Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Palm Sunday
Pope Francis remembered the persecuted Christians in the world on Sunday – Palm Sunday – during Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Following the proclamation of the Passion according to St. Mark, Pope Francis delivered a homily, in which he reflected on the plight of all those who endure humiliation because of their faithfulness to the Gospel, all those who face discrimination and pay a personal price for their fidelity to Christ. 

            “We think too of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted because they are Christians,” he said, “the martyrs of our own time.” The Holy Father went on to say, “They refuse to deny Jesus and they endure insult and injury with dignity. They follow Him on His way.”
The reflection came at the end of his brief Palm Sunday homily, which was intensely focused on the way of humility that Christ chose to undertake for our salvation. “This is God’s way, the way of humility,” he said. “It is the way of Jesus; there is no other.”

The Holy Father concluded with a call to all the faithful to undertake the Way of the Cross, which leads to salvation and eternal life, with new dedication and devotion during Holy Week. “Let us set about with determination along this same path,” said Pope Francis, “with immense love for Him, our Lord and Saviour.  Love will guide us and give us strength.  For where He is, we too shall be. (cf. Jn  12:26)”. (Source: Vatican Radio)

Monday, 30 March 2015

Holy Week
Holy Week is an important time for Christians throughout the world. But not everyone knows every detail about why it's celebrated or what exactly it's composed of. So here are the answers to questions about Holy Week.
What is Holy Week?
Holy Week is a time when Catholics gather to remember and participate in the Passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Passion was the final period of Christ's life in Jerusalem. It spans from when He visited Jerusalem to when He was crucified.
How do Catholics celebrate Holy Week?
There are four special celebrations during Holy Week.
Palm Sunday recalls Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem. Parishioners typically form a procession and carry palms.

Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus, when he took the bread and said: this is my body; he took also the cup with wine and said: this is my blood. We Christians repeat this action of Jesus when we celebrate the mass.  The washing of the feet takes place during this same Mass.
In the morning, bishops gather with priests from their diocese for the Chrism Mass. They bless holy oils during the Mass.

Good Friday is one of most sacred days of the year for Catholics. It covers Jesus' arrest, trial, crucifixion, death and burial. There is no Mass.

Holy Saturday remembers the day which Jesus spent in the grave resting. There are no celebrations at all, but it leads to the Easter Vigil that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus early on Sunday morning.
Why is the Church decorated the way it is?
On Good Friday and Holy Saturday, noticeable changes to take place in the way churches are decorated. Many churches cover decorations in purple or black, or simply remove the decor. In Italy, crosses are covered a week before. Holy water and the Eucharist are also taken from churches on Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
When did Catholics start celebrating Holy Week?
Holy Week celebrations have existed since the beginnings of the Church. As early as the 4th century, reports existed of Christians in Egypt, Palestine, and present-day Turkey and Armenia reenacting the Passion. It's likely that the celebrations took place for years before the initial recorded reports. Holy Week celebrations spread to Europe by the 5th century. 
When is Holy Week?

Holy Week is the week that leads to Easter.  Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday and ends on Easter. This year, Holy Week takes place from March 29 to April 5. Easter takes place on the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21. This year, it is on April 5. 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Religious leaders: "Development and the fight against corruption to stop Boko Haram"

            Hatred and mistrust sown by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria are likely to last for years even after the disappearance of the Islamist group. This is what emerged from the seminar titled "Religious Extremism and Its Challenges on Interfaith Dialogue in Western Africa", organized by the Catholic Bishops Regional Conference of West Africa (RECOWA), in conjunction with the Mission and Dialogue department of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN). The meeting was attended among others by Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja, and His Exc. Mgr. Mathew Hassan Kukah, Bishop of Sokoto, who organized it. The purpose of the initiative was to find concrete ways to counter the threat of religious extremism.
            A Muslim scholar, Prof. Kyari Mohammed of Modibo Adama University, strongly condemned the actions of Boko Haram who he defined a local group with global ambitions. The expert stressed, however, that among the factors that led to the emergence of the group are impunity, bad governance and corruption of the Nigerian elite. The latter, recalled the expert, were termed by the extremists as an offshoot of western education. "Educated people have not been good ambassadors of Western education", said Prof. Mohammed.
"If Boko Haram ends today, the sub-region will be left with a violent and broken society” because, there all groups in the affected areas have been victims of the insurgency; structures demolished; many have lost their properties and as a result, many people have lost confidence in government". Moreover, the presence of civilian self-defense groups in the future is likely to be a source of new instability. (Agenzia Fides 16/03/2015)

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Africa needs encouragement and solidarity, not migration, or the purchase of weapons and looting - Cardinal Filoni

            "In Christ, this beloved continent loved so much by Comboni, where he wanted to end his life, needs courageous and prophetic political leaders, who can be inspired by the Gospel; Bishops and priests according to the heart of Christ; generous and responsible lay faithful, devoted children, who see their land not as a problematic and miserly place, but full of goodness and hope that one sows and builds". These are the words with which Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples concluded his homily during the Mass he presided on Sunday, March 15, at the closing of the Conference "Africa, a continent on the move" (see Fides 14/03/2015). 

            The Prefect of the Congregation cited the two Special Synods that "thoroughly scrutinized Africa", in 1994 and 2009, which gave rise to the Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Africa" and "Africae Munus". In particular, the latter focused attention on the need for reconciliation, the promotion of peace and justice in truth. "Extremely appropriate words – said the Cardinal - in the context of a Continent plagued by numerous wars, violence and hatred, especially in the north (Libya), and in the Sub-Saharan Africa Region (Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo and South Sudan). "Africae Munus" drew Africa to have courage, to stand up. "It is an appeal to the re-generation of the Continent - said Cardinal Filoni - almost an echo to that 'Plan for the regeneration of Africa', which was conceived by Comboni in 1864, 150 years ago. The central idea is 'regenerating Africa with Africa'; today we can say that this continent now has about 536 ecclesiastical circumscriptions for an estimated population of 1.06614 billion inhabitants with 200 million Catholics ... the dream of Comboni, thanks to the work of men and women religious, laity, in these 150 years of missionary service has become reality".

            Commenting then the readings of the day, Cardinal Filoni emphasized that Africa "needs encouragement and solidarity. It does not need migration, purchase of weapons, or looting. It needs solidarity: this is the new dream!", and concluded: "Christ is the source of its spiritual and moral regeneration. Africa should not be a 'problem', but a land that can grow and develop, and participate in international life". (Agenzia Fides 16/03/2015)

Friday, 20 March 2015

Beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero

 San Salvador - The "Bishop martyr" of El Salvador, His Exc. Mgr. Oscar Arnulfo Romero, will be beatified on May 23 in his hometown: the announcement was made by the Postulator of the cause of beatification, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, who is in the Central American Country to firm up the details regarding the organization of the event, meet the political and religious authorities and members of the mass media. The Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Arnulfo Romero (Ciudad Barrios August 15, 1917 - San Salvador March 24, 1980), was killed by "death squads" while celebrating Mass in the chapel of a hospital.
            "Today I believe that Romero is the saint of all El Salvador - said Mgr. Paglia. Many years have passed since then, and El Salvador has experienced many difficult moments. Romero never hated anyone, not even his opponents. On the contrary, by choosing the poorest, Romero wanted a fairer, more attentive El Salvador towards the children most in need".
            On the current situation, Mgr. Paglia says: "Not only El Salvador has new problems compared to the past, I am thinking of criminal gangs, but the world has also changed.
The whole world is experiencing dramatic moments related to terrorism. Romero today is a testimony that is opposed to those who believe that violence will win. Mgr. Romero says that life can never be removed, but only offered". (Source: Agenzia Fides 12/03/2015)

Monday, 16 March 2015

Necessity to rebuild Gaza, support schools, help refugees and immigrants – The Catholic Bishops, March 12, 2015
Jerusalem - An urgent appeal to the "reconstruction of Gaza to help the thousands of families left homeless after the last conflict", a reminder of the centrality of the educational work of Christian Schools, threatened by cuts in subsidies, and request of a renewed commitment of ecclesial realities in support of Iraqi and Syrian refugees and immigrants from Africa and Asia: are the key points discussed in the meeting of Catholic Ordinary Bishops of the Holy Land, held on 10 and 11 March in the Franciscan Convent of Jerusalem. The meeting was attended by the Catholic Bishops of Jordan, Palestine, Israel and Cyprus. The document reaffirms the intention of the Church to give support to "Asian and African migrants living in a precarious situation", marked by exploitation, discrimination and lack of protection of fundamental rights. Regarding the condition of refugees from Syria and Iraq, the Bishops stress that most of them do not seem to grow any hope of a possible return to their Countries marked by bloody conflicts. And the progressive deterioration of the living conditions of millions of refugees and displaced persons calls into question in an ever more pressing manner the responsibilities of the international community and the UN. (Source: Agenzia Fides 12/03/2015)

Sunday, 8 March 2015

"Do not lose hope aroused by the Arab Spring", say the Bishops of North Africa

                "Our region is in full transformation, the universal Church knows major transformations, our local Churches are changing: we strongly feel the call of the Lord to be more than ever 'Servants of Hope' in North Africa", say the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of North Africa (CERNA) in their Pastoral Letter sent to Agenzia Fides, which was presented to Pope Francis on March 2nd, on the occasion of their Ad Limina visit.
                "The region of North Africa is geographically and culturally situated at the crossroads of Africa, Europe and the Middle East", the document states.
"The dynamics of the 'Arab Spring', issues of regional security and the Middle East, the European economic crisis and migration from sub-Saharan Africa, involve profound changes and new challenges for our region".
In particular, the so-called "Arab springs" distinctly had different dynamics in the two Countries included in the area of CERNA. "If in the course of a process of national dialogue Tunisia adopted a new Constitution in January 2014, Libya is experiencing a very worrying situation, where there are still tensions and violence due to the profound destabilization of the State", say the Bishops, who however reiterate: "these difficulties do not undermine the hope" originated from the "Arab spring".
                The Bishops also argued that the process of democratization is a long process, "always in the making, in which any attempt to copy or impose existing models would be futile and inappropriate". The document confirms the specificity of the Church in North Africa, engaged in a "dialogue of life" with Muslims that intends to "give a contribution to life and the construction of society, with no political militancy, neither sought nor desired". (Agenzia Fides 02/03/2015)

Friday, 6 March 2015

We pray that Boko Haram terrorists will convert -
Nigerian Bishop Martin Uzoukwu

            Last year, the mass kidnapping of more than 200 girls from a Christian school in northern Nigeria shocked the world. After an international outcry, the story was quickly forgotten. The fate of the girls never came to light. Boko Haram, a Nigerian Islamic terrorist group, carried out the kidnapping.
            Their violent campaign hasn't stopped: this January, they killed more than 2,000 people. 
            Monsignor Martin Uzoukwu is the bishop of the Nigerian Diocese of Minna. Three years ago, terrorists bombed the door of his parish. He called on Muslims in his country to stand against  Boko Haram.
MONS. MARTIN UZOUKWU, Bishop of Minna (Nigeria), on Boko Haram
            "Boko Haram is a group from Islam.  So what is it, if Islam is not gaining from it, why do they not stand up and condemn it?  We have appealed to our own leaders, Islamic leaders in Nigeria to come out boldly and condemn it.” Boko Haram's attacks have become bolder and more frequent. The group's name means "Western education is a sin,” and they primarily target Christians. Their arsenal is becoming more sophistcated and comes from outside Nigeria. That's why we need the international community, because the weapons they are using in Nigeria are not made in Nigeria.”
            Boko Haram's influence spreads beyond Nigeria. They have also carried out attacks in Niger, Chad and Cameroon. The jihadist terror threat has hit the heart of Africa.

            However, Monsignor Uzoukwu has not lost hope that peace will come. As in the early days, they know that while they suffer just for being Christians, they must still pray for their persecutors. So we are praying for the conversion of the Boko Haram and all the people who are sponsoring them.  (source: RomeReports.com)

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Muslims re-launch “pluralism and respect for minorities” in Indonesia

            The importance of values such as pluralism, respect for minorities, tolerance, dialogue, unity among believers of different faiths: these were some of the key words heard during the Indonesian Muslim Congress, held in recent days in Yogyakarta; the event brought together Indonesia’s principal Muslim organizations, such as Muhammadiyah, Nahdlatul Ulama and the Council of Indonesian Ulema, to reflect on Islam in and beyond Indonesia. 
            Speakers included Muslim religious leaders, scholars and academics as well as government ministers, civil servants and officials, and prominent persons including the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, who said: “Indonesia is a moderate nation, and we live with reciprocal respect among believers”.
            The Congress, held every five years, reiterated that Indonesian Islam could serve as a model, at the international level, to present a “harmonious society” in which Muslims live and work peacefully side by side with believers of other religions.
            Din Syamsuddin, leader of Muhammadiyah, said “pluralism is very good, since it presents shades of difference, as well as shades of similarity”. Syamsuddin expressed the hope that “differences will never divide Indonesian Muslims” and that the different believers “will never have prejudice towards differences”.
            According to the Indonesian Minister for Religious Affairs, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, who addressed the assembly, “our Congress can serve as a guide to see how interreligious harmony can be possible among the global challenges of our day”. At the national level the minister reiterated “the guaranteed constitutional right of Indonesians of whatever religion, culture or ethnic origin to practice their religion in freedom and peace”. Beyond the borders, he added: “the rest of the world can learn from the example of pluralism that we live in Indonesia”, recalling the guiding principle “unity in diversity”, pivot of national harmony in a country characterized by citizens of numerous different ethnic origins, cultures and religions. (Source: Agenzia Fides 19/2/2015)