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  • Raised by Sisters, a Rwandan Orphan Looks to the Future

    Global Sisters Report (GSR) || By Melanie Lidman || 20 March 2017

    rwandan lady raised by sisters 2017When Pacifique Uwimbabazi, 23, has a problem, like many millennials around the world, the first thing she does is reach for the phone to text someone she can trust and ask for advice.

    The person receiving the text message is Sr. Athanasie Kayigamkia, an Abizeramariya Sister who raised Uwimbabazi from birth, after her parents were killed in the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Uwimbabazi's mother was killed just a few days after giving birth, so Uwimbabazi was raised as a newborn at the Abizeramariya home in Huye (formerly Butare; many place names changed after the genocide).

    "Our orphanages only came after the genocide," said Kayigamkia, now a nurse who oversees the Matyazo Health Center, a Catholic health clinic in Huye. "We took in children because they had nowhere else to go. Our main objective was the elderly, but we saw so many kids in the streets who were coming to us for help, so we decided to open orphanages."

    Almost overnight, the six Abizeramariya homes for the elderly were transformed into boisterous orphanages with more than 40 children each. At each home, the children lived together with about a half dozen older people, as the sisters wanted to maintain their commitment to the elderly.

    "We helped the children not only for the children themselves, but also for the country," said Sr. Marie Agnes Nysera, another Abizeramariya sister living at the orphanage and elderly home in Huye. "To help these kids was living for God's sake."

    Abizeramariya means "Those who trust in Mary" in the local language of Kinyarwanda. The congregation is the second-oldest one in Rwanda and was founded in 1956. Today, they have 160 sisters in 13 communities in Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda.

    During the genocide, many of their convents were refuges for Tutsis fleeing the killing, and many people sought out the sisters in order to hide family members and children, according to testimony from the International Criminal Tribunal Courts.

    "I was basically born in the home and lived there all my life until I was in primary four [high school]," said Uwimbabazi. "I grew up there. They took me as their own kid."

    Uwimbabazi has two older sisters, an aunt and a handful of cousins who survived the genocide. She stayed in touch with her surviving family and went to visit them on holidays. But with the country in tatters after the genocide, caring for extra children was sometimes impossible, so Uwimbabazi stayed with the sisters.

    Kayigamkia gave Uwimbabazi her first name, Pacifique. "We wanted you to have peace and blessing from God," she said.

    For high school, Uwimbabazi followed in the footsteps of a cousin and gained admittance to the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, a boarding school for vulnerable teenagers that is celebrated for its emphasis on creativity and entrepreneurship.

    At Agahozo-Shalom, Uwimbabazi joined the leadership club and TV club, where she created weekly news bulletins about international and local news that were screened during Friday lunches.

    Now she hopes to attend university, either in Rwanda or abroad. She is waiting to hear about a scholarship to study economics at McGill University in Canada, or international business at the African Leadership University in Kigali, or the Rwanda National University.

    "I'm going to be a businesswoman, or maybe a clothing designer, because Rwanda has a lot of secondhand clothes but I think in 10 years there will be more of a market for new clothes," said Uwimbabazi.

    She returned to the orphanage where she grew up to share good news with the sisters who raised her: She had recently scored 67 out of 73 on her National Exams (similar to the SATs).

    Kayigamkia said the sisters prayed that Uwimbabazi might feel called to be a nun, which makes Uwimbabazi laugh. Although she was raised Catholic, in the past year she decided to become Anglican. "I explained to the sisters, it's my choice, now that I'm older I can choose, and they said OK," said Uwimbabazi.

    "To see these young ones graduating is amazing," said Kayigamkia. "These graduates will have a good future." Two other children who grew up with Uwimbabazi at the orphanage are now at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village and will graduate in December.

    "We must help the young ones, give them care and love, for they are the future of Rwanda," Kayigamkia added. "They are the doctors and the teachers of tomorrow."

    Uwimbabazi is among the last genocide survivors to graduate from high school and leave the sisters. Now, almost 60 percent of Rwanda's population is 24 or younger, meaning they were infants during the genocide or born afterward.

    In the past decade, the country has embraced the UNICEF and international approach to orphans, which emphasizes placing them with relatives within their communities rather than at separate orphanage facilities.

    "It's good to help the young ones, but it's better to grow up with their own families rather than the nuns," said Kayigamkia, though she notes that approach was impossible in the aftermath of the genocide, when poverty and hunger were widespread.

    She said most of the children who grew up at their facilities have left, either to study or to start their own families. "One of the challenges with the orphans is that we are not able to finance their [continued] education," said Kayigamkia. A few of the orphans, like Uwimbabazi, were able to obtain scholarships and continue their education, sometimes even through university.

    A few children, now young adults, are struggling and still live with the sisters. Some have mental or emotional issues and are unable to live on their own. But for the most part, the Abizeramariya Sisters have returned to their original purpose of serving the elderly. They serve about 240 elderly at their six homes, providing them with food, accommodations, clothes and spiritual support, said Kayigamkia.

    Today, Uwimbabazi lives down the street from the orphanage where she grew up, staying with a cousin while she waits to hear where she will study next year. She's busy watching her cousin's three children and doesn't visit her old home all the time, she said.

    But when she does, the sisters always remember to put out a plate of roasted ground nuts — peanuts — on the table as they sit in the common room and catch up, hearing about Uwimbabazi's plans for the future. "They remember that I like the ground nuts," said Uwimbabazi.

    "It's like coming home. It feels good to come home. They're like my mothers," she said. "Being an orphan is not a choice, but if you have purpose in your life, you don't have to feel alone."

    [Melanie Lidman is Middle East and Africa correspondent for Global Sisters Report based in Israel.]

    Source: Global Sisters Report… 

  • Church Premises Looted in South Sudan’s Kajo-Keji

    Comboni Missionaries in South Sudan || By Raimundo Rocha, Mccj || 24 March 2017

    looting in kajo keji 2017The residence of the missionaries and a workshop used as a vocational training centre have been looted in Kajo-Keji, South Sudan. That workshop had been set up to train people to develop skills and learn different professions such as carpentry, ironmonger mechanic, masonry, weaving and bakery. It also produced good quality furniture for schools, churches and offices.

    Kajo-Keji’s population was forced to leave the area due to violence and fear of further clashes between SPLA and armed individuals. People have resettled in Uganda as refugees. The missionaries that have been evangelising in Kajo-Keji area have accompanied their flock and settled near the refugee camps to pastorally assist their faithful.

    The missionaries responsible for the running of Kajo-Keji’s workshop and vocational training centre returned to the place to pick up the goods they had left behind. Surprisingly, the missionaries found that the workshop and their residence had been looted.

    “We went to our residence and found that the house was looted, all the solar panels were removed from the roof and all the doors were broken. They had scattered all our belongings on the floor”, narrated one of the missionaries.

    He further said that “looters have broken the doors of two containers in the workshop, despite the doors had been being welded. They looted all the bicycles, motorbikes, solar panels, solar lamps and all the medical equipments of the dispensary of Mondikolo and have stolen many other things from the compound”.

    The missionaries reported the looting to the SPLA commander whose troops are in the town. According to the missionaries, the commander said that “the compound had been looted four days earlier by rebel groups and that the SPLA had tried to stop them and was able to recover a motorbike and an electric bike”.

    All the houses and the stores along the road of Wudu in Kajo-Keji have been reported looted.

    The missionaries informed that the house of the Sisters had not been looted. Everything was found the way the Sisters left. Thankfully, the Comboni Comprehensive College in Lomin has not been looted either.

    “It is really sad to see those kinds of things happening in Kajo-Keji”, added the missionaries who collected what remained and went back to Uganda.

    Source: Comboni Missionaries in South Sudan…

  • Church in South Africa Opposed to President Zuma’s Instruction to Cut Short Finance Minister’s UK-and-USA Investor-Related Tour

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 27 March 2017

    zuma recalls gordham from london 2017The Catholic Church in South Africa through the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has made known its support for the international investment tour taken by the country’s Finance Minister to the UK and the USA, expressing “deep concern” President Jacob Zuma’s latest instruction to cut short the ongoing trip.

    In a letter availed to CANAA on Monday, March 27 titled, “Catholic Church Deplores the Recall of Gordhan, Jonas; Warns Against a Repeat of the Nene Debacle,” the Catholic Bishops have called on President Zuma not to reshuffle the Ministry of Finance.

    “The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference has noted with deep concern reports that President Zuma has recalled Minister Gordhan and Deputy-Minister Jonas from their investment visit to the UK and the USA,” the beginning of the Catholic Bishops’ letter states.

    Monday morning, Daily Maverick reported, “A one sentence statement issued by the Presidency at 11:49am read: President Jacob Zuma has instructed the Minister of Finance, Mr Pravin Gordhan and Deputy Minister Mcebisi Jonas to cancel the international investment promotion roadshow to the United Kingdom and the United States and return to South Africa immediately.”

    While reports indicate that the National Treasury had received authorization in writing from the Presidency to do the international investor tour, the Presidency has rescinded the authorization without providing any explanation.

    “It is clear to us that Mr Gordhan and Mr Jonas have been working diligently to improve South Africa’s economic outlook, and to persuade investors that our country is a stable and attractive place to do business,” the Catholic Bishops have stated and added, “Without such investment, we cannot hope to provide jobs to our millions of unemployed men and women.”

    “Now fears are growing that Zuma is about to reshuffle his cabinet following months of speculation that Gordhan is about to be fired in favour of former Eskom boss, Brian Molefe,” Daily Maverick has reported.

    “We call upon President Zuma to put South Africa first, and to publicly confirm his support for Mr Gordhan and Mr Jonas in their present positions,” the Catholic Bishops in South Africa have stated.

    According to Daily Maverick, the “Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was contacted by the Presidency overnight in London and instructed to return to the country” and the “US leg of the National Treasury’s investor roadshow was cancelled.”

    “We cannot forget the disastrous consequences that followed President's Zuma's decision of the December 2015 to fire the then-Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene,” the Catholic Bishops in South Africa recalled and added, “It would be the height of irresponsibility were something similar to happen again, just as our economy shows signs of recovery.”

    The Bishops have concluded, “Mr Gordhan enjoys widespread esteem for the work he has done to help the country recover from the Nene debacle. It would be a tragic irony if that work were now to be undone.”

    Following the news of the Presidency cutting short the investor-related tour, the South African Rand seems to have reversed its gains by Monday evening, trading at 1.8 percent lower against the US dollar.

  • Rome Summit Marks Launch of ‘African Catholicism 2.0’

    Crux || By John L. Allen Jr. || 26 March 2017

    african catholicism 20 launched 2017A March 22-25 summit of African Catholic leaders in Rome was far too complex to summarize, but perhaps the best stab at a big-picture take-away is that it marked the launch of 'African Catholicism 2.0': More universally oriented, more honest about itself, and more balanced in its judgment of the 'other.'

    In the classic film “The Princess Bride,” the Inigo Montoya character late in the movie is faced with the challenge of recounting the storyline up to that point. He says, “Let me ‘splain … No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

    I’ve got a similar sensation in the wake of a March 22-25 summit of African Catholic leaders in Rome titled “African Christian Theology: Memories and Mission for the 21st Century,” sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame.

    The event brought together four cardinals, a gaggle of bishops, scores of priests and religious, as well as numerous theologians, laity, activists, students, and other movers and shakers in the Catholic Church in Africa. (To be honest, I found myself wondering who was running things back home, since the entire power structure of the African church seemed to be in Rome.)

    After four days, 46 presentations, 14 discussion periods, and an avalanche of verbiage, any attempt at a comprehensive summary is a fool’s errand. But in the spirit of trying to sum up, here’s a stab at it: I think what we saw Wednesday through Saturday was the emergence of what one might call “African Catholicism 2.0.”

    For much of the post-colonial period, the Church in Africa was consumed with two primary challenges. The first was keeping pace with astronomic rates of growth; and the second was facing the mind-numbing social problems of the continent, such as armed conflict, chronic poverty, environmental degradation, ethnic and tribal conflict, and HIV/AIDS.

    By no means has either challenge receded. However, what emerged from the Rome summit is a sense of growing maturity, a conviction that African Catholicism has passed out of childhood and adolescence into adulthood and is ready to enter a new phase.

    What are the defining traits of African Catholicism 2.0? Based on the past week in Rome, at least three suggest themselves.

    Ad Extra as well as Ad Intra

    One feature of the adult African church is a sense that it’s got a contribution to make not just in Africa, but to the entire world and the universal Church.

    Bishop Tharcisse Tshibangu of the Democratic Republic of Congo insisted that African Catholic theology needs to be part of the global conversation.

    “It’s not just a question of African theology for Africans,” Tshibangu said on Wednesday, “but a theology that’s valid for one and all.”

    In a Crux interview, Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria, a longtime Vatican heavyweight who’s now retired, said that the emergence of African prelates as protagonists in the global church, including the key roles they played in the two recent Synods of Bishops on the family, was an organic result of the growth of the African church.

    “Bishops and cardinals get more experience of what the Church is, and so they’re bound to contribute more,” he said. “It’s just a normal development of divine providence.”

    Part of the picture may be that vast numbers of African priests and religious are now serving abroad, so there’s already a sense that the universal Church needs Africa. Part of it too may be a sense that African Catholicism has generated a deep body of both theological reflection and pastoral practice, of which it’s rightly proud.

    In any event, there was a strong sense in Rome that an “African moment” in the Catholic Church has arrived. Without retreating from Africa’s challenges, the Church on the continent appears ever more ready to play a lead role on the global stage.

    Honesty and self-criticism

    In the past, African Catholic leaders often would become defensive about any perceived criticism of the Church on the continent, worrying that it would feed perceptions of Africa as dysfunctional and immature.

    Today, however, precisely because of a growing sense of self-confidence, African Catholics seemed more inclined to honestly acknowledge their failures and shortcomings, knowing that there’s sufficient strength in their churches to weather the storm.

    Nigerian Father Paulinus Odozor, the organizer of the summit, made the point in an interview with Crux.

    “You have to be prepared to wash your dirty linen in public, where everyone can see,” he said. “If Africa wants to be taken seriously as a player, Africa has to be honest about itself.

    “We don’t just want people to hear the wonderful things we’re doing. We also want people to hear the terrible things we’re doing, and the things we’re not doing that well,” he said.

    That point was reinforced throughout the event, as the following examples attest.

    • Bishop Godfrey Onah of Nigeria nevertheless lamented that while ancient Africa produced great fathers of the Church, today it’s best known for faith healers and miracle centers.

    • Father Ludovic Lado, a Jesuit from Ivory Coast, reported that some Catholic priests in Africa not only practice witchcraft, but actually cast spells against one another.

    • Sister Maamalifar Poreku of Ghana not only complained that women in the African church are often reduced to doing no more than cleaning parish linens, but that the Rome summit itself hadn’t really given her much hope things would change.

    Whatever one makes of those points, the people delivering them had no apparent sense that doing so would somehow damage African Catholic prospects. The unstated premise seemed to be, “We’ve accomplished enough that talking these things out isn’t going to fundamentally change the equation.”

    Balance about the Other

    When African Catholicism was first taking root, there was an understandable sense that evangelization was fragile, and hence, at times, a strong hostility toward anything or anyone that seemed to threaten Catholicism’s hold on its flock.

    In the African context, that generally translated into a keen rivalry with two expressions of the religious “other”: Islam and Pentecostalism.

    While many Catholics today remain wary of both, and not without good reason, that’s increasingly matched by a capacity to acknowledge the good on the either side of the fence, and even to grudgingly admit that competition for hearts and minds may actually be healthy.

    Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto in northern Nigeria, an overwhelmingly Muslim part of the country, has emerged as one of African Catholicism’s primary interlocutors with Islam, making the point that peaceful co-existence is actually the African norm and violence the exception.

    “What people call Christian-Muslim conflict, there’s nothing inevitable about that. I think the Western media has constructed this, and it’s very popular,” he said in a Crux interview.

    “What we really call violence between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria is the failure of law and order,” he said. “A lot of the issues that have led to violence have had very little to do with religion per se.”

    As for Pentecostals, there was a good deal of talk at the Rome summit about the way they “lure” people away from the Catholic Church - giving them jobs, running dating services to provide them with spouses, and touting seminarians and priests who defect.

    On the other hand, several participants also conceded that the Pentecostal challenge is actually healthy, because it’s forcing Catholicism to “wake up.”

    “It’s made us understand that we can’t take our people for granted,” said Obiageli Nzenwa, a Catholic lay woman and independent human resources consultant in Abuja, Nigeria.

    She said she hopes the Pentecostal boom may drive Catholicism to give more attention to the importance of forming and assisting women, since they form the backbone of the African church.

    “African Catholicism 2.0” would appear to profile as more self-confident, more honest about itself, and less given to snap judgments about the other.

    Given all that the 1.0 version has accomplished, including shaping the most dynamic and enthusiastic Catholic community anywhere in the world, it’ll be fascinating indeed to track how the 2.0 version plays out.

    Source: Crux… 

  • Eritrean Catholic Bishop Visits Diaspora, Says too Many Migrants Perish

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Laura Ieraci || 21 March 2017

    eritrean bishop hagos tsalim visits ohio 2017Two weeks before arriving in Ohio on a nationwide pastoral visit, Bishop Fikremariam Hagos Tsalim of the Eparchy of Segheneity, Eritrea, got word that eight young people from his eparchy died trying to make their way to Europe in search of a better life.

    It's an all-too-common story, Bishop Tsalim told Horizons, newspaper of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, Ohio, March 7.

    About 190 Eritreans died trying to cross into Europe in February alone, he said. The poor migrants usually make their way to Libya, where traffickers demand steep fees to herd them onto a raft that will set sail to southern Italy. Too often the shabby rafts sink in the Mediterranean Sea and the migrants perish.

    Bishop Tsalim, 46, was at St. John Chrysostom Parish in Columbus, Ohio, in early March visiting the Eritrean Catholic diaspora who have been worshipping with the Byzantine Catholic community since 2014. He is the first bishop of the Segheneity Eparchy, which was established in 2012.

    The bishop's U.S. visit was his second in five years to raise funds for pastoral projects, including the construction of a chancery and a bishop's residence. Plans to build a high school are on hold as the eparchy awaits a government permit to break ground, he said.

    In January 2015, Pope Francis established the "sui iuris" (self-governing) Eritrean Catholic Church to facilitate pastoral work, bringing the number of Eastern churches in the Catholic communion to 23. The Eritrean eparchies previously were part of the sui iuris Ethiopian Catholic Church.

    The Eritrean and Ethiopian churches are of the Ge'ez rite, a subgroup of churches that celebrate Alexandrian-rite -- or Coptic-rite -- liturgy but in the Ge'ez language. Ge'ez, much like Latin or Church Slavonic, is no longer in everyday use.

    However, the political strife between Eritrea and Ethiopia in recent decades has made it difficult for the bishops of both churches to meet and plan pastoral work and so a separate church was needed, Bishop Tsalim explained.

    In addition to evangelization, Bishop Tsalim's pastoral priorities include improving social conditions of the people in the eparchy. He said he also often talks with teenagers to convince them to remain in Eritrea to study and help improve the situation at home.

    Bishop Tsalim joined the three other Eritrean Catholic bishops in issuing a pastoral letter in May 2014 that criticized the poor living conditions in Eritrea that cause mass migration.

    "There is no reason to search for a country of honey if you are in one," the bishops wrote.

    The letter called on political leaders to improve the judicial and economic systems so that human dignity is respected. It was a bold summons in a country where Catholics make up about 5 percent of the population.

    Bishop Tsalim said the Eritrean bishops stand by their letter and are working to develop the country through various clinics, schools and projects for the promotion of women under the church's charge.

    "But it is a drop in the ocean," he said. "We have to do more."

    Despite such efforts, teens still do not see a future in Eritrea. Children as young as 15 or 16 leave their families despite the well-known dangers of the crossing, he said.

    With so many young people gone, the church also faces the challenges of a vocations shortage and an aging church.

    The diaspora in the U.S. instead is young, with most of them having been in the country for less than 10 years, he said.

    "They are trying to settle themselves and to get something (good) for themselves," he said. "Everybody here is living hand to mouth. It is not easy for the Eritrean community."

    Bishop Tsalim said he has been encouraging the diaspora to keep their connections with the church and community in Eritrea.

    "We need them and vice versa," he added.

    He also said he has encouraged them to gather, worship together and teach their children the Catholic faith. He acknowledged the challenges of enculturation and integration for Eritrean immigrants.

    "Their children, when they grow up here (in the U.S.), their culture and language is American. Then, in one family, there are two cultures to reconcile. These two cultures, especially for illiterate immigrants, is a little bit difficult," he said.

    For high holy days, about four times per year, an Eritrean Catholic priest comes from another city to celebrate a Ge'ez-rite liturgy for the Columbus diaspora, said Michael Hailu, a member of the local Eritrean community.

    Hailu said his community sought to worship at a Byzantine-rite church because its liturgy is more similar to the Ge'ez liturgy. Although they worship in a Byzantine Catholic church, Eritrean Catholics in the U.S. fall under the canonical jurisdiction of Latin-rite bishops.

    Currently, only eight priests in the U.S. have the faculties to celebrate the Ge'ez-rite liturgy. Given the need, Bishop Tsalim said he would be open to an American priest learning the Ge'ez liturgy and becoming biritual to serve the diaspora.

    About 3,500 Eritreans live in central Ohio; about 150 are Eritrean Catholic.

  • Bishops in Kenya to Revive Biblical Apostolate Program

    CANAA || By Rose Achiego, Waumini Communications, KCCB || 23 March 2017

    reawakening biblical apostolate in kenyaIn an effort to continue evangelizing and spreading the Gospel of Christ throughout the country, the Catholic Bishops in Kenyan under their Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) are planning to establish a biblical apostolate office at the National level.

    In the first meeting toward this initiative held at the Catholic Secretariat on Tuesday, March 21, some 12 representatives from different dioceses with programs on biblical apostolate were led by the KCCB delegate for Africa on Biblical Apostolate and Bishop Joseph Mbatia of Nyahururu diocese to deliberate on how to disseminate the messages of the bible to the Christians, to know the dioceses where the biblical apostolate has already taken root and which once to reach out to.

    Bishop Mbatia said a bible is a tool for evangelization, source of knowing God and a tool to help Christians understand God more, adding that once the faithful understand the word of God, the people will be transformed and will manifest the common good in return.

    He noted that the Vatican II document encourages the faithful to study the bible and so the bishops are implementing what has been said by the Church.

    “Vatican II is clear that the Christians must understand the bible and must be allowed to understand the word of God” Bishop Mbatia said.

    He requested bishops to appoint diocesan pastoral coordinators in dioceses where there are none as the team needs to have a working document for guidance to enable the speedy implementation of the program in the various dioceses of Kenya.

    The meeting was attended by Biblical Scholars, Pastoral Coordinators and other representatives mostly drawn from the dioceses where biblical apostolate is active.

  • South Sudan’s Loreto School Graduates Largest Class of Girls since Country’s Independence History

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 23 March 2017

    loreto graduation 2017 aLoreto Girls Secondary school in Rumbek, South Sudan, last Saturday graduated 29 girls, the largest class of girls to graduate from the school and as a cohort in South Sudan since the country’s independence in 2011.

    In 2014, the United Nations (UN) lauded the school for graduating 23 girls, the first time 23 girls had graduated at once from a single secondary school in South Sudan since it gained independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011.

    Over one thousand people, among them donors of the school, representatives of the traditional leaders and State government, representatives of the clergy and religious ministering in the Catholic diocese of Rumbek, gathered to witness the continuation of the school’s tradition of graduating more and more South Sudanese girls.

    The well-attended Saturday, March 18 event, which started with the celebration of Holy Eucharist, was marked by cultural song and dance from various South Sudanese ethnic groups and speeches, all showing the immense and growing support of the Loreto school community.

    Among the South Sudanese cultural dances were the Acholi, Zande, and Nuer ethnic groups as well as several dances from different clans of the larger Dinka tribe.

    Speaking on behalf her graduating cohort, Josephine Nyanajong addressed her classmates, schoolmates, and parents saying, “To my sisters [Fellow Graduates]: Go forward and show the world what you can do. To those who are not graduating today, do not lose hope. To our Parents: Let us stay in school, let us go to University."

    "Our donors and all Loreto partners, you are rarely seen but your impact is great,” Nyanajong continued in her speech and added, “I can assure you that your effort is not being wasted." 

    The theme of the graduation was: I am Transformed; I seek to Transform

    The Loreto school Principal, Sr. Orla Treacy of the Loreto Sisters expressed her joy on the occasion saying, "We are proud of what you have achieved today, and to be part of these last years with you.”

    Seeing in the graduating students the fulfillment of the vision her congregation’s foundress, Sr. Orla told the graduating class, “Remember Mary Ward’s words: Women in Time will do Great things. Today you are those women."

    Mary Ward founded the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM), better known as the Sisters of Loreto, in Saint-Omer in 1609, the congregation taking its name from the Marian shrine at Loreto in Italy where Mary Ward used to pray. Pope Benedict XVI declared her Venerable on 19 December 2009.

    “The road ahead will have many challenges, be strong and have courage,” Loreto Sr. Orla advised the graduating girls.

    With most schools in South Sudan experiencing as high as 71 percent dropout rate of girls, Loreto School in Rumbek diocese celebrated a dropout rate of only 2.9 percent in the year 2016.

    The local Chief, Mangar Manyeil Dhal saw the graduating students as future leaders of South Sudan.

    In his address to the graduating students, the Chief said, “Education is something important. Graduates have shown a great example to the rest of the students who are coming after you. The first person to know the importance of education is you yourself then the society will learn after you. [These Loreto] Graduates will become leaders of SS."

    The Chief acknowledged with appreciation the growth Loreto school has experienced over the years to include students from all over the country and encouraged parents to prioritize the education of girls.

    "I am so happy that the time that the school started it was only going to be for western lakes but now it is for all of South Sudan,” Chief Mangar said and added, “Bring your girls to school when they are young so that they will understand what education is as they grow in the school."

    This was the sixth graduation since the school opened its doors to South Sudanese girls in 2006 under the invitation of the late Bishop of Rumbek, Caesar Mazzolari, with the first girls reporting in 2008 and the first graduation in November 2011.

    loreto graduation 2017 bThe Catholic diocese of Rumbek is currently headed by a Coordinator. Bishop Mazzolari passed on in July 2011, exactly a week after South Sudan’s independence. He had presided over prayers at Rumbek’s Freedom Square to mark the historic day of the country’s liberation from Sudan.

    Speaking at the graduation event, the Rumbek diocesan Coordinator, Father John Mathiang said, "Keep the candle of knowledge lit here [at Loreto] burning." He presided over Holy Eucharist prior to the graduation ceremony and led the community in a song about the benefits of education.

    Those who spoke on behalf of the parents acknowledged the efforts of the school administration to provide education to their daughters and wished the girls a bright future.

    "Sr. Orla is like the Grandmother of Loreto,” one parent shared and explained, “Every graduate comes back and every graduate shows their appreciation."

    The parent continued to share, "When my daughter wanted to go to school, we asked, will you finish? And she said yes, and she will finish; when she is finished (with) studying, she will then get married. So now when she is finished here, she will go for her bachelors, masters and PhD, then she will get married!"

    "I only got my senior 4 certificate in old Sudan; so when I brought my daughter here, I told her, you go here [to Loreto] and you go to University," another parent shared.

    The quality of the education that the girls receive at the Loreto school has usually helped them find either formal employment or continuing education opportunities.

    Since the last five graduations (2011-2015), 62 percent of the graduates have been able to pursue tertiary education programs.

    An additional 35 percent of the girls have found jobs or training programs in specific sectors including education, administration/finance, communications, nursing and community health, and in the NGO sector.

  • Africa’s Dynamic Church Makes Itself Heard in Rome

    Crux || By Inés San Martín || 21 March 2017

    moment of african church in rome 2017A major conference titled "African Christian Theology: Memories and Mission for the 21st Century" is taking place in Rome this week, and among other things, its sprawling discussions may challenge Catholics elsewhere to rethink the usual binary categories of left v. right.

    In what is arguably one of the most significant gatherings of African Catholic leaders in Rome since the second Synod of Bishops for Africa in 2009, the University of Notre Dame is sponsoring a major conference on March 22-25 on African Christian Theology.

    Focused on “Memories and Mission for the 21st Century,” and aiming to remember African theology’s origins in order to envision its future, the conference will bring together a cross-section of African theologians, international scholars of religion and society, Church leaders, and more at Notre Dame’s “Global Gateway” center near the Colosseum in Rome.

    Together, participants will try to rethink African theology and its nature, and what it can contribute both to African churches and societies, and also the world as a whole.

    Several of the continent’s most prominent ecclesiastical leaders will take part, including Nigerian Cardinals Francis Arinze and John Onaiyekan; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, the Archbishop of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a member of the group of cardinal advisers who’re helping Pope Francis reform the Roman curia; and Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, head of the Vatican’s office for Integral Human Development.

    Convened by Nigerian theologian Father Paulinus Odozor and the Center for Ethics and Culture of the University of Notre Dame, the gathering aims to continue a conversation initiated by a 2001 pastoral letter of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s titled “A Call to Solidarity with Africa”.

    Conference materials state that African Christian theology emerged as a formal branch of study in the Catholic Church in the mid-20th century when several African priests were trained in Rome and studied at various European universities.

    According to Odozor, it was then that Africans began to approach the faith as “African Christians,” instead of being “merely the ‘consumers’ of a Eurocentric understanding of the Christian faith.”

    During the three-day conference, Father Michal Perry, head of the worldwide Franciscan order, will speak about social reconciliation and the role the Church is playing in three countries in conflict: Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

    Meanwhile, Jesuit Father Ludovic Lado, from the Catholic University of Central Africa, will speak about African Pentecostalism in an emerging world Church. (The explosive growth of Pentecostalism across the developing world, and especially in Africa, is considered by many observers to have been among the most important religious realignments of the last part of the 20th century.)

    Amy Servais of Mater Domini in Cape Town, South Africa, will speak on youth, sexuality, and relationships in Africa; while Dianne Pinderhughes, a professor at Notre Dame, will discuss social disorganization and social disintegration, providing some observations for black Catholics.

    The list of topics is sprawling, but it includes Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’, as well as his apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia; the challenges of Catholic Social Teaching; “Islam and Christianity in dialogue in Africa,” and “Women, gender and theology of the African Church.”

    As Odozor told Crux, African theology is being influenced more and more by concerns that go beyond the relationship with African Traditional Religion, which was perhaps the central concern fifty years ago.

    “Colonialism, independence, war, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the rise of Islamic extremism have fundamentally altered the African landscape,” he said via email.

    “Similarly, globalization, the sexual revolution, and the simultaneous rise of the Church in the Southern Hemisphere and its contraction in many Western countries have changed the way the African Church thinks about itself and its place in the world.”

    Continuous demographic growth is helping change the global church’s center of gravity from Europe and North America to the global south, with Africa increasingly occupying a pride of place.

    According to the World Christian Database, by 2050, Africa should have over 450 million Catholics, becoming by far the world’s largest Catholic continent, while Catholics are projected to shrink in Europe. Some 30 years from now, the Catholic population in Africa is expected to almost double that in Europe.

    The church from the global south is not only growing in numbers, but also in influence. There are currently 24 African members in the College of Cardinals, 14 of whom are under the age of 80, meaning possible candidates for the papacy in a future conclave. They represent 12 percent of the electors, not far from the estimated 12.63 percentage African Catholics represent of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics.

    Furthermore, the current number represents an increase of seven compared to what it was only three years ago. On the other hand, Europe today has 109 cardinals, 52 of whom are under 80, while there were 108 three years ago, 53 of whom were eligible for the papacy.

    Two African cardinals currently play key Vatican roles: Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea heads the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, while Turkson was tapped to run the pope’s brand new Dicastery for Integral Human Development.

    Africans have also been involved in every major initiative Pope Francis has implemented to reform the Vatican, from appointing Monsengwo to his “C9” council of advisers to making Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa, a member of his new Council for the Economy.

    African prelates increasingly are not afraid to raise their voices.

    During the Synod of Bishops on the Family back in 2014, it was noted that there was no African member in the committee charged with drafting the final document. Several objected, and Napier was promptly added by Francis.

    A year later, during another synod, two of the 13 cardinals who wrote to the pope expressing concerns over the synod process were from Africa: Napier and Sarah. The list also included Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York; George Pell, who runs the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy; and German Cardinal Gerhard L. Müller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    Against that backdrop, the conference being staged in Rome this week is another illustration that the rise of Africa in the Catholic church is here to stay, and the diverse program and personalities taking part in it are likely to offer a “reality check.”

    While arguments against what Pope Francis has dubbed “ideological colonization” on issues of sexual morality are expected, so is ferment about the ethical failures of free-market capitalism and the ignoring of immigrants and refugees - perhaps suggesting that during this “African moment” in the Church, one challenge for Catholics elsewhere may be rethinking the usual binary categories of left and right.

    Source: Crux… 

  • Ghanaian Archbishop Calls for Shared Responsibility in Seminary Formation

    CANAA || By Damian Avevor, Ghaha || 20 March 2017

    archbishop palmer buckle on formation as shared responsibilityThe Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra, Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle, has said that the correct and total formation of priests needs to be a shared responsibility of parents, seminarians themselves and the Church as a whole.

    “The challenges are not to be underrated, but they are to be kept in sight and players, parents and guardians and society, are also to be kept on their toes for the good of the subject, the child or the student and for the greater good of the society and Church as a whole,” Archbishop Palmer-Buckle said.

    He was delivering a keynote address on the theme, “Sixty Years of Priestly Formation for the Church in Ghana and the Universal Church-A Shared Responsibility” at St. Peter’s Catholic Seminary, Pedu in the Cape Coast, last week.

    “It is the duty and the primary responsibility of parents to form or educate seminarians, while the seminarian himself has the onerous responsibility to be involved and committed to his own formation if he wants to become truly what God the Father has willed,” he pointed out.

    The gathering was one of the activities marking the 60th national independence anniversary of Ghana and the 12th Theology week of the seminary.

    The Archbishop noted that parents are the ones who literally start the task of educating the seminarian and they are to be complemented by other agents namely society, the state, Church or the religious leadership.

    The prelate of Accra said that all were endowed by the Holy Spirit to nurture vocations especially to the holy priesthood, religious life as well as the calling to married life. 

    “As a shared responsibility, it begins with praying to the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his vineyard. Then it follows with calling people and nurturing them to follow Christ in the priesthood and religious life.”

  • Pope Francis to Visit Egypt End April on Interfaith Dialogue Mission

    Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Hannah Brockhaus || 18 March 2017

    pope to visit egypt end april 2017In what will be his first international trip of the year, Pope Francis will be traveling to Cairo, Egypt, April 28-29, showing that interfaith dialogue is a priority.

    He will visit the country in response to an invitation from His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and the Grand Imam of the Mosque of al Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayyib, as well as Egypt's president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the bishops of the local Catholic Church, a March 18 Vatican communique announced.

    While the full program for the Pope's the trip will be published shortly, he will almost certainly visit Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which has recently partnered with the Vatican to discuss combatting religious justification for violence in a warming of relations between the two.

    The Pope’s trip will likely focus largely on inter-faith dialogue and Catholic-Muslim relations – especially in combating Christian persecution – continuing dialogue from a seminar Vatican officials attended in February.

    Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, along with the council's secretary and the head of their Office for Islam, traveled to Cairo Feb. 24 to participate in the special seminar at Al-Azhar University.

    They discussed the theme “The role of al-Azhar al-Sharif and of the Vatican in countering the phenomena of fanaticism, extremism and violence in the name of religion.”

    Persecution of Christians has long been an issue in Egypt, with a recent spike in attacks causing even more reason for alarm.

    There have been 40 reported murders of Christians in Egypt in the last three months, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, said in a statement Feb 28.

    Twenty-nine were killed in a bombing at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo in December. The Islamic State took credit for the bombing and released a video threatening to target Christian “crusaders” in Egypt.

    Since the video’s release, more Christians have been killed in Egypt and hundreds have reportedly fled their homes in the Sinai region in the north of the country after several murders there, the group In Defense of Christians said.

    Egyptian society was also profoundly shocked by the beheading in Libya of 20 Orthodox Coptic faithful and a companion by Islamic State militants in February 2015.

    Pope Francis was invited to visit Egypt by Coptic Catholic bishops during their ad limina visit at the Vatican Feb. 6, during which they also gave a report on the state of the Church in their country.

    The Pope had also received an invitation to visit Egypt from the country’s president and from the Grand Imam of al Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayyeb, who occupies a prestigious place in the Sunni Muslim world.

    Al Tayyeb paid a visit to the Vatican May 23, 2016 for a meeting with Pope Francis, which marked a major step in thawing relations between the al-Azhar institution and the Holy See, which were strained in 2011 with claims that Pope Benedict XVI had “interfered” in Egypt’s internal affairs by condemning a bomb attack on a church in Alexandria during the time of Coptic Christmas.

    Since then relations have continued to move forward at a surprisingly fast pace, leading to the Oct. 21 announcement from the Vatican that sometime this spring the Holy See and the Al-Azhar Mosque and adjunct University will officially resume dialogue.

    Francis’ visit to Cairo and to the University in April will likely mark the official resumption of this dialogue.

    Source: Catholic News Agency… 

  • Golden Jubilee of Vatican II Document on Church’s Relation with Non-Christian Religions Commemorated in Kenya

    CANAA || Sr. Antoinette Jecinter Okoth (FSSA) || 20 March 2017

    nostra aetate at 50 commemorated in kenya 2017A group of different religions and movements in Kenya gathered in Nairobi to commemorate the 50th anniversary of NOSTRA AETATE, the Vatican II the declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions.

    Known as the declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions, NOSTRA AETATE was proclaimed by Pope Paul VI October 28, 1965 with the aim to promote unity among Christians and Non- Christians all over the world.

    “This document, NOSTRA AETATE was given to encourage Catholics to see the values of other religions and to encourage corporation with people of other religions,” the former president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for inter-religious dialogue in the Vatican, Archbishop Michael FitzGerald said, told the participants at the conference and clarified that the cooperation was intended to be not only among religious leaders but also “among the members of different religions.”

    “We are rather late with the 50 years’ celebration, I would say, but it doesn’t matter,” said the Archbishop who is also the former Nuncio to Egypt.

    “There has been series of celebrations especially in 2015 where I also took part in London, Bungalow and Tel Aviv but what matters is that the document is still alive and inspirational to us,” Archbishop FitzGerald continued and added, “If the different religions are coming together and working together, this is a contribution to the intention and development of the Nostra Aetate.”

    The two-day conference, which concluded Saturday, March 18, brought together the various groups working for interfaith dialogue in Kenya, representatives of various denominations including Catholics, Muslims, African traditional religions, Hindus-Hare Krishna, Jews, as well organizations such as the Shalom Centre for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation, the Ecumenical Centre for Justice and Peace (ECJP) and the Association for Development Cooperation (ADC).

    According to the director of religious affairs of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM), Dr. Sheikh Hassan Kinywa Omari, the Nostra Aetate is a document whose content has a lot for the different religions to learn from.

    “Nostra Aetate is one of the shortest Catholic documents which has a lot of meaning to interfaith dialogue,” Dr. Hassan said, adding, “We know that people are talking of peace and unity everywhere in the world, and this is the intent of inter-religious dialogue; we have arranged this symposium in such a way that different religions have been invited, and have presented practical implementations of Popes view on interfaith dialogue.”

    The conference took place at Tangaza University College (TUC), a Constituent of Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), with TUC’s School of Theology under the department of Mission and Islamic studies as the main organizer.

    “Apart from celebrating Nostra Aetate, we related this symposium with the forth coming general elections given that we are talking about peace and religious leaders in the past few years have become so instrumental in facilitating peace-talks in the country,” Father Charles Odira, one of the lectures at TUC’s department of Missions and Islamic studies said.

    “Peace is at the core of every religious aspirations and so through collaboration with all these religions, we can have better ways of ensuring peaceful elections to reduce conflict and tension so that the religious people can give an alternative voice that may be lacking in the political parties,” Father Odira added.

    On his part, Dr. Tsawe Munga wa Chidongo from the African Religion emphasized the fact that religions exist to promote unity and peace in the society.

    “After the 2007/2008 post-election violence in Kenya, a movement meant to bring serenity in the society was formed and it began to preach peace, unity and forgiveness to the people,” Dr. Chidongo recalled.

    “As a sign of solidarity, other communities in Kenya such as the Aembu, Ameru and Agikuyu who are believers of African Religion joined this movement and as I am talking, they have already conducted a peace-walk emphasizing on peaceful election ahead of the August 2017 election,” Dr. Chidongo revealed.

    A book on inter-religious dialogue aimed at promoting ecumenism and for all people of goodwill who believe in promoting dialogue among religions was launched at the conference.

  • Pope Francis Apologizes for Catholics' Participation in Rwanda Genocide

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Cindy Wooden || 20 March 2017

    pope francis apologizes for rwanda catholic churchMeeting Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Pope Francis asked God's forgiveness for the failures of the Catholic Church during the 1994 Rwanda genocide and for the hatred and violence perpetrated by some priests and religious.

    "He implored anew God's forgiveness for the sins and failings of the church and its members, among whom priests and religious men and women who succumbed to hatred and violence, betraying their own evangelical mission," said a Vatican statement released March 20 after the meeting of the pope and president.

    Some 800,000, and perhaps as many as 1 million people -- most of whom belonged to the Tutsi ethnic group -- died in the ferocious bloodshed carried out from April to July 1994.

    "In light of the recent Holy Year of Mercy and of the statement published by the Rwandan Bishops at its conclusion" in November, the Vatican said, "the pope also expressed the desire that this humble recognition of the failings of that period, which, unfortunately, disfigured the face of the church, may contribute to a 'purification of memory' and may promote, in hope and renewed trust, a future of peace, witnessing to the concrete possibility of living and working together once the dignity of the human person and the common good are put at the center."

    Pope Francis "conveyed his profound sadness, and that of the Holy See and of the church, for the genocide against the Tutsi," the Vatican said. "He expressed his solidarity with the victims and with those who continue to suffer the consequences of those tragic events."

    In President Kagame's 25-minute private meeting with the pope, as well as during his meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, note was made of "the collaboration between the state and the local church in the work of national reconciliation and in the consolidation of peace for the benefit of the whole nation," the Vatican said.

    In a statement read in churches throughout Rwanda Nov. 20, the country's bishops apologized for "all the wrongs the church committed" during the genocide. "We regret that church members violated their oath of allegiance to God's commandments" and that some Catholics were involved in planning, aiding and carrying out the massacres.

  • Catholic Communicators of Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese Discuss Ethics of Reporting Violence

    CANAA || By Ankeli Emmanuel, Sokoto || 16 March 2017

    communicators in sokoto discuss ethics in reporting violenceWhile many continue to decry the sharp decline of professional reportage in the country, the advent of social media is adding salt to the injuries created by lack of ethics in the media industry, Mallam Ishaq Kawu Modibo has observed.

    Kawu Modibo, who is the Director General, Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) stressed that the social media has become the biggest source of inciting,unsubstantiated and insensitive reportage lately.

    "The social media with all its advantages, perhaps has become the biggest source of inciting, unsubstantiated and crudely insensitive reportage against nation's and individuals".

    Speaking yesterday in Sokoto on the theme, "The Nigerian Media: The Ethics of Reporting Violence in Nigeria" at the Catholic plenary for Diocesan/Religious Directors of Communication, Kawu Moddibo noted with dismay how sensational reportage continue to gain ground against laid down ethics of the profession.

    Kawu Modidibo who was represented by a Director in NBC, Dr Armstrong Idachaba, a Director in his office, Kawu said the social media does not even pretend to any ethical foundations and it does not give a damn about it hence the need to investigate this disturbing trend.

    While urging media practitioners to dignify their profession by adhering to its ethics, especially when reporting violence, Kawu Moddibo advised that, the sanctity of humanity must be respected at all times.

    ''In all, it must remember that beyond reporting, it must protect the sanctity and humanity of the Nigerian society, at all time,” he said and added, ''It must be sensitive to the national ethos and the sanctity of humanity.”

    On his part, the Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah appealed to Journalists to consistently remain glued to honesty, patriotism and the love for peace and unity as their watchwords.

    'Bishop Kukah who advised that, he has the conviction that the Church also need to hear people a little bit more, added that, the decisions journalists make can make countries to decide to go to war or not.

    ''Often,there is much anxiety as to how the media get their information for their reportage. Journalists must yet be respected, but they should work according to the ethics of their noble profession,'' Bishop Kukah advised.

    On his part, the former Director-General of NBC, Mallam Danladi Bako cautioned people on how to ensure that they seive every bit of the information that gets to them before assimilating them.

    According to him, the mischievious use and dissemination of false information without verification often time ignites not just the violence but even the spread of conflict.

    '' Rumours come in here as information packaged by mischief makers. The information flow between the pre-conflict, conflict and post conflict periods are very crucial,'' Danladi Bako noted.

    Giving insight into the plenary, the Social Director, Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Rev. Father Sixtus Ladi Onuh affirmed that, they would brainstorm on extant ethics of Journalism, with a view to ensuring strict adherence by all the practitioners.

  • The Morality of Land Reforms in South Africa: 20 Years of Participating in Public Policy

    Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference || Briefing Paper 426 || 14 March 2017

    morality of land reforms in south africa 20171. Introduction

    The question of land reform in South Africa is articulated in the Constitution in very clear terms. The Preamble talks of South Africa as “our land”. This simple assertion opens a sense of relationship with this land as one that includes all. Thus, all the sections that follow seek to express different ways of reforming the past’s divided, unequal, and unjust relationships with something new and equitable. Legislation that has since followed, and most of the policy discourse around land, has been mainly about articulating the constitutional mandates that point, first of all, to the need to foster equitable access to land in the public interest (section 25(4)(a)) and, secondly, to the realisation of tenure security (section 25(6)).

    But what seems glaringly missing is the question of the moral demand or rightness of not only changing land access and relationships, but of repairing the hurt, misery, brokenness, and trauma of a people often violently ripped from their land for generations. In a country trying to repair a most odious crime against humanity – which was based largely on land dispossession – why is the question of land seemingly a pragmatic discourse and not a moral discourse?

    2. The Moral Question

    It has often been said that the question of morality and land is a question of churches, and other faith communities, and their historical complicity in the land question. However, the role of the churches and other faith communities in the land question is an important but very different discourse to the one about the moral questions surrounding land and reform. Over the years, various statements and policy positions have been put forward by faith communities that address the moral questions around land. In 1990, 85 churches met for the National Conference of Church Leaders in South Africa, and produced what became known as the Rustenburg Declaration.1 The main purpose was to express not just contrition for the wrongs and sins of the past, but to call for action to repair those wrongs.

    “We know that without genuine repentance and practical restitution we cannot appropriate God’s forgiveness and that without justice true reconciliation is impossible.” (para 2.4. of the Declaration)

    The gathering articulated its declaration in the language of faith, but the underlying acceptance was that the demand for restitution was not simply based on a legal demand for justice, but also an underlying moral demand to right a wrong.

    “Those of us who have perpetuated and benefited from apartheid…We have allowed the state institutions to do our sinning for us.” (para 2.6.)

    The churches went on to state, in part 5 of the declaration, that:

    “Confession and forgiveness necessarily require restitution. Without it, a confession of guilt is incomplete. As a first step towards restitution, we call on the Government to return all land expropriated from relocated communities to its original owners.”

    “We ask the interim liaison committee to set up a task force on land issues with a view to making church property available for those without land and identifying land expropriated by the Government to be restored to its original owners.” 2

    Whether one agrees with the declaration or not, it is clear that at this point in history, there was a

    clear recognition of the moral imperative not just to acknowledge what had happened, but also that repair and restitution would be an integral part of that acceptance of guilt.

    In 2012, in a document entitled Catholic Church Vision for Land Reform in South Africa, the Catholic Church pointed out that the question of land had become a “bitter terrain of struggle” worldwide and in South Africa.

    If a way to just land distribution and efficient land productivity is not found, not only is there a great danger of violent conflict erupting in our midst, but the food security of our nation and our region is threatened.3

    What is striking about this and many other positions taken by both the faith communities and the government in the early 1990s, is how the response to the question of land has become much more pragmatic since then, and how much less is said nowadays about the clear demand for justice.4 The churches then were prophetic in calling for the need for land reform, but no one seems to be dealing with the moral question anymore.

    3. Pragmatism

    The choice by government to be pragmatic in dealing with the South African context is not in itself surprising since the whole project of the ‘New South Africa’ is based on the idea of trying to incorporate the excluded majority into the existing social, economic, and political framework. The project has never adopted a revolutionary approach where the previous social and economic structures would be overthrown and replaced by totally new ones; nor has it been about a Nuremberg approach, which would demand that all those who had been party to this crime would be punished and that what had been taken would be returned to the victims. In fact, the values of the Truth Commission seem to have been a major influence, not only about how the country would deal with (some) crimes committed under Apartheid, but also about how to direct the pragmatic approach to land that encourages co-operation between the state, claimants, and land occupiers. 5

    4. Justice Denied?

    The principle of justice, be it moral or legal, always demands that where something was unjustly acquired or taken away, it be returned or given back. In simple terms, if you steal my car while I am sleeping, or you hijack it, or you simply take it because it was parked on the side of a motorway with no one in sight, when I come and lay claim to it, I deserve it back. I am not required to buy it back, nor am I required to share it with the one who took it in the first place. Is this basic principle being denied in the question of land in South Africa?

    5. To the Victor the Spoils!

    Some have argued that, since some of the land was acquired fairly in war during colonial times, and that most of the land was empty anyway, then not only to the victor the spoils, and so “finders-keepers”, then those who won have right of ownership and those who lost the war lost the right to claim that land.6 This is the basic principle that has determined the borders of countries and communities for millennia.

    This raises two problems. The first is that this principle has also been the cause of many international conflicts that have lasted for centuries, with perpetual wars and conflict going on unendingly. The 1899 intergovernmental treaty saw the formation of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague, created to resolve these conflicts through mediation and arbitration, and by seeking to determine who the actual legal, moral and historical owners should be. Thus the idea that ‘to the victor – the spoils’ is being challenged by a new sense of ‘to the victim – justice’.

    Secondly, if one were to insist that ‘to the victor – the spoils’, then those that lost the war have every incentive to go back to war and win back, violently, what was lost to them in war. Here again is a recipe for perpetual war and killings.

    What has been clear in 20th century thinking, due to the immense destruction that followed the two great wars and many other conflicts, is that questions of justice, socio-economic conflicts, and moral disputes between peoples, should be resolved by other means besides war. Finally, what has also become the norm is that all peoples are deserving of justice, even if they themselves are too weak, socially, economically or militarily,

    to demand justice, with the UN and other multilateral institutions taking what essentially is a moral position to protect the rights of all. 7

    6. Truth and Reconciliation

    “… a commission is a necessary exercise to enable South Africans to come to terms with their past on a morally accepted basis and to advance the cause of reconciliation.” 8

    The late minister Dullah Omar made this statement reflecting the basic idea that the South African situation was not simply a legal or pragmatic one, but a moral question. The need was more than simply to change discriminatory laws; it was to respond morally to a crime.

    However, some vital points were glaringly missing in the work of what subsequently became known as the Truth Commission, articulated by the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act 34 of 1995. Firstly, no attention seems to have been given to the need to repair the fracture that exists between the dispossessed African majority and the land and its history, its heritage, and its soul. Secondly, there was no reference to reconciling those who were dispossessed with their land. The Truth Commission seems to have focused mainly on the question of gross violations of human rights, especially as expressed through direct violence against the victims who appeared before the Commission.

    While the Act provided for

    the taking of measures aimed at the granting of reparation to, and the rehabilitation and the restoration of the human and civil dignity of, victims of violations of human rights;9

    it failed to look at land dispossession as an urgent and gross violation that needed the same kind of attention crimes such as death-squad murders, torture, and detention without trial. Thus, because the land question was not directly articulated as a gross violation, it has come to be treated as a historical event of moral neutrality that will eventually be reformed sometime in the distant future. But is this morally justifiable? Does the country’s approach to the land question fulfil the demands of justice and, most crucially, the need for the restoration of the human and civil dignity of black South Africans?

    7. The United Nations

    The UN has taken the position that “land is not a mere commodity, but an essential element for the realization of many human rights.”10 According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report, Land and Human Rights: Standards and Applications,

    While there is currently no explicit reference to a general human right to land under international human rights law, several international human rights instruments link land issues to the enjoyment of specific substantive human rights. References to land are made in relation to the right to food, equality between women and men, and the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons, as well as the rights of indigenous peoples and their relationship with their ancestral lands or territories. 11

    In other words, to deny people their land is to deny them their human rights. Though this discourse is articulated in the language of international law and human rights, it can be said to mean that the ability of a people to maintain their identity, their dignity, and their humanity, is closely tied to their land, and to deprive them of that land is to deprive them of that dignity, that identity, and that humanity.

    In this country, when land dispossession took place, the relationship between the people and their ancestors, their sacred sites, and the spaces that defined who and what they are, was often brutally ripped apart. Thus, that dispossession was, and remains, an extreme violation of those rights that has lasted for decades, if not centuries. But, for some strange reason, South African legislation and policy articulation fails to speak of the land question in terms of the gross violation of people’s rights.

    8. Conclusion

    During the 2013 centenary remembrance of the 1913 Natives Land Act, which heralded an extraordinary scale of land dispossession, many, including Parliament debating the matter, spoke in very moving ways about the viciousness of that Act and its subsequent impact on land ownership in South Africa. However, that talk has still not translated into a legislative and policy landscape that recognises the question of land reform as a matter of moral concern, moral and legal justice,

    1 http://kerkargief.co.za/doks/bely/DF_Rustenburg.pdf

    2 Ibid

    3 http://www.sacbc.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Catholic-Church-Vision-for-Land-Reform-in-South-Africa-Text-for-printing.pdf

    4 Pg. 490-493 http://wiredspace.wits.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10539/275/11_appendix6.pdf

    5 The Truth and reconciliation Commission has been criticised by some for what they see as a very narrow approach to the truth, and thus what came out was a “compromised truth”.

    http://www.sahistory.org.za/article/truth-and-reconciliation-commission-trc-1995

    6 http://www.sahistory.org.za/article/empty-land-myth

    7 Note that this does not always happen and is an ongoing challenge; as the Palestinian conflict clearly shows, in some contexts ‘might is right’.

    8 http://www.justice.gov.za/Trc/

    9 http://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/acts/1995-034.pdf

    10 http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/Land_HR-StandardsApplications.pdf

    11 Ibid. pg. 7

    This Briefing Paper, or parts thereof, may be reproduced with acknowledgement.

    For further information, please contact the CPLO Office Administrator.

    and which seeks to repair a situation of gross violation not just of the rights of a people, but of the people themselves. After the experience of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the recognition of the importance of truth in addressing the crimes of the past, why is that experience not being used to deal with the truth regarding issues around land?

    _________________________________________________________

    Matsepane Morare SJ, Researcher

  • A New Bishop for Ghana’s Keta-Akatsi Diocese Named

    CANAA By Damian || Avevor, Ghana || 16 March 2017

    bishop gabriel kumordji for keta akatsi ghanaPope Francis on Thursday, March 16, appointed Most Rev. Gabriel Kumordji as the new Bishop of Ghana’s Keta-Akatsi Diocese situated in the Volta Region.

    A member of the Divine Word Missionaries (SVD), Bishop Kumordji has been serving as the Apostolic Vicar of Ghana’s Donkorkrom Vicariate.

    He succeeds Bishop Anthony Adanuty, who resigned last year after reaching the canonical retiring age limit of 75. Bishop Emmanuel Fianu (SVD) of Ho diocese has been the Apostolic Administrator of Keta-Akatsi Diocese.

    The announcement was made at the Christ the King Cathedral, Akatsi, by the Apostolic Nuncio to Ghana, Archbishop Jean-Marie Speich, in the presence of Bishops Kumordji, Fianu and Adanuty as well as the Priests, Religious and a section of the lay faithful.

    Bishop Kumordji who will be turning 61 on March 24 will still be in charge of Donkorkrom Vicariate until a new Apostolic Vicar is appointed.

    Born in Ghana’s capital, Accra, as the fifth son of Leonard and Severina Kumordji, Bishop Kumordji had his Primary Education at the Sacred Heart Parish in Accra and middle School at Mamprobi Sempe 7 at Mamprobi in Accra, and Secondary Education at St. Thomas Aquinas School in Accra.

    After his Secondary Education, he undertook philosophical studies at St Victor's Major Seminary in Tamale (1976-79) and joined the Society of Divine Word (SVD) Novitiate in 1979 and professed the first Vows on September 8, 1980 at St. George’s Parish in Koforidua.

    From 1980 to 1983, he did his Theological Studies at the same Major Seminary in Tamale. After one year of pastoral experience in the Sunyani Diocese, he took his final Vows on September 8, 1984 at the Sacred Heart Parish at Derby Avenue.

    He was ordained Priest by Bishop Dominic Andoh, the then Bishop of Accra on July 14, 1985.

    His Priestly ministry began in St. Augustine Church at Asesewa from 1985to1988, St Maria Goretti Church at Battor from 1988-1991 as Associate Pastor before undertaking a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Missiology at the Loyola University in Chicago from1991-1993.

    He also obtained a Postgraduate Certificate in Religious Formation from St. Louis University in Missouri.

    On his return in 1993, Bishop-Elect Kumordji was appointed Director of Formation in the SVD Formation House in Tamale and taught Pastoral Theology, Pastoral Counseling, Missiology and Homiletics at Victor's Major Seminary in Tamale in from 1993 to 2001.

    He again went for further studies in Los Angeles from 2001 to 2005 where he acquired Master’s Degree and PHD in Inter-Cultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.

    On June 22, 2005, Bishop Kumordji was elected and appointed the Provincial Superior of the SVD and President of the Conference of Superiors of Men Religious in Ghana.

    With the erection of the Donkorkrom Apostolic Prefecture in the Afram Plains, he became the first Apostolic Prefect on June 12, 2007.

    On January 19, 2010, when the Prefecture was elevated to an Apostolic Vicariate, he was appointed the Apostolic Vicar with Episcopal character.

  • Despite Hardships and Famine, South Sudan's Nuba People Remain Generous

    Global Sisters Report (GSR) || By Sr. Caroline Mjomba, CPS || 15 March 2017

    precious blood sisters in nuba mountains servingA bumpy cargo flight from Nairobi to Juba, South Sudan. Another flight north to the Yida refugee camp, home to 70,000 refugees from the country's civil war, which began in 2011. A warm welcome there, and after lunch, an eight-hour drive on a rough road across the border into Sudan and the Nuba Mountains. Seeing so many people walking long distances under the scorching sun and in extreme heat gave us a reason to bear the discomfort.

    We arrived at the small town of Kauda at 10 p.m. to a rousing welcome from three very courageous sisters, members of our Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood. The next morning, some catechists and parishioners paid us a courtesy call to express their deep appreciation for what the presence of our sisters means to them. It was such a humbling experience, considering that some of them walked for hours, carrying what little they had to share with us.

    The Nuba Mountains, in the border state of South Kordofan, is an extremely marginalized area. Geographically, it belongs to Sudan, but it is also home to rebels with strong local support and is often bombed by the Sudanese government in Khartoum led by President Omar al-Bashir. On the other hand, people supporting the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North battle for their land and rights.

    This year, the Nuba people face a challenging fighting season, which typically begins by December, after the rains end, and runs until June. Poor rainfall and subsequent poor harvests, along with the presence of Sudanese military forces in key agricultural areas, has led to famine. And many are now skeptical that an easing of U.S. sanctions announced in mid-January will bring any real relief to the people of the Nuba Mountains.

    People of the Nuba Mountains often run into their foxholes to take cover from the warplanes that have shamelessly thrown bombs on innocent civilians for more than five years. In November, the month I visited with some donors to a hospital here, a fighter plane dropped two bombs that fell near a primary school, injuring four people and destroying four homes. In June, a bomb partly damaged the Daniel Comboni Teacher Training College, where one of our sisters is the college principal. A primary-school teacher was hurt.

    Women and children continue to be affected more by such bombings because the able men are soldiers at the frontline. Many men have been injured or killed and many others affected mentally by the shelling and seeing their colleagues perish one by one. Please let's join hands to pray for an end to this inhuman act.

    Lack of infrastructure — including roads, health care and schools — contribute to the remoteness of the Nuba Mountains and the suffering there. So does al-Bashir, whose policy is to keep out humanitarian aid.

    Mother of Mercy Catholic Hospital in Gidel, outside of Kauda, is the only hospital available to the Nuba people and victims of the civil war. The charitable work of the Sudanese diocese of El Obeid, it is meant for 150 beds but now takes in as many as 500 patients, a number of which are wounded soldiers and tuberculosis patients. In conjunction with the hospital, our congregation, which established its Nuba Mountains mission in 2005, opened a small dispensary in Kauda. It serves a multitude of patients who can hardly pay for the medicine. A German aid organization runs another small facility in Kauda.

    The Nuba people are very friendly and generous despite the challenges of war, hunger, harsh weather, lack of formal education — you name it. Basic needs like soap and salt are a luxury. Someone might work the whole day only to ask for these needs in return. Yet their generosity reminds me of the Gospel story of the widow's mite: They are always out to share the little they have.

    What is saddening is that girls are married off at a tender age though many really want an education. More often than not, many parents (especially the mothers, given that the fathers are in the battle) cannot even afford the little money charged for school fees.

    The Catholic Church and the nongovernmental organization Samaritan's Purse, which drills bore holes for water, are performing an invaluable ministry in the Nuba Mountains. In addition to our congregation — a fourth Missionary Sister of the Precious Blood joined the mission in February — two Mercy sisters from Australia, three Comboni sisters and two Apostles of Jesus priests work in the area.

    It is worth acknowledging the invaluable efforts of Bishop Emeritus Macram Gassis of the El Obeid Diocese for inviting all these religious congregations to the Nuba Mountains and for putting up the Mother of Mercy Hospital, four primary schools, a secondary school and the Daniel Comboni Teacher Training College. They are the only schools really functioning.

    In addition, an ambitious young former student from the college, Kunda Zacharia, has taken up the challenge to start a school in an area that had none. Though it lacks proper classrooms, chairs, books, pens and more, one cannot stop marveling at such initiative and passion for education. He surely would need any kind of support.

    In the Nuba Mountains, I am inspired by the good relationships among Christians, Muslims and traditionalists. Their fight against their common enemy, the government in Khartoum, unites them; differences in beliefs are not an issue. Feast days bring them together irrespective of their faiths. Every new day is a gift to thank God for, praying and hoping for another peaceful day. Inshallah.

    Two active Catholic parishes, Kauda and Gidel, serve 41 very needy outstations, which are referred to as chapels. Kauda parish has one Apostles of Jesus priest (abuna in Arabic) and a brother, and Gidel has two priests. The nearest parish to those two is in Heiban, an area that is prone to bombings. Six children were killed in a bombing in May 2016. The priest, Abuna Tutu, has been there for the last 13 years and isn't ready to leave his Christians without a shepherd.

    Since it takes so long for the few priests to visit each chapel and celebrate Mass, very committed catechists serve despite the fact that they do not receive a stipend and have to fend for their families. The few catechists who are trained, in turn, mentor those who are not. Another kind deed would be to look for ways to give them a little remuneration and to offer a catechetical course to at least some of them.

    In all, the presence of the very few courageous and committed sisters and priests is transforming, especially in Kauda and Gidel. Theirs first is the ministry of presence: listening to the stories of the traumatized people of Nuba, encouraging them with hope and showing them the face of God in their selfless service to them. In turn, the testimony of the Nuba people speaks volumes as it gives us another way of looking at mission today.

    Indeed, with bold humility, we can rightly say we have listened to the wish of our founder, Abbot Francis Pfanner: "With all this, however, we do not lose sight of the Sudan."

    We need to pray together for a lasting solution to the senseless conflict that has seen huge numbers of deaths and maimed and displaced people under the watch of the United Nations. It will take President al-Bashir's change of heart to give back to the Nuba people their dignity. Is he ready?

    [Kenyan Sr. Caroline Mjomba is the East African provincial superior of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood, founded in 1885 in South Africa.]

    Source: Global Sisters Report…

  • My life isn't a tragedy – a Rwandan Woman's Incredible Story of Survival

    Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Elise Harris || 13 March 2017

    incredible story of rwandan woman 2017She begged and scrounged for food in the forest; she drank water from a stream with dead bodies in it; she wrapped grass on her feet in order to walk long distances in the hot sun in order to survive, facing starvation and malnourishment, all before the age of six.

    Now, Mirreille Twayigira is a licensed medical doctor hoping not just to save lives, but to inspire young women worldwide – particularly those in her same situation – by showing them there's hope, and that life is more than the tragedies they face.

    While some might label her life “a tragic story” due to the suffering and loss she faced as a young child, Twayigira said others might choose to call it “a story of courage and perseverance.”

    However, “I choose to call it a story of hope, a story of God...from ashes to beauty, (like) a beautiful stained glass window.”

    Twayigira was among several speakers at the March 8 Voices of Faith women's gathering in the Vatican, marking International Women's Day.

    First held in 2014, the VoF conference was established in response to Pope Francis' call to “broaden the space within the Church for a more incisive feminine presence.”

    Gathering women from around the world, this year's VoF took place at the Vatican's Casina Pio IV, headquarters of the Pontifical Academy for Sciences, and featured testimonies of women from around the world, including Syria and Burundi, who shared their stories of perseverance, highlighting the importance of building peace in a world filled with conflict.

    In her testimony, Twayigira noted that when war broke out between Tutsis and members of the Hutu majority the government, leading to mass killings of the Tutsi tribe, she was just three years-old.

    Although she doesn't remember much about the war itself when it started, she remembers the day she got the news that her father had been killed.

    “I remember being told that my father had been killed, his body being brought home wrapped in this blue tent,” she said, noting that she was too young to fully understand what was happening on the day of his burial.

    Before the war, “we were a big, happy family. Our house was next to our grandparent's house, so my sister and I used to spend our days with uncles and aunts...so it was a beautiful and happy childhood,” she said.

    After her father's death, however, this changed dramatically.

    “My family knew that it was no longer safe for us, so they had to pack and leave,” she said, explaining that at first, they fled to another district of Rwanda, thinking they would be safe.

    However, after just a short time her younger sister, who was just one-year-old at the time, got sick and, because her family didn’t have access to medicine or proper nourishment due to the war, she passed away.

    After her sister’s death – which marked the second time she had lost a sibling, since an older sister had died before Twayigira was born – the family fled through Burundi to a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    “In the camp I was a very happy kid,” she said, “but this all ended when I encountered more loss.”

    While in the camp, her mother fell ill and “one night she was gone.” However, Twayigira said that despite the tragic death of her mother, “life had to go move on,” so she and her grandparents continued to move forward.

    But just two years later, in 1996, they had to leave because of war in the DRC, which is when “I began to experience a life that is unimaginable,” she said, recalling how she had her grandparents fled the camp with bullets flying over their heads, and took refuge in the forest.

    “We only survived by begging for food,” she said. Her grandparents begged from locals in nearby villages, and at times were given moldy bread to eat. When begging wasn’t enough, “we even had to eat roots from the forest.”

    “I remember sometimes we had to drink water from rivers with dead bodies floating in it,” she said, noting that their situation had become one of the “survival of the fittest.”

    They had long distances to walk going from village to village and in search of another camp, many times walking on rough terrain. When the weather was too hot for their bare feet, they bunched up grass and tied it to their feet in order to be able to walk.

    “We escaped death from so many things: from hunger, bullets, drowning, wild animals, you name it. No child should go through what I went through. In fact, nobody should go through what I went through,” she said.

    Eventually the family made their way to another refugee camp, “but life would not be better there,” she said. While there were some soldiers protecting them, they would take young boys and train them to fight, and would take girls either as companions for the night or, at times, as wives.

    Most of the boys leave refugee camps “with some sort of trauma,” she said, noting that when it came to the girls, some got pregnant, and others were made to be servants.

    “The only reason I survived this is because I was very little,” Twayigira said. Due to the ongoing war, she and her grandparents traveled to nearby Angola before eventually ending up back in the DRC for a period of time.

    However, with no improvement to the situation and no end to the war in sight, they again made their way to Angola for the second time. But when they arrived, “my grandma was very tired, and as for me, I was very malnourished.”

    “You can imagine a big tummy and thin brown hair, and swollen cheeks and feet,” she said, describing herself as a young girl.

    Twayigira recalled that her grandmother died shortly before they reached the refugee camp in Angola, and that had they not arrived when they did, “I was also almost gone.”

    With just the two of them left, Twayigira explained that her grandfather eventually decided to travel to a different refugee camp in Zambia, because he heard they had a better school.

    Despite such a long journey and so much loss, her grandfather moved again for no other reason “than to give his granddaughter a better education,” Twayigira said. She recalled that her grandfather “really believed in me so much. He never once said, 'she's just a girl, let me not waste my time on her.'”

    After spending a few years in Zambia, the pair decided to make yet one more move, this time heading to a camp in Malawi that had better living conditions and even better schools. They arrived in September 2000.

    Twayigira immediately enrolled in school once she arrived, making several new friends and, for the first time since they had left, was happy to have adequate food and shelter.

    Being able to do well in her classes “would give me joy. Because at least I got to make some people proud, and I was very happy,” she said. Twayigira was eventually selected to join a Jesuit-run school, with all fees paid for by the Jesuit Refugee Service.

    When she finished school in 2007, Twayigira's grandfather fell ill, passing away just a few days after.

    “I cried uncontrollably, badly, but life had to go on, and although I was in so much pain with the loss of my loved ones, it did not stop me from working hard,” she said, “because I knew that my future, it was not certain, I did not know what my future had, but I knew that my hard work would pay off.”

    In 2009 she studied for the national final exam in Malawi, and finished among the top 6 students in the country. At the awards ceremony, the Chinese embassy offered a number of full-ride scholarships to study in China for the top students.

    Twayigira was one of the students selected and, despite being a refugee with no citizenship status or passport, was able to get her paperwork in order with the help of the Jesuits at her school, a Catholic radio station and even the Malawian parliament.

    She then moved to China and studied the language for a year before officially beginning classes in Chinese. She has since graduated and is currently working as a medical intern in Malawi.

    While there were many times she wanted to give up along the way, Twayigira said she persisted, because at a certain point she realized that “God spared my life” not to keep it for herself, but because “there are people that I was meant to serve.”

    “Before I went to China, I used to think I was just this girl with a tragic past...but when I got to China I realized that I’ve got a story to tell; a story of God and his love, a story that can change somebody’s life.”

    As a doctor, Twayigira said she feels she can give even more. But in addition to her medical duties, she also looks for opportunities to speak in schools to try and “raise hope among the youth, especially refugee youth.”

    She said that in the future, she hopes to work more directly with refugees, “because I believe I have a lot to share, having gone through what they’ve gone through.”

    “Now this is my story...but unfortunately for many, theirs is just in the tragedy part,” she said, explaining that many refugee children don’t even have access to adequate housing let alone higher education.

    Even those who do get a good education don’t necessarily have the same opportunities, Twayigira said, so “their hopes are just crushed.”

    In order to change the situation, she said war itself has to end: “why not end all this violence, and I’m not talking about people from other countries coming in to invade our own countries, I mean why wait for an outsider to come to stop hurting, and killing?”

    “Is the money or power at the expense of their blood really worth it? I don’t think so,” she said, adding that the only way to really resolve conflict is with “forgiveness, mercy and love.”

    “Is there such humanity in us, or have we become robots?” she asked. “What is happening to innocent kids is completely unfair, and it needs to stop and I believe it starts from within us: from love, forgiveness and mercy.”

    People in situations similar to hers need to know “that they are loved by God and people around them. They need to know that they matter, that there is hope for them, that they have a purpose in life,” she said, noting that this stems not only from having the basic needs met, but above all from education.

    In an interview with CNA after her talk, Twayigira stressed the importance of education, saying it’s “really the key to everything, because if not educated, many girls don’t even know their value.”

    However, with a good education women learn that “okay, I’m not worthless and someone can’t just come and step on my foot. I am somebody,” she said, adding that a proper education helps women to step into decision making positions where they can change things.

    “I believe that once a girl is educated, that means you’re actually educating the whole family. Because a woman, you raise your children, they’re with you all the time, you know that whatever they get is what you teach them,” she said.

    “So if a woman is educated that means the whole family will get quality advice from their mothers. So educating a girl is actually educating the whole country.”

    Twayigira said she was happy to be able to speak at the Vatican, since the event was streamed live. She voiced her hope that people can hear her story “and not just feel sorry for me, but also see ways they can help other people like me to get a better education or a safe place, or open their homes to refugees like me.”

    She said she also hopes other young women and girls from around the world will be able to see and hear her story, and to know that “it’s all possible...I believe that I’m a pillar of hope for them.”

    She said one of her hopes coming out of the conference is not only to encourage young women in her situation to have hope, but also that the people who have the power and resources to change things will see that they “can actually do something under-privileged people like I was.”

    “Their actions can change somebody’s life for the better, never to be the same,” she said.

    Source: Catholic News Agency… 

  • Third Conference of Catholic Educational Institutions in Kenya Concludes, Speakers Advocate for Integrity

    CANAA || By Sr. Lydia Mukari, SMK, Nairobi || 13 March 2017

    third conference of catholic institutions in kenya 2017The third annual conference of the Catholic Private Educational Institutions Association (CaPEIA) concluded last Friday, March 10, with various speakers advocating for continued integrity.

    The four-day conference whose theme was “Catholic Schools, Hubs of Integrity” brought together more than four hundred delegates from different dioceses in Kenya including Garissa who attended the conference for the first time since its inception in 2015.

    Held at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), representatives from the various dioceses were clustered into four metropolitans including Mombasa, Kisumu, Nyeri, and Nairobi.

    The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) Chair, Bishop Philip Anyolo who officially opened the conference pointed out the need to inculcate and sustain values and ethos in Catholic Private and public sponsored institutions.

    He said that the CaPEIA aims at bringing together learning institutions to share experiences and best practices, promoting Catholic tradition, improving and maintaining academic standards, promoting spiritual values and promoting mentorship programs to strengthen leadership in Catholic Schools in order to bring about the integral formation of individuals who will impact the society positively.

    Bishop Anyolo added that the organization exists to address emerging issues in education including cultism, bullying, drug and substance abuse, exam integrity, digital learning among others. He also urged the delegates to be agents of peace within their institutions especially as the country approaches the general elections slated for August 8, 2017.

    The KCCB Commission for Education and Religious Education Chair, Rt. Rev. Maurice Makumba Muhatia in his opening remarks applauded private and public catholic sponsored primary schools for their good performance in the 2016 KCPE and KCSE and urged them to remain united in facing the challenges that will always be there as one Catholic Church. He said that every catholic school is a place to encounter the living God who transforms the world in love and truth and so as stewards we should ensure that learners are prepared holistically for the service of the society regardless of their mental capability. He emphasized the need to promote catholic tradition in catholic schools and ensure that faith, culture and life are harmoniously integrated. He warned against corporal punishment, sexual abuse and bullying in catholic institutions which he regarded as acts against humanity. He reminded the delegates to show integrity in their instructional leadership, financial management and in their relationship with staff and students.

    Kitui bishop and Administrator of Machakos, Rt. Rev. Anthony Muheria on his part asked the Catholic private school heads and principals to be models of integrity in their schools by inculcating virtues among their students and staff.

    Speaking during the same CaPEIA conference, bishop Muheria referred to integrity as completeness. He called on school principals and heads to be models of integrity that is founded on the gospel values. Using the analogy of a skeleton which is essential for life, he referred to every student as a skeleton and urged the delegates to build the skeletons of their schools in order to bring about the integral formation of individuals.

    “Build the skeleton of the school, built the skeleton of formation, take care that the skeleton is not just a skeleton but is full of muscles, full of energy, but it’s up to you now to put the muscles which are virtue muscles,” he said.

    In reference to a quote on catholic education by Saint John Paul II, bishop Muheria reiterated the mission of a catholic institution as the integral formation of their students so that they may be true to their position as Christian disciples and as such work effectively for the evangelization of culture.

    He discouraged the habit of focusing on academic excellence for popularity and rather called on school principals and heads to focus on instilling the four cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice among their students.

    “We have to work for what distinguishes us as Catholics, the main thrust why we are in education is to change hearts, to change attitudes, to give and empower people to do things that are transcended, people who can give their lives for a reason. Not just people who survive. Not just for professor but someone who has got something to die for,” he said.

    He further condemned corruption and dishonesty in exams and urged the delegates to create a culture that inoculates the young people from immoral epidemic of lies.

    Rt. Rev. Alfred Rotich who was also among the facilitators emphasized the need for a virtuous training and reminded the leaders of catholic institutions of their mandate to involve God in their daily activities. He linked the issues facing the country to lack of integrity. “This country is grumbling with issues about corruption, issues about accountability, issues about being honest and sincere, as if to say, where is the code of conduct that is housed in the constitution, that is housed in our commandments, that is housed in our PPI, that is housed in the masses we celebrate and in the gospel?” he questioned.

    He said that teachers are the hubs of integrity that should instill justice among their students by punishing evil without favoritism and that parents should work together with teachers to bring about integrity. He added that the school infrastructure, the dressing code of teachers and members of staff and the organization of offices and classrooms should reflect integrity that can be emulated by the students.

    “Yes we have been doing it, we have shown it, it is in us, but let’s take time with the spirit of discernment to look at those values that are sometimes not spoken about. These days we want to achieve our goals, let’s have a vision, let’s have a school motto, but how much time do we give to these values that are so much needed in the society, that now we can see not being reflected in the people that are serving this nation? So it is a challenge, this is your opportunity. Seize the opportunity,” he told the delegates.

    Other topics presented during the conference included Effective Learning and performance, Child nurturing and protection against abuse among others.

    The CaPEIA brings together nursery schools, primary, high schools, and colleges run by the Catholic Church in Kenya and its mission is to incorporate gospel values in the leadership, management and instruction of Catholic Educational Institutions in Kenya.

  • Bishops in Nigeria Voice Challenges Facing their Nation

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 13 March 2017

    nigeria bishops march 2017 plenaryThe Catholic Bishops in Nigeria have voiced the challenges the citizens of their nation are facing, ranging from the concept of citizenship to the sanctity of human life to general insecurity to the endemic rise of militia groups along ethnic lines.

    The Bishops expressed this in a collective statement as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) at the conclusion of their week-long first Plenary meeting for the year 2017, which took place at Daughters of Divine Love Retreat and Conference Centre (DRACC), Abuja, from March 4 through March 10, 2017.

    “Since the end of Nigeria’s tragic civil war, at no other time in the history of our dear country has the issue of our common citizenship been subjected to more strain,” the Bishops said and explained, “We have witnessed the ubiquity and the rising profiles of ethnic militias and their increasing destructive violence against our commonwealth.”

    “We have found the outright disdain for the sanctity of human life totally at variance with both our cultural traditional norms and our religious sensibilities. Life has never looked so cheap,” the Bishops went on to say, adding, “Exposed to violence almost on a daily basis, more and more of our young children are losing their innocence as they watch their parents being randomly slaughtered and their properties vandalized.”

    The Bishops’ statement was co-signed by CBCN President, Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos and CBCN Secretary, Bishop William Avenya of Gboko diocese.

    “Over the years, we have witnessed the subjugation and dehumanization of our people by a powerful elite that has continued to disregard the sanctity and dignity of every Nigerian citizen,” the statement reads in part and explains, “Consequently, we now have generations of young people facing a life of uncertainty, fear and desolation.”

    Below is the full text of the Bishops’ statement.

    OUR DIGNITY, OUR NATION & OUR CITIZENSHIP

    A Statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria

    1: The Struggle for Citizenship

    Since the end of Nigeria’s tragic civil war, at no other time in the history of our dear country has the issue of our common citizenship been subjected to more strain. We have witnessed the ubiquity and the rising profiles of ethnic militias and their increasing destructive violence against our commonwealth. We have witnessed a rise in the politics of identity with our people retreating to the womb of ethnicity. Thus, rather than breathe the free air of democracy since the end of military rule, our lungs are choking amidst the fumes of violence. Insecurity has turned our country into a theatre war. Faced with landlessness, homelessness and sickness, the majority of our people do not feel that they are full citizens of our dear country.

    2: Citizenship and State Sovereignty:

    We re-echo the words and sentiments of the drafters of our Constitution who assured us that sovereignty rests with the people and that it is from this that government derives its legitimacy. As the same Constitution makes clear, the security and welfare of the people is the primary purpose of government. The same Constitution guarantees our common citizenship and further assures us of such rights as a right to dignity, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and conscience. We are guaranteed freedom of movement but the average citizen knows that today, the contrary is the case.

    We call on the federal and state governments to respect and enforce, the relevant provisions of our Constitution in order to give all of our citizens a shared sense of belonging.

    3: The diminishing sanctity of human life:

    We have found the outright disdain for the sanctity of human life totally at variance with both our cultural traditional norms and our religious sensibilities. Life has never looked so cheap. Exposed to violence almost on a daily basis, more and more of our young children are losing their innocence as they watch their parents being randomly slaughtered and their properties vandalised. This violence came to a head with the eruption of Boko Haram. We also note, in particular, the Killing of hundreds of Shiites in Zaria in December 2015; the killings in Southern Kaduna and the encounters involving herders and farmers across the Nigerian Savanna, which has led to thousands of killings. We pray for the safe repose of the souls of the dead and for God to comfort the bereaved and heal the wounded.

    We acknowledge the progress made under the present administration in degrading the Boko Haram insurgency. Although the federal government has announced the technical defeat of Boko Haram, we have no reason to believe that they are not regrouping, nor can we discount their evolution into perhaps something more deadly, as we have continued to witness their savage, gruesome and grisly slaughter of innocent citizens. While we commend the federal government for the success registered so far, including the rescue of some of the Chibok girls, we know that until all our daughters are home, our victory is not complete We further encourage the federal government to speed up the process of resettling our people.

    4: A restive nation and its youth:

    Over the years, we have witnessed the subjugation and dehumanization of our people by a powerful elite that has continued to disregard the sanctity and dignity of every Nigerian citizen. Consequently, we now have generations of young people facing a life of uncertainty, fear and desolation. Graduates are unable to find jobs. With parents out of jobs, having no pension and faced with the debilitating economic situation, we are saddened our young people have been exposed to so many hazards. Today, we are losing our children to the streets, to gangs and drugs. As long as these young people roam the streets with so much despondency, so long will they remain exposed and perhaps recruited to join such evil groups like kidnappers, drug and human trafficking gangs or Boko Haram. Our nation must reverse this ugly trend in our society.

    5: Ending inequalities and Indignities:

    The Holy Father Pope Francis has warns that: “The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose”. It is thus intolerable that our people should continue to live under so much poverty and inequalities.

    We commend the President on his war against corruption. We believe, however, that this war will only be meaningful if it is owned by the generality of Nigerians. Several recent incidents have contributed to undermine the faith of Nigerians in the credibility of the fight against corruption. To restore the faith of the people in this war, we call on the Federal Government to allow an independent investigation into recent allegations of corrupt mis-conduct against senior members of the administration.

    We equally call on our government to put into effect its unfulfilled commitments such as ending poverty, feeding the nation, and providing accessible education.

    6: Credible Institutions and Citizens’ Rights:

    We underscore the importance of credible institutions for the effective protection of citizen’s rights and responsibilities and believe that a credible judiciary is indispensable for the future of Nigeria. We welcome the steps taken by the administration to end the uncertainty over the appointment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and transmit warm congratulations to the new Chief Justice, Walter Onnoghen. While underscoring the need for the new CJN to upgrade the credibility of the judiciary, we also call the attention of government to the need to unequivocally commit itself to the rule of law. We condemn the failure or refusal of government to obey court orders, including, notably, the disrespect of court orders requiring the release of Sheikh El-Zakzaky; Nnamdi Kanu and Col Sambo Dasuki. We call on government to return to the path of rectitude and obedience of court orders.

    7: Education: collaboration for effectiveness and efficiency:

    We are troubled by the state of education in Nigeria today and fear that increasingly, our capacity to compete and take advantage of the talents of our youth in this age of globalisation is severely challenged. We call on the federal and state governments to reverse the tragic policy of the take over of schools and open up channels for more effective communication and collaboration with the Church.

    We commend those Governors who have wisely decided to share this burden by returning schools to their rightful owners. Those States which have reversed this decision have witnessed remarkable and measurable progress in the performance of their schools in the annual examinations. We believe that the education of our children is beyond politics.

    8: enforcing our constitutional religious freedoms:

    In the area of religious freedom of worship and conscience, we are saddened by the fact that many State governments, Universities and other institutions of higher learning continue to act against the Constitution. State Governments many of the States in the north continue to refuse of Certificates of Occupancy for the construction of Churches. We call on the federal and state governments to respect the relevant provisions in the Constitution.

    9: Human Rights Education as an Imperative:

    There is enough in our Constitution to guarantee citizens rights and dignity. Beyond the excesses of some of the agencies of state, the lack of a culture of human rights based on citizens’ knowledge of their rights is the primary reason why injustice and tension continues in our land. We therefore call on all citizens, even at the most elementary levels to be acquainted with our rights and obligations. We therefore call on the National Human Rights Commission to liaise with Community-based organisations, civil society groups and the leaders of religious communities to expand the frontiers of culture of human rights among our citizens.

    10: A Prayer:

    While we continue to pray for the speedy recovery of our President and for the unity of our nation, we must realize that the challenge of placing our huge resources at the service of our people, can no longer be postponed indefinitely. The equitable distribution of our resources for the common good must be the definite goal of those who hold this trust. This will help to restore our dignity as human beings and our integrity as a nation and our loyalty as citizens. God bless Nigeria.

    Archbishop Ignatius Ayau KAIGAMA                   Most Rev. Dr. William AVENYA

    President, CBCN                                                       Secretary, CBCN

  • South Sudanese SCBC President on Day of National Prayer, Pays Tribute to Late Bishop Deng

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 13 March 2017

    national day of prayer in south sudan 2017The President of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC), Bishop Barani Eduardo Hiiboro of Tombura-Yambio diocese has challenged the President of the republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit to take a “serious lead in putting in place concrete steps, which have to hold the nation as one.”

    Bishop Barani said this in Yambio last Friday, March 10, during the countrywide National Day of Prayer, which had been called for by President Kiir.

    Bishop Barani challenged South Sudanese leadership represented by President Kiir and the citizens in general to repent saying, “For this prayer to become historical and meaningful for us today we must REPENT AND SIN NO MORE!”

    He urged President Kiir to take responsibility and bring about positive change saying, “The whole South Sudan will be watching President Salva Kiir very closely whether his decisions and attitude will be changed by this prayer for peaceful means to regain South Sudan.”

    He advocated for “open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of ethnic relations, restorative justice, forgiveness” among other national challenges, continued prayer, and the need to “Stop the war and seriously redirect all SPLA soldiers to behave nationally and professionally.”

    He reiterated the need for repentance saying, “As South Sudanese we must show that we are SORRY and ASHAMED of our deeds.”

    The full text of Bishop Barani’s speech is provided further below.

    Meanwhile, Bishop Barani has paid tribute to the late Bishop Rudolf Deng of Wau diocese in South Sudan, recalling their 34-year relationship and describing it as “unique.”

    “I first came to know Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak way back in 1983 when I was attending Senior Seminary in Wau,” Bishop Barani told CANAA and recalled the Bishop’s personal relationship of friendship with all in society adding, “I just fell in love with him for eloquence in all languages which he knew.”

    He went on to say, “What Bishop Deng and I did together was based on faith, friendship, respect and trust. He was a man of God and a man of the people, a great church leader and a remarkable friend.”

    “I joined his club of bishopric with my episcopal consecration in 2008! He welcomed me with great affection, when I chose to call myself ‘Barani’ instead of the word bishop, because Barani in my language meaning simply my ‘Father’,” Bishop Barani recalled, adding, “Bishop Deng got more interested in this title and always called me with it.”

    Bishop Barani recalled Bishop Deng’s special love for the rosary, the priesthood, holy Eucharist, and described the late Bishop’s homilies as powerful and inspirational.

    Describing late Bishop Deng as “a man of great strength, great courage and great compassion” who “set an inspirational example to everyone around him,” Bishop Barani went on to say, “The death of Bishop Deng is a great loss to his family, to Sudan Catholic Bishops Conference’s family, to the Roman Catholic Church and to the whole community.”

    Bishop Barani Bishop Deng’s recent disposition saying, “During his two years of sickness in Nairobi, Bishop remained joyful and always received whoever visited him so well. In fact, after a while he described to us his brother bishops as ‘a great ride’”.

    He revealed, “Bishop Deng fell ill with prostate cancer. He was active until the last possible day, still preaching, teaching, and making converts out of seekers.”

    With the passing on of Bishop Deng, four out of the seven dioceses of South Sudan have no Bishop, to which Bishop Barani said, “I am extremely sad and concerned over such a situation.”

    He continued, “Last month Pope Francis appointed Rev. Father Trile Tombe the Bishop elect of El obeid, was indeed a great tiding. We pray to God to help us with new Bishops not in a distant future.”

    “Once more I offer my deepest condolences and prayers to his family, diocese of Wau and to all those in our community who mourn his passing on,” Bishop Barani concluded.

    Here is the full text of Bishop Barani’s statement during South Sudan’s National Day of Prayer in Yambio.

    South Sudan’s National Day of Prayer held in Yambio (March 10th 2017): Statement delivered By: Barani Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio and President of Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC)

    On this day March 10th 2017, South Sudanese across the nation have come together to celebrate the National Day of Prayer. Prayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. This is marked as a date to “turn to God in prayer and Meditation the disciplined practice of quieting and focusing the mind or cultivating the heart’s attention.

    At these events, people are not asked to set aside their different faiths, but rather to draw on each one’s beliefs, bringing all the varied prayers for compassion, peace, and dreams of a better South Sudan together.

    The National Prayer Day is the first of its kind and is being said at the moment South Sudan is at cross road with itself, and above all is called for by the president serious and concrete steps must be realized. For this prayer to become historical and meaningful for us today we must REPENT AND SIN NO MORE!

    The whole South Sudan will be watching President Salva Kiir very closely whether his decisions and attitude will be changed by this prayer for peaceful means to regain South Sudan. All of us who have prayed today will also be watched whether we renounce our sinfulness of hate, violence, tribal difference, for love of South Sudan and peace. May God bestow His wisdom upon President Salva to see himself as a father and mother of South Sudanese who take their right place as his children!

    We must make genuine decision here and now for the stable direction of our country, some of the proposals are the followings:

    1-     We therefore must commit our nation to God her Creator yearly. Such decision will continually unite South Sudanese from all socio-economic, political, and ethnic backgrounds in prayer while also encouraging personal repentance and righteousness in the culture. The National Day of Prayer will be for all South Sudanese a day that transcends differences, bringing together citizens to celebrate our most beloved nationhood, freedom; the freedom to humbly come before God and seek His guidance in prayer.

    2-     We need to look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of ethnic relations, restorative justice, Forgiveness, poverty, cultural use of power, mental health, economic opportunity, and addressing the question of pervasive culture of violence.

    3-     Continual prayers help us in stepping forward to embrace the suffering of our country, through unified, concrete action animated by the love of Christ, to nurture peace and build bridges of communication and mutual aid in our own communities throughout South Sudan.

    4-     The success of this prayer act will depend on how Faith in God will help us as nation to engage the challenging problems directly, by various means:

    • After such a serious prayer there must be no business as usually but walk of a repented SINNER!
    • Stop hateful attitude, hateful language, pointing out at each other or communities as trouble makers or good for nothing,
    • Banish Revenge and Target killings completely
    • Freeing of prisoners and detained individuals,
    • Reach out in national love towards the South Sudanese in DIASPORA and bring them in!
    • Creating a mutual ground for dialoguing with all sons and daughters of South Sudan without preferences
    • Holistic approach to the displaced, refugees and really victims of violence,
    • gathering and disseminating supportive resources and "best practices"; actively listening to the concerns of members in troubled communities and law enforcement;
    • and building strong relationships to help prevent and resolve conflicts.

    5-     We are one body in God, One as a nation and one as a people, so we must walk ONE with our brothers and sisters and renew our commitment to promote healing. The suffering is not somewhere else, or someone else's; it is our own, in our very homes.

    6-     From now on after this national prayer day, it will be desirable to always keep: seeking God’s intervention: saying no to violence and committing to peaceful activities through strong principles of forgiveness, honest handling of national RESOURCES, tolerance, love and unity.

    7-     As believers it is our duty to seek the face of God through prayer. If we offer fervent prayers, we are guaranteed of answers to our questions. Our call to prayer must be sincere and honest!

    8-     Isaiah 60:18 which reads: “no longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls salvation and your gates praise”

    9-     As we come in the presence of the almighty God, we need to ask God to forgive us our sins. We also need to forgive those we have wronged, or those who have wronged us.

    10- We have sought God’s intervention before in matters affecting us. It is equally imperative to do so now that we are aspiring for peace building in the nation.

    I am confident that according to his word in Isaiah 54:17 which says “no weapon formed against you will prosper…” Indeed we shall overcome every obstacle in the name of Jesus Christ. My confidence is drawn from the apostle Paul in Philippians 1: 6 who says: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you (South Sudan) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.

    Let us all unite and propagate peace. The peace that we aspire for transcends tribal comforts, regional admirations, creed, colour, status, political interests among others.

    We should not undo what our forefathers shed blood for. This is not time to tear, but to build on the foundations that our great men and women laid. South Sudan is the only nation with a national anthem which is a prayer, we should therefore as we sing it present our needs to God always by demonstrating in our lives which it stipulates or dictates on us

    When the value of life is compromised or diminished, all life is at risk. Human rights, without the right to life-- it's a fraud, an exercise in self-deception.

    A lot of bad things have happened to our country since time memorial but more especially from 2013 to-date. Let us know sad stories to define us and our integrity but HONESTY! Let us ask God to keep the country together as He did in the outgoing years because He is the only one to make things better.

    Blessed Pope Paul VI famously said, “If you want peace, work for justice.” Our prayers for peace should motivate us to be just in working for justice in our great country. A nation can be considered great, when it fosters a culture which enables people to ‘dream’ of full rights for their brothers and sisters.

    Finally in summary:

    In taking broad issue we must as nation break down what needs to be done into a few recommendations to the believers, government and all people of god will for South Sudan to focus on:

    v Prayer: Masses, rosaries, prayer services during the year.

    v Local dialogues: conversations on ethnic or tribal differences and dialogues hosted by all groups or communities

    v President Salva Mayardit has to take serious lead in putting in place concrete steps which have to hold the nation as one.

    v Stop the war and seriously redirect all SPLA soldiers to behave nationally and professionally.

    v As South Sudanese we must show that we are SORRY and ASHAMED of our deeds

    v Bring quick support of humanitarian nature to all the need South Sudanese Bring all South Sudanese on board for the national dialogue

    v Community or society training: intercultural competence training for staff and community members.

    v Opportunities for encounter: providing forums for people to examine local challenges first-hand, by encouraging home-grown solutions!

    v Armed groups to opt for dialogue and ceasefire requirements

    v Support new initiatives for Human Development.

    v Provide resources for tribal or even trauma healing "more important than ever."

    v National response to division and strife in our communities must “be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice,” with a renewed spirit of cooperation.

    I have mentioned President Salva several times in this statement just as many South Sudanese have called his name today, the reason is it is possible, example, he just said a word calling for National Day of Prayer, and here we are under this hot sun.

    God bless you all! God bless South Sudan!

    Barani Eduardo Bishop Hiiboro Kussala

    Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio & President

    Of Sudan Catholic Bishops Conference

  • Cardinal Nzapalainga of CAR to Visit “Friends of Central Africa” in Italy

    Vatican Radio || Amici per il Centrafrica || 07 March 2017

    cardinal nzapalainga to visit friends of carCardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, the Archbishop of Bangui in the Central African Republic, will this week visit the association “Friends of Central Africa” headquarters in Limido Comasco. The association is an Italian charity that provides humanitarian assistance to the Church in the Central African Republic.

    President of the Association, “Friends of Central Africa” (Amici per il Centrafrica), Pierpaolo Grisetti announced that Cardinal Nzapalainga would visit Limido Comasco, a municipality in the Province of Como situated in the Italian region of Lombardy, near Milan.

    "We are very pleased to open the house of “Friends of Central Africa” to Cardinal Nzapalainga, thus returning the warm reception that has always been accorded us during our meetings in Bangui," Grisetti said.

    While in the region, the Cardinal is also a guest of the Archdiocese of Milan’s Pontifical Mission Societies.

    The association "Friends of Central Africa, "was founded in 2001 by the late Carla Pagani who gathered friends and volunteers together. Today thanks to their efforts and generous contributions from the public, the association supports some of the Church’s humanitarian projects in the Republic of Central Africa.

    Source: Vatican Radio...

  • Four Nuns Killed in a Car Crush in Ethiopia

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || 08 March 2017

    four nuns die in accident in ethiopiaFour Daughters of St. Anne sisters -- including the provincial superior -- were killed in a crash about 80 miles south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Catholic Near East Welfare Association reported.

    Four other sisters were traveling in the van when it was hit by a truck en route to Hawassa March 7; one remained in critical condition, CNEWA reported March 8.

    Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of CNEWA, had visited the sisters in April 2016.

    "The news of the traffic death of four sisters in Ethiopia, the Daughters of St. Anne, touches our hearts and souls very deeply," Msgr. Kozar said March 7. "Having met the superior and many of the sisters in previous pastoral visits, I know the church of Ethiopia has lost some very devoted servants."

    "To their community and the entire church of Ethiopia and its people, we offer our collective prayers and support. May God welcome these servants into his heavenly kingdom," he said.

    The dead provincial was Sister Weinshet Gebru. Also killed were Sisters Motu Baba, Hanna Bekute, and Gedena Weldu.

    The Daughters of St. Anne have served in Ethiopia and Eritrea for more than 50 years. They run schools, health facilities, cutting and sewing schools, vocational training centers, orphanages, and a school for the visually impaired. They partnered with Catholic Near East Welfare Association on several projects.

  • Church in South Sudan Mourns Late Bishop Rudolf Deng, Vatican ‘working hard’ to Fill Vacant Dioceses

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 09 March 2017

    south sudan church mourns bishop dengChurch members and citizens of South Sudan are mourning the passing on of Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak, 76, of the Catholic diocese of Wau.

    Bishop Deng died Monday, March 6, at a relative’s residence in the city of Siegburg, Germany, while awaiting an operation that had been scheduled for Tuesday, March 14.

    “His death has touched the hearts of thousands of faithful here in Wau who came already during night hours to the cathedral to express their sympathy and who prayed for him,” reads in part a message from the late Bishop’s diocese of Wau, shared via email on Tuesday, March 7 by Sebastian Kämpf and Tatjana Gerber.

    Before traveling to Germany, late Bishop Deng had stayed in Nairobi for close to two years attending to his health.

    Reacting to the Bishop’s death, the Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya and South Sudan, Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo, has said, “The death of Bishop Rudolf Deng was a surprise. Although he had some health difficulties, I had seen him from time to time here in Nairobi.”

    The Nuncio went on to say in a message to CANAA on Wednesday, March 8, “Since I have been Apostolic Nuncio in South Sudan, I met him on a number of occasions, particularly at the meetings of the Bishops and Ordinaries of South Sudan. In December 2014, I spent some days with him in Rumbek, at the combined Eucharistic and Youth Congress. It was a memorable occasion, with the participation of a good number of young people.”

    The Nuncio hopes to join the clergy, religious, and faithful who will turn up for the burial of the late Bishop Deng.

    “As of yet, I have not had the opportunity to visit the Diocese of Wau but I am sure that the priests, religious and lay faithful will feel and mourn his loss,” the Nuncio told CANAA and added, “I join in their sorrow and, although the details of his funeral are not yet known, I expect to be present.”

    The death of Bishop Deng leaves four of the seven Catholic dioceses of South Sudan without Bishops.

    “With regard to the appointment of bishops for the vacant Diocese of South Sudan, we are working hard at it, despite the many challenges presented by the situation in the country,” the Holy Father’s representative in Kenya and South Sudan told CANAA.

    Meanwhile, the President of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC), Bishop Barani Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio diocese has told CANAA the Bishops’ tribute will be circulated Friday, March 10, a day President Salva Kiir has declared a national day of prayer.

    On his part, Jesuit Father Salvador Ferrao ministering in Rumbek diocese, South Sudan, has told CANAA that since meeting the late Bishop in 2001 at AMECEA Secretariat in Nairobi, they have had regular contacts.

    “Bishop Deng invited me now and then to his diocese to preach retreats or give seminars,” Father Ferrao said and recalled, “In one of the retreats or open session with the Bishop one of his priests had a heavy argument. Afterwards I asked him that it would have been better that the priest could have discussed privately instead of embarrassing. To that Bishop replied that he had developed Strong Shock Absorbers.”

    “It was interesting to see him at his office desk. On his desk there was a pile of files and books as high as half a meter, but he knew where things were and he could pick it up and get it for you,” Father Ferrao narrated to CANAA.

    “Often I offered him new books which he appreciated. Once he was going to Juba to meet the President I asked him to give some books to Salva Kiir. Among them was How Big is your God,” Jesuit Father Ferrao told CANAA.

    “Finally, I met him last year in Bethany House Nairobi. When I knocked his room, he came out and told me that he was reading in the New Testament that we are vessels of clay, fragile, I did not take him seriously probably that he was going through. I gave him pocket watch just to destruct him from sickness. I stayed overnight together with Fr. Osman Andrea just to give him company and during recreation after dinner he never complaint about his health, when asked who was cooking for him he said He was managing. I noticed his speech was affected,” said Father Ferrao.

    The Jesuit Father Ferrao concluded in his email to CANAA, “In Portuguese there is saying’ I am sick in Lisbon but the sickness is in Bilbao. We took him for granted as if he was thinking sick but we gave no serious attention, and he did not complain.”

    On social media, some South Sudanese have mourned the late Bishop Deng. Here are a couple.

    Luka Ellen D'Gumwell:

    A generation of the Catholic pastors of God who gave hope to the suffering people of the Sudan is coming to an end. From Bishop Gassi of Tombura, Bishop Akio of Torit, Bishop Mazzolari of Rumbek, and now Bishop Rudolf Deng. Rudolf Bishop Deng Majak was a man of God whose teachings were pragmatic, his every sermon contained: (1) A reminder to everyone of the fall of man from grace in Eden the garden of God and how sin has disfigured man to become beastly in his every act; (2) The importance of keeping the ten commandments, (never tiring to recite them to his audience); (3) Emphasis on hard work. "You must sweat to eat, that's the punishment we received the day we lost Eden"; (4) Strong messages for youth to focus on building the nation instead of engaging in ethnic and political conflicts. REST IN PEACE

    Marko Madut:

    Another tragedy, my lordship, Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak is gone before celebrating Easter Mass to his fellow Christians. My lordship I remembered how you make me a fellow Christian and disciple of Jesus through sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion many years ago. I owe you much respect like my parents from the day I received those sacrament by living exemplary lives through your words as a Christian. May the lord Jesus rest your lives in eternal life.

    Tong Tong:

    Very sad and discouraging news that his lordship left this planet like that, you were an ambassador of peace around the globe and messenger of God making people being born again may peace remain among us because shepherd has gone. May God rest his soul in peace.

    76-year old late Bishop Deng was born in Marial-Lou within the ecclesial territory of Rumbek diocese, ordained priest in 1970, and consecrated Bishop of Wau in 1995 after having served as Apostolic Administrator of the same diocese since 1991.

  • Bishops in Africa Request for Restoration of Vatican Radio Shortwave Services

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 09 March 2017

    secam asks restoration of vatican radio shortwaveThe Church in Africa through the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) has made a formal request to the authorities of Vatican Radio requesting for the restoration of Vatican Radio shortwave services.

    The Standing Committee of SECAM deliberated on the matter during their first meeting for the year 2017 at SECAM Secretariat in Ghana’s capital, Accra, before writing to Vatican Radio.

    In the letter, members of SECAM’s Standing Committee “expressed concern about the recent shutdown of the shortwave services of the radio, which afforded millions of Africans the opportunity to hear (the) Holy Father and share in the Church’s concerns and mission.”

    Plans to discontinue Vatican Radio’s short- and medium-wave transmissions had initially been meant to affect Europe and Americas in view of embracing newer technologies.

    Back in 2012, the then director-general of the Vatican broadcast service, Father Federico Lombardi had stated, “Webcasting and satellite transmissions, along with rebroadcasting by local, regional and national radio stations, guarantee the widest possible outreach to Vatican Radio’s programming and services,” and added, “Which is why Vatican Radio believes the time has come to reduce its reliance on traditional technologies, like short- and medium-wave broadcasts, and to develop its resources in new directions.”

    However, Father had clarified that the traditional Vatican Radio broadcasts would continue to be made available to Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, regions of the world where advanced technologies are not as widespread and readily available to the Church members there who also need to hear the voice of the Vatican.

    The message of the Standing Committee members of SECAM seems to recall the original intentions of Father Lombardi who wanted the shortwave services continued for the good of the Church members not yet exposed to new technologies including the Internet.

    “While recognizing that Vatican Radio services can still be received through the Internet,” the Standing Committee members noted that “the fact that many Africans simply do not have the means or the technology to enjoy such services” constitute a limitation and “called for the restoration of the shortwave services as a means of sustaining the mission of evangelization on the African Continent.”

    According to a message sent to CANAA, the Standing Committee members also “expressed deep acknowledgement and appreciation for the role which Vatican Radio has played over many decades in the evangelization of Africa and the task of catechesis and spiritual development of African peoples” in their message to Vatican Radio authorities.

    “They noted that Vatican Radio has always been a credible source for accessing news about the Universal Church and a ready channel for sharing news about Africa with the rest of the world,” read in part the message to CANAA in reference to SECAM’s message to the leadership at the Vatican Radio.

    The Vatican media is currently under the leadership of Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò.

    There has been a news report of “an agreement with Facebook through which the pope’s messages will be brought to 44 countries by cell phone, through an app."

    Since its birth in 1931, Vatican Radio has played a significant role in bringing the Church’s message to different parts of the globe.

    SECAM’s Standing Committee consists of the President, two Vice-Presidents and eight members from each of the regional Bishops’ conferences in Africa. The committee has a three-year renewable term of office and has the function of directing the affairs of SECAM between Plenary Assemblies.

    During the committee’s recent meeting in Accra, the members joined the Episcopal Conference of Ghana and the entire nation to celebrate the country’s 60th anniversary of Independence, an event that coincided with the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Apostolic Nunciature in Ghana.

    The Sunday, March 5 occasion (the first Sunday of Lent) was graced by the Pope’s envoy to the celebration, Giuseppe Cardinal Bertello.

    Officially launched in 1969 in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, SECAM was born out of the will of young African Bishops during the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) who wanted to speak with one voice.

  • Catholics in Egypt Sheltering Orthodox Families Fleeing ISIS

    Catholic Herald || By Jonathan Luxmoore || 06 March 2017

    catholics in egypt receive ordhodox fleeing isisA Catholic spokesman says ISIS is now 'strongly entrenched' in the North Sinai region

    A spokesman for Egypt’s Catholic Church has praised local Muslims for helping embattled Christians after a series of Islamic State attacks in Sinai.

    Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Coptic Catholic Church, said Christians must differentiate between ordinary Muslims and extremists.

    “Ordinary Muslims are kind and try to help however they can – they’re often first on the scene, rescuing the injured and taking them to hospitals,” he told Catholic News Service March 3, as Christians continued to flee Egypt’s North Sinai region.

    Fr Greiche said the attacks had affected only Coptic Orthodox Christians, but added that Catholic churches and schools in Ismailia had offered shelter to Orthodox families with help from Caritas.

    Fr Greiche said Islamic State militants were now “strongly entrenched” in North Sinai, having been allowed by the Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood organisations to use tunnels from the Gaza Strip.

    He added that civilians were better off not staying in the surrounding military zone, which was now “under attack all the time,” but said he believed the Egyptian authorities were committed to protecting Christians against the Islamist insurgency.

    “You can never do enough against jihadist and terrorist attacks, which come, like any criminal acts, at a time no one can foresee,” the priest said. “But while no country can be fully secure, I think there’s will on government side to act decisively against these constant attempts to destabilise Egypt.”

    In Britain, Coptic Orthodox Bishop Angaelos said from December through February, 40 Coptic Christians had been murdered in Egypt.

    “These horrific attacks have gone largely unnoticed by the international community, but Copts continue to suffer tragic violations daily,” he said in a statement last week. “The common denominator is that these innocent children, women and men have had their lives brutally and tragically ended for no other reason except that they are Christians.”

    Bishop Angaelos noted that dozens of “Egyptian civilians, soldiers and police officers have lost their lives as a result of this wave of terrorist activity.”

    The 200,000-member Catholic Coptic Church has 14 dioceses in Egypt, including pastoral services for Latin, Melkite, Armenian, Chaldean, Maronite and Syrian Catholics.

    The much larger Coptic Orthodox Church, dating its origins from a first-century mission by St Mark, makes up at least a tenth of Egypt’s population of 82.5 million and has more than 100 churches in the United States.

    News reports said that, during the Sinai attacks, some victims had been beheaded and burned alive, while at least 1,000 Christians had fled to Ismailia and Cairo after death threats were daubed on their homes.

    Addressing a Cairo youth gathering last week, Egypt’s president, General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, condemned the Sinai attacks as “a cowardly plot by evil people intended to undermine national unity and confidence in the state.” He said he had instructed the defence, interior and intelligence ministries to “resist all attempts to sabotage stability and security.”

    However, in a March 1 statement, Amnesty International said the government had “consistently failed to protect Coptic residents of North Sinai from a long-standing pattern of violent attacks.”

    Source: Catholic Herald…

  • Papal Envoy to Ghana’s Diamond Jubilee Anniversary Encourages Thankful Attitude

    CANAA || By Damian Avevor, Ghana || 06 March 2017

    giuseppe cardinal bertello at ghana diamond jubilee 2017The Papal envoy to Ghana’s 60th anniversary of independence, Giuseppe Cardinal Bertello, has encouraged Ghanaians to express heartfelt gratitude to the Lord for the abundance of His graces, to have accompanied and sustained the nation in these last decades during its most sensitive periods of transition, in the joyful moments as well as in the difficult ones.

    Cardinal Bertello said this Sunday, March 5 at the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Accra where he presided the Holy Eucharist on the occasion of Ghana’s diamond jubilee celebration and 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Holy See.

    “Knowledge of having God’s loving presence by your side, who is at the origin from the beginning to the end of one’s destiny, and who wants us saved is, in fact, what truly marks the life of a people and of its individuals; this knowledge guides its entire existence,” Cardinal Bertello said in his homily.

    “I pray that you will be ever-joyous witnesses to the Risen Lord, placing your lives with generosity at the service of goodness, of your country and of the Church,” the said and added, “I implore Mary, Mother of God and our Mother as well, to intercede through her Son so that Ghana will be granted peace, prosperity and harmony, so that the works of evangelization will bring closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus the beloved sons and daughters of this noble and beautiful land.”

    He noted that the providential love of God, if embraced, makes one realistic and confident, impeding one to think like a singular and self-reliant author of his own destiny.

    “Faith is what gives us intimate joy and strength to confront hardship in our lives, not in solitude or abandonment nor relying solely on our own feeble resources, but in the company of Jesus Christ, our one and only way to salvation,” the Cardinal said.

    He went on to emphasize, “The faith, which grants stability and tranquility, tells us that every action and every choice must be responsible ones because we are vitally interconnected with other brothers and sisters, with creation, with God and with our ultimate destiny, because when divine love calls we must respond with love.”

    He added that Faith reveals that we will be judged in mercy and in justice, and that the measure of judgment will be charity.

    “To recognize the presence of the Son of God next to us liberates us from the idols of this world, from the slavery it entails, from the emptiness of an existence that lacks an authentic and permanent center of gravity, a presence capable of accompanying the course of life and to give meaning and appreciation to things and events thereof. But one must find the time and space for a serious dialogue with the Lord in order to enliven the relationship with Him,” said the Cardinal

    “For this purpose,” he said, “the time of Lent is ideal. It is a time whereby prayer must become more ardent; stronger should be our resolve to renounce sin; acts of charity toward our neighbor and a disposition to forgiveness should become more acute so that we may be worthy to receive the same, when we need charity and forgiveness.”

    The Cardinal cited Pope Francis saying, “As Pope Francis teaches, Lent comes to us as a providential time to change course, to recover the ability to react to the reality of evil which always challenges us.”

  • Sacred Heart Cathedral of Uganda’s Arua Diocese Re-dedicated

    Vatican Radio || By Gaetano Apamaku, Radio Pacis in Uganda || 06 March 2017

    sacred heart cathedral of arua rededicatedThousands of the faithful from across Uganda recently thronged the refurbished Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, Ediofe, in Uganda’s Arua Diocese for its re-dedication. The ceremony commemorating the Cathedral’s re-opening, re-dedication and consecration was officiated by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life and President of the St. John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.

    After seven years of work on the Cathedral, the faithful were welcomed amidst jubilation to witness the newly re-furbished Church, featuring blue and yellow stained glass windows, an altar restored with marble, a large crucifix with painted details and several pieces of artwork. The celebration was marked with a Holy Mass that was presided over by Archbishop Paglia and concelebrated by Uganda’s Archbishop Emeritus of Kampala, Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala; Archbishop August Blume, the Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda; Archbishop John Baptist Odama, of Gulu Archdiocese and Chairman of the Uganda Episcopal Conference.

    Bishop Sabino Ocan Odoki, the Ordinary of Arua Diocese was the host. Several other bishops from various dioceses also attended the colourful event. There were also over 50 priests, deacons and religious sisters. In his homily, Archbishop Paglia said that to open the door of the Cathedral is a symbol of opening the depths of our hearts.

    “To open the house of the Lord to the people, a house which is a place of prayer and encounter, is a great and beautiful event. In this world where too often doors and borders are closed, we instead are opening doors. This is what Jesus asks us to do: To open our hearts to our sisters and brothers especially the most poor and vulnerable so that no one is left alone and no one is left outside the mercy of God,” he said.

    Archbishop Paglia also expressed his gratitude towards Bishop Odoki for his invitation to reopen and consecrate the Cathedral saying, “It is a great honour for me to participate at the celebration for the dedication of the Cathedral of Arua Diocese. It has been a work for many years requiring much commitment to renew and expand this Cathedral.” 

    Bishop Odoki in his speech urged the faithful to respectfully receive the Cathedral as a gift of God through which God’s blessings will flow through the Sacraments and Sacramentals. The bishop stressed that, in the Cathedral, the gift of life, Baptism, Confirmation, and other Sacraments would be administered. He further expressed his gratitude to Archbishop Paglia, the Apostolic Nuncio, the Cardinal, Archbishop Odama, other Bishops, priests and the faithful for their presence and contribution towards the renovation and the celebration of the re-opening of the Cathedral. 

    Archbishop Odama appealed to Christians and all humankind to love one another and cautioned the leaders in South Sudan to stop fighting and killing one another. 

    Meanwhile, some of the lay people present were close friends of Bishop Odoki, Larry and CeCe Carroll, who contributed significantly towards the completion of the Cathedral. They were presented with gifts of recognition and appreciation. 

    At the end of the Holy Mass, Fr. Tonino Pasolini, the chairman of the Central Organising Committee for the renovation and extension of the Cathedral, handed over keys and other documents of the Cathedral to Bishop Odoki. The renovation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, Ediofe started on 18 May 2010.

    Arua Diocese erected as a diocese on 23 June 1958

    Source: Vatican Radio…

  • Bishop in South Sudan Criticizes President’s Declaration of National Day of Prayer, Work Permit Fees Sharply Revised Upwards

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 06 March 2017

    bishop santo against president prayer day declarationThe Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Juba in South Sudan, Bishop Santo Loku Pio has described as “a political prayer (and) a mockery” the President’s declaration of a national day of prayer.

    Last Wednesday, March 1, President Salva Kiir declared Friday, March 10, a National Day of Prayer in an audio message disseminated to media houses.

    The message stated, “As your leader and the Patron for the National Dialogue, I am obliged to release this public statement to inform all our citizens and friends about the planned National Day of Prayers that’s going to be held on March 10th 2017.”

    Terming the President’s call “a political prayer” and “a mockery,” Bishop Santo has been quoted as saying, “I have been praying for South Sudan every day. This morning, I prayed for South Sudan. That prayer called by Salva Kiir; I will never and never understand. Unless they carry me as a corpse but I will never attend that prayer. It is a political prayer. It is a mockery.”

    The Bishop cited the internal displacements of the residents of the areas of Lango, Acholi, Madi, Kaku, and Kuku in Equatoria as well as the Shilluk of Upper Nile under the government watch.

    “Why should I go [to] pray where there is no holiness, where there is no forgiveness? It is a joke to hear the president of the country calling prayers while at the moment, the soldiers are hunting people across South Sudan,” Bishop Santo has been quoted as telling the Voice of America (VOA) last Thursday in reaction to President Kiir’s Wednesday announcement.

    “People are being thrown away from their ancestral land. There have been a lot of robbery of the resources of the people,” Bishop Santo went on to say, insisting that the first step President Kiir’s government should do is to stop the war.

    Meanwhile, the cost required for foreigners to be allowed to work in South Sudan has been revised upwards to range between US$1,000.00 and US$10,000.00 from the previous minimum of US$100.00

    The sharp upward revision, which will be determined by skill levels, was announced last Thursday, March 2 through a circular from the country’s Ministry of Labour, Public Service and Human Resource Management.

    According to the letter, professional or business class will be required to pay US$10,000.00, blue class workers US$2,000.00, and casual workers US$1,000.00

    The revision is aimed at increasing government revenue.

  • Faithful in Ghana Encouraged to Plan Active Participation at Fourth Eucharistic Congress in August

    CANAA || By Damian Avevor, Ghana || 02 March 2017

    ghana faithful urged to plan eucharistic congress 2017Bishop Gabriel Mante of the Catholic Diocese of Jasikan in Ghana has urged the faithful throughout the country to organize local events to raise awareness on the upcoming Fourth National Eucharistic Congress slated for August 7 through 13 at Jasikan.

    “While we wait with interior preparation and in great expectation for the national event, the various Dioceses will organise events locally to mark, celebrate and raise awareness on the 4th National Eucharistic Congress,” Bishop Mante said during the national launch at Jasikan’ St. Peter Claver Cathedral last Sunday, February 26.

    Speaking on behalf of behalf of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC), the Bishop stated that over 10,000 Catholics were expected to participate in the Congress on the theme: “The Eucharist and New Evangelization.”

    He said participants at the Congress would take part in a series of Catechism sessions, which would focus on different dimensions of the Eucharist, the daily celebration and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Sacrament of the Reconciliation, Eucharistic Processions and Durbars.

    He further noted that the event would also have a Study-session for 250 National Delegates, made up of Priests, Religious, youth, men and women, from all the 20 Dioceses which are expected to sponsor ten persons each for the study session.

    Topics for the Study Session include: The Eucharist and our Care of the Environment; the Eucharist and Social Media; the Eucharist and the Church’s Dialogue with the Youth; the Eucharist and the Church’s Dialogue with the Poor; the Sick and the Suffering; the Eucharist and the Family; the Eucharist makes the Church, and the Church makes the Eucharist.

    Bishop Mante stated that the primary object of the Congress was to take advantage of the context of the 60th Independence Anniversary of Ghana and to use the Congress to rededicate the Republic of Ghana and her citizens to the Eucharistic Love of Jesus Christ.

     “The wish of the Bishops is that the Congress will support a deeper understanding of the meaningful celebration of the Mass; Extend the worship and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside the Mass itself,” he added.

    It is also to pray and adore the Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, help and improve understanding of the celebration of the Eucharist, draw attention to the social dimension of the Eucharist, and use the centrality of the Eucharist to effect integral transformation.

    Bishop Mante thanked Priests and Religious, the lay men, women and the youth of the Diocese for accepting the onerous task to host the Congress and acknowledged the tremendous efforts of the Local Organizing Committee so far.

    He added that, “As hosts, my Dear Catholics of Jasikan, you will prepare the ground for our brothers and sisters who are coming to pray and study with us. You will make your homes and other facilities available to them and express your generosity to them. We trust you will do very well in these endeavours,” Bishop Mante exhorted.

  • Church in Kenya Appeals for Peaceful and Credible Elections at Lenten Campaign Launch

    CANAA || Sr. Antoinette Jecinter Okoth (FSSA) || 02 March 2017

    kenya lenten campaign 2017 aThe Catholic Church leadership in Kenya has appealed for peaceful and credible elections during the official launching of the Lenten Campaign 2017.

    “The Catholic Church and other faithful community gathered here have taken a great interest to ensure that our country is held together,” the Chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), Bishop Philip Anyolo said in his opening speech during the launch.

    Political temperatures have been on the rise in Kenya some five complete months before the citizens elect their representatives at different levels of government on August 8, 2017.

    “We are called therefore as leaders to seek the path of reconciliation, justice and peace among people and particularly this time of election. In that regard, the Catholic Church is calling every player in the coming election to uphold peace,” Bishop Anyolo added.

    The Saturday, February 25 event was organized by the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) and took place at the University of Nairobi grounds.

    In his homily, CJPC Chairman, Bishop Cornelius Korir of Eldoret diocese cautioned Kenyans against tribalism ahead of the general elections saying, “Let us vote for leaders not because they come from our tribe but because they have the ability and the best leadership quality.”

    “Many lives have been lost, our people are incited to fight one another on tribal and party affiliation,” Bishop Korir went on to say and added, “Let us not forget that the whole world is watching us for in the past we have done terrible things to one another. We have become a case study on how to destroy one another.”

    He also warned against corruption saying, “Anybody with eyes can see how corruption and stealing of public resources is strangling any meaningful development in this country right from the county to national level. It is very sad to see millions of Kenyans in poverty while some few people are enjoying themselves as if the poor do not exist.”

    Addressing the theme of lent, Bishop Korir encouraged repentance, fasting, and charity. “We have all come here to prepare ourselves to enter into the Lenten season which is a time of repentance, of fasting and of sharing what we have with those who do not have especially when our country is facing a lot of hunger,” the Bishop said.

    “By undertaking this Spiritual journey we will be able to celebrate with great joy, the greatest moment of our salvation history; the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Bishop Korir added.

    The celebration brought together the Bishops, clergy, religious men and women, Catholic faithful and Christian’s representatives from other denominations, political leaders and government officials including the head of state, President Uhuru Kenyatta.

    kenya lenten campaign 2017 bSpeaking at the event, President Uhuru appreciated KCCB for their efforts to launch the Lenten Campaign and for the initiative to call for peaceful elections.

    “Elections for this year should not be an occasion for division or fear. Rather it is a time for all of us to reflect on the challenges as well as the opportunities of this respected land of ours,” President Uhuru said.

    On his part, the CJPC Vice Chairman, Archbishop Martin Kivuva of Mombasa recalled the theme of Lenten Campaign 2017 and urged Kenyan citizens to uphold ethical values and elect responsible leaders saying, “We the Catholic Church thought it better to take this theme on “responsible leadership” as an important moment as we go forth in the Lenten campaign … We wish to urge everyone to elect leaders of integrity who uphold ethical values.”

    Various material to be used during the 40-day period of Lent including booklets with weekly themes were blessed and distributed to those present, among them government officials, Christian representatives from other denominations like Seventh Day Adventists (SDA), Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), Muslims representative, Hindus representative, the religious and the clergy.

  • DR Congo Bishops: Don't blame Catholics for blockage of peace accord

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || 01 March 2017

    bishops in dr congo defend catholics 2017Congo's bishops criticized continued obstruction of a church-brokered peace accord and urged citizens not to blame Catholics for the deadlock.

    "Our country risks plunging into uncontrollable disorder," the bishops said, urging the people "not to lose courage."

    "The long wait for a peaceful democratic alternative is expressing itself in impatience and tension even toward our bishops' conference, which is only trying to mediate. Recurrent threats and violence are being fueled by manipulation shamefully directed against the Catholic Church," they said in a pastoral letter presented at a Feb. 27 news conference in Kinshasa.

    The letter said worsening tensions risked "leading the nation to implosion and chaos" and condemned deadlock over the planned nomination of a provisional prime minister and government.

    The bishops' letter urged President Joseph Kabila to make greater efforts to ensure Congo's security and territorial integrity and called on his backers to stop "unrealistic intransigence."

    It also asked Catholics to protect church property and avoid "yielding to provocations, discouragement and fear." It spoke of recent attacks on Catholic clergy and property, including a seminary in Kananga and eight separate churches in various towns.

    "The bishops' conference is only playing a mediatory role," the letter said. "Faithful to its apostolic mission, it seeks to accompany the Congolese people in putting the accord into practice."

    The letter urged U.N. peacekeepers to support the planned election timetable and do more to protect local communities.

    "We deplore the interruption of schooling, lack of humanitarian assistance and imminent risk of famine," the bishops said.

    "Where the forces of order are inactive or absent, groups of individuals are forming militias or community self-defense groups, made up largely of minors and children who engender further violence. While seeking to re-establish public order, interventions by the national police and army are, unfortunately, in some cases, unrestrained and disproportionate."

    The letter blamed insecurity on a variety of factors, including lack of administration on the part of the government, "impunity which favors neglect, the politicization and instrumentalization of customary power and the porousness of our country's frontiers."

    The bishops' conference launched a mediation bid when opposition leaders accused Kabila of seeking to retain power after his second and final term expired Dec. 20.

    Under a Dec. 31 peace accord negotiated by the bishops, the president will remain in office pending elections by the end of 2017, alongside a government headed by an opposition-nominated prime minister. Kabila must comply with constitutional provisions barring him from a third term.

    However, press reports said the accord's implementation had been left in doubt by the Feb. 1 death of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who was to have headed a 28-member National Transition Council.

    The Catholic Church makes up around half the 67.5 million inhabitants of the mineral-rich Congo, formerly Zaire, where up to 6 million people died in 1996-2003 conflicts.

    If successful, the accord will ensure the first ever peaceful power transition in the country, where armed groups have exploited regional instability since Kabila succeeded his assassinated father in 2001.

  • Pope Francis Intents to Visit South Sudan, Bishops Invite Faithful to Pray for this Intention

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 02 March 2017

    holy father intends to visit south sudan 2017Pope Francis has made known his intention to pay a pastoral visit to the world’s newest nation, South Sudan in the course of this year.

    The Pope disclosed this on Sunday, February 26, in response to a question put to him about Christian churches in Africa during his visit to Rome’s Anglican church to mark the 200th anniversary of its opening.

    "My aides and I are studying the possibility of a trip to South Sudan," the Holy Father has been quoted as saying, indicating his wish to make the trip together with the head of the Anglican Church, Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury.

    When the Catholic, Episcopalian and Presbyterian Bishops from South Sudan visited the Pope at the Vatican last October to share with him the situation in their country, they encouraged the Holy Father to consider visiting South Sudan together with the spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican communion, which counts some 85 million members.

    "The situation is a bit ugly down there but we have to do it because the three of them (the local bishops from different churches) together want peace and they are working together for peace," Pope Francis has been quoted as saying in his impromptu Sunday disclosure.

    Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops of South Sudan have called on the faithful to pray for the realization of the Holy Father’s plan to visit the world’s youngest country.

    “With great joy, we wish to inform you that the Holy Father Pope Francis hopes to visit South Sudan later this year,” the Bishops have said in their pastoral letter issued at the end of their three-day meeting in Juba.

    “We call upon you to begin a programme of prayer for this visit to go ahead,” the Bishops have said and added, “The Holy Father is deeply concerned about the sufferings of the people of South Sudan. You are already in his prayers, but his coming here would be a concrete symbol of his fatherly concern and his solidarity with your suffering. It would draw the attention of the world to the situation here.”

    Titled “A VOICE CRIES IN THE WILDERNESS”, the Bishops’ pastoral letter describe the situation in their country as “gripped by a humanitarian crisis – famine, insecurity and economic hardship” and “want the world to hear the true situation in which our people find themselves.”

    “We have instructed our Caritas South Sudan and requested our Caritas Internationalis partners to act urgently to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, and we call on the rest of the international community to do the same,” the Bishops have stated, acknowledging the appeal for assistance the Holy Father made for their country on Wednesday, February 22.

    Below is the full text of the Pastoral Letter from the Catholic Bishops of South Sudan to the faithful at the end of their meeting from February 21-23, 2017.

    “A VOICE CRIES IN THE WILDERNESS”    

    PASTORAL MESSAGE OF THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF SOUTH SUDAN TO THE FAITHFUL AND PEOPLE OF SOUTH SUDAN

    “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Mark 1:3).

    Preamble

    These words of the prophet Isaiah, quoted by the evangelists Matthew and Mark, have been greatly on our minds. We, the Catholic Bishops of South Sudan, have frequently written pastoral messages urging change in our nation, but it seems they have had little effect. Nevertheless, the Spirit is again calling upon us to write a pastoral message, to reassure you that we are aware of your situation, to make your voice known to the world, and also to include some of the concrete steps which we intend to take.

    Therefore, we address this pastoral message to the faithful people of South Sudan to give you hope and courage. At our meeting in Juba from 21st - 23rd February 2017, along with the Apostolic Nuncio to South Sudan and Kenya, Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo, we “read the signs of the times”[1] and listen to what God is saying to us through the concrete situation in which we find ourselves. We have heard disturbing reports from all seven of our dioceses spanning the whole country, and have reflected on how we should respond. God is speaking to us.

    The Situation in South Sudan

    Our country is not at peace. People live in fear. The civil war, which we have frequently described as having no moral justification whatsoever, continues. Despite our calls to all parties, factions and individuals to STOP THE WAR, nevertheless killing, raping, looting, displacement, attacks on churches and destruction of property continue all over the country. In some towns there is calm, but the absence of gunfire does not mean peace has come. In other towns, civilians are effectively trapped inside the town due to insecurity on the surrounding roads.

    While some fighting is between government and opposition forces, we are concerned to note that much of the violence is being perpetrated by government and opposition forces against civilians. There seems to be a perception that people in certain locations or from certain ethnic groups are with the other side, and thus they are targeted by armed forces. They are killed, raped, tortured, burned, beaten, looted, harassed, detained, displaced from their homes and prevented from harvesting their crops. Some towns have become “ghost towns”, empty except for security forces and perhaps members of one faction or tribe. Even when they have fled to our churches or to UN camps for protection, they are still harassed by security forces. Many have been forced to flee to neighbouring countries for protection. While the authorities may claim that they are free to return to their homes, in practice they fear to do so. In places the destruction has been described to us as “scorched earth”; what have people got left to return to? All of this is a form of “collective punishment”, which is outlawed as a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.

    The level of hatred associated with the conflict is increasing. While soldiers might be expected to kill other soldiers in battle, the killing, torturing and raping of civilians is a war crime. However, not only are they being killed, but their bodies are being mutilated and burned. People have been herded into their houses which were then set on fire to burn the occupants. Bodies have been dumped in sewage-filled septic tanks. There is a general lack of respect for human life.

    The perpetrators of these crimes, the so-called “unknown gunmen” who are usually in uniform and usually known, appear to act with impunity. We are still waiting for justice for the murder of our own dear Sister Veronica, a doctor who was gunned down by soldiers while driving a clearly-marked ambulance on 16th May 2016. Her killers were arrested, but we have heard no more and we await justice.

    Our country is gripped by a humanitarian crisis – famine, insecurity and economic hardship. Our people are struggling simply to survive. While there have been poor rains in many parts of the country, there is no doubt that this famine is man-made, due to insecurity and poor economic management. Hunger, in turn, creates insecurity, in a vicious circle in which the hungry man, especially if he has a gun, may resort to looting to feed himself and his family. Millions of our people are affected, with large numbers displaced from their homes and many fleeing to neighbouring countries, where they are facing appalling hardships in refugee camps.

    We are concerned that some elements within the government appear to be suspicious of the Church. In some areas the Church has been able to mediate local peace deals, but these can easily be undermined if government officials are removed and replaced with hardliners who do not welcome Church efforts for peace. Priests, sisters and other personnel have been harassed. Some of the programmes on our radio network have been removed. Churches have been burned down. Less than two weeks ago, on 14th February, security officers attempted to close down our Catholic bookshop. They harassed our personnel and confiscated several books. The ecumenical church leaders’ delegation which visited Pope Francis in Rome and Archbishop Justin Welby in London has been trying to obtain a meeting with President Salva Kiir since December 2016, but has so far been unsuccessful. We hear people saying that “the Church is against the government”.

    We wish to inform all of you that the Church is not for or against anyone, neither the government nor the opposition. We are FOR all good things - peace, justice, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, dialogue, the rule of law, good governance – and we are AGAINST evil - violence, killing, rape, torture, looting, corruption, arbitrary detention, tribalism, discrimination, oppression – regardless of where they are and who is practising them. We are ready to dialogue with and between the government and the opposition at any time.

    The Way Forward

    We issue this pastoral message to the people of South Sudan, but we copy it widely to others, including the international community. We want the world to hear the true situation in which our people find themselves.

    The Holy Father Pope Francis yesterday, 22nd February 2016, made an appeal for South Sudan from the Vatican. We have instructed our Caritas South Sudan and requested our Caritas Internationalis partners to act urgently to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, and we call on the rest of the international community to do the same.

    Those who have the ability to make changes for the good of our people have not taken heed of our previous pastoral messages. This time we intend to follow up more proactively. In partnership with other churches through the Action Plan for Peace (APP) of our South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC), we intend to meet face to face not only with the President but with the vice presidents, ministers, members of parliament, opposition leaders and politicians, military officers from all sides, and anyone else who we believe has the power to change our country for the better. We intend to meet with them not once, but again and again, for as long as is necessary, with the message that we need to see action, not just dialogue for the sake of dialogue. “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” (Luke 18:2-5) Like that widow, we will come continually to bother those who are responsible in our country.

    Again with our partner churches in SSCC, and with our church partners in neigbouring countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan, we intend to bring the narrative of our people on the ground to the governments of those countries, so that they can understand our situation and make good choices to improve it, both bilaterally and through multilateral bodies such as IGAD and AU. Our own special contribution will include bringing in the Catholic Church in those countries, regional Catholic bodies such as AMECEA, and the Vatican at the global level. When we meet the leaders of each country, we will be accompanied by the cardinals and bishops of that country.

    We reiterate our support for the SSCC Action Plan for Peace (APP) and its three pillars of Advocacy, Neutral Forum dialogues and Reconciliation. It was always intended that the APP should be implemented by the member churches, not by the SSCC Secretariat alone, so we have instructed our Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, at both national and diocesan level, to begin a dialogue with SSCC on how we can contribute to the work on the ground.

    We believe that “technical” programmes are not enough. Hence we have instructed our Pastoral Comission to mobilise a national spiritual approach, as we did for the Referendum.

    We ask forgiveness for anything we might have done to alienate any individual or party, and we assure you of our love and prayers.

    Conclusion

    You are the Church; we are the Pastors. We call upon you to remain spiritually strong, and to exercise restraint, tolerance, forgiveness and love. Work for justice and peace; reject violence and revenge. We are with you. We have heard what God is saying to us through you and through your sufferings on the ground, and by including it in our public pastoral letter to you, we are making it accessible to the world. We will continue to be “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness”. We wish to give you hope that you are not abandoned and that we are working to resolve the situation at many different levels.

    Finally, with great joy, we wish to inform you that the Holy Father Pope Francis hopes to visit South Sudan later this year. The Holy Father is deeply concerned about the sufferings of the people of South Sudan. You are already in his prayers, but his coming here would be a concrete symbol of his fatherly concern and his solidarity with your suffering. It would draw the attention of the world to the situation here. We call upon you to begin a programme of prayer for this visit to go ahead. Let us use the coming months fruitfully to begin the transformation of our nation.

    May God bless you.

    Signed: All Catholic Church leaders in South Sudan, witnessed by Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya and South Sudan, Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo



    [1]     Gaudium et spes, Second Vatican Council.

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