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AFRICA/DR CONGO - Bishops recall Papa Wemba as Ambassador of the Congolese culture

Kinshasa - "A committed Catholic Christian who gave witness of the Church spreading the message of the Synod of Bishops for Africa on reconciliation, justice and peace". This is how His Exc. Mgr. Nicolas Djomo, Bishop of Tshumbe and President of the Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo , remembers Papa Wemba, born Jules Shungu Wembadio, considered the icon of Congolese music and ambassador of national culture. The singer died in Abidjan on April 24.In offering condolences to the family "on behalf of CENCO", Mgr. Djomo intends "through this message to reach all those who feel affected by this loss". "In particular - continues the text – my heart goes to the Congolese people who mourn one of its ambassadors of music and culture".The President of CENCO also emphasizes the Christian commitment of Papa Wemba. "With pride we remember Papa Wemba, in addition to his immense talent and his brilliant musical career. He was a committed Catholic Christian, who brought the testimony of the Church spreading the message of the Synod of Bishops for Africa on reconciliation, justice and peace. He participated, when in 2011, the Album Afrika Tenda Amani came out, an album produced by Vatican Radio to accompany the publication of the post-synodal Exhortation "Africae Munus". In November 2011, Papa Wemba - remembers Mgr. Djomo - had participated in the concert for the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in Cotonou in Benin, always in the context of the delivery of the post-synodal Exhortation "Africae Munus", a concert based on its main themes: reconciliation, justice and peace".

AMERICA/COLOMBIA - The Bishop of Tibú: "Some are interested in the fact that these peace processes must never reach an end"

Tibú - "The community of La Gabarra, community leaders, Henry Perez’s family and us, believe that Henry is alive, although still in custody, and society will continue to ask news about him ": said His Exc. Mgr. Cubillos Omar Alberto Sánchez, OP, Bishop of the Colombian diocese of Tibú, during a press conference convened on May 1.Henry Perez, peasant leader, representative of the community of La Gabarra, disappeared on January 26. Known throughout the Tibù region, worked very much in favor of peace and the promotion of farmers, the defense of human rights and the peace process in the area. FARC and ELN disputed the Tibù area in a violent manner, with armed clashes between them and threats to the population."Society is willing to forgive those responsible, but Henry must return to his community, because we are in a process of reconciliation", said Mgr. Sánchez Cubillos, stressing the fear and worry of much of the population because of the violence."We should have a calm social climate, but we all know that there are groups interested in the fact that these peace processes must never reach an end" added the Bishop. According to the note sent to Fides, the Bishop of Tibú concluded and called on State institutions to restore confidence to the population.

ASIA/YEMEN - Two months after the massacre in Aden, negotiations continue for the release of Father Tom

Aden - Two months after the massacre perpetrated by a terrorist commando in the nursing home in Aden , where four Missionaries of Charity were killed along with 12 other people, there is still no certain news about father Tom Uzhunnalil. In the absence of verified information, rumors continue to circulate on the current negotiations to secure his release."The last words, which are quite reassuring, I received indirectly about ten days ago. I was told that Father Tom is alive, and that his return to freedom could be imminent. But since then nothing has happened. We hope and pray for him", refers to Agenzia Fides Bishop Paul Hinder OFM Cap, Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia.Local security apparatus, who continue to follow the story with due discretion, even in the absence of concrete developments, are involved in the negotiations.During Holy Week, rumors started circulating that the Salesian priest had been killed. On Tuesday, March 29, the Salesian Congregation, in an official statement, urged everyone not to give credence to false news on Father Tom’s fate .Meanwhile, the Mother Teresa nuns in Yemen continue to operate in their homes and in Sana'a Hodeyda, at the service of those who suffer most, in a country still torn by conflict between government forces and the Huthi rebels.

ASIA/TURKEY - The appeals of Christian communities against the expropriation of churches in Diyarbakir increase

Diyarbakir - While in Diyarbakir the curfew ordered by the Turkish authorities continues, the appeals filed by the legal representatives of foundations linked to the Christian community against the order of urgent expropriation also multiply in which the Turkish government, in late March, seized a large area of the metropolis, located on the bank of the Tigris River, in the context of the military operations carried out in southern Turkey against Kurdish positions of the Kurdistan Workers' Party .All the churches in Diyarbakir arise in the urban area seized: the Armenian Apostolic Church of St. Giragos , the Syriac church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Chaldean church of Mar Sarkis , the Armenian Catholic church and a Protestant place of worship, in addition to more than 6 thousand homes, located mostly in the old Town. Already at the time of expropriation, no Christian church in Diyarbakir appeared open for worship.The representatives of the Syriac Foundation and members of the local evangelical Christian community had appealed against the expropriation to the Court in Diyarbakır already in mid-April . Now - local sources consulted by Agenzia Fides - also the Foundation of the Armenian Apostolic Church of St. Giragos filed before the State Council an appeal that asks to cancel the order of expropriation. The request directly calls into question Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, and the Minister for the Environment and Urban Planning, Idris Gulluce. According to Ali Elbeyoglu, lawyer of the Foundation, the reasons for the expropriation are not clearly indicated, contrary to the provisions of the current legislation.The provision of government expropriation was also published in the Official Journal of the Council of Ministers. The seized area was justified as a preventive measure to safeguard the historic center of Diyarbakir by the devastation caused by the conflict.

AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA - "Youth unemployment is a time bomb ready to explode" warns "Justice and Peace"

Johannesburg - "The youth unemployment continues to pose a danger to the security of our nation and stability of our family life. It is a time bomb that shall soon explode on us", says His Exc. Mgr. Abel Gabuza, Bishop of Kimberley and the chair person of SACBC Justice and Peace Commission, in a statement on the occasion of the feast on 1 May.Mgr. Gabuza has also called on the government to rethink its policy on youth wage subsidy and its ability to make a significant dent on the current levels of youth unemployment. "The statistics recently released on the state of youth unemployment and poverty in the country indicate that youth wage subsidy scheme has not been effective in eradicating youth unemployment. Despite the subsidy scheme, youth unemployment has risen from 3.14 million in 2009 to its current level of 3.38", says His Exc. Mgr. Abel Gabuza in the statement sent to Agenzia Fides.The subsidy program, initiated in 2014 and which was to end by December 2016, was extended for another year. According to Mgr. Gabuza this is not, however, enough to create new jobs, because "by the end of December this year, the programme is supposed to create 423 000 new jobs. Even if it manages to achieve its intended objectives, it would still fall far short of the more than 3.2 million job opportunities for the youth that the country needs"."Justice and Peace" also believes that South Africans should be worried about unfettered capitalism because "the realities of youth unemployment in our country are a symptom of a deeper problem of unfettered capitalism which has created a global economic crisis that the capitalists themselves are unable to solve". Mgr. Gabuza warns that "in a world where dignity of work is subordinated to the power of profit, we create a throw away society where a deep appreciation of the dignity of work is lost and where its youth and its elders are reduced to cost of production which can be easily discarded when it is not needed".

AMERICA/PUERTO RICO - Mgr. González Nieves: "Necessity to re-build Puerto Rico, but we must be united"

San Juan - "Today, the country asks us not to remain silent. Silence means to resign. And we Puerto Ricans are men of peace, but we are not resigned": with these words the Archbishop of San Juan of Puerto Rico, the Franciscan Mgr. Roberto González Nieves, spoke in New York, during the forum held at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, on 22 and 23 April, entitled "Refundemos a Puerto Rico."In his speech, Mgr. González primarily addressed the Puerto Rican immigrants in New York and the children of immigrants born in the North American country, stressing that "any reflection on the Puerto Rican people that excludes Puerto Ricans of the diaspora would be incomplete". He continued: "We Puerto Ricans are divided and polarized, we are not united. Our unity is necessary if we want to progress, if we eliminate the inequalities among us and we manage to live with our different points of view in a spirit of mutual respect, with love and mercy. In this sense, the effort to rebuild our Country can become a project to create that unity which is so necessary and desired by all Puerto Ricans".The Forum in New York also dealt with the economic and political situation related to the serious crisis affecting Puerto Rico . At the end of 2015 there were about 3 and a half million inhabitants in the country, while there were about 5 million abroad . Only in recent months about 500 thousand residents left the country in an official way.The government of Puerto Rico has been unable to pay their debts. Governor Alejandro García Padilla announced missed payments on May 1, in a televised speech, and implored the US Congress to give Puerto Rico the legal tools needed to restructure its debt.

AFRICA/ETHIOPIA - "He is not here, he has risen! Inni as hin jiru; ka'eera!": Easter in Robe mission

Kofale - "Easter was characterized by rain and darkness. We were without electricity on Holy Saturday and Sunday. Foreseeing that there would not be enough room in the church, we prepared the water for baptism and liturgy in the churchyard of our little church in Kofale. All well prepared with grass, flowers and a strong lamp, but electricity did not come back". Father Angelo Antolini, Apostolic Prefect of Robe, tells Agenzia Fides how he celebrated holy Easter, on Sunday, May 1 with his community."It rained all afternoon - he continues - and it was not easy to manage the 180 people attending the vigil, but we did it and enjoyed it. We arranged a generator for the night and during the procession of light there was less rain. Once we were in church and all was in order, those of Kofale, Gode and Denda, those who were to receive baptism, confirmation and other sacraments, the little children had their place to sit and sleep if necessary.The Liturgy of the Word took place in an orderly manner. Every three readings I left space for reflection. At 1am it was the moment of the water liturgy. It seemed the rain had stopped. As soon as we went out it started raining again and a big lamp was not working. There was a bit of panic to find a solution with another lamp arranged then and there. There was great emotion for the neophytes. Some even expressed the joy for the beginning of a new life. The presence of the Spirit of the risen Lord was palpable, almost physical. We finished before three in the morning". "On this Easter night - concludes Father Angelo – during the reading of the Gospel: ... he is not here; It has risen! - Inni as hin jiru; ka'eera !, I cannot describe the great joy I felt, surrounded by the Love of all my brothers".

ASIA/PALESTINE - President Abu Mazen: we have a mission and a duty to protect the presence of Christians in the Middle East

Ramallah - The protection of the Christian presence in Palestine and all the East "is for us a duty and a mission": this is how Palestinian President Abu Mazen reiterated his commitment to do everything he can to honor this duty, for the common good of the entire Palestinian people. The Arab Head of State confirmed his commitment in the message addressed to Christians at Easter, celebrated yesterday by churches that follow the Julian calendar."It is not a secret" reads the statement released by the Palestinian leader "that the fate of Christians in the Middle East is full of pitfalls", in a spiral that threatens coexistence, pluralism and religious freedom. For this reason - remarked Abu Mazen - we must contrast in every possible way all attempts to weaken the presence of native Christians in the Holy Land.In the Easter message, the Palestinian President wanted to emphasize that the permanence of an Arab Christian community in Jerusalem is seen as an asset and a help to fully live the pilgrimage to holy places also by Christians from all over the world, who visit Holy land, especially during the liturgical solemnities.In the presidential text, the Palestinian President recalled the global agreement between the Holy See and the Palestinian State, signed on June 26, 2015 and entered into force at the beginning 2016

AFRICA/NIGERIA - Is Boko Haram moving to the south following the movements of the Fulani herdsmen?

Abuja - "Climate change is pushing Fulani herdsmen from northern Nigeria to the south, but in this movement of population what is feared is that there could be Boko Haram fighters fleeing military operations" says Fr. Patrick Tor Alumuku, director for social communications of the Archdiocese of Abuja to Agenzia Fides."The issue of Fulani herdsmen is a very serious matter", said Fr. Patrick after the attack on the village of Nimbus on 25 April, causing the death of at least 20 people, and the attack against the car belonging to Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja, perpetrated on April 28, in Edo State."The two locations are distant more than 200 km from each other, but they are always in the southeast of Nigeria", remarked Fr. Patrick, thus indicating the extent of the instability associated with the movement of the Fulani."The Sahara is advancing in northern Nigeria, and this year has been particularly hard for Fulani herdsmen who are coming down with tens of thousands of cattle to the south in search of water and pasture", says the priest. "This is fueling tensions with the farmers in the central and southern parts of the Country. The Fulani are armed to protect their herds from cattle rustling. But the massacres ascribed to them in recent times in southern Nigeria appear to be the work of other groups that are hiding behind this mass movement of shepherds". "More and more Nigerians argue that the massacres were committed by members of Boko Haram who are moving to the south of Nigeria", said the priest.

AFRICA/NIGERIA - The Bishop of Nsukka after the massacre of 25 April: "A massacre announced; Where are the security forces?"

Abuja - "The most painful aspect of the Nimbo massacre is that it was announced, expected and executed without inhibition – in broad daylight!", says His Exc. Mgr. Godfrey Igwebuike Onah, Bishop of Nsukka, in Enugu State in the south-east of Nigeria, in a statement in the aftermath of the massacre of at least twenty people which took place in the early hours of April 25, in the town of Nimbus in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area."Again?" Is the question that the Bishop, in the document sent to Agenzia Fides reports noting that "similar stories had been heard from many parts of the country in recent times, including Abbi, another community in our Diocese, also in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area".The Bishop denounces the shortcomings of the security forces that seem to have facilitated the attackers: "the State Government is reported to have made attempts to provide security in the area prior to the incident. But what those who lost their dear ones and all of us want to know is why, as the reports go, the security forces “tactically” withdrew shortly before the attack and why, when they later returned to the scene, there was no attempt to immediately pursue and arrest the perpetrators".The massacre is attributed to Fulani herdsmen: on April 28 a group of them attacked, in another part of Nigeria, in the State of Edo, the car belonging to Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja. According to Mgr. Onah the attackers, as well as indiscriminately killing the inhabitants of Nimbus, in particular targeted the homes of Christian priests, both that of the Protestant pastor and that of a Catholic parish priest. In the latter case, only the lack of flammable liquid prevented the armed group to set fire to it.The Bishop reports the concerns of the local population who wonders if the group that committed these atrocities are only Fulani herdsmen, or "whether Boko Haram has actually been weakened, as claimed by the government in Abuja, or has only been redeployed from the North East to the South East".

ASIA/SYRIA - Catholic Bishops of Aleppo: let us participate in the Passion of Christ, our suffering will not be in vain

Aleppo - "We are children of the Resurrection, of Hope, and we firmly believe that this suffering will not be in vain: following the footsteps of the saints and martyrs, we add them to the Passion of Christ, so they may become sanctified and sanctifying suffering, for peace in Syria and the salvation of our city". This is what the Catholic Bishops of Aleppo said in a message addressed primarily to the faithful, offering words of consolation and hope to the inhabitants of the martyred Syrian city, again disrupted by the resurgence of conflict both in neighborhoods controlled by the government and in those where rebel militias are situated, with artillery launches and bombings which also hit a hospital run by Doctors without Borders.In a message sent to Agenzia Fides, the Catholic Bishops of Aleppo launch an appeal "to the consciences of those who project and carry out this war", pleading aloud, "Enough!" for the "love of God" and "mercy of men" for "the cry of blood of children and martyrs" and "for the tears of the bereaved mothers".In the delirium of death and violence that engulfs Aleppo, the Catholic Bishops finally express a Christian gaze to the suffering of their brothers in faith and all their fellow citizens.The Bishops of Aleppo invite everyone not to "give in to sadness and despair", and suggest that in their mysterious participation in the passion of Christ the suffering of Christians in Aleppo makes sense to the world as something which happens in the history of the mystery of salvation announced by the Gospel. "This" refer the Bishops in their statement "is the most important meaning of why we are and remain in Aleppo". In this perspective, may the Catholic Pastors of the martyred Syrian city renew the consecration of Aleppo to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to her "who in her apparitions in Fatima had asked for the consecration of the world to her Immaculate Heart in order to obtain peace". In particular, in the month of May dedicated to Mary, the Bishops ask Catholics to offer "prayers, especially the Rosary, in our churches for this intention".Syrian Catholic Archbishop Antoine Denys Chahda, Greek Melkite Archbishop Jean Clément Jeanbart, Maronite Archbishop Joseph Tobji, Armenian Catholic Archbishop Boutros Marayati and Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo together with the Franciscan Georges Abou Khazen OFM, Apostolic Vicar for Catholics of the Latin rite are part of of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Aleppo.

ASIA/CAMBODIA - Formation for children on vulnerability and discrimination

Phnom Penh - A training session and reinforcement of the students, on the theme of support to the most vulnerable children and discriminated against, was recently held in the schools of Oh Cham Na , within an agricultural community, and Andoumg Thmor . Promotor of the initiative was the staff of non-profit CCS in Cambodia. Blackboards full of colorful sheets with the definition, in Khmer language, that each student considered more valid for the concepts of vulnerability and discrimination. The day was attended by a total of 71 people: 39 students, 29 teachers and three representatives of local education authorities. The concepts were discussed together with the children and all were invited to share their own idea of vulnerability and discrimination with the rest of the group. The children focused in particular on two issues: how to identify vulnerable children within their school, on the basis of such signals of distress, and how to help them concretely.

AMERICA/NICARAGUA - Mgr. Alvarez Lagos:"Nicaragua is not at war! Buying tanks is contrary to our reality"

Matagalpa - "Nicaragua is not at war, Nicaragua does not want war, Nicaragua does not need war, nor heavy combat weapons", said the Bishop of Matagalpa, His Exc. Mgr. Rolando Jose Álvarez Lagos, criticizing the announced purchase of tanks by Daniel Ortega’s government, initiative which he described "contrary to the national reality". Mgr. Alvarez spoke on this issue after the Mass in honor of St. Joseph the Worker, the patron saint of the parish that bears the name of the saint in the municipality of El Tuma-La Dalia, in Matagalpa, celebrated yesterday, May 1."We recognize the participation of the army in Nicaragua in humanitarian work, as the fact of protecting agricultural production, cattle raising and even to bring medical assistance to the population, but the militarization of some rural communities has caused fear and panic among the rural population, which is why the announced purchase of tanks is totally contrary to the national reality", said the Bishop in the note sent to Fides from a local source. According to Mgr. Alvarez the money to be spent on the purchase of tanks "could be used to build hospitals, schools, roads, encourage investment and employment. This purchase, as a result, is obsolete and out of context" he concluded.Data from the local press highlights that Nicaragua wants to purchase 50 T-72 tanks and 62 T-55 tanks, making the Nicaraguan army the largest ground military power in Central America.

AMERICA/COLOMBIA - "Accompany dialogue with ELN": the Church for peace and for the release of the hostages

Rionegro - "We received the request not to be guarantors, but to accompany, so we will be present to moderate the talks, we hope this helps to make them more effective and bring us towards peace as soon as possible": this is how His Exc. Mgr. Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, IMC, Archbishop of Tunja and President of the Episcopal Conference, commented the request sent to the Colombian Church by ELN.According to information sent to Fides, this is what the Archbishop said at the end of his speech at the forum on the Post Conflict "Impactos Sociales y Empresariales", held in Rionegro at the end of last week, which was attended by several authorities of the local and national government as well as diplomats of the countries that have volunteered as mediators for peace among the guerrilla groups and the Colombian government.Mgr. Castro Quiroga also urged ELN to "free all hostages and not to ask a penny", noting that it is one of the government's conditions for starting talks with ELN. Unfortunately yesterday ELN claimed that Melisa Trillos and a farmer representative Henry Perez are not their hostages, and this has caused further concern in their respective families, who have no information on their health status.Following this update, His Exc. Mgr. Gabriel Angel Villa Vahos, Bishop of Ocaña, yesterday publicly asked the release of Melisa Trillos, a lawyer, kidnapped two weeks ago. The Bishop asked the kidnappers to give proof that Melisa is alive and to respect her life, in the hope that she will soon return to her family.

ASIA/PAKISTAN - Youth Ministry with the works of mercy

Lahore - "Young people need to be involved, to experience mercy and to give mercy. Thus the Jubilee makes sense for them": says to Fides Fr. Jahanzeb Iqbal, a priest from Lahore, pastor of St. Antony and Director of the Youth Ministry Service of the Archdiocese. With this spirit and this certainty Fr. Iqbal promotes, throughout the Jubilee year, a special program of events in which "young Catholics practice the works of mercy". Thanks to the initiative of Fr. Iqbal, young people regularly go to the hospitals in the poorest neighborhoods to visit families, are committed in the service of charity which prepares and distributes food to the marginalized and beggars. "One goes to celebrate Mass and bring joy in marginalized communities, and young people entertain children belonging to disadvantaged families" said the priest to Fides. "Mercy marks their lives and their experience and this makes mercy not an abstract word, but something extremely concrete: it is the closeness to every human suffering" he continues.The Catholic youth of Lahore who, overall, are more than 50 thousand, come from 26 parishes of the Archdiocese, have welcomed these initiatives enthusiastically. Fr. Iqbal is organizing also the journey that will lead a delegation of Pakistani youth to WYD in Krakow, an event that young people look forward to."The priorities for young Pakistani Catholics is certainly education, especially very qualified education, since, once they finish high school, very few are able to pay college tuition costs, given the impossibility of their families" he explains. In addition, he concludes, one works for dialogue and peace, in order for citizens to be ready to build ties of harmony and reconciliation in society, especially with young Muslims.

AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA - Appointment of the Apostolic Vicar of Ingwawuma

Vatican City - On 30 April 2016 the Holy Father appointed Fr. Siegfried Mandla Jwara, C.M.M., Pastor and Regional Superior of the Missionaries of Mariannhill in the Province of Umtata as Vicar Apostolic of Ingwawuma . He was assigned the titular see of Elefantaria in Proconsulari.Rev. Fr. Mandla Siegfried Jwara, C.M.M., was born on February 1, 1957 in St. Nivard, in the diocese of Mariannhill. After attending schools in Kwa-Hluzingqondo in uMkhomazi, and completed High School Education in 1980, on 1 February 1981 he entered the Congregation of the Missionaries of Mariannhill and carried out his Novitiate in Mariannhill Monastery. He professed his first vows in 1982, his Perpetual vows in 1986, and then completed his philosophical and theological formation at St. Joseph's Theological Institute in Cedara . He was ordained a priest on 14 February 1987.Since his ordination he has served the following academic and pastoral roles: 1987-1992: Assistant priest and parish Priest in Claivaux Mission in Mpendle ; 1992-1993: Diploma in Human Development, Leadership, Formation & Community Building at St. Anselm Institute, London, England; 1993-1998: Master of Novices in Mariannhill Monastery and for a short period C.M.M. Rector in Merrivale, as well as provincial Councilor. At the same time, he obtained a Master's Degree in Theology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburgh; 1998-2002: Provincial C.M.M. ; 2002- 2004: C.M.M General Councillor ; 2005-2006: Parish priest at Port St. John and St. Patrick Mission and C.M.M Provincial Councillor; 2006-2009: Elected again C.M.M. Provincial; 2009-2014: Pastor of St. Patrick, diocesan consultor and Dean of the Eastern Deanery; since 2014: Regional Superior of Umtata Region and Pastor of St. Patrick Mission.The Apostolic Vicariate of Ingwavuma was erected in 1962, it has an area of 12,309 square kilometers and a population of 754,315 inhabitants, of whom 26,730 are Catholic. There are 6 parishes, 14 priests , 14 religious brothers, 5 sisters and 3 seminarians.

AMERICA/HONDURAS - The construction of the penitentiary center in San Pedro Sula has come to a stop, the Bishop seeks funding

San Pedro Sula - The construction of the new detention center in San Pedro Sula has stopped again. For four months, the works have stopped, despite repeated announcements to resume construction. The President of the Foundation proconstrucción of the criminal center, His Exc. Mgr. Romulo Emiliani, said that works have not moved forward for more than four months, while this is an important safety work for the entire country."The official report we received complains that the security standards set initially have not been met", said the Bishop. In the note sent to Fides, Mgr. Emiliani informs that he is looking for new funding, and that the original plans have been reformulated to comply with international safety requirements.Mgr. Emiliani, in the hard task of restoring peace and the fight against organized crime in a violent Honduras , has always tried to propose pastoral service in prisons that is centered on the defense of human rights and respect for human dignity .