Fides News - English Agency NewsenContent on this site is licensed under aASIA/MONGOLIA - Appointment of the Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar City - The Holy Father has appointed Father Giorgio Marengo, IMC, currently regional councilor of Asia, Superior for Mongolia and parish priest of Mary Mother of Mercy in Arvaiheer, as Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar , assigning him the titular see of Castra Severiana<br />Fr. Giorgio Marengo, I.M.C., was born on June 7, 1974 in Cuneo, Italy. From 1993 to 1995 he studied Philosophy at the Theological Faculty of Northern Italy and from 1995 to 1998 Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University . From 2000 to 2006 he completed further studies at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, obtaining his Licentiate and Doctorate in Missionology. He was ordained a priest on May 26, 2001.<br />Since his priestly ordination he has held the following roles: Pastoral Ministry in Mongolia in Arvaiheer ; since 2003: Assigned to the Mission in Mongolia ; since 2016: Regional Councilor for Asia, Superior for Mongolia and parish priest of Mary Mother of Mercy in Arvaiheer. <br />Thu, 02 Apr 2020 13:13:50 +0200AFRICA/NIGERIA - Elevation of the Apostolic Vicariate of Kontagora to Diocese and appointment of the first Bishop City - The Holy Father Francis elevated the Apostolic Vicariate of Kontangora to Diocese, with the same denomination and territorial configuration, making it suffragan of the Metropolitan See of Kaduna. The Pope has appointed His Exc. Mgr. Bulus Dauwa Yohanna, currently Apostolic Vicar of the same see, as first Bishop of the Diocese of Kontagora.<br />The Diocese of Kontagora with an area of 46,000 sq km is located in north-central Nigeria and includes the States of Niger and Kebbi. The Apostolic Vicariate was led by the Fathers of the Society of African Missions . The seat of the new Diocese is the same, as well as the Cathedral , the residence of the Bishop and chancellery. <br />Thu, 02 Apr 2020 13:08:31 +0200ASIA/CAMBODIA - Covid-19, Catholics nurture faith with "spiritual communion" Penh - As Holy Week approaches, Catholics in Cambodia continue to stay at home, given the Covid-19 emergency and, given the suspension of religious services following the epidemic, nurture their faith with "spiritual communion".<br />The Cambodian government has also banned all public meetings, has imposed the closure of businesses and closed schools, imposing a "community quarantine". There are over a thousand infections in the country, with 17 deaths.<br />The leaders of Cambodia's Catholic communities have invited the faithful to stay home and participate in religious activities via online streaming. As Fides learns, many lay Catholics are promoting their faith through prayers, reading the Bible, parying the Rosary and other forms of devotion at home. "We are in an emergency situation. Since we are told to stay home, we cannot do anything other than carry out some domestic worship activities and maintain our faith and trust. We are in spiritual communion with our Priests and with other members of the community", says 23-year-old Catholic social worker Hun Sophea. "We continue to pray intensively for these extraordinary times to end soon", she added.<br />Another lay person, Kim Chea, tells Fides: "Like everyone else, we are blocked at home, but above all many poor people are affected. Furthermore, it is so bad that we cannot attend masses, especially during Holy Week. Depending on the situation, we are united with the universal church and pray hard that the world will overcome this pandemic with the grace of God".<br />According to Catholic lay woman Khieu Yi, "we pray the family rosary and recite morning and evening prayers. Now is the time to value our faith more than before".<br />With the lockdown, the woman said, "the poor are seriously affected, as thousands of people in Cambodia live by the day". <br />Thu, 02 Apr 2020 13:04:49 +0200EUROPE/ITALY - Lebanese San Charbel "co-patron" of a large trade fair and exhibition center in the Italian city of Milan for Covid-19 patients - Lebanese Saint Charbel, together with the Lombard San Riccardo Pampuri, will be co-patron of the new hospital set up in record time in the building of a large trade fair and exhibition center in the Italian city of Milan to host patients affected by the coronavirus epidemic. On Monday, March 30, during the blessing rite of the new health facility, the Archbishop of Milan, Mario Delpini, entrusted "this place of care and hope to the intercession of the saint doctor Friar Riccardo Pampuri and the holy Lebanese thaumaturge Friar Charbel Makhluf". Archbishop Delpini also addressed "Mary, mother of the sick, our prayer to obtain the divine blessing on this hospital, on those who designed and set it up, on the sick who will be welcomed there and on those who will do their utmost to serve".<br />Riccardo Pampuri the young doctor from Trivolzio who entered the Fatebenefratelli family, is a dear and familiar saint for many Lombard Catholics. And Lebanese priest Assaad Saad, at the head of the church of Santa Maria della Sanità in via Durini, entrusted to the Maronite community, reports to Agenzia Fides that "even before the pandemic many sick people came to Milan from southern Italy for cancer treatment. They asked to venerate the saint's relics before entering the hospital".<br />The mortal remains of San Charbel, a monk of the Lebanese Maronite Order, are venerated in Lebanon in the monastery of San Marone in Annaya, kept in a cedar urn. Countless healings, bodily and spiritually, of Christian and Muslim people are connected to the intercession of Saint Charbel, in Lebanon and throughout the world. The prodigious phenomena began to occur post mortem among those who prayed around the monk's tomb, which at that time oozed blood mixed with water. "The pandemic crisis is global", remarked Father Assaad - and perhaps the facto f having both Lebanese Charbel and Lombard Pampuri as patrons of the new hospital for coronavirus patients suggests that there is a universal horizon also in the intercession of saints, much need now". <br />Thu, 02 Apr 2020 12:46:07 +0200AFRICA/MALAWI - Covid-19: no case of infection, but preventive measures in the archdiocese of Blantyre - "Here in Blantyre, so far, there has been no case of infection verified and it would be a great grace if there were none in the future", writes to Agenzia Fides missionary Anna Tomasi of the Franciscans Auxiliary Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception who deal in particular with health, education, assistance in prisons.<br />"However, the coronavirus emergency - remarks the religious - is on everyone's lips here too. Covid-19 has changed the Missionary Childhood programs of our Archdiocese in Blantyre. A meeting of all the children was scheduled on March 29 and 30 in the parish of Phalombe, together with our Archbishop, Mgr. Thomas Luke Msusa, to visit the sick of the diocesan hospital 'Holy Family' and bring gifts, especially to the children. This initiative had to be canceled with great regret on behalf of the children who were already looking forward to the joy of a journey and their charitable service together with the Archbishop, who is always present at their gatherings".<br />"Since 20 March the government has given the order to close all schools, universities and colleges - continues Anna, engaged in Malawi for 17 years with the F.A.L.M.I. community. Malawians returning from other countries go directly into quarantine and entry to non-residents is prohibited".<br />The nun continues: "As for normal life, the only differences are that in front of all the shops, offices, banks, churches there are buckets with a tap and soap to wash your hands. You can still gather in parishes, but in groups of less than 100 people. While to encourage the participation of the most faithful in the Holy Masses the number can increase".<br />Sister Anna also says that in prisons they have forbidden entry to groups, but the relatives of the detainees go to bring food, respecting hand washing and distance. The government is also proceeding with the release of a number of detainees. 200 were released yesterday 1 April from the prison of Chichiri. We pray for everyone and we trust that this pandemic will end soon and give us the joy of resuming normal life with a new mind and heart", concludes the missionary. <br />Thu, 02 Apr 2020 12:14:50 +0200ASIA/PAKISTAN - Prevention is better than cure: Caritas's commitment to fight coronavirus : "Prevention is better than cure. At this stage it is very important to share accurate and authentic information with people, to avoid the circulation of rumors and false information. Caritas Pakistan is continuing to sensitize people on measures necessary to be adopted so as not to be infected by coronavirus", says Amjad Gulzar, Executive Secretary of Caritas Pakistan to Agenzia Fides. The organization, reports Gulzar, "is promoting the guidelines offered by the World Health Organization and the government of Pakistan and promoting an information and awareness campaign especially in the communities and villages of rural areas and more distant from cities".<br />After the total lockdown imposed in the country, Caritas is now using mass media as a tool to promote people's awareness of the necessary measures to be taken in the pandemic. In the days leading up to the lockdown, training seminars were also organized in different provinces, while thousands of posters and leaflets were distributed in various cities of Pakistan to inform about the disease.<br />Mansha Noor, Caritas executive Secretary of the archdiocese of Karachi told Fides: "We are working to protect people from this disease to help them protect themselves, their loved ones and the community. We are also convincing people to follow the instructions to stay safe. Our volunteers trained in the archdiocese of Karachi will play a vital role in avoiding panic, in following the instructions to reduce the spread of covid-19". Noor continues: "We encourage people to wash their hands, take care of their hygiene and use alcohol-based disinfectants, to wear masks", all instructions also contained in a video message created and distributed by Caritas Karachi.<br />In other Pakistani dioceses as well, the awareness campaign for Caritas volunteers continues, aimed above all at the poorest sections of the population, who are the most exposed and vulnerable to contagion. <br />Thu, 02 Apr 2020 11:55:35 +0200AFRICA/GUINEA BISSAU - The Church makes its structures available to combat COVID-19 - The Catholic Church of Guinea-Bissau is ready to make its health facilities available to national authorities in the context of the fight against COVID-19. This is what emerged from yesterday's meeting, April 1 held in the Diocesan Curia of Bissau between the Secretary General of Caritas Guinea-Bissau and a government delegation, composed of the ministers of health, economy and the coordinator of the inter-ministerial commission.<br />Ms Maria de Fátima Gomes, Secretary General of Caritas Guinea Bissau, said that His Exc. Mgr. Camnate Na Bissign, Bishop of Bissau, offered the support of the Church and thanked the government for the trust.<br />"The government can be sure that we will cooperate in case of need, through our hospitals where we already have an emergency plan", said the head of Caritas.<br />Regarding the uncertainties related to the increase or not of cases of infection in the Country, the General Secretary of Caritas Guinea says that precautions have already been taken, which necessarily include the "stock" of medicines and basic foods to possibly support families in need.<br />"Caritas is preparing help for the most needy families in case the situation gets worse, and we will do it through surveys that will be carried out through our structures in the parishes and we will take the government's request seriously because the role of the church is to serve", she said.<br />It should be stressed that support will also be extended to the various health centers in the Country.<br />Caritas Guinea-Bissau conducted a national awareness campaign through its parish structures, distributed posters on how to prevent coronavirus and offered bleach to the most needy.<br />Meanwhile, Guinea-Bissau health authorities announced on April 1 that the number of coronavirus-infected people in the Country has increased to nine, based on test results obtained in the past 24 hours. The new patient, who joins the eight already known cases, is a 23-year-old Guinean citizen who returned from Senegal where he is studying on March 10. <br />Thu, 02 Apr 2020 11:37:59 +0200AMERICA/CHILE - Religious congregations and dioceses provide homes and spaces for coronavirus patients - "Chile and the world are experiencing a serious health reality. The global spread of Covid-19 has caused a painful number of victims and highlighted the needs and shortcomings of the various health systems. This is a problem that affects everyone and everyone can contribute so that this virus, which affects many brothers and sisters, does not continue to expand. We invite female and male congregations who have retreat houses and who believe they can make them available to the State, to send the list to the Ministry of Health and will be contacted to discuss the conditions of use". This is the request that Father Héctor Campos, OFM Cap., President of Conferre and Sister Sara Romero MSsR, Executive Secretary, addressed to the Superiors of religious institutes, to members of the executive council, to coordinators of Chilean departments, commissions and diocesan centers.<br />According to the news sent to Fides, the Episcopal Conference will establish dialogue with the mayors and provincial directors of Health. According to the Ministry of Health, 2,738 positive coronavirus cases and 12 deaths were recorded on March 30 in Chile. In response to Conferre's appeal, the congregations that have made their homes available for the treatment of patients with Covid 19, in various Chilean locations, are: Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Clerics of San Viatore, Company of Jesus, Mercedari Missionaries, Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, Salesian Congregation, Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, Marist Brothers, Friars Minor . <br />The Archbishopric of Santiago has added 15 new ecclesial spaces to face the health crisis and to welcome the sick and people who live on the streets. To the four houses already offered to the authorities last week, the Archbishopric added two of its institutional buildings and thirteen parish infrastructures, to collaborate with the government in the prevention and control of the crisis caused by the pandemic.<br />With an online blessing prayer, the Archbishop of Santiago, Mgr. Celestino Aós, also inaugurated the "We are with you" telephone service and video calls which wants to listen and accompany people in the perspective of faith - not just Christians - who are going through difficult times because of the emergency caused by the coronavirus. <br />Thu, 02 Apr 2020 11:23:40 +0200AMERICA/COLOMBIA - Missionary Childhood: family prayer to stop the pandemic - Sister Celina Mota Sánchez, diocesan director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of the Apostolic Vicariate of Leticia, Colombia, explains to Fides the pastoral and humanitarian initiatives taken since the government's provisions for the pandemic have been in place due to Covid-19. She is in the city of Leticia, where she is under quarantine in the house of the Vincentian nuns.<br />Sister Celina underlines an important thing: as a Church everyone has moine forces to support the faithful from a spiritual point of view, "together with priests, men and women religious, parents, teachers and children of missionary childhood and adolescence, family prayer has intensified with the children of the MCA since the news of the pandemic. The mysteries of the Holy Rosary are sent to them in audio, so that families pray the Holy Rosary every day. The prayer of the blood of Christ and drawings are also sent, so that children can color them and always have God in mind, have a means of personal communication with him".<br />The priests - the religious continues - broadcast the Eucharistic celebrations in the churches from a police radio station, at 7 am, every day. The parish priest of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace sends the Gospel in audio every day through WhatsApp so that people can listen to it and meditate as a family. "Thanks to the police, controls have been intensified, because this is a border territory where foreigners come and go, but now the situation is under control, and border have been closed. So far there is no positive case of covid-19". <br />The testimony of the religious is just one of many that show how the Church in Colombia is experiencing this situation of crisis together with the population. <br />Thu, 02 Apr 2020 11:06:04 +0200AFRICA/BURKINA FASO - Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo tests positive for coronavirus; cases are increasing in Africa - Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo of Burkina Faso has tested positive for the coronavirus. The Cardinal himself announced it through a note from the Vicar General, Fr. Alfred Ouédraogo "We want to inform you that we received the results of the test from the Archbishop. The test is positive and His Eminence has been transferred to the former Les Genêts clinic", says the note. "The Cardinal asked to forward the information to the people of God. He asked to remain united in prayer for him, for all the other sick people and for those who take care of them", he added.<br />Cardinal Ouédraogo had been tested on the night of March 27-28 before going into self-isolation pending the results. Previously also His Exc. Mgr. Séraphin François Rouamba, Archbishop emeritus of Koupèla, had tested positive for Covid-19.<br />Burkina Faso has the largest documented coronavirus outbreak in West Africa, with 261 documented cases as of March 31, 32 recovered and 14 died. On March 18, the local Episcopal Conference adopted all the necessary measures to contain the coronavirus, according to what established by the civil authorities, suspending, in the whole national territory, all the celebrations and pastoral activities, urging the use of the media for the broadcast of Masses and other religious services.<br />Confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Africa are: South Africa 1,353; Algeria 716; Egypt 710; Morocco 617; Tunisia 394: Burkina Faso 261; Cameroon 209; Ivory Coast 179; Senegal 175; Ghana 161; Mauritius 143; Nigeria 139; DRC 109. <br />Wed, 01 Apr 2020 13:35:44 +0200EUROPE/ITALY - Appeal from Christian associations and communities: Opening of "health corridors" for Iran and the urgent need to stop sanctions – The creation of a "health aid corridor" to bring essential medicines and medical supplies to Iran to combat the Coronavirus epidemic; immediate suspension of the economic sanctions affecting the Country, to allow the supply of all the goods useful to stem the health emergency: are the requests contained in an appeal signed in Italy by associations, Christian communities, individual personalities of culture and acronyms engaged in the protection of rights and humanitarian relief initiatives.<br />The appeal is addressed in particular "to the States least affected by the emergency", and is addressed for information to the Supreme Guide of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, to the President of the European Parliament Davide Sassoli and to the Head of the Italian State, President Sergio Mattarella. "It is well known that Iran, one of the Countries most affected by coronavirus", reads the text of the appeal sent to Agenzia Fides, "is unable to receive the essential medical aid to contain the epidemic, as they are still blocked by international sanctions".<br />The appeal stresses that access to medicines, medical equipment and treatment "is a fundamental human right enshrined in the United Nations Charter", and that "the International Court of Justice has established that all sanctions that violate the humanitarian activity must be suspended, and the free access of States to safeguards and resources designed to avert health crises and natural disasters must be authorized ". Everyone is asked for "proof of humanity, civilization, brotherhood and even intelligence", also considering the fact that "the epidemic in progress in Iran poses a serious threat not only to the Iranian people, but to all peoples of the region and for all humanity, which cannot be considered risk-free until the Iranian problem is resolved". The pandemic crisis, in fact, is making it clear to everyone that as long as only one outbreak remains active, "nobody will be able to consider themselves safe from the epidemic. It is therefore the moment to implement a strong solidarity and an active brotherhood among peoples".<br />The appeal is signed by the representatives of European Women For Human Rights. Among others, the World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations, the Religions for Peace association, Cipax , the Romanian Fraternity led by Fr Luigi Verdi, the International Association Karol Wojtyla, the Islamic theologian Shahrzad Houshmand Zadeh, Professor Gianfranco Pasquino, the writer Paolo Rumiz, the Tevere Institute, the President of the UCID Catholic Union of Business Leaders) Gianluca Galletti, the writer and photographer Monika Bulay have joined the appeal.<br />In mid-March the letter that Iranian Ayatollah Seyed Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad had addressed to Pope Francis was made known, asking him to intervene to ensure that sanctions against Iran were lifted, especially that concerning medical care. <br />Wed, 01 Apr 2020 13:16:43 +0200AMERICA - On Easter Sunday the consecration of Latin America to Our Lady of Guadalupe, to invoke the end of the pandemic City - The Presidency of the Latin American Episcopal Council , together with the Bishops of Mexico, on Easter Sunday, April 12, will celebrate at 12 noon , the Act of consecration of Latin America and the Caribbean to Our Lady of Guadalupe, "to invoke the end of the pandemic". As the President of CELAM, Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, Archbishop of Trujillo, writes, "the present moment requires us, as Pastors, to see and listen to the afflictions of our peoples, to instill hope by looking at our Mother of Heaven". He therefore invites all the countries of the continent to join, through the media, the celebration to be held in the Mexican National Basilica. At noon on April 12, the bells of all the churches of Latin America and the Caribbean will ring, which will mark the beginning of the prayer of the missionary Rosary, offered for the health of the people of the five continents, followed by the resurrection Easter Mass which will conclude with the act of consecration to Our Lady of Guadalupe. <br />Wed, 01 Apr 2020 12:42:23 +0200ASIA/INDIA - Hospitals and Christian doctors at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus Delhi - "Over 1,000 hospitals and 60,000 beds guaranteed by Christian institutes, hospitals and clinics are ready and equipped to provide medical care to Covid-19 patients. Christian communities in India are strongly and traditionally engaged in social works in the field of education, health care and assistance to the poor and needy": this is what Redemptorist Father Mathew Abraham, president of the Christian Coalition for Health and general director of the Catholic Health Association of India reports to Agenzia Fides .<br />Father Mathew Abraham expressed the coalition's full solidarity with the government to address the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic, noting that "Christians will work in the best possible way for the health and well-being of the nation's people in order to combat the pandemic" .<br />For days, Christian hospitals have re-organized their wards, staff, and health care equipment to address the challenges posed by the disease, and "are already working with local government health officials in this effort against this pandemic". In particular, those situated in remote areas "are preparing handmade masks or plastic coveralls as protective equipment for their health workers", it notes.<br />The coalition unites the health networks managed by various Christian denominations in India, and also makes use of the work of over 1,000 female doctor and about 50,000 Catholic nurse nuns.<br />A month ago, the Coalition launched an online "Help Desk" at its headquarters in Hyderabad to assist people under stress due to the coronavirus crisis, available on the website or <br /><br />Wed, 01 Apr 2020 12:36:19 +0200AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA - Resignation of the Archbishop of Bloemfontein and appointment of the new Archbishop City - The Holy Father accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Bloemfontein , presented by His Exc .Mgr. Jabulani Adatus Nxumalo, O.M.I. <br />At the same time he appointed Archbishop of the same Metropolitan See His Exc. Mgr. Zolile Peter Mpambani, S.C.J., currently Bishop of the Diocese of Kokstad.<br />His Exc. Mgr. Zolile Peter Mpambani, S.C.I., was born on February 20, 1957, in Umlamli in the diocese of Aliwal. He made his religious profession in the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on January 28, 1982. He studied Philosophy and Theology at the St. Joseph Major Seminary, in Cedara. He was ordained a priest on April 25, 1987.<br />Since his ordination he has carried out the following roles: 1987-1990: Parish vicar in the parish of Sterkspruit; 1990-1993: parish priest in Burgerdorp; 1994-1997: Master of the pre-novitiate of the S.C.I Province; 1998-2003: General Councilor for Africa and Madagascar of the Central Government of his Institute, in Rome; 2004-2005: Sabbatical Year; 2005-2010: Master of the pre-novitiate, Local Superior of the Community in Bethulie and Director of the Dehonian House, in Scottsville ; 2011-2013: Ministry in the parish of Sterkspruit, in the diocese of Aliwal; From February to May 2013: Provincial Superior in the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of South Africa.<br />Appointed Bishop of Kokstad on May 6, 2013, he received the Episcopal Consecration on August 3. He holds the Office for formation, life and apostolate of the laity within the Episcopal Conference of Southern Africa. <br />Wed, 01 Apr 2020 12:23:15 +0200AMERICA/COLOMBIA - "Hope and support" of the Episcopate for the one-month humanitarian truce of ELN - "A hope of relief for the Colombian people, especially for those who suffer the consequences of the armed conflict more severely": with these words the Bishops of Colombia accepted the announcement of a one-month unilateral ceasefire, from April 1, of the National Liberation Army , for humanitarian reasons related to the pandemic.<br />In this hour of trial and great suffering for all Colombians, the Bishops call on "all illegal armed organizations to stop all attacks, acts of violence, kidnappings, threats and extortions, including verbal violence".<br />"We join the urgent appeal of Pope Francis and the appeal of the Secretary General of the United Nations saying that the current health and social emergency requires stopping the dynamics of violence, in order to encourage humanitarian aid and the care of those who are in the most serious conditions of vulnerability. We extend this request for violence to end in families, since they are the first space in which the peace of society is cultivated".<br />In the declaration sent to Agenzia Fides, signed by the President, Vice-President and Secretary General of the Colombian Episcopal Conference, considering the current situation, we invite you to adopt the necessary changes for the common good, to overcome the difficulties "with responsibility , dialogue and unity of the nation". The Bishops conclude by expressing encouragement and support to the national government, so that it continues to work in order to create "spaces and scenarios for dialogue to continue the process of reconciliation, unity and peace in the country, with the support and commitment of all citizens". <br />Wed, 01 Apr 2020 12:10:27 +0200VATICAN - Cardinal Tagle for global truce: Covid-19 emergency "can be an occasion for peace and reconciliation" City - "The appeal of the Secretary General of the United Nations for a global ceasefire is needed and opportune. That Pope Francis supported and repeated it makes the appeal truly prophetic. The COVID 19 emergency is called a ‘pandemia’, meaning, it affects all peoples and all nations. It therefore demands that all peoples and nations respond together to protect our common human family and ‘common home’. <br />The COVID 19 emergency urges all of us to help save lives. Our common foe is the infection, not other human beings. The proposed ceasefire reminds us that we must be protecting each other, not killing each other. And we hope that when the pandemic is over , that the ceasefire would continue as a way of life". <br />This is what Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said to Agenzia Fides, expressing full support regarding the appeal for global ceasefire, while the world faces the coronavirus pandemic.<br />"Every crisis situation - Cardinal Tagle argues - can become a kairòs, depending on the meaning that we see, the calling that we hear, and the action that we take. The present crisis has revealed many disturbing things to us. It is shameful that some countries have large reserves of weapons but lack medicines, masks and protective equipment. It is scandalous that a big portion of national budgets goes to arms but very little to efforts towards dialogue and reconciliation. It is unbelievable that some people in authority use the emergency for political and ethnic bashing, when the virus does not choose races and political persuasions. <br />This crisis could become an occasion for peace and reconciliation if we, as one human family, have the humility to accept the folly of discrimination, prejudice, domination and violence and also the humility to choose acceptance, respect, compassion, service and peace".<br />Finally, the Prefect of the Missionary Dicastery thinks of all the populations who today in Asia, Africa and Latin America live in situations of violence, conflict, war: "It is not easy to say anything to people who suffer. Sometimes, silent presence speaks more to them. But I still want to say that the Church invites the victims of conflicts and wars especially in the poorer parts of the world to continue longing for and dreaming of peace. We Christians believe Jesus´ promise to be with us always as God´s peace, love and life. He is our hope. The Church invites all Christians and people of good will to promote peace through little and simple acts of caring or by a compassionate presence. To the tired and weary victims of wars I would like to say that their tears, pains and hopes will not be wasted. In God´s hands, the poor will re-educate consciences and re-direct human history ". <br />Wed, 01 Apr 2020 11:36:43 +0200AMERICA/VENEZUELA - Bishops: "concrete and immediate solutions" for problems aggravated by the pandemic - The Bishops gathered in the Episcopal Conference of Venezuela , have raised their voices in this time of world health emergency, expressing their concern about the serious situation that the country has already been experiencing for some time, in a document sent also to Agenzia Fides.<br />The Bishops declare: "It is no secret that today, in our country, many live in poverty; there is food, medicine shortage as well as other goods which are absolutely necessary for a healthy coexistence and for the functioning of the country . This situation is making Venezuelans suffer, especially the poorest, and poses an imminent danger of social violent explosions. National and local authorities have to deal with this before the situation further aggravates, with the consequences that no one would like to have and see. The national executive should not manage the situation only from a military and police perspective".<br />The Bishops therefore strongly emphasize: "What is urgent is special participation, the advice of qualified medical and scientific personnel, whatever their social and political status is. The Church has always suggested a participation of society to solve the serious problems of which Venezuela suffers".<br />The statement continues: "In order to solve the economic, political, administrative and social problems that already exist and that are now exacerbated by the pandemic quarantine, it is necessary that all the factors that interact in national life , start to dialogue. In this way, they can reach concrete and immediate solutions to face these problems, and even more during this health, economic and social emergency".<br />The text ends with an invitation to national unity and thanks the priests and ministers of the Church, together with the religious who accompany the suffering people. Finally, the Bishops ask for the blessing of Our Lady of Coromoto, patroness of Venezuela, for the health of the country. The document is signed by the Presidency of CEV. <br />Wed, 01 Apr 2020 11:22:29 +0200EUROPE/ITALY - Covid-19: even more dramatic situation for those living in war zones - "Concerns are growing for communities living in war zones around the world, where access to basic health care is scarce and insufficient. The displaced people in these areas already suffer from the lack of drinking water, food and health services", underlines the Grand Hospitallier of the Order of Malta, Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel, in a note sent to Agenzia Fides, who asks for an answer to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in regions where medical systems are unable to cope with normal needs.<br />Present in many areas of conflict, from the Middle East to sub-Saharan Africa, the Order of Malta points out that 25 African countries have already reported Covid-19 cases. The Order, which has many ongoing medical activities in about 30 African countries, is providing protective equipment to its medical teams so that they can continue to work at the service of local communities.<br />Father Gérard, founder and president of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gerardo, in Mandeni in South Africa, one of the poorest areas in the world, warns of a possible tsunami. Out of 59 million inhabitants and the number of sick people is, at the moment, still low, but "we are facing a huge danger, our healthcare facilities are not capable of facing a similar situation, and the virus is spreading rapidly in the Country". According to the forecasts of the Minister of Health, 60-70% of the South African population will be infected with the virus.<br />Concerns are also multiplying about a possible Coronavirus outbreak in Syria, which has now entered the tenth year of the war. In the northwestern province of Idlib alone, nearly one million people have fled their homes in the past year due to continuing violence. Many live in overcrowded settlements, where hygiene and sanitation conditions are very poor. "The situation in Northwest Syria was already very fragile before the Coronavirus epidemic, now with almost one million new internally displaced persons on the move, a rapid spread of the virus would have consequences beyond imagination. The health system is not able to deal with the consequences of war", says Janine Janine Lietmeyer, Middle East Team Leader of Malteser International, the Order of Malta's international relief agency.<br />The concerns also apply to other countries that are experiencing humanitarian crises due to civil wars, poverty and political unrest. Jelena Kaifenheim, regional manager of Malteser International for the Americas, says: "Severe quarantine measures in Colombia have created additional needs. The situation it is now dramatic, especially for Venezuelan refugees and local populations, who survive with humble jobs and who are now struggling to feed themselves". Most of them do not have access to water, soap, health services and do not have the basic conditions to comply with the quarantine rules. <br />Tue, 31 Mar 2020 14:05:27 +0200AFRICA/DR CONGO - Cardinal Ambongo criticizes the postponement of the blockade in Kinshasa: "One must not play with people's lives" - "In the face of the serious dangers posed to our Country by the coronavirus, the President of the Republic has taken preventive measures. In applying these measures, the governor of the province of Kinshasa had decided an intermittent blockade that should have entered in force today", said Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, Archbishop of Kinshasa, during a press conference in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo held on March 28. “Last night , however, we learned that these measures have been postponed. This leaves people in complete uncertainty", said the Cardinal who warned "not to play with the life of our people, because life is sacred".<br />The governor of Kinshasa, Gentiny Ngobila, announced that the capital would go into "total lockdown" for three weeks starting from March 28, due to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic. But on March 27, the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo announced that the three week lockdown will be postponed with immediate effect due to the fear of speculation on the prices of basic necessities and for the fear of the increase regarding insecurity in the city.<br />On March 23, President Félix Tshisekedi declared a state of emergency with immediate effect, closing the country's borders, prohibiting the movement of people, entering and leaving, but authorizing the entry of goods transported by truck, ship and cargo aircraft.<br />Cardinal Ambongo said he was in favor of a total blockade: "In our opinion, only a total blockade is able to slow down the spread of this terrible epidemic". "However - he added - in order for this total blockade to be truly effective, it must be accompanied by emergency humanitarian measures, that is, make basic food available to the least privileged, provide free water and electricity and fight speculation on prices". The Democratic Republic of Congo has at least 58 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 5 reported deaths. <br /><br />Tue, 31 Mar 2020 13:53:05 +0200ASIA/MIDDLE EAST - Pandemic crisis, Pax Christi urges Trump: to suspend sanctions against Iran, Syria and Gaza - The pandemic crisis caused by the coronavirus makes it even more urgent and necessary to suspend the economic sanctions imposed by the US Administration against Iran, Syria and the Gaza Strip, which contribute to sow suffering and poverty among the populations in those areas. This is the appeal launched by Pax Christi International in an open letter addressed directly to US President Donald Trump, made known on Monday 30 March.<br />The Catholic organization, with its headquarters in Brussels, points out in its message that these regions affected by US economic sanctions are already suffering desperate shortages of food, clean water and medical supplies and if sanctions continue the impact of the pandemic will be devastating.<br />"As an international Catholic network with 120 member organizations around the world, we are hearing directly from our partners that daily life for people was already tenuous for many in places such as Iran, Syria, and Gaza and these realities have only become more difficult as a result of COVID-19".<br />Pax Christi asks Trump to ease and suspend sanctions that negatively impact civilian populations and other restrictions that impair governments' abilities to respond to the health crisis. <br />The US President , on Friday 20 March, joined Vice-President Mike Pence at a "prayer conference call" organized by 700 evangelical pastors to invoke the strength to overcome the coronavirus epidemic.<br />The punitive measures imposed by U.S. sanctions against the governments of those areas - Pax Christi's appeal points out - also include financial sanctions that seriously affect the ability of countries to import supplies and medical equipment necessary to deal with the consequences of the pandemic.<br />The document sent by Pax Christi also goes into the specifics of individual emergency situations. Regarding Iran, it is recalled that the coronavirus epidemic has already had "a devastating effect" in the Country. Long preceding the current crisis, sanctions have caused a shortage of medicines, medical supplies and equipment in Iran.<br />It is recognized that some steps have already been taken, including allowing humanitarian trade with the Central Bank of Iran. But US sanctions are so sweeping that they impact Iran's entire economy, have made banks unwilling to carry out humanitarian transactions, and make it difficult for other countries to carry out transactions without triggering secondary sanctions.<br />As regards to Syria, reference is made to the "potential" consequences that the epidemic could have in a Country where 11 million inhabitants need humanitarian assistance to survive. And where the imposition of radical sanctions makes the purchase of medicines and medical supplies difficult, in a country where even the health system has been devastated by years of conflict. In Gaza - reports Pax Christi - the strict Israeli blockade of Gaza has already made conditions "unlivable" for the residents of Gaza, apart from COVID-19. The UN and other international agencies have repeatedly called attention to shortages of key medicines and medical supplies.<br />Population density, broken water and sanitation systems, and a under resourced medical system leave Gaza vulnerable to an uncontrolled COVID-19 outbreak that could also negatively impact Israel. The US should immediately press Israel to ensure that medical supplies and technology are provided to Gaza, that patients needing treatment outside of Gaza are given the permits necessary for extended periods of treatment, and that family members, especially parents accompanying children, are also granted permits to travel.<br />Pax Christi's message, signed by all leaders - starting from President Marc Stenger, bishop of Troyes -, by members of the International Council and by national groups , ends with the promise to pray for wisdom and the compassion of President Trump, "in these difficult times." .<br />Tue, 31 Mar 2020 13:35:49 +0200