Fides News - English Agency NewsenContent on this site is licensed under aASIA/SYRIA - Aleppo, Bishop Audo: after 12 years of war, the earthquake falls on us like a new bomb - "Now it is even more important to be close to the people, who are terrorized by this earthquake". For Jesuit Antoine Audo, Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo, "among the many we have had, this is a disaster that, so to speak, we are not used to. After 12 years of war, this is a new tremendous bomb, lethal and unknown, which falls on us."<br />The earthquake that shook southern Turkey and north-central Syria at 4:17 a.m. local time on Monday, February 6, is the most violent in eight centuries. This was reported by Marlène Brax, director of the Lebanese Geophysics Center, interviewed by the Lebanese daily L'Orient-Le Jour. The earthquake had a magnitude 7.8 on the Richter scale, with epicenter located in southern Turkey.<br /><br />The Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo describes to Fides "a city of two and a half million inhabitants without electricity, water and heating. It is very cold, winter is harsh. I see people in the streets or in cars. They are afraid, they do not know what will happen, because it may not be over, and there are rumors that new strong and devastating tremors may follow". In fact, A new 7.6 magnitude earthquake tremor was recorded in the southern Turkish province of Kahramanmaras at 1:24 p.m. local time, and was also felt in Damascus.<br />In Syria, the provisional death toll reported by official Syrian sources, which is unfortunately set to rise, speaks so far of 371 people killed and more than 1,000 injured as a result of the quake. Hundreds more victims are already being counted in Syrian areas outside the control of the government of Damascus. <br />Churches in the area are also beginning to come to terms with the devastation suffered as a result of the earthquake. In Turkey, Bishop Paolo Bizzeti, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, reported that Iskenderun Cathedral has collapsed, and churches of the Syrian Orthodox and Orthodox communities in that city have also been destroyed. "Here in Aleppo", Bishop Audo reports to Fides, "Melkite Archbishop Georges Masri has been pulled alive from the rubble, but his Vicar is still under the destroyed building, and they still have not found him". <br /><br /><br />Mon, 06 Feb 2023 17:28:41 +0100AFRICA/DR CONGO - New demonstrations in Goma as M23 rebels advance - Also today, February 6th, protests broke out again in Goma, capital of North Kivu , Barricades in the streets, where demonstrations that began on February 3 continue to ask the Regional Force of the Community of West African Member States to take action to stop the advance of the M23 rebels.<br />The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo , meanwhile, mourns the death of a South African soldier and the wounding of a second soldier in the attack on the helicopter in which the two soldiers were flying from Beni to Goma yesterday, February 5th when it was hit by gunfire.<br />The day before, the heads of state of the East African Community met in Bujumbura on February 4 convened by the President of Burundi to address the serious situation in eastern DRC that also risks provoking a conflict between Rwanda and DRC. The summit, attended by the presidents of Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi, ended by calling for an "immediate ceasefire by all parties" and the withdrawal of all armed groups, "including foreigners," from the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.<br />Also on February 4, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordination Unit in the Democratic Republic of the Congo said tens of thousands of people were “trapped in the clutches of armed violence” as the rebels advanced.<br />The rebels have already taken several places, including Kitshanga, a town of around 60,000 people, and Kirolirwe, leaving several thousand people fleeing in recent days. Clashes are currently being reported in Kalake and Tuonane, a few kilometers north of Goma. <br />Mon, 06 Feb 2023 13:29:22 +0100OCEANIA/FIJI ISLANDS - Assembly of the Bishops of Oceania: wants to “listen to the people of God” - The Assembly of the Federation of the Four Catholic Bishops' Conferences of Oceania was inaugurated yesterday, Sunday 5 February, with a Mass in the Sacred Heart Cathedral of Suva, capital of Fiji. Present at Suva Cathedral were hundreds of local faithful, dozens of bishops, priests and religious, and other assembly participants. <br />Referring to the Gospel of the Day, Cardinal Michael Czerny, Prefect of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, said: "To be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, we must rediscover the power of being brothers and sisters in Christ". "Pope Francis, in his encyclical Fratelli tutti, reminds us that we are called not only to do good, but also to be good and want the good of others," he said. "Unless we as baptized learn to love as children of God and to live as brothers and sisters in Christ, our existence becomes meaningless and our witness as a church becomes insipid and dull," he added.<br />The Cardinal touched on two other issues in his homily, dealing with climate change and synodality. Tackling climate change, he said, "is part of caring for our common home, which here also means caring for the ocean. This highly topical issue is closely linked to holistic human development". "Faced with the task of promoting integral human development," he added, "the Church's role is both to denounce and to proclaim. It is also necessary for the follower of Christ to act and intervene in history in order to enrich the present with good. In this sense, the task of the local Churches is to accompany the joys and hopes, the concerns and anxieties of the people in a pastoral, practical, profound and constant way".<br />To do this, he continued, "we need an approach in which listening, dialogue and reflection become a permanent starting point in a synodal manner, to then identify, propose and support effective responses to promote integral human development for all". <br />Then he turned to the bishops and said: "One shepherd is a shepherd for all. How should he be a shepherd? Only a synodal process can help us to recognize and walk together".<br />"As God speaks through His people," he said, "we need to listen to our brothers and sisters from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Tuvali, Kiribati, Torres Strait and others as they share their stories and struggles, desires and challenges. We must learn from our indigenous <br />brothers and sisters how they have cared for creation throughout the ages, their reverence for the mysterious grandeur of creation and their gratitude for the fertility of the earth have enabled them to share the fruits of the earth, without plundering oceans and rivers, mountains and forests". The aim of the meeting, which will last until Friday 10 February, is, among other things, to "promote contributions to the common good that showcase the cultural richness of Oceania" and "to deepen the collegial spirit and strengthen solidarity among the members of the four Bishops' Conferences".<br />Meanwhile, FCBCO President Archbishop Peter Loy Chong of Suva said that the focus of the discussion on a pastoral plan for the region should be the document "prepared for the Synod on Synodality on behalf of the people of God in Oceania". In this regard, he indicated that "all the people in the four Bishops' Conferences of Oceania have been consulted and the various reflections and proposals will now be presented to the Bishops' Assembly, which is to adopt the document, which will then be forwarded to the Synod Secretariat". "Today's assembly is of great importance for the Federation of Bishops' Conferences of Oceania, because it is the beginning of a 'new chapter' in the way we carry out God's mission in our region", said the Archbishop.<br />The Federation of Catholic Bishops' Conferences of Oceania includes the Bishops' Conference of Australia, the Bishops' Conference of New Zealand, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, and the Pacific Bishops' Conference with the Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, New Caledonia , Northern Mariana Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna. <br />Mon, 06 Feb 2023 13:19:10 +0100AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - Doctors with Africa Cuamm: peace also passes through taking care of people's health - "South Sudan is a mother that dies at about 20 years of age, due to a birth gone wrong, because assisted only by her grandmother, in her hut made of earth and mud. Two babies born at home, a third to be delivered, and no one who bothers to go to the hospital or health center. South Sudan is a little girl, about 2 years old, who weighs 8.5 kilograms, is bloated, cannot even open her legs and eyes. She has a very severe form of malnutrition. South Sudan are dads who walk for days, kilometers and kilometers, to bring their sick children to the first available hospital and who too often arrive late". These are the real data provided directly to Fides by Elisa Bissacco of the Media Relations Sector of Doctors with Africa Cuamm.<br />"I will never forget the faces of the children I cared for, the looks of the mothers crouching under their children's beds, the silence of the relatives of the sick who sat on the veranda outside the hospital waiting, hoping and their pain when I communicated that their loved one had not made it", says Francesca, a Cuamm nurse.<br />"Here the right to life, to health, to safety, do not exist. You can read it in the resigned eyes of the mothers who have nothing to eat for their children, but also in the disillusioned eyes of the soldiers who no longer know why they are fighting and dying far from home, without wages and food, boys who are always hungry, as tall as poles and as thin as sticks", says Alessandra, Cuamm surgeon.<br />It is a difficult and invisible commitment, that of Cuamm doctors and workers, made up of patience, perseverance, a lot of stubbornness and trust.<br />"This is our way of making factual and concrete, every day, that 'Euntes, curate infirmos,' which inspired the origins and continues to guide Cuamm's present", Elisa continues. It is the caring for the other that becomes the Gospel. We felt challenged deep inside to bring help to a population in need of everything. And we chose to go the last mile, to the farthest place, where no one wants to go, to those peripheries of the world so dear to Pope Francis, who is now rekindling hope with his just-concluded visit".<br />Independent since 2011 and in civil war since 2013, South Sudan is the world's poorest country ranked last by Human Development Index. A patch of red earth, twice the size of Italy, lying on a sea of oil, everything is lacking in South: Roads, infrastructure, services, schools, health. It is one of the most fragile and needy countries in the world. It has 12 million inhabitants, mostly semi-nomadic herders from different ethnic groups constantly fighting each other. About 2 million are displaced. People who have abandoned their huts, taking refuge in other areas within the country itself. An estimated 9 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. One in two children is malnourished, as well as two in three pregnant women. Trained health personnel are in short supply. A March 2022 United Nations Population Fund report counts 1 doctor for every 65,574 people and 1 midwife for every 39,000. It means that only 1 in every 1,953 pregnant mothers can have a birth attended by a skilled and trained person. <br />"It is a dramatic picture," Bissacco stressed. And in the face of our brother's suffering, we have chosen not to turn away, because the needs of the poorest and last become our priority. Always 'with Africa,' accompanying the people and the authorities to walk, step by step and grow together. <br />We started in 2006, before independence, in Yirol Hospital. From there, the outreach expanded to Lui Hospital with the attached Midwifery School, to Rumbek Hospital, to Maridi Hospital, until today, that Cuamm is an official partner of the South Sudanese government to give primary health care to the population. We are present in 11 counties, where we support 103 peripheral health facilities; 4 hospitals ; 2 Institutes of Health Sciences, with about 1,350 national health staff and 924 community health workers, supported by an international team of about 60 people.<br />'Your work is a concrete example of putting into practice something we ask every day in the “Our Father”. You are striving to ensure that there is no lack of daily bread for so many brothers and sisters who today, do not have access to normal, basic health care'. These are the words Pope Francis himself addressed to us during the Meeting held at the Vatican on November 19, 2022 . And they are the reality we live every day, convinced that peace also passes through taking care of people's health."<br />"The journey is only at the beginning," concludes the head of Cuamm's Media Relations Sector. The road ahead for South Sudan to become a country where people live in dignity is still very long. We really hope that the Pope’s trip will be the first stone laid to rebuild peace, because only then can every problem find a solution". <br /><br /><br /><br />Mon, 06 Feb 2023 12:57:31 +0100AMERICA/PERU - Open letter from the bishops to the members of Congress: "Do not turn your back, listen to the cry of all the Peruvian people" - The Peruvian Congress has rejected a new bill to bring forward general elections to the end of this year, which also included a referendum on the creation of a Constituent Assembly. After this new rejection, the Presidency of the Peruvian Bishops' Conference issued an "Open Letter" addressed to the 130 members of the Congress of the Republic, in which it first recalls the bishops' previous pronouncements calling for dialogue, prayer and peace.<br />"The commitment and responsibility of every member of Congress is to practice good politics, helping to bring stability, governability and above all well-being and tranquility to the whole country", the February 3 Letter stresses, which continues: "Our brothers from all over Peru, whose representatives are in Congress, are questioning you. Have you listened to their demands? Peruvians need to be heard in their just social demands, but at the same time they need peace that allows them to continue working to survive. Do not turn your back on them and listen to the cry of all the Peruvian people". <br />The Letter then reiterates to members of Congress: "your decision is urgent in view of the elections" in order to safeguard democratic institutionality and create the necessary conditions for genuine dialogue to address priority political and social agendas at the local and national levels. "We are all Peru! No one must be left out!"<br />The bishops reiterate that "the sovereign people have the right to decide the destiny of our homeland through transparent and fair elections, to renew Executive and Legislative power." Then they recall what they said in their last message , "We are all needed to build the homeland. Stop promoting polarization! Let's stop offending each other! No more clashes! Violence only begets violence. Let us change direction, let us achieve peace". <br /><br /><br />Mon, 06 Feb 2023 12:26:54 +0100ASIA/INDIA - Appointment of Bishop of Buxar, James Shekhar City - On February 4, 2023, the Holy Father appointed the Reverend James Shekhar, of the clergy of Patna, until now deputy secretary of the Episcopal Council of Bihar, Jharkhand and Andaman, as bishop of the diocese of Buxar, India.<br />Msgr. James Shekhar was born on 23 September 1967 in Singampurai, Tamil Nadu, in the diocese of Palayamkottai. He attended the minor seminary of Muzaffarpur and then Saint Joseph’s Major Seminary in Allahabad.<br />He was ordained a priest on 26 May 1996 and incardinated in the archdiocese of Patna.<br />After ordination, he first held the roles of parish vicar in Mokama director of youth pastoral care for the archdiocese, and teacher at Saint Mary’s Seminary . He then studied for a licentiate in biblical theology at the University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Rome , and was awarded a doctorate in biblical theology at the University of Innsbruck in Austria . He went on to serve as secretary to the archbishop of Patna and, since 2016, deputy secretary of the Episcopal Council of Bihar, Jharkhand and Andaman. <br />Mon, 06 Feb 2023 09:12:19 +0100ASIA/INDIA - Appointment of bishop of Nongstoin, Wilbert Marwein City – On February 4, 2023, the Holy Father appointed the Reverend Wilbert Marwein, of the clergy of Nongstoin, India, hitherto vicar general and parish priest in Nonbah, as bishop of the diocese of Nongstoin.<br />Msgr. Wilbert Marwein was born on 17 February 1970 in Rangblang-Sohsyniang, in the archdiocese of Shillong. After entering Saint Xavier’s Minor Seminary in Shillong, he studied philosophy at Christ the King College and Theology at Oriens Theological College in Shillong.<br />He was ordained a priest on 27 April 2003, first for the archdiocese of Shillong and then incardinated in the new diocese of Nongstoin.<br />Following ordination, he served as deputy parish priest in Ummulong and bursar of Oriens Theological College in Shillong . He then studied for a licentiate in missiology at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome and held the roles of deputy parish priest of Santa Maria in Cosenza, Italy and, since 2015, vicar general and parish priest in Nonbah, Nongstoin. <br />Mon, 06 Feb 2023 09:09:05 +0100ASIA/INDIA - Resignation of bishop of Tanjore, Devadass Ambrose Mariadoss City - On February 4, 2023, the Holy Father accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Tanjore, India, presented by Bishop Devadass Ambrose Mariadoss. <br />Mon, 06 Feb 2023 09:06:19 +0100ASIA/INDIA - International Day of Human Fraternity: to wither away the politics of hatred Delhi - "The International Day of Human Fraternity that we celebrate today, February 4, is a call to be courageous in defending and promoting justice and the rights of all, so that we can truly live as brothers and sisters, in dignity, peace, equity and love in our Common Home", said Indian Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash SJ, recalling that the Day, called by the United Nations, was inspired by the Declaration on Human Fraternity signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar on February 4, 2019. "That fundamental document calls on believers around the world to engage in research and reflection in all schools, universities and educational institutions to help create new generations that will bring goodness and peace, and defend the rights of the oppressed and the least everywhere," the Jesuit recalls. <br />In line with such vision yesterday, February 3, the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat of the Society of Jesus, under the leadership of Secretary Father Xavier Jeyaraj, organized a global webinar titled "Fraternity@Frontiers" that launched an interactive global map of the Society of Jesus social centers, including those in the Indian subcontinent, active promoters of justice, peace and fraternity among communities of different religions. <br />Father Prakash notes: "We have welcomed the radical call to fraternity especially with those living in the peripheries of our dehumanized world. Pope Francis recently affirmed that fraternity means reaching out to others, respecting them and listening to them with an open heart. And he hoped that Christians will take concrete steps, together with believers of other religions and people of good will, to affirm that today is a time for fraternity, avoiding fueling clashes, divisions and closures. Let us pray and commit ourselves, today and every day in the future, that we may all live in peace in India in an atmosphere of harmony and fraternity".<br />The Jesuit recalls, then, that a year after the Abu Dhabi Declaration, on October 4, 2020 Pope Francis delivered his latest encyclical to the world on fraternity and social friendship, entitled "Fratelli Tutti": "It is a revolutionary text, which also highlights and challenges the fundamental teaching of all the world's major religions. Pope Francis makes an urgent and passionate call for authentic witness in today's world. He calls for dialogue among all people of good will and, in essence, provides clear direction to all women and men, regardless of their religious beliefs: "Fratelli Tutti" is the path we must travel together.<br />"Fratelli Tutti" provides a road map for all of us to become more fraternal in our actions, starting with recognizing the fundamental dignity of every person".<br />According to Father Prakash, that document can be "a Magna Carta, a way forward for all humanity and also for India today, provided there is the political will to ensure it, to overcome hatred, division and violence". At a time when, seeds of intolerance are felt and seen in Indian society, "fraternity," Father Prakash continues, "means recognizing and embracing every single human being, in peaceful coexistence. Fraternity," he recalls, "is also a non-negotiable dimension of the Indian Constitution that appears in its Preamble. It is a pillar of our democracy and refers to the sense of belonging to the country. The Preamble of the Indian Constitution declares that fraternity must ensure two things: the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation. From here we can start again today." <br />"Today," the Jesuit concludes, "our common commitment, with India's Hindu and Muslim believers, is to defuse and wither away that politics of hatred that Pakistani-American writer Farahnaz Ispahani recently described so well in South Asia in her recent book 'Politics of Hate' which analyzes religious extremism in the Indian subcontinent. <br />Sat, 04 Feb 2023 13:39:19 +0100AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - "Knowing how to suffer for Africa". Pope exalts Daniele Comboni's missionary adventure Gianni Valente<br />Juba "I have only the good of the Church in my heart. And for the conversion of my African loved ones I would give a hundred lives if I could". This is what Daniele Comboni said of himself, revealing even with the strong expressions of his speech the volcanic and impetuous temperament. Because of his missionary passion, he recounted that he had to "Fight with potentates, Turks, atheists, freemassons, barbarians, elements, priests ... but all our trust is in him who chooses the weakest means to do his works". Today Pope Francis recalled the memory of the missionary saint in Saint Theresa's Cathedral in Juba, where he met with bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated men and women and seminarians, on the second day of his apostolic journey to South Sudan. "We can remember," the Pope said at the end of his address, "Saint Daniele Comboni, who with his missionary brothers did a great work of evangelization in this land: he said that the missionary must be willing to do everything for Christ and for the Gospel, and that there is a need for bold and generous souls who know how to suffer and die for Africa".<br />Daniele Comboni, one of the greatest missionaries in recent history, beatified in 1996 and proclaimed a saint by John Paul II on October 5, 2003, came from a peasant family. Born in Limone sul Garda, the only survivor of eight children, he had entered the Seminary in Verona and then starting to attend the missionary institute founded by Father Nicola Mazza. The priest, with the support of the Congregation of Propaganda Fide, had brought a number of young Africans to Italy to train them and then encourage them to carry out missionary expeditions to the regions of central Africa. <br />Ordained a priest on December 31, 1854, in the month of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, 26-year-old Daniele was the youngest of the five priests whom Fr. Mazzi, 3 years later, sent on mission. "Remember," he told them before departure, "that the work to which you consecrate yourselves is His work. Work only for Him, love and help each other, be united in everything, and God's glory, God's glory alone always promote and intend, that all the rest is vanity". After the long journey, which also included a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the young missionaries arrived in Khartoum and then by boat on the White Nile, they went further south, 1,500 kilometers, to Holy Cross, the last mission station in front of the impenetrable forest. But before long, three of the five died of hardships and fevers. The missionary expedition ended in failure. Propaganda Fide entrusted the lands to the Apostolic Vicariate in Alexandria, Egypt. <br />On his return to Italy, other tribulations arrived. Comboni, after praying in St. Peter's, drew up a "missionary plan" that contemplated among other things, the establishment of the first missionary outposts along the coasts and the involvement of female missionaries to proclaim the Gospel among the people in sub-Saharan Africa who did not know Jesus. But in the meantime, the bishop of Verona, after Father Mazza's death, forbade the missionary institute he founded from accepting new seminarians.<br />In the growing anti-clerical climate of the nascent Italian state, Comboni managed to give life to the new Institute for the Missions of Nigrizia thanks to Pius IX's support of Cardinal Barnabò, Prefect of Propaganda Fide. <br />The Institute was born in Verona in 1867. And in the time that followed, Comboni traveled around Europe seeking material and spiritual aid for the new work. He attended cloistered convents and dinners in aristocratic homes. He entrusted the institute to Saint Joseph. Later, he thanked the putative father of Jesus in his writings, "who never allowed me to go bankrupt and never denied me any temporal grace".<br />Around the work of Comboni hostility, slander and clerical and anti-clerical attacks soon unleashed. Among other things, his missionary intuitions dangerously crossed the interests that were moving along the slavery routes in Africa for centuries.<br />In letters to friends, Comboni showed awareness of "Deceptions, illusions, lies, guilty suggestions" that surrounded him. Yet Propaganda Fide supported his unconditional dedication to the mission. In 1877, he was ordained a Bishop, and in December of the same year he began an expedition with a large group of missionaries that after nearly a year's journey took him to Khartoum. These are the last four years of intense work for him, a time when he had the joy of visiting and seeing the missions south of Khartoum flourish: Delen, Gondòkoro, Gebel, Nuba, Holy Cross, El Obeid... Even at that time, as physical illnesses began to inexorably affect his health, hostility and malice, which came upon him from ecclesiastical circles, weighed heavily on him. In a letter to a priest, he wrote that the extreme climate of El Obeid made it difficult for him to sleep and eat. And he told of the "bitter pills" he had to swallow, "that it is a miracle if I can survive. I work for the glory of God and for poor souls as best I can, and I go on and do not care about anything else, certain that all the crosses I have to bear are by God's will, and therefore will always be dearer to me".<br />In July 1881, tremendous thunderstorms and cross fevers on the return trip from El Obeid to Khartoum undermined his health forever. In the last months of his life he saw his closest friends and collaborators die from malignant fevers. Meanwhile, concerns grew over the political situation in Sudan where conflicts and dramatic revolutions such as the anti-British uprising led by Islamic leader Mohammed Ahmed el Mahdi are increasing. In a letter to the Prefect of Propaganda Fide, Comboni wrote that "the works of the Lord were always born and grew in this way," and told him the story "of our lay brother Paolo Scandi from Rome, who helped the mission as a blacksmith. He was little more than a boy. He died saying, 'I am happy. Sweet is that 'fiat' that says, understands, embraces everything". <br />A short time later, Comboni also ended his days at the age of 50, after having called his friends around his dying man's bedside to thank them and ask for forgiveness. Before losing consciousness," recounted the priest who assisted him in the final stage of his illness, "he wanted to embrace the cross ... he fell asleep placidly, like a child. <br />Sat, 04 Feb 2023 13:25:04 +0100AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - A Church that grows, but with the scourge of tribalism that persists - There are 64 ethnic groups that make up the complex social mosaic of South Sudan. Coexistence not always easy between the different populations to the point that it ended up fueling the civil war that broke out in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused Vice President Riek Machar of a coup attempt. The conflict that broke out immediately took on an ethnic dimension, with Kiir belonging to the country's largest ethnic group, the Dinka, and Machar, on the other hand, to the second numerically largest ethnic group, the Nuer.<br />The scourge of tribalism had been described as "the country's greatest enemy" by the Archbishop of Juba, Msgr. Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla, who also stressed that "we cannot build our nation or the Church on tribalism: if we build them on tribalism we will say that there is no Baptism, Holy Communion, Confirmation and we will fall because it is something that is dividing us" .<br />For this reason, the appeal of Pope Francis during the meeting with members of the South Sudanese clergy in Juba Cathedral can thus also be interpreted as an invitation to overcome the "virus" of tribalism that it is also insinuated in the Church. <br />A Church that has benefited from the religious freedom granted by the Constitution since the formation of the State in 2011.<br />In a note sent to Fides, Sister Elena Balatti, a Comboni missionary in Malakal, declared: "Since then, the number of Christians in South Sudan, including Catholics, has not stopped increasing. Baptisms number in the thousands every year in the dioceses".<br />Religious freedom has allowed churches to profess their faith and preach, but it has also led to the proliferation of indigenous churches, or sects, now in the hundreds in the country. <br />"However, perhaps the most important pastoral question is the depth of evangelization," says the missionary. "The number of baptized continues to grow and the churches are packed on Sundays, but in important practical choices most Catholics follow traditional practices, especially with regard to the family. Marriages celebrated in church are very few, and traditional marriage and polygamy prevail".<br />Sister Elena concludes by mentioning that "in addition to the pastoral challenges, the Catholic Church, along with the other members of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in South Sudan, has had to deal with the great instability that has characterized the life of the new nation, marked from 2013 to 2018 by civil war. Despite the 2018 peace agreement, peace and stability are still a long way off and low-intensity conflicts, with occasional very violent episodes, continue. People in general, not just Catholics, are hoping that Pope Francis' ecumenical visit will give a boost to peace", concludes the missionary. <br />Sat, 04 Feb 2023 12:40:15 +0100EUROPE/GREECE - Farewell to Ioannis Zizioulas, great theologian in Recent Times Gianni Valente<br /><br />Both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI knew this. Both recognized that as we crossed the threshold of the Third Millennium since the birth of Christ, he was the greatest Christian theologian around, Ioannis Zizioulas, Orthodox Metropolitan of Pergamum and former member of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. <br />On Friday, February 2, his soul left this world. Zizioulas passed away in a hospital in Athens due to respiratory complications also related to Covid-19 infection. Today, Saturday, February 4, his funeral will be held in the Greek capital. <br />Ioannis Zizioulas was 92, and his death leaves all those who suffer from divisions among the baptized more alone, and have for decades considered full communion the Church of Rome and the Orthodox Churches not as a sentimental dream, but as a possibility on the horizon. A beneficial and urgent "surrender to reality" on the part of "sister Churches" that amidst a thousand wounds and misunderstandings have all guarded the same treasure of the Sacraments and the validity of Apostolic succession. <br />Zizioulas' theology started precisely from the recognition that the entire reality and life of the Church has its source in the sacrament of the Eucharist, celebrated by the ecclesial community gathered around its Bishop. His "Eucharistic ecclesiology" drew substance from his penetrating reading of the Church Fathers and developed the insights of Orthodox theologians such as Russian Nicolay Afanasiev. For him, as for Afanasiev, "where there is the Eucharist, there is the Church". And every local Church is Church in the full sense, by virtue of the Eucharist celebrated by it according to the mandate given by Jesus to the apostles and their successors. <br />Ioannis Zizioulas was born in northern Greece. He had studied theology at the Universities of Thessaloniki and Athens and then attended the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey of the Ecumenical Council of Churches. After serving as a professor of church history and Patristics, he was a professor of Systematic Theology and Patristics at institutes and universities in the United Kingdom . <br />In the early 1980s, the great Dominican theologian Yves Congar already called him "one of the most original and profound theologians of our time". <br />Precisely because of the inexhaustible richness of the sources of faith from which he drew his theology, Zizioulas also became a key figure in the theological dialogue initiated after the Second Vatican Council to remove doctrinal obstacles to the restoration of full communion between Catholics and Orthodox. In 1986, he was appointed Metropolitan of Pergamum within the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and his theological guidelines, since the 1990s, were the most prominent contribution to the attempt to find a point of consensus between Orthodox and Catholics on the doctrine of the Primacy and the role of the Bishop of Rome. <br />In the last years of John Paul II's pontificate and in those of Benedict XVI, Zizioulas was Co-Chairman of the Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches. His theological arguments based on constant references to Tradition and Church history during those years made a crucial contribution to the search for a definition of the Pope's universal primacy that could also be accepted by the Orthodox. <br />For Zizioulas, even the Orthodox Churches, by looking at their own history and ancient canons, could come to recognize that the exercise of primacy at all levels, from local to universal, is part of the structure of the Church wanted by the Lord Jesus, and is not a matter of practical-canonical organization of ecclesial apparatuses and dynamics. "In the Orthodox tradition," Zizioulas explained in a 2005 interview with the Catholic magazine 30Days, "there has never been and cannot be a synod or council without a 'protos,' that is, a 'primus.' Therefore, if synodality is by divine right, so must primacy be by the same title."<br />In 2007, thanks in large part to Zizioulas' stimulating and objective theological formulations, the "Ravenna Document" was drawn up: in that document, produced by the Commission for Theological Dialogue, even the Orthodox acknowledged that primacy is necessary and firmly grounded in the canonical tradition of the Church, and is not merely a human "organizational" element. Consensus had also been reached between Catholic and Orthodox representatives in recognizing that there is always the exercise of primacy in the Church at the local, regional and universal levels. Then, everything got complicated and the auspicious moment faded after the Russian Orthodox Church refused to grant any kind of consent to the Ravenna document.<br />In more recent interviews, Metropolitan Ioannis had acknowledged that the quest to find new ways to recompose full communion between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches had stalled, mainly because of the increasingly tearing intra-Orthodox divisions, made even more devastating after the clash between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople over the canonical status of Orthodoxy in Ukraine. <br />"If the Church is closed in on herself, she will die. Because the Church exists for the world, not for itself," Ioannis Zizioulas repeated. For him, unity among the baptized "also serves to give a stronger common witness in the face of the problems that afflict the world and societies today." Now that the conflicts of history open unimaginable tears even between Churches that draw from the same spiritual source, Metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas' wisdom of faith kindles the grateful memory of those who knew him. And it helps to cherish the hope of new beginnings and new beginnings, in the journey to witness in fullness the communion of those who bear the name of Christ. <br />Sat, 04 Feb 2023 09:40:57 +0100AFRICA/DR CONGO - Pope Francis to Congolese Bishops: "Christian prophecy" is not "political activity" - "Christian prophecy" is not "political activty". Christian prophecy becomes incarnate "in a wide variety of political and social activities, yet that is not generally the task of Bishops and pastors, which is to proclaim the word, awakening consciences, denouncing evil and encouraging those who are broken-hearted and lacking hope. “Comfort, comfort my people: this theme that appears again and again is an invitation from the Lord: Comfort the people. “Comfort, comfort my people”. Thus, Pope Francis offered comforting concrete criteria for recognizing what distinguishes any form of presence and public exposure of the Church from the protagonism of lobbies and apparatuses of a political, social, cultural or religious nature. He did so on the morning of Friday, February 3 in Kinshasa, at the headquarters of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo, addressing the Catholic Bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in what was also his farewell speech to this country and its Church, before leaving for South Sudan, the second stage of his apostolic journey on the African continent.<br />The Bishop of Rome began by expressing gratitude for the encounter he had with "a young, dynamic and joyful Church, motivated by missionary zeal, by the good news that God loves us and that Jesus is Lord". The Church that is present in the Democratic Republic of Congo - the Pontiff remarked addressing the Congolese Bishops "is a Church present in the lived history of this people, deeply rooted in its daily life, and in the forefront of charity; a community capable of attracting others, filled with infectious enthusiasm". <br />Like the Congolese forests, full of so much oxygen, it can be compared "to a lung" that helps the universal Church breathe". At the same time, her "young, shining and noble" face also shows pain and weariness, and at times fear and discouragement". The Congolese Church is suffering and takes on the tribulations of its people, "a people crucified and oppressed, devastated by ruthless violence, marred by innocent suffering, forced to live with the tainted waters of corruption and injustice that pollute society, and to suffer poverty in so many of its children" A people who even in all this "enthusiastically embraces the faith with enthusiasm and looks to its pastors. I see a people able to turn to the Lord and entrust themselves into his hands, so that the peace for which they long, although stifled by exploitation, partisan selfishness, the venom of conflict and the manipulation of truth, can finally come as a gift from on high".<br />The Pope gratefully embraced the immanence and co-participation of the local Church in the material and social events and in the sufferings of the Congolese people, far from the imposture of intellectual or spiritualist abstraction. " Proclaiming the Gospel, enlivening pastoral life and exercising leadership, remarked the Successor of Peter, cannot become ideas having little to do with the reality of daily life. Instead, they must touch wounds and communicate God’s closeness". And in exalting the propitious immersion of the Congolese Church in the real life of its people, Pope Francis wanted to recall the connotations that should distinguish the exercise of the pastoral ministry of bishops in the critical contexts and situations that mark the life of the Congolese and of so many other African nations, recalling as a model the story of the Prophet Jeremiah, "called to carry out his own mission at a dramatic time in the history of Israel, amid injustices, detestable practices and sufferings".<br />Above all – stressed the Pontiff - Jeremiah "experienced this consoling proclamation of faith personally; he was the first to experience God’s closeness. He able to bring to others a courageous prophecy of hope". Likewise, the Bishops and pastors of God's people are also called above all to let themselves be "touched and consoled by the closeness of God" in prayer, "standing for hours before Him". Only in this way, continued the Bishop of Rome, can we truly become Shepherds, because without Him we can do nothing". Closeness to the Lord frees us from the temptation to "think of ourselves as self-sufficient", much less "see in the episcopate an opportunity to advance in society and to exercise power. Above all else, may we never open the door to the spirit of worldliness, for this makes us interpret ministry according to the criteria of our own advantage". Worldliness, added Pope Bergoglio, "is the worst thing that can happen to the Church, the worst. I have always been moved by the end of Cardinal De Lubac’s book on the Church, the last three or four pages, where he puts it like this: spiritual worldliness is the worst thing that can happen, even worse than the time of Popes who were worldly and had concubines. It is the worst thing".<br />The story of Jeremiah - continued Pope Bergoglio - reminds everyone that only closeness to the Lord can make "prophets for the people, sowers of his saving word in the wounded history of their country". Jeremiah, after receiving "God’s loving and consoling word", confesses that this same Word awakened within him "an unbridled restlessness" to communicate the same experience to others. The dynamic of Christian prophecy is that "we cannot keep God’s word to ourselves, we cannot restrict its power: it is a fire that burns away our apathy and kindles in us the desire to enlighten those in darkness". <br />The Bishops of the Congo are also called today to make their prophetic voice heard, to " pluck up the poisonous plants of hatred and selfishness, anger, resentment and violence; to break down the altars erected to money and corruption; to build a coexistence based on justice, truth and peace; and finally, to plant the seeds of rebirth". And their prophecy, precisely because it is not mere political activism, must not manifest itself in self-congratulatory poses of indignation and 'condemning statements' distributed right and left to gain media visibility. It is an announcement "made not only of words, but of closeness and witness: Closeness, above all, to priests,for priests are those closest to the Bishop, concern for pastoral workers", and witness "in fostering communion, in their moral life and in their administration of goods. In this regard it is essential - Pope Francis recalled - to create harmony, without standing on a pedestal or showing harshness, but by setting a good example in mutual support and forgiveness, and working together as models of fraternity, peace and evangelical simplicity". <br />In the concluding part, Pope Francis also paid homage to two prophet-bishops dear to the memory of the Congolese Church: Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, and the Jesuit Christophe Munzihirwa, Archbishop of Bukawu, killed in 1996 by an armed commando for guarding his people and the Hutu refugees fleeing the genocidal massacres then taking place in the Great Lakes Region. Pope Francis recalled the message released by Bishop Munzihirwa, the day before he was killed: “What can we still do these days? Let us remain firm in faith. We trust that God will not abandon us and that a small ray of hope will arise for us somewhere. God will not abandon us if we are committed to respecting the life of our neighbours, whatever their ethnicity”. <br />Fri, 03 Feb 2023 23:45:08 +0100AFRICA/CONGO RD - Demonstrations in Goma against African peacekeeping force. Tensions between Kigali and Kinshasa: extraordinary summit in Burundi tomorrow - "We have the right to study like the students in Kinshasa," shout the students in Goma, who took to the streets today, February 3, in the capital of North Kivu as well as in other localities of the province in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, to denounce the inaction of the EAC forces and the alleged complicity of the UN mission in the DRC in ending the war in this area of the Country.<br />The multinational East African Community Regional Force has the task to oversee the withdrawal of the main guerrilla movement active in North Kivu, the M23, as stipulated in agreements reached last November. But like MONUSCO, the Kenyan-led East African States Force was soon accused by locals of inaction if not complicity with the guerrillas.<br />Demonstrations have been reported on the streets of the northern part of the city of Goma since yesterday evening, February 2, and have been extended to today. Calls for demonstrations and a day of civil strike, with the closure of all business and work activities have been made through anonymous leaflets scattered around the city without signatures or organizers.<br />"We are always told that we are tomorrow's future, but they don't want to protect us!" exclaims one student. "Since I was born, I have lived and studied under the war without anything being done. Today we have decided to leave the classrooms to take to the streets to show the world that it is time to grow up and study like other childeren in the world."<br />Meanwhile, tensions rise between Rwanda and the DRC, following the expulsion of Rwandan soldiers who are part of the EACRF and skirmishes between the 2 armies in recent days . <br />Faced with this alarming situation, the EAC's acting chairman, Burundian Evariste Ndayishimiye, has urgently convened a summit of the East African organization's heads of state for tomorrow, February 4, in Bujumbura to discuss the security situation in the DRC and tensions between Kinshasa and Kigali. South Sudan President Salva Kiir, who is receiving Pope Francis, will not be able to attend the summit, but will send his own representative.<br />It is unclear whether President Felix Tshisekedi will attend the meeting in Burundi's capital, especially since he recently boycotted a meeting in Doha, Qatar, between Congolese and Rwandan authorities to find a solution to the war against the Kigali-backed M23. <br />Fri, 03 Feb 2023 13:05:26 +0100ASIA/JAPAN - A petition to protect the lives and dignity of refugees and asylum seekers - The Commission for Refugees and Migrants of the Bishops' Conference of Japan has launched a collection of signatures to draw public and government attention to the possible tightening of the Immigration Control Law. Such a law, according to the commission, "oppresses refugees and endangers the lives of those who do not yet have residency status". The Commission, along with six other civil society organizations, had previously spoken out against the immigration law that Parliament had already rejected in 2021 and that the Japanese government wants to reintroduce in 2023. The statement, which calls for "a society in which the life and dignity of refugees and immigrants are protected", recalls that this measure "was withdrawn once two years ago because it is contrary to humanity". <br />This new draft contains problematic provisions "that threaten the lives and human rights of many people". For example, it is stated that "the return of asylum seekers and refugees to their countries of origin is possible even if there is a risk of persecution". In addition, those would be criminalized, "who want to evade deportation and punish those who want to stay in Japan". <br />It also provides for immigrants without a residence permit to be locked up in places of detention indefinitely and drastically reduces the "special permit system", restricting the possibilities of re-entry.<br />Recalling that more than 100,000 signatures were collected from citizens against such a measure as early as 2021, the joint statement points out that the bill came after the high-profile death of a Sri Lankan immigrant, Wishma Sandamali, who was being held by the Nagoya Immigration Service was withdrawn.<br />Today, the generous help of many citizens and social institutions for Ukrainian refugees shows that "the exclusion of refugees is against the will of the people". It is hoped that "there will be no more victims of inhumane detention and that people, such as refugees, who are in a difficult situation will not be excluded". "The daily life of us citizens is made up of connections and relationships between people. Foreigners, Japanese, refugees, immigrants, residents and non-residents live together as people. We demand a society that respects the life and human rights of every person living in this society are guaranteed, where everyone can live in peace and where no one is truly left behind," the statement said.<br />On the other hand, the Catholic Commission and the other organizations ask the institutions to set up a special public legal and administrative body to deal with issues of protection of refugees and their integration into the social fabric. <br />Fri, 03 Feb 2023 12:43:18 +0100AMERICA/GUATEMALA - "Migrant Houses" risk closure: Red Clamor supports Bishops' demands City - The Red Clamor ecclesial network, which includes organizations involved in the field of migration, refugees and human trafficking, joins the Bishops' Conference of Guatemala, which expressed concern in the final message of the last Annual Plenary Assembly comments on the new state regulations that endanger the work of Church-run Migrant Houses . Specifically, the bishops are calling for a change in the provisions of Article 101 of Agreement No. 7-2019 of the National Migration Authority.<br />"As organizations working with people in forced mobility in 22 Latin American countries, we are concerned that the obligations to be imposed on Migrant Houses in Guatemala violate the right to privacy of the personal data of hosted migrants. discrediting them as trustworthy centers". Red Clamor emphasizes that the services provided by the Migrant Houses in Guatemala "are free and essential for tens of thousands of people in a situation of extreme vulnerability and without resources to cover accommodation costs." <br />The organizations that form Red Clamor reiterate the request made on several occasions to the Region's Migration Authorities that they define and support "migration policies that respect human rights and do not criminalize migrants or those who bring humanitarian aid." They call for these measures to be geared towards creating legal pathways for "orderly, safe and regular migration," as envisaged in the Global Compact signed by Latin American governments to prevent migrants from falling into international criminal networks of human trafficking and smuggling".<br /><br />According to information gathered by Fides, the Catholic Church runs nine Migrant Houses in the country, which assist about 25,000 migrants a year, mostly people seeking to migrate irregularly to another country in search of better living conditions. According to the new regulation, those who host those seeking to migrate irregularly to another country commit the crime of illegal trafficking in persons, so the work of the migrant shelters is seriously jeopardized due to the requirements set by the state. <br />The Episcoipal Conference explains in its message at the end of the annual meeting: "We do not agree with the demands because we believe that our migrant homes should be maintained as a respectful and free service of charity. The strict application of the regulations would prevent this and force us to close them".<br />Article 101 of the Agreement requires facilities to have an individual file for each foreign person, containing the following data: personal identification document; biographical and biometric data; medical, psychological, economic and social investigations. These data must be sent electronically to the Sub-Directorate for the Respect and Protection of Migrants' Fundamental Rights. In addition, up-to-date data must also be submitted in writing every month within the first five days of the following month.<br />The Pastoral Care of Human Mobility of the Bishops' Conference therefore asks the authorities to amend this article and simplify the requirements for the care of migrants and wants to communicate reports and statistical data on the people cared for at regular intervals , with the accreditation of each receiving facility to be reviewed every six months. <br />Fri, 03 Feb 2023 12:21:49 +0100ASIA/HOLY LAND - Jerusalem, Shrine of the Flagellation desecrated - The series of attacks and intimidation that have been carried out in recent weeks against churches and Christian objects in the Old City of Jerusalem continues. On the morning of Thursday, February 2nd, a man - described by the Israeli media as an "American tourist" - broke into the Chapel of Condemnation on the Via Dolorosa and destroyed a statue of Jesus that had been placed there, first throwing it to the ground and then hitting it with a hammer. The man was immobilized and handed over to the Israeli police. Videos of his arrest, which have been circulating online, can be heard shouting that "there can be no idols in Jerusalem, which is the Holy City."<br />Information disseminated by the Israeli police and relaunched by local media links the vandalism to alleged psychological problems of the perpetrator. Meanwhile, a spate of intimidation attempts against people and places of worship have taken place in the Christian and Armenian quarters of Jerusalem's Old City in recent weeks, while the number of victims of raids, attacks and reprisals that have been reported for months in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel to be recorded, is increasing day by day.<br />The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, after the assault on the Chapel of Condemnation, issued a communiqué, signed by Custos Francis Patton and secretary Father Alberto Joan Pari, "to express concern and deploration in the face of "this growing number of serious acts of hatred and violence against the Christian community in Israel." The Custody speaks of "hate crimes". "It is no coincidence that the legitimisation of discrimination and violence in public opinion and in the current Israeli political environment also translates into acts of hatred and violence against the Christian community."<br /><br />Violence and intimidation against Christian targets in the Old City of Jerusalem have increased since the new Israeli government under Benjamin Netanyahu took office, which is also backed by ultra-nationalist anti-Arab groups.<br />A large part of the recent increase of violence and intimidation has been directed against locations and residents of the Armenian Quarter. On January 11, the walls were smeared with slogans such as "Death to Armenians" and "Death to Christians." On January 26, a group of about forty Jewish settlers raided an Armenian restaurant near the New Gate and shouted outrageous slogans against Jesus. In the days that followed, Christian priests and laypeople were spat on and pepper sprayed in the streets of the Armenian Quarter.<br />Regarding the attack on the Armenian restaurant, the Catholic bishops of the Holy Land had issued a statement deploring "the violence" that "instills fear in shopkeepers and residents of the Christian quarter, as well as visitors", adding that this incident "is the latest in a series of episodes of religious violence directed against the symbols of the Christian community, and not only". Last Friday, January 27th, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, visited the owners of the restaurant attacked and the surrounding shops in a sign of solidarity.<br />The chapel is a small church building on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem's Old City and, together with the Franciscan Convent of the Flagellation, represents one of the stations of the pious practice of the "Way of the Cross" carried out by groups of pilgrims who, during their visit to the Holy City, follow Jesus' path to Calvary during their visit to the Holy City. <br /> <br />Fri, 03 Feb 2023 09:21:49 +0100AMERICA/COSTA RICA - World Day of Consecrated Life: "Messengers of Solidarity and Hope in Today's World" José - "In our current context in which we experience fragility, loneliness, inequality that leads to injustice, violence, neglect, uncertainty in the face of a bleak future, consecrated life feels called to respond by becoming a companion of the Church, by responding to Pope Francis' call to promote synodality, by becoming a companion of our society with the witness of solidarity and hope". On the Day of Consecrated Life, celebrated every year on February 2, the Feast of the Presentation in the Temple of the Lord, Bishop Bartolomé Buigues Oller of Alajuela, in his capacity as head of the Episcopal Commission for Consecrated Life in Costa Rica, speaks in a message to the religious of the country and to all the people of God.<br />"We live with the Church the joy of having received the vocation of special consecration that deepens our baptism, to feel that we are the custodians of the different charisms of the Spirit to promote the following of Christ and his mission with our various apostolates," emphasized the bishop. "Today more than ever we need to show solidarity, care for one another, get closer to one another in order to overcome loneliness," warns Bishop Buigues Oller, quoting Pope Francis.<br />"The witness of our consecrated life is an expression and bearer of the solidarity and hope that our world needs today," emphasizes the Bishop, recalling that today's time invites us to "a spirituality of simplicity, of smallness, of evangelical awareness to be "a little leaven in the midst of the masses of the world". The new kind of presence that the world needs today "emphasises more the witness of life, walking with the Church as consecrated persons in the midst of a people of consecrated persons, in a mission shared with the laity in our works of apostolate, since we all participate in the common mission of the Church". The bishop also quotes Pope John Paul II in this context and concludes: "What must be avoided at all costs is the loss of spiritual communion with the Lord and with one's own vocation and mission".<br />According to the Church's latest Statistical Yearbook, there are 183 religious priests, 110 religious brothers, 862 religious women and 27 members of secular institutes in Costa Rica. <br />Thu, 02 Feb 2023 12:38:12 +0100AFRICA/DR CONGO - In the east of the country: rape as a weapon of war - "An action aimed at humiliating and killing a community through singular and sometimes systematic acts perpetrated in this or that village." Thus a report sent to Fides, signed by Fr. Justin Nkunzi, Director of the "Justice and Peace" Commission of the Archdiocese of Bukavu, capital of South Kivu, described since 2007 the instrumental use of sexual violence as a weapon of war with the aim of wiping out the local population as a community and persuading them to leave the areas where around 120 different armed groups in the three provinces in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. <br />"Woman is considered first and foremost as a mother," the report emphasized. "She gives life. She is all that is sacred in African tradition. In such a context, violence against women is seen as a way to destroy an entire community. It is a way of striking at the very heart of the community."<br />This is a situation has not changed since 2007 . "In Congolese culture, violence against a woman is violence against one's mother, because she is the one who gives life and raises her children. Rape is planned as a war tactic of war by people who know the local community well. This violence is therefore the indelible sign of a never-ending war, the victims of which are often children, the weakest and most vulnerable," affirmed Father Bernard Ugeux, from Belgium, of the Society of African Missions , to Fides from Bukavu in 2021 .<br />Yesterday's meeting of Pope Francis with victims of the conflicts in eastern DRC affected by this strategy that can be called "cultural genocide" is a powerful reminder of this reality that must not be forgotten. "It is above all a war unleashed by an insatiable greed for raw materials and money that fuels a war economy that craves instability and corruption," said the Pope, "What a scandal and what hypocrisy: human beings are becoming raped and killed while the businesses causing violence and death continue to thrive!"<br />In 2018, the Nobel Peace Prize went to Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Bukavu-born Congolese doctor, activist and Protestant pastor who has been treating women and girls victims of war rape in eastern DRC for decades at Panzi Hospital in the capital of South Kivu. <br />Dr. Mukwege, pointed out how war rapes are weapons used in various conflicts around the world, from the former Yugoslavia to Syria: "I have met Bosnian women and Syrian doctors who have told me about similar rapes."<br />A peacemaker who, as Pope Francis said, "responds to evil with good, to hatred with love, to division with reconciliation" so as to "transform reality from within rather than destroying it from without." <br />Thu, 02 Feb 2023 12:19:36 +0100ASIA/BANGLADESH - Giving one's life to Christ to be happy. The testimony of five consecrated sisters - One gives one's life to Christ by following His promise of happiness. And following the steps of Jesus leads on unknown paths, where He never abandons us. This is what five sisters who grew up in a Catholic family in the parish of Doripara in Gazipur, near Dhaka, now all religious in different congregations, testify on the Day dedicated to consecrated life that the Church celebrates on February 2. In addition to them, their niece – the daughter of one of the two older brothers - also chose religious life. In memory of their parents, who died a few years ago, they tell of a legacy they left them: "Loving God and neighbor is never a waste of time". <br />Their father was a flautist and mother a housewife and both parents were Catholics who "always put God first".<br />Sister Beenais now Superior General of her congregation and tells Fides: "Our mother was a pious woman and our father was a village chief. They raised us to trust in God. Without evening prayer we could not enjoy dinner. Our mother told us one day about the example of Saint Therese of Lisieux, whose four elder sisters, preceded or followed her in the choice of consecrated life".<br />When Beena was a teenager, she wrote a letter to the Superior General of the Catechist Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Queen of Angels. In her reply, the Superior General told her that she was ready to welcome her and other girls from her village who wanted to experience religious life. Beena and her father, along with nine other girls, went to Dinajpur. Sister Beena recalls: "With enthusiasm and lightheartedness we left our home. Our father accompanied us to the Mother House of the congregation in Dinajpur. Out of ten girls who tried that experience, four of us became nuns".<br />Sister Beena reports that the five sisters today are sisters of different religious congregations but are very close: "In religious life we are sometimes confronted with worries and challenges: we stay in community, share joys and sufferings. We help each other grow spiritually. We support each other. We also have a Facebook Messenger social network group that connects us to each other and helps us stay in touch".<br />Sister Beena says: "Family has given us the foundation to live a Christian life. Family is the soil on which a religious vocation can sprout. Today we visit families and meet other girls and share our testimonies. With baptism we become all called to holiness and to the proclamation of the Gospel".<br />Sister Supriti, the youngest, tells Fides: "During my childhood there was an atmosphere of prayer in our family. Our parents inspired us to always seek closeness to Jesus. In the evening we prayed the Rosary together. The family bond helped me a lot in my vocation". She adds: "My elder sisters showed me a simple and holy life and, above all, a happy life. Their work, their kindness and charity attracted me and I also chose religious life". As the youngest daughter, Supriti was very devoted to her father and vice versa: "My father suffered from the separation when I left our house, but he didn't stop me". "Today we are all happy and enjoying our consecrated life, keeping in our hearts the teachings of our parents, especially trust in God at all times, in our daily life," the five sisters explain.<br />The parish priest of Doripara, Father Kajol Joachim Purification, a diocesan priest, reports that there are a total of six priests, 10 religious brothers and 49 religious women in his parish of around 3,500 Catholics. "The fact that there are six nuns in a family is of course an extraordinary fact. I believe that the parents played a fundamental role in raising the children with the love of God. But the girls were also able to observe the lives of other nuns and priests," the priest observes.<br />Of the five sisters, Sister Lisbetha is a missionary in Congo, where she is Superior of the Congregation of Missionaries of Charity. Sister Linsa lives in Khulna, where she is Superior of a community. Sister Mary Supriti Rozario works as Headmistress of Bottomley Home Girls' High School in Dhaka. Her older sister, Sister Hedwig Rozario, was Superior at Suihari and recently completed her term. Her niece, Sister Lawrensa Rozario, serves as assistant headmistress at Tuital Girls' High School in Dhaka. <br />Thu, 02 Feb 2023 11:47:47 +0100