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  • Bishop in Ghana Calls for Environmental Protection

    CANAA || By Damian Avevor, Ghana || 20 April 2017

    bishop in ghana revives tree planting 2017Bishop Gabriel Mante of Jasikan in Ghana recently re-launched the “Arbor Week” celebration in his diocese with a call on the Priests, Religious and lay faithful to intensify education on tree planting.

    He asked for the extension of the tree planting to learning institutions and families and encouraged the media to promote environmental protection through tree planting.

    Bishop Mante said the re-launch, which took place on Tuesday, April 11, was aimed at an ecological conversion and responsible change of direction in relationship with the environment.

    Observed in many countries at the beginning of the rainy season, Arbor Day is a day set aside to encourage individuals and groups to plant and care for trees as part of efforts to fight climate change.

    He said it was a response to the invitation of Pope Francis to seriously listen, consider and resolve to help repair the damage humanity was causing the earth “our common home”.

    Dilating on the Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si, Bishop Mante said its name was taken from the invocation of the Canticles of creatures by St. Francis of Assisi: Laudato Si “Praise be to you, my Lord through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and govern us, and who produces various fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.”

    The Canticle, he said, called to mind that the earth, our common home, “is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us”.

    He said the Holy Father brings to the attention a very important fact that we and the rest of the world where forests are suffering cannot ignore, noting that it has brought all persons and peoples into dialogue, all institutions and organizations that share this same concern for our common home.

    He noted that re-launch was also to share in the hope and conviction of Pope Francis that ‘despite the mistreatment, abuse and laments of Mother Earth, all is not lost and that human being while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good and making a new start.”

    He noted that in 1998, the Ghana catholic Bishops’ Conference launched a tree planting programme in Kumasi, to be carried out annually in the first week of June of which Jasikan Diocese launched it in the last week of May 1998 during the Annual Diocesan pilgrimage to Tokuroano.

    The Bishop lamented that the programme in the Diocese suffered the same fate as the national one, because the success or failure of the national programme depended on those of the Diocesan ones.

    He said by the re-launching the Week, Catholics in the Diocese were being encouraged to plant trees to safeguard the earth and its natural resources, and avoid the unprecedented destruction of the environment.

    He stated that “Our re-launch of the Arbor Week, even if it has not yet affected this part of Ghana is our unqualified admission of the truth that we have destroyed extensive areas of the land of Ghana through mining, whether legal or illegal.”

    He noted that it was an acceptance that Ghanaians were needlessly causing costly damage to the major rivers and other water bodies in the country, stressing that “we are poorly informed and unaware of the damage to our health and untimely deaths due to the use of dangerous chemicals as mercury and cyanide are causing high and vibrant proportion of Ghana’s population.

    To commemorate the re-launching, the Priests, Religious and lay faithful joined the Bishop to plant trees, a sign of encouragement to others to also embark on tree planting in their various communities.

    The Bishop prayed that in the next five years, the communities in the Diocese become a forest hence avoid suffering from the climate change and global warming.

    In an interview with the faithful, they noted that the re-launch would help them appreciate and understand the importance of a clean and sound environment.

  • DR Congo Will Rise again with Christ: Cardinal Monsengwo

    Vatican Radio || 19 April 2017

    dr congo to rise with christ 2017Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya has invited his compatriots in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) not yield to discouragement and a spirit of fatalism. 

    The Cardinal said this at the weekend in a homily read in all parishes of the Archdiocese of Kinshasa on Easter Sunday.  

    The Archbishop of Kinshasa recalled that the resurrection of Christ gives hope to a new world and humanity. This resurrection also gives men and women of today the possibility of relating to each other and Christ in a new way.

    The Cardinal’s message of hope comes in the context of serious political and social uncertainties facing the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

    "As Congolese people, we can sometimes feel as if we were an insignificant seed of grain thrown on the floor: We are ignored and continually trampled upon. We live in a country and at a time of confusion, obscurity, despair. But we know that in the depths of the night, the dawn is already looming on the horizon. Therefore, to all of you: I wish you Happy Easter. We will rise again with Christ so that the country will take on a new face, in peace, justice, truth and love, in the image of the love of God for us," said Cardinal Monsengwo.

    The DRC is experiencing great political turmoil.  President Joseph Kabila's mandate ran out on 19 December 2016, but the DRC’s constitutional court extended his rule to 2018 because the government said it could not arrange elections before then.

    On the eve of the new year 2017, political parties in the DRC signed an agreement with the ruling party of Kabila. The accord called on Kabila to leave power after an election to be held by the end of this year, 2017 instead of mid-2018. 

    DRC’s Catholic Bishops mediated the talks which were aimed at brokering a compromise between opposition political parties and the government of Kabila. 

    The 2017 New Year's Eve agreement came after months of unrest that left dozens dead and threatened to further destabilise the vast Central African nation with a painful history of dictatorship and civil war. The agreement is yet to be fully implemented. 

    Meanwhile, insecurity prevails in several parts of the country, and the socio-economic situation of citizens continues to deteriorate.

    Perpetrators of the violence in the DRC include dozens of heavily armed groups marauding in areas where the government is non-existent. The militia stoke ethnic rivalries, fight proxy wars and vie for control of the DRC's valuable natural resources. 

    Illegal mining, smuggling and poaching are rampant.

    Source: Vatican Radio…

  • Vatican Releases Itinerary for Papal Trip to Egypt

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Carol Glatz || 18 April 2017

    itinerary of pope trip to egypt 2017Pope Francis will meet with the leader of one of the world's leading Sunni Muslim institutions, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church and representatives of the Catholic Church on a two-day trip to Cairo.

    The pope is scheduled to arrive in Cairo April 28 for courtesy visits with political and religious leaders and deliver a speech, along with the grand imam of al-Azhar University, to an international conference on peace. He will celebrate Mass for the small Catholic community in Cairo the next day and meet with bishops, clergy, religious and seminarians before returning to Rome April 29.

    In mid-March, the Vatican confirmed the pope would make the trip following an invitation from President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the Catholic bishops in Egypt, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar.

    It will be the pope's 18th trip abroad in his four years as pope and the seventh time he visits a Muslim-majority nation. He will be the second pope to visit Egypt, after St. John Paul II went to Cairo and Mount Sinai in 2000.

    The Catholic community in Egypt numbers about 272,000, less than 0.5 percent of the population, which is 90 percent Sunni Muslim.

    In 1998, Catholic-Muslim dialogue was initiated between Vatican experts and Muslim scholars of Cairo's al-Azhar University, the main center for Islamic learning for the more than 1 billion Sunni Muslims worldwide. The trip will come amid increasingly closer relations between the Vatican and al-Azhar, which is considered the most authoritative theological-academic institution of Sunni Islam. The pope has also said he sees the importance of strengthening cooperation between Catholics and Coptic Orthodox Christians in the face of so many threats to human life and creation.

    Here is the pope's schedule as released by the Vatican. Times listed are local, with Eastern Daylight Time in parentheses.

    Friday, April 28 (Rome, Cairo)

    -- 10:45 a.m. (4:45 a.m.), Departure from Rome's Leonardo da Vinci International Airport for Cairo.

    -- 2 p.m. (8 a.m.), Arrival at Cairo airport. Official welcoming ceremony at the Heliopolis presidential palace. Courtesy visits with el-Sissi and Sheik el-Tayeb. Speeches by the grand imam and the pope to participants in an international conference on peace.

    -- 4:40 p.m. (10:40 a.m.), Meeting with local authorities. Speeches by el-Sissi and Pope Francis. Courtesy visit to Pope Tawadros. Speeches by Pope Tawadros and Pope Francis.

    Saturday, April 29 (Cairo, Rome)

    -- 10:00 a.m. (4:00 a.m.), Mass in Cairo. Homily by pope.

    -- 12:15 p.m. (6:15 a.m.), Lunch with Egypt's bishops and the papal entourage.

    -- 3:15 p.m. (9:15 a.m.), Prayer gathering with clergy, men and women religious, and seminarians. Speech by pope. Farewell ceremony.

    -- 5 p.m. (11 a.m.), Departure from Cairo airport for Rome.

    -- 8:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m.), Arrival at Rome's Ciampino airport.

    13 Planning Attacks on Christians Arrested in Egypt

    Catholic News Agency (CNA) 20 April 2017

    Egyptian police on Sunday arrested 13 people who were planning attacks against Christians and public institutions in the country.

    The April 16 arrests take on greater importance as Pope Francis prepares to visit Egypt at the end of the month.

    According to Aid to the Church in Need, the arrests of these terrorists reveal “how these extremist groups continue to target the Christian community after the double attack against two churches in Tanta and Alexandria on Palm Sunday.”

    The attacks of April 9 which caused the death of 44 Christians and injured more than 100, were claimed by the Islamic State, which led the authorities to implement security measures outside churches.

    The attacks made the government decree a state of emergency for three months, to which was joined the decision by some Christians to celebrate discretely Easter Sunday.

    Egypt has a population of 92 million people who are mostly Muslim. Christians are about 10 percent of the population, and have been victims of a number of recent attacks and assaults.

    Source: Catholic News Agency… 

  • South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, and DR Congo Mentioned in Pope’s Easter Urbi et Orbi Blessing

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 20 April 2017

    urbi et orbi easter blessing 2017On Easter Sunday, April 16, Pope Francis mentioned four countries in Africa experiencing political challenges, calling on the risen Lord to accompany the citizens of these countries.

    These countries include South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    “May the Good Shepherd remain close to the people of South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who endure continuing hostilities, aggravated by the grave famine affecting certain parts of Africa,” the Pope prayed during his Easter Urbi et Orbi blessing at the Vatican.

    The Pope described Jesus Christ risen from the dead as the Risen Shepherd who “walks beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes” and added, “Everywhere he helps these forced migrants to encounter brothers and sisters, with whom they can share bread and hope on their journey.”

    The Holy Father also described the Risen Lord as one who “takes upon himself all those victimized by old and new forms of slavery, inhuman labour, illegal trafficking, exploitation and discrimination, and grave forms of addiction.”

    He added, “He takes upon himself children and adolescents deprived of their carefree innocence and exploited, and those deeply hurt by acts of violence that take place within the walls of their own home.

    Recognizing the efforts of those involved in resolving conflicts through justice and peace initiatives, Pope Francis prayed, “In the complex and often dramatic situations of today’s world, may the Risen Lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace,” adding, “May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.”

    Below is the full text of the Vatican translation of the Easter message with the Urbi et Orbi blessing that Pope Francis gave on Easter Sunday, April 16 at noon.

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    Happy Easter!

    Today, throughout the world, the Church echoes once more the astonishing message of the first disciples: “Jesus is risen!” – “He is truly risen, as he said!”

    The ancient feast of Passover, the commemoration of the liberation of the Hebrew people from slavery, here finds fulfilment. By his resurrection, Jesus Christ has set us free from the slavery of sin and death, and has opened before us the way to eternal life.

    All of us, when we let ourselves be mastered by sin, lose the right way and end up straying like lost sheep. But God himself, our shepherd, has come in search of us. To save us, he lowered himself even to accepting death on the cross. Today we can proclaim: “The Good Shepherd has risen, who laid down his life for his sheep, and willingly died for his flock, alleluia” (Roman Missal, IV Sunday of Easter, Communion antiphon).

    In every age, the Risen Shepherd tirelessly seeks us, his brothers and sisters, wandering in the deserts of this world. With the marks of the passion – the wounds of his merciful love – he draws us to follow him on his way, the way of life. Today too, he places upon his shoulders so many of our brothers and sisters crushed by evil in all its varied forms.

    The Risen Shepherd goes in search of all those lost in the labyrinths of loneliness and marginalization. He comes to meet them through our brothers and sisters who treat them with respect and kindness, and help them to hear his voice, an unforgettable voice, a voice calling them back to friendship with God.

    He takes upon himself all those victimized by old and new forms of slavery, inhuman labour, illegal trafficking, exploitation and discrimination, and grave forms of addiction. He takes upon himself children and adolescents deprived of their carefree innocence and exploited, and those deeply hurt by acts of violence that take place within the walls of their own home.

    The Risen Shepherd walks beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes. Everywhere he helps these forced migrants to encounter brothers and sisters, with whom they can share bread and hope on their journey.

    In the complex and often dramatic situations of today’s world, may the Risen Lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace. May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.

    Especially in these days, may he sustain the efforts of all those actively engaged in bringing comfort and relief to the civil population in Syria, prey to a war that continues to sow horror and death. May he grant peace to the entire Middle East, beginning with the Holy Land, as well as in Iraq and Yemen.

    May the Good Shepherd remain close to the people of South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who endure continuing hostilities, aggravated by the grave famine affecting certain parts of Africa.

    May the Risen Jesus sustain the efforts of all those who, especially in Latin America, are committed to ensuring the common good of societies marked at times by political and social tensions that in some cases have resulted in violence. May it be possible for bridges of dialogue to be built, by continuing to fight the scourge of corruption and to seek viable and peaceful solutions to disputes, for progress and the strengthening of democratic institutions in complete respect for the rule of law.

    May the Good Shepherd come to the aid of Ukraine, still beset by conflict and bloodshed, to regain social harmony. May he accompany every effort to alleviate the tragic sufferings of those affected by the conflict.

    The Risen Lord continues to shed his blessing upon the continent of Europe. May he grant hope to those experiencing moments of crisis and difficulty, especially due to high unemployment, particularly among young people.

    Dear brothers and sisters, this year Christians of every confession celebrate Easter together. With one voice, in every part of the world, we proclaim the great message: “The Lord is truly risen, as he said!” May Jesus, who vanquished the darkness of sin and death, grant peace to our days.

    Happy Easter!

  • Catholic Media in Nigeria Urged to Champion Responsible Journalism

    Catholic News Service of Nigeria (CNSN) || 07 April 2017

    catholic media in nigeria for responsible journalismCatholic media men and women have been called upon to champion the cause of responsible journalism in reporting violence and crises without jeopardising the integrity and sovereignty of the Nigerian nation.

    The call was made by the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah when he declared open the first 2017 plenary meeting of the Association of Diocesan/Religious Directors of Social Communications in Nigeria. The meeting was held in Sokoto, Sokoto State, recently.

    The meeting which was attended by over thirty members of the association and the officers of the Directorate of Social Communications of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) had The Nigerian Media: The Ethics of Reporting Violence in Nigeria as its theme. Apart from the regular meeting and presentation of regional reports, the plenary also featured presentations on different aspects of reporting violence and crises with emphasis on respect for professional ethics, protection of the sovereignty and integrity of the citizens of the country.

    According to Bishop Kukah, Catholic media men and women should give priority attention to the ethics of the profession by working within the stipulated confines while reporting activities in the country, be it violence or otherwise. He, however, noted that for this objective to be realised, there is the need for continuous formation and updating of their professional abilities and competencies to enable them to be conversant with modern techniques; be in agreement with the social communications ethical guidelines of the universal Church.

    He noted the inherent dangers and some of the negative impact that comes about with social media especially in reporting violence and crises. The absence of control and the anonymity of bloggers pose serious challenges in this regard. 

    The local Ordinary of Sokoto Diocese stressed the need for collaboration between the Church hierarchy and the lay faithful in the dissemination of information either for evangelization or other purposes adding that it is important for the Bishops to hear more from the faithful.

    Pointing out that the Church is blessed with many resources and workforce talents, Bishop Kukah stated that, “We need to educate ourselves more to enable us to create the ethical basis for journalists and the profession of journalism to be respected.”

    Bishop Kukah urged Catholic communicators to be more forthcoming in reaching out with the position of the Church on both socio-economic, political and religious matters. The ultimate goal should be to educate and inform the people correctly and ensure stability, harmony and peaceful coexistence citizens in the country, irrespective of their differences.

    In his welcome address, the host director, Rev. Fr. Sixtus Onuh of Sokoto Diocese expressed concern that the country is degenerating to the level where life is no longer valuable and sacrosanct. Fr Onuh added that because of this, there was, therefore, the need for Catholic media men and women to be more proactive and be cautious of what they report so as not to escalate existing violence or fan the embers of disunity and disintegration.

    The Director of Social Communications at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), Rev. Fr. Chris Anyanwu reiterated the importance of communication to the evangelization mission of the Church. Fr. Anyanwu expressed profound gratitude to Bishop Kukah for a knowledge enhancing gathering.

    Source: Catholic News Service of Nigeria…

  • Priests in Congo ‘flee to the forest’ amid Wave of Violence against the Church

    Catholic Herald || By Catholic News Service || 07 April 2017

    priests in congo flee to forestCongolese bishops say that 'each passing day sees new killings and burning of religious buildings'

    Congo’s bishops have said Catholics are facing a new wave of violence following the collapse of a Church mediation plan, and in some places Church leaders have fled to the forest.

    In late March, the bishops abandoned attempts to arrange a government-opposition power-sharing settlement and, within days, violence erupted in eastern Congo.

    “The militias are continuing their macabre operations – each passing day sees new killings and burning of religious buildings,” said a statement on the bishops’ conference website.

    “The worst affected is the Diocese of Luebo, where the bishop’s house, library, sisters’ convent and vehicles have been burned, and priests and religious have fled to the forest with other inhabitants. The situation is harsh and unbearable.”

    The statement followed attacks on church personnel and property in Congo’s Kasai and Kivu regions.

    Bishop Sebastien Muyengo Mulombe of Uvira said the situation in Kivu had been exacerbated by the arrival of 15,000 refugees from neighbouring Burundi, adding that he had been forced to suspend wages to teachers at local church schools after a delivery driver was killed in a robbery.

    “The militias are arming young people who can’t continue studies and have no work; in these conditions, for $20, you can manipulate whomever you wish,” the bishop told France’s Catholic La Croix daily April 3. “We are in a state of permanent insecurity, of car-hijacking, pillaging and killing. These are reported to us each day.”

    Source: Catholic Herald… 

  • Youth Unemployment, Religious Intolerance, Herdsmen Menace among Concerns of Bishops in West Africa

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 10 April 2017

    recowa standing committee march 2017The Catholic Bishops in West Africa have expressed their concerns about unemployment among the youth, religious intolerance, the menace of herdsmen, among other challenges affecting the countries of West Africa.

    These were part of the deliberations that the Catholic Bishops belonging to the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA-CERAO) told the Chairperson of the Authority of heads of States and Governments of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia at the conclusion of their fifth four-day Standing Committee meeting, which took place in Assinie, Ivory Coast at the end of March 2017.

    RECOWA-CERAO brings together Catholic Bishops from 15 countries of West Africa, which include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Sierra-Leone, Senegal, Gambia, and Togo.

    During their meeting, the Bishops deliberated on the challenge of youth unemployment including these youth’s high risk of exposure “to trafficking, drug abuse, violence and forced migrations”; religious intolerance and extremism, which pose “a serious threat to the right of every citizen to freely choose and practise the religion of his or her choice”; and the menace of herdsmen who, “often armed with dangerous weapons, are associated with rape, murder, destruction of farms, kidnaping and conflicts”.

    Although the Bishops acknowledged with appreciation “the democratic transfer of power in many of our countries and the relative peace we are witnessing in our region,” they expressed their concern about “the disregard for the rule of law, weak institutions, shrinking space for political participation by all, frequent human rights violations and tortures” in some of the countries within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

    “We are also worried about political leaders who employ extra-democratic means to remain in power for life, we appeal to our political authorities to respect the democratic tenets of their countries,” the Bishops stated.

    The regional body of Catholic Bishops met under the theme, The New Evangelization and its Challenges for the Church, Family of God in West Africa: the Role of the Bishops in the prevention, mediation, resolution and transformation of conflicts.

    “As an organization committed to integral human development, RECOWA-CERAO is ever ready to partner with ECOWAS in contributing to the rapid development of our region and our continent,” the Bishops stated in their message availed to CANAA on Saturday, April 8.

    Below is the full text of the Bishops’ message.

    MESSAGE OF RECOWA/CERAO TO H. E. ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA AND CHAIRPERSON OF THE AUTHORITY OF HEADS OF STATES AND GOVERNMENTS OF THE ECONOMIC COMMUNITY OF WEST AFRICA STATES (ECOWAS)

    PREAMBLE

    We, the Catholic Bishops of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa RECOWA-CERAO (Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Sierra-Leone, Senegal, The Gambia and Togo), having concluded our 5th Standing Committee Meeting from 28 to 31 March 2017 in Assinie, Cote d’Ivoire, wish to communicate to you some of the fruits of our deliberations on the theme: ‘‘The New Evangelization and its Challenges for the Church, Family of God in West Africa: the Role of the Bishops in the prevention, mediation, resolution and transformation of conflicts”.

    COMMENDATION

    We express our deep gratitude for your support to the African Faith Leaders Initiative on Post-2015 Development Agenda, which was spearheaded by our continental body, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), towards the successful negotiation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015.

    In communion with our communities across West Africa, we also wish to express our heartfelt gratitude for the efficiency with which you managed the situation in The Gambia. We congratulate you on the firm position you took on behalf of the Authority of Heads of States and Governments of ECOWAS Commission, which led to the constitutional transfer of power to the rightfully elected President. With this, you sent a strong and clear signal to all political actors and leaders in our region.

    We applaud the ECOWAS Vision 2020 which aims to move from an “ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of Peoples”. This is a clear strategic vision from the political leaders and therefore, calls for more collaborative and holistic regional development approaches and integrated programmes. We are happy about the positive and remarkable achievements in our region over the past decade.

    SOME ACHIEVEMENTS

    We are grateful to almighty God for the democratic transfer of power in many of our countries and the relative peace we are witnessing in our region. We are benefiting from the economic growth which brings hope to our citizens. In spite of these positive developments we are at pains to observe some significant challenges within our region which need to be addressed.

    OUR CONCERNS

    Political transition and instability

    Political transitions of power in some countries are characterised by the disregard for the rule of law, weak institutions, shrinking space for political participation by all, frequent human rights violations and tortures. These are clear disregard for relevant treaties, laws and legal frameworks adopted by governments in our region. We urge our authorities to respect the commitment they have pledged to keep. We are also worried about political leaders who employ extra-democratic means to remain in power for life, we appeal to our political authorities to respect the democratic tenets of their countries.

    The danger of youth unemployment

    Sixty-five percent of our population is made up of the youth. Unfortunately, a majority of them are unemployed and therefore highly exposed to trafficking, drug abuse, violence and forced migrations. As long as they remain without jobs after their graduation and move about in our sub-region, they are easy preys to warlords and political criminals, who may recruit them for violent crimes and terrorism.   There is an urgent need to reverse this trend by putting in place appropriate measures and incentives to create gainful employment opportunities for our youth.

    Religious intolerance and extremism

    The desire of religious extremist groups to forcefully “islamise” countries in our region poses a serious threat to the right of every citizen to freely choose and practise the religion of his or her choice. In the case of The Gambia which was declared an Islamic state, we are happy that this matter has been reversed with the current leadership. We strongly appeal that this situation should not be repeated in any country in our region. Whenever government adopts a particular religion as a state religion, the rights of other citizens to freedom of conscience and worship is infringed upon.

    The menace of herdsmen

    The recurrence of natural and man-made disasters such as floods, storms, desertification, food insecurity, forced migration, and other humanitarian crises related to climate change have become a serious threat to human and animal survival. Of particular concern is the environmental and social havocs wrecked by the herdsmen who move their cattle across communities and national borders in the region. These herdsmen, often armed with dangerous weapons, are associated with rape, murder, destruction of farms, kidnaping and conflicts. While there is freedom of movement of people and goods in our region, we appeal to our authorities to effectively address this particularly destructive activity.

    OUR CONTRIBUTIONS

    In line with the recommendations adopted, during our last Plenary Assembly held in Accra, Ghana, from 22-27 February, 2016 on the theme: ‘‘New Evangelisation and the challenges to the Church, Family of God in West Africa: Reconciliation, Development and Family Life’’, we the Catholic Bishops of RECOWA/CERAO are fully committed to create a regional structure for prevention, mediation, resolution and transformation in the event of conflicts in our region. The Catholic Church, through the national Bishops Conferences and their Justice, Development and Peace Commissions, mediates in governance and political issues in their respective countries in our region.

    The creation of the Catholic Parliamentarians Liaison Offices at some national levels has positioned RECOWA-CERAO as a key and strategic development actor. We support the advocacy work of our National Conferences to monitor public policies and their implementation in order to promote good governance and the common good in public affairs.

    We are in the process of creating in Abuja a RECOWA-CERAO Liaison Office to collaborate with relevant commissions and institutions of the ECOWAS. Furthermore, we have proposed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to define the terms of our mutual collaboration. We need the support of Your Excellency to facilitate these processes.

    CONCLUSION

    As an organization committed to integral human development, RECOWA-CERAO is ever ready to partner with ECOWAS in contributing to the rapid development of our region and our continent.

    Finally, we thank you on behalf of RECOWA-CERAO and the Catholic Bishops Conference of Liberia (CABICOL) for accommodating us in your tight official schedule. We invoke God’s blessings on you and your people.

    Monrovia, April 04, 2017

    Most Rev. Ignatius A. KAIGAMA, Archbishop of Jos Nigeria, President of RECOWA/CERAO

  • Egypt's Attacks Won't Stop Pope's Visit for Peace, Says Vatican official

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Carol Glatz || 10 April 2017

    pope to visit egypt despite attacksDespite recent and repeated terrorist attacks against Egypt's minority Christian communities, Pope Francis will not cancel his visit to Egypt.

    "The pope's trip to Egypt proceeds as scheduled," Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, told Catholic News Service by email April 10. The pope is scheduled to meet governmental and interfaith leaders during an April 28-29 visit to Cairo.

    "Egyptians are looking forward to Pope Francis' visit, although the atmosphere at present is heavy," Father Rafic Grieche, spokesman for the Egyptian bishops, told CNS April 10, the day after the attacks.

    "The pope's mission is to be beside his brothers at the time of difficulty. Now is the real time that he can bring peace and hope to the Egyptian people as a whole and to the Christians of the East, in particular," Father Grieche added.

    He said people were uneasy entering churches with metal detectors and other security measures.

    "It's not like going to a normal church. But we need these measures to keep people safe," he said.

    He said after the attack, he celebrated a Mass with 2,000 people.

    "The people knew already about the attack in Tanta, but they did not want to be afraid. In the evening, they also came for the prayers of the Holy Week," Father Grieche said.

    Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II was in the Cathedral of St. Mark in Alexandria April 9 for the Palm Sunday service, when an explosion went off outside the church. Security footage appeared to show a security officer direct a man who was seeking entry into the cathedral to go through a metal detector. The man took a step under the detector then backed up a step, followed by a huge explosion that cut off the camera feed.

    Earlier, a bomb exploded 70 miles away inside the Church of St. George in Tanta, 50 miles north of Cairo, during its Palm Sunday service. Estimates say at least 44 people were killed and more than 100 injured in the two attacks, making it one of the deadliest against the nation's Christians in decades.

    It was the single deadliest day for Christians in decades and the worst since a bombing at a Cairo church in December killed 30 people.

    Pope Tawadros told the Italian national network Rai News April 9 the attacks would "not damage the unity and cohesiveness" of the Egyptian people.

    "Egyptians are united before this terrorism," he said, adding that "these vile attacks that hit people of peace in places of prayer demonstrate that terrorism lacks any religion."

    Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University, also condemned the attacks, calling them a "despicable terrorist bombing that targeted the lives of innocents."

    Retired Coptic Catholic Bishop Antonios Mina of Giza, Egypt, said the incidents were an attack against the nation's unity, its Coptic Christians, "to remind them that they have no rights, and against all Christian minorities of the country that anxiously await Pope Francis."

    "Despite it all, we will never lose hope. These atrocious gestures make us firmer in the faith and stronger," he said. "Egypt's Christians are warriors of hope."

    One Catholic leader highlighted his country's failure to address the real causes behind the Palm Sunday massacres.

    Speaking to "the officials and the wise of this country," Coptic Catholic Bishop Botros Fahim Awad Hanna of Minya said that "you don't fight terrorism with words or slogans, nor with security or armies alone."

    "What have you done for social, economic, health, political and human justice? What have you done for the poor and downtrodden? What have you done to reform thought, expression and religious discourse?"

    In a posting on his Facebook page, Bishop Fahim said that when Pope Francis goes to Cairo, he "will come to say no to terrorism and evil, and yes to goodness and fraternity. Love will never fail."

    Around the world, religious leaders offered prayers.

    Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the attacks on the churches were "unspeakable persecution."

    "In the midst of what should be peace, horrible violence yet again," he said. On behalf of all U.S. bishops, the cardinal expressed "our deepest sadness" for all those killed and injured, and their loved ones.

    "I also express our solidarity with the Coptic church in Egypt, an ancient Christian community that faces mounting persecution in its historic home from violent extremism. I also pray for the nation of Egypt, that it may seek justice, find healing, and strengthen protection for Coptic Christians and other religious minorities who wish only to live in peace."

    Egypt is 90 percent Sunni Muslim; Christians make up the remaining 10 percent, with that majority being the Coptic Orthodox church. The Catholic community in Egypt numbers about 272,000, less than 0.5 percent of the population.

  • Church in Nigeria’s President Hometown Dedicated

    Catholic Diocese of Sokoto || By Gloria George & Richie Nabuk || 04 April 2017

    church in buhari hometown dedicatedThe Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah, Tuesday, April 4, dedicated St. Gabriel's Parish Church building in Daura LG, the hometown of President Muhammadu Buhari. 

    St. Gabriel's Catholic Church Daura, Katsina State was made a Parish in the year 1999 by the Bishop Emeritus of Sokoto diocese, Dr. Kevin Aje.

    Part of the dedication Mass was the annual Cathedraticum, administering Sacrament of Confirmation to candidates and Installation of Lectors.

    Bishop Kukah congratulated the faithful saying, "It is your hard work, the parish priest encouraged you and this church belongs to you."

    Quoting the Psalmist, "I look up toward the hills. from where does my help come?" - (Ps 121:1). Bishop Kukah added, "We always have to look up to where God is."

    "The presence of God is not something to debate about. whenever we see the Eucharist, it assures us of the presence of God."

    "Without the Eucharist, there's no church. The reason we come to Mass is to celebrate the Eucharist, that is why we are men and women of the altar"

    Bishop Kukah admonished the faithful on their attitude towards the word of God. He said "many of us especially men assume that somehow your wife can be holy on your behalf, that your children can pray on your behalf, that the Parish Priest will read bible on your behalf."

    "It is wonder to build altar, buy all the chairs, but it is no use to build a church if you yourself don't live a Godly live because God cannot be bribed or blackmail."
     
    "We take worshiping God as bribing. when we need something from God we become extra-ordinary generous and when the desire is met we become something else."

    "Many of us, our lives are regulated by fear... fear of the unknown. How can you fear people who didn't give you life?" Bishop Kukah said and explained that our problem is not the Muslims, the Pentecostals or protestants but ourselves.

    He encouraged the faithful to draw closer to God in the Eucharist.

    "I want to thank God for the parish priest and parishioners for the great work you have done" Bishop Kukah said as he urged the parishioners to always Pray for their priest
     
    He appreciated the CWO for their services to the church and encouraged them to start the project of building chapel of perpetual adoration.

    In his remark, the parish Priest Rev Fr. Joseph Dube, appreciated Bishop Matthew Kukah for his care and support to the parish.

    Fr. Dube appreciated the parishioners for their commitment and contributions towards the success of the church project.

    Source: Catholic Diocese of Sokoto…

  • Sisters Listen to Help Heal as Rwanda Marks 23 Years Since Genocide

    Global Sisters Report (GSR) || By Melanie Lidman || 06 April 2017

    sisters listen to help heal as rwandaLike nuns everywhere, the Benebikira Sisters, the oldest indigenous congregation in Rwanda, have sisters who are teachers, nurses, pharmacists, formators and administrators. But they also have religious with a unique title: Sister Listeners.

    "The genocide created many problems, some people don't want to live because of what happened," said Sr. Marie Venantie Nyirabaganwa, the general superior of the Benebikira Sisters and the head of Association des Supérieurs Majeurs du Rwanda, the national umbrella group for men and women religious.

    The 1994 Rwandan genocide, when up to a million people were killed during 100 days of fighting and in the chaos before and afterward, lurks under the surface of every interaction, even though 23 years have passed since the killers laid down their machetes.

    The country has successfully emerged from some of the physical devastation after the genocide, the economy growing at impressive rates. Skyscrapers reach towards the heavens in the capital of Kigali and well-paved roads crisscross most of the countryside.

    Now the country is perched in a delicate balance, as the people try to honor the memory of those killed while firmly looking toward the future. This balancing act comes into focus each year on April 7, the anniversary of the day the genocide started. It marks the beginning of a three-month period when the country turns inward to remember.

    "There are many problems in Rwanda, and many people have mental problems because of the genocide," Nyirabaganwa said. "Those who killed have their own problems, and those who lost people due to the genocide have their own problems."

    "Especially mothers who lost all of their children and husbands, or the young ones who lost all the members of their family," Nyirabaganwa added. "Many people just need someone to listen. Some have HIV [rape by HIV-positive men was one of the tools used to brutalize during the genocide]. There are different problems with families."

    Six Benebikira Sisters are dedicated to full-time listening. Some of the sisters run group therapy sessions, others do individual counseling as needed. They studied different approaches, including pastoral work or counseling, and go for continuing education on a regular basis, Nyirabaganwa explained.

    The role of listener is less formal than therapist but fits better with Rwandan culture, she said. "The sisters in charge of listening are helping them spiritually. We help them to resolve and get answers to their problems."

    Other congregations, including the St. Boniface Sisters, adopted the model of "listeners," finding ways to blend psychological support with Rwanda's unique needs and culture. The role of these listeners is especially important in the springtime.

    "In April, the country shuts down in memoriam for about two weeks. It's a period of remembrance," said Nicole Sparbanie, a Peace Corps volunteer from Chicago who works with the Bernardine Sisters in the village of Kamonyi, 25 miles outside of Kigali. Each village or district has its own memorial, usually a tomb and a mini-museum. Additionally, each district observes the anniversaries of major events that happened locally during the 100-day genocide.

    "All the school kids walk together and they read the names of people who died in that area. They tell the stories of the victims, and there is also art and music," Sparbanie said.

    Because every local anniversary is marked annually during this 100-day period, newspaper headlines and radio shows are full of reports about them, keeping the focus on the country's difficult past even as people try to move on.

    Although the government severely limits free speech inside Rwanda, some activists and international organizations quietly question whether the government is using the memorials to limit opposition and maintain its authority. Official government memorials, including the Kigali Genocide Memorial, call it "the Genocide against the Tutsi," which erases any reference to the thousands of Hutu who were killed, sometimes while protecting Tutsis. The title also negates any reference to crimes against the Hutu before the genocide or revenge killings that took place afterward. President Paul Kagame is Tutsi, although it is illegal to speak of ethnicity in Rwanda, as part of a government initiative called "Ndi Umunyarwanda" ("I am a Rwandan").

    "The recognition of committed atrocities and seeking of forgiveness is emphasised as a central aspect of this 'Rwandasition' project," Patrick Hajayandi, a senior project leader for the South African organization Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, wrote about the Rwandan memorials. "However, the recurring theme is the need for all Hutu to seek forgiveness from the Tutsi." He worried that by consciously ignoring the pain of Hutu victims, the government is creating resentment that could explode in the future. "While memorials have a useful function, if they are not inclusive, they do not necessarily promote reconciliation," he added.

    Sisters are finding ways to work within the acceptable government framework of memorials to offer their counseling services to all of the victims — both Hutu and Tutsi, regardless of what roles they played in the genocide.

    Sisters are an integral part of the government observations. They lead discussions and prayers during the memorial period, providing spiritual support during the official events and outside counseling on a personal basis.

    "We work together with the government," said Sr. Donatille Mukurabayaza, the local superior for the Bernardine Sisters in Kamonyi. Mukurabayaza trained in Capacitar, an international mindfulness training aimed at reconciliation in conflict zones. Capacitar emphasizes internal balance and peace more than external sharing that the Benebikira "Listening Sisters" provide. Both programs allow the sisters to offer counseling and spiritual support to groups and individuals privately, and also to take a leading role during the memorial period in April.

    "The government gives the main line to follow for reconciliation, and then the civil society makes its contribution after that. The government has different programs, so we do those, and sometimes we improve upon them," she said.

    Mukurabayaza noted that government support is essential to their work. "Sometimes you may have a good vision but when there's a barrier with the local authority you can't achieve anything," she said. "In Rwanda, the government has the same vision as the people – all Rwandans are the same, all Rwandans are equal, all people must contribute to the welfare of the people."

    Sr. Laurentine Musomayire, the assistant project manager for the Benebikira congregation, said they try to provide an example to villagers still struggling with reconciliation. "The sisters are joined together, we didn't separate ourselves [into the Hutu and Tutsi tribes during the genocide]," she said. "We talked together, we lived together, we ate together without any problem. If we weren't together, more sisters would have died. When people came and tried to kill sisters from one tribe, the sisters protected them and refused to give them up."

    This also meant that, in some places, entire communities of sisters were murdered because they refused to give up Tutsi sisters to the Hutu killers. The Benebikira congregation lost 22 sisters, both Hutu and Tutsi.

    "During the genocide, they destroyed everything," she said. "They stole so many things, even this building was destroyed. It was terrible. We had to start from nothing. We continued to work with the people, tried to talk to people here about what happened, we tried to teach them. Some people were angry at the church."

    The church played a complicated role in the genocide. In many instances, priests and sisters actively supported the killers, especially when victims fled to the churches for refuge and were handed over to the killers. International courts indicted four priests and two sisters for war crimes in connection with the genocide. The two Benedictine sisters, Sr. Gertrude Mukangango and Sr. Maria Kisito Mukabutera, received 15- and 12-year sentences, respectively, for their role in relinquishing 7,000 Tutsis who were hiding at their Sovu convent in southern Rwanda.

    The Catholic Church in Rwanda officially apologized for the Church's role in the genocide on Nov. 20, 2016, the last Sunday of the Year of Mercy. However, the Rwandan government questioned the sincerity of the statement and called the apology an attempt to "[exonerate] the Catholic Church as a whole for any culpability in connection with the genocide."

    Pope Francis made an official apology when he met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame on March 20. Francis "conveyed his profound sadness, and that of the Holy See and of the Church, for the genocide against the Tutsi," the Vatican said in a statement. "He expressed his solidarity with the victims and with those who continue to suffer the consequences of those tragic events."

    In Rwanda, activists believe that the Catholic Church has an important part to play in reconciliation despite its checkered past. "[These] institutions have a big role to play because they're the ones who have access to people," explained Honore Gatera, the director of the Kigali Genocide Memorial, at an event commemorating International Holocaust Day in February. Representatives of the Vatican and the Israeli ambassador to East Africa also attended the memorial.

    "[The Church has] a huge responsibility," Gatera said, especially in their schools. "They must be involved in commemoration and memorialization events and activities, but most importantly, they must be part of the education journey that we have started."

    Sisters are leading this journey, by reaching out to people wherever they feel most comfortable to talk, including their homes or places outside of the church. As the country marks another year since the genocide on April 7, the sisters providing psychosocial support are even busier during the memorial season.

    "Emotions are so high around this time, even if you haven't been through the genocide," said Jean Claude Nkulikiyimfura, the director of a high school in the Rwamagana region of eastern Rwanda. "All schools are on break from March 28 to April 21, so kids can go back to their communities," he said. People crave connection and comfort, sometimes causing them to turn to risky behavior. "Emotions are so high, we find that's a time when some girls get pregnant," Nkulikiyimfura added.

    Although the memorial period can be the most intense, Mukurabayaza, the Bernardine sister, stresses the need for communication and understanding during the whole year. "Each person needs to learn to accept each other and respect each other," she said. Every person has to express what he or she is feeling. You need that exchange."

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

    Source: Global Sisters Report (GSR)… 

  • Bishops in Angola Decry Government’s Refusal to Permit Extension of Catholic Radio Signal

    Vatican Radio || By Father Paul Samasumo || 04 April 2017

    angola bishops decry govt denial of national radio permitAngola’s Catholic Bishops have accused the Angolan government of lacking the political will needed to allow Catholic-owned Radio Ecclésia’s expansion plans. The Church has for the past fourteen years been requesting permission to extend the radio' signal nation-wide.

    Archbishop Filomeno do Nascimento Vieira Dias of the Archdiocese of Luanda and President of the Episcopal Conference of Angola and São Tomé (CEAST) made the remarks at a press conference held to coincide with the end of CEAST’s first plenary assembly for the year 2017.

    The Bishops’ meeting that ended last week took place in the Diocese of Benguela.

    Answering a question from the media, Archbishop Filomeno do Nascimento Vieira Dias told the media that the Angolan government lacked the political will needed to allow the extension of Radio Ecclésia’s signal to the whole country.

    The Angolan prelate told journalists that the matter of Radio Ecclésia was one of the issues recently discussed between the Bishops and the government when they met with Angola’s President, José Eduardo dos Santos.

    The Archbishop also observed that while continuing to advance promises and excuses to the Catholic Church, the Angolan government was busy approving the emergence of new radios stations in the country.

    Radio Ecclésia and its wish to extend its signal nationwide is not new.

    In 2014, then Apostolic Nuncio to Angola, Archbishop Novatus Rugambwa, also spoke about his sadness concerning the confinement of Radio Ecclésia to the capital city of Luanda by the authorities.

    The Apostolic Nuncio expressed the view that, “The people (of Angola) have a great need to benefit from the Radio’s socio-development and spiritual broadcasts.”

    Founded in 1954, Radio Ecclésia was nationalised and taken over by the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) government in 1978. MPLA had just claimed victory from the Portuguese to form the first independence government of Angola in 1975.

    It took almost twenty years of negotiations for Radio Ecclésia to be returned to the control of the Catholic Church, in 1997. 

    Radio Ecclésia’s history of differences with the government is well-known and seems to be the main stumbling block to a nationwide radio licence.  Government officials find it hard to stomach the radio’s outspokenness on governance and political issues affecting the country.

    Just before the visit of Pope Benedict XVI’s to Angola in 2009, the Bishops again appealed to the Republican President, José Eduardo Dos Santos, to allow the radio station broadcast its programmes country-wide. The request was not granted.

    Radio Ecclésia broadcasts on 97.5 FM frequency to Luanda for 24 hours a day and only for one hour a day throughout Angola, on short wave.

    Source: Vatican Radio… 

  • Bishops in South Africa Call on President Zuma to “reconsider his position” as Country’s Leader

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

    south africa bishops to zuma to reconsider positionThe Catholic Bishops in South African have called on their country’s head of State to “reconsider his position” as President and encouraged members of Parliament and the ruling party to “rise to the occasion and give decisive, fearless and honest leadership.”

    The Bishops have made the appeal in a statement dated Tuesday, April 4, in which they note that President Zuma seems not to enjoy the confidence a national leader should have.

    “We respectfully remind President Zuma that he has been elected to serve all South Africans,” the Bishops have stated and added, “It appears that he has lost the confidence of many of his colleagues, as well as that of numerous civil society organizations.”

    “He should earnestly reconsider his position, and not be afraid to act with courage and humility in the nation’s best interests,” the Bishops say in their collective statement signed by the President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town.

    “We have confidence in the leaders of the two noble institutions, Parliament and the ANC, and we trust that they will rise to the occasion and give decisive, fearless and honest leadership,” the Bishops have stated.

    The Bishops’ appeal comes at a time when there have been widespread calls for President Zuma’s resignation after he reshuffled his cabinet firing Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, a move that shook the country’s economy.

    “While we note and respect the calls for the resignation of the President, such a step would not in itself be a complete solution, as corruption at every level must to be rooted out,” the Bishops have noted and added, “the leadership of the ANC must make serious and strenuous efforts to end corruption and patronage at all levels of governance”

    The Bishops have described their country as being in a “state of anxiety and uncertainty” and called on Parliament to reconvene “urgently” to “debate on the events of the past week and to exercise their duty of holding the Executive arm of government to account.”

    “Our concern rises not from the fact that any particular minister has been replaced, but from the allegations as to how the decision was made and the motivation for it,” the Catholic Bishops have clarified.

    They have particularly questioned the Executive’s decision-making process and indicated that President Zuma seems to act under external influences.

    “Where decisions are being made by others, who have not been elected to public office, is a matter of great concern and is a threat to the democratic process,” the Bishops have stated.

    Addressing the call for mass action of Friday, April 7, in which citizens have been advised to stay away from work and children not to attend school, the Bishops have noted, “It is our democratic right to participate in legal, orderly and peaceful marches, and those who wish to express their concern and anger in this way, whether at the march on the 7th April or at subsequent marches, are fully entitled to do so.”

    “It is essential for people to make their voices heart,” The Bishops have stated and noted that “it is not entirely clear who has made the call for” the Friday protest march.

    The Bishops have cautioned against any form of violence and destruction saying, “The economy and education are both vulnerable at this time and we urge workers and students not to do anything that would further harm the economy or weaken the culture of learning.”

  • Mali Bishops Plead for Kidnapped Nun's Release

    Catholic News Agency (CNA) || 02 April 2017

    mali bishops plead for release of nunThe Catholic bishops of Mali are asking the general public to help secure the release of a nun who was kidnapped in the country February 7th.

    Sister Cecilia Argoti Narvaez was originally from Colombia but worked in Mali until she was kidnapped earlier this year. Her fate is still unknown.

    “We are exploring all possible paths to obtain Sister Cecilia’s release and are calling upon the faithful to keep praying for her,” said Father Edmond Dembele, secretary general of the Episcopal Conference of Mali, according to Fides news agency.

    Sr. Cecilia, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate, has served in Mali for 12 years. Her community administers a large health center in the country, as well as a home where they care for some 30 orphans between one and two years of age.

    Armed men kidnapped Sr. Cecilia in the southern Mali city of Karangasso. The men forced Sister Cecilia to hand over the keys to the community’s ambulance. The vehicle was later found abandoned. Three other sisters were present at their house but escaped.

    Fr. Dembele appealed to anyone with information about the kidnappers to contact authorities.

    “Some people believe that bandits in the area kidnapped the sister in the hope of getting a ransom, and now do not know how to handle the situation,” he said. “Others believe jihadists kidnapped her.”

    While jihadist groups like Al Qaida operate in the north of Mali, Karangasso is far removed from their typical area of operations.

    Fr. Dembele asked the public and the media to help make contact with her kidnappers. The Diocese of Karangasso is also seeking any intermediaries with the kidnappers.

    Sr. Cecilia and her fellow sisters teach literacy to some 700 Muslim women. They were working on a barn project for times of food shortages, as many mothers in the region die from malnutrition.

    Source: Catholic News Agency… 

  • Africa Itself is a Frontier for Evangelization

    Zimbabwe-Mozambique Jesuit Communications || By Kudakwashe Matambo || 31 March 2017

    africa is frontier of evangelizationNew President of the Conference of Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar (JESAM), Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator has said since the African continent endures a complexity of crises such as poverty, drought, governance issues, migration and displacement, these present opportunities to the Society of Jesus to evangelise. The JESAM President made the remarks in an interview with Jesuit Communications in Harare, Zimbabwe.

    “Africa itself is a frontier, as a continent, it is faced with many challenges, but also it presents a lot of opportunities. It is a very youthful continent blessed with talented young people who may not always have the opportunities they deserve to put this talent at the service of the continent, and that’s a huge frontier for the Jesuits.” Fr Orobator added, “All these are all frontiers that Jesuits strive to respond to.” 

    Following Fr Orobator’s appointment as JESAM President by the Superior General of the Jesuits, in February, the Nigerian Jesuit said he looks forward to connecting with Jesuits on the continent of Africa and Madagascar, and make himself totally and completely available for the service of the mission of the Society of Jesus.

    “I want to create more effective links and networks amongst the Jesuits of the continent of Africa and the rest of the universal society. I look forward to doing this in collaboration with thousands of women and men who serve in our apostolic works on the continent,” Fr Orobator said.

    Recently, Society of Jesus Superior General Fr Arturo Sosa emphasised the need and importance of collaboration between women and men. The Superior General of the Jesuits made these remarks when he gave the opening address at a “Voices of Faith” event in the Vatican. 

    “We must consolidate our presence where we already are because there is no shortage of frontiers and we could be even there in a more consolidated fashion. We need to strengthen our presence,” emphasised Fr Orobator. 

    The JESAM President further said institutions of Formation such as the Arrupe College in Harare and other Formation centres are vital and constitute for Jesuits ‘an absolute priority.’

     “They are responsible for building the future capacity of the Society of Jesus because they form Jesuits who are competent and adequately trained to the needs of Africa and Madagascar.” Fr Orobator continued, “Our goal is to for a well-rounded person who knows what it takes, what it means to be human and how to relate to society. Men who are able to appreciate and believe in the inherent dignity of the human person.”

    The Jesuit African Assistancy (Conference) consists of 7 Jesuit provinces and regions in Africa. The Conference of Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar (JESAM) comprises the major superiors of these provinces and regions.

    Source: Jesuits Zimbabwe-Mozambique…

  • We Got Scolded by a Ghanaian Nun, and We Had it Coming

    Crux || By Ines San Martin || 30 March 2017

    ghanaian nun on news from africa 2017Why do tragedies in America and Europe get coverage, but even bigger tragedies other places aren’t even mentioned? The people of Africa and other non-western countries want the international media to cover their news, both good and bad. If consumers gave strong signs of interest and clamor for these stories, producers would provide them.

    Allow me to be blunt: The perceived news value of an event generally is measured by its ability to sell papers or drive traffic. For that reason, homepages and print covers often are filled with tragedy. As much as we may be horrified, we also want all the information available on calamities such as terrorist attacks or environmental disasters.

    That is, almost all.

    My Crux colleagues John L. Allen Jr, Claire Giangravè, and I spent most of last week covering a major conference on African theology taking place in Rome. Late on day one of the conference, a terrorist attack in London took the life of five people and left at least 50 wounded.

    Since finding voices to write a piece on African reactions to the tragic event was easy enough, we set out to hear them. And we got those voices: Whenever people are killed in what Pope Francis has often dubbed “senseless acts of violence,” the world sympathizes.

    We all become French, British, Americans, Spaniards in such moments, and this empathy is obviously a good thing.

    Yet the same moment London was being hit by terrorism, at least 20 people were killed in Central African Republic. In recent days, more than 80 people have died and over 500,000 people lost their homes in Peru due to intense rains.

    More than 200 souls are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean last week, after five bodies were recovered near two capsized boats near the coast of Libya. As the Spanish aid organization Proactiva Open Arms, which found the bodies, wrote on their Facebook, “It is a harsh reality-check of the suffering here that is invisible in Europe.”

    They found a sixth body a day later, on March 24.

    Yet no bishop sent out a statement over the capsized boats, and as much as he does and says for migrants and refugees, not even Pope Francis can send out a telegram each time one of these tragedies occurs, nor can he mention the dramatic situation in Peru every Sunday.

    All that led Sister M. Maamalifar Poreku of Ghana to ask us, who’s talking about the many living under forced labor and forced prostitution in Africa? Though she didn’t mean it this way, it was hard not to feel scolded by a Missionary Sister of Our Lady of Africa.

    “Some are sliced open alive and their organs taken away, and left to die,” she said. “Is this not terrorism?”

    As she pointed out, the problem was not in the coverage of the terror attack in London, but the lack of coverage of the terror attacks taking place on a daily basis in Africa. These “serious issues,” she said, should get “at least the same attention.”

    And she was right. I remember a lecture from my university years in which a professor, without hiding her embarrassment, told us that “Train accident in the United Sates, ten dead” is a cover story, even in our nation of Argentina. Yet if it happened in India, a few zeros need to be added to the death toll for it to gain the same attention.

    This tale is as old as the news industry, and it says as much about those who produce the news as it does about those who consume it. Most of the media bias on resource allocation is very simple: There are bills to pay, and the stories that pay them, more often than not, are the ones getting coverage.

    Media producers respond to strong market pressures. If consumers gave strong signs of interest and clamor for these stories, producers would provide them. When was the last time there was a massive show of solidarity among Western users of Facebook, for instance, in support of the victims of genocide in Syria and Iraq?

    In many ways, this is a call to media consumers in general: All of us have the power to strong-arm the system. For Catholics in particular, this ought to be an imperative. “Catholic,” after all, means “universal.” The Church was globalized before globalization was cool.

    Such universality is supposed to be the Catholic default setting. Considering that there are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, and over 60 million in the United States alone, a clear interest in looking beyond our little corner of the world could be a game-changer.

    Further, if we came to focus more on those places that seem to be far, far away, we would also gain familiarity with people in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. This would allow us to look beyond the tragedies we sometimes talk about to tell the good stories too. We don’t do nearly enough of this.

    On that front too, Poreku had something to say, and it wasn’t flattering.

    “I know that the media has to expose evil things, but I wish they would also talk about the good things coming from Africa,” she said.

    “When we hear about Africa, it’s war, it’s famine, it’s something terrible. But is that what this continent is all about? I’m pleading with the media: Bring out the good and the positive of Africa, because Africa is the future of the world!”

    That plea applies not only to media professionals, but to everyone.

    As a footnote, Poreku spoke with Allen at a different moment during the March 22-25 conference about the role of women in the Church and much more, as part of a series of Facebook live videos we did from Notre Dame’s Global Gateway Center in Rome. If you have 12 minutes, it’s worth a watch:

    Source: Crux… 

  • Official Logo for Pope Francis' Visit to Egypt, Itinerary for Trip Released

    Vatican Radio || 31 March 2017

    logo for pope in egypt  2017 releasedThe logo for Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to Egypt, which takes place 28-29 April, has been released by the Egyptian Catholic Church.

    The three main elements present in the logo are Egypt, Pope Francis, and Peace.

    “Pope of Peace in Egypt of Peace” are the words in Arabic and English at the base of the logo.

    Egypt is represented by the Nile River – a symbol of life – as well as by the pyramids and the Sphinx, which highlight the long history of civilization in this African country.

    The Cross and Crescent Moon at the center of the logo represent the coexistence between the various components of the Egyptian people.

    A white dove signifies peace, which is both the highest gift to which every human being can aspire and the greeting of monotheistic religions.

    Finally, the dove precedes Pope Francis to announce his arrival as the Pope of Peace in a country of peace.

    Source: Vatican Radio…

    Vatican releases itinerary for papal trip to Egypt: By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service (CNS)

    Pope Francis will meet with the leader of one of the world's leading Sunni Muslim institutions, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church and representatives of the Catholic Church on a two-day trip to Cairo.

    The pope is scheduled to arrive in Cairo April 28 for courtesy visits with political and religious leaders and deliver a speech, along with the grand imam of al-Azhar University, to an international conference on peace. He will celebrate Mass for the small Catholic community in Cairo the next day and meet with bishops, clergy, religious and seminarians before returning to Rome April 29.

    In mid-March, the Vatican confirmed the pope would make the trip following an invitation from President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the Catholic bishops in Egypt, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar.

    It will be the pope's 18th trip abroad in his four years as pope and the seventh time he visits a Muslim-majority nation. He will be the second pope to visit Egypt, after St. John Paul II went to Cairo and Mount Sinai in 2000.

    The Catholic community in Egypt numbers about 272,000, less than 0.5 percent of the population, which is 90 percent Sunni Muslim.

    In 1998, Catholic-Muslim dialogue was initiated between Vatican experts and Muslim scholars of Cairo's al-Azhar University, the main center for Islamic learning for the more than 1 billion Sunni Muslims worldwide. The trip will come amid increasingly closer relations between the Vatican and al-Azhar, which is considered the most authoritative theological-academic institution of Sunni Islam. The pope has also said he sees the importance of strengthening cooperation between Catholics and Coptic Orthodox Christians in the face of so many threats to human life and creation.

    Here is the pope's schedule as released by the Vatican. Times listed are local, with Eastern Daylight Time in parentheses.

    Friday, April 28 (Rome, Cairo)

    -- 10:45 a.m. (4:45 a.m.), Departure from Rome's Leonardo da Vinci International Airport for Cairo.

    -- 2 p.m. (7 a.m.), Arrival at Cairo airport. Official welcoming ceremony at the Heliopolis presidential palace. Courtesy visits with el-Sissi and Sheik el-Tayeb. Speeches by the grand imam and the pope to participants in an international conference on peace.

    -- 4:40 p.m. (9:40 a.m.), Meeting with local authorities. Speeches by el-Sissi and Pope Francis. Courtesy visit to Pope Tawadros. Speeches by Pope Tawadros and Pope Francis.

    Saturday, April 29 (Cairo, Rome)

    -- 10:00 a.m. (3:00 a.m.), Mass in Cairo. Homily by pope.

    -- 12:15 p.m. (5:15 a.m.), Lunch with Egypt's bishops and the papal entourage.

    -- 3:15 p.m. (8:15 a.m.), Prayer gathering with clergy, men and women religious, and seminarians. Speech by pope. Farewell ceremony.

    -- 5 p.m. (10 a.m.), Departure from Cairo airport for Rome.

    -- 8:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m.), Arrival at Rome's Ciampino airport.

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