Fides News - Englishhttp://www.fides.org/Fides Agency NewsenContent on this site is licensed under aASIA/THAILAND - A missionary: "At Christmas the 'low profile' of Jesus, beyond the power of numbers"http://www.fides.org/en/news/65282-ASIA_THAILAND_A_missionary_At_Christmas_the_low_profile_of_Jesus_beyond_the_power_of_numbershttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65282-ASIA_THAILAND_A_missionary_At_Christmas_the_low_profile_of_Jesus_beyond_the_power_of_numbersLamphun - "In 2003, a minister from Thailand bought a 100 thousand euro car. In reality the car was worth 10 thousand but had the plate 'NG 9999'. Anyone here would pay out stratospheric figures for a telephone number or a lottery ticket with many 9. Here we choose the wedding dates or festive events that fall on the 9th, better if in August ". This is what Don Attilio de Battisti, fidei donum missionary in Lamphun, in the diocese of Chiang Mai, says to Agenzia Fides on the occasion of the upcoming Christmas celebration.<br />Speaking about the phenomenon, Don Attilio explains that in Thailand "many Buddhist rites, parades or civil ceremonies start at 9.09. The 9-level parasol above the temples indicates a temple of royal rank. The banknotes whose serial number has so many 9 is worth ten, twenty times its value. 9 is the most present number in tattoos. Covers, clothes, everyday objects have the much-loved number. Even the prices of many things are 99 or 999 Bath, and this is not because it seems less expensive but because 9 is considered a lucky number. The Thai pronunciation of 9 sounds like the word 'progress'. As for the numbers, the Thais are very careful. Not just 9 but also other combinations. Yet it is not that around the world people are less superstitious: in China 4 is often substituted with 3A, while 8 means 'prosperity' so much that the Olympic Games in Beijing, began on 8/8/2008 at 08:08:08"<br />"Numbers have also become fundamental to classify people: how many 'followers' do you have on social networks? How many views does your video have? How many 'likes' did you receive? How many contacts do you have? Everything is counted and the validity or goodness of a thing is measured by numbers", the missionary adds.<br />"Even in religion - notes Don de Battisti - we weigh the proposals or initiatives starting from the figures. Are we many or are we few? More anniversaries are celebrated: 60 years since the Council, 50 years since its foundation, 100 years since the publication of the document. For three years the Church in Thailand has prepared the 350th anniversary of the establishment of the 'Mission of Siam', the first officialization of local Christianity . For our diocese of Chiang Mai, 2019 will be the 60th anniversary of the diocese".<br />"Christmas, on the contrary, recalls the low profile that Jesus chooses. Few 'followers', a few close friends, little visibility, little numerical gratification, little importance to calculations. A real failure if we think of numbers but a very powerful message of method. Jesus scales down the influence of numbers in our choices and at the same time trains us to humility and discretion", concludes Don Attilio. <br /><br />Tue, 18 Dec 2018 13:20:57 +0100AFRICA/CENTRAL AFRICA - Five priests killed in 2018, "but Central African priests do not run away because they are not mercenaries"http://www.fides.org/en/news/65279-AFRICA_CENTRAL_AFRICA_Five_priests_killed_in_2018_but_Central_African_priests_do_not_run_away_because_they_are_not_mercenarieshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65279-AFRICA_CENTRAL_AFRICA_Five_priests_killed_in_2018_but_Central_African_priests_do_not_run_away_because_they_are_not_mercenariesBangui - "Central Africa seems to have become entangled in an inextricable tangle of foreign interference, non-fulfillment of the international community and inability of the local government" writes to Agenzia Fides Fr. Federico Trinchero, a Carmelite missionary who works in the Carmelo of Bangui. "The confessional element only makes the cocktail even more deadly" the missionary underlines, recalling the massacre on November 15th in Alindao, in a displaced camp near the Cathedral . "The massacre occurred in front of the inertia of the UN contingent that has the mandate to protect civilians", denounces Fr. Federico. "Among the victims, in addition to women, children and elderly people, there are also two priests: Fr. Célestin and Fr. Blaise. The courage of the young Bishop of Alindao, His Exc. Mgr. Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa, prevented the toll from being even heavier. Instead of welcoming people, who wanted to find refuge inside the Cathedral, he ordered everyone to flee to the savannah. If the Christians had not obeyed him, the number of dead would have been even higher. The Bishop, however, and some priests decided to remain", emphasizes Fr. Federico.<br />"A few days after the events, we participated in a meeting of priests in Bangui. Fr. Donald is present, who had just arrived from Alindao. "For some weeks Fr. Donald had been sent to help the diocese of Alindao. Donald has not yet had time to learn how to be a priest; but he has already seen two of them die before his eyes".<br />"The students in front of me are the future priests of Central Africa", remarks Fr. Federico. "They saw the war and now they are in the Seminary of Bangui because they want to do the same job as Célestin and Blaise. I ask them if they still want to continue the journey undertaken and if they are aware of the high-risk mission that awaits them. Odilon answers for everyone: "I am scared, mon père. I am so scared. But I will not change my mind. I still want to become a priest. I would like to tell Donald that I am afraid too. But no desire to change jobs".<br />"This 2018, where five priests and dozens of Christians were killed during the celebrations or near their churches, gives us a Church that is still young and fragile, but does not run away from the enemy", concludes Fr. Federico. <br /><br />Tue, 18 Dec 2018 13:00:01 +0100AMERICA/ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA - Appointment of the Bishop of Saint John's Basseterrehttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65283-AMERICA_ANTIGUA_AND_BARBUDA_Appointment_of_the_Bishop_of_Saint_John_s_Basseterrehttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65283-AMERICA_ANTIGUA_AND_BARBUDA_Appointment_of_the_Bishop_of_Saint_John_s_BasseterreVatican City – Today the Holy Father appointed His Exc. Mgr. Robert A. Llanos, currently Auxiliary Bishop of Port of Spain and Apostolic Administrator of Saint John's Basseterre as Bishop of Saint John's Basseterre . <br /><br />Tue, 18 Dec 2018 12:38:25 +0100ASIA/SYRIA - From pain to hope. The Christmas of the monastic community of Deir Mar Musahttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65281-ASIA_SYRIA_From_pain_to_hope_The_Christmas_of_the_monastic_community_of_Deir_Mar_Musahttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65281-ASIA_SYRIA_From_pain_to_hope_The_Christmas_of_the_monastic_community_of_Deir_Mar_MusaNebek - Pain and hope are two words composed in Arabic "from identical letters but with a completely different meaning: two words however closely linked by a bond that manifests itself in a clear and tangible way in prayer and close to God". This is how the "Christmas letter" begins sent in these days to friends, benefactors and acquaintances by the monks and nuns of Deir Mar Musa, the monastic community founded by the Roman Jesuit Paolo Dall'Oglio, who disappeared in Syria at the end of July 2013 while he was in Raqqa, at that time a stronghold of the jihadist groups at war with the governmental army of Assad. The letter begins with the reflections of Sister Houda Fadoul, current head of the community: Sister Houda recalls that "true spiritual consolations come to us from God in moments of prayer", while the possibility of giving a Christian response when we ourselves are struck by pain can only flow from the imitation and companionship of Christ, when we "unite our sorrow with that of our beloved Jesus, offering it to God for a world of justice and peace".<br /><br />In their Christmas letter, the monks and nuns of Mar Mousa trace a brief account of the events and the works that have marked the life of each of them in recent times, in an ecclesial and social context defined as "complex and worrying". In the long community epistle, it is said, among other things, that Father Jacques Murad, the monk kidnapped for some months in 2015 by the jihadists of the Islamic State - "celebrated Holy Week and Easter with Iraqi refugees in Turkey". While friar Jens, in the monastery entrusted to the community in Sulaymaniyah, in Iraqi Kurdistan, "was able to finish the construction of two buildings adjacent to the church, housing the school of languages and professional formation Mali Dangakan in the first building, which attracts "an increasing number of people, because the study of languages helps to find a job and a future in the region". <br />In that monastery - the monks of Deir Mar Musa say - "this year's summer school distinguished itself from the previous because it attracted a large number of children in the region, Muslims and Christians, local citizens and refugees, Kurds, Arabs, Chaldeans and Syrians. For two months, the children experienced together the joy of learning, developing their artistic talents, taking trips and playing under the supervision of qualified teachers under the watchful eye of Father Jens". Meanwhile, Sister Deema "spent most of the year in Mar Musa welcoming, listening and assisting guests, especially the young people who bear the pain of the situation in Syria in their hearts and the hope for a better future". The letter also updates on the path of music schools and children's kindergartens animated by the community, recalling that this year there are 150 children who "grow in our nursery school 'Rawdat al-Qalamoun'. The works supported for the displaced persons of the Syrian city of Qaryatayn hosted in the villages of Zaydal and Fayrouzé are also mentioned: "There were marriages, children were born" the letter reads "and this fact testifies the desire of these families to stay in Syria: and it is precisely what we hope can be achieved, providing them with help in these years".<br />The monks and nuns of Deir Mar Musa, in their Christmas letter, also refer to the story of Father Paolo Dall'Oglio: "The fate of our brother and founding father is still unknown. We multiply our ardent prayers to God for him and for the thousands of people missing due to the Syrian war, of whom families have no news. We have come to know with joy the ongoing doctorates on his theology of Islamic-Christian dialogue, so necessary for our world today". <br /><br /><br /><br />Tue, 18 Dec 2018 12:33:50 +0100AMERICA/MEXICO - Security in Guerrero cannot be entrusted to armed civilians, it is urgent to create a "national police"http://www.fides.org/en/news/65280-AMERICA_MEXICO_Security_in_Guerrero_cannot_be_entrusted_to_armed_civilians_it_is_urgent_to_create_a_national_policehttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65280-AMERICA_MEXICO_Security_in_Guerrero_cannot_be_entrusted_to_armed_civilians_it_is_urgent_to_create_a_national_policeAcapulco - The security in the state of Guerrero cannot be left "in the hands of armed civilians", it is necessary to create a national police that is militarized, to ensure the safety of citizens: the Archbishop of Acapulco, Mgr. Leopoldo González González, supported these statements by Governor Hector Astudillo Flores, after the emergence of the "city police" and self-defense groups on the Costa Grande. This project coincides with what was announced by the new President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador: in order to face the violence in Mexico it is necessary to create the "National Guard", composed of 50,000 elements, besides dividing the Mexican territory among 150 Security Coordinators who will work with the state police .<br />According to information sent to Fides from local sources, Mgr. Leopoldo González González, during a press conference held last Sunday, December 16, said that there is great pain and anxiety among the inhabitants of the various municipalities where the armed groups appeared to defend the security of the cities of the Costa Grande. The establishment of these self-defense groups reveals a climate of insecurity, and people are afraid of carrying out the normal activities of the day.<br />"It is clear that the custody of society cannot be left in the hands of armed civilians, this is the responsibility of the federal, state and municipal government: the solution presented by the governor, together with dialogue, could help all the communities", said the Archbishop.<br />Mgr. Gonzalez Gonzalez considers the formation of a "national police" necessary, it is not enough just to militarize the agents. Local police forces need to be trained to protect the community.<br />The Archbishop's intervention was motivated by the constant safety and violence problems in the area, widely reported by the local press. In fact, the kidnappings and disappearances are increasing in Acapulco, a situation that Bishop Gonzalez Gonzalez described as particularly "painful", because fomented by the impunity that continues to prevail. <br /><br />Tue, 18 Dec 2018 12:00:29 +0100OCEANIA/AUSTRALIA - Mission: One heart Many voices,http://www.fides.org/en/news/65278-OCEANIA_AUSTRALIA_Mission_One_heart_Many_voiceshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65278-OCEANIA_AUSTRALIA_Mission_One_heart_Many_voicesSydney - "Mission: Mission: One heart Many voices" is the title of the missionary conference to be held in Sydney from 13 to 15 May 2019, organized by "Catholic Mission", the National Directorate of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Australia, in preparation for the Extraordinary Missionary Month, announced by the Pope for October 2019.<br />The conference will see the participation of Carol Zinn, executive director of the leadership conference of women religious in the United States, and Bishop Paul Tighe, Secretary for the Pontifical Council for Culture, who will discuss the evolution of technology and the media in the mission. The program includes training courses, workshops and presentations as well as moments of liturgy and prayer.<br />"It is an international event that will emphasize that, despite distance, all of us baptized are united by a common mission: that of giving Christ to the world", says in a statement sent to Agenzia Fides Peter Gates, national Vice Director of Catholic Mission, announcing "the attention regarding themes such as inclusion, encounter and dialogue", but also the use of creative arts and performances of different kinds, which will involve more than 500 delegates from all over Australia.<br />Catholic Mission recalls "the challenge indicated by Pope Francis: every man and every woman is a mission on this earth, this is the reason why we are here in this world". The conference intends to inspire that mission, where every person becomes aware of being "co-creator with God for a better world". <br /><br />Tue, 18 Dec 2018 11:25:49 +0100ASIA/INDONESIA - The diocese of Amboina is committed to interreligious dialogue in the Moluccashttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65277-ASIA_INDONESIA_The_diocese_of_Amboina_is_committed_to_interreligious_dialogue_in_the_Moluccashttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65277-ASIA_INDONESIA_The_diocese_of_Amboina_is_committed_to_interreligious_dialogue_in_the_MoluccasAmbon - Nurturing and promoting inter-religious dialogue is the way to build social harmony and heal the wounds of war: says to Agenzia Fides Bishop Petrus Canisius Mandagi, at the head of the diocese of Amboina, based in Ambon, capital of the Moluka Islands, the Indonesian islands tormented by a civil and religious conflict in the years 1999-2002. Since then "the Church has been committed to strengthening good relations with other faiths in the islands", says to Fides Bishop Mandagi.<br />"Religious harmony is something to be lived with concrete actions", explains Bishop Mandagi. So when Muslims, who are the majority of the population, hold their meetings, Christians help them and support them, and vice versa: this creates bonds of friendship and understanding, he adds.<br />The Bishop usually visits Muslim families "as a sign of goodwill, understanding and brotherhood so that tensions and divisions can be resolved through mutual interaction and sharing", he says.<br />For the Bishop of Amboina, the key to maintaining community harmony is to "make good friendships with everyone, regardless of their religious background". What is important is trust towards one another. We have to work for this day by day, so that all kinds of misunderstandings can be avoided".<br />Today parishes, priests, religious, laity, institutes, associations and schools of the diocese support the efforts of Islamic-Christian dialogue.<br />In January 1999, a quarrel between a Christian and some young Muslims, which broke out in Ambon, was the spark that caused a sectarian conflict which exploded among the faithful of different religions that raged for four years. Hundreds of churches and mosques were destroyed and thousands of houses razed to the ground. At least 5,000 people were killed and half a million were displaced.<br />In mid-February 2002, together with religious and civil leaders, Bishop Mandagi took part in mediation talks held in Malino, in the province of South Sulawesi. The meeting ended with an agreement that ended the conflict.<br />According to the yearbook of the Indonesian Catholic Church, the diocese of Amboina, which includes the provinces of Maluku and North Maluku, has 119.665 Catholics out of a total population of 2.9 million. <br /><br />Tue, 18 Dec 2018 09:59:54 +0100AFRICA/NIGER - Father Gigi Maccalli's Christmas: his mission in Bomoanga has closed, but hope does not diehttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65275-AFRICA_NIGER_Father_Gigi_Maccalli_s_Christmas_his_mission_in_Bomoanga_has_closed_but_hope_does_not_diehttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65275-AFRICA_NIGER_Father_Gigi_Maccalli_s_Christmas_his_mission_in_Bomoanga_has_closed_but_hope_does_not_dieNiamey - Three months have gone by since the kidnapping of Father Pier Luigi Maccalli, a priest of the Society for African Missions, SMA . There is no news on the place where he is held prisoner or on the steps taken to release him. His mission in Bomoanga, in Niger, where he worked for more than 11 years, has been closed: the missionaries and nuns had to take refuge in Niamey, the capital. The few remaining Christians are in despair. How will their Christmas be this year? And how will Father Gigi live it? <br />"Through some writings of Fr. Gigi himself, all of us, his SMA confreres, keep hope alive", writes to Agenzia Fides Fr. Marco Prada, SMA.<br />For the 2013 Christmas celebrations Fr. Gigi wrote: "In the evening, in my mission, I often look at the sky. Today I understand why there are so many bright stars: they are the stars of the innocent. In Niger alone, malnutrition has already caused the death of more than 2,500 children between the month of January and September this year. We must also remember the news of last October: the macabre discovery of 92 bodies of migrants found at about ten kilometers from the border with Algeria. The truck that carried them broke down in the Nigerian desert. The victims were 7 men, 37 women and 48 children. Even then there was a massacre of innocent: Rachel continues to cry her children and does not want to be consoled. <br />In 2014, the abducted missionary said: "This year, Christmas will be in the new church, even if it is still under construction and there are no doors or windows. For now it is more like a stable: goats and sheep take refuge to protect themselves from the sun and the hens lay their eggs in the hidden corners. <br />Christmas 2017 - the last one spent freely in his community - Fr. Gigi urged not to give up hope: "Life is a network of two threads: joys and sorrows. Only the shepherds heard the angels sing in the sky on Christmas night; but many heard the broken sorrow of the women of Bethlehem who mourned the innocent saints. Christmas among tears of joy and sorrow, which merge together in a single embrace, in the river of life. So it is on a mission: an intertwining of experiences and strong emotions that tell the beauty of human adventure, which even God wanted to share and embrace .... but we do not abandon the hope that one day the desert will flourish!" <br /><br />Mon, 17 Dec 2018 13:05:59 +0100AFRICA/DR CONGO - Fears are being accentuated over the vote of the 23rd Decemberhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65273-AFRICA_DR_CONGO_Fears_are_being_accentuated_over_the_vote_of_the_23rd_Decemberhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65273-AFRICA_DR_CONGO_Fears_are_being_accentuated_over_the_vote_of_the_23rd_DecemberKinshasa - The elections of December 23rd in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are at risk, where on December 13th, 8,000 electronic voting machines were destroyed following the fire that broke out in the depot where they were kept in Kinshasa. The equipment was destined to the seats of the 19 municipalities of the Congolese capital.<br />The serious incident on whose nature, accidental or faudulent, is still being examined, is not the only obstacle to the vote of December 23, where 40 million Congolese are expected to elect the Head of State, 500 deputies of the National Parliament and 715 regional deputies spread over 26 local assemblies.<br />In addition to the lack of the delivery of electronic voting machines, there are delays in the distribution of the electoral reports to be filled out, which are printed in South Africa and which still have to arrive in the DRC. Once they arrive in the Country, these materials must be sent to the 75,563 seats, 21,699 polling stations and 179 local centers for the writing of results disseminated on the entire territory of the DRC, whose extension is 2,345,410 km2. A territory very poor in road infrastructure, to the point that the Independent National Electoral Commission must rely on airplanes and helicopters of the Congolese armed forces and on those made available by the UN.<br />The population is eagerly waiting for the vote on December 23rd after the failed elections scheduled for December 20, 2016, the deadline for the second and last term of President Joseph Kabila. The Church has committed itself to creating the conditions for voting, in particular with the agreement signed on December 31, 2016 that allowed the creation of a provisional government that was to bring the DRC to vote.<br />Recently, the Congolese National Episcopal Conference has expressed concern about the serious delays in the organization of the vote , while some Bishops have reiterated that the Church does not support any candidate for the presidential elections. This is the case of His Exc. Mgr. Willy Ngumbi Ngengele, Bishop of Kindu, who during a press conference on December 14th stated: "As Bishops we do not propose any candidate. We allow Christians to choose to make their choice in freedom of mind and conscience". Finally, the Bishop of Kindu emphasized that "the elections are a tool to have a democratic alternation to bring about change". <br /><br />Mon, 17 Dec 2018 12:31:58 +0100EUROPE/SPAIN - The preparation of the Extraordinary Missionary Month beginshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65274-EUROPE_SPAIN_The_preparation_of_the_Extraordinary_Missionary_Month_beginshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65274-EUROPE_SPAIN_The_preparation_of_the_Extraordinary_Missionary_Month_beginsToledo - The second edition of the missionary formation seminar «The joy of the Gospel» has begun, promoted by the diocesan direction of the Pontifical Mission Societies of Spain, which prepares pastoral agents for the celebration of the Extraordinary Missionary Month, announced by Pope Francis for the month of October 2019. The parish of Alameda de la Sagra in Toledo was the first to host the new formative session that serves to discover the aspects of missionary teaching and the basis for celebrating the extraordinary Missionary Month.<br />The theme chosen for the extraordinary missionary month is "Baptized and sent: the Church of Christ on mission in the world" and "intends to regain momentum in the responsibility of proclaiming the Gospel", writes the diocesan Direction of the PMS. <br />With the seminar one wants to renew the missionary commitment in each parish, raising awareness among the pastoral operators.<br />The catechists of Alameda de la Sagra parish, accompanied by the parish priest, Jesús Díaz López, were led by Fernando Redondo to follow the guidelines indicated by Pope Francis to live the Month of October 2019 more intensely: Eucharist, Word of God, personal and community prayer, the testimony of saints, martyrs and confessors of the faith. <br />Toledo is one of the many dioceses of Spain that currently contributes to the 12 thousand Spanish missionaries present in the world. The Spanish missionaries are divided into 132 countries on 5 continents: in America 55%, 30% are in Europe, 9.5% in Africa, 5% in Asia and about 0.5% in Oceania. <br /><br />Mon, 17 Dec 2018 12:49:55 +0100AFRICA/EGYPT - The government of al-Sisi renovates and regulates over 500 churcheshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65272-AFRICA_EGYPT_The_government_of_al_Sisi_renovates_and_regulates_over_500_churcheshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65272-AFRICA_EGYPT_The_government_of_al_Sisi_renovates_and_regulates_over_500_churchesCairo - On the occasion of the inauguration of the national social construction plan in recent days President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi renewed his commitment regarding the renovation of churches destroyed by the "Muslim Brotherhood": a dossier that was neglected by the previous governments. At the same time, the government is working to legalize other Christian holy buildings and is granting permits for the construction of new Coptic churches and institutes.<br />The churches in Egypt have had to initiate restructuring and modernization projects to erase the consequences of the "Muslim Brotherhood" attacks, that have hit holy places since August 2013. On the whole, there have been 90 attacks in various places in the country, mostly in Minya, but also in the regions of Asyut, Fayoum, Giza, Suez, Sohag, Luxor and Beni Suef. The renovation and adaptation of buildings to normative references had begun in the churches in Minya affected by acts of vandalism, but also in social, hospital and educational facilities in Suez, Beni Suef and Giza.<br />The government of al-Sisi paid great attention to the theme of the construction of churches: the bill, approved on August 30 2016, , was the first concerning Christian buildings of worship that, in the past 100 years were built and regulated by a decree dating back to the Ottoman era . The regularization, sanctioned by a new decree signed by Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, ratified the full compatibility of places of worship with the parameters defined by the new legal provisions .<br />In previous statements, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria said that the current government "is healing scars left by deep wounds, considered necessary for the stability of society and to affirm the values of genuine citizenship". <br />Currently 2,500 land registry documents provided by the Coptic Orthodox Church, regarding the identification and architecture of several churches and liturgical halls distributed throughout the country are being examined, where religious rites have been held for years without the necessary authorizations to regularize their position. <br /><br />Mon, 17 Dec 2018 12:01:03 +0100ASIA/INDIA - Acts of vandalism in a Catholic church in Assam: alarm for Christmashttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65271-ASIA_INDIA_Acts_of_vandalism_in_a_Catholic_church_in_Assam_alarm_for_Christmashttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65271-ASIA_INDIA_Acts_of_vandalism_in_a_Catholic_church_in_Assam_alarm_for_ChristmasDibrugarh - "The polarization caused between religious communities is evident. First of all the objectives were foreigners, then Muslims, now Christians. In Uttar Pradesh, in Assam, in northern India, the impunity guaranteed against the violent aggravates the situation: the Catholic Church is weak and poor and therefore defenceless. The secular character of India is at stake": with these words released to Agenzia Fides, John Dayal a journalist and lay Catholic leader comments on the episode of violence that hit the Catholic community in the Indian state of Assam, in northeastern India. <br />On December 15th some vandals entered the complex of the Catholic church of St. Thomas in the village of Chapatoli, in the diocese of Dibrugarh during the night, broke a statue and a Marian monument into pieces, damaging the crucifix and devastating the church.<br />The local community is in turmoil and the police have stopped two suspects. Local politicians have expressed solidarity with the Christian community, promising contributions to repair the damage. Bishop Joseph Aind, at the head of the diocese of Dibrugarh, condemned the attack and requested a thorough investigation. The Bishop said that "some groups try to sow hatred and discord in society", recalling that in the area the faithful of all religions have always coexisted in peace and harmony: "Only external forces with their own interests can introduce such seeds of hatred", he said, asking the government to "guarantee security for Christians, especially during the Christmas season".<br />"There is a constant increase in episodes of vandalism and attacks on Christians and Church property at Christmas", said Abraham Mathai, President of the "Indian Christian Voice" association. Meanwhile, "Waster India", NGO in Mumbai, has submitted a petition to the Supreme Court asking the court to invite the governments of all the Indian states to provide adequate security measures for the upcoming Christmas celebrations. <br /><br />Mon, 17 Dec 2018 11:29:31 +0100ASIA/AFGHANISTAN - Fr. Moretti: Kabul vote invalidated grave step for the future of the countryhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65267-ASIA_AFGHANISTAN_Fr_Moretti_Kabul_vote_invalidated_grave_step_for_the_future_of_the_countryhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65267-ASIA_AFGHANISTAN_Fr_Moretti_Kabul_vote_invalidated_grave_step_for_the_future_of_the_countryKabul - “As yet there are no official positions from the United Nations, or the International Commission , so it is difficult to assess the situation but if the news of invalidity of the Kabul vote were to prove true it would be serious for the future in Afghanistan, which would continue to move in the messy situation as in the past few decades”. Fides was told by Fr Giuseppe Moretti, Barnabite missionary in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan between 1990 and 2015, referring to the decision by the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission to declare invalid the vote in the province of Kabul due to fraud and irregularities in the voting operations in parliamentary elections held 20 October . <br />“It was foreseeable that there would be vote-rigging. If the news is confirmed the situation would be even<br />more serious especially regarding Kabul, the city most controlled. Moreover this would close that chink of hope opened by the latest attempts of peace talks, already provisional says the Barnabit.<br />Regarding the elections, Fr. Moretti says “there are still no official results and probably never will be. Everything is very slow due also to the scarcity of viability and means, which increases difficulties for voters from villages ”. <br />“According to official news the number of voters was higher than expected despite the threat of violence. This underlines the desire for a growing sense of democracy and responsibility. We should not forget that , Afghanistan is formed of thousands of villages where people are cut off from news and many do not even know who is the president”, concludes Fr. Moretti.<br />The election was scheduled for 20 October but was deferred to the 27th in the province of Kandahar after a violent attack on the eve for which the Taliban claimed responsibility, in which the provincial governor and chief of police were both killed. The Afghan people are called to renew the Lower House of Parliament and will return to the voting booths on 19 April for presidential elections. <br />Sat, 15 Dec 2018 17:34:37 +0100AFRICA/KENYA - Uzima Catholic University College excels in medical training for allhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65269-AFRICA_KENYA_Uzima_Catholic_University_College_excels_in_medical_training_for_allhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65269-AFRICA_KENYA_Uzima_Catholic_University_College_excels_in_medical_training_for_allNairobi - “The Catholic University College in Uzima was born of an idea of Emeritus Bishop Zacchaeus Okoth. Moved at the sight of needy suffering people, especially in the region of western Kenya, he decided to collect funds to build a medical centre ” says Fr Cosmas Rhagot K’Otienoh, Rector of Uzima University College, an institution founded in the archdiocese of Kisumu and connected with the Catholic University of West Africa, and has offered courses in medical training since 2012. The first group of medical doctors graduated in October this year.<br />“Our centre is the first of its kind in Africa” says Fr. Rhagot. “On 27 August 2012 it opened to accept the first 21 students. It was a humble beginning offering in degrees in medicine, surgery and nursing ” the Rector recalls. <br />“At the end of the first year we realised the need for other courses and so we added Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Bachelor of Science in Clinical Medicine, divided in two courses: Diploma in Clinical Medicine, a three year course and Bachelor in clinical medicine, four year course. These new courses have increased the number of students anxious to specialise in other fields of medicine. We have also a Degree Course in Community Health and Nutrition”.<br />“At present Uzima College has 603 students following the courses mentioned above. Our goal is to reach a total number of a thousand students and so we have invited AMECEA countries to send us students are interested in a career in medicine here in Uzima College” the rector concluded. <br />The Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa comprises the Catholic Bishops Conferences of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Djibouti and Somalia are affiliated members. <br /><br />Sat, 15 Dec 2018 16:44:25 +0100AFRICA/ANGOLA - The elderly in Africa: Capuchin Centre for abandoned elderly peoplehttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65268-AFRICA_ANGOLA_The_elderly_in_Africa_Capuchin_Centre_for_abandoned_elderly_peoplehttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65268-AFRICA_ANGOLA_The_elderly_in_Africa_Capuchin_Centre_for_abandoned_elderly_people<br />Huambo – The Capuchin friars run a special home for the elderly in Huambo. The home is a village of ten small homes each with three or four old inmates. The villagers have their own piece of land to cultivate and keep pigs, chickens and rabbits. The Home-Village is a safe place where the elderly continue to live as they did in their own villages.<br />The challenge of caring for the elderly is a new issue in Africa and only just beginning. According to recent World Health Organisation report, presented at the 68th session of the Regional Committee in Dakar, Senegal, the health of the people in the 47 countries in Africa is gradually improving. The first consequence has been the prolongation of life expectancy in Africa, in only three years it rose from 50.9 years to 53.8. This is still short compared with the situation in other parts of the world: life expectancy in UE countries 28 is 77.9; in the United States of America 78.4, but Africa has put its right foot forward. The elderly population is starting to grow and this poses difficulties hitherto unknown on this continent.<br />“Until a few years ago –Fides was told by Friar Guido Felicetti a member of Triveneto Capuchin Mission Centre in northern Italy, which sustains the African confreres, the elderly were considered a resource rather than a problem. It was the family that cared for them. Today the situation has changed considerably. Many families move from villages to the cities. The older people prefer to remain in the villages but they are alone”.<br />Unlike in Europe and North America, these people are not eighty years old. “Africans suffer from the lack of assistance, a hard life in the fields, an unbalanced diet – says Fr Guido. So in Angola, as in other parts of Africa, a person of 60 is already considered old. Old people who used to be respected for their wisdom, today are seen as a burden. This negative reflex comes from the West”.<br />A group of old people in Huambo asked the Capuchins for help. So friar Moises Lukondo opened a home for old people in the outskirts of the city. The Home is set on a large area of land where the inmates can work in the fields and keep livestock. “Here – concludes Fr Guido –, the old people feel almost at home. They are visited regularly by the local health services and every year Italian and European volunteers bring them medicines. Thanks to this care, here old people live their last years in serenity”. <br />Sat, 15 Dec 2018 16:13:00 +0100OCEANIA/AUSTRALIA - Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne: “our mission is to minister to Australians who never come to churchhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65266-OCEANIA_AUSTRALIA_Auxiliary_Bishop_of_Melbourne_our_mission_is_to_minister_to_Australians_who_never_come_to_churchhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65266-OCEANIA_AUSTRALIA_Auxiliary_Bishop_of_Melbourne_our_mission_is_to_minister_to_Australians_who_never_come_to_church”<br />Melbourne - “One of the main and most urgent challenges we face in Australia, and it is an urgent mission, is to reach those who claim to be Catholic but do not come to Church ”. Fides was talking with Mark Edwards Auxiliary bishop of Melbourne, who explained that “according to the latest national census, 22% say they are Catholics”. “However nine times out of ten, we have no idea how to reach these people, and many of them are young. We are a nation of immigrants, in our Church here in Australia there are people of many different nationalities. But the question we ask ourselves daily: is how to reach the native Australians?”, the Bishops said.<br />The children and young people who attend parish activities are mainly children of immigrants: “Almost all of Filipino, Indonesian or Vietnamese origin. In Australia we have an important heritage: a widespread network of Catholic schools. About 20% of the children in this country attend our Catholic schools and therefore we have the opportunity make known to them Christianity, the Pope and the Church by means of our schools; but leading them to be active members of the Catholic community is quite a different story”. <br />In Australia the people of diverse national and ethnic origin generally consider themselves Christians for 58%, 30% affirm to be atheists and there are small minorities of Muslims, Jews, Hindu, Sikhs and Buddhists. With them we carry on interreligious dialogue”. However the most urgent challenge, the bishop says, is to reach, contact and involve in pastoral activities those who call themselves ‘Christians’ but are in actual fact Christians only nominally; how to lead them to renew their encounter with Christ so that faith may have a significant place in personal life. <br />In Australia, the Catholic Church has 33 dioceses spread out in 5 provinces Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane. <br />Sat, 15 Dec 2018 09:20:30 +0100AMERICA/UNITED STATES Solidarity of US Catholics helps brothers and sisters in Latin America and the Caribbeanhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65261-AMERICA_UNITED_STATES_Solidarity_of_US_Catholics_helps_brothers_and_sisters_in_Latin_America_and_the_Caribbeanhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65261-AMERICA_UNITED_STATES_Solidarity_of_US_Catholics_helps_brothers_and_sisters_in_Latin_America_and_the_CaribbeanWashington – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America awarded over $3.2 million in funding for 173 grants to support the pastoral work of the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean, and nearly $800,000 toward seven grants for recovery and reconstruction projects in areas devastated by earthquakes in Haiti and Mexico and Hurricanes Matthew, Maria, and Irma. The grants were approved at the Subcommittee's meeting on November 10, 2018, in Baltimore.<br />The Subcommittee approved funding for several projects in many countries of the region. For example, projects supporting lay formation and leadership were funded in Cuba and Ecuador; evangelization and catechesis projects were supported in Uruguay and El Salvador. Other projects were funded to support to indigenous populations in Brazil and Venezuela.<br />The Subcommittee also approved grants to support youth ministry and travel for delegates from various Latin American countries, including Haiti, Peru and Cuba, to participate in World Youth Day in Panama City, Panama, January 22-27, 2019.<br />“The Collection for the Church in America has an immeasurable impact on people throughout the region, particularly among the most vulnerable,” said Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage, Chairman for the Committee on National Collections. “I sincerely thank the Catholics of the United States for their generosity to, and solidarity with, our sisters and brothers in Latin America and the Caribbean.”<br />Pastoral grants are funded by the annual Collection for the Church in Latin America, taken in many dioceses across the United States on the fourth Sunday in January. The emergency and reconstruction grants were awarded from various special collections called by the USCCB. <br /><br />Fri, 14 Dec 2018 16:15:45 +0100AFRICA/RWANDA - The Catholic Church intends to regulate the sale of holy pictureshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65265-AFRICA_RWANDA_The_Catholic_Church_intends_to_regulate_the_sale_of_holy_pictureshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65265-AFRICA_RWANDA_The_Catholic_Church_intends_to_regulate_the_sale_of_holy_pictures<br />Kibeho – The Catholic Church in Rwanda says it intends to regulate the commerce of statues and holy pictures to prevent sales by non authorised persons. “we are forming a committee to examine the standards of all articles on sale” said Bishop Celestin Hakizimana, of the diocese of Gikongoro, in an interview with Radio Marie Claire Joyeuse. <br />On occasion of celebrations for the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Kibeho, the Bishop informed the people that “only objects stamped with the stamp Kibeho are authorized ”.<br />Kibeho, a village Nyaruguru, in a southern province has become important for Marian pilgrimages. In 2001, John Paul II named the place a “holy land” after three young people declared that the Virgin Mary had appeared to them. Since then every year thousands make the pilgrimage to Rwanda to obtain special blessings. Recently on 28 November Radio Maria opened a radio station in Kibeho.<br />Local vendors of holy objects are in favour of regulating the commerce . The local Church intends also to issue a guide for visitors explaining the history of the apparitions and the spirituality of the place, in collaboration with the tourist guides of the Rwanda Development Board . <br /><br />Fri, 14 Dec 2018 16:02:11 +0100ASIA/PAKISTAN - Bishop Shukardin: "God chose us to spread the Gospel"http://www.fides.org/en/news/65264-ASIA_PAKISTAN_Bishop_Shukardin_God_chose_us_to_spread_the_Gospelhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65264-ASIA_PAKISTAN_Bishop_Shukardin_God_chose_us_to_spread_the_Gospel<br /><br />Hyderabad - "God chose me and every baptized Christian to be a missionary, to be always ready to serve His people with humility, doing our best, listening and praying . My mission is to meet, to visit the people of God , sharing the word of God and announcing the Gospel ": Bishop Samson Shukardin OFM, shepherd of Hyderabad, in the Pakistani province of Sindh, told Fides about his mission as a priest and a bishop on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his priestly ordination, celebrated 10 December in the Cathedral of St Francis Xavier in Hyderabad.<br />The Bishop thanked his parents and the teachers who accompanied his path of faith, discernment of his vocation to the religious life and the priesthood . <br />Telling Fides about his community the Bishop said "the Church in the diocese of Hyderabad has grown in these 25 years, the faithful have grown stronger in the faith and in the awareness of their missionary duty". "We need diocesan priests. We started a project with an institute to serve as a pre-minor seminary in 2015, now we have 16 boys in our pre-minor seminary and in 2019 we will have our own diocesan minor seminary ".<br />Diocesan pastoral consists of instruction, interreligious dialogue, with a missionary approach , involving "assiduous service of the faithful in communities, schools, and social work, to promote interreligious harmony and peace in the spirit of the Gospel". "Instruction – the Bishop underlines – is the only hope if we are to break the chains of slavery and live a life of freedom and dignity".<br />Shukardin joined the Friars Minor in 1982 in Karachi, and was ordained a priest on 10 December 1993. He has served also as president of the Conference of Major Superiors in Pakistan, Vicar general in the diocese of Hyderabad, Director of the diocesan Commission for Justice and Peace ". He was ordained a bishop on 31 January and chose as his episcopal motto "Evangelisation". <br />Fri, 14 Dec 2018 15:23:26 +0100ASIA/UZBEKISTAN - Advent: for baptised Christians time for spiritual renewalhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65260-ASIA_UZBEKISTAN_Advent_for_baptised_Christians_time_for_spiritual_renewalhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/65260-ASIA_UZBEKISTAN_Advent_for_baptised_Christians_time_for_spiritual_renewalTashkent – “Every year during the week before Christmas, we, the community of Catholic priests and religious in Uzbekistan, gather for two days of spiritual renewal and to exchange Christmas season greetings, since we cannot all be together on December 25th . This year our two day celebration falls on 17 and 18 December. It will also be the occasion to organize celebrations for Christmas share our activities to prepare a festivity dear to the faithful”. The apostolic Administrator, Franciscan Friar Jerzy Maculewicz, told Fides about Advent of preparations in the minute community of 3,000 Catholics in Uzbekistan.<br />The scarcity of priests last Summer when one of the religious had to return to Poland for surgery , has been overcome. “We are a small flock. We live the season of Advent with great intensity. We are all well and able to make progress. Our hope is strong”, said the Franciscan recalling his brief pastoral visits to each of the local communities. The most recent he made were to Urgench, about 1000 km from Tashkent, for the celebration of the parish feast of Mary Mother of Mercy and the parish of Buhara, to celebrate the patron, saint Andrew.<br /> The 3000 Catholics in Uzbekistan, spread out in the five main cities are a small minority in a population 80% Muslim, 8% belong to the Russian Orthodox Church, and there are other small minorities. <br />Fri, 14 Dec 2018 14:50:00 +0100