16-22 July, 2018


Pope Francis to young people of the Antilles: “Look to your roots”           16-7-18


Young people of the Antilles received a message from Pope Francis on Sunday, 15 July 2018. They are meeting as part of the 6th Antilles Episcopal Conference Youth Assembly, from July 10-23, and are focusing especially on how to transform the Family in the Caribbean in line with Amoris Laetitia. The Pope exhorted them to look to their roots, as learnt from their parents and grandparents. When there are roots, then you have the strength to transform the family,” the Pope said.


In Nicaragua, paramilitaries attack bishop and besiege church                16-7-18


Bishop Juan Abelardo Mata Guevara of Esteli, Nicaragua, was attacked in his car at a police checkpoint in Nindiri, about 15 miles southeast of Managua, on July 15, Sunday. He was returning from saying Mass. The paramilitaries damaged the car's tires and windows and fired on the vehicle.

Together with his driver, Bishop Mata took shelter in a house which was surrounded by Ortega's supporters, who verbally harassed him for 90 minutes. He was able to leave the house through the intervention of the Archdiocese of Managua. Bishop Mata returned to Esteli by cover of dark.

Also on Sunday, Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solorzano of Managua lamented that “police and paramilitaries” had entered a rectory and carried off “various belongings of the parish and of Fr. Jairo Velasquez”, who was unharmed.

In Managua, around 150 student protesters, belonging to National Autonomous University of Nicaragua, who took refuge in the nearby Divine Mercy parish on July 13, were able to leave the following day, after an intervention by the country's bishops. They were attacked by the paramilitaries, and sought shelter in the church building, where they were besieged. Two student protesters died in the church from fire by the paramilitaries.


Rwanda closes 700 churches under new government guidelines               16-7-18

The government of Rwanda has closed down 700 houses of worship—including Protestant churches and Muslim mosques—in line with new regulations requiring religious bodies to have qualified ministers and internal rules. The legislation is aimed at protecting the public from exploitation by extremist and/or unscrupulous preachers.


Archbishop Rugambwa urges AMECEA to embrace renewal           16-7-18


Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, the Holy See’s Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, challenged Bishops of the AMECEA region on 15 July 2018 Sunday evening to strengthen solidarity among themselves, shun complacency and embrace ecclesial renewal, called for by Pope Francis. He was addressing he members of the 19th Plenary assembly of the bishops’ conferences of East Africa.

The assembly takes place under the theme, “Vibrant Diversity, Equal Dignity, peaceful unity in God in the AMECEA region” and is expected to end on Monday, July 23.


Pope surprises couple by presiding at wedding              16-7-18

Pope Francis surprised a member of the Swiss Guard and his Brazilian bride by appearing un-announced in the sacristy, replacing the priest who had been ready to preside at their wedding at the Church St Stephen of the Abyssinians in Vatican City.

The Holy Father’s homily was on three verbs: "to begin", "to stop", "to resume the journey" – which he explained are needed to be able to live their marriage in fullness.


Maltese bishop criticizes European nations for ‘criminal’ attitude toward migrants             16-7-18

Bishop Mario Grech, Malta, said that the current lack of concern for migrants recalls the indifference to the plight of Jews persecuted by the Nazi regime. The prelate added, “My appeal to the government and the opposition is not to surrender to populism.”

Bishop Grech said, “Europe’s attitude on migration is shameful and scandalous. The insincerity and lack of political will by European institutions has led to a situation where some countries have taken actions to prevent migrants from reaching safe harbours and stop rescue operations by NGOs. Those countries include Malta.” 


For Gaza’s parish priest, ‘people are desperate’ but ‘we continue to hope for peace’      16-7-18

Fr Mario da Silva, parish priest of the small Christian community of the Gaza strip, speaking to AsiaNews, said that basic items are starting to run out following the closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing; electricity is down to 4 hours a day with half an hour break; people want to leave to "look for another life in another place". The Church supports the local Christian community who continue to hope for peace.

Bahrain’s Our Lady Cathedral to become the heart of the Catholic community in Arabia         16-7-18


The Church of Bahrain and the Gulf recently celebrated the formal start of the construction of the new cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia, patron saint of the Arabian Peninsula.

Construction is set to last until 2021. Once completed, the church, situated some 20 kilometers from the capital Manama, will be the reference point for the community of northern Arabia. In addition to the church, it will have a residential area for the episcopal curia, a guest house and educational facilities. A time capsule was placed in its foundations with the history of the local Church and Christians.

The new place of worship, which will meet the needs of the local Christian community composed mainly of economic migrants and seasonal workers, includes a multifunctional centre that can host social, educational and cultural events. The 1.4 million nation is 70% Muslim, 15% Christian, 10% Hindu, and 3% Buddhist.


Co-adjutor bishop of San Jose investigates report of weeping statue at parish            15-7-18

Co-adjutor bishop Oscar Cantú of San Jose, California, USA, said that investigators determined that the tears reportedly flowing from a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary are composed of olive oil. “But even if it were (a hoax), we are not sure how it would be done, physically,” he said. “Because [the statue] is hardened bronze. We’ve examined the interior, and there’s nothing on the interior.” The prelate spoke of “stories of tremendous faith, people who have been dealing with terrible suffering in their lives and have felt a tremendous spiritual consolation that Mary walks with us in our tears.”


Ethiopia - Joy because the opening of the Plenary Assembly of AMECEA coincided with the historic visit of the Eritrean President              16-7-18


"The fact that this historic moment is happening exactly at the same time as our plenary Assembly meeting, is really surprising and indeed we are grateful to God", said Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, Archbishop of Addis Ababa, where the 19th Plenary Assembly of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) opened on July 14th. 
The event coincided with the historic visit of the President of Eritrea, Isaias Afewerki to the Ethiopian capital, who met with the new Ethiopian premier Abiy Ahmed, as the first gesture of the renewed friendship between the two Countries after the agreement of peace signed on 9 July in Asmara, which ended 20 years of war and tensions.
Sharing in the joy of Ethiopians who flooded the roads of Addis Ababa, carrying the flags of the two Countries in a symbolic gesture of unity, Cardinal Berhaneyesus said that nine months ago AMECEA sent a High Delegation of Solidarity Team to visit Eritrea, and it is therefore a great joy to see that reconciliation, peace, and unity among the people from the two Countries is happening.
"We are happy to have this plenary here in Addis Ababa and so many have come. Each AMECEA Country, each conference is well represented and especially also our affiliate members Djibouti and Somalia", added Cardinal Souraphiel, who is the Chairman of AMECEA.


Ethiopia - "Evangelization is the essential mission of the Church" says Archbishop Rugambwa to the Bishops of AMECEA              16-7-18


"Remain anchored in the proper mission of the Church". This is the exhortation delivered by Bishop Protase Rugambwa, Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, to the participants in the 19th Plenary Assembly of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) in his opening speech on Sunday, July 15th.
Recognizing that the Churches in the AMECEA region must face major challenges such as conflicts, divisions, violations of human dignity, Bishop Rugambwa stressed that although "addressing such challenges and looking for relevant solutions is, undoubtedly, an integral part of the Church’s evangelizing ministry". "However, it is worth remembering that the Church should accomplish her social apostolate without straying away from her essential vocation and mission – namely, to bring the Gospel to the world and to bring people to Christ, in other words: to evangelize".


Jailed former Jakarta governor rejects parole             16-7-18


Jakarta's jailed former Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama will not accept an offer of parole and will instead opt to finish his sentence in the hope of early release, according to his sister.

Purnama, better known as Ahok, is serving a two-year sentence for blasphemy after being accused of referring to the Quran when refuting claims in an election speech that Muslims should not vote for non-Muslim candidates. He was jailed a few weeks after being defeated in the sectarian-charged Jakarta governor election by his Muslim rival Anies Baswedan. who was backed by hard-line Muslim groups.

According to Indonesian law, he will be eligible for parole in August having served two-thirds of his sentence, which means he could be released for up to four hours a day. However, Purnama will not accept, according to Fifi Lety Indra, the former governor's sister and lawyer, in a July 11 post on Instagram.


Parties play religious cards as Pakistan poll looms         16-7-18


As Pakistan prepares for a national election at the end of July, several political parties with a religious bias are using their extremist agenda to pull in more voters.

Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), an Islamist party, said in its manifesto that it will establish a new ministry if elected to support its religious beliefs – “to make Islamic dress compulsory for women, ban coeducation and push for a segregated educational system." The TLP opposed execution of Mumtaz Qadri, a police commando who assassinated liberal Punjab governor Salman Taseer for his stance on the country's blasphemy laws.

TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who seeks Sharia in Pakistan and believes all those found guilty of blasphemy should be put to death, has vowed to launch a so-called Amma Aisha Movement: "Churha (a derogatory word for Christian sanitation workers) will also be made to recite the Islamic proclamation of faith [kalma]."

One candidate from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said it is forbidden (haram) for Muslims to vote for a female candidate in the upcoming poll. A number of panchayat, or local village councils, bar women from casting their vote across the country.

Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a radical Sunni group is reportedly inciting violent attacks on Shia, a minority, and has outlawed the casting of ballots in favour of one of its rival parties, the PML-N.


Bosnian bishops: lawmakers should consider common good, rather than focus on ethnic majority          16-7-18


Following the meeting of the Bishops of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Banja Luka, which ended on 14 July, the Bishops’ Conference published a message about the upcoming general elections on 7 October 2018. It is first and foremost an appeal to Catholics and all people of good will to “register to be able to exercise their right to vote” as a “moral obligation towards the society in which we live”.

“In a society as complex as that of Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is a need to respect the rights of every human person, including the right to return to one’s homeland, in a climate of continuous dialogue and respect for the diversity of peoples, cultures, languages and beliefs,” the bishops say, “it is (therefore) necessary to put an end to the logics of majority and veto”.




Confessional seal not a matter of human rights, says Australian official             17-7-18

A human-rights commissioner in the Australian Capital Territory has ruled that a law requiring Catholic priests to reports sexual abuse mentioned in a sacramental confession is not a violation of human rights. The commissioner rejected Australian bishops’ plea that the legislation offends against religious freedom.


The Eritrean Catholic Church calls for prayers for peace              17-7-18


A letter to the faithful written by the Council of Catholic Hierarchs of Eritrea calls for prayers and implorations for a just and lasting peace in the region.

The Metropolitan Archbishop of Asmara, Menghesteab Tesfamariam, in a letter signed by him, gives thanks to God for the just signed declaration between the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea, and appeals to all believers to join in elevating “special and intense prayers” for a just and lasting peace.


Cardinal Coccopalmerio: canon law should include environmental norms                17-7-18

Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio told a Vatican conference that the Code of Canon Law should be amended to include specific norms requiring the faithful to take action to protect the environment. The Italian cardinal, a close ally of Pope Francis, is the former president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, the Vatican body responsible for interpretation of canon law.


Church in Germany allocated $700M to social and pastoral projects worldwide in 2017           17-7-18

In 2017, the German Catholic Church, made up of 27 dioceses as well as of organisations, associations and missionary orders, donated €602 million in support of missionary and social projects worldwide, that is, 2 million more than in the previous year. This figure does not include the administrative costs of the associations involved, as announced today in the annual report by “Universal Church”, a network of institutions that work internationally. The money comes mainly from “donations and collections, Church taxes and state subsidies”.          

This “network” includes associations such as Caritas, Renovabis, Missio or Misereor, Bonifatiuswerk or the Christmas initiative “Sternsinger”.


Ethiopia - "The story of the Association indicates the path for the future", says the Secretary General of AMECEA                17-7-18


"Let us think more of what we have in common and what we can do together in building a strong Church within the region", says Fr. Ferdinand Lugonzo, Secretary General of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) in his speech at the 19th Plenary Assembly of the association, which brings together the Episcopal Conferences of East Africa, underway in Addis Ababa.
Fr. Lugonzo recalled that AMECEA was the first association of its kind to be constituted in the world. The first Plenary Assembly of AMECEA took place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1961. On that occasion the Bishops set seven objectives which are still valid, underlined Fr. Lugonzo, remembering that the original philosophy of the association is "to think globally and act locally".
"After reflecting on the seven points on the agenda we need to have long term strategy of the future of the Church in Africa", noted the Secretary General of AMECEA.


Lebanon - The Mufti of the Lebanese Republic: there is no Middle East without Christians of the East             17-7-18


The Middle East will no longer exist if the exodus of the Christians of the East continues to reduce the presence of those bearing the name of Christ in the Middle Eastern countries. The alarm was launched in recent days by Sheikh Abdel Latif Darian, Mufti of the Lebanese Republic, during the ceremony for the delivery of diplomas at the end of the school course to more than 350 students of the Makased institutes, the Lebanese Islamic private schools. "We live in the same Country with Christians, we share the air and the daily bread. We have the same destiny: our future will either be together or not", said the official representative of the Lebanese Sunni community. The Mufti of the Lebanese Republic has also invited young people to take root in their own Country. Regarding Christians, he defined the terrorism of attacks aimed at Christians as a crime aimed at the entire population, but he also criminalized every choice aimed at simplifying the processes and procedures for the emigration of Christians.


Venezuela - The Bishops: "A political leadership is needed to put the people at the centre of their reflections and actions"              17-7-18


"The Church, whose spiritual mission is clearly indicated by Christ in the Gospel, does not intend to replace in its role and in its vocation those who know and manage Politics. It does not aspire to dominate the social landscape, nor to become a factor of government or opposition. However, it encourages the laity, duly educated and aware of the rights and duties of their citizens, to make their voices heard and to intervene actively in the political arena, so that even the high principles and values that the Christian faith transmits to us may be lived in the public sphere and translate into works of common interest". This is what the episcopate of Venezuela writes in the exhortation entitled "Do not be afraid, I am with you" (Isaiah 41: 10), published at the end of the General Assembly of the Episcopal Conference, celebrated from 7 to 11 July.
Focusing on the political situation, the Bishops say: "Venezuela needs a political leadership that puts Venezuelan people at the centre of its reflections and actions, aware that beyond the control of power, politics is the work of those who, driven by nobility and ethical principles, know how to put themselves at the service of citizens and not petty interests.”


Modi accused of making India 'a republic of hate'           17-7-18


The four years of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's reign have been marked by violence, hate and destruction of institutions across the board, prominent social activists and intellectuals have claimed.

About 250 people gathered in New Delhi on July 14 to release a report, "Dismantling India — A Four-Year Report," which carries essays analyzing the performance of the federal government run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since it come to power in May 2014. 

The report said "anti-national" is the most heard word in India as federal ministers and BJP leaders use it liberally to describe "members of the parliamentary opposition" as well as trade unions, students and "the few who dare write and speak in the media" criticizing the BJP and the government.

India has become a "republic of lies" as Modi "does not hesitate in peddling whole sets of untruths day after day and seems to be getting away with it," said Harsh Mander, a retired civil servant turned social activist.

Activists have accused the BJP and its supportive Hindu groups of the "saffronization" of India — a term used to denote the agenda of making the country a Hindu state. Activists also accuse the government of being biased against religious minorities such as Muslims and Christians.

It referred to mob lynchings by vigilantes to protect Hindus' revered cows and said such activities triggered the alienation of religious minorities and helped spread a campaign of hate using the internet and smartphones. The report had data and tables showing targeted violence against religious minorities that had not been released by the National Commission for Minorities or National Crime Research Bureau.


Filipinos told to demand accountability from clergy          17-7-18


A newly ordained bishop in Mindanao has urged the faithful to rectify the shortcomings reportedly committed by members of the clergy by making them accountable.

"Make us accountable the same way you demand accountability from the government. Correct the clergy if we are wrong," said Bishop Cerilo Casicas of Marbel. The new bishop was installed last week at Christ the King Cathedral in Koronadal City with about 5,000 people attending the three-hour ceremony. The Philippines this year also celebrates the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons.

Sri Lanka auteur irks church with film about Anglican killer priest            17-7-18


Sri Lankan filmmaker Chandran Rutnam's latest flick According to Mathew is stirring controversy ahead of its release, with the Catholic Church saying it casts Catholics in a bad light in this Buddhist-majority country.

The film portrays the true story of Father Mathew Peiris, an Anglican priest who had an affair with his secretary and later murdered her husband Russel Ingram before also taking the life of his own wife Eunice Peiris in 1979 by causing her to overdose on an anti-diabetic drug. Peiris was later condemned to death by hanging for the double murders.

"Non-Catholics won't understand the difference between Catholics and Anglicans because priests from both denominations wear similar-looking attire, namely, a white robe and black belt," said a Catholic priest. When the media were treated to a screening of the film last year, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, issued a strongly worded statement disavowing the film.


Thousands protest harassment of Christians in India          17-7-18


About 10,000 Christians in eastern India's Jharkhand state formed a 20-kilometer human chain to protest what they call the state-sponsored harassment of Christians and a hate campaign against them.

The mostly indigenous Christians say their government, run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has developed policies to take away their rights and land.

Braving heavy rain on July 15, women, children and elderly from different churches joined the human chain after their Sunday services. Protests were held in Ranchi, Gumla, Simdega, Bokaro, Jemshedpur and Khunty by people shouting slogans against state government moves. "Catholic nuns, priests, pastors are attacked and jailed. Their institutions are searched. They are accused of every wrong that takes place in the state," said organizer Prabhakar Tirkey, president of ecumenical Christian forum Rashtriya Isai Mahasangh.

Christians are angry about the recent detention of a Missionaries of Charity nun on charges of child trafficking. The arrest came after a childless couple complained that a staff member at a home for unmarried mothers took money for providing a baby but failed to keep her promise.

Jesuit Father Alphonse Aind, principal of a school in a remote village, was arrested and remanded on June 22 on charges of abetting rape after unidentified people kidnapped five social activists who staged a street play in his school that allegedly criticized tribal demands for autonomy.

Christian leaders say the arrests are part of a state-sponsored hate campaign to project Christians and missionaries as law breakers and tarnish their institutions.




Nicaragua’s bishops to pray for exorcism amid Ortega crackdown            18-7-18

As violent oppression continues to rise in Nicaragua, with at least 10 people killed on Sunday 15 July, Catholic bishops have called for a day of prayer and fasting for July 20 “as an act of atonement for the profanation carried out in recent months against God.”

On that day, the bishops said, “We will pray the prayer of exorcism to St. Michael Archangel.”

From July 15 to August 15, the Feast of Assumption, the bishops have called Catholics to participate in Eucharistic adoration every Thursday; fasting and prayer on Fridays; renewing Nicaragua’s consecration to Christ’s Immaculate heart on Saturdays; and renewing their baptismal promises on Sunday, “because with it, we renounce Satan and his seductions, and we profess our faith.”


Chinese authorities raze Catholic church, claiming zoning violations              18-7-18

Government officials in Liangwang (Shandong), China, have demolished a Catholic church, saying that the building was in violation of local zoning regulations. The church—administered by the government-approved “official” Catholic Church—had been formally approved by the government in 2006. Officials said that zoning rules had subsequently changed. Parishioners were given no notice of the alleged violations.


Quebec cardinal calls for renewed evangelization of Canada                  18-7-18

Cardinal Gérald Lacroix of Quebec was the Pope’s representative at the Mass marking the 200th anniversary of the evangelization of western and northern Canada. “Now is the time to evangelize!” he preached. “We have met the One who fulfills human needs, Christ Jesus. His Gospel is a way of life, for he is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life.’ Let us go forth and share him!”

Thailand cave rescue draws attention to its thriving Catholic population            18-7-18


During a multinational effort to rescue 12 boys from a flooded Tham Luang cave in Thailand, at the Cathedral of Saint Michael in Thare, a small village located along Nonghan Lake in northeastern Thailand’s Isaan region, Catholics offered Mass and asked for the intervention of St. Michael the Archangel to protect the young men.

Isaan is the largest region in Thailand. It is composed of 20 provinces and bordered by the Mekong River, sharing the waterway with Laos to the north and east and Cambodia to the southeast. Thailand is known for its majestic wats, or temples, but Isaan’s landscape also has huge Catholic churches. It is difficult to imagine that in its earliest days the Catholic community here was small enough to gather in small cottages or in rented rooms to celebrate Masses and conduct catechism classes. Now the community produces Catholic priests and religious. The Catholics in Isaan are descendants of Thai people who converted in the last century or are Thais with Vietnamese ancestry.


USCCB grants $4.9M to 209 projects in ex-Communist nations               18-7-18

“As the people of Central and Eastern Europe continue to build a new future after decades of repression, we are all inspired by the example of great hope they give to the world that it is possible to bring healing to the wounds of the past,” said Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. The USCCB has made a grant of $4.9M to 209 projects in ex-Communist nations.


Rome’s Holy Stairs set for resurrection        18-7-18


The Holy Stairs, the ones Jesus climbed when Pontius Pilate brought him before the crowd and handed him over to be crucified are set for resurrection, as a team of Vatican restorers complete the final phase of a 20-year effort to repair the sanctuary of the Holy Stairs and clean its 18,300 square feet of frescoes.

For centuries, the faithful have climbed up the 28 steps in prayer on their knees.

It’s said that Constantine’s mother, St. Helen, brought the stairs to Rome from Jerusalem in 326 A.D.

In 1589, Pope Sixtus V had the sanctuary specially built and decorated for the stairs and the Sancta Sanctorum above, which houses some of the oldest relics of Rome’s early Christian martyrs and a silver- and jewel-covered Byzantine image of Christ.

The 16th-century pope wanted the sanctuary not only to preserve the important relics, but also to express the essentials of the faith through an abundance of vivid, colourful images describing key events in the Old and New Testaments, said Mary Angela Schroth, a Rome art gallery curator who has been involved in the restoration project.


Zambia - We need to strengthen our faith in God to recover from corruption            18-7-18


After the denunciation of the African Union and that of the bishops of Kenya, the President of the Episcopal Conference of Zambia (ZCCB), Bishop George Lungu of Chipata said that corruption continues to absorb the lives of the Zambesi fomented by ruthless and cunning professionals. 
During a Mass of the ZCCB, celebrated in recent days in Lusaka, Bishop Lungu, described corruption as a virus and a hemorrhage that Zambia is facing. The bishop said that in order that Zambians be healed, they must strengthen their faith in God.


Ethiopia - "Religious extremism is a threat to development" says Fr. Devine of the Shalom Centre            18-7-18


"We are attentive to the Religionization of politics and the Politicization of religion", warned Fr. Patrick Devine (SMA), founder and president of the Shalom Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, in his speech at the 19th Plenary Assembly of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), underway in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa.
Fr. Devine said that religious ideological extremism is concerned with eradicating alternative modes of existence and perception in society through terrorism. "To counter this negative process there is a distinct need, paradoxically, for an intolerance of intolerance" said the missionary.
Religious extremism has a direct impact on economic development and on the life prospects of entire populations, emphasizes Fr. Devine.


Brazil - The Church forms to responsible voting and participation, also via the web        18-7-18


During the electoral campaign for the general elections of next October, the Church in Brazil contributes as usual to the civil and democratic education of citizens through publications and audiovisual material, also using new media in the digital world. It is always very attentive to the socio-political situation of the Country. "Let us look at the Brazilian reality with the heart of Pastors, concerned with fully defending the life and dignity of the person, especially the poor and the excluded", the Bishops wrote in their message "Commitment and Hope" disseminated during the General Assembly of the Episcopal Conference (CNBB) last April.
According to the Episcopate, the difficult moment that Brazil is going through requires discernment and commitment on behalf of all citizens and institutions, as well as the organizations responsible and promoters of justice and the common good. In October the Brazilians will choose, in addition to the President and Vice President of the Republic, also federal and state governors and parliamentarians.


Nicaragua - Sister Xiskya Valladares to the international community: "Please, act quickly, before they kill us all"             18-7-18


"I am just a Catholic nun. Nobody has asked me to write to you. But (...) I cannot stand and watch a dictator massacre his people while you remain silent". This is how the open letter that Sister Xiskya Valladares, a Nicaraguan religious resident in Spain, published on Sunday 15 July on her blog and on social networks, begins, tagging various heads of state and government. "We are a small population of only 6 million inhabitants, which has no oil and is not important for your interests" continues the religious, "but we are talking about human beings with profound values, with great courage, in a strategic place in Central America. They deserve your help".
The letter continues: "They have burned alive families with children, shot citizens who marched peacefully in the streets, fired at children, committed sacrileges in churches, wounded a bishop, arrested many people without judicial orders, tortured them. The elderly, women, children, men: no one is saved today in Nicaragua. They are full-scale human rights crimes. When will you react?.. Please, act. Do it soon, before they kill us all ".


Indian women never far from danger          18-7-18


After a recent survey found India to be the most dangerous place in the world for women to live, rights activists are calling on the government to take action to make the country a safer place for half of the population.

The survey, released by the London-based Thomson Reuters Foundation on June 26, cited the high risk of sexual violence and slave labor that Indian women face.

Strife-torn Afghanistan and Syria were second and third, followed by Somalia and Saudi Arabia.

The foundation's 2011 survey ranked India fourth on the global index, showing how the situation has deteriorated rather than improved over the last seven years. "Infanticide of girls is happening on a massive scale here, which effectively means a female is being killed before she's even born," said Monique Villa, who runs the foundation. India topped the survey list in terms of sexual violence against women, human trafficking of young girls, and women's poor health.


Rights group questions legitimacy of Pakistan election        18-7-18


Pakistan's independent rights group has raised the alarm about "blatant, aggressive and unabashed" attempts to maneuver the outcome of the forthcoming general election.

"While it is critical that the polls are held as scheduled, there are now ample grounds to doubt their legitimacy — with alarming implications for Pakistan's transition to an effective democracy," the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said on July 16.

The warning came after Pakistan's ousted prime-minister Nawaz Sharif was jailed on his return from London amid a crackdown on his centre-right party and workers. Hundreds of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) workers were rounded up by police before Sharif's arrival in Pakistan and his party's senior leaders were prevented from receiving him at Lahore airport.


Indian Hindus call for Mother Teresa's award to be revoked               18-7-18


Leaders of Hindu groups in India have launched a campaign against St. Teresa of Kolkata and her Missionaries of Charity congregation after a nun was arrested on a charge of conducting an illegal adoption in a case which Christian leaders say aims to tarnish the church's image.

The saint, commonly known as Mother Teresa, should be stripped of the highest civilian award — Bharat Ratna (jewel of India) — conferred on her in 1980 if the charges against the nun are proved to be true, said Rajiv Tuli, a leader of powerful Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

"The entire world knows the good work Mother Teresa did for humanity, especially the poor," Bishop Vincent Barwa of Simdega, chairman of the Indian Catholic bishops' office for tribal people, said.

The campaign against Mother Teresa and her nuns started after police arrested a nun who ran a home for unwed mothers in Ranchi city of Jharkhand state on charges of conducting an illegal adoption on July 5. The arrest came after a childless couple complained that a staff member at Nirmal Hriday home took money but failed to provide them with a child as promised.

Sister Mary Prema Pierick, superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, said in a July 17 statement that a staff member was entrusted to surrender a child to the government's Child Welfare Centre. But she and the child's mother did not surrender the child and hid the fact from nuns, Sister Prema said.


Filipino workers join church's fast against rights abuses           18-7-18


Philippine trade union workers have backed a July 9 call from Catholic Church leaders to fast for three days to protest against a wave of killings and the president's "blasphemous" attacks on God.

The workers voiced their support for the church's call on July 17 as they launched a week-long march from the southern Tagalog region to the capital Manila. President Rodrigo Duterte had called God "stupid" and questioned his existence. The bishops declared July 17-19 as "National Days of Fasting and Almsgiving."

To show support for the bishops' call, the workers said they were setting aside a daily ecumenical celebration of the liturgy during the weeklong march. They also vowed to abstain from eating meat for three days.


Cardinal Tagle reminds priests, nuns to be holy               18-7-18


Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila reminded priests and nuns who attended the first day of this year's Philippine Conference on New Evangelization to always be holy.

"We do not strive to be holy just because we are ordained. We do not strive to be holy because we are nuns or brothers," the Manila archbishop said on July 18. "We strive to be holy because we are baptized," he told the annual five-day gathering at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. The cardinal said people can always draw inspiration from Jesus and the witnesses of faith and holiness.

Cardinal Tagle urged participants not to be complacent in their faith. "Do not grow slack in zeal. Be firm in spirit. Serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope. Endure in affliction. Persevere in prayer," he said.

An estimated 2,000 participants attended the first day of this year's gathering




Contraception ‘intrinsically wrong,’ affirms head of Vatican commission on Humanae Vitae   19-7-18

Msgr. Gilfredo Marengo, the head of a Vatican commission exploring the history of Humanae Vitae, told an audience in England that the encyclical must be understood in the context of the entire Gospel message. “We know very well that to use artificial contraception is intrinsically wrong,” he said. He also stressed that the teaching can only be fully understood within the “landscape of the Gospel”. The challenge, he remarked, is to present the argument in a persuasive manner.


Italian bishops urge new government to be receptive to migrants, refugees          19-7-18


In cases that have received much media attention in Europe, the government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has not permitted boats of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea to land in Italy. “We feel responsible for this army of poor people, victims of war and hunger, of deserts and torture,” the Italian Episcopal Conference said in a statement. “These painful stories of men, women and children ... challenge us to dare solidarity, justice, and peace.”


Nigeria - UN Alarm: "Violence between farmers and herders risks turning into forms of terrorism"             19-7-18


"Violence between farmers and herders is increasingly a major security threat in the (Nigerian) region and risks morphing into the terrorist attacks that have defined the security landscape", said Mohamed Ibn Chambas, who is Head, UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, UNOWAS, in a report presented to the UN Security Council.
"Farmer-herder conflicts are becoming more sophisticated and deadlier, especially in Nigeria’s Middle Belt. " Mohamed Ibn Chambas says.
The fact that the Fulani are Muslims and farmers are Christians, feeds the fear, especially for Christians, that the conflict is of a religious nature, also because in the North of Nigeria the Islamist sect Boko Haram is still active. The report by the UN special envoy stresses that the latest tendency by Boko Haram is to employ suicide bombers and that out of these, one in five is a child.
The deterioration of the security conditions has pushed the Nigerian Bishops to ask on two occasions for the resignation of President Muhammadu Buhari.


Philippines - New Evangelization to remain rooted in Christ             19-7-18


To provide a gripping experience of Jesus, a gripping experience of the community called the Church, and a gripping experience of the mission, the calling, motivated only by the love of Christ, are among the objectives proposed in the Fifth Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE5) which is taking place in Manila until July 22nd. There are over 5 thousand participants among priests, nuns and laity who are taking part, "this is an opportunity to remain rooted in Jesus", said Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, on the occasion of the opening of the conference on 18 July. Cardinal Tagle led the plenary session about the spiritual life of priests through an encounter with Christ, with the theme “Sharing in the One Priesthood of Christ.” 


Lebanon - "Come and see": Jesus' invitation inspires the first international convention of young Syriac Catholics            19-7-18


The words of Jesus' invitation to the first disciples ("Come and See") are the guiding thread of the first Syriac Youth International Convention which is taking place in Lebanon, in Faytrun, near the monastery of Our Lady of Light, which sees the participation of 450 Syriac Catholic boys and girls, aged between 18 to 35, from 18 different countries.
The conference - wrote Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Youssif III Younan - was intended as an opportunity to share with the young Syriac Catholics from all over the world the hope "for the renewal of the Christian community in the Holy Spirit", but also to re-propose the "wealth of the Syriac heritage, language and civilization "to boys and girls who end up losing ties with the culture and traditions of their families in the communities of the diaspora.
The program of the convention days - which began on 17 July and will end on Sunday 22 July - includes liturgical celebrations, listening to spiritual testimonies, moments of entertainment and touristic excursions, like the one at the shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa.


Brazil - Breakfast prepared by the parish is the only meal for thousands of Venezuelan refugees            19-7-18


Brazilian Don José Sebastião Barros da Silveira and Argentine don Miguel Alberto Fernández, Orionini (Piccola Opera della Divina Provvidenza), arrived in Pacaraima, Brazil, diocese of Roraima, to help the local parish priest, Fr Jesús Lopez Fernandez de Bobadilla, 78-year-old Spanish fidei donum missionary, to assist thousands of Venezuelan refugees fleeing their country every day. Pacaraima in fact borders with Venezuela and is the main access route by land to Brazil. Called "Heart without borders", this new mission of the Orionines proposes to welcome and support the numerous Venezuelan refugees, men, women and children, who come here and need everything.
It is estimated that at least 6,000 immigrants pass through Pacaraima every day.

From Boa Vista Don José Sebastião Barros da Silveira says, “According to the most accredited estimates, Boa Vista alone currently has more than 25 thousand Venezuelans". The refugees try to eke out a living by doing odd and lowly jobs, irrespective of their academic qualifications.

Don José Sebastião continues: "In Paracaima there are 1,300 Venezuelans and indigenous who come for breakfast. For many of them it is the only meal of the day.”


Peru - Bishops involved in the reform of justice, moral heritage of the country            19-7-18


The President of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Héctor Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, O.F.M. of Trujillo, met on Wednesday 18 July, the Commission for Justice Reform, appointed five days ago by the President of the Republic, Martin Vizcarra, after having learned the confirmation of the audio evidencing that members of the National Judicial Council (CNM) and the judiciary are involved in acts of corruption.
The Commission's invitation to Archbishop Cabrejos was made because, together with the Peruvian Episcopal Conference, it could offer a contribution and a feedback on the aspects to be considered as a priority for the reform of the judicial system, in order to reduce all forms of violence. On 11 July the Episcopal Conference published a communiqué condemning corrupt in the judiciary based on the above-mentioned audio. This communiqué expressed the need to safeguard the institution and the moral heritage of the country, as well as to express the Church's willingness to collaborate directly in this task.


Nicaragua - The Organization of American States condemns Ortega for repression            19-7-18


On the same day in which 39 years ago (1979) the Nicaraguan people announced the popular victory against dictator Somoza, on 18 July 2018, the Permanent Council of the OAS (Organization of American States) approved the resolution condemning the regime of Daniel Ortega for repression with 21 votes in favour, 3 against and 7 abstentions. The approved resolution condemns the government of Ortega and Murillo for human rights violations, calls for early elections to be held by spring, to dismantle paramilitary groups, to guarantee human rights and to welcome an international commission.


Indian activist attacked for supporting tribal cause           19-7-18


Church leaders in India have condemned an attack on rights activist Swami Agnivesh by suspected members of hard-line Hindu groups angered by his stand for the rights of tribal people in Jharkhand state.

The politician-turned-activist was attacked on July 17 while he was on his way to address a gathering of tribal people in Litipada in Pakur district. Members of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), the youth wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), beat him up when he came out of a hotel, Hindi media reports said. The attackers also tore his clothes.

The BJYM activists were said to be camping outside the hotel where Agnivesh was staying. They also shouted "Jai Shri Ram" (Hail lord Ram) slogans that Hindu groups normally shout during gatherings, reports said.

They accused him of being "hand in glove" with Christian missionaries to incite tribal people in Jharkhand, said Hindi newspaper Dainik Jagran (Daily Vigil).

Ironically, the attack happened on the same day that India's Supreme Court asked the government to make a law to end spiralling incidents of mob violence. The court asked states not to allow people to take the law into their own hands. Bishop Anand Jojo of Hazaribag said that it was unfortunate that Agnivesh was attacked on the day the court asked for measures to stop "mobocracy."


All Missionaries of Charity children’s homes in India to be inspected           19-7-18


A federal ministry in India has ordered inspections of all childcare homes run by Missionaries of Charity, the congregation founded by Mother Teresa, after a nun was accused of selling babies for adoption.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development said in a statement on July 16 that its move followed the recent case of alleged illegal adoptions carried out by Nirmal Hriday (tender hearts) home for unmarried mothers run by Missionaries of Charity in Ranchi in Jharkhand state. Minister Maneka Gandhi has asked all states to get homes run by the Congregation inspected immediately.

Sister Concelia Balsa and her trusted social worker Anima Indwar were arrested on July 4 after a childless couple complained to the state's Child Welfare Committee that Indwar took money to provide a baby but failed to keep the promise. They were accused of having already sold three babies from the home. Indwar reportedly confessed to police that she took money for the baby.

"We are fully cooperating with the investigations and are open to any free, fair and just inquiry," Sister Mary Prema Pierick, the Congregation's superior general, said in a July 17 statement.

Indwar was to escort unwed mothers to take their babies to the Child Welfare Committee's office. The government office would not acknowledge taking custody of a baby from an unwed mother, Sister Prema said.

Media reports said Indwar, the baby's mother and a guard at the home jointly took money to sell the baby in question. 


Knesset approves the Jewish nation-state bill, claiming Israel is ‘exclusively’ Jewish         19-7-18


The Knesset, Israel’s unicameral parliament, has passed into law a controversial bill that defines the country as an exclusively Jewish state. The Jewish nation-state bill was approved with a vote of 62 in favour, 55 against.

The law is Israel's 14th Basic Law. According to the text, only the Jewish people have the “right to national self-determination” in the country.

The law strips Arabic of its status as an official language, downgrading it to a “special status”.

Despite having equal rights under the law, Arab citizens of Israel have always complained about discrimination and of being treated as “second class citizens”.




Pope accepts resignation of Honduran bishop accused of misconduct with seminarians        20-7-18

Auxiliary Bishop Juan José Pineda Fasquelle has resigned from office in Honduras after allegations that he sexually abused seminarians. The bishop was governing the Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa as Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga received cancer treatment.

Earlier this year, former seminarians accused Auxiliary Bishop Juan José Pineda Fasquelle of sexual misconduct.


Nigerian bishop fears genocide against Christians, pleads with West to take notice         20-7-18

Bishop William Amove Avenya of Gboko, Nigeria, has warned that escalating attacks on Christians by Fulani tribesmen could soon become a genocidal campaign. “Please don’t make the same mistake as was made with the genocide in Rwanda,” he said in Rome during his visit at the Italian National Office of ACN (Aid to the Church in Need). He observed that age-old tribal conflicts have been aggravated by religious tensions and by a recent flood of powerful weapons into the region. Christians form the majority of the Gboko population. In recent days there have been new attacks in the area of Jos, the capital of Plateau State, killing more than 100 people.


New Mexico bishop investigates report of weeping statue at Las Cruces parish      20-7-18

Bishop Oscar Cantú, for 5 and a half years bishop of Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA, and appointed Coadjutor of San Jose in California on 11 July, said on July 20 that investigators determined that the tears reportedly flowing from a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary of a Hobbs parish, Las Cruces, are composed of olive oil. “But even if it were (a hoax), we are not sure how it would be done, physically,” he said. “Because [the statue] is hardened bronze. We’ve examined the interior, and there’s nothing on the interior.” The bishop spoke of “stories of tremendous faith, people who have been dealing with terrible suffering in their lives and have felt a tremendous spiritual consolation that Mary walks with us in our tears.”

Argentina - The religious for the respect and defence of life: Every life has infinite value        20-7-18

As the Argentine Senate is discussing the bill that decriminalizes abortion, already approved by the Chamber of Deputies on June 14, the Argentine Conference of the Religious (Confar) expresses itself "in defence of the dignity of every person". They say every life has infinite value.

The bill allows abortion in "safe, legal, free" form for every woman who requests it within the fourteenth week of pregnancy. After this period, it is only possible in the case of sexual violence, if the mother is in danger of life or if the fetus has any form of malformation. The text is now being examined by the Senate.


Philippines orders deportation of Australian nun          20-7-18


Philippine authorities have ordered the immediate deportation of Australian missionary nun Patricia Fox after she was declared an "undesirable alien" by the Immigration bureau.

In a ten-page resolution released on July 19, the bureau found the nun "in violation of the limitations and conditions of her missionary visa" for reportedly joining partisan political activities.

Bureau spokeswoman Dana Krizia Sandoval said the board of commissioners decided that Sister Fox's actions were "inimical to the interest of the state." The nun has also been put on the bureau's blacklist, barring her re-entry. 


Cardinal questioned by police in Indian rape inquiry            20-7-18


Indian police have questioned Cardinal George Alencherry as part of their investigation into a nun's claim that she was raped by a bishop.

The major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church told police on July 18 that he had not received any complaint from the nun about sexual abuse, police officials told media.

Police in Kerala are investigating the June 29 petition of a 48-year-old Kerala nun, who accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar in Punjab state of raping her four years ago while on a visit to Kerala and of abusing her 13 more times over the following two years. Three weeks after police began the investigation, Bishop Mulakkal has not been contacted by police or any church authorities, Jalandhar diocesan chancellor Father Jose Sebastian said on July 18.


Sinicization of China's Catholics begins         20-7-18


Catholic dioceses in China are being required to show how they will reduce foreign influences and adopt a more Chinese ideological and theological identity. The aim is to do this through a five-year plan running until 2022.

A strategy was agreed at a May 17 meeting of the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC) and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA). Now all dioceses have been told to state in writing by the end of August how they intend to meet the requirements. A 15-page document includes sections dealing with deepening the political, legal and social identity of Chinese Catholicism as well as promoting the faith.


Ahmadis boycott Pakistan poll over discrimination            20-7-18


Pakistan's minority Ahmadi community are boycotting the July 25 general election over a discriminatory electoral list.

"Under the current circumstances for Ahmadis to cast a vote, they first have to distance themselves from the Holy Prophet of Islam and this is something that no Ahmadi can countenance," Ahmadi spokesman Saleem ud Din said on July 18. "Though elections are ostensibly being held under a joint electoral system, there is, however, a separate voter list for Ahmadis. The process for the registration of votes and the preparation of voter lists is now completed. The forms issued for the registration of votes include a religion box and an oath declaration."

He said that a separate voter list prepared for Ahmadis based on religious differences is an example of discrimination.




Sunday-Latin America’s day of prayer for Nicaragua, emigration to escape violence         21-7-18


The observance on 19 July of 39th anniversary of Sandinista revolution ousting dictator Anastasio Somoza has not softened tension among people. The poor attendance at the rally has only infuriated President Daniel Ortega to direct his tirade against the Catholic Bishops, accusing them of being conspirators and government-grabbers. In an ironic tone he added, “I was thinking they were mediators, but they have asked the President to relinquish office; they are part of the coup-detat manoeuvrers.” Accusing the Catholic community he said their demonstrations were never peaceful.

In the meanwhile, the bishops of Latin America (CELAM) have declared Sunday 22 July 2018 as a day of prayer for Nicaragua so that peace may be found soon.

European bishops’ conferences’ council (CCEE) and Confederation of Latin American Religious (CLAR) have expressed their solidarity with Nicaraguan catholic community.


Mali – To presidential election with a new mentality for a new Mali: Bishops        21-7-18


As the date of Mali’s Presidential election (29 July) is approaching, the country’s bishops have sent out a pastoral letter asking for a new mentality for a new Mali. The presidential election for a five-year term sees the present incumbent and leader of the opposition as main contenders besides 22 other candidates.

There is a climate of increasing violence and tension in the country, as Islamic and ethnic terrorists continue fighting. The UN report says that because of insecurity of food movement, 4,3 million people have faced shortage of food between June and October this year; at least one million people will need emergency food. More than a 100,000 Malians for sought refuge in Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso and another 52,000 are made internal refugees in the southern part of Mali.

The bishops’ appeal comes as the Church in Mali completes 130 years.



Pope at Angelus: Jesus sees our most hidden needs           22-7-18


Reflecting on this Sunday’s Gospel before the Angelus, Pope Francis said that Jesus sees us with the eyes of the heart, becoming the model of love and service.

When Jesus saw the disciples returning from their mission tired, He told them: “Come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while”. Unfortunately, the crowd gets there before the disciples and Jesus arrive. An unexpected emergency occurs that messes up our programs and requires us to be flexible and available to the needs of others. That is when we are called to imitate what Jesus did. The Pope noted three verbs: “to see, to have pity, to teach. We can call them the verbs of the Shepherd.” Jesus sees with the eyes of the heart. “His heart is so tender and full of compassion, that He knows how to grasp even the most hidden needs of people.” Instead of performing a miracle, as we would expect, said the Pope, Jesus begins to teach the people. “Here is the first bread that the Messiah offers to the hungry and lost crowd: the bread of the Word.” When one moves away from Jesus, the bread of the Word, and His love, one loses oneself and existence turns into disappointment and dissatisfaction, said the Pope. He who became Bread becomes a model of love and service for each one of us, Pope Francis said in conclusion.


Pope appeals for migrants            22-7-18


After praying the Angelus Pope Francis appealed to the international community on behalf of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea. He expressed his pain on account of the tragedy of “the shipwreck of boats laden with migrants in the waters of the Mediterranean.”  Giving assurance of his prayers both for the migrants involved, and for their families, the Pope appealed strongly to the international community asking them to “act decisively and immediately so that similar tragedies might be avoided and to guarantee the safety, respect for human rights, and the dignity” of all those involved.