Fr. Malachy Asadu, a priest from the Diocese of Nsukka, in the State of Enugu, in southern Nigeria was released two days after his abduction. This was confirmed by the police yesterday, November 27, stating that the priest is in good health condition, according to Fides News Agency.
Fr. Asadu was kidnapped on November 25 along Imilike-Nsukka Road as he was returning from a diocesan meeting in the Cathedral of Saint Teresa, in Nsukka.
His abduction took place exactly nine days after another priest, Fr. Teofilo Ndulue, who had been kidnapped on November 16th and then released after three days.
This is the ninth priest kidnapped in the State of Enugu in 2019.
Among the last cases we recall that of Fr. Arinze Madu, Vice-Rector of the “Queen of the Apostles” Seminary in Imezi-Owa, Enugu State, kidnapped on October 28 and released on October 30 (see Fides, October 30 and 31, 2019).
Unfortunately, kidnappings do not always conclude with the release of the hostage. On March 20, the body of Don Clement Rapuluchukwu Ugwu, parish priest of the church of San Marco, was found in Obinofia Ndiuno, in Ezeagu Local Government Area, in the State of Enugu, who had been kidnapped on March 13. On that occasion His Exc. Mgr. Callistus Onaga, Bishop of Enugu, had expressed regret for the failure of the police to save Fr. Ugwu despite their assurances that they were on the trail of the kidnappers, while these, however, continued quietly to withdraw money from the priest’s account.
The clergy of the Diocese of Enugu had taken to the streets to demand more security after the killing of Fr. Paul Offu, killed on the evening of Thursday 1 August. The priest, parish priest of the church of St. James the Great in Ugbawka, was killed by a group of armed people called “Fulani shepherds” while driving along the Ihe-Agbudu Road to Awgu.
Peruvian journalist Esther Nunez Balbin, a Zenit collaborator, collected, in the name of the Agency, the plaque of special mention of the Cardinal Juan Landazuri Ricketts 2019 National Journalism Prize, which the Peruvian Episcopal Conference awarded this Agency for the journalistic coverage of the Synod on the Amazon, held in the Vatican in October of this year.
The ceremony for the awarding of the prizes took place at 11:00 am (local time) on Friday, November 29, 2019, at the headquarters of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference in Lima, Peru. Also taking part in the awarding of the prizes and supporting the special mention to Zenit was Peruvian journalist Jose Antonio Varela Vidal, collaborator of this News Agency.
Monsignor Raul Chau, Auxiliary Bishop of Arequipa and President of the Episcopal Commission for Social Communications, handed the commemorative plaque to Zenit’ collaborator, and the Peruvian Bishops Ricardo Garcia, of the Prelacy of Yauyos, and Jose Luis del Palacio, of Callao, congratulated Esther Nunez.
During the awards ceremony, Esther Nunez spoke a few words of gratitude in the name of the whole Zenit team, highlighting the importance of covering the Synod in order to hear the needs of the Amazonian nations.
She also mentioned that Zenit is an Agency specialized in information on the Catholic Church, a non-profit informative portal with 22 years of experience in favor of evangelization and at the service of the Pope, Successor of Peter, and of the Church, whose objective is to inform with the highest professionalism, fidelity, and service to truth.
Coverage from Peru
Journalist Esther Nunez Balbin covered from Peru Pope Francis’ convocation <of the Synod> in the closed coliseum in Madre de Dios in January 2018, the meeting that initiated the Synod of Amazonia. She has written several articles since then and given interviews and information to the Peruvian Bishops, members of the Synod’s Special Commission.
She has also attended several initiatives, such as the protection of tropical forests, which were generated from Peru to contribute to the realization and promotion of the needs of the Amazon nations. Among those awarded, the special mention of the Juan Landazuri Ricketss 2019 Prize went to journalist Maria Rosa Lorbes of “La Republica” newspaper, also for her coverage of the Synod, and to Carlos Paredes, who has a column in the newspaper “Gestion, Memorandum Economico 2019, for his article “Economic Analysis of the Catholic Church in Peru.”
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“At least 300 Christians have been forced to leave the towns of Ras al-Ain, Derbasiyah, Tall Tamr and one area of al-Malikiyah, and we are afraid that if the fighting continues, there could be a still greater exodus which might even include the town of Qamishli, where there are 2,300 Christian families living at present.” This was the desperate picture given to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) by Mgr Nidal Thomas, the episcopal representative of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Hassaké.
The situation he describes is a critical one. “We don’t know what is actually happening. Every hour we hear reports from the Kurds, the Turks, the Americans, and the Russians, of victims and people, fleeing. But we don’t know the real truth. The only thing we know for certain is that the bombings and above all the massacres committed by Turks against our community are forcing more and more Christians to flee.”
For the moment few Christian families have sought refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan, but Monsignor Thomas believes that it will be difficult for the Christian refugees to choose this semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq. “Life there is too expensive for the impoverished Syrian Christians. Quite apart from the fact that the Iraqi people have not done anything to prevent the dramatic situation that has unfortunately unfolded in Syria. There were thousands of Christian families in our country. No one attempted to defend us.”
Today the Christians in northeast Syria also fear a return of jihadism, despite the killing of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. “Unfortunately, this is an eventuality we have to take into account”, says Monsignor Thomas, according to whom many ISIS fighters have now joined the Free Syrian Army, which has entered the region of Ras al-Ain.
And so this priest is appealing through ACN to the international community, asking for support for his own community. “We need help”, he says. “We Christians are the ones who have suffered most as a result of this interminable conflict. We are the weakest link because we want to live in peace and reject war. Two-thirds of the Christians have left the country and the remaining third risks being unable to survive. And meanwhile, the Western countries are fighting among themselves to divide up Syria, which has been brought to its knees also by the international sanctions.”
“It is difficult to believe that in 2019 there are people who still live in poverty, daily chew small walnuts in order not to feel the pangs of hunger (betel nut), die from tuberculosis, live in huts without water and electricity, go to school without books and without shoes”: this is the testimony sent to Fides News Agency by Sister Anna Pigozzo, missionary of the “Jesus Good Shepherd Fraternità Cavanis” in Bereina.
“We are a small community of consecrated women on mission,” explained Sister Anna. “We follow Jesus on a mission, remaining close to the young and children, in the South of the Philippines and in Papua New Guinea. Since 2013, invited by the local Bishop, we have been present in the diocese of Bereina, where we arrived, at the beginning, for a brief missionary experience. We realized how much poverty and misery there can be in this young state of Oceania. Illiteracy is very high, there are so many children who do not cross the threshold of first grade. Infant mortality is among the highest in Oceania. Hospitals are only in the capital, while in the clinics of villages in remote areas, like ours, there is sometimes a nurse. Means of communication are still scarce.
“The Church arrived in Papua New Guinea 130 years ago, with the first French and Australian missionaries, Marists and of the Sacred Heart who gave their lives to announce Jesus Christ. It is a very young Church, which still needs so much support and guidance. On the occasion of the conclusion of the liturgical year, the new Bishop of our diocese of Bereina, Msgr. Otto Separy arrived, who is now familiar with the reality of this area.”
Sister Anna continued with the description of the environment: “Outside the few urban centers, the social structure is still organized in villages with huts, led by a village chief. Women and children have no value, so much so that the tradition for which wives are bought with pigs still applies. During the rainy season the villages are very often flooded, and the vegetable gardens, the only source of survival for many families, are often destroyed. Even at the beginning of this year, we had serious problems due to flooding.
“Despite everything, there is hope and we can testify it. In these six years, we have seen how the Lord has paved the way for this mission. With the help of volunteers from Italy and the Philippines, who worked with a group of local children, a school was built and in 2015 we started the first school year with 140 children enrolled. Some sisters teach, and we have a group of local teachers with whom we work closely. Finding good teachers is very difficult because the level of education in the Papuan school system is quite low. Since 2016 we have also opened a ‘Fode Center’, a system of assisted study for adults, in order to recover the lost school years. Many have enrolled, and this is a great sign of hope for us, which we see on the faces of so many young and old people who have the opportunity to return to school. In 2017 we built a bakery, the ‘St. Philip Neri Bakery’. Every day almost 50 kg of bread are baked: for us, for our children and teenagers, for our mothers who help us in our mission work and for the many who knock on our door every day. Being in contact with the children at school, we became aware of so many sad family situations of abuse and mistreatment. Here in Papua the rights of children and women are very often trampled. In 2018, with the help of volunteers from Italy and other collaborators, the Angels house was built, the family home that welcomes girls in need of protection and care. Now we have 10 girls with us, aged between 5 and 13.
“Until just over 40 years ago, in 1975, Papua New Guinea gained independence in Australia. Papua New Guinea is extremely rich in natural resources: deposits of oil and gas, gold, very fertile soil. And yet, despite these natural riches, people here are still in a state of misery, cultural backwardness and indigence. Papua is often called the ‘land of the unexpected’, and it is really true.”
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A special symposium entitled “Religion and Medical Ethics: Palliative Care and Mental Health During Aging,” will be held in the Augustinianum Congress Centre of Rome on December 11-12.
The Pontifical Academy for Life and the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), an initiative of the Qatar Foundation, have organized the event.
This symposium is dedicated to the role of religion in integral care in the context of medical ethics. The speakers and participants will analyze the intersection of the focuses of care based on beliefs and on evidence, highlighting the benefits of inter-disciplinary and inter-religious focuses in the treatment of the body, mind, and soul.
The symposium was presented today, December 10, 2019, in a press conference which witnessed the intervention of Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Sultana Afdhal, General Directress of WISH – Qatar, and Kamran Abbasi, Executive Editor of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) academic partner of the event.
Palliative Care and Mental Health
As Monsignor Paglia pointed out that this event will focus on two sectors of health care: the palliative care and mental health of the elderly. On one hand, said the Prelate, “we are witnessing the growing aging of the population; on the other, the spread of a culture of euthanasia, because terminal patients and persons of advanced age are considered disposable in a world centered on profit and the economy, and health policies often yield to an accounting mentality.
Nevertheless, in contraposition, he pointed out that “we know well how much palliative care is the protagonist of recovery of an integral accompaniment of the patient in the context of contemporary medicine. And we know that we can take care, even when we can no longer cure, balancing a person’s care with economic budgets.
He also stressed that although men and women need to be accompanied “in a moment of fragility,” this is even truer when it’s a question of minors, “a very delicate and painful realm: pediatric palliative care,” given that “when suffering affects minors, children, it affects us even more.”
The Church’s Commitment
On the other hand, the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, traced the patent commitment of this organism with the promotion of a culture of palliative care at the level of the Catholic Church worldwide, through the holding of several Conferences on this subject in Italy and Europe, with the signing of a Joint Declaration with the Methodist Church in the United States, and with the signing of a Joint Declaration with Sultana Afdhal in Brazil, Lebanon, and Qatar.
He also referred to a Position Paper on the subject of the end of life and palliative care, signed in the Vatican on October 28 with representatives of the three Abrahamic religions, and the White Book on the Promotion and Diffusion of Palliative Care in the World, prepared by an international group of experts.
For her part, Sultana Afdhal spoke on the inter-religious nature of this event and the participation of experts, both of faith and of medicine, something that will “offer an inestimable opportunity to understand in greater depth the very real ethical dilemma that health professionals face of different spiritual origins throughout the world, in addressing these very delicate subjects and, yes, difficult for many of us.”
The President of WISH-Qatar said, “ we will all gain something if we learn how other religions respond to these subjects and, perhaps, we will discover some new focuses to follow, both medically as well as spiritually.”
“A profound medical inter-religious and inter-disciplinary dialogue on palliative care and the mental health of the older members in our communities is essential to help to establish a common terrain. This will help us find more effective ways to bridge the differences in the ethical focuses based on faith, be they real or perceived,” she added in this same line.
For his part, Kamran Abbasi, Executive Co-Editor of BMJ, said that the objective of this publication in the symposium is “to contribute a medical perspective to these discussions.”
“If we believe we are focused on the patient — as we all believe here –, then we must find a common basis for a constructive conversation that recognizes that persons’ beliefs play an important and central role in the taking of decisions on their health,” he said.
At the same time, he pointed out that “in the era of the association of patients it’s important that we find ways to ascertain that persons of all religions and origins are able to make use of tests and science to have a long and healthy life,” it being essential “that religious beliefs and evidence work in harmony to help patients and their families to face these complex challenges.”
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The incoming head of the Vatican’s evangelization body has called on Asian bishops’ conferences to strengthen the role of women and the youth in the church, particularly in the media ministry, according to CBCP News.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the new Prefect of the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples, said that it was a duty to bring more women and young people to the table.
“Some of the best communicators are women and young people,” Tagle said.
“My invitation to the Episcopal Conferences in Asia to get our young people and women involved, especially in social communications,” he said.
The cardinal was speaking at the three-day seminar for Asian church media workers at Radio Veritas Asia (RVA) in Quezon City on December 10, 2019.
At one point in his speech, he noted the lack of women and young participants in the seminar organized by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences — Office of Social Communication.
There was only a lone nun in the gathering. “And a lot of us here are not only males but celibate,” Tagle said.
“But having women or young people who know the digital world better than I do, they could give us, if trained in catechesis and the Gospel, wonderful advice also,” he added.
“I hope younger faces and women in the next meeting,” Tagle also said.
The seminar was opened with a Mass presided over by Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Cologne in Germany.
In his homily, Woeki said that RVA “must continue to be set for the future”.
The two cardinals also led the blessing and inauguration of FABC Veritas Asia Institute of Social Communications.
On the site will rise an “academy” under the direct supervision of the Asian bishops.
“Its task will be to adapt workers to pastoral service in the digital age and to enable them to work in a new vineyard, which is made up of social networks,” Woelki said.
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Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, released the following Christmas message on December 9, 2019:
Reconciliation is a much-used word in our present-day culture, but we seldom ponder in our hearts what a treasure and mystery reconciliation really is. In the Christmas season, its meaning and implications are vividly concrete as the birth of Christ brings a new light and a saving grace to our capacity to be reconciled and be reconcilers in our daily life.
In this liturgical season, we enter the Gospel scenes with new insights as we see and hear the angel choirs in the heavens and witness the shepherds experiencing a life-changing moment; in contrast, the inn does not have room for Mary and Joseph. The shepherds hasten to the manger to see what they are told, amaze others when telling them what they see, and when returning home, glorify and praise God for what they saw and heard. On the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, we are told that, in a most unique and life-giving way, Mary treasured the words said of her Child and ponders them in her heart.
The star gives encouragement and direction to the wise men from the East; their search results in their being overwhelmed with joy and faith. Herod and his courtiers see no star of hope but in their self-imposed darkness plot death and misery. Such are the contrasts which continue throughout the celebrations of Christmas week
These mysteries of the life of Jesus, mysteries of our faith and indeed of the life of every believer, take on a beautiful significance when read in light of reconciliation. Reconciliation means embracing another, the coming together of those estranged. It begins by seeing and hearing anew, undergoing a profound change, turning from past ways and turning to the Lord and to others in new ways. Christmas is the powerful sign and grace-filled opportunity of reconciliation: between heaven and earth; among family members, friends and colleagues; not only in our homes and churches but throughout our communities and world. The story of salvation is how God can change the human heart, how the Lord came down from heaven to reconcile the world to himself. The Prologue to the Gospel of John reminds us reconciliation is God’s initiative and is life-giving:
in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (Jn 1: 4-5)
Reconciliation is both interior and exterior, personal and social – changing one’s own heart and reaching out to others. The community of faith, to be a community of reconciliation, must provide encouragement for both internal reflection and external action. In order to take things to heart like Mary, who is the Mother and model of the Church, the community needs to be an authentic witness to reconciliation. It must connect and be concerned with the lives and experiences of people. Saint Paul reminds the Church and its members that theirs is the ministry of reconciliation. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:18,19, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” Reconciliation, as an essential dimension to human dignity and human relationships, means reaching out to all who are in situations of division, exploitation, marginalization, and rejection. For Canadians in the present day, the ministry and message of reconciliation in a specific way impacts on Indigenous realities, on questions relating to earth as our common home, and on the indignities done to human life and the human person.
Jesus was placed in a manger at birth, a sign of how throughout his mission and ministry the world did not know him, his own people did not accept him, and he had no place to lay his head. In the midst of all the division, exploitation, marginalization and rejection, the Word became flesh and lived among us. It is the lesson of Christmas. Jesus’ birth brought great joy to the entire world. We all share in the excitement of knowing about this great event of reconciliation.
Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your loved ones.
The Most Reverend Richard Gagnon
Archbishop of Winnipeg
President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
9 December 2019
Today, December 10, is the Feast of Our Lady of Loreto. The addition of this date to the Roman Calendar came on October 31, 2019, with the approval of the decree below by Pope Francis.
Marking the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord today March 25, Pope Francis visited the Italian hill town of Loreto, on the Adriatic Sea. On the occasion, Francis offered the Virgin Mary the Post-Synodal Exhortation of the Synod of Bishops on the theme: “Youth, faith and vocational discernment,” held in the Vatican from Oct. 3-28, 2018.
Pope Francis encouraged the family initiatives of the sanctuary of the Holy House of Loreto after praying the Angelus on September 9, 2018, with some 15,000 pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square.
“We entrust the Shrine’s initiative and all those that will take part in different capacities to the Holy Virgin,” Pope Francis said.
The Sanctuary of the “Holy House” of Loreto is one of the most important sanctuaries in the world. It overlooks the town of Loreto Hill which is located 30 km southwest of the city of Ancona. It houses the three walls of the semi-troglodyte house of Nazareth where, according to tradition, took place the Annunciation and where the Holy Family lived.
Decree on the inscription of the celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto in the General Roman Calendar
Since the Middle Ages veneration for the Holy House of Loreto has been the origin of that particular shrine which still today is visited by many faithful pilgrims in order to nourish their faith in the Word of God made flesh for us.
This shrine recalls the mystery of the Incarnation, leading all those who visit it to consider “the fullness of time”, when God sent his Son, born of a woman, as well as to meditate both on the words of the Angel announcing the Good News and on the words of the Virgin in response to the divine call. Overshadowed by the Spirit, the humble handmaid of the Lord so became the dwelling-place of divinity, the purist image of the holy Church.
Closely bound to the Apostolic See this shrine, praised by Popes and known throughout the world, has, over the years and no less than Nazareth in the Holy Land, been able to illustrate powerfully the evangelical virtues of the Holy Family.
In the Holy House, before the image of the Mother of the Redeemer and of the Church, Saints and Blesseds have responded to their vocation, the sick have invoked consolation in suffering, the people of God have begun to praise and plead with Mary using the Litany of Loreto, which is known throughout the world. In a particular way, all those who travel via aircraft have found in her their heavenly patron.
In light of this, Pope Francis has decreed, by his own authority, that the optional memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto should be inscribed in the Roman Calendar on 10 December, the day on which the feast falls in Loreto, and celebrated every year. This celebration will help all people, especially families, youth and religious to imitate the virtues of that perfect disciple of the Gospel, the Virgin Mother, who, in conceiving the Head of the Church also accepted us as her own.
Therefore the new memorial must appear in all Calendars and Liturgical Books for the celebration of Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours; the relative texts are attached to this decree and their translations, approved by the Episcopal Conferences, will be published after confirmation by this Dicastery.
Anything to the contrary notwithstanding.
From the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 7 October 2019, the memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Rosary.
Robert Card. Sarah
Let’s not complain so much… For the Lord comforts, and ‘punishes’ with tenderness…
According to Vatican News, Pope Francis stressed this during his daily morning Mass, today, Dec. 10, at Casa Santa Marta as he reflected on today’s readings.
The Pope reminded that God guides and comforts His people, and that in correcting and punishing them, he does so like a Father who loves His children, and like a shepherd, who carries the sheep close to his chest, after seeking him after he went astray.
The First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah, the Pontiff notes, is “an announcement of hope.” “Console, console my people”, the prophet tells the words of God. Francis reminded that the Lord comforts those who allow themselves to be consoled.
“The Lord always consoles us, as long as we allow ourselves to be consoled,” he underscored.
“How does the Lord console? With tenderness. How does the Lord correct? With tenderness. How does he punish the Lord? With tenderness,” he said.
“The Lord leads, the Lord guides his people, the Lord corrects; also, I would say: the Lord punishes with tenderness. The tenderness of God, the caresses of God. It is not a didactic or diplomatic attitude of God: it comes from within, it is the joy that He has when a sinner approaches. And joy makes him tender.”
The joy of the Lord, before a sinner, becomes tenderness, the Jesuit Pope reminded, before illustrating God’s forgiveness.
“Father, I have so many sins, I made so many mistakes in life,” [one could say] “But let me console you” – “But who consoles me?” – “The Lord” – “And where should I go?” – “To ask forgiveness: go. go.”
“Go! Be brave. Open the door. And He will caress you,” Francis urged, noting the Lord will approach with the tenderness of a father, of a brother: “as a shepherd grazes the flock and gathers it with his arm, brings the lambs to his chest and gently leads the sheep. This is how the Lord comforts us.”
The Holy Father recalled “the parable of the Prodigal Son” and the father who saw his son “from afar” because he was waiting for him. Francis recalled that he went up to the terrace to see if his son was returning, noting this is a “father’s heart.”
“The tender closeness of the Lord,” Francis observed, one sees in the Gospel, when the Shepherd leaves the other 99 sheep to seek the one who went astray.
“Many times,” the Pope said, “we complain about the difficulties we have: the devil wants us to fall into the spirit of sadness,” “bitter about life” or “about our own sins.”
Francis recalled: “I met a person consecrated to God who they called ‘Lamentela (the Complainer)’, “because he could not do anything other than complain.” He would have won, Francis suggested, “the Nobel prize of complaints”.
“But how many times we too complain and complain,” the Pope acknowledged. “Many times we think that our sins, our limits cannot be forgiven. And there, the voice of the Lord comes and says: ‘I console you, I am near you,’ and He takes us with tenderness. The powerful God who created the heavens and the earth, the God-‘hero,’ to put it this way, our brother, who let Himself be led to the Cross to die for us, is able to caress us and say: ‘Don’t cry.'”
Saying we must believe in this consolation of the Lord, Pope Francis concluded, inviting faithful to go to confession to be forgiven and consoled by the Father.
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