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Friday, 04 October 2019 08:38

SOUTH SUDAN The youth, axis of Catholicism

4 October 2019 - On the occasion of the celebrations for the centenary of the South Sudanese Catholic Church, the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Juba, Mgr. Santo Loku Pio, the head of the Committee for Centenary celebrations, highlighted the fundamental role of young people in the Archdiocese.

"As the young missionaries came and became old in our land, we also feel that as missionaries of today, our young people, not only become religious, priests and sisters but also become true Catholics in responding to the needs of the local Church", said the Bishop.

"Missionaries brought us this Church and this Church is to be carried on", explains Mgr. Loku emphasizing the need for young South Sudanese to see themselves as the axis of Catholicism in their country. "My message to the young people is to embrace the gospel and to continue to respond to the challenges of the gospel".

The yearlong celebration was officially launched on November 1, 2018 under the theme: "Renewing our faith and responding to its challenges", and the celebrations are set to conclude in a grand celebration on November 1, 2019.

Comboni Missionaries first came to establish Rejaf Parish on the west bank of the White Nile in July 1919. Since then, several missions have been erected and the work inaugurated by the Comboni missionaries has expanded to other parts of the country, resulting in the creation of three ecclesial territories: Juba Archdiocese, and the dioceses of Torit and Yei.

"We are trying to celebrate this mission and we are ready to move forward despite the challenges we are facing as a Church today", said Mgr. Loku.

"We want to renew the missionary of the diocese to reach out to as many people as possible and at the same time encourage our people to be missionary", reads the note sent to Agenzia Fides.

October 10, the death anniversary and feast day of St. Daniel Comboni, has been reserved to honour Missionaries as part of the activities of the centenary. St. Comboni He died in Khartoum, Sudan on October 10, 1881 at the age of 50. (Agenzia Fides, 1/10/2019)

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9 April 2019 - "Here I am, send me": "The Year of Youth in Pakistan will be a time to nourish our future, to take care of young people, to listen to them and to accompany them on their journey of faith and to grow in holiness": as Agenzia Fides learns, this is what Bishop Samson Shukardin said during a meeting of the Youth Commission of the Pakistani Bishops' Conference held yesterday 4 April in St. Patrick's Cathedral, in Karachi. The meeting of the Commission was held a week after Pakistan's Catholic Bishops Conference announced 2020 as the "Year of Youth" for the Catholic Church in Pakistan. Bishop Samson Shukardin, who took part in the Synod of Youth held at the Vatican last autumn, explained: "Our mission is to help young people grow in their faith and live a happy life in society. We are inspired by Jesus who walked , shared and accompanied the disciples of Emmaus".

An ad hoc Committee has been formed to plan and follow the various initiatives of the Year of Youth which will begin with the feast of Christ the King in 2019 and will close on the same feast holiday in 2020. The chosen theme is the biblical verse "Here I am, send me!" (Isaiah 6: 8), chosen precisely in the light of the Synod on young people of 2018. Speaking to Fides, Mgr. Samson Shukardin declares: "The theme set for the Year of Youth wants to help young people recognize, discern and live their missionary vocation, to serve the Church as priests, religious and laity". The Bishop observes: "Young people need a spiritual father, as well as Pastors and lay leaders are needed to work with young people, who can accompany them and help them overcome the challenges they face in their daily lives".

The Bishop concludes: "We must empower and involve young people in the Church by giving them responsibility, trusting them and forming them to spread the Word of God and Christian values also through media, music, arts, games and sport".

The Committee will organize events in all the dioceses of Pakistan, including seminars on the final document of the Synod "Christus Vivit". (AG) (Agenzia Fides, 5/4/2019)

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Friday, 05 October 2018 20:26

SUDAN "The war has also hit the Church"

4 October 2018 - "The separation between Sudan and South Sudan has left a great emptiness at an ecclesial level here in the North", says to Agenzia Fides His Exc. Mgr. Yunan Tombe Triller Kuku Andali, Bishop of El Obeid, in the north - Western Sudan.

"Because of the division of the Country, several priests, religious men and catechists have returned to their homelands that are in what has become a new state, South Sudan. We were especially affected by the lack of catechists to animate the approximately 200 pastoral centers spread over the entire territory of the diocese".

"On the other hand - continues the Bishop - the war in South Sudan has meant that in our diocese there are a large number of South Sudanese refugees". "The number of registered refugees is more than 200,000, but there are many refugees who are not registered. More than half of the registered refugees are Catholics and this involves a pastoral challenge because we have to offer them not only humanitarian but also spiritual assistance. We are therefore forming catechists among the refugees welcomed in the camps".

The diocese of El Obeid extends for 888.939 km2, counts 11.842.000 inhabitants of whom 95.000 are Catholics.

"Most local Christians live in the Nuba mountains", says Bishop Andali. "The greatest difficulty we encounter with this large group of faithful is to ensure religious education in state schools. Religious education is compulsory in schools run by the state but these do not print books for the formation of Catholics".

According to Mgr. Andali "in Sudan there is no real religious freedom but tolerance towards other religions. We can carry out our activities within our old churches but not outside. State regulations prohibit the transfer of land to the Church and the construction of new churches. Thanks to the help of the universal Church we have purchased private houses to carry out some of our pastoral activities. In this way we can reach our faithful in their homes to pray with them even in areas where there are no real churches".

The war in South Sudan severely hit the Church in both countries. In addition to South Sudanese refugees in Sudan, hundreds of thousands are in other neighboring states such as Uganda.

"I know Juba well, I was Rector of the Inter-diocesan Seminary of São Paulo in Juba from 2012 until my episcopal ordination and my assignment in El Obeid in 2017", says Bishop Andali. "This year I went to visit South Sudanese refugees in Uganda and to my surprise I also found many people from Juba. About 280,000 South-Sudanese faithful are welcomed in Uganda but are deprived of religious assistance". (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 4/10/2018)

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6 September 2018 - "There are still too many individual interests. Ethiopia and Eritrea are positive examples", says Mgr. Hiiboro Kussala,  Bishop of Tombura-Yambio, President of the Episcopal Conference, which brings together the Bishops of Sudan and South Sudan, in Rome for the ad Limina Apostolorum visit. "There are still too many individual interests that hinder the full achievement of the peace agreement". The ongoing negotiations in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, are sponsored by IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), and in particular by two of its members, the same Sudan and Uganda, which have a strong influence on the two civil war contenders.

"Unfortunately, despite the pressure exerted by the respective African partners, the different parties in conflict struggle to put aside their differences to forge peace. We must look at the common good and in the first place to put an end to the suffering of the population exhausted by years of war", underlines Mgr. Hiiboro Kussala.

"Another factor that slows down the achievement of a real peace agreement is the tiredness of the international community in dealing with the South Sudan issue. After many false departures and agreements signed and never respected, the international partners of South Sudan look at the present negotiations without committing themselves too much to ensure that it reaches a good point", says the Bishop.

"We must also take the low level of acculturation of the population into consideration; more than 80% of the population have no school education", remarks Mgr. Hiiboro Kussala. "This opens up ample space for those who want to incite violence by fomenting tribalism. On the other hand with these low levels of schooling it is not easy to promote, from the most humble social strata, good governance, respect for human rights, the correct use of the Country's resources, starting from oil. Unfortunately, the proceeds from the sale of oil are not used to improve the living conditions of the population but disappear outside of South Sudan".

According to Mgr. Hiiboro Kussala, however, there are positive signs. Like the recent peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which is also a source of hope for South Sudan. "This is an excellent example that can also be useful for us because Ethiopia and Eritrea have resolved their differences directly with each other, without going to a neutral place, among other things by spending money for their delegations", says Mgr. Hiiboro Kussala. "South Sudanese delegations spend large sums of money to participate in peace talks and never reach a concrete result". "The example of these two Countries is also important for another reason: the Church has worked a lot behind the scenes to achieve this result. We as South Sudanese Church do the same thing and what happened between our neighbors encourages us to move forward", he concludes. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 6/9/2018)

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Tuesday, 10 July 2018 09:25

LEBANON A mega-statue of Saint Charbel

9 July 2018 - The-sixteen-meter mega-statue representing Lebanese Saint Charbel will be inagurated on the heights of the village of Hammana in the next few days. From there, the statue will dominate the surrounding villages and will also be visible from the Beirut area. The transfer of the statue, from Mar Moussa to the place of its next installation, aroused curiosity and surprise among the local population, due to the large size of the sculpture, whose creation required five months of work by skilled workers. The sculpture was financed by engineer Charles Barmaki, while the municipality of Hammana made available the land where the statue will be placed. Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï, Patriarch of the Maronite Church will be present at the ceremony for the installation and inauguration of the statue, scheduled for Sunday, July 22.

The town of Hammana is located in a strategic position. The statue of Saint Charbel will have a great visual impact for those who use the national highway that connects the east to the west of the Country, connecting Lebanon also to the Middle Eastern motorway network that reaches up to Saudi Arabia.

Charbel Makhluf (1828-1898), priest and monk of the Lebanese Maronite Order, a figure dear to the Lebanese Christians for his austere spirituality, known for the healing miracles attributed to him even after his death, was proclaimed saint by Pope Paul VI in 1977.

In the summer of 2017, an even larger statue of Saint Charbel, 27 meters high, was installed on the heights of Kesrouan, while last March the first statue dedicated to Pope Francis in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East was inaugurated in Hadath, a municipality in the Baabda district, considered part of the southern suburbs of Beirut. Local sources explain to Agenzia Fides that even the multiplication of statues and images of saints and Christian symbols, placed in public places and visible to all, wants to be a sign intended to encourage local Christians, so that they do not give up to visibly show their own identity, continuing to offer its own original contribution to the coexistence with different religious communities, in the horizon of a common citizenship. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 9/7/2018)

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5 May 2018 - The government's commitment to peace and development. More than two hundred child soldiers (including 95 girls) were released to the community on 28, April, in Yambio Gbudue State. As Fides learns, this is the second time child soldiers are released in Gbudue State, in fact about 300 children including 75 girls had already been released in Yambio in February 2018.

"Some of the released children said they were engaged in various criminal activities while in the bush. The little ones were kidnapped at schools and promised to be given huge ransom of money but were not even paid", said Catholic Radio Network (CRN) radio station.

To cope with this phenomenon, the governor of the state of Gbudue Daniel Badagbu Rimbasa pledged to work diligently to bring peace and stability to the State and South Sudan at large, to create a conducive learning environment for children. In a note from the Catholic Bishops of East African Nations (AMECEA) sent to Fides, we read that "Rimbasa has appealed to all those who still hold arms so that they join the government for peace, development and stability".

Meanwhile, Acting Chairperson of South Sudan Disarmament Demobilization and Re-integration commission, Claude Obwaha Akasha, stressed that "children are supposed to go to school but not to be turned in to soldiers". As can be seen from the note of the CRN sent to Fides, Akasha also revealed that the released child soldiers have been screened for various diseases, given scholastic materials and will be engaged in some vocational training. According to the UN children’s agency, there are about 19,000 children who are believed to be associated with various armed groups across the country. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 4/5/2018)


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Wednesday, 18 April 2018 21:06

SOUTH SUDAN Violence and insecurity

18 April 2018 - Major security for humanitarian operators in the Country is needed. Violence and insecurity continue to proliferate in the African country. A few days ago Egyptian press agency MENA released the news of the murder of two humanitarian operators in the South of Sudan. One of the operators who belonged to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), was killed near the city of Leer, and the other of the organization Hope Restoration was killed near the city of Bentiu.

"Over the weekend, gunmen fired against an NGO that was transporting five humanitarian operators along the Nhialdlu-Bentiu road", reads a note of the Catholic Bishops of East African nations (AMECEA) sent to Fides.

Following these tragic episodes, Alain Noudehou, humanitarian coordinator of the area, urged the parties in conflict to allow the safe delivery of humanitarian aid. Noudehou has turned to the government and opposition groups to ask for guarantees on the safety of aid operations carried out by operators. The coordinator highlighted the dangers that humanitarian operators face in giving help every day and has called for those who perpetuate atrocious acts to be brought to justice.

Noudehou also urged the immediate and unconditional release of seven humanitarian operators kidnapped by an armed group as they were travelling from Kupera to the Counties of Lainya to deliver supplies to health centers. The invitation that the humanitarian coordinator addresses to the parties in conflict is to allow free, safe and unhindered access to reach millions of South Sudanese in difficulty.

Since 2013, at least 98 humanitarian aid operators have been killed in South Sudan. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 14/4/2018)

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7 March 2018 - The Bishops: A spiritual retreat for our leaders, to help them make peace. "We are dissatisfied that our leaders in both government and oppositions so far have been unable to put their own interest aside and make peace for the good of the people of South Sudan. We fear that our leaders do not know how to make peace. They are confused. They are military people who see the World through the lens of violence. They need help, not so much with the technical and political details but with the spiritual and moral courage to make peace", say the Bishops of South Sudan in a message published at the end of their Plenary Assembly held in the capital Juba.

The message, sent to Agenzia Fides, was read by His Exc. Mgr. Paulino Lukudo Loro, Archbishop of Juba, in St. Theresa Cathedral.

"Our leaders are traumatized and thus they need to be healed from it". But the population of South Sudan after more than four years of senseless war with the death of thousands of people, caused by the clash between the factions of President Salva Kiir and that headed by former Vice President Riek Machar is even more traumatized.

"Tens of thousands of deaths, millions of people displaced; Looting, rape, hunger, economic collapse, break down of the rule of law, destruction of the nations’ infrastructure, children denied education and families denied health care. This elucidates a failure as a country", emphasizes the text.

The Bishops offer political leaders a spiritual retreat to help them heal from their wounds. As Mgr. Lukudo Loro says "We, the Catholic Bishops pledged our full support for this process which would include a spiritual retreat to be led by religious leaders from South Sudan and elsewhere. The theme of the retreat was not be political; it would be a healing retreat to bring about personal transformation to prepare the participants to face the path of making peace".

The Bishops hope that the third round of the revitalization forum of the 2015 peace deal would be a forum for leaders to resolve their personal and political interests and make peace a reality in South Sudan. "That will only happen, if the leaders are ready to change their hearts and be transformed", concluded Mgr. Lukudu Loro.

The 2015 peace agreement collapsed in the summer of 2016 when the different factions resumed fighting in the capital Juba, forcing Machar to flee into exile.

The revitalization forum of the peace agreement should be held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, but the authorities of Juba have accused the so-called Troika, USA, Great Britain and Norway, of going beyond its mandate to facilitate mediation, heavily conditioning the peace process. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 6/3/2018)

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25 November 2017 -  "With this initiative we want to make the South Sudanese and Congolese know that there are people outside of their two countries who care and pray for them", says Sister Yudith Pereira Rico to Agenzia Fides, of the Congregation of the Religious of Jesus-Mary, Associate Executive Director of "Solidarity with South Sudan", who explained the purpose of the prayer for peace in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, scheduled today, November 23, at 5.30pm in St. Peter’s Basilica.

"The population of these two devastated Countries feel they have been abandoned by all. So we want to give hope and dignity to these populations. What the Pope says to them "you are important to the universal Church" is a strong message of hope and encouragement", says Sister Yudith.

Very often, discouragement prevails in public opinion, if not indifference in the face of war like that in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo that seem endemic and without solutions. We therefore ask Sister Yudith where can hope in these situations come from. "From my experience I can say I receive hope from the South Sudanese: Every time I go to South Sudan I receive their hopes on the possibility of peace. There are seeds of hope in South Sudan as in the DRC, women and youth and the various civil society realities that are engaged in pacification. There are so many movements born from the bottom that want a better future for their country. And it is to these people that we want to give voice", concludes the religious.

In conjunction with the prayer to be held in the Vatican Basilica, Cardinal Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa, has invited the parishes of the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo to join in prayer with the Holy Father for peace in the DRC and in South Sudan.

The Church in South Sudan will also join in prayer at the same time. "Let us pray with the Holy Father to obtain the grace of seeing every human being as the son of God, without distinction of tribe, regional belonging, race, language, or culture", writes His Exc. Mgr. Barani Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala, Bishop of Tombura-Yambio and President of the South Sudan Episcopal Conference, in a message sent to Fides. "With Pope Francis let us pray for our faith community, our dioceses, also that God may give us new Bishops into the 04 vacant diocese of Malakal, Torit, Rumbek, Wau", adds Mgr. Kussala.

Mgr. Kussala emphasizes that "during our 2017 Annual Plenary Assembly of the Sudan Catholic Bishops of Sudan and South Sudan held in Kit, Juba, we resolved to keep together as Bishops in Sudan and South Sudan. "This purposely underlines our role as Bishops in one Conference of working together to promote the church's mission, but also to support Peace-building and human development throughout our two nations and elsewhere".

In addition to today's prayer, Solidarity with South Sudan will organize a round table titled "Let us build peace" to be held on January 18, 2018 at 4:00 pm at Urbaniana University. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 22/11/2017)

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Sunday, 15 October 2017 17:17

SOUTH SUDAN Peace is built with prayer

16 October 2017 - Visit of the Community of Taizé in South Sudan. Peace is born from the heart of every man and is built in society and in the nation through prayer: this is the message left by the representatives of the Community of Taizé to the youngsters in schools in South Sudan. As Fides learns, the girls of a Catholic secondary school in South Sudan, under the guidance of the Sisters of Loreto, continue to draw inspiration from the Community of Taizé, an ecumenical community founded in France.

Sister Orla Treacy, headmistress of the “Loreto Girls Secondary School” in the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek in South Sudan, told Fides about the meeting between the girls of her institute and the communities of Taizé present in Kenya and France: "We nurtured a long friendship with the community of Taize in Kenya, thanks to visits by brother Luc from Nairobi in South Sudan. Last year, two of our graduates spent three months with the community and with the young of Taizé in France", continues Sister Orla.

116 young students graduated at the "Loreto Girls Secondary School" in Rumbek between 2011 and 2017 and currently the school has 240 girls enrolled. Speaking of the recent visit by two brothers of Taizé at the school in South Sudan, Sister Orla tells Fides about the students’ appreciation for the message of the community of Taizé: "the message of Taizé is that of reconciliation and peace. We had asked brother Luc to come back and share with us the spirit of their community and we were even happier when he told me that even brother Alois, the Prior of Taizé, would gladly come to visit South Sudan".

The two brothers of Taizé spent several days in Juba before coming to Rumbek. In Juba, they visited displaced persons in refugee camps. When they arrived in Rumbek, they visited the local Catholic and religious communities, while also spending a morning visiting the leprosy just outside of Rumbek. In the afternoon, the meeting was held with the young people with whom they prayed, read the Bible, sung.

Sister Orla explains to Fides: "Given the situation we live in South Sudan, despite the difficulties and conflictual social climate, we always try to find ways to help girls connect deeply with God and find peace within themselves". And the girls have learned to appreciate and love the style of prayer and the songs of the community of Taizé, continuing to pray that way even when the two brothers left".

South Sudan, the youngest nation in the world, after several months of political tensions, sunk in a civil war in December 2013 when faithful security officers clashed with those loyal to Vice President Riek Machar.

In this context, the message left by brother Luc "was a message of peace and strong encouragement. Brother Alois reminded the girls of praying for peace in South Sudan and the youth of South Sudan. He invited the girls to bring the light of Christ into their lives, the only one that can give hope and peace to each heart", concludes Sister Orla Treacy. (PA/BO) (Agenzia Fides, 13/10/2017)

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