Latest News from Fides News Agency

ASIA/JAPAN - Appointment of the Bishop of Hiroshima

Vatican City - On 28 June 2016 the Holy Father appointed Rev. Fr. Alexis Mitsuru Shirahama, P.S.S., rector of the National Catholic Seminary of Fukuoka as Bishop of the vacant Diocese of Hiroshima .The new bishop was born on May 20, 1962 in Kamigoto, Archdiocese of Nagasaki. In 1986 he obtained a Baccalaureate in Philosophy at Keio University in Tokyo, and in 1990 a Baccalaureate in Theology at the St. Sulpice Seminary of Fukuoka. He later studied at the Catholic Institute of Paris, obtaining a Licentiate in Liturgy with specialization in sacramental Theology.He was ordained a priest on March 19, 1990 in Urakami, Archdiocese of Nagasaki, and incardinated in the same Metropolitan See. In 1993 he joined the Society of the Priests of Saint Sulpice.Since his ordination he has held the following pastoral roles: Formator at St. Sulpice Seminary in Fukuoka ; since 1995: Member of the Liturgy Commission at the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan and professor of Liturgy and Sacramental Theology; since 2012: Rector of the Catholic Seminary of Japan.

ASIA/INDONESIA - Resignation of Bishop of Malang, appointment of successor

Vatican City - On 28 June 2016 the Holy Father accepted the resignation from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Malang by His Exc. Mgr. Herman Joseph Sahadat Pandoyoputro, O. Carm., in accordance with can. 401 § 1 of the Code of Canon Law. The Holy Father appointed Fr. Henricus Pidyarto Gunawan, O. Carm., Rector of the Philosophical and Theological Higher Institute 'Widya Sasana' in Malang as Bishop of the Diocese of Malang.The new Bishop was born on July 13, 1955 in Malang. After attending the local Minor Seminary, he completed his philosophical and theological studies at the Philosophical and Theological Higher Institute 'Widya Sasana' in Malang. He was ordained a priest on February 7, 1982 in Malang. He obtained a licentiate in Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Institute Biblicum in 1986 and a doctorate in Biblical Theology at the Angelicum , in 1990.Since his ordination he has served the following academica and pastoral roles: since 1986: Professor of Sacred Scripture in the Philosophical and Theological Higher Institute 'Widya Sasana'; Vice-Rector of Indonesia Biblical Society ; Vice-Rector of the Philosophical and Theological Higher Institute 'Widya Sasana' ; Member of Carmelitan Institute in Rome ; Director of the Indonesia Biblical Society ; Pastor of 'St. Andrea Tidar' in Malang ; Rector of the Philosophical and Theological Higher Institute 'Widya Sasana' ; Member of the Spirituality Committee of the Carmelitan Institute in Rome ; Director of the postgraduate program of the Philosophical and Theological Higher Institute 'Widya Sasana' : since 2012: Rector of the Philosophical and Theological Higher Institute 'Widya Sasana'.

ASIA/IRAQ - A new church for Christian refugees from the Nineveh Plain was inaugurated in Ankawa

Ankawa – The new, large church inaugurated on Monday, June 27 by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I in Ankawa, a Christian-majority suburb of the city of Erbil, where many Christians fled their villages in the Nineveh Plain in front of the offensive of the self-styled Islamic state militias found shelter, is dedicated to Mary Mother of Perpetual Help . The new, large church building, was also funded with the offerings of the faithful, in which the initiatives and liturgical, sacramental and charitable activities linked in particular to the pastoral care of refugees will take place.The liturgy of inauguration was attended by, among others, also by Archbishop Alberto Orega Martin, Apostolic Nuncio in Iraq and Jordan, and Mgr. Bashar Warda, who belongs to the Congregation of Redemptorist fathers, and for this reason has a special devotion to the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, guarded in Rome at the Church of St. Alphonsus on the Esquiline. During the homily - refer official sources of the Chaldean Patriarchate, consulted by Agenzia Fides - Patriarch Louis Raphael I described the birth of the new church as a sign of the bond that binds Iraqi Christians to the land of their fathers, reiterating that emigration to distant countries "is not the solution to find" for those who really want to cherish the gift received of Christian life in their own land.

VATICAN - The Pope will deliver the Pallium to 25 Metropolitan Archbishops, 4 of Propaganda Fide territories

Vatican City - On June 29, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, according to custom, the Holy Father Francis will bless and deliver the pallium to new metropolitan Archbishops appointed during the year. The pallium, a symbol of the bond of communion between the Pope and the See of Rome with the Churches in the whole world, will be imposed by the Papal Representative to every Archbishop during a celebration to be held in the respective particular Churches.During the Eucharistic concelebration that the Pope will preside at the Vatican Basilica, he will deliver the Pallium to 25 Metropolitan Archbishops, 4 of whom are ordinaries of the territories entrusted to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, from America, Oceania, Asia and Africa.Their names, in order of appointment: the Archbishop of Kingston in Jamaica , His Exc. Mgr. Kenneth David Oswin Richards; the Archbishop of Honiara His Exc. Mgr. Christopher M. Cardone, O.P.; the Archbishop of Taunggyi His Exc. Mgr. Basilio Athai; Archbishop-elect of Cotonou Fr. Roger. Houngbédji, O.P..

AFRICA/ZAMBIA - Challenge for green and cheap electricity

Pemba - There are about 645 million Africans without electricity which, among other things, prevents them from carrying out any form of economic activities. Electricity is the main challenge for the people of Pemba District. Due to poor rainfall, there has not been enough water for maximum generation at the country’s main hydropower plants. Although seasonal rains have slightly replenished the reservoir, it remained only 17 percent full, compared to 49 percent last year.And refilling the lake requires a series of healthy rainy seasons coupled with a moderation of output from the power plant.According to available statistics, it is estimated that 138 million poor households spend 10 billion dollars annually on energy-related products, such as charcoal, candles, kerosene and firewood. Through the Scaling Solar Program, the country looks to plug the gaping supply deficit with up to 600 MW of solar power, of which 100 MW is already under construction.

ASIA/PAKISTAN - A national plan and a "toll free number" for the protection of human rights

Islamabad - A "toll free number" for citizens, 24 hours a 24, to denounce human rights violations and provide the first legal assistance to victims: is the initiative launched by the Federal Ministry for Human Rights, led by Pakistani Christian Senator Kamran Michael. As reported to Fides, the Minister, who has just started his job at a federal level, has also promised to create specific local human rights committees at a provincial and district level, established by the government in order to "create a network that can maintain effective control over human rights violations in Pakistan and provide a rapid response of the institutions".Minister Michael took note of the increasing incidents of honor killings and violence against women by announcing that his Ministry is undertaking various administrative and political initiatives to counter this widespread violence in society. As Fides learns, national "Guidelines" concerning "gender violence" are being studied. These projects are part of an overall plan that intends to act at a cultural and mentality level, reported the Minister: a vast and diversified program that aims to raise awareness on human rights issues, focusing on topics such as the right to life, dignity of human life, tolerance and religious harmony, with particular attention to women's rights, minorities, children, the elderly and people with disabilities. The program, announced Michael, includes an entry in the state budget of 250 million rupees for the year 2016-17.

AMERICA/GUATEMALA - Solvent inhaled to calm hunger pangs

Guatemala City - It is easy to meet adults, children and young people on the streets of Guatemala who wander inhaling solvents to avoid feeling hungry and thinking about the reasons of violence for which they have abandoned their families, if they ever had one. According to information sent to Fides by the organizations working in favor of people living on the streets, there are no statistics in order to quantify the number of human beings who live in these conditions. Unfortunately child abuse and the lack of attention by the State have not changed.Surviving is not easy for them, exposed to the contempt of the people, municipal authorities and police. In some cases, as part of a rehabilitation, they are brought back to their home. They often live as "one family" where they take care of each other mutually, following the rules. However when these rules are broken, the offender is beaten up. The main source of survival is begging, and the proceeds are used to buy, however, solvents or bottles of liquor.

ASIA/LEBANON - Suicide bombers in Qaa, a predominantly Christian village; Church Leaders express shock and sorrow for the victims

Qaa - The series of four suicide bombings that on Monday, June 27 devastated the Lebanese village of Qaa, inhabited mostly by Christians belonging to the Greek Melkite Church, has caused five deaths and at least 15 injured. Outrage and condemnation for the terrorist massacre were expressed by representatives of the institutions and the Lebanese political forces. Words of grief and shock have also been expressed by Church Leaders.Archbishop Elias Rahal, at the head of the Greek Melkite Archdiocese in Baalbeck, himself a native of Qaa, reprimanded the Lebanese State to "take responsibility", noting that about 30 thousand Syrian refugees live around the village. Patriarch Gregoire III, Primate of the Greek Melkite Church, said he was "appalled" by the attack on Qaa, and paid tribute to the victims, who are part of the parishes and the Archdiocese of Baalbeck of the Greek Melkite. Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai, currently on a pastoral visit in the United States, said he hoped that also this "crime without a name" pushes the Lebanese to regain national unity and defend it from terrorists' plans.

ASIA/BANGLADESH - 116 young people confirmed in Dinajpur

Dinajpur - 63 girls and 53 boys of the parish of the Cathedral of Dinajpur recently received the sacrament of Confirmation. "Day of joy, colors, new commitment in the Church and for all. A new advent of the Spirit that guides the Church of Dinajpur", said in a statement sent to Fides, missionary Fr. Adolfo L'Imperio, to those who received confirmation: "Dear young people, you receive the gift of languages which helps you to communicate, to speak of Jesus; to work in the family, in the village, where you study or work for what is right, what unites, what is beautiful, true and good. Today the Church grows which has as foundation those who give their lives, who are called witnesses. Some are known as martyrs, others as seed that falls and dies to produce new life, but always witnesses. This is why you receive the Spirit"."As an elder I closed my eyes and dreamed how this community of faith grows, develops, expands, despite many difficulties and hesitations" continued the missionary. "Jesus gives his Spirit and realizes in time his Church. This small community of 1,820 Catholics, scattered in a reality of about 360 thousand people - the population of the city of Dinajpur - offers a school service with three elementary schools for about 4.000 pupils, a high school for 5,000 pupils; is involved in many social service facilities such as hospital, nursing school, Caritas, and other social works".Fr. L’Imperio concludes: "The Spirit was given to 116 young people today who do not ask for a level of education but only if they are ready to live with commitment for the good, the right, the beauty of life".

AMERICA/MEXICO - The Bishops of Oaxaca ask for a truce to start dialogue with teachers

San Cristobal - A Commission of deputies and senators "should listen to the complaints, objections and doubts of teachers who are unhappy of the education reform, because they all admit that it is not complete, and does not take into consideration content and methods, but is only regulatory and administrative": is the opinion expressed by the Bishop of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, in Chiapas, His Exc. Mgr. Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel .In a meeting with the local press, on Sunday evening, June 26, the Bishop said: "If President postponed the law on transparency because entrepreneurs wanted it, the same could be done with some aspects of the educational reform, as requested by teachers. Perhaps entrepreneurs are worth more than teachers?".According to information sent to Fides from a local source, the Bishop stressed that "it is up to senators and federal deputies to open a channel of dialogue" with unhappy teachers. "If in other states the law was passed without major conflicts, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero, Michoacán and Tabasco have situations that are not similar to other places", he noted. Finally, for Mgr. Arizmendi "the abuse of public force to repress teachers must be condemned, but we must also support these dialogues with federal authorities, so that some points of the educational reform can be changed".The Bishops of the Province of Oaxaca issued a message, on June 26, in which they condemn the recent acts of violence and vandalism, to remind us that "we are all part of the same society, and we must learn to search together what we need to improve", they point out that "the greatest wealth of Oaxaca is its people", and finally launched an appeal "to all of society, in particular to authorities and teachers, to immediately declare a general ceasefire between the parties, and allow to lay the foundations for a constructive and transparent dialogue".

ASIA/INDIA - The Archbishop of Vasai: "The laity is protagonist in the Church"

Mumbai - "The laity have a very important role in the Church. In India we want to build a Church where the laity is the protagonist": is what His Exc. Mgr. Felix Machado, Archbishop of Vasai said, presiding over the Eucharist celebration on the occasion of the feast of St. Josemaria Escrivà, founder of Opus Dei, on June 26, 2016, in the church of the Sacred Heart in Mumbai.As Fides learns, Mgr. Machado made repeated references to the Second Vatican Council, the mission of the laity and work of St. Josemaria Escrivà, who before the Second Vatican Council proclaimed the important role that the laity are called to play within the church, as "apostles in the world" and like those who "are called to holiness in their temporal and secular structures."According to St. Escrivà "we either learn to find our Lord in ordinary life, or else we shall never find Him" said the Bishop, adding that the path to holiness does not mean "doing extraordinary things, but rather, to practice ordinary activities in an extraordinary manner". In the Church, he concluded, "the apostolate of lay people depends on their living union with Christ": so they "work together with the saving and redemptive mission of Christ in the world".

AMERICA/MEXICO - Get to the truth of the facts respecting the rights of the person

Tapachula - "It is essential to increase the importance of real professional preparation regarding all those who are to investigate on crimes in our society, so that by respecting the dignity of the human person, they are able to reach the truth. On the contrary, their work will only consist of 'producing culprits', freeing criminals": is the central idea expressed by His Exc. Mgr. Leopoldo González González, Bishop of Tapachula, in Chiapas, during yesterday’s Sunday celebration, recalling the international Day in support of victims of torture.Mgr. González González, said that in Mexico "Torture is not only used as a means to pull out a confession or information, but also to inflict pain, to punish. As in the case of high security prisons when the person in custody is completely isolated. The absence of human contact causes great mental and physical suffering. Therefore more pain is added to the sentence imposed by the judgment", concluded the Bishop.In the prisons of Mexico, according to local press associations and human rights, unfortunately, the cases of violence by the authorities or those responsible of the security do not diminish.

AMERICA/COLOMBIA - The Bishops invite all Colombians to commit themselves to building peace

Cúcuta - Several Bishops of Colombia have commented on the recent peace agreements.Among the various testimonies sent to Fides, we mention the Bishop of Cúcuta, His Exc. Mgr. Victor Ochoa, who said: "The commitment is of an entire country, which is responding to the reconciliation process and the actions undertaken to improving the well-being of Colombians, and for this reason we must support it and ask the government social commitment for the Colombian people"."Signing peace means making peace become reality, eliminate situations of injustice, poverty, exclusion of farmers, and work hard to make our country a place with good living conditions, this is what thinking about the building of peace is" said Mgr. Ochoa.His Exc. Mgr. Fernando Camilo Castrellón Pizano S.D.B., Bishop of Barrancabermeja, in a statement sent to all parishes read during the Sunday Masses, stressed that "it is a commitment of all Colombians to build peace together". "The country is going through a difficult time and it is urgent to disarm the spirits and together build reconciliation", says the Bishop’s text.The Auxiliary Bishop of Barranquilla, His Exc. Mgr. Victor Tamayo, urged all Colombians to have a positive attitude with regards to the agreement signed in Havana, and directly addressed the politicians of the opposition, urging them to "really analyze the situation, so that we are all able to give generous support to the peace we need".

ASIA/TURKEY - Christians in Antioch celebrate the feast of Saints Peter and Paul together in the "Cave Church of Peter "

Antakia - This year in Antakya, Turkey, Catholics and Orthodox will celebrate together the feast of Saints Peter and Paul at the "Cave Church of Peter", the ancient cave church on Mt. Silpius, reopened to visitors in 2015, after a restoration that lasted many years. On the morning of June 29, in the presence of Bishop Paul Bizzeti SJ, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, and envoy of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, the Christians of the local community will animate a joint celebration with songs, prayers and readings from the New Testament. Archbishop Paul Fitzpatrick Russell, Apostolic Nuncio in Turkey since last March will also intervene during the celebration.The rock church still preserves the appearance that the Crusaders gave to it, who conquered ancient Antioch on the Orontes in 1098. But already the Byzantines had already turned the chapel into the place where the first baptized met in times of persecution, in the city where for the first time the disciples of Jesus were called Christians and where St. Peter was Bishop before coming to Rome.The recent restoration put an end to the state of abandonment in which the Cave of Peter was in. In past years, Patriarchs and Bishops were often present at the celebrations that were held on the occasion of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul."Unfortunately", notes Fr. Domenico Bertogli OFM Cap, parish priest of the local Catholic community "the social political situation is disturbing, and people are afraid .... many pilgrims do not come any more. In 2011 tourists who visited Antakya were more than 80 thousand, in 2015 they dropped to less than 10 thousand ... in the east of the country attacks are multiplying. In our region in recent months, 21 people died, and in Hatay alone, refugees, mainly Syrians, 400 thousand. We will ask the help of St. Peter, St. Paul and the Virgin Mary".

AFRICA/EGYPT - The process for the laws on the construction of churches and personal status continues

Cairo - The new legislation on the construction of churches is a "priority" for Egyptian parliamentarians, who are engaged in last adjustments of the new legislative text containing the new provisions. This was highlighted recently by Ali Abu Al, President of the Egyptian Parliament, on the same days in which Copts parliamentarians have returned to reunite with Anba Paula, Coptic Orthodox Bishop of Tanta, to once again share impressions and suggestions on the procedure of the bill related to the construction of churches and the personal status of Christians and other religious minorities.In Egypt, the political debate around a new draft law on the personal status of Christians and other religious minorities has intensified since 2014, when the transitional ministry of justice sent a draft of the new law also to the leaders of the different Churches and Christian communities rooted in the North African Country, with a request to submit its views on the text. The new law will also regulate the marriage law of the members of the Christian community. The other bill, one related to the construction of churches, was presented to the relevant departments of the Egyptian Parliament last May 16 . The bill - local sources consulted by Fides say - consists of 13 items, and also recognizes the right of Bishops to appeal to the State Council for delays imposed for the construction of new churches.The new legislation should lead to total filing of the rules laid out by the "Hamayoni Decree", the law dating to the Ottoman period which is the cause of many disputes at a local level. According to these rules, the construction of Christian churches is subject to constraints that do not weigh on the construction of mosques, such as the ban on the construction of Christian places of worship close to schools, canals, government buildings, railways and residential areas. .

AFRICA - "Break the Wall": to defend the rights of minors in precarious conditions

Madrid - A new initiative of the Spanish NGO Plan International launches an appeal for child education in Africa. Through the campaign "Break the Wall", the NGO wants to extend education to many young illiterates in the continent. The goal is to collect 100,000 text messages that allows schooling for children. It is one of the many initiatives of the NGO, dedicated among other things, to the support and protection of children in terms of education, sexual and reproductive health, nutrition and hydration or assistance for young children. Engaged in Asia, America and Africa, Plan International also works in response to crises and emergencies such as earthquakes and cataclysms. Currently it is also involved in Ecuador to protect earthquake children.

ASIA/PAKISTAN - The commitment of the Dominicans of Lahore for poor children

Lahore - The Dominican Sisters in Pakistan have completed the construction of a new school building in Lahore with 12 classrooms, a teachers room and a playroom for all the children. The school has been operating for over 50 years, yet there are still no funds for desks and furniture. Two long tables with chairs are needed. Currently the children sit on the ground under the trees. With this new building, the nuns will be able to welcome them in a dignified manner in a classroom. Another project involves the supply of drinking water for pupils. During the warm months, from March to June and from August to October, water tanks will be connected to refrigeration systems, which will be turned off during the coldest months.

VATICAN - Statement from the Director of the Holy See Press Office

Vatican City - The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Lombardi issued the following statement to reporters on June 23:"In response to the requests of news by several journalists I am in a position to say the following:1) With regard to the recent declarations attributed to Mgr. Taddeo Ma Daqin, Auxiliary Bishop of Shanghai, these have come to the attention of the Holy See through his blog and via press agencies. There is currently no direct information regarding this.2) Any speculation with regard to a presumed role of the Holy See is inappropriate.3) The personal and ecclesial life of Mgr. Ma Daqin, like that of all Chinese Catholics, is followed with particular care and concern by the Holy Father, who remembers them daily in prayer".

ASIA/TURKEY - Armenians demonstrate to demand the election of a new Patriarch

Istanbul - A group of Turkish Christians of the Armenian Apostolic Church organized a protest demonstration yesterday, Thursday, June 23, in Istanbul, outside the headquarters of their Patriarchate, to ask the election of a new Patriarch. The episode reveals the degree of tension lived in the Armenian community in Turkey, concerning the leadership of the Patriarchate.In 2008, the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, Mesrob II, was hit by Alzheimer's disease in a form that has rapidly reduced him to a vegetative state. According to Turkish laws, the office of Patriarch is held for life, and a new Armenian Patriarch cannot be elected until his predecessor is still alive. Since 2008, Archbishop Aram Atesyan exercises the patriarchal duties as Patriarchal Vicar for the ordinary administration of the Patriarchate. But in recent times the criticism and the malaise against him have been reinforced, especially after the letter he sent to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, in which the Patriarchal Vicar expressed "his regret and that of Armenians" for the resolution passed by the German Parliament on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, defined by him as an attempt to exploit the tragedy of the Armenian people for the interests of "international politics" .According to a statement sent to Agenzia Fides, the group of protesters deposited a black wreath in front of the Armenian Patriarchate, with the inscription: "We want to elect our Patriarch ourselves". The canonical laws provide that the election of a new Patriarch can only happen in case of death or voluntary resignation of his predecessor.

ASIA/PAKISTAN - Sufi singer killed: pain and condemnation of the \Bishops

Karachi - "Deep sorrow and condemnation for yet another murder that has shaken the nation": in a statement sent to Fides, the "Justice and Peace" Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan, said it is "deeply saddened" by the assassination on June 22. Amjad Sabri, a famous Muslim singer, exponent of qawwali, a musical style which derives from the Islamic school of Sufism was killed in Karachi. The man was hit by the gunshots fired at his car by two gunmen while he was on his way to record a program. The murder was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban who accused the musician of being blasphemous. Sabri was very well known outside the borders of the country, for his voice and for the message of peace.The President of the "Justice and Peace" Commission, Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, and the Executive Director, Cecil Chaudhry, in a joint statement, express solidarity and recall "the extraordinary contribution of Sabri for the art of Qawwali and Sufism". The Commission highlights that "music can allow to overcome barriers, creating peace in society" and praises "Sabri’s efforts to promote peace through his music"."We need to stay united against the forces that intend to damage the nation", says the note from the Commission, urging the Pakistan government "to take concrete steps to bring the perpetrators to justice". Bishop Joseph Arshad, "prays for the family, asking God to grant the strength to overcome this irreparable loss".

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