of the diocese of Pelplin, while the adoration was animated by the youth of the pastoral university of Lódź.<br />His Exc. Mgr. Jan Romeo Pawlowski, delegate for the papal diplomatic Delegations, presided the midnight Mass. During the Mass, a volunteer, Przemyslaw Palka, who will work with the White Fathers in Algeria, received the missionary cross. During the vigil, 15 new members were admitted to the PMU: seven sisters, five seminarians and three lay people. The vigil ended at 4 am in the morning, entrusting the Church's missionary activities in Poland to Our Lady of Jasna Góra. <br />Fri, 15 Dec 2017 13:20:34 +0100ASIA/SYRIA - Syrian refugees are "the undesirables", says Maronite Archbishop Nassar - Refugees of the Syrian conflict "are crushed between two walls: they cannot go home, because the streets are blocked and their houses are in ruins, on the other hand the world despises them and closes doors. They are the undesirables. As Christmas approaches, these families find themselves in a worrying situation of no escape": this is what Maronite Archbishop Samir Nazssar says, who leads the community in Damascus, recalling in a note sent to Agenzia Fides that the conflict in Syria, which has lasted almost seven years, has created over 12 million refugees, forced to leave their homes.<br />The Archbishop observes: "These poor people have lost everything and have not found a roof, charitable organizations gather them in camps or buildings where everything is missing. In the face of this suffering some try to flee to other more peaceful places, but often they are sent back".<br />Mgr. Nassar notes that "many have found death during the journey or have drowned, others have died of illness or even committed suicide" and recalls that "in the past the Syrian people showed great generosity by welcoming the Armenian refugees in 1915, the Assyrian refugees in 1924, the Palestinian refugees in 1948, the Kurds in 1960, the Lebanese in 1975, the Iraqis in 2003. Now the Syrians themselves have become refugees: isolated and saddened, they have become undesirable".<br />The Archbishop cites "the Pope’s affection towards refugees: the Pope indicates the path of compassion: the Child God challenges our indifference, can we close our eyes once more?", he concludes. <br />Fri, 15 Dec 2017 12:57:39 +0100AFRICA/NIGERIA - "The sums paid to traffickers, to end up becoming slaves in Libya, could have created jobs in Nigeria" - It is necessary to invest in Nigeria to create jobs, as well as to start effective campaigns to discourage Nigerians to try their luck in Europe by putting themselves in the hands of unscrupulous human traffickers. This is how His Exc. Mgr. Joseph Bagobiri, Bishop of Kafanchan, His Exc. Mgr. Alaba Job, Archbishop Emeritus of Ibadan, and His Exc. Mgr. Julius Adelakun, Bishop Emeritus of Oyo expressed themselves in an interview to the Catholic News Service.<br />The discovery of a slave market from West Africa in Libya is provoking concern in Nigeria, where most of the people subjected to slavery are from. At the beginning of December, the Nigerian government repatriated about 3,000 compatriots from Libya. According to Mgr. Bagobiri, Nigerians were willing to pay as much as $1,400 to travel to Libya and other countries to seek a better life.<br />"If each of such individuals had invested these amounts positively and creatively in Nigeria in viable business opportunities, they would have become employers of labor", underlines Mgr. Bagobiri. "Instead they are "subjected to slavery and other forms of inhuman treatment by Libyans".<br />"The Nigerian government should make them realize that there are more prospects for survival in Nigeria than we think exist in Europe and other places", added Mgr. Bagobiri. "In the midst of so much wealth and resources we have in this country Nigerians should not become beggarly and only decide to fly out of Nigeria in search of the elusive greener pastures", underlines the Bishop of Kafanchan.<br />"Many Nigerians are traveling to the developed world to enjoy the development put in place by their governments, but we have refused to develop our own country", points out Mgr. Adelakun. "Let us start to develop ours to make it attractive and conducive for living, so that foreign nationals will want to come", he concluded.<br />Nigeria in addition to being rich in oil, has arable land and other natural wealth that are not yet fully exploited. The corruption indicator drawn up by Transparency International sees Nigeria at the 136 position out of 176 States around the world, placing it among the most corrupt Countries in the world. Corruption hampers economic development, causing discouragement and disappointment in many young people who are trying to migrate abroad, but end up in the hands of human traffickers. <br /><br />Fri, 15 Dec 2017 12:31:34 +0100VATICAN - Archbishop Dal Toso: "Mission is the thermometer of the Church" City - "When announcing the Kingdom of God, Jesus recalls that the Kingdom belongs to God: as Benedict XVI observes in his trilogy about Jesus, it is about a subjective genitive. The Kingdom does not belong to man or to the Church, which is also an effective sign of the Kingdom. It is God who moves the hearts to the mission to donate the Gospel. The Holy Spirit aroused the ardor of many missionaries in the history of the Church and still acts today: the more we nurture the belonging to Christ, the more the forces to announce the Good News are born": says in an interview with Agenzia Fides Archbishop Giampietro Dal Toso, appointed by Pope Francis, President of the Pontifical Mission Societies. On the eve of his episcopal ordination, to be held in St. Peter's on December 16th, Agenzia Fides asked him some questions.<br /><br />Excellency, with what spirit and what wishes does your service as President of the Pontifical Mission Societies begin?<br /><br />I am very grateful to Pope Francis for entrusting me with this responsibility that I live with great enthusiasm. I am happy because the mission is very important to me. In the past I had the opportunity to get to know some territories under the jurisdiction of Propaganda Fide but, beyond that, I believe that the mission is in some way the thermometer of the situation of the Church. The idea of being able to contribute to animating the missionary dimension of the Church is a great privilege for me.<br /><br />Can you tell us about your experience of "mission territories"?<br /><br />In the past I worked for the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", and this brought me in contact with many difficult situations all over the world. In the last period I dealt, in particular, with the Middle East and Sahel, a crucial area from a political, humanitarian and religious point of view for Africa. Another channel that allowed me to enter the "missionary world" was the Caritas Internationalis network, which is important to get to know the local ecclesial realities, especially in Africa and Asia, approaching them from the "humanitarian side".<br /><br />Now with the Pontifical Mission Societies, you will appreciate them from another side ...<br /><br />The Pontifical Mission Societies have a very important value for two reasons: first of all they give the young churches the chance to structure themselves, to give themselves a configuration, a backbone, financing seminaries, churches and study courses. This represents, for a community, a valid help to stabilize. A second task is that of missionary animation: financial help makes sense only if it is considered within a general vision that is the desire to bring the Gospel. When they were born in France in the nineteenth century, the original idea of the Missionary Societies was to awaken the missionary spirit in every baptized person; then the economic support to the missions followed. The PMS today are called to keep these two aspects alive and are therefore very current.<br /><br />We are heading towards the extraordinary missionary Month announced by the Pope for October 2019: what are the objectives and perspectives for this event?<br /><br />I am convinced that the extraordinary missionary Month represents a great opportunity for the whole Church; and I wish that in this time we can dedicate ourselves, in the forms that are being studied, to prepare this event at a universal level, a precious occasion to revive the missionary spirit: this is how the Pope wanted it and this is how we will live it. We are in the preparatory phase, and it is desirable that it should not be perceived as a "centralist initiative" but for local Churches to be involved: the mission is crucial for the whole Church, certainly not a theme for a few specialists. The extraordinary missionary month implies the involvement of all the faithful. With the same spirit World Missionary Day was born, to underline that the mission is a call that belongs to all the people of God and that every baptized person is responsible.<br /><br />How do you interpret the concept of "mission" today, at the time of Pope Francis? With which special emphases and peculiarities?<br /><br />The meaning of "mission" is pregnant and has had its evolution: I live it and interpret it, with Pope Francis, with the idea of the lost sheep. The Pope asks us to be Pastors. This is the mission today: we are called to go looking for the lost sheep. The "Church that goes forth" takes the initiative to look for those who are far from God and in their hearts perceive a gap to be filled. The image of the lost sheep is useful because a sheep needs pasture, otherwise it does not survive. So today's man needs to find the pasture that is God, his Word, the Sacraments, otherwise he does not survive, even if he believes he can do it. For this reason, as the Council says, the missio ad gentes is still valid today because there are people and populations who do not yet know Jesus Christ. But this is also valid in the regions where the Gospel is already present. The testimony of Jesus’ Easter is true proclamation and offering of new, divine and eternal life for all.<br /><br />The mission is not the result of human effort ...<br /><br />When Jesus announces the Kingdom of God, he recalls that the Kingdom belongs to God: as Benedict XVI observes in his trilogy about Jesus, it is a subjective genitive. The Kingdom does not belong to man or to the Church, which is also an effective sign of the Kingdom, as the Council says. It is God who moves the hearts to the mission to donate the Gospel. The Holy Spirit has aroused the ardor of many missionaries in the history of the Church and still acts today: the more we nurture the belonging to Christ, the more the forces to announce the Good News are born. For many centuries we have seen missionaries depart for unknown lands, sometimes without knowing what they were about to face or putting their lives in danger. The Holy Spirit aroused in them the desire to be witnesses and proclaimers of the Gospel. This is the key to the awakening of a missionary conscience: the proclamation of the Gospel is an action of the Holy Spirit. If the Church lets herself be animated by the Holy Spirit, this allows the Gospel to be spread. The Pope uses the term "primear" to reaffirm the primacy of God: the Kingdom belongs to Him, who gives the grace to announce it.<br /><br />Are there saints or missionaries who will be your source of inspiration?<br /><br />I would like to mention an episode and two saints. A few years ago I visited the abbey of Keur Moussa in Senegal, founded by the French Benedictines at the beginning of the 20th century. In the cemetery there were the graves of monks, all between 30 and 35 years of age, who left France knowing that they probably would have lived a few years in that country: but they had something bigger than their own life in their heart and they are an example of who gives life to serve Christ. Among the saints I would like to quote Francis of Assisi, who went to Egypt without fear, with simplicity, to present his faith to the Sultan, giving the peace of Christ. I also carry a missionary from my diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone in my heart, Giuseppe Freinademetz, one of the first verbites: he was a missionary in China, where he died and was appreciated by the Chinese for his example of life. Born in a wonderful environmental context, he had a fire within him that led him to go further. Freinademetz helps us understand that the treasure of faith is too big to be kept just for us. <br /><br />Fri, 15 Dec 2017 11:58:42 +0100AMERICA/PERU - The Amazon and its inhabitants are protagonists of the Pope’s visit to Peru Maldonado - The Amazon will be protagonist in the next apostolic visit of Pope Francis to Peru . "For one day, January 19, Puerto Maldonado will be transformed into a large ecological summit: the spotlight of the world will be there", wrote José María Rojo, Superior General of the Spanish Foreign Missions Institute in "La República" newspaper. "But with two big differences compared to Paris 2015 or Bonn 2017. The first: the powerful will not come together, but the poor people of the Amazon will be heard. The second: the Pope will dedicate himself to them, a supporter, who has nothing to lose or to hide and has said in every possible way: either we commit ourselves to taking care of our common home, or the planet will drift away".<br />According to the local bishop, Mgr. David Martínez de Aguirre, the Pope's personal encounter with the native Amazonian peoples will be important: "It will be an opportunity to show the Pope the reality of our cultures, and the Pope will be able to show what he wants for these peoples. We want him to perceive the Amazon environment and its cultures with the five senses, with their wisdom and riches. We want him to give us a message, and for him to also receive the message of our peoples", said Mgr. Martínez to the magazine Vida Nueva. For the Bishop, convinced that the visit will be an anticipation of what will happen in the Special Synod for the Panamazon region , "a Church with an Amazon face is a Church that looks at the world from its context, a Church that gives space and a preferential place to the peoples who live here and are the legitimate inhabitants of these lands. A Church with an Amazon face is also a welcoming Church for all the people who, in a respectful way, have come here in this land".<br />Three meetings are scheduled for Francis in Puerto Maldonado,: in the Coliseo de Madre de Dios sports hall with 4,000 representatives of the indigenous peoples; in the square of the Jorge Basadre Institute with the population; at the El Principito orphanage, with children from various institutes.<br />More than 30 indigenous communities in the area have confirmed their participation in the meeting. At least 30 representatives will be present for each of the other seven apostolic vicariates of the region, thanks to the commitment of the national government for their travels. A special flight is scheduled from Iquitos and San José del Amazonas of the Armed Forces. Delegations from Brazil and Bolivia will also be present.<br />Pope Francis will be in Chile from 15 to 18 January and will visit Santiago, Temuco and Iquique. He will go to Peru from January 18 to 21, 2018 and will visit the cities of Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo. <br /><br />Fri, 15 Dec 2017 11:03:35 +0100AFRICA/MALI - "Mali is the epicenter of jihadist groups that rage in Sahel" - "The security situation in different areas of Mali has been a concern for several months", says Fr. Edmond Dembele, General Secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Mali, to Agenzia Fides, commenting on the achievement of the G5 Sahel agreement, a regional stabilization force of 5,000 men created with the financial support of the European Union, USA, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, and formed by soldiers from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania. The future force will have its headquarters in Bamako, Mali, and will also be deployed in Niger and Burkina Faso.<br />Fr. Dembele illustrates the situation of insecurity in Mali that led to the creation of the new military coalition. "We had hoped that with the signing of the peace agreement of Algiers in June 2015, the conditions for the pacification and stabilization of the Country would have been created. In fact, for a few months after the signing of the agreement, we experienced a moment of relative peace. But for about a year we have witnessed a return to insecurity, especially in the center of Mali and even in the capital Bamako, where there have been attacks", says Fr. Dembele.<br />"There have been several terrorist attacks in the center of the Country in recent months that are becoming increasingly regular", emphasizes the priest.<br />"The creation of the G5 force is therefore a sign of hope not only for Mali but for the entire sub-Saharan region. In fact, Mali seems to be the epicenter of regional insecurity because most terrorist groups are based in Mali and operate from our Country to strike in Burkina Faso and Niger. The decision to focus the action of the new regional stabilization force on Mali is therefore understood", explains Fr. Dembele.<br />The Algiers agreement included the Tuareg separatist groups in a peace process, which were the source of the crisis that broke out in January 2012, when the north of Mali was conquered by the Tuareg rebels, giving life to the ephemeral Republic of Azawad. The separatists had almost immediately been supplanted by some jihadist groups who had begun to threaten the rest of the Country. Their advance had been stopped and then rejected by the intervention of the French and Chadian troops who had reconquered the lost territory.<br />"The agreement of Algiers indeed allowed to calm the independenceist aspirations of the northern regions, which are now controlled by the so-called Mixed Forces, composed of former rebels of Azawad, by soldiers of the Malian regular army, by the Blue Helmets of MINUSMA and from pro-government militias", says Fr. Dembele. "Terrorist groups are present in the north and more and more present in the center of Mali, in particular in the Ségou and Mopti areas, including the Pays Dogon area. It is in the area of Mopti that a few weeks ago several Catholic churches were attacked and for this reason as a Church we had raised an alarm ".<br /> "These groups are linked to illegal trafficking that are concentrated in the center of Mali. These are very lucrative trades and smugglers like jihadists have an interest in sowing chaos to prevent the State from controlling the area to enforce the law", concludes Fr. Dembele. <br /><br />Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:12:40 +0100ASIA/LEBANON - Summit in Bkerké: Christian and Muslim leaders united in "no" to US choices on Jerusalemé - Every unilateral attempt to impose Jerusalem as the exclusive capital of the State of Israel represents an "unjust" act and contrary to all international pronouncements concerning the profile of the Holy City. This is what Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros said during the opening of the inter-religious summit at the patriarchal seat of Bkerké to express a joint position on the issue of Jerusalem and the new tensions arising around the Holy City after Trump’s administration made the decision to transfer the US embassy to Jerusalem. All the main religious communities present in Lebanon have joined Patriarch Rai’s call: the Grand Mufti Sunni Abdellatif Daryan, Mufti Kabalan representing the Shiite Muslims, Apostolic Armenian Catholicos Aram I, representative of the Druses, Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Youssif III Younan, Greek-Melkite Catholic Patriarch Youssef Absi participated in the "summit" in Bkerkè.<br />Maronite Patriarch Rai, in his speech, also reiterated the need to apply all international resolutions that recognize and protect the unique profile and special status of Jerusalem, a holy city for Jews, Christians and Muslims all over the world. The Mufti of the Lebanese Republic Daryan, in his speech, reiterated his opposition to the processes of "judaization" of Jerusalem, confirming support for the Palestinians "in their fight for justice" and in their "legitimate right to resistance". <br />Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:58:44 +0100AMERICA/MEXICO - The Court rules on Chiapas: peace on the horizon, humanitarian emergency remains Cristobal de las Casas - Peace is much closer in Chiapas. Yesterday afternoon the Agricultural Court issued a final decision on the process for the conflict of territorial boundaries between the municipalities of Chenalhó and Chalchihuitán, favoring Chenalhó. After the Court's ruling, the municipalities ratified the peace agreement for a solution to the conflict, starting work to restore the transit of vehicles in the area. The conflict had triggered a wave of widespread violence, provoked by an armed group that sowed terror in these municipalities and caused the forcible displacement of thousands of people. The dispute arose in 1974, because the historical and natural boundaries marked by the river that divides the two cities had not been respected.<br />In recent times the situation of displaced persons has become increasingly serious and the Church has raised the alarm with regards to the humanitarian emergency . According to information gathered by Agenzia Fides, in the last days six inhabitants of the municipality of Chalchihuitán died of hunger and cold. These are mainly displaced children and old people, some of whom have diabetes, who are in very poor living condition, with lack of food, medicines and warm clothes. The situation has worsened due to the blockage of the road connecting Chalchihuitán to Las Limas, which had interrupted supplies.<br />"We ask in the name of humanity and in the name of God: enough with the death of innocents in Chalchihuitán, they are children of God, they are human beings, they have the right to live, we raise our voice and remember the fifth commandment: "Do not kill": it is the heartfelt appeal launched, through Agenzia Fides, by Fr. Marcelo Perez Perez, native priest, diocesan coordinator of the social pastoral care of the diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas. Girls, boys and teenagers live in inhuman conditions, wearing the clothes with which they were forced to leave their homes, inadequate to protect themselves from the low temperatures of this period. Caritas has launched several appeals to collect "medicines, food, blankets, winter clothes", urging "a fair and timely resolution to this situation", but the area remains difficult to reach. The hope is that peace soon returns in the area. <br />Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:37:18 +0100AFRICA/UGANDA - A school of agribusiness for young entrepreneurs, with the contribution of the Church - An agribusiness project, with a professional training school dedicated to the agriculture and breeding sectors: this is the initiative desired by Alito, in the diocese of Lira, in northern Uganda, by the local Bishop Mgr. Giuseppe Franzelli, and realized with the NGO "Africamission cooperation and development", which has been working in the country for many years, continuing the work of its founders, the missionary Don Vittorio Pastori and Mgr. Enrico Manfredini. Until 1986, the facility now used for the professional training of young people, was a small village-leper colony run by the Comboni nuns with German doctors; now it has been converted and houses classrooms, laboratories and a kitchen. The free agribusiness school, set up for the training of young farmers and breeders, opened last October and will train about 50 young people between the ages of 18 and 25 each semester for three years. "The purpose - explains to Agenzia Fides Piergiorgio Lappo, who is following the project for the NGO in Alito - is to help young people who have cultivable land but who cannot live on their work because of low productivity and difficulties in market access".<br />In a country with a predominantly agricultural vocation and in which young people under 30 represent over half the population, providing theoretical and technical tools necessary to improve land cultivation and livestock breeding represents a concrete way to develop human and natural potential of the territory. "The students of this semester, 40% girls and 60% boys - continues Lappo - are young people from the surrounding areas who have left school and who cultivate family fields. Every morning they come to the center to first take short theoretical lessons in class and then put the teaching into practice by cultivating the field. Everything they learn from this course they then put into practice in their family land". The teachers are all experts of the place, the teaching is almost totally in the local language. In addition to the technical subjects, there is also the teaching of the English language and civic education to ensure a complete training that can make children able to manage their family business. At the end of the semester, young farmers and breeders will be followed by a group of "facilitators", who will help them in the planning of work and will promote the creation of small networks so that they can exchange experiences and techniques. "The most common difficulties - concludes the contact person of Africamission in Uganda - consist in the fact that about 40% of the product, once collected, does not reach the markets. The government is helping, by building new roads that facilitate sellers and buyers to reach the areas where the market is held".<br />Agriculture in Uganda is one of the main voices of GDP, but the sector is affected by low productivity. According to the latest data published by the World Bank, internal and external factors have slowed down economic growth in the last five years, which in the previous decades had experienced higher production rates. <br /><br />Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:50:22 +0100ASIA/AFGHANISTAN - Evangelical presence of the Barnabites and silent witness City - "The mission of Catholics in Afghanistan is based on a particularity: it is almost exclusively made of silent testimony. When one is active in faith, there is no need for words. But let us pray that in future, if God wants, we can build a church": says to Agenzia Fides Barnabite Father Giuseppe Moretti, a missionary in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan from 1990 to 2015. Father Moretti explains: "The presence of the Barnabites in Afghanistan, in fact, is linked to the concession, obtained in the early decades of the twentieth century, of the presence of a Catholic spiritual assistant within the Italian Embassy in Kabul.This privilege, which took shape in 1933, followed the absolute prohibition of proselytizing the local population.These conditions remained unchanged over the decades, even during the civil war and after the establishment of the Missio sui iuris by John Paul II in 2002, of which father Giuseppe Moretti was the first Ecclesiastical Superior. "In a situation like that in Afghanistan, where we do not have the right to evangelize, one can only act in two ways. The first is to place oneself at the service of the poor. This task is currently carried out with exemplary dedication by the Sisters of Mother Teresa and the Pro Bambini Association of Kabul, an inter-congregational reality born in 2004". The first, explains Father Giuseppe, are dedicated to helping disadvantaged families and they host a dozen girls in extreme poverty, while the latter have opened a home for childeren suffering from Down's syndrome.<br />"The other field of action - he continues - is the spiritual assistance of the international community. It is a very delicate task, because it consists of a pastoral mission of new evangelization addressed to soldiers, diplomats or officials characterized by a strong religious indifference".<br />"The message that I tried to convey to them over the years - explains the Barnabite - is that the Catholic diplomat is called to live a life as a true believer starting from everyday life, carrying out his work with responsibility, without words of contempt towards the population. My goal was to form witnesses who, through their lives, show what it means to believe in Christ. How can an Afghan show curiosity towards our faith, if he sees Christians who do not pray?".<br />The Afghan population is 99.7% Muslim. After the return of Father Giuseppe Moretti to Italy, the mission was entrusted to his Barnabite confrere, father Giuseppe Scalese, and still has a base in the chapel of the Italian Embassy in Kabul. Until 2016, in addition to the Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the Pro Bambini Association of Kabul, there were also the Little Sisters of Charles de Foucauld, who arrived in Afghanistan in the fifties. "The desire for the future is that we can have a church outside the Embassy, thus giving the missionaries the opportunity to have a proper parish organization and to carry out prayer meetings, catechesis and pastoral activities".<br />The first proposal for the construction of a "public" church reached the person in charge of the Missio sui iuris in 1992 when a representative of the government of Najibullah, submitted a plan to build a church to Fr. Moretti, which included a small compound, with all the guarantees of immunity. The project remained a dead letter given the sudden changes in the political situation in Afghanistan, with the outbreak of civil conflict, the rise to power of the Taliban and then the war of 2001.<br />Today there is an Orthodox church, the only true Christian religious building on the whole Afghan territory. In fact, in 2001, Romania sent an infantry battalion to Afghanistan, the Romanian expeditionary force wanted to build a real wooden church inside its compound, where the troops of the Kandahar military base come to pray before leaving on a mission. <br />Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:29:50 +0100AMERICA/MEXICO - Two dancers of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe killed, meaningless violence Juárez - "There is no respect for anyone, it is the extreme of evil, how dare they?" asked the Bishop of the diocese of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua , Mgr. José Guadalupe Torres Campos, in a brief meeting with the local press after learning of the murder of two "matachines", dancers of the feast in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe, on December 12, while they were preparing and doing rehearsals.<br />The Bishop stressed that this event is a reason to increase our faith, but it is sad and deplorable that these signs of violence and death continue to occur in the city. <br />"These murders are not like the others, although it must be said that no homicide is good, but these people were not at a party or getting drunk, they were matachines who were dancing for the Virgin of Guadalupe, in an act of faith and love, this suggests that there is no longer any respect for anything or anyone", he concluded.<br />According to information from the press of Ciudad Juarez, at the beginning of this week, six people were killed in just two days. What is shocking is that there are no clear or defined reasons, it can almost be said to be a meaningless violence.<br />The denunciation, complaint and protest of Mgr. Torres Campos fall at a difficult time for Mexico, as the draft law on internal security is being discussed . Through the Episcopal Commission for Social Pastoral Care , the Bishops have complained about the failure of security policies in the country: "Some regions have been hit by humanitarian crises that require truly trained police officers, able to provide internal security, leaving the army its duty to guarantee national security".<br />The CEPS yesterday published a statement entitled "With decision we build peace, enough with false security", which presents the position of the Church in this regard: "Legislative actions are necessary to mark a critical path that resolves the causes, but also to avoid policy proposals such as the presence of armed forces with police functions", it is also hoped that such legislative measures "can reach the consensus of all political and social forces, in order to establish national, state and municipal security structures that are effective and respectful of the rights of all". <br />Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:07:26 +0100AFRICA/NIGERIA - The drama of displaced people caused by Boko Haram - There are also two catechists among the people killed in an explosion that occurred on 11 December in Minawao camp in Pulka, in the north-east of Nigeria, which welcomes Nigerian refugees repatriated from Cameroon. This was reported in a note sent to Agenzia Fides by Fr. Gideon Obasogie, Director of Social Communications of the diocese of Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, in northern Nigeria, where for years the guerrillas of Boko Haram have been raging, the Islamist sect that has declared its affiliation to the Islamic State.<br />"We gathered that the Boko Haram elements made their way into the returnees from the Minawao camp and exploded their suicide belt killing dozens including two Pastors from that community who had been appointed by the bishop of Maiduguri Most Rev. Oliver Dashe Doeme", writes Fr. Gideon. The Nigerian army, however, said that the explosion was not caused by a suicide attack but by the explosion of a mortar shot fired against the camp while the victims are four."There are over 91,000 people who left Nigeria to take refuge in Cameroon, but the hostilities encountered had pushed many to return to their Country of origin at the cost of exposing themselves to the violence of Boko Haram", says the priest. Many of these are accepted in camps like the one hit by last Monday's explosion.<br />Fr. Gideon emphasizes that this attack on innocent civilians, Boko Haram terrorists continue to rage against a hard-hit population.<br />"Since the Boko Haram ferocious campaign and occupation of most communities in the Northeast around the later part of 2014, life has really not been wonderful for the survivors and returnees", says the Director of Social Communications. "The Boko Haram fighters who moved out of sambisa forest, over ran must communities bordering the fierce Sambisa forest and tried to extend their counterfeit caliphate from Gwoza to the north through Pulka and Bama in Borno State. Then to the north of <br />Adamawa state through Madagali, Michika, Uba and Mubi"."With the help of God and the courage of our military men we saw a twist and the ruthless arm of terrorism was rolled back", says Fr. Gideon."Gradually, as days rolled into weeks and weeks into months, a considerable <br />number of our people have come home to settle and begin life anew. The destruction had been done and all we are left with is heartache and ulcer pains. The mere thought of the destructive acts of Boko Haram breeds heart attacks and spinal shocks. The rate of psychosis is alarming, my people now suffer from a wide range of disorders, heightened fear of the future and nervousness, which were all together alien in our land", says Fr. Gideon."The truth of the matter is that our people in the Northern part of Adamawa State that is under the Ecclesiastical circumscription of Maiduguri Diocese are back in their communities. Their means of livelihood in this part of the globe, after the shift of the militants have become consistently challenging", emphasizes the priest. "The local governor has long declared a State of emergency on the Health sectors, we sincerely hope that this would be a snake oil to the challenging, dilapidating and seemingly total absence of health care facilities in Michika- Madagali axis of the State". "The Catholic Church is however, putting made-shift or mobile clinic to see to the immediate needs of our people", concludes Fr. Gideon. <br /><br />Wed, 13 Dec 2017 13:10:50 +0100ASIA/LEBANON - Patriarch Raï: the US move on Jerusalem "slap in the face of the Christians of the East". Islam-Christian summit tomorrow in Bkerkè - The US Administration’s decision to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem "is a slap in the face of Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and all the Arabs". President Donald Trump's move "has demolished the peace efforts between Israel, Palestine and Arab countries, has fueled the fire of a new intifada and transformed Jerusalem, the city of peace, into a city of war". These are the clear words expressed by Maronite Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï on the consequences of the controversial step taken by the US leadership regarding the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the entire Holy City. The Primate of the Maronite Church expressed his words in his homily during the Eucharistic liturgy celebrated last Sunday at the patriarchal headquarters of Bkerkè. Tomorrow, Thursday, December 14 - report Lebanese sources to Agenzia Fides - the Patriarch has called a Muslim-Christian summit in Bkerkè to be attended by the leaders and representatives of the Churches and Christian communities together with senior exponents of the various Muslim communities present in Lebanon, in order to express a joint position on the question of Jerusalem and the new tensions unleashed around the Holy City by the provisions of the Trump’s Administration, which according to the Patriarch Rai contradict the criteria of international legality.<br />Last Sunday, in Lebanon, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Yohanna X Yazigi, also strongly criticized the American decision to establish its embassy in Jerusalem, calling it "a violation of international law" and a serious injustice to the Palestinians, destined to fuel conflicts and sabotage all peace attempts in the region.<br />In Lebanon, a country that still hosts 400 thousand Palestinian refugees, protest demonstrations in front of the US embassy in Beirut in the district of Awkar have taken place since last Sunday to protest against the decisions of the US administration. <br />Wed, 13 Dec 2017 12:45:37 +0100ASIA/EAST TIMOR - A Muslim Prime Minister in a nation with a Catholic majority - Although it is going through a turbulent political phase and its newborn government is in difficulty, Mari Bin Amudi Alkatiri is a Muslim Prime Minister who leads a country with a large Catholic majority. In office since September 2017, the difficulties encountered today are political and economic have nothing to do with religion. Good sign of pluralism and maturity in a young nation and 60% of the population is under 25 years of age.<br />This is what Acacio Pinto, a young Timorese Catholic researcher, expert on economic and social issues explains to Fides: "East Timor, with about 97% of Catholics, is the most Catholic country in Asia, in percentage terms. However, the country is not theocratic or does not adopt the Catholic faith as a state religion. The Constitution recognizes the contribution of the Catholic Church to the self-determination of the people, but maintains the principle of freedom of religion. Therefore the fact that current Prime Minister Mari Bin Amudi Alkatiri is a Muslim from the historic Revolutionary Party of Timor-Leste Independent is not a problem. This is his second term as chief executive: the first was when Timor-Leste re-established its independence in 2002; even if Alkatiri decided to resign in 2006 due to political and military unrest".<br />Pinto continues: "Despite having a religious faith different from that of the majority of the population, in a pluralist society like that of East Timor, Alkatiri has not encountered prejudices on behalf of the main political parties or leaders. His management skills, as well as his reputation for being attentive to fiscal policies, have attracted many citizens, including leaders of the Catholic Church. Bishop Basilio do Nascimento, at the head of the diocese of Baucau, for example, commented favorably on the fact that Alkatiri is the Prime Minister of the country".<br />We will have to see if the government manages to overcome this critical phase now: "The current political uncertainty is due to the fact that his party is having problems in Parliament. We will see whether the head of government remains or not until the end of the year. But if the executive falls, it will certainly not be due to a religious factor", concludes Pinto. <br />Wed, 13 Dec 2017 12:12:23 +0100ASIA/INDONESIA - Violation of human rights on the indigenous of Papua - A pastoral delegation composed of three members of the Asian Christian Conference recently concluded a visit to the Indonesian province of West Papua, listening to stories about serious violations of human rights and repression against the indigenous people. As Fides learns, the visit is part of the pastoral accompaniment of Churches and people living in vulnerable situations in Asia. During the four-day visit, the indigenous people of Papua shared stories of repression and systematic human rights violations with the delegation, including the approval of laws that suppress freedom of speech and association.<br />"Impunity for human rights violations on behalf of the police and the military is a matter of growing concern; the Special Autonomy Law represents a heavy failure, as it did not meet the primary needs of the indigenous people of West Papua", said community leaders and representatives of civil society in the province of Indonesian Papua, also known as Irian jaya.<br />"The Indonesian government systematically limits the right to freedom of press and the initiatives of the Papuans who come forward to monitor human rights violations. Many indigenous are arrested and detained for non-violent expressions of their political opinion. They constantly face discrimination and violent attacks. Peaceful demonstrations are often dispersed by force. In many cases, the participants, even if peaceful, are arrested, detained and tortured, while others are killed. Many prisoners and human rights activists died during their detention. Reports of torture and ill-treatment of political prisoners have increased. Civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are violated".<br />"The visit of the ACC to West Papua was an opportunity to express solidarity with the indigenous people in the area and listen to their complaints" said Protestant Bishop Daniel S. Thiagarajah of Sri Lanka, a member of the ACC.<br />During the visit there were also meetings with members of the parliament of Papua, the governor's office, interactions with members of the faculty and students of the Izaak Samuel Kijne Theological College and other schools as well as with the leaders of different churches and local communities .<br />The delegation also went to a clinic for AIDS patients and other social centers and institutions run by Christian communities. During the meetings, the ACC delegation said that the international community should come forward and urge the Indonesian government to stop violations of human rights in the Country, respect and protect the human dignity of Western Papuans. The Conference supports fair political solutions, based on respect for the rights and dignity of indigenous peoples, and promotes a comprehensive national dialogue between Papua and the Indonesian government.<br />West Papua is a land rich in gold, copper, there is the tropical rainforest and the coral reef. However, most of the indigenous continue to suffer because of the confiscation of their ancestral lands; natural resources have been exploited by non-Papuans allocated through the migration policies promoted by the Indonesian government over the years. <br />About 80% of the indigenous Papuans, now live in poverty without access to medical care, potable drinking water or education. They are constantly under attack by security forces. At a religious level, the population is composed of Protestant Christians , Muslims , Catholics , Hindus and Buddhists . <br />Wed, 13 Dec 2017 11:50:25 +0100ASIA/INDIA - The Indian government praises the service of the Church to the poor Delhi - The Indian government has praised the service rendered by the Catholic Church towards the poor, the marginalized and the needy in India. As Fides learns, on December 12 Indian Vice President Venkaiah Naidu was the guest of honor at the Christmas greetings ceremony in New Delhi and said: "The Catholic community is peace-loving and it contributes immensely to nation building. Jesus’s message for love and peace is for all seasons, cultures and nationalities. People all over the world regardless of caste, creed or nationality celebrate Christmas with great joy. Catholics, in particular, work for people’s welfare, have opened thousands of dispensaries and hospitals and manage best educational institutions in the country which create awareness of the need for education and training for those in need ".<br />Naidu then remarked that "education is the most important tool for social transformation. It helps impart values compassion, morality and ethics" and urged Christians to continue their service with particular attention to the disadvantaged sectors of society: "Christmas, the feast of love and joy caring and sharing, is time to renew commitment to serve society, work for social and economic inclusion of all".<br />The Christmas message of peace - he said - is relevant in these days when people misuse religion, specifying that "religion has nothing to do with terror. Terrorism is the enemy of humanity".<br />Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Indian Bishops' Conference , thanked and reiterated the Catholic community’s commitment to the welfare of the country, assuring "prayerful support, deep commitment to take the nation to its height of glory".<br />"The Church of India is at the service of the nation. People in the periphery need the Lord’s assurance", he added, urging the government to take necessary steps to bring peace and progress to every citizen, recalling that diversity and pluralism in Indian society "express the beauty of divine life".<br />The Cardinal also took the opportunity to ask the vice president to declare the recent Ockhi cyclone as a "national disaster". The Cardinal, who comes from Thiruvananthapuram, one of the worst affected by the November 30 cyclone, noted that thousands of fishermen in southern coastal region have lost everything "except their faith in God". <br />"Naidu's statement should be reassuring for Christian minorities in India", remarks Indian Catholic journalist and commentator Anto Akkara to Fides, recalling that Naidu belongs to the Barathiya Janata Party, the Indian nationalist party in power in the Federation, who is supported by violent Hinduist and nationalist groups such as "Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh" that promotes exclusive ideology and seeks to eliminate the demonstrations of Christian and Muslim minorities.<br />According to Fr. Suresh Mathew, director of the Delhi weekly "Indian Currents", one cannot forget that "India is being thrown in the depths by a small group of antinational forces composed of fundamentalists, fascists, fanatics" that the government should control.<br />According to the 2011 Census, there are 24 million Christians in India, among whom 19.9 million are Catholics. <br />Wed, 13 Dec 2017 11:31:46 +0100AMERICA/BOLIVIA - Indigenous theologian: "Ecology of hearts, according to Laudato Sì" - "The profound indigenous spirituality, in its harmonious relationship with all creation, sees in the care of the common home a responsibility for future generations.The bond of relationship between the indigenous peoples and Mother Earth translates into mutual care: man takes care of the common home and the common home takes care of the human being": says to Agenzia Fides Tania Avila Meneses, a Catholic laywoman of the indigenous Quechua, Bolivian theologian, coordinator of the Amerinda Cochabamba Network, a network of American Catholics open to dialogue and interfaith cooperation, promoter of the preferential option for the poor and the excluded.<br />"Our society - notes Tania Avila - is marked by selfishness that only seeks well-being and sees in the 'common home' an object that can be used without limits", recalling the need to deepen the Encyclical "Laudato Sì" to overcome this mentality: "To give life and put in practice Laudato Sì, taking care of the 'common home', is an urgent responsibility because the damage caused is so great that if we do not act today, our lives are seriously at risk". "We need a personal mental conversion that goes through the need to first of all 'make our hearts' ecological", she says.<br />According to the coordinator of the Amerinda Cochabamba Network, one of the fundamental points on which to work at a pastoral level is to "learn to listen and recognize the voice and spirituality of the indigenous peoples with an attitude of humility and openness towards other ways and paths of knowledge, as valid as the Western ones". Avila, who recently coordinated a workshop on "Integral Ecology: disciples and missionaries, guardians of creation", held in Quito last November, notes that "it is urgent to limit the mining work from the subsoil and reduce the use of carbon, but even at a personal level one can do a lot, by better administering resources such as water and electricity, and putting in place forms of recycling. One must avoid being taken by consumerism that leads us to buy, creating unnecessary needs: it is urgent to put into practice the Laudato Sì in our life", she concludes. <br />Tue, 12 Dec 2017 16:09:41 +0100EUROPE/ITALY - Education, health, reconstruction: the priorities of the Madian Community - "Education, health, disability, reconstruction: this year we focused our efforts on these four fundamental points", said to Fides Fr. Antonio Menegon, president of the "Madian Orizzonti" Onlus organization, of the Camillian religious of the Piedmont Province. "Disability, especially in poor countries without facilities and resources, becomes one of the priorities of our presence. In particular, with regard to the aspect of disability both in Georgia and in Haiti, we are multiplying our efforts in order to be able to respond ever more and better to this challenge", continues Fr. Menegon.<br />The missionary says: "In Haiti, the Foyer Bethléem has tripled its places: from the reception of 30 children we have reached almost 100 children with physical and mental disabilities, from 0 to 20 years of age . In Georgia, in addition to the center of Tbilisi , we run the new "Lasha" San Camillo disable center, inaugurated on 21st July 2012, which is home to over 150 children, and an outpatient clinic, the Redemptor Hominis, which offers 400 medical care and assistance. In Khisabavra we run a kindergarten with a farm that produces milk and meat; in Shavshvebi the 'Grandmother's Little Home' assists minor refugees of the 2008 war between Georgia and South Ossezia. Currently, other centers are being set up in two different cities, in particular in Akhalcikhe, south of Georgia, with the Talita Kum Center" run in collaboration with the Order of Malta - Berlin and Sisters of St. Nino, which hosts 21 disabled people; and the 'Children of God Center', in Arali village - run in collaboration with Caritas Georgia and the parish of St. Joseph of Arali".<br />"With regard to the training of staff who take care of the sick and disabled and education for children, a new school is about to be inaugurated in the town of Jérémie, destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 . Fr. Massimo Miraglio in Jérémie and Maddalena Boschetti in the north of the island have helped and accompanied so many people who have lost everything. They donated homes, land, seeds, agricultural tools, work but above all trust in themselves, in their future and in that of their children. The life of so many people who have lost everything, their will to rebuild, their hope stronger than any desperation is the great strength that encourages us to continue the journey", concludes Fr. Menegon. <br />Tue, 12 Dec 2017 15:52:29 +0100AFRICA/CONGO RD - The sound of bells to ask for the application of the New Year's Eve Agreements – To ring the bells to ask for the application of the New Year's Eve Agreements. This is the initiative taken by the association of deans of the parish priests of the Archdiocese of Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, on the upcoming anniversary of the agreement signed on 31 December 2016. The agreements reached with the mediation of the Congolese Bishops, are aimed at overcoming the political-institutional stalemate after the presidential elections were not held despite the deadline of the second and last term of President Joseph Kabila, on December 20, 2016.<br />The New Year's Agreements called for the creation of a national unity government to prepare the presidential elections by 2017. In the meantime Kabila remained interim President. The executive born in May 2017 did not include an important part of the opposition, while on November 5th the National Independent Electoral Commission announced that the presidential, legislative, provincial and local elections will be held on December 23rd 2018 . This allows Kabila to remain in power for at least another year.<br />The initiative of the parish priests wants to respond to the request of the Congolese Bishops, who at the end of November had launched an appeal to respect the New Year's Eve Agreements. The Bishops, taking note of the new election date, said they were "deeply disappointed to find themselves in the same context of tensions as the end of 2016 and had warned that "the people will not tolerate this in 2018". The Congolese Episcopal Conference reiterated the need to apply the agreements and called for the holding of credible and transparent elections in a reasonable time.<br />A message sent to the parishes recommends a prayer for the nation every day starting from December 7, at the end of the morning Mass, preceded by a reading of the message of CENCO published in November. It is also recommended, as from December 14, to ring the bells every Thursday at 9pm for 15 minutes.<br />The Lay Coordination Committee has once again given President Kabila an ultimatum, urging him to publicly declare that he will not run as candidate and to apply the New Year's Eve agreements. <br />Tue, 12 Dec 2017 15:15:48 +0100ASIA/JORDAN - The Heads of Churches: "silent procession" against the US decision on Jerusalem - Bishops and Heads of Churches present in the Hascemite Kingdom of Jordan have invited their fellow citizens to take part in a silent procession with candles to publicly express the common disapproval of the decision taken by the US Administration of America to transfer its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The procession will start on Wednesday, December 13, 2017 at 6pm from the Greek Orthodox Cathedral to the Catholic church dedicated to Mary of Nazareth. During the procession, all the church bells scattered on the territory of the Kingdom will ring simultaneously.<br />In recent days, the Bishops and Heads of Churches and Christian communities present in the Hascemite Kingdom had already signed a letter to deplore the US decision on Jerusalem. «This decision», the leaders of the Christian communities present in Jordan had underlined in that common pronouncement "reveals the factionalism of the US, and their inadequacy of being honest sponsors of the peace process". The Bishops of the Hascemite Kingdom also recalled the positions advocated in international forums by King Abdallah II of Jordan, who continues to claim the role of "custodian" of the Muslim and Christian Holy Places of Jerusalem. <br />Tue, 12 Dec 2017 13:38:38 +0100