Vatican City, 24 March 2014 (VIS) – Gratitude for the great work of evangelisation that is taking place in Guinea, despite a lack of material resources, and invitations to unity, reconciliation and dialogue with members of other religions were the key points of the Pope's address to the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Guinea, whom he received in audience this morning, at the end of their “ad limina” visit.
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Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, who has led the Syrian Orthodox Church since 1980, has died at the age of 80 following a long illness.
“The whole Christian world has lost one of its outstanding spiritual leaders, courageous and wise in leading people trough very difficult times,” Pope Francis said in a telegram of condolence.
“Following his election as Patriarch in 1980, His Holiness was an engaged witness of the successive violent conflicts that have brought untold death and suffering to the Middle East, especially to Iraq and most recently Syria. “In particular I give heartfelt thanks to God for his constant work to improve relations among Christians and, from the time he attended the Second Vatican Council as an observer, for his extraordinary contribution to strengthening communion between Syrian Orthodox Christians and the Catholic faithful.”
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ACN News: Monday, 27th March 2013: European Union
“For the first time in the history of contemporary Europe, in a European country, people are dying for the European flag, for European values
“We believe that Ukraine is a breath of fresh air for Europe”, stated Ukrainian Greek Catholic Bishop Borys Gudziak and Professor Myroslav Marynovych, former Gulag political prisoner. “Ukraine is not a trouble spot, but a partner offering a vision – a reminder of the original European spirit: youth, dynamism, and a profound belief in the principles and values that found the European project. The Ukrainian youth carry this vision, and have been martyred for this same hope. What is Europe’s answer to them?”
Maidan, the space for political expression on Independence Square in Kiev, and replicated in scores of Ukrainian cities and communities worldwide is in fact an “Agora,” a place to discuss, exchange ideas, create consensus. “The Maidan movement, encompassing all levels of Ukrainian society and all religious traditions, said Myroslav Marynovych, is not ending. There is no going back. It is the voice of the people calling for profound change in Ukraine – not simply to rotate the faces in a quasi-Soviet political structure – but a movement to see true democratic structures in place as in the tradition of European democracy. The opportunity that Ukraine and the ongoing democratic processes present might also be an example to Russians as how to move towards democracy.”
Bishop Borys Gudziak concluded by saying: “We see a great historical shift, a deep movement within the Ukrainian society – a passage from fear to dignity. In fact this revolution is called the “Revolution of Dignity.” The resistance to the Yanukovych regime helped people claim their dignity; the invasion of Crimea is helping the people claim their sense of national identity.”
“In these days of heavy political decisions, we came to the EU to help them help us”, said Bishop Gudziak, “to let them know how young Ukrainians are the best guarantee for Europe’s peace and prosperity”.
Bishop Borys Gudziak, the Greek Catholic Eparch for France, Benelux and Switzerland, and Professor Myroslav Marynovych, a leading moral authority in Ukraine, are respectively President and vice-Rector of the Catholic University of Lviv. With the support of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, they were in Brussels to update policy makers about the situation in Ukraine, the reality on the ground and the potential impact of Europe’s immediate and future policy decisions.
On the left: Bishop Borys Gudziak, standing beside EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Professor Myroslav Marynovych © Council of the EU
Bishop Borys Gudziak, the Greek Catholic Eparch for France, Benelux and Switzerland, and Professor Myroslav Marynovych, a leading moral authority in Ukraine, are respectively President and vice-Rector of the Catholic University of Lviv.
With the support of the Catholic Aid to the Church in Need, they were in Brussels to update policy makers about the situation in Ukraine, the reality on the ground and the potential impact of Europe’s immediate and future policy decisions.
This week's inauguration of the Global Freedom Network — a large-scale interfaith initiative to end slavery — publicly recognises the importance of interfaith collaboration as a means of understanding and addressing social issues. The united efforts of Catholic, Anglican and Muslim leaders reflect a realisation that no single religious tradition can solve an issue as immense as slavery, and that solutions to big issues require the wisdom of many.. Visit this article here to read more.
ACN News: Monday, 27th March 2013 – NIGER
Catholics nuns in Niger: serving the poor in an Islamic country
By Reinhard Backes
Mother Marie-Catherine Persévérance Kingbo listens very attentively. Then she replies to a schoolgirl's question as to why she, as a Catholic nun, lives in an Islamic country and says: "I heard God's call to leave everything and serve the poor."
Mother Marie-Catherine Persévérance has been working in Niger for seven and a half years. This landlocked country with an area of 1.2 million square kilometres is located in the West African Sahelian zone. It is one of the poorest countries in the world. Many people here are suffering from malnutrition. In Maradi in the south of the country Marie-Catherine founded the "Fraternité des Servantes du Christ", an order that does social and charitable work. Through education and training the community opens up new life prospects for children, young people and their parents, Mother Marie-Catherine confirmed when she visited the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need.
Mother Marie-Catherine Persévérance© Aid to the Church in Need
Until the founding of "Fraternité des Servantes du Christ", Marie-Catherine, who was born in 1953 in Guinguinéo in Senegal, had belonged to one of the first African women's congregations, the "Filles du Saint Coeur de Marie". It was there that she heard the call to dedicate her life to the poor. The Bishop of Maradi, Ambroise Ouédraogo, asked her to help the still young diocese. The community has been working there since October 2006. Together with another nun, Mother Marie-Catherine initially looked after six or seven villages. The community has since grown to include 20 women from six African countries and they regularly visit up to 120 villages. "On Tuesdays and Thursdays 500 to 600 mothers come with their children; many are malnourished. Every year we feed about 23,000 people," Mother Marie-Catherine adds.
The sisters come from the neighbouring countries of Benin and Chad, and also from Senegal; only two are from Niger itself. The country is dominated by Islam, the way of life is extremely traditional and the number of Christians is negligible. It's almost impossible to change one's faith because this would mean breaking with one's family and traditions. Even so, the initiative of the sisters in Maradi has made a considerable impact in only a few years. The locals, the village elders, the imams and the rural population show trust in the sisters. They are often greeted with phrases like: "We see God in what you are doing" or "You show us love." In the rural areas the sisters' commitment is appreciated, according to Mother Marie-Catherine, and any hostility is only encountered in the towns.
Distribution of food in Maradi by a sister of the Congregation "Servants of Christ" © Aid to the Church in Need
The biggest problem in Maradi, alongside the malnutrition, is the widespread custom of marrying off girls as young as ten years of age. The sisters, whose education programme is supported by "Aid to the Church in Need", speak to the parents about the consequences of this. Apart from difficult pregnancies at an early age, early sexual intercourse may cause incontinence in young girls, and this can lead to their family rejecting them. Then the adolescent girls face a bleak future. To avoid any conflicts arising because of their educational work, the sisters always inform the village elders early on. Mother Marie-Catherine explains: "We can sense changes are taking place. Now parents even approach us with the request: 'You must change things, this isn't good for the girls.'"
The "Fraternité des Servantes du Christ" also manages more and more often to persuade parents to send their daughters to school. Because classes are mostly taught in simple straw huts, village elders have also already asked the sisters for schools.