Vatican City - On 28 April 2016 the Holy Father appointed rev. Flavian Kassala, director of the Stella Maris Mtwara College as Bishop of the Diocese of Geita .The new Bishop of Geita was born on December 4, 1967 in Sumve, in the Archdiocese of Mwanza. He attended the St. Pius X Minor Seminary in Makoko, in the Diocese of Musoma, for his primary and secondary education. From 1988 to 1990 he was a student at the Minor Seminary of Sanu, in the Diocese of Mbulu, and from 1991 to 1992 at the Preparatory Seminary of Kome, in the Diocese of Geita. He completed his formation for priesthood with studies in philosophy at the St. Anthony of Padua Major Seminary in Ntungamo, in Bukoba, and studied theology at the St. Paul Seminary in Kipalapala, in Tabora. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Geita on 11 July 1999.Since his ordination, he has served the following academic and pastoral roles: 1999-2002: Assistant priest in Sengerema, Diocese of Geita; 2002-2004: Formator and Spiritual Director of the Mary Queen of Apostles Minor Seminary in Sengerema and Diocesan Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies; 2004-2012: Student in Rome at the Pontifical Salesian University, where he obtained a Doctorate in Theology with specialization in Youth Ministry and Catechesis, residing in Nepomuceno College; 2013: Coordinator of the Episcopal Projects Office of the Diocese of Geita; 2013-2015: Professor and Director of St. Augustine University of Tanzania in Arusha; since 2015: Director of the Stella Maris Mtwara College, affiliated to St. Augustine Catholic University.The Diocese of Geita, erected in 1984, is a suffragan of Mwanza. It has an area of 10,697 square kilometers and a population of 943,698 inhabitants, of whom 553,160 are Catholics. There are 15 parishes, 36 priests , 30 religious women.
Irapuato - "The violent assault committed by armed men against the parish of the Señor de la Clemencia in Irapuato, is a painful affront to the whole community", said the Bishop of the Diocese of Irapuato, His Exc. Mgr. José de Jesús Martínez Zepeda, in the note sent to Fides. On Tuesday, April 26, four armed individuals entered the sacristy of the church, where there was a priest and two women. One of the thugs handcuffed the priest and others stole all the offers of the parish."I was hurt to hear that one of our priests was humiliated - said the Bishop -, in doing so they offended the entire community. It is clear that the arms trade is still thriving, because, as the priest said, they all had guns".Mgr. Martínez Zepeda, who intends to give recommendations to all parishes in order to reduce risk and ensure safety, noted that "there is crime everywhere, in homes, families are robbed, on the street, even with violence, crime does not respect anyone, not even priests".The local community is very impressed by the fact that the Church greatly helps families in need in this area, but unfortunately delinquency and arms trade increases more and more.
Minya - In Egypt, Coptic churches - who follow the Julian calendar - are celebrating Holy Week. In view of Easter, greetings and good wishes are expressed to the Copts by representatives of institutions. Even Ahmed al Tayyeb, great Imam of Al Azhar, went to the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo to personally express his Easter greetings to Orthodox Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II. And in the imminence of the Christian solemnity, also pastoral initiatives flourish in the large North African country: in recent days, some Coptic Orthodox priests of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Minya, Upper Egypt, decided to leave their parishes to go to celebrate moments of prayer in the streets, in cafes and in public places, in order to announce the Passion and the Resurrection of Christ to the many baptized who do not attend churches and sanctuaries even on the occasion of the liturgical solemnities.The Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Minya presented this initiative on its website as an attempt to reach Christians, especially among many young people, who do not usually attend the parishes. "This is an initiative that may seem unusual in a country overwhelmingly Muslim, always threatened by sectarian conflicts" refers to Agenzia Fides Anba Botros Fahim Awad Hanna, Coptic Catholic Bishop of Minya, "and it is obvious that it can be done with freedom and serenity in residential areas and villages only by Christian citizens. But it still represents a sign of apostolic vitality: many young people have no real contact with the life of the Church and its liturgical and sacramental dynamics. So instead of waiting for them in a parish, we gently try to reach them, in places where they live and prefer to spend their time".
Cibitoke - In recent years Burundi has made great strides in reducing maternal and infant mortality. The same is not true for neonatal mortality: according to UNICEF still 36 children out of 1000 die in the first 28 days of life, especially in the first hours after birth, because are premature, underweight or because of complications during birth or infection. To deal with this unfortunate phenomenon, the Partnership Committee Medica has initiated, in Cibitoke district, in northern Burundi, the project Kira Mama Plus! which aims to reduce infant mortality through the training of nurses and midwives in all maternity facilities in the district.To ensure that every newborn is followed during the first month after birth, the training is also aimed at community health workers and traditional midwives who, through home visits, provide treatment and care, out of the health centers. Kira Mama is named after the Burundian song that welcomes the mother and her baby.
Seoul - In these days father Alessandro Barban, Prior General of the Camaldolese Congregation of the Order of St. Benedict, met the Archbishop of Seoul, Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, who strongly supported the establishment of the first Camaldolese community in Korea. The construction of the first monastery of the order was initiated in January last year in the city of Namyangju, and is expected to be completed over the next three years. Currently a group of Camaldolese nuns reside in the house that belongs to the Benedictine Order of Daegu. In the statement sent to Agenzia Fides by the Archdiocese of Seoul, Fr. Barban declares that he was very impressed by the situation of the Catholic Church in Korea: "I was surprised to learn that 300,000 people are baptized in Korea every year, this represents an energetic and vigorous church".
Caracas - "Never before had Venezuelans suffered an extreme lack of basic necessities such as food and medicines, along with other evils such as criminal and inhuman crime, rationing of electricity and water, deep corruption, at all levels of government and society": this is how the statement of the Venezuelan Bishops' Conference begins in which the terrible economic and political crisis that the country lives is expressed.The message, sent to Fides, says: "We want to warn people, in order not to be manipulated by those who offer a change in the situation through social violence. But we must not be silent because of threats. We must never be passive citizens and conformists, but subjects of our reality ... peaceful subjects, but active, and therefore act as protagonists of the transformations of our history and our culture".The Bishops turn to authorities, asking them "to listen to the voice of the people with respect", and also to those responsible for social violence: "We even warn those who take advantage of the situation and of the needs of others: this is a crime and a mortal sin"."To preserve healthy coexistence - the statement continues - we denounce and condemn the terrible cases of lynching perpetrated in some cities" .Finally, regarding the plight of lacerating political division, the Bishops' Conference said: "Public authorities must respect each other and work in favor of the nation. The Executive and the National Assembly are called upon to give the people an example of 'meeting and dialogue' in favor of national coexistence".In the conclusion of the document, the Venezuelan Bishops invite "all in the Church, dioceses, parishes, religious institutes, associations and groups of apostolate and Catholic educational institutions to "urgently give priority to charity".
Bassora - It was the biggest pilgrimage made by Iraqi Christians in recent years: about 200 Chaldeans from Baghdad went to Ur, the historical site of lower Mesopotamia, now in the Iraqi governorate in Dhi Quar, which is usually identified with the birthplace of patriarch Abraham, father of all believers. On Friday 22 and Saturday 23 April, accompanied by Chaldean Bishop Basilio Yaldo and seven priests, Christians belonging to different communities and parishes of Baghdad lived the pilgrimage as a strong moment in the spirit of the Year of Mercy.The pilgrims carried banners with them with the logo of the Chaldean Patriarchate and with that of the Jubilee of Mercy. "We hope to make a great pilgrimage here, with thousands of pilgrims when Pope Francis visits this place, God willing", said among other things Bishop Basilio during the Mass celebrated in the archaeological site, not far from the Sumerian Ziggurat, under a tent erected in memory of Abraham.During the visit to Ur, pilgrims from Baghdad also had meetings with Christians from Bassora and with the Chaldean Archbishop Habib al Naufali, who told them the daily life of the local Christian community, formed by 250 families.
Cairo - The case of the murder of the Italian researcher Giulio Regeni will be among the "major priority" on the agenda of the Parliamentary Commission for Human Rights of Egypt’s House of Representatives, together with the thorny issues related to human rights violations in prisons and arbitrary arrests carried out by the Egyptian security forces. This is what Christian Egyptian Coptic MP Margaret Azer said to the Egyptian newspaper of the opposition Shorouk.The Christian political representative belongs to the Free Egyptians Party, political formation founded by Coptic Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris. "We will form a commission of inquiry on random arrests and human rights violations in prisons", added Azer in the interview, also confirming the intention to ask for a meeting with President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and his advisers on security matters to discuss the abuse of the Egyptian apparatuses reported in an ever more insistent manner even by international mobilization campaigns, after Giulio Regeni’s body was found dead with signs of torture on 3 February in a ditch along the road between Cairo and Alexandria."That boy", says to Agenzia Fides Anba Antonios Aziz Mina, Coptic Catholic Bishop of Guizeh, "was engaged in a scientific study on independent trade unions, and according to the coroner's report, he was tortured by professionals, because the torture he underwent can be perpetrated only in torture chambers and with special equipment" .Since last March 22, Coptic parliamentary Margaret Azer also occupies the seat reserved for Arab women politicians within the Inter-parliamentary Union, after a competition which saw her prevail over candidates presented by Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
Lahore - An appeal has been filed to the Court of Appeal and the first hearing will take place in May regarding a Christian couple Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar. This was reported to Fides by the team of lawyers of the "Farrukh Saif Foundation", Pakistani organization that has taken on the legal defense of the couple. The two were of accused of sending blasphemous text messages and were sentenced to death in 2014.On July 20, 2013, the Christian couple, from Gojra, in Punjab, were accused of sending blasphemous text messages and were later arrested. "The text messages were written in English but both of the accused were uneducated and incapable of writing proper Urdu let alone English", note the lawyers. Shafqat is also confined to a wheelchair due to an accident in 2004 that resulted in him suffering a spinal injury. The local police proceeded to torture him in front of his wife. He pleaded for mercy while the police continued in their attempts to extract a confession from him. On 4 April 2014 the couple were given death "although he police failed to recover any mobile phone or SIM card allegedly registered in Shagufta’s name", refer the lawyers. The only evidence produced by the local police was the receipt from the phone company."Addition Sessions judge succumbed to Islamist pressure and handed down the death sentence", reaffirm the lawyers. The whole trial was concluded inside the boundary walls of the prison due to fears for the couple’s security. The couple have four children and activists of the "Farrukh Saif Foundation" are taking care of them."The blasphemy law, misused, has put hundreds of members of minority communities behind bars. The law is grossly abused to target minorities", say the lawyers of the "Farrukh Saif Foundation" to Fides. "In most cases, people are falsely and maliciously accused, just for personal revenge" they conclude.
Addis Ababa – Ethiopia’s military entered the territory of South Sudan to try to save hundreds of children abducted from Ethiopia by a group of southsudanese armed men. According to Ethiopian radio station Fana, children were taken when suspected ethnic Murle fighters attacked villages in Ethiopia's southwestern Gambella region. More than 200 people were killed in those attacks. The Army surrounded the place where the children were kept prisoners and intervened to release them. According to the Ethiopian government, in the raid which took place on April 15 near the town of Gambella, western Ethiopia, at least 208 people died and 102 children were abducted. The attackers killed all those who opposed resistance and stole about 2,000 head of cattle. This area is scene of ethnic clashes, especially between the two major tribes: the Nuer and the murle.
Lima - "Human life is a gift from God, and therefore we are obliged to respect and protect it from the first moment of conception until its natural end", reads the first lines of the communiqué of the Permanent Council of the Peruvian Bishops' Conference of April 26, which affirms the position of the Catholic Church on death penalty, an issue raised in the electoral debate in recent days. In the message, sent to Fides, the Bishops state that "the Church recognizes the right and duty of the public authority to impose penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, without excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the use of the death penalty".However cases in which "the execution of the convicted is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically nonexistent". The Bishops conclude by recalling the words of Pope Francis:"Today death penalty is unacceptable ... all Christians and people of good will are obliged not only to fight for the abolition of the death penalty, legal or not, but to try to improve prison conditions, in respect of the human dignity of prisoners".
Leveque - Three deaf mothers were found dead on the road that goes from the Haitian capital to Leveque. They were returning home on foot together because a bridge had collapsed and there was no bus service. Their bodies were found yesterday morning, April 26, in a ditch beside the road. They were beaten, stabbed and burned. Relatives who identified the bodies reported that their tongues had been cut.In Haiti, according to experienced observers, people with some disabilities are still stigmatized, marginalized and often abandoned, considered contagious or cursed, and according to superstition must be punished sometimes with terrible cruelty. Women and girls with disabilities are particularly vulnerable. The note sent to Fides from a local source, reports that after the crime, indignation is particularly strong in the city of Leveque, where the victims lived in a community of 168 families of deaf people, displaced by the earthquake in 2010, which was founded by religious organizations that gave them assistance.Although Haiti has laws for the protection of the disabled, no one applies them. Disabled people have few opportunities to work and many live hidden in homes. Some poor parents abandon their children with disabilities giving them to state or religious institutions, or try to place them as domestic servants in other households.
Zamboanga City - Formation and experience of dialogue: this is the proposal of the "Silsilah" Movement, founded in southern Philippines by missionary Fr. Sebastiano D'Ambra, of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions . As reported in a note sent to Fides, the "Harmony Village", founded by the movement in Zamboanga, organizes courses of Islamic-Christian dialogue every year. It is one of the basic activities, carried out for over 20 years in the Village, even if the courses had already begun in 1987 and held in the first 10 years, in other places. "We are happy to celebrate the 30th anniversary of this formation program and experience on Islamic-Christian dialogue. We are grateful to all who have helped us in maintaining this initiative that has trained thousands of Muslim and Christian leaders in Mindanao as well as in other regions in the Philippines and other countries", notes Fr. D'Ambra.The courses organized in spring – also this year between the end of April and May - are three: basic course, special and intensive course. The "Basic course" usually lasts four weeks in which participants have the opportunity to study together the basic teachings of Islam and Christianity. At an experiential level, Christian participants live with a Muslim family and Muslims live with a Christian family. The Special Course lasts a week in which a particular topic is deepened. The intensive course presents in a comparative manner Islam and Christianity, with a focus on the theme of the dialogue. There are also special activities for young Christians and Muslims, who share study, friendship, fraternal moments.
Melbourne - The commitment and efforts carried out by sister Eulie Desacula and the Daughters of Charity in favor of the most vulnerable children in Phnom Penh with their innovative institution Mobile Tuk-Tuk Education Centre is at the center of a campaign promoted by Catholic Mission which wants to focus on education in Cambodia. The nuns, for over a decade, are committed to the assistance and education of children at the Lindalva Centre on the outskirts of the town. However, not being able to reach many children, who for various reasons cannot attend the center or public school, they have launched an additional project with the Catholic Mission Support. Father Brian Lucas, National Director of Catholic Mission, in a note sent to Agenzia Fides, explains that the project provides a valuable opportunity for training. "Unfortunately, still many children in Cambodia cannot go to school because they lack the necessary documents, such as a birth certificate. Thanks to this innovative program – he adds - children who have difficulty can be reached in a dynamic way. "Teachers make use of the local tuk-tuk to reach small communities and offer fresh meals to promote healthy eating. The Tuk-Tuk Mobile Education Centre allows children to have an education and at the same time to avoid falling victims of prostitution, trafficking and drugs.
Dhaka - "We are aware, concerned but not alarmed. Fanatical groups are spreading death, but we hope that the government can control them. The pastoral and social activities of the Church continues": says to Fides Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Dhaka, now a professor at the Major Seminary in Dhaka, His Exc. Mgr. Theotonius Gomes, while in recent days two new targeted killings were reported in the country. Victims of the attacks by Islamic fundamentalist groups in Bangladesh are Xulhaz Mannan, 35, journalist-editor of the magazine "Roobpaan" – who in the country deals with problems and rights of homosexuals and transgenders - killed in Dhaka with a friend; and University Professor Rezaul Karim Siddiquee, assassinated in Rajshahi.The police followed the trail of an attack by Islamic militants, similar to what occurred in the past against bloggers and secular intellectuals. One person was arrested regarding the murder of the professor: Hafizur Rahman, leader of ''Islami Chhatra Shiibir", student wing of the radical Jamaat-e-Islami Islamist party. The murder of the professor was claimed by the Islamic State."The situation is complex, there are local Islamic extremist groups who are inspired by IS" explains the Bishop to Fides. With regards to the situation of Christians who in the country are, on the whole, about 1% of the population , he says: "We proceed cautiously and carefully, we are aware of the situation, but our pastoral, educational, social activities continue". The small Catholic Church in Bangladesh, which has about 300 thousand faithful , continues its mission, living in prayer and faith in God", he explains.Last week IS also claimed the responsibility for the murder of a Pastor in northern Bangladesh, 65 year-old, Hossain Ali, who had converted from Islam to Christianity in 1999. In February, a Hindu priest was killed in the Northwest of the country. Last year four bloggers were killed labeled "atheists" because supporters of a secular, democratic state. Also in 2015, the Italian missionary Piero Parolari was injured while italian aid worker Cesare Tavella and a Japanese were killed.
Rome - Today is the 150th anniversary of the restoration to public veneration of the icon of Mary Mother of Perpetual Help, entrusted to the Redemptorist missionaries by Pope Pius IX in 1866 with a commitment to "make her known". In the letter of the Superior General of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, Fr. Michael Brehl, for this celebration, sent to Fides, we read inter alia: "For 150 years, Our Mother of Perpetual Help has accompanied us in our Mission and our Ministry, drawing countless people into a deeper personal relationship with Jesus the Redeemer, and with the People of God. From St. Alphonsus Church on via Merulana this devotion has spread to every continent... Mary has accompanied the Redemptorist missionaries in every continent in their mission to proclaim the Gospel ever anew. She has proven to be the most effective missionary presence that announces 'redemptio copious' for everyone, but especially for the poor and abandoned". The solemn Eucharist will be presided by Cardinal Vincent G. Nichols, at the St. Alphonsus Church, Via Merulana, Rome, where the image of Mary is kept.
Vatican City - On 26 April 2016 the Holy Father appointed Rev. Fr. John Alphonsus Ryan, a Missionary of St. Patrick's, Society , Professor at the University of Mzuzu, as Bishop of the diocese of Mzuzu .Rev. Fr. John Alphonsus Ryan, S.P.S. was born on February 27, 1952 in Tipperary, Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly, Ireland. After his primary and secondary education he entered St. Patrick’s Society - Kiltegan. In 1971, after a year of spirituality in County Wicklow, he began his philosophical studies at the Institute at the University of Cork, Douglas, and in 1974 studied Theology at the Institute of Kiltegan in County Wicklow. He was ordained a priest on June 18, 1978.Since his ordination he has served the following academic and pastoral roles: 1978-2005: St. Paul's Parish in Mzimba ; St. Stephan's in Kapuro ; St. Mathias' Parish in Misuku and Professor in Community Day Secondary School in Misuku ; Professor at the minor Seminary of St. Patrick in Rumphi ; studies in mathematics in Ireland; 2005-2011: Chaplain of the Sisters of the Holy Rosary in Katete; since 2000: Chaplain and professor of mathematics at the Catholic University of Mzuzu, Assistant in St. Augustine parish and associated outstations; Member of the College of Consultors.
New Delhi - A delegation of Indian Bishops met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The group was led by the President of the Bishops' Conference , Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, accompanied by the General Secretary, His Exc. Mgr. Theodore Mascarenhas, and Deputy Secretary General, Mgr. Joseph Chinnayyan.As reported in a statement sent to Fides, the delegation asked Prime Minister Modi to invite the Pope to visit India at a convenient date for both the Indian government and the Holy See. The Premier assured the delegation that he would have seriously considered the issue, consulting with other members of the government. Cardinal Baselios Cleemis also asked the Prime Minister to personally lead the Indian delegation, for the canonization of Mother Teresa, to be held in Rome on September 4th 2016. And India's political leader assured that he will consider the proposal.Another point of discussion: the delegation, whilst appreciating and thanking the Indian government for what has been done so far to save the life of Salesian Fr. Tom Uzunnalil, kidnapped in Yemen, renewed the appeal to the institutions, to do everything possible for the release.The CBCI delegation welcomed the many initiatives undertaken by the government to make India self-sufficient and to improve the living standards of millions of citizens, especially the weakest and most vulnerable and assured full cooperation of the Church to "build a better India".
Cairo - Palm Sunday, celebrated the day before yesterday by the Churches that follow the Julian calendar, saw an exponential increase of Egyptian Coptic pilgrims who have come to celebrate the rites of Holy Week in Jerusalem. According to the Egyptian media, in the current year already at least 5,700 Coptic Orthodox Christians have reached the Holy City, an increase of more than a thousand units compared to the Coptic pilgrims who had carried out a pilgrimage to the Holy Places of Jerusalem in 2015.The growing presence of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodoxs in the Holy City marks the end of the prohibition to visit Jerusalem which in 1979 had been imposed on the faithful by the then Patriarch Shenouda III. During the years when the Arab-Israeli conflict radicalized, Coptic Patriarch Shenouda III forbade the faithful of his Church to make pilgrimages in the Jewish state and had not changed his position even after the normalization of relations between Egypt and Israel desired by President Sadat. This prohibition was never formally revoked, but already in 2014 the journey made in the Holy Land by ninety Coptic Christians on the occasion of Holy Week had given way to several observers to point out the irrelevance of the anti-pilgrimage provision, within the existing relations between the two neighboring nations.What further promoted the Copts pilgrimages to the Holy Land was certainly the journey made in late November in Jerusalem by Patriarch Tawadros II, during the funeral of Archbishop Abraham, head of the local Orthodox Coptic community. The Patriarch's trip, although presented by the Coptic Orthodox Church as "an exception", was definitely seen by Egyptian Copts as an eloquent sign that the new Patriarch has no intention to defend punitive prohibitions for the spiritual life of the faithful.
Chittorgarh - In Chittorgarh, a city of Rajasthan in northern India, where early marriage is widespread, a secret video shows child brides sobbing because they are forced to marry. Six marriages took place in two days around the Akshaya Tritiya, a Hindu festival believed to be auspicious for child marriages in rural India. In one clip a young girl of around ten-years-old is desperately crying and pleading for help as her father drags her around the customary ceremony. One of the child brides, a five-year-old, is seen dressed in a Hindu bridal dress and is forced to walk around the fire with her child groom, an 11-year-old. She is crying loudly but a man forces her to complete the Hindu wedding ritual, which involves walking around the fire seven times. A child rights activist and founder of Saarthi Trust, a charity for the welfare for child brides and other vulnerable children, has so far annuled 29 child marriages in Rajasthan and has stopped 850 child marriages. The legal age for girls and boys to marry in India is 18 and 21 respectively. India is home to a third of the world's total child brides.