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Ischia quake: search continues for survivors

(Vatican Radio) Rescue workers continued to search those buried under rubble after an earthquake hit the tourist-packed Italian holiday island of Ischia on Monday night, killing at least two people and injuring dozens.

Listen to our report: 

The 4.3 magnitude quake struck the island of Ischia off the coast of Naples on Monday night causing frightened residents and tourists to run out in the streets.

Most of the damage was in the high part of the volcanic island and at least six buildings including a Church collapsed due to the force of the tremor.

A number of people were killed and dozens injured. A few people were pulled out alive from the rubble, including a seven-month-old baby.

More rescue workers were brought in from the mainland to help in the search for survivors.

Speaking to state broadcaster Rai News one resident said that when these things happen it’s not the houses but people’s lives that are the most important.

Ischia is a popular destination for tourists especially at this time of year, but many holiday makers decided to leave the island early due to the fear of aftershocks.

The earthquake hit just few days before the first anniversary of a major quake that killed nearly 300 people in central Italy, most of them in the town of Amatrice.

 

 

 

Venezuelan conductor's US tour cancelled

(Vatican Radio) The curtain has come down on the Venezuelan Conductor, who dared to speak out against the turmoil in his Country.  James Blears reports about a cancellation of note.

Listen: 

Gustavo Dudamel confirms the US Tour, with him at the helm of Venezuela`s National Youth Orchestra is sunk.  He`s the Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Simon Bolivar Symphany Orchestra of Venezuela, and the problem is connected to disharmony back home.   During the anti government demonstrations he appealed to the Venezuelan Government to heed the people.

Since May he`s also criticised the Constituent Assembly in thought, vote and reality, via the Spanish and US Press.  This has not gone unnoticed and a nettled President Nicolas Maduro,  criticised Dudamel for abandoning his country by living abroad.  Now the President`s Office has cancelled the Youth Orchestara`s four concerts within the United States in Sepetmber.

Dudamel who`s heartstrings have been muted, describes  the decision as heartbreaking commenting: "We will continue to play for a better Venezuela and a better World."

 

 

Russia's President appoints new US Ambassador

(Vatican Radio) Russian President Vladimir Putin has appointed a former deputy defense minister as Russia's new ambassador to the United States amid mounting tensions between Moscow and Washington. The announcement came while the U.S. Embassy in Russia suspended issuing non-immigrant visas to Russian citizens. 

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:

The Kremlin said Monday that Putin has decided that Russia's new ambassador to the U.S. would be Anatoly Antonov, a deputy foreign minister, and former deputy defense minister. He is seen as a hardliner towards the U.S.

Antonov replaces Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, whose tenure ended in July. The outgoing ambassador played a prominent role in the controversy over Russia's possible involvement and interference in last year's U.S. presidential election.

President Donald Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned after lying about contacts with Kislyak. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election after reports that he hadn't disclosed meetings with Kislyak.

Antonov arrives in the United States amid ongoing diplomatic tensions over these and other issues between the two nuclear powers. On Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Russia said it would suspend providing nonimmigrant visas for eight days from Wednesday in response to a Russian decision to cap embassy staff.

THOUSANDS AFFECTED

It said it would resume issuing visas in Moscow on September 1 but maintain the suspension at consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok indefinitely.

That step could affect hundreds of thousands of Russian tourists. 

The embassy decided to take this action after Russia ordered the U.S. to cut its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by 755, or by two-thirds. 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a news conference the U.S. decision to cut visa operations aims well known to make Russians feel resentment towards their government. "The American authors of these decisions have come up with another attempt to stir up discontent among Russian citizens about the actions of the Russian authorities. It is a well-known logic ... and this is the logic of those who organize color revolutions," he said. 

Asked about a possible Russian reaction, Lavrov said Russia would "study" the embassy's announcement. But he added that unlike the U.S. government "Russia is not going to take it out on U.S. citizens."

CAFOD welcomes Pope's message on migrants and refugees

(Vatican Radio) Aid agencies have been reacting to Pope Francis’s message for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees which was released on Monday.

The message entitled , “welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees” calls for a shared response to the challenges of contemporary migration and  urges political leaders and civil society to join with the Church in protecting the most vulnerable.

One of the aid agencies who has welcomed the message is the UK based Catholic aid agency CAFOD who described the Pope’s call as, “throwing down gauntlet” to politicians to do more for the protection of refugees and migrants.

Graham Gordon, is Head of Policy at CAFOD. He spoke to Lydia O’Kane about the message, saying the Holy Father is making clear that all countries must step up to the plate and pull their weight.

Listen: 

“It’s interesting because it’s quite a political message with a clear call to governments  to step up their political will to deal with the issue of migration that we face now”, said Mr Gordon.

Asked about some of the highlights of the message, he noted that, “very clearly there’s a strong sense of protecting and again protecting the most vulnerable people who are on the move.  We see many examples of children; up to half of the people who are migrating or who are refugees in some contexts are children who are under 18… they are the people who often need the most protection.”

The CAFOD Policy Chief also points out that, “he (the Pope) calls it a global issue that needs a global response and again he’s saying we can’t just leave it to governments, but he’s also saying on the other side, we can’t just leave it to the Church and civil society groups, actually we need to work in partnership again to tackle this issue.”

Parolin describes meeting with Hilarion as 'very constructive'

(Vatican Radio) The Vatican Secretary of State on Monday described the tone of his two-hour meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow,  as “very constructive”.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin is on a four-day visit to Russia during which he is scheduled to meet the Russian Patriarch Kirill and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday before holding talks with President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Wednesday.

The website of the Moscow Patriarchate showed a picture of Parolin clasping hands with Hilarion and holding talks in a room decorated with Orthodox icons. It said the two men discussed "key topics of bilateral relations... in the context of the current international situation."

Answering journalists’ questions after the Monday meeting, the Vatican Secretary of State said that a good part of the conversation touched on the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine as well as on the Holy See's concern for the situation in Venezuela.

The Russian news agency Tass highlighted the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church and the Holy See reportedly share the same position regarding “the need for a peaceful solution for the middle-eastern region and in particular for Syria” and that a return to normality in that country will be possible only after the total expulsion of IS militants from the occupied territories.”

Cardinal Parolin reportedly noted that Christians are beginning to return to the areas that have been taken back from the so-called Islamic State, but said that notwithstanding some positive developments, the general situation remains very difficult, especially from a humanitarian point of view.  

 

XXI Sunday, August 27, 2017

Homily starter anecdote: “Who do you think I am?”  In 1896, after fifteen centuries, Athens renewed the Olympic Games. You can imagine how proud the Greeks were to host the first modern Olympics. You can also imagine how disappointed they were at their athletes' lack of success in event after event. The last competition was the marathon. Greece's entrant was named Louis, a shepherd without competitive background. He'd trained alone in the hills near his flock. When the race started, Louis was far back in the pack of marathoners. But as the miles passed he moved up steadily. One by one the leaders began to falter. The French hero fell in agony. The hero from the United States had to quit the race. Soon, word reached the stadium that a lone runner was approaching the arena, and the emblem of Greece was on his chest! As the excitement grew, Prince George of Greece hurried to the stadium entrance where he met Louis and ran with him to the finish line. In this sports tale, we have something of the history of the human race. Jesus Christ started from way back in the pack. He was born in relative obscurity, never had many followers, commanded no army, erected no edifices, wrote no books. He died young, was buried in a borrowed grave, and you'd think he'd be quickly forgotten. But, no! His reputation has grown, so that today Jesus is worshiped on every continent, has more followers than ever before and sixteen times has been pictured on the cover of Time magazine, while Jesus’ sayings have been translated into more than 200 languages.  Consider: Socrates taught for forty years, Plato for fifty, and Aristotle, forty. Jesus Christ only taught for three years. Yet which has influenced the world more, one hundred thirty years of classical thought or three years of Christ's? In the Library of Congress there are 1,172 reference books on William Shakespeare, 1,752 on George Washington, 2,319 on Abe Lincoln, and 5,152 on Jesus Christ. Perhaps H. G. Wells best summed up the runaway difference in interest. "Christ," he wrote, "is the most unique person of history. No man can write a history of the human race without giving first and foremost place to the penniless teacher of Nazareth." As Emerson once noted, "The name of Jesus is not so much written as PLOUGHED into the history of the world." Today’s gospel challenges us to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior as St. Peter did at Caesarea Philippi.

Introduction: We might call this Sunday “Power Sunday” because the main theme of all three readings is that God is the Source of all authority. God shares His authority with elected civil rulers to serve the people and with the Pope and the other Church leaders for the material and spiritual welfare of His children.

Scripture lessons: The first reading, taken from Isaiah, tells us how God hates unfaithful and selfish officials by describing how He removed the proud “master of the royal palace,” Shebna from his office and promoted the humble and faithful Eliakim.  The robe, the sash, and the keys are the insignia of this office. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 138), David thanks God for having raised him from lowly origins and given him authority as king over the people of Israel.  In the second reading, St. Paul praises God for the depth of His wisdom and knowledge and correct judgments, and asserts that He is the Source of all authority on earth and in Heaven. Today’s Gospel passage shows us how Peter confesses Jesus as his Lord and Savior and how Jesus, in turn, approves his words and gives the teaching and ruling authority in his Church to Peter.  Thus, Jesus establishes a “Magisterium” in his Church to serve the spiritual and physical needs of the Church members.  By Jesus’ statement, “I will give you the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven,” he gives Peter and his successors the power to bind and to loose (make laws; exercise authority) in the Church, and the assurance that their decisions will be ratified in Heaven.

The first reading (Is 22:19-23) explained: Chapters thirteen through twenty-three of Isaiah record oracles in which the prophet Isaiah pronounces God's judgment against various nations. In chapter twenty-two, Shebna, the proud and unfaithful royal official, is severely criticized and told by the Lord God, through Isaiah, that he will have to yield to a replacement named Eliakim: “I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station.” The reason for the degradation of Shebna, the “master of the royal palace,” (the most powerful person next to the King), was that he had tried to immortalize himself by beginning to construct his own tomb in a lofty place on the mountain. The Lord demands faithfulness to His way and His word.  Hence, Shebna was removed from his position of controlling access both to the city and to the king

The “master of the royal palace” proudly carried the "key," an iron bar of considerable size, on his shoulder during state occasions. This "key" symbolism recalls Eliakim's installation as “major domo” (second in command to the king) in King Hezekiah's palace. The reference to the "key of the house of David" in this text prompted some Fathers to see in it a Messianic prophecy, foretelling the removal from power of the leaders of the Chosen People of the Old Testament, and the transfer of that power to Christ, who in turn would hand it on to Peter as head of His Church.  The robe and the sash indicate that Eliakim has been invested with authority. The key symbolizes jurisdiction, and the tent peg is a sign of stability. This passage prepares us for today's Gospel, Matthew 16:13-20, in which Jesus grants Peter "the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven." The "key of David" connects with Matthew's "keys to the Kingdom of Heaven." Isaiah emphasizes the charismatic dimension of authority, stating that it is Yahweh who gives certain individuals the charism of leadership. “Isaiah foretells that the keys to David’s kingdom would be given to a new master, who would rule as father to God’s people. Jesus, the root and offspring of David, alone holds the Kingdom’s keys (see Revelation 1:18; 3:7; 22:16). (Dr. Scot Hann). The purpose of authority in the Church, of authority at any level, is not to control the lives of others, but rather to help them to seek the values that will bring them lasting joy, both in this changing world and in the next.

The Second Reading (Romans 11:33-36) explained: Paul praises the wisdom of God and His inscrutable ways of bringing salvation to all people. Paul marvels at the Divine goodness, wisdom and knowledge. He emphasizes the wisdom of God described in chapters 9-11.

Gospel Exegesis: Two questions and the answers. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus asked certain questions about his identity.  This incident took place at Caesarea Philippi, (presently called Banias), twenty-five miles northeast of the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus asked a question in two parts. The first question: “What is the public opinion?” The apostles’ answer was, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” John the Baptist was so great a figure that it might well be that he had come back from the dead. Elijah, the greatest of the prophets was believed to be the forerunner of the Messiah.  ["Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes" (Mal 4:5). In 2Esdr 2:18 the promise of God is: "For thy help I will send my servants Isaiah and Jeremiah."]   The phrase "one of the prophets" suggested that Jesus had a ministry like that of the former prophets. When the people identified Jesus with Elijah and with Jeremiah, they were, according to their lights, paying him a great compliment and setting him in a high place, for Jeremiah and Elijah were the expected forerunners of the Anointed One of God. When they arrived, the Kingdom would be very near indeed.

The second question: “What is your personal opinion? For the first time in their relationship Peter, speaking for the other disciples, declared publicly: “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.” Peter was the first apostle to recognize Jesus publicly as the Anointed One (also translated Messiah or ChristChrist is the Greek word for the Hebrew word Messiah). Peter was saying that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one of God, Immanuel, the Salvation of God -- God who became Man to save sinners!  It is evident that Jesus was well pleased with Peter’s answer. Jesus first pronounced a blessing upon Peter, the only disciple in the Gospels to receive a personal blessing. "Blessed are you, Simon son of John!" Next, Jesus confirmed Peter's insight as a special revelation from God. "No mere man has revealed this to you, but my Heavenly Father." However, Jesus was quick to explain to the disciples that he was not a political Messiah. He was, rather, a Messiah who must suffer, die and be raised to life again.

The promise: “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.” Ever since Pope Stephen I (254-257), used this text against Cyprian of Carthage to defend Roman primacy, these verses have been among the most disputed in the New Testament.  Historically, they have been central to issues of authority in the Church, especially of the authority of the episcopacy and of the Bishop of Rome. Jesus’ promise to Peter is the Catholic basis for the position of the Pope and of the Church. The Church teaches that Peter was given the keys which admit a man to Heaven or exclude him from it, and that to Peter was given the power to absolve or not to absolve a man from his sins. In other words, Jesus gave to Peter the authority to determine what courses of action would be permitted or forbidden in the Church. It is further argued by the Catholic Church that this power given to Peter has descended to all the Bishops of Rome throughout all ages, and that it exists today in Pope Francis, who, as the direct successor of Peter, is the head of the Church and the Bishop of Rome.

The Magisterium of the Church in the First Vatican Council defined the doctrine of the primacy of Peter and his successors in these terms:  6 “We teach and declare, therefore, according to the testimony of the Gospel that the primacy of jurisdiction over the whole Church was immediately and directly promised to and conferred upon the blessed Apostle Peter by Christ the Lord. For to Simon, Christ had said, ‘You shall be called Cephas’ (John 1:42). Then, after Simon had acknowledged Christ with the confession, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:16), it was to Simon alone that the solemn words were spoken by the Lord: ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in Heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ (Matthew 16:17-19). Then, after His Resurrection, Jesus conferred upon Simon Peter alone the jurisdiction of supreme shepherd and ruler over His whole fold with the words, ‘Feed my lambs ... Feed my sheep’” (John 21:15-17). [...]

The keys of Heaven and the binding power.  The wording has its roots in Isaiah 22:22, (today’s first reading): "I will place on Eliakim's shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open." Eliakim thus became the steward of the house, responsible for opening the house in the morning, closing it at night, and controlling access to the royal presence.  According to Josephus a historian; “The power of binding and loosing was always claimed by the Pharisees.  Under Queen Alexandra the Pharisees became the administrators of all so as to be empowered to banish and readmit whom they pleased as well as to loose and bind.” (http://www.canapologetics.net/peter_and_papacy_2.html) So here, in the New Testament, we see Jesus handing over these “keys”, these to the Kingdom of Heaven, to one of the  apostle’s, Peter. We notice the similarities and differences between this passage and the one from Isaiah.  Where Eliakim has the key placed on his shoulder, Jesus hands the keys to Peter; Where “he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open,” Peter is told “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The Anchor Bible commentary, an Interfaith work (Catholic, Protestant and Jewish scholars), says this: “By conferring the power to bind and loose upon Church leadership, Jesus authorizes it to interpret the Scriptures and establish norms for Christian behaviour (vol. 1).” One final quote comes from a primary Protestant authority, Martin Luther, who, five years after the Reformation, declared “So we stand here and with open mouth stare heavenward and invent still other keys.  Yet Christ says very clearly in Matt 16:19 that he will give the keys to Peter. He does not say he has two kinds of keys, but He gives to Peter the keys He Himself has and no others. It is as if He were saying: “Why are you staring heavenward in search of the keys?  Do you not understand I gave them to Peter? They are indeed the keys of Heaven, but they are not found in Heaven.  I left them on earth. Don’t look for them in Heaven or anywhere else except in Peter’s mouth where I have placed them. Peter’s mouth is my mouth, and his tongue is my key case.  His office is my office, his binding and loosing are My binding and loosing” [Martin Luther, “The Keys,” in Conrad Bergendoff, ed., trans. Earl Beyer and Conrad Bergendoff, Luther’s Works,  volume 40, (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1958), p 365-366.]  In this role, Peter was the first to preach Christ, and he did so to three thousand people at Pentecost (Acts 2); he became the spokesman to the Council of Jerusalem  (Acts 15). “Bind and loose” also concerns doctrine and ethical conduct, declaring certain actions as either forbidden or permitted. Later Christian tradition extended this principle to include the power to forgive or retain sins (18:18; John 20:23). In Mt 18:18, Jesus extends this authority to the whole group of disciples, saying, "Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven." Catholics believe that Peter's authority passed from Peter to the Popes who followed him. “In giving those Keys to Peter, Jesus fulfills that prophecy, establishing Peter - and all who succeed him - as holy father of His Church. His Church, too, is the new house of God - the spiritual temple founded on the “rock” of Peter, and built up out of the living stones of individual believers (see 1 Peter 2:5)”. (Dr. Scot Hann).

Guarantees given to Peter and his successors: The Catholic Church teaches that by giving Peter the "keys" along with the promise that all his decisions would be ratified in Heaven, Christ gave Peter the power of freedom from error when he was officially teaching the universal Church. In other words, Peter received primacy in the Church and the gift of infallibility in his official teaching on matters of Faith and morals. The first Vatican Council defined this Dogma, and the second Vatican Council reconfirmed it. As the Church was to continue long after Peter had died, it was rightly understood from the beginning that those privileges given to him which were necessary for the successful mission of the Church, were given to his lawful successors –  the Popes.

The most disputed text, "Upon this rock I will build my Church": Origen interpreted the text to mean that Peter is the type of every true, spiritual Christian on whom the Church is built.  The “Eastern” Church interpreted the rock as the Faith of Peter, so that the Church is built on the Faith of believing Christians.  The Roman or pontifical interpretation which dates from the fourth century is that rock is Peter, and the promises made to Peter apply also to Peter’s successors in the Petrine ministry. Since Vatican I, this has been the normative interpretation for Roman Catholics. The Middle Ages gave the Christological interpretation, according to which Christ is the rock (see 1 Cor. 3:11, 10:4). Non-Catholics argue that there is no evidence that Peter’s ministry would be successive. However, the whole context and meaning of the imagery from the beginning to the end show it to be a ministry that must be successive. First of all, the image of the rock is, by its very nature, a timeless and everlasting image. That’s why the image of the rock was chosen. That’s how rocks are. They’re there to stay. Then, in Matthew 16, Jesus himself says that the steward’s ministry will have an eternal dimension. He holds the keys to the Kingdom of God and the gates of hell will never prevail against it. Finally, the image of the shepherd, as we have seen, is an eternal one because God himself is the ultimate Good Shepherd. If the rock, the steward, and the shepherd are eternal ministries, then for it to last that long, the ministry given to Peter must be successive. How could this eternal ministry have died out with Peter himself and still have been eternal?

Authority for service: In a dramatic return to the spirit of the apostolic church, the participants at the Second Vatican Council affirmed the teaching of Jesus, in that authority is always to be exercised as a service and in a collegial manner for the building up of the community (Dogmatic Constitution on The Church, # 27). Following Vatican II, a number of ecumenical dialogues have resulted in more of a consensus among Christians concerning authority in the Church. The Anglican, Roman-Catholic International Commission issued a document entitled “An Agreed Statement on Authority in the Church“(1977). According to this commission, the model of authority in the Church is not political, sociological, structural or juridical but rather one of koinonia, viz., a union based on mutual loving service in the truth of Christ, activated by the Holy Spirit in order to create community with God and all persons. Similar statements by the Lutheran Catholic Dialogue remind contemporary disciples of Jesus that all Christian authority is rooted in Christ and in the Gospel, a word of power from God (Romans 1:16) which is proclaimed by various witness-servants who are given a share in the authority of Christ, the Witness-Servant-Model for us all.

Life messages: 1) We need to accept Jesus as our Lord and personal savior:  Jesus is not merely the founder of a new religion, or a revolutionary  reformer, or one of the great teachers. For Christians, he is the Son of God and  our personal Savior.  This means that we have to see Jesus as the Good Shepherd, the Savior, and the Redeemer.  He is our beloved friend, closer to us than our dear ones and a living experience, who walks with us, loves us, forges us, helps us and transforms our lives and outlook. We have to give all areas of our lives to him.  He must have a say in our daily lives and we must radiate all around us his sacrificial agápe love, unconditional forgiveness, overflowing mercy and committed service.  The joy, the love, the peace that we find in Jesus should be reflected in the way we live our lives.

2) We need to experience Jesus as our Lord and Savior and surrender our lives to him. The knowledge of Jesus as Lord and personal Savior should become a living, personal experience for each Christian. This is made possible by our listening to Jesus through the daily, meditative reading of the Bible, by our talking to Jesus through daily, personal and communal prayers, by our offering our lives on the altar with Jesus whenever we attend Holy Mass and by our leading a sacramental life. The next step is the surrender of our lives to Jesus by rendering humble and loving service to others with the strong conviction that Jesus is present in every person. The step after that is to praise and thank God in all the events of our lives, both good and bad, realizing that God’s loving hands are behind every event of our lives. (Fr. Antony Kadavil).

Parolin describes meeting with Hilarion as 'very constructive'

(Vatican Radio) The Vatican Secretary of State on Monday described the tone of his two-hour meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow,  as “very constructive”.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin is on a four-day visit to Russia during which he is scheduled to meet the Russian Patriarch Kirill and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday before holding talks with President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Wednesday.

The website of the Moscow Patriarchate showed a picture of Parolin clasping hands with Hilarion and holding talks in a room decorated with Orthodox icons. It said the two men discussed "key topics of bilateral relations... in the context of the current international situation."

Answering journalists’ questions after the Monday meeting, the Vatican Secretary of State said that a good part of the conversation touched on the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine as well as on the Holy See's concern for the situation in Venezuela.

The Russian news agency Tass highlighted the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church and the Holy See reportedly share the same position regarding “the need for a peaceful solution for the middle-eastern region and in particular for Syria” and that a return to normality in that country will be possible only after the total expulsion of IS militants from the occupied territories.”

Cardinal Parolin reportedly noted that Christians are beginning to return to the areas that have been taken back from the so-called Islamic State, but said that notwithstanding some positive developments, the general situation remains very difficult, especially from a humanitarian point of view.  

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Bishops of Sierra Leone console nation in pain

(Radio Vatican) As the death toll keeps rising, in the wake of Sierra Leone’s devastating Regent mudslide, the Catholic Bishops of the country have reached out to console a nation which has had more than its fair share of tragedy.

The latest death toll now stands at more than 500. It is bound to rise as there are still hundreds of missing persons. The mudslide took place in the mountain town of Regent, on the outskirts of Freetown. Entire informal settlements were wiped out overnight. There is now urgent need of food, shelter, clean water, sanitation and healthcare.

“The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has been praying for Sierra Leone and has assured us of his spiritual closeness at this time of terrible natural disaster. Our hearts and prayers go out to the bereaved families, and all those who have been made homeless, as well as those who have been thrown into abject poverty by this disaster,” the Bishops’ Message of Hope reads.

There is also the painful recognition that perhaps this ecological disaster could have been avoided.

“The encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si', compels our collective consciences to foster true ecological conversion and to live at peace with nature. Sierra Leoneans have the responsibility to care for 'our common home.’ We cannot waver; now is the time to take this road!” the Bishops say.

On Sunday, 20 August, the Sierra Leone Inter-Religious Council held special prayer services in memory of those killed in the mudslide and flooding.  The Council also organised special prayers and recitals in Mosques on Friday 18 August.

Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Koroma has declared seven days of mourning in the country and appealed for help.

Below is the full Message of Hope, from the Catholic Bishops of Sierra Leone.

Email: engafrica@vatiradio.va

 

A MESSAGE OF HOPE IN THE WAKE  OF THE RECENT  FLOODS, LANDSLIDES AND  MUDSLIDES IN FREETOWN

To our beloved Brothers and Sisters and People of Goodwill.

We, the Catholic Bishops of Sierra Leone, wish to add our voice in extending heartfelt and sincere condolences to President Ernest Bai Koroma, the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, and his Government, the People and Citizens of a nation in mourning, and to families and relatives who have lost their loved ones during these days of flooding, landslide and mudslides in Freetown. We express our sentiments of consolation and hope to all during this challenging period in our nation's history.

The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has been praying for Sierra Leone and has assured us of his spiritual closeness at this time of terrible natural disaster. Our hearts and prayers go out to the bereaved families, and all those who have been made homeless, as well as those who have been thrown into abject poverty by this disaster.

The encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Sì, compels our collective consciences to foster true ecological conversion and to live at peace with nature. Sierra Leoneans have the responsibility to care for 'our common home". We cannot waver; now is the time to take this road!

We urge charity organizations and all competent authorities to be proactive in responding to the needs our compatriots who are now at the mercy of "good will" and cheerful givers.

The Catholic Church, through her charity arm, Caritas, in collaboration with the Catholic Development Agencies, will collaborate and support Government in her efforts to curtail the sufferings of our compatriots.

We  continue to pray for the peaceful repose of the souls of all victims.

For and on behalf of the Catholic Bishops of Sierra Leone

 

Most Rev. Charles A.M. Campbell

Bishop of Bo and President of the Conference

 

Church celebrates 100 years of Tanzanian Catholic priests

In Tanzania's future capital, Dodoma, hundreds of priests from Tanzania’s Catholic Dioceses have celebrated 100 years of the local priesthood in the country from the ordination of the first four Tanzanian priests on 15 August 1917.

The first four native priests were Frs. Celestine Kipanda of Bunda Diocese; Angelo Mwirabure, Geita Diocese; Oscar kyakaraba, Bukoba Diocese and Willlbard Mupapi from Kashozi-Bukoba Diocese.

The 100 years celebration was graced by the Holy See’s delegate, Archbishop Protase Rugambwa who is the Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and concurrently President of Pontifical Mission Societies. Also present at the event were the Apostolic Nuncio to Tanzania, Archbishop Marek Solczyński; Tanzania’s Catholic Bishops and four visiting Bishops from Burundi and Rwanda.

The participation of Bishops from Burundi and Rwanda was significant because two priests (one from Burundi and another from Rwanda) were ordained in the same year, 1917, with their Tanzanian counterparts. 

In his Homily, the Auxiliary Bishop of Bukoba Diocese, Bishop Method Kilaini commended efforts of the missionaries specifically Bishop John Joseph Hirth of the then Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Nyanza which was a Catholic mission territory of Eastern Africa. Bishop Hirth promoted the idea of Africans becoming priests in spite of opposition from some of his fellow missionaries.

“Bishop Hirth never gave up; he continued doing what he had planned to do. He was happy to see his dream come true on 15th, August 1917 when four Tanzanians (Africans) were ordained, priests. Later on 7 October 1917 he ordained one priest from Rwanda and another one from Burundi,” said Bishop Kilaini.

Bishop Kilaini urged priests to remain steadfast in their vocation. “In whatever circumstance do not revoke your priesthood,” he said.

He stated that from 1917 when Tanzania got its first four priests, there were now in the country, 3,316 Catholic priests. Of these 2,926 are Diocesan priests; 390 are Religious.

(Sarah Pelaji in Tanzania)

AMECEA

Email: engafrica@vatiradio.va

 

Protestant and Catholic academicians meet in Nairobi

Encounters between Catholics and Protestants in Africa was the theme of an Ecumenical Conference held in Nairobi recently. The conference was organised by the Nairobi-based Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa (JHIA). The Ecumenical dialogue brought together over twenty Protestant and Catholic academicians and an audience of over sixty participants. The week-long conference was designed as part of the larger commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation of Martin Luther.

Organiser of the conference, Jesuit priest and Director of the JHIA, Fr. Festo Mkenda told Vatican Radio that although the Protestant Reformation of Martin Luther was a mostly European affair, it has had wider and far-reaching implications on Christianity in Africa.

“It occurred to me that nothing much was being done in Africa (to commemorate the Protestant Reformation of Martin Luther). People felt, ‘well, the Protestant Reformation in 1517 was really a European affair.’ For me that was wrong. It was wrong because the Protestant Reformation shaped Christianity in ways that will never be reversed. Christianity, today, whether Catholicism or of any other form, has been shaped by the Protestant Reformation. .. so we Christians in Africa are actually heirs of what happened in 1517. The third wave of Evangelisation in Africa started in the 19th Century with Protestant missionaries who came to Africa. Quickly Catholics warmed to the idea and also came to Africa. With that, there was that competition that has continued to mark African Christianity,” said Fr. Festo who is an expert in African Political history. 

He says Africans have always known Christianity in its varied form because of the Protestant Reformation. The Nairobi conference was thus an opportunity for Protestants and Catholics to reflect on that experience of encountering one another over the centuries on the African continent. 

Fr. Festo emphasised that the meeting was an appreciation of the history of Christianity on the continent encompassing both successes and challenges. The papers presented examined encounters from various perspectives in a cordial spirit of Ecumenism. He expressed satisfaction with the quality of papers presented as well as the discussions that ensued after every paper. The papers presented will be published in book form in order to make them available to a wider audience.

Set up in 2009, at the instigation of the former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, the Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa is fast becoming an important centre and a required port of call for researchers of history in Africa. From initially being Jesuit-centred, the vision and centre have since expanded. 

“Our vision had to become broader to embrace not just Jesuit history and Christian history in Africa … Actually, we now embrace African history, cultures and traditions, African religions and that includes Islam because Islam is part and parcel of African culture,” said Fr. Festo.

(Fr. Paul Samasumo/ Rose Achiego, Vatican Radio)

Email: engafrica@vatiradio.va