Thursday, 31 July 2014

The difficulty of being a Christian in Somalia: A reflection from the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Mogadishu

Interior of the now ruined Cathedral in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu

The following article is taken from the AMECEA (Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa) News blog and can be read from its original source here. Please pray for the Church in Somalia and for the courageous Christians and Clergy that struggle to bring the love of Christ to the peoples of Somalia.

"Whenever Bishop Giorgio Bertin, O.F.M. makes a visit to Somalia where he serves as an Apostolic Administrator, he has to conceal his identity as a Christian and a Catholic Bishop in order to be safe. 

'When I go there, I don’t put any external sign that I am a Catholic Bishop or a Christian because it is too dangerous,' he said. He said that despite the grim picture, there is hope as many Somalis who lived in the diaspora are slowly returning home and are ready to help in the rebuilding of their country.

Bishop Bertin was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Mogadishu which covers the whole country upon the assassination of Bishop Pietro Salvatore Colombo, O.F.M. 25 years ago on 9th July, 1989 at the Cathedral of Mogadishu.

'Exactly a year and a half after the murder of Bishop Colombo, the civil war broke out in the whole country towards the end of 1990 and, as a consequence, everything was destroyed,' he said.

Somalia, a largely Muslim country had around 2000 Catholics by the time the state collapsed and the presence of the Church was seen through the work of religious sisters in hospitals and also through the activities of Caritas Somalia.

The Bishop stayed in Kenya for about ten years from January 1991 up to May 2001 and he continued to provide humanitarian services through Caritas Somalia which was collaborating with some local organizations.

Also while in Kenya the Bishop said he was involved in production of some books in the Somali language and a Somali radio program broadcasted by Vatican Radio from Rome. The program which airs 12 minutes on Saturday and Sunday is addressed to the horn of Africa.

He explains that the biggest challenge in Somalia is a lack of the state and this has adversely affected the country. The drought that hit Eastern Africa was worse in Somalia. 'It was particularly dramatic in Somalia because there was no state nor institutions that would have led humanitarian response,' he said.

The Bishop said that from time to time he makes a visit to Somalia to assess the situation. 'Last time I went was in the beginning of June 2014 and I met with the speaker of the parliament and the Prime Minister,' he said.

'My intention is to renew a permanent presence of the Church in Somalia, therefore whenever I go to Somalia I meet with the political leaders to dialogue. But unless there is a governing state and security,  it is not possible for us to return in a permanent way.'"

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Appeal for a Day of Prayer and Adoration for persecuted Christians in Iraq, Syria and the Middle East

The following appeal was made by Rorate Caeli blog for the sake of our persecuted brethren in Iraq, Syria and the Middle East. This is RCMSomalia's contribution to making this appeal known and raising awareness for our persecuted brethren. While this appeal does not necessarily include Somalia, this day of prayer could also be made for Christians in Somalia and Christians suffering persecution at the hands of Muslims in general. Please join together in praying for our Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering so much, even death itself, for the sake of Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ. And please make this appeal known; spread it to friends and family and among your parishes, make it known on Twitter, Facebook and everything else. Let us speak out, and pray for our persecuted brothers in Christ!-RCMS

In solidarity with our Persecuted Brethren in Iraq and Syria

Friday, August 1, 2014

This was the day chosen by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) for a worldwide day of Public Adoration of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament in supplication for our persecuted brethren in Iraq, Syria, and the Middle East:

The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter asks all of its apostolates around the world to dedicate Friday, August 1 to a day of prayer and penance for the Christians who are suffering terrible persecution in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

August 1 is the First Friday of the month and the Feast of St. Peter in Chains, which is celebrated as a Third Class Feast in FSSP houses and apostolates. It is the feast in which we read of the great power of the persevering prayer of members of the Church: “Peter therefore was kept in Prison. But prayer was made without ceasing by the Church unto God for him.” (Acts 12:5)

This feast of our Patron should be an invitation to the faithful to join us in Holy Hours and other fitting prayers to beg the Most Holy Trinity that these members of the Mystical Body may persevere in the faith, and that, like St. Peter, they may be delivered from this terrible persecution. May such a day serve as a reminder to us of the stark contrast that stands between our days of vacation and ease, and their daily struggle for survival as they are killed or exiled from their homes. (Source)

It is a day, we believe, chosen wisely by that Fraternity: we please upon all our Catholic brethren, East and West, attached to the Ordinary Form (Mass of Paul VI) or to the Extraordinary Form (Ancient Mass), whatever their theological bent, to join this worldwide prayer day. Whether you consider yourself a more liberal, conservative, traditional, or just plain Catholic, let us join together in this worldwide Adoration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, together with all the Angels and Saints.

It is also appropriately chosen because Pastors and Chaplains will have 10 days to prepare properly, to contact projects that help Christians in need and collect all kinds of contributions for the Christians of the Middle East (from Aid to the Church in Need to CNEWA, the Syrian and Chaldean Catholic Churches, and other organizations), and, in particular, to add to their bulletins and convey to their congregations how to participate next Sunday, July 27.

Please, spread this initiative around. No need to link to us, or to even mention you saw it here -- just copy, paste, and just let this idea spread around throughout the world, through the web, through social networks, to your family and friends.

Bishops, Pastors, priests, join us. First Fridays are a special day of the month, and nothing better next First Friday, August 1, than for all Catholics around the world to join in Adoration before Our Lord to implore his mercy and kindness for our most neglected brethren in Iraq, Syria, and throughout the Middle East."

Sunday, 6 July 2014

The first container of medicines from Caritas Somalia and NGO Perigeo heads off to Somalia

The following article is taken from Fides News Agency and can be read from its original source here. This is an example of the Church's work in Somalia, with the help of God may it grow. The example and dedication of the Somali people who despite all the dangers, difficulties and sufferings want to make their land a better place is truly inspiring; the Church is there to help the Somali people in the work of rebuilding their nation. This article is very encouraging, and it is thanks to your prayers and support. Click here to learn more about Caritas Somalia and how to support their work. Please keep praying for Somalia and the Church in this land. God bless, RCMS

"Mogadishu (Agenzia Fides) - Somalia is one of the states where the highest rates of malnutrition and mortality rate are registered in the world. There are always so many and uncontrollable emergencies in the country and recently, thanks to an initiative promoted and organised by the NGO Perigeo allocated through the Somali embassy in Italy and in agreement with Caritas Somalia, in the person of Mgr. Giorgio Bertin, OFM, Bishop of Djibouti and Apostolic Administrator of Mogadishu, the first container full of medicines is on the road to the African country.

In this regard, Fides Agency got in contact with Mgr. Bertin, who has recently returned from Mogadishu. The Bishop said he was very happy with this first step and comforted by his meetings with the Somalis who want the well-being of their country. "In Somalia there is currently a state of general confusion with regards to health care, the situation in the country is better than Somali Puntland and Somaliland. In June this year I was invited by the Somali Prime Minister to discuss the situation of Merka and Qoriolei, where in the 80's Caritas Somalia had built a hospital which was destroyed with the collapse of the state. We were asked to take action to recover the area from the Islamist insurgent group Al Shabaab. There are many obstacles due to  tensions among the clans, confusion between the role of the Islamist Al Shabaab and the government. However, I was deeply impressed by meeting with the Somalis who have chosen to work for the good of their country, ready to sacrifice themselves, leaving a secure job and run many risks", concluded the Bishop.

For his part, Dr. Gianluca Frinchillucci, who deals with the relations with Somalia, told us that "the idea of this project was born when in 2010 the NGO managed to send medicines to Puntland, made available by CMMB, through the Pontifical Council for the Italian Caritas Health and Pharmaceutical Bank". "Now, thanks to Caritas Somalia and the Somali embassy in Italy we have achieved the same project for Somalia. After contacting the embassy in Italy and Mgr. Bertin, we agreed on the implementation of the initiative. Caritas Somalia and the Diocese of Mogadishu have provided funds for transportation, the NGO Perigeo has donated medicines to the embassy in Italy which will be delivered to the Government. The medicines will be distributed to local hospitals. This is only the beginning because other medicines to be sent to Mogadishu are ready" said Frinchillucci. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 04/07/2014)"

Friday, 4 July 2014

Pope Francis: There are more Christian Martyrs today than ever

 The following article is taken from the Vatican News website. Taken from the Holy Father's homily at his Mass at Casa Santa Marta on Monday the 30th of June 2014. The Holy Father invites us all to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. Let us not forget our Christian brothers and sisters in Somalia. Pray that the Good Lord may grant them grace and strength to remain faithful to Him and to shed their blood in the greatest witness if such be His Holy Will. We know where the blood of the martyrs is, there will blossom forth a new Church.

"(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said on Monday that there are more persecuted Christians in the world today than there were in the first centuries of Christianity. The Pope’s words came as he celebrated Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on the day in which the Church remembers the first Roman martyrs who were martyred during Nero's persecution in 64.

The prayer at the beginning of the Mass recalls that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”. We speak of the growth of a plant – the Pope said in his homily – and this makes us think of what Jesus used to say: "The kingdom of heaven is like a seed. Someone took the seed and planted it in the ground and then went home – and whether he slept or was awake – the seed grew and blossomed”. This seed is the Word of God that grows and becomes the Kingdom of Heaven; it becomes Church thanks to the strength of the Holy Spirit and to the witness of Christians.

“We know that there is no growth without the Spirit: it is He who is Church, it is He who makes the Church grow, it is He who convokes the Church’s community. But the witness of Christians is necessary too. And when historical situations require a strong witness, there are martyrs, the greatest witnesses. And the Church grows thanks to the blood of the martyrs. This is the beauty of martyrdom. It begins with witness, day after day, and it can end like Jesus, the first martyr, the first witness, the faithful witness: with blood”.

But there is one condition that is necessary for a true witness – Pope Francis pointed out – and that is “there must be no conditions”.

“In the Gospel reading of the day one of Jesus’s disciples said that he would follow Him, but only after having buried his father… and the Lord replied: ‘No! Follow me without conditions’. Your witness must be firm; you must use the same strong language that Jesus used: ‘Your words must be yes, yes, or no, no’. This is the language of testimony”.

“Today – Pope Francis said – we look upon the Church of Rome that grows, fed by the blood of martyrs. So it is right – he continued – that our thoughts turn to the many martyrs of today, the many martyrs who give their lives for faith. It is true that during the times of Nero many Christians were persecuted, and today – he said – there are just as many”.

"There are many martyrs today, in the Church, many persecuted Christians. Think of the Middle East where Christians must flee persecution, where Christians are killed. Even those Christians who are forced away in an ‘elegant’ way, with ‘white gloves’: that too is persecution. There are more witnesses, more martyrs in the Church today than there were in the first centuries. So during this Mass, remembering our glorious ancestors, let us think also to our brothers who are persecuted, who suffer and who, with their blood are nurturing the seed of so many little Churches that are born. Let us pray for them and for us.""

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Missionaries Murdered in Somalia: Sister Leonella Sgorbati Consolata Missionary Sister

On the 17th of September 2006, Sister Leonella Sgorbati, a Consolata Missionary Sister, was ambushed and shot by two gunmen in Somalia’s war torn capital of Mogadishu.

This dedicated Missionary Sister had spent about 30 years of her life in Africa. Born near Piacenza in Italy in 1940, Sister Sgorbati’s only desire since a teenager was to become a Missionary nun. At first her mother was opposed to this idea and told her to wait until she turned twenty. At twenty her resolution to become a nun was still strong, and so in 1963 she joined the Consolata Missionary Sisters. During the years 1966-68 she took a nursing course in England. After this she was appointed to Kenya, where she arrived in September 1970. In November 1972 she took her perpetual vows.

From 1970 to 1983 Sister Leonella served in the Consolata Hospital Mathari, Nyeri and Nazareth Hospital, on the outskirts of Nairobi. In 1983 Sister Leonella started advanced studies in nursing, and in 1985 she became the main tutor for the nursing school attached to the Nkubu Hospital Meru. In 1993 she was elected Regional Superior for the Consolata Missionary Sisters in Kenya, a post she held for six years. In 2001, Sister Leonella spent a few months in the Somali capital of Mogadishu looking into the prospect of opening a nursing school in the hospital run by the organization SOS Children’s Village.

In 2002 this project was realised and Sister Leonella was placed in charge of the nursing school, a position she held until her death in 2006. Her first students graduated in 2006, sometime before her death. Sister Leonella fought a long bureaucratic battle to obtain internationally recognized diplomas for her students; she succeeded and the World Health Organization (WHO) issued internationally recognized diplomas to her students.

Following this, Sister Leonella returned to Kenya with three of her students, whom she enrolled at the Medical Training College. Her aim was to have these three students form the nucleus of the future tutors at the school. Getting these students into Kenya, and sorting out the registration and financial difficulties in enrolling them into the college was another struggle, but as soon as Sister saw it through, she headed off to Uganda to scout for hospitals willing to train her other students in operating theatre work.

Sister Leonella had difficulty returning to Somalia due to the new laws imposed by the Islamic Courts Union running the region around Mogadishu at that time. However on the 13th of September, just days before her murder, she managed to re-enter Somalia.

On the fateful day of the 17th of September, Sister Leonella crossed the road that separates the hospital from the accommodation of the Consolata Sisters. Hiding behind vehicles and kiosks that are found along this road, two gunmen attacked the Sister. The first shot hit her in the thigh, her bodyguard, Mohamed Osman Mahamud, opened fire on the two gunmen. They fired back killing him and hitting Sister Leonella twice. One of these bullets entered her back and severed an artery causing a severe haemorrhage. Sister Leonella was rushed into the nearby hospital where she died shortly after. Her dying words were in Italian: “Perdono, perdono” “I forgive, I forgive”.

The then Holy Father, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in a public address some days after Sister Leonella’s death, praised her for her Christian witness in pardoning her killers: 

"Some are asked to give the supreme testimony of blood, just as … Sr. Leonella Sgorbati, who fell victim to violence…This sister, who for many years served the poor and the children in Somalia, died pronouncing the word 'forgive,'…This is the most authentic Christian testimony, a peaceful sign of contradiction which shows the victory of love over hatred and evil."

Sister Leonella Sgorbati’s cause for Beatification is in process; may she soon be raised to the Altars as a sign of humble and determined Missionary effort in the face of hatred and hostility to the Gospel. And may her prayers hasten the coming of peace and the growth of the Church in war torn Somalia and to the long suffering people of this land, whom this good Sister loved even unto death.

The closing paragraph is taken from the Consolata Missionary Sisters' website and is a beautiful testimony to the life of Sister Leonella:

Sister Leonella was well aware of the danger surrounding her. As she used to say, she knew that there was a bullet with her name engraved on it just waiting for her in Mogadishu. But this never deterred her or discouraged her. She was certain that God wanted her in Somalia. For her, that was the will of God. So nothing could stop her in the mission undertaken, not even the knowledge that she could be killed any time. For this reason she dedicated herself completely, sparing no effort and truly turning every stone to accomplish the mission of setting up the school of nursing, to give hope and a future to a country ravaged by war. Her love for God and the Somali people was stronger than any fear, and she strongly believed in the people she was serving.