Latest News from Fides News Agency

AMERICA/PARAGUAY - Three people abducted by the “People’s Army of Paraguay". The local Catholic Church offers to mediate for their release

Asunción – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Paraguay , following another abduction by the co-called " People’s Army of Paraguay , has issued a statement expressing solidarity with the three persons in captivity and called for their immediate release." We find deeply concerning the presence of these armed groups with their acts of violence which spread fear among the people ", said Bishop Adalberto Martínez Flores, military ordinary of Paraguay, in a statement reported to Fides. "Dialogue can always be opened in the case of political or ideological demands" the Bishop continued, "but weapons are unacceptable as a means of reaching a goal ". Regarding a possible mediation on the part of the local Catholic Church, Martinez Flores recalled that the priests in the northern part of the country are willing to talk with the leaders of the armed group, on the condition that this initiative is authorised by the security forces and the government .

ASIA/JORDAN - Prince Hassan bin Talal: an act of blind violence, the murder of French Catholic priest Fr. Jacques Hamel

Amman – The assassination of Fr Jacques Hamel, the French Catholic priest brutally murdered by two pro-Islamic state fanatics while he was celebrating mass, was an act of blind violence which “shocked our common humanity”. This statement by Jordanian Prince Hassan bin Talal, was posteda his Facebook account in his name. In the post the prominent member of Jordan’s royal family, always fully committed to interreligious dialogue, quoting Pope Francis, invokes from Almighty God "the gift of peace and humanity".

ASIA/IRAQ - A “contest” of promises over future autonomy for Niniveh Plains

Mosul – Atheel al Nujaifi, a local Sunnite politician former governor of the Province of Niniveh and leader of the al Hadba political party, has asserted that once freed from the jihadist clutches of the self-proclaimed Islamic state , the province of Niniveh shall be transformed into an autonomous region , divided in counties – between six and eight – each with a certain degree of administrative autonomy . “This will mean” said Nujaifi “that all the different groups in the region will enjoy a regime of self-government, because they cannot continue to believe in any more promises regarding their protection”. The Sunnite political leader, according to local media was referring implicitly to hundreds of Christians living in villages in the Niniveh Plains, forced to flee en mass the advance of Daesh militia. His remarks refer once again to the plan - in the air for some time – for “an autonomous Christian majority province”, to be instituted in the Niniveh Plains and the acknowledgement of the role of the local Christian community in the working of administrative institutions and in the field of protection and security. However the words of Nujaifi also confirm that “promises” made to Christians are becoming propagandistic proposals about the planning and political management of the area, proposals which would appear to compete with each other themselves. Only a few days ago , Khurd leader Masud Barzani, president of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, in a meeting with Christian politicians at Erbil, prefigured the creation of a sort of “Christian province” in Niniveh Plains, and a successive referendum to allow the people living in that self-governed entity to choose their political setting under the government of an independent Iraqi Kurdistan rather than under the federal government in Baghdad. .

AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - War driven families seek safety in Catholic schools

Wau – In the county of Wau, situated in the western part of Bahr el Ghazal state in South Sudan, families fleeing the consequences of fighting between government forces and armed militia continue to seek shelter in schools run by the local Catholic community, Radio Tamazuj, learned from Sylvester Owaj, responsible for several diocesan Catholic schools in Wau. Owaj added that efforts are being made to find more suitable accommodation for the families at present living in two schools, Saint John II’s and Saint Michael’s, so that the school pupils can resume classes.Owaj confirmed that he is in contact with the competent authorities and some humanitarian organisations which have started putting up tent camps for the families displaced by violence.Weeks of fighting in Wau between government forces and armed militia have forced thousands of people from their homes. As reported by Fides , the Sudan People's Liberation Army, SPLA resumed fighting in various parts of the county of Wau in early July.

AMERICA/ARGENTINA - "Never seen so many people living on the streets" says Bishop of Neuquén

Neuquén – In recent months the number of homeless persons has grown considerably, "never before in my six years here, have I seen so many people living on the streets " said Bishop Virginio Bressanelli, S.C.I., of the diocese of Neuquén, voicing concern for the social situation all over the province. "In the early morning when I open the Cathedral people come in to sleep ,– he continues-. The other day I counted nine people next to the radiator and Fr. Carlos told me that the other day he saw 11. We let them sleep in the church and tell the people not to worry or disturb them while they sleep".Bishop Bressanelli spoke of this sad situation during a meeting with the press at the diocesan office for the presentation of activity to mark the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Bishop Enrique Angelelli. The Bishop ended his address encouraging society in general but above all the authorities to find a solution to this sad situation.Due to its geographical position and climate change the province of Neuquén has been one of Argentina’s areas most affected by natural disasters , especially since 2014. According to information given to Fides, lack of social services, insufficient ways of communication and widespread poverty and have contributed to the emigration of part of the population and aggravated the province’s situation of poverty.

AMERICA/ARGENTINA - "Never seen so many people living on the streeda" says Bishop of Neuquén

Neuquén – In recent months the number of homeless persons has grown considerably, "never before in my six years here, have I seen so many people living on the streets " said Bishop Virginio Bressanelli, S.C.I., of the diocese of Neuquén, voicing concern for the social situation all over the province. "In the early morning when I open the Cathedral people come in to sleep ,– he continues-. The other day I counted nine people next to the radiator and Fr. Carlos told me that the other day he saw 11. We let them sleep in the church and tell the people not to worry or disturb them while they sleep".Bishop Bressanelli spoke of this sad situation during a meeting with the press at the diocesan office for the presentation of activity to mark the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Bishop Enrique Angelelli. The Bishop ended his address encouraging society in general but above all the authorities to find a solution to this sad situation.Due to its geographical position and climate change the province of Neuquén has been one of Argentina’s areas most affected by natural disasters , especially since 2014. According to information given to Fides, lack of social services, insufficient ways of communication and widespread poverty and have contributed to the emigration of part of the population and aggravated the province’s situation of poverty.

AMERICA/ARGENTINA - “Day for Latin American Martyrs", remembering also Bishop Enrique Angelelli murdered 40 years ago

Neuquén – Thursday 4 August the diocese of Neuquen and its Bishop Virginio Bressanelli, S.C.I. will mark the "Day for Latin American Martyrs", remembering also the 40th anniversary of the death of Bishop Enrique Angelelli of La Rioja, on 4 August 1976, and 33 years since the then Bishop of Neuquen, Jaime Francisco De Nevares, denounced the act as a "crime of the dictatorship". Bishop Bressanelli will celebrate a solemn Mass in the Cathedral.According information sent to Fides, during a press conference Bishop Bressanelli, accompanied by Rev. Rubén Capitanio, spoke about the figure of Bishop Angelelli and announced that he will participate with the group of laity at a commemoration service next Sunday, 31 July, in La Rioja, the diocese of which Mons. Angelelli was Bishop.Rev. Capitanio recalled that 33 years ago, during the Mass celebrated by the Bishop of Neuquen, Mons. De Nevares, it was declared publicly for the first time that "Mons. Angelelli had been killed, and this had led to opening of an enquiry later entrusted to the Court of La Rioja for investigation". “Although the dossier was archived for a long period of time, recently it was reopened there was a trial and those responsible were convicted " the priest said.“We intend to remember Mons. Angelelli and his total commitment for God and for his people, and for them we are certain that his action was one for peace, in keeping with the Gospel, for justice, for the truth, for democracy where there is sincere respect on the part of everyone, " said Bishop Bressanelli.Mons. Enriche Angelelli , Bishop of La Rioja, was one of the most known Bishops in the country to be contrary to dictatorship. He was killed in a simulated car accident soon after the military dictatorship took power. After 38 years, on 4 July 2014, two high ranking officers were found guilty of his murder. For decades the authorities had insisted that Bishop Angelelli’s death was accidental. The diocesan stage of his beatification opened in 2015.

ASIA/SYRIA - “al-Nusra Front” takes new name. Bishop Audo: a purely tactical move, there is no such thing as 'moderate rebels'

Aleppo – The decision of the Jabhat al-Nusra jihadist group to take a new name and announce that it has formally left the al Qaida network, represents “purely a tactical move to accredit the simulacrum of an imaginary 'moderate Islamist rebellion' said to be among the variety of forces involved in the war against Assad. An entity which in actual fact does not exist”. This is the conviction of Syrian Jesuit Antoine Audo, Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo. “A change of name and a declaration in words that the group has left the al Qaida network” the Bishop of Syria’s martyr city tells Fides , “changes absolutely nothing at the level of reality. They remain the same, members of the same jihadist Sunni extremism. The change of name is purely tactical. A deceptive game to try to present themselves as representatives of that imaginary 'moderate Syrian opposition ' which certain powers appear to need to continue to pursue their own plans for Syria”. Yesterday, Thursday 28 July, Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani, military chief of the al Nusra front, announced that from now on the group will call itself Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham .In a video, shown only on al-Jazeera, al-Jawlani also confirmed al Nusra’s exit from the al Qaida network, motivating the decision with the intention of “reducing distances between Jihadist factions” operating in the Syrian conflict. In the same video however, the jihadist leader thanked the present leaders of al-Qaeda "for understanding the need to sever the link". In the past, in several local situations, al Nusra militia were used in armed combat for control of the territory also with jihadists of the so called Islamic state . .

AFRICA/EGYPT - President al Sisi receives Patriarch Tawadros; polemic over Coptic Christian protests in the United States

Cairo – The citizens of Egypt whatever their religious community, “have equal rights and duties as established by the Constitution ”. Egypt’s Christians have demonstrated “wisdom and a spirit of patriotism ” in reply to the sufferings and provocation inflicted on them in recent years, remaining united in front of those who “try to exploit religion as a means of fomenting division and spreading extremist ideas”. These essential considerations were expressed by the President of Egypt Abdel Fattah al Sisi when he received the visit of Copt Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II, at the presidential palace with a delegation including several Bishops of the Copt Orthodox Synod of Bishops. Sisi emphasised the value of brotherhood between Christians and Muslims in Egypt, and expressed appreciation for initiatives undertaken by the Egyptian Family House a body for interreligious cooperation formed some years ago to prevent and mitigate sectarian clashes. In the meantime polemic continues regarding public demonstrations on the part of certain groups of the Coptic diaspora – such the one in Washington, in front of the White House – to protest against violence on Christians in Egypt. The spokesman of the Orthodox Patriarchate made no official comment about the protests, but a few days ago warnings arrived from the Patriarchate about possible exploitation of public protests, and a request not to organise public mobilisations or campaigns abroad which could be seen as attempts to “interfere” in Egypt’s domestic affairs. The Egyptian author Michel Fahmy strongly criticized demonstrations organised by members of the Copt Egyptian diaspora, calling them acts of “stupidity or treason” on the part of small groups underlining that only the Egyptian government is in a position to protect Copts from sectarian violence, something which neither Copt Orthodox militant groups, nor Copts present in the Egyptian parliament can achieve.

AMERICA/VENEZUELA - Campaign on several fronts to discredit the Church in Venezuela, referendum still delayed

Caracas – Bishop Ramon Ovidio Pérez Morales, emeritus of the Venezuelan diocese of Los Teques and former President of the Venezuelan Catholic Bishops’ Conference , has warned the people beware of attacks by Nicolas Maduro’s government against the local Catholic Church to discredit it in the eyes of the people. On his Twitter account, on 27 July Bishop Pérez Morales posted this message: " Church attacked on several fronts: irruptions in homes, network cloning, media attacks. Objective: undermine credibility". He urged Venezuelan Catholics to "be ready for a campaign to discredit the Church as well as attacks on persons and structures ", encouraging them "to strengthen faith and unity ".Only days ago Bishop Mario del Valle Moronta Rodríguez, of the diocese of San Cristobal de Venezuela, denounced false information on a false Twitter account accredited to the Bishops’ Conference. Numerous Catholic associations requested the digital platform Twitter to eliminate the false account. Today social networks in Venezuela are the main means of communication, official media is given little attention. In the meantime all over the country protests continue against the delay in announcement of the date for a referendum to remove from office President Maduro. Yesterday 28 July, in Caracas, the National Guard stopped an Opposition protest march on the way to the National Electoral Council to ask for the referendum procedure not to be slowed down. The first step had been the presentation of a request in this regard bearing 1.8 million signatures , but now the people must wait for the CNE to declare the request valid and fix a date for the second step: a collection of four million signatures , equal to 20% of the eligible voters.

ASIA/INDIA - Appointment of new Rector at St. Joseph’s Regional Seminary in Allahabad

Vatican City – Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, on 30 April 2016, appointed Rector of St. Joseph’s Regional Seminary in Allahabad, India, Rev. Ronald Tellis, of the diocesan clergy of Jhansi.The new Rector was born on 28 August 1970 in the diocese of Mangalore and was ordained a priest on 15 August 1997, for the diocese of Jhansi. He was awarded a degree in Philosophy at the University of Allahabad and a degree in Theology at St. Joseph Regional Seminary, Allahabad. Later he obtained a degree and a doctorate in Moral Theology at the Pontifical Alfonsiana Academy, in Rome. He has a Diploma in Religious Formation and Pastoral Accompaniment from the National Vocational Service Centre in Pune. He has served as Rector at St. John’s Seminary and St. John Church in the diocese of Jhansi; Rector in charge of St. Jude Parish in Judepur, Jhansi. Since 2010 has served as Vice Rector and a member of the staff at St. Joseph’s Regional Seminary di Allahabad.

AFRICA/NIGERIA - New Rector of Good Shepherd Major Seminary in Kaduna appointed

Vatican City – Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, on 20 May 2016, appointed Rector of Good Shepherd Major Interdiocesan Seminary in Kaduna, Nigeria, Rev. Habila T. Daboh, of the clergy of the archdiocese of Kaduna.The new Rector was born on 10 June 1970 and ordained a priest on 10 July 1999. He studied for the priesthood at Saints Peter and Paul Seminary in Ekpoma, St. Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary in Makurdi and St. Augustine Major Seminary in Jos. In Rome, at the Pontifical Gregorian University, he obtained a licence in Church History . Following his ordination he served in various parishes. Presently he was Rector of St. Peter’s Minor Seminary, Katari, Kaduna.

EUROPE/CROATIA - Confirmation of the National PMS Director Rev. Antun Stefan

Vatican City – Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, on 30 June 2016, confirmed Rev. Antun Stefan, a member of the clergy of the diocese of Varazdin, Croatia, as National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Croatia for another five year term ,.

AMERICA/COLOMBIA - “Situation ever more serious”: the Bishop of Apartado denounces more than 1,500 people blocked

AMERICA/COLOMBIA - “Situation ever more serious”: the Bishop of Apartado denounces more than 1,500 people blockedTurbo – With the number of illegal migrants passing into the Colombian town of Turbo on the border with Panama increasing daily, the Bishop of the diocese of Apartado, Mgr Hugo Torres Marin, has made an urgent appeal to the Chancellery for help to deal with this humanitarian crisis. "The situation in Turbo, Antioquia; Capurganá and Sabzurro, in Choco, is more serious every day, we need help from the Chancellery " say local sources in a report sent to Fides.Bishop Torres Marin is concerned by the fact that the Foreign Ministry refuses to say anything on the matter or even offer solutions while the situation demands immediate attention because, he explains, "there is disorder among the local people where the migrants have set up makeshift dwellings; in this situation of government indifference many migrants have had their few possessions stolen; although the mayor provides water and the local Church social pastoral committee supplies food, the problem is still serious and even local lay people are doing what they can".Besides those already blocked between 100 and 400 more illegal migrants arrive every day. To aggravate the situation a few days ago an electricity blackout left Capurganá without power, people in Choco live at temperatures between 32 and 35 Celsius. This caused an increase the price of food which needs refrigeration and the use of generators for which fuel must be bought.The serious situation in the municipality of Uraba is caused by the closure of the borders for immigrants decided on May 9 by the President of Panama. Migrants coming from Cuba, Haiti, Africa and China attempt to reach the United States of America through Colombia and Panama. According to the local Catholic Church an estimated 1,500 people are blocked at the border.

ASIA/LEBANON - Maronite Patriarch: it is “shameful” to have to wait for other countries to decide who shall be the next President of Lebanon

Beirut - “It is shameful that the Lebanese people should have to wait for years while other countries in the region choose who shall be the new President of their country”. This is how Maronite Patriarch Boutros Bechara Rai stigmatized yet again the institutional paralysis and cross vetoes between the national political forces and foreign interference which for more than two years has prevented the election of a new head of state for Lebanon, an institutional post which Lebanon’s complex system reserves for a Maronite Christian. The Primate of the Maronite Church expressed his thoughts last Tuesday 26 July at a meeting with a delegation of the Northern Lebanese Council of the Order of Lawyers. Over the past few days a series of meetings– like the one between the Patriarch and candidate Suleiman Franjieh, leader of the Marada party, followed by another with Franjieh and a delegation of the Hezbollah Shiite Party– re-launched in the Lebanese press voices and rumours about a possible unfreezing of the political paralysis , in the game which could resume before the end of September. On the table there remains the presidential office of general Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement , formally supported by the Lebanese forces of former “enemy” Samir Geagea, but opposed by the Sunni Party Futuro, led by Saad Hariri. .

EUROPE/POLAND - The Church's Social Teaching with an app especially for young people

Krakow – The Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, on 26 July presented the young participants at the 31 World Youth Day in Krakow an app on the Catholic Church’s Social Teaching created especially for them, Fides was told in a report by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Philippines . "The Church wishes to spread the Good News using the modern means of communication ... to reshape our world in flames offering it the power of the Word of Jesus Christ" said the Cardinal, who is also a member of the YouCat International Advisory Board.The application DOCAT App is a project of the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church, like YOUCAT , which aims to help young Catholics understand the Catechism of the Catholic Church first published in 1992. Cardinal Tagle explained that DOCAT is a sequel of YOUCAT, a YouthCatechism first published in 2010, because "faith is completed with deeds". DOCAT shows young people how to understand and live out the Catholic faith and how to work towards building a “civilisation of love” . It tackles tough questions on issues like politics and economics, human rights, poverty, the family and the environment. It is available in many different languages besides English, Croatian, Czech, German, French, Italian, Filipino, Irish and 15 Indian languages.

ASIA/HOLY LAND - Palestine's Scout movement one of the oldest reinvigorated

Ramallah – After a long period of suspension of contact with analogous groups and networks at the global level, the Scout Movement in Palestine, re-connects with its long history taking part gatherings and discussions promoted by scouts associations at the regional and international levels. Two delegations of Palestinian Scout Associations in recent weeks took part in a Scouts Camp in Poland – in the context of new relations of cooperation and twinning in agreement with Polish Scouting – and in a gathering of Arab Scouts in Morocco which started on 13 July. More initiatives, held in Ramallah and other Palestinian towns, marked the official re-entering of Palestinian scouting in the World Organization of the Scout Movement the International organism from which the Palestinian scouts distanced themselves in 1948, at the time of the Nakba. The re-integration of Palestinian scout movement within the WOSM was sanctioned by a unanimous vote at the end of February by 162 national movements, members of WOSM . The return of Palestinian scouting as a member of the international movement was welcomed also by the Palestine’s political representatives, starting with President Mahmud Abbas. The intention is to revive Palestinian Scout Region comprising four units . Today the Palestinian association has already 120 groups in West Bank, over 30 in Gaza and another 30 in Lebanon. Considered one of the world’s oldest scout movements, Palestinian scouting started in1912with the formation of the first scout group at the Anglican Church of Saint George, which belongs to the Anglican diocese of Jerusalem. During its long history Palestinian Scouting suffered persecution in the period of British rule in the second half of the 1930s. .

AMERICA/CHILE - Prison should not be seen as a place to lose hope, but somewhere to learn from our mistakes

Aysén – "Prison it not a place to lose hope, instead it can be a time to start a new way of life to help build a society of more justice and brotherhood; the loss of freedom does not mean the loss of dignity, courage and confidence , people can learn from their mistakes and give their lives a more social dimension ": this was said by Bishop Luigi Infanti della Mora, O.S.M Vicar Apostolic of Aysen, following a visit to the penitentiary of Coyhaique, where he asked to meet one of the female detainees because he had a letter for her from Pope Francis.According to the report sent to Fides, the Pope’s letter came in reply to a letter written in prison by a young woman prisoner and sent to Pope Francis through the Papal Nuncio a year ago. The Pope’s reply to that letter arrived at the Nuntiature a month later but for various reasons was delivered only recently. “I ask God to grant you the light of the faith and the strength of hope, and through the consolation of our God of mercy may you experience the closeness of the persons you love " the Pope wrote in the letter assuring the woman of his prayers. The woman expressed her gratitude for the Pope’s reply and, deeply touched, said she would write to him again to tell him that she has since married and has a second child, a baby girl who lives in prison with her ."From a spiritual point of view it is comforting to know that the Pope is happy to reply to people in complicated situations; it is a motive of joy and hope not only for the person who wrote the letter but also for us, to know that you could get a return letter from His Holiness " was the comment of the regional director of the Press Police.

ASIA/CHINA - “Follow Saint Francis and live the Jubilee”: Chinese youth in communion with WYD

Zhou Zhi – “Follow Saint Francis and live the Jubilee”:” with this slogan a Franciscan summer parish youth camp, in the diocese of Zhou Zhi in Shaan Xi province, mainland China, young Chinese Catholics prepared to be in spiritual communion with the thousands of young Catholics from all over the world gathering in the Polish town of Krakow for the 31st World Youth Day . The diocese’s Franciscan community organised and led the 9 day camp in spiritual communion with Pope Francis, who on 24 July at the midday Angelus prayer made a special mention of all the young people who “unable to be present, will participate through various forms of media”, and in this way be “united in prayer”. According to information sent to Fides, from15 to 23 July, 130 young people with 20 volunteer helpers, led by seven Franciscan priests, lived 9 days of prayer, sharing and mission. Initiatives included a “festival of brotherhood” with songs, visits to the sick and works of charity , and an outing to admire God’s creation … Themes for reflection during the camp were the following: the life and spirituality of Saint Francis, the Franciscan movement yesterday and today, the mercy of God is the mercy of Jesus, learning to be a channel of peace… During the concelebrated closing Mass the celebrant encouraged the young campers to strive to follow in the footsteps of Saint Francis and to live with deep commitment this Holy Year of Mercy.

ASIA/SYRIA - The Bishop of Aleppo says: Father Hamel and the other martyrs save the world, let us not exploit their suffering

Aleppo – The tragic death of Father Jacques Hamel, the elderly French priest murdered while he was saying mass, “belongs to the great history of Christian martyrdom including the recent martyrs of the Eastern Churches”. Therefore “it deserves not to be exploited, certainly not by persons who until recently for their own interests, thought to exploit the same jihadists invoked by the priest’s young terrorist murderers ”. This is how Georges Abou Khazen OFM, Vicar apostolic of Aleppo for the local Catholics of Latin rite, views from the Syrian martyr city yesterday morning’s tragic event in the church Saint Etienne du Rouvray, not far from Rouen. “Down through the centuries” says the Franciscan Bishop conversing with Fides, “for Christians, martyrdom has always been considered the greatest act of faith. While they mourned their martyrs, they also celebrated them as Christians who redeem all of us and save the world, because they take upon their shoulders suffering for the sake of the name of Jesus, and doing so they apply to their contemporaries the redemption brought by Christ”. For Bishop Georges this event, so close to the mystery of salvation, shall not be disfigured by persons feigning indignation for their own political gain. “For years” says the Vicar apostolic of Aleppo “ we Bishops in the Middle East have cautioned those western powers which to safeguard their own interests do not hesitate to support those groups of fanatics which pursue jihadist ideologies. Now I see all around ferocious reactions which identify all Islam with these groups blinded by an ideology of hatred and death which seems to be spreading everywhere along unknown ways. We must be as harmless as doves and astute as serpents , as the Gospel teaches. But astuteness does not consist in letting oneself be contaminated by the poison of the snake”. .

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