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10 October 2019 – Jerusalem, the second phase of the restoration and preservation works of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher enters the preparatory phase, and the pivotal role that will be entrusted to qualified Italian bodies and institutions in the delicate work of structural requalification of the place of worship dear to all the Christians of the world has been confirmed. On Tuesday 8 October, at the Custody of the Holy Land, a framework agreement was signed between the Custody of the Holy Land and “La VenariaReale” Foundation Centre for the Preservation and Restoration of the Cultural heritage of Turin in collaboration with the Department of Classical Studies of “La Sapienza” University of Rome.

The two academic institutions will have the task of carrying out an in-depth study of the current state of the site, including from the historical-archaeological point of view and preparing the final project of the restoration work necessary.

The signature is part of the agreement signed by the three major Christian communities, custodians of the Holy Sepulcher and responsible of the "Status Quo" in the holy place: the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Custody of the Holy Land itself. The three ecclesial realities will also take charge of raising funds necessary to finance the demanding restoration work.

In March 2017, as reported by Agenzia Fides (see Fides, 23/3/2017), the alarm on the risk of a possible collapse of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher was launched by the same team of archaeologists and experts who at the time had successfully completed the restoration of the Edicule, (a small structure that within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, encloses the remains of a cave that has been venerated since at least the fourth century A.D. as the tomb of Jesus Christ). The entire complex of the Holy Sepulcher – had declared Greek archaeologist Antonia Moropoulou, professor at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) and chief scientific supervisor of the restoration project, is apparently threatened by "a significant structural failure". And if this were to happen - added the Greek archaeologist "the failure will not be a slow process, but catastrophic".

The alarming hypotheses had emerged during the studies and surveys conducted on the Holy Sepulcher by the team of experts in charge of the restoration of the Edicule. The research carried out by that team, and reported by National Geographic, had revealed that much of the 19th-century shrine and its surrounding rotunda, appear to be built largely on an unstable foundation of crumbled remnants of earlier structures and is honeycombed with extensive tunnels and channels.

The shrine built by Constantine, built on the remains of a previous Roman temple around the one that was worshiped as the tomb of Jesus, had been partially destroyed by the Persian invaders in the 7th century, and then by the Fatimids in 1009. The church was rebuilt in the mid-11th century. The technical details of the dossier, collected in recent years thanks to the use of georadar and robotic cameras, have highlighted an alarming situation regarding the stability of the holy place, visited every year by millions of pilgrims and tourists: several of the 22-ton pillars that hold up the dome of the rotunda rest on more than four feet of unconsolidated rubble. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 9/10/2019)

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15 February 2018 - Pope Francis celebrated Mass this afternoon at the Fraterna Domus, in Sacrofano, outside Rome, to mark the opening of a three-day ‘Liberi dalla paura’ (Free from fear) meeting promoted and organised by the Migrantes Foundation, Caritas Italy and the Centro Astalli.

In his homily, the pontiff made a strong, heartfelt plea to welcome migrants, urging people not to be afraid, for Jesus is in the migrant knocking at our door. It is Jesus, even if it is difficult to recognise him because of his “ragged clothes, dirty feet, deformed face, wounded body, unable to speak our language”.

As he addressed the migrants and volunteers from Catholic associations dedicated to helping and integrating migrants, Francis centred his reflection on ‘Don’t be afraid’, which Moses said to the Jews when, on the shores of the Red Sea, they saw pharaoh’s army approach, and which Jesus said to the apostles when he moved towards them walking on the water.

"Through these biblical episodes, the Lord speaks to us today and asks us to let him free us from our fears. 'Free from fear' is precisely the theme chosen for your meeting. Free from fear. Slavery is rooted in fear and so is every dictatorship, because the violence of the dictators grows out of people's fear."

"Confronted by the wickedness and ugliness of our time, we too, like the People of Israel, are tempted to abandon our dream of freedom. We feel legitimate fear in front of situations that seem to us to have no way out. The human words of a ruler or a prophet are not enough to reassure us when we fail to feel God’s presence and are unable to abandon ourselves to his providence. Thus, we turn inward, into our fragile human security, the circle of our loved ones, our reassuring routine. In the end, we give up the journey to the Promised Land and return to the slavery of Egypt."

"This withdrawal into ourselves, a sign of defeat, increases our fear of others, the outsiders, the marginalised, the foreigners. Who, however, are the privileged of the Lord. This is particularly visible when migrants and refugees arrive and knock on our door seeking protection, security and a better future. It is true, fear is legitimate, partly because nothing prepares us for this encounter.”

“As I said last year, on the occasion of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees,’ It is not easy to enter into another culture, to put oneself in the shoes of people so different from us, to understand their thoughts and their experiences. As a result, we often refuse to encounter the other and raise barriers to defend ourselves.’ In fact, we are called to overcome fear by opening ourselves to the encounter. Forsaking encountering [others] is not human. To do this, rational justifications and statistical calculations are not enough. Moses told the people in front of the Red Sea, with a brutal enemy pursuing them, ‘Don’t be afraid’, because the Lord does not abandon his people, but mysteriously acts in history to realise his plan of salvation. Moses spoke thus because he trusted God."

"Encountering others then is also encountering Christ. He told us this himself. He is the one knocks on our door hungry, thirsty, a foreigner, naked, sick and imprisoned, asking to be met and assisted. If we still had any doubts, here are his clear words: ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me’ (Mt 25:40). The Teacher’s encouragement to his disciples can also be understood in this other sense: ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid’ (Mt 14:27).

“It is truly Him, even if our eyes find it hard to recognise him: ragged clothes, dirty feet, deformed face, wounded body, unable to speak our language . . . We too, like Peter, could be tempted to put Jesus to a test, ask him for a sign. And maybe, after some hesitant steps towards him, we would remain victims of our fears again. Yet, the Lord does not abandon us! Even though we are men and women of little faith, Christ continues to extend his hand to save us and allow us to meet him, an encounter that saves us and gives us back the joy of being his disciples."

"If this is a valid interpretation of our history of today, then we should begin to thank those who give us the opportunity of such an encounter, that is, the 'others' who knock on our doors, offering us the possibility of overcoming our fears so as to meet, welcome and assist Jesus in person."

"And those who had the strength to allow themselves to be freed from fear, those who have experienced the joy of this encounter, are called today to announce it on the roofs, openly, to help others do the same, preparing themselves to the encounter with Christ and his salvation. This grace brings with it a mission, the fruit of total reliance on the Lord, who for us is the only true certainty. For this reason, as individuals and communities, we are called to make our own the prayer of the redeemed people: ‘My strength and my refuge is the LORD, and he has become my saviour’ (Ex 15:2).”

Published in News
Friday, 08 February 2019 10:40

ITALY Against human trafficking

8 February 2019 - "Together against trafficking" is the theme of the fifth World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking, celebrated on 8 February, on the day when we remember the liturgical memorial of Saint Josephine Bakhita, Canossian nun, of Sudanese origin, who became a universal symbol of the Church's commitment against trafficking. Human trafficking is still widespread in all the Countries of the world and on every continent. The illicit profit produced by sexual exploitation corresponds to two thirds of the illicit gain produced by human trafficking.

According to data from the International Labor Organization, there are almost 25 million people in a situation of forced labor in the world, 70% of whom live in Asia. The activities in which we find most people forced to work are domestic. 168 million children are involved. Child slavery is often linked to another type of exploitation, early marriage. Of the 15.4 million women in the world who live forced marriage, 37% are under 18.

On the occasion of the 8th February Day, the International Committee, in collaboration with various ecclesial bodies and realities, have organized two meetings, which will take place in Rome on February 8th and 10th. On Friday 8, there will be a prayer vigil at the Basilica of St. Anthony (via Merulana 124 / B) at 6 pm, presided over by Fr. Michael Czerny and Fr. Fabio Baggio, Undersecretary of the Department of Migrants and Refugees of the Dicastery for the service of integral human development. During the vigil, animated by young people and consecrated persons, moments of witness of common commitment against trafficking will take place. On Sunday, February 10 a sensitization march will take place, which will start at 10 am from Castel Sant'Angelo and will end in Piazza San Pietro, at 12, to participate in the prayer of the Angelus with Pope Francis. (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 7/2/2019) 

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21 November 2018 - The Jesuits: "To dare the missionary spirit in the contemporary world". It is right to help the countries of the South of the world, but it is difficult to commit oneself. It is right to support the missions, but without changing one’s lifestyle or point of view, in Western societies. This is the trend photographed by a survey carried out by Censis entitled "Mission, international solidarity and lifestyles" and presented in Rome on the occasion of the thirty years of "Magis", Foundation that coordinates the missionary and international cooperation activities of the Euro-Mediterranean Province of the Jesuits.

According to the survey, young people have a strong and missionary spirit that, in 47% of cases, consider it right to be alongside the countries of the South of the world (among pensioners, this response falls to 31%) and are ready to get involved directly.

The survey involved men and women aged 18 to over 64. 77% of respondents generally believe "it is right to be close to the countries of the South of the world". But only 20% of respondents say they are willing to offer an economic contribution and to be involved and only 15% think it is appropriate to change their lifestyle: the majority does not find any correlation between the western lifestyle and the situation or problems of the South of the world.

The Jesuit, Renato Colizzi, president of Magis, said: "Ours is a cultural challenge, since it has to do with the future of our communities, but it is also a religious challenge that touches evangelization. Magis has already 30 years of experience: we will continue to work for a common world-home in which to celebrate life that goes beyond violence and corruption, helping local communities to become, in the spirit of the Gospel, actors of integral human and sustainable development".

Magis invites us to reflect on the need to "dare the missionary spirit in the contemporary world": this is the awareness that the universal Church promotes towards the celebration of the extraordinary missionary Month of October 2019, announced by the Pope as "an opportunity for the Church, also at a local level, to renew the faith and missionary zeal". Pope Francis stressed that "missionary activity is paradigmatic for all the Church’s activities (cf. EG 15)", indicating the relationship between the missio ad gentes and the missionary impulse in the ordinary pastoral care of the local communities. For this reason missionary October can help to awaken among all the faithful the awareness of being "baptized and sent", on a mission in the world. (EC) (Agenzia Fides, 21/11/2018)

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Wednesday, 07 February 2018 22:20

ITALIA Più di 100.000 vittime di prostituzione

7 febbraio 2018 - “Sulle strade italiane ci sono centomila prostitute, 70-80mila sono africane, le altre provengono da Est Europa, America latina e Cina. Sono tutte vittime di un sistema che riduce in schiavitù le donne, che vengono violate fisicamente e psicologicamente”. Suor Eugenia Bonetti, missionaria della Consolata, sintetizza così il fenomeno della tratta delle donne in occasione della Giornata mondiale di preghiera contro la tratta che si celebra domani, 8 febbraio.

“La maggior parte delle vittime provengono dall’Africa e, in particolare, dalla Nigeria – continua -. Sono quasi tutte minorenni e analfabete. Pensano di trovare in Europa un luogo di riscatto dalla loro povertà. Per questo motivo attraversano il deserto e il Mediterraneo, tra sofferenze e fatiche inaudite. Ma ciò non impietosisce i trafficanti che, appena arrivate, le costringono a vendersi”. Negli ultimi anni, prima di arrivare, vengono anche violentate e messe incinte. “I protettori - spiega suor Eugenia – sanno che le migranti incinte godono di percorsi facilitati per ottenere i permessi di soggiorno. Sanno anche che molti clienti delle prostitute chiedono ragazze incinte. Questo dimostra l’aberrazione della tratta, la violenza dei trafficanti e la grettezza dei clienti”.

Non si tratta solo di violenze fisiche, ma anche psicologiche. Le nigeriane vengono costrette a subire riti voodoo che le legano ai protettori. “Le ragazze – osserva suor Eugenia – non hanno strumenti culturali per resistere a questi riti. Credono realmente a ciò che viene detto loro. In più, esse subiscono quotidianamente le percosse e le minacce di violenze sulle famiglie di origine. Per questi motivi hanno paura a liberarsi dai protettori”.

La prostituzione in Italia ha un giro di affari stimato in 32 miliardi di euro. Un capitale che fa gola anche alle mafie italiane che collaborano con i nigeriani. Per contrastare questo fenomeno, congregazioni religiose, Caritas e associazioni laiche hanno organizzato un lavoro in rete per aiutare le vittime della tratta. “A partire dagli anni Novanta – conclude suor Eugenia -, molte comunità religiose hanno iniziato ad accogliere le ragazze nigeriane fuggite ai trafficanti. Le abbiamo assistite dal punto di vista medico e psicologico. La abbiamo aiutate a studiare e a inserirsi nella nostra società. Da qualche anno, le aiutiamo anche a rientrare in patria. Per loro organizziamo progetti ad hoc e le accogliamo in due case una a Benin City e una a Lagos. Lavoriamo a stretto contatto con le suore locali in un lavoro che sta dando ottimi risultati. Qui in Italia serve un maggior impegno nelle comunità cristiane per sensibilizzare la gente sul tema della tratta. Speriamo che questa giornata possa servire ad aprire una riflessione sullo sfruttamento”. (E.C.) (Agenzia Fides 7/2/2018)

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12 January 2018 - Light a candle to support migrants in their journey of hope: this is the proposal of the Scalabrinian Missionary Sisters, a religious congregation that has been dealing with migrants since its foundation, on the occasion of the next World Day of Migrants and Refugees , which will be celebrated on Sunday, January 14th. "This year we invite to light a candle or a candle in front of one of the house windows, all over the world, between the 14th and 15th of January", explains Sister Neusa de Fatima Mariano, Superior General of the Scalabrinians, in a note sent to Agenzia Fides. "It is a small gesture that testifies our closeness to migrants who travel in search of hope".

Sister Neusa de Fatima explains that "migrants are the protagonists of a journey with which they put at risk what is most precious for them, their life. But there are not only the experiences of the Mediterranean. The borders of the world are many: starting from North and Central America, with the border between Mexico and the United States, then moving on to the dramas that are experienced in Africa and Asia, which Pope Francis himself has recently visited". "The world must become aware that migration is a human fact and managing and supporting it is a fact of humanity", she reiterated, with the hope that "perhaps this is the right moment in which single national borders are torn down".

Finally, the Superior General recalls the Pope's Message and stresses that "the four actions suggested by the Pontiff, to welcome, protect, promote and integrate, are a commitment not only to institutions but also to all citizens of the world. As Pope Francis rightly pointed out during the Christmas Mass, Joseph and Mary were migrants: they were fleeing to survive. Their model of being a family is a universal principle".

In the Message that Pope Francis published for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018, on the theme "Welcome, Protect, Promote and Integrate migrants and refugees", the Pope writes among other things: "Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age. The Lord entrusts to the Church’s motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future. This solidarity must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience: from departure through journey to arrival and return. This is a great responsibility, which the Church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight, each according to their own abilities". On Sunday 14 January, on the occasion of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the Holy Father Francis will celebrate Mass in the Vatican Basilica at 10 am. (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 11/1/2018)

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3rd April 2017 - An historic law to boost support and protection for the record number of foreign unaccompanied and separated children who arrived in Italy – nearly 26,000 in 2016.  With nearly 2,000 foreign children arriving on the Mediterranean in the first two months of 2017, the upward trend in arrivals is expected to continue this year making this law timely and relevant.  

“While across Europe we have seen fences going up, children detained and pledges unmet,  the Italian parliamentarians have shown their compassion and duty to young refugees and migrants,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, who on her recent visit to Italy met several newly arrived children. “This new law serves not only to give refugee and migrant children a sense of predictability in their uncertain lives after risking so much to get to Europe - it serves as a model for how other European countries could put in place a legislative framework that supports protection.”

The Italian Parliament passed the new (Zampa) law for “Provision of Protection measures” after two years of intensive advocacy efforts by UNICEF and other child rights organizations in Italy.  According to a recent UNICEF report “
Child Alert: A Deadly Journey for Children”, refugee and migrant children and women routinely suffer sexual violence, exploitation, abuse and detention at the hands of smugglers on the Central Mediterranean migration route to reach Italy. The report was widely cited in the Italian Parliament. 

The Central Mediterranean route from North Africa to Italy has become one of the main routes for children fleeing conflict, persecution and deprivation, as well as one of the longest and most dangerous. Some 92 percent of children on the move into Italy are between 14-17 years old and travelling by themselves. 

The Zampa law, as the new measure is known, is the first comprehensive act for unaccompanied children in Italy. It calls for a series of measures - fully aligned with UNICEF recommendations - to protect refugee and migrant children, including:

• Unaccompanied and separated foreign children will not be subjected to “refoulement” or returns that may cause them harm;
• Reduce the time these children spend in first-line reception centres;
• Promote guardianship for children by using trained volunteers from the regional child and youth agency and promote foster care and host families for children; 
• Harmonize and improve procedures for age assessment in a child-sensitive manner;
• Establish a structured and streamlined national reception system, with minimum standards in all reception facilities; 
• Roll out extensive use of qualified cultural mediators* to communicate and interpret needs of vulnerable adolescents; 

The new law includes additional budgetary provisions on top of €600 million which the Government of Italy had already allocated in 2016 to municipalities, groups and caregivers to help them cope with the large influx of refugees and migrants in reception centres. (site UNICEF)

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25th March 2017 - Pope Francis on Saturday greeted the Rom, Islamic, and immigrant families of the ‘White Houses’ in the Forlanini quarter of Milan at the beginning of his one-day pastoral visit to the city.

Upon his arrival, residents gave the Holy Father two gifts: a priestly stole and a picture of a statuette of the Madonna.

Pope Francis thanked them for their gifts and said it was important for him to be welcomed to Milan by a community of families.

He said the stole was a reminder that he comes “as a priest: I come to Milan as a priest”.

He also recognized that it had been handmade by several residents of the Forlanini quarter: “It’s a reminder that the Christian priest is chosen from among the people and at the service of the people. My priesthood…is a gift from Christ, but it is ‘woven’ by you, by our people with their faith, labours, prayers, and tears.”

Pope Francis then said the statuette of Our Lady is a sign of his being welcomed to Milan by the Madonna.

“It reminds me of Mary’s care, who ran to meet Elizabeth. This is the care and concern of the Church, which does not remain in the city centre waiting but comes to meet all at the peripheries; she goes also to meet non-Christians and non-believers…; and she brings Jesus to all, he who is the love of God made flesh and gives meaning to our lives and saves us from evil.”

Afterwards, the Holy Father made his way to Milan’s Duomo Cathedral to meet with priests and consecrated men and women. (Radio Vaticana)

Published in News
Sunday, 26 February 2017 22:05

ITALY International Migration Forum

26th  February 2017 -  The creation of a network is essential. "The four actions indicated by the Pope (welcome, protect, promote, integrate) concluded the Sixth International Migration and Peace Forum and highlighted the answer that the entire planet must give to migration issues. Only in this way one is able to integrate and live in a peaceful world". This is what was said in a statement sent to Fides, by Sister Neusa de Fátima Mariano, Superior General of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo/Scalabrinians at the conclusion of the sixth International Forum "Migration and Peace" which was held in Rome.

"To aim at housing policies, language learning, training and implementation of socio-cultural activities is the basis of a concrete work and the realization of policies initiated by our founder Giovanni Battista Scalabrini and by the co-founders Giuseppe and Assunta Marchetti - adds Sister Neusa de Fátima Mariano -.

The creation of a network is essential, this is what emerged from the Forum. Institutions, civil society, must work for a positive and virtuous action. Institutions must ensure, at the same time, the 'right not to emigrate', creating projects to ensure that the community is not dismembered, devastated by all sorts of crises. Pope Francis’ support shows that migration is top priority, because this is dictated by other factors that have an affect in human history". (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 24/02/2017)

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Friday, 13 January 2017 21:15

ITALY Migration: the face of children

13 January 2017 - "The Pope has given this World Day for Migrants and Refugees a key to important reflection that passes through migrant children. We must look at them in order to truly understand the phenomenon of migration today". This was stated in a note sent to Agenzia Fides, by Sr. Neusa de Fátima Mariano, Superior General of the Scalabrinian religious congregation that since its foundation provides assistance to migrants worldwide.

The Holy Father’s theme for the 2017 World Day is “Child Migrants, the Vulnerable and the Voiceless”. "Today those children are uprooted from their homes - says Sister Neusa -. At an age when everything is a dream they are forced to flee, to leave their families (if they still have one). Everything leads us to really understand what is the measure of an endless tragedy".

"Every year, in every continent, there are thousands of faces of children that we meet – she continues -. They are the face of migration: they have the eyes of those who have seen many, too many tragedies and the smile of those who nevertheless continue to hope. They have no voice and quietly continue their escape to a world that is not theirs". (SL) (Agenzia Fides 13/01/2017)

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