Dangerous situation in Kenya, Bishops to appeal for peace and reconciliation

Nairobi,Kenya, Dec.02,2008 (vaticans.org) - Today, the Bishops of Kenya will make an appeal to peace and reconciliation in the country, where they spoke of an increasingly tragic humanitarian situation and concern for Christians living in some areas as well. The contents of a declaration of the Bishops Conference of Kenya, which will be announced today, has been previewed to SIR today by father Martin Wanyoike, director of the Catholic radio station Waumini. “The situation is really nasty and risks getting worse, especially in some areas of the country – says father Wanyoike -. The dioceses are sending news that a huge number of people have been killed, even if the Kenyan media gave no figures and are covering very little of what is going on. In downtown Nairobi, the situation is fairly quiet, but in the slums it is really very dangerous, because people of the kikuyo ethnic group (he most endangered because they are of the same ethnic group as Kibaki, the president who was challenged by the opposition for having won the election again, editor’s note) are the worst affected by the riots”. According to the international media, Kenya is in danger of an ethnic war as it happened in Rwanda in the Nineties: the fights about the results of the presidential election, which would have been won by the outgoing president, Kibaki, eventually turned into massacres between the tribal groups. Kibaki, leader of the Pnu, is a member of the Kikuyo dynasty, while the opposition leader, Odinga, of the Orange democratic movement (Odm) is a Luo.

“A huge number of people took shelter near the police stations and parish churches – goes on the spokesman of the Kenyan bishops –. I have just received a call from a parish church which had to accommodate and feed thousands of people. They say there is no food, there are no necessaries in the shops, there is no fuel, there are very long queues at the petrol stations, the telephone lines do not work properly, the roads are blocked. The situation is getting really tragic”. In the declaration, the bishops will ask “to give food, water, drugs for the refugees and will make an appeal to the politicians, to the government and the opposition, to meet, speak and make their peace. At the same time, they will ask the leaders of the African Union to negotiate for the sake of the country”. The latest figures from the hospitals speak of 316 people killed and 70 thousand refugees, including the massacre of about fifty Kikuyu women and children who were burnt alive in a church in Eldoret, 300 kilometres from Nairobi.

“We do not want to repeat the experience of Rwanda – states the spokesman of the Kenyan Bishops Conference -. The situation is different, but worrying facts have happened, for instance the burning of Christians in a church. In some areas, Catholics are endangered too. The worst violence happened In the Kisumu area, where one of the nominees comes from. The Catholic Church in Kenya is very scared and worried and fears a humanitarian catastrophe. We are worried because we do not know what such violence might lead to. That’s why the Bishops make an appeal to the presidency and the opposition to make their peace and find a solution”. The international community too, he concludes, “can do a lot to mediate in the crisis and intervene in the disastrous humanitarian situation, by helping find foodstuffs”.

Source: SIR

Louisville Archbishop Kurtz to celebrate Mass with Pope in New York

New York, U.S.A, Dec.02,2008 (vaticans.org) - Hundreds of Louisville Catholics will celebrate their history with the Pope on April 20 when the House that Ruth Built becomes a house of worship.

Pope Benedict XVI will honor the Archdiocese of Louisville when he celebrates a Yankee Stadium Mass in New York City along with Louisville Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz and other bishops whose dioceses are celebrating 200th anniversaries.

The archbishops of Boston, New York and Philadelphia -- whose archdioceses are also celebrating bicentennials -- will take part in the Mass, as will the archbishop of Baltimore, the oldest Catholic jurisdiction in the nation.

"It's a great honor" for Kurtz and the archdiocese, said spokeswoman Cecelia Price. "He's obviously very excited."

The Mass will come on the final day of the pope's six-day visit to the United States, the first since the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ascended to the papacy in 2005.

The pope will also visit Washington, D.C., during his trip.

The archdiocese has asked organizers of the Mass for about 650 tickets to send a local delegation. A limited number of tickets will be available to Louisville-area Catholics through their parishes, Price said.

The stadium is expected to hold about 65,000 people for the Mass, according to the Archdiocese of Louisville.

The papal Mass will come 12 days after the archdiocese holds a series of worship services to celebrate the anniversary of its founding as the Diocese of Bardstown on April 8, 1808.

The diocese was launched as the hub of frontier Catholicism, overseeing a vast territory between the Allegheny Mountains and the Mississippi River. The seat of the archdiocese was later moved to the growing city of Louisville, and numerous dioceses were carved out of its original territory.

Source:The Courier-Journal

Archbishop Raphael:Eight days of prayer for the persecuted Christians in Orissa

Mumbai, India, Dec.02,2008 (vaticans.org) – India’s Christian community “continues to live in anxiety and fear”, while the Church in Orissa is undergoing an “authentic Calvary”. These are the words used by Indian bishops to describe the situation in their country in the aftermath of the anti-Christian violence organised by fundamentalists from Vishva Hindu Parishad (Vhp) between December 24 and 27. The Archbishop of Bhubaneswar-Cuttack, msgr. Raphael Cheenath, referred the episode to the Bishop’s Conference (CBCI), which has announced 8 days of prayer (from December 30 to January 8th) for the Christians in Orissa.

Minority rights activists and diverse leaders of the Catholic Church denounce that there are still many Christians, mainly from tribes, who remain hidden in the forest for fear of further attacks, living without food or shelter, surviving on water from nearby streams. There is still no official death toll and the police is not allowing Christian personal to carry out investigations.

A memorandum regarding the Christmas attacks has be presented to the National Comission for Human Rights. The document has been signed by among others, the Archbishop of Delhi, msgr. Vincent Concessao; Joseph D’souza, President, All India Christian Council; Rev. Karam MasihChurch of North India and Lansinglu Rongmei, co-secretary of the Christian Legal Association.

The text include san updated list of the areas affected in the attack and of the damage done to the communities, and was also presented to the governor of Orissa.: 6 dead; 70 Churches attacked, broken, and torched; 600 Christian houses broken and torched; 5 thousand people affected by this attack; 15 vehicles of Christian people Either broken/burnt; 25 motorcycles. The worse affected are Kandhamal and Gajatati districts.The former was subjected to the main vent of fundamentalist fury.There the villages affected are: Barakhama, Pobingia, Balliguda, Bamunigam, Sankharkhole, Sirtiguda, Dalagam, Irpiguda, Tikabali, Godapur and Daringibadi. Many other villagers are living in conditions of anxiety and tension as well as continued threats from Hindu extremists.

The memorandum demands authorities guarantee: immediate protection of the affected villages of Kandhamal, Gajati and other affected districts; compensation of 500,000 rupees to dead victims families, 200,000 rupees to the injured victims; compensation to the homes, churches, institutions, and property damaged caused by the violence; an enquiry and action against the Superintendent of Police and other authorities for not protecting citizens.

So far the government has only decided on an 100 thousand rupee compensation for close relatives of the victims. Those who lost their homes during the violence will be given shelter at the Indira Aawas Yojana. Chief Minister of Orissa, Naveen Patniak, has promised over 100thousand rupees to those whose homes were partially damaged. In the meantime in the areas were the violence in Brahmanigaon, the police has confiscated 12 unlicensed fire arms and arrested 20 people.

Source: Asia News

Holy See asks Brazilian Bishop Luiz Flavio to cease the hunger strike

Vatican City, Dec.18, 2007 (CINS/CNA).- The Holy See, through the Apostolic Nuncio in Brazil, has asked Bishop Luiz Flavio Cappio of the Diocese of Barra to end “as soon as possible” the hunger strike he has been carrying out for 18 days.

Bishop Cappio began a hunger strike in protest against a decision by the government to divert the San Francisco River, which crosses the semi-arid region of Brazil, in order to bring water to northeastern Brazil, which is plagued by constant drought.

Recently, the bishop said he would continue his hunger strike until “the project is definitively cancelled…or until the ultimate consequences.”  However, this past week the Apostolic Nuncio in Brazil, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, sent the bishop a letter asking him to end the hunger strike.

Bishop Cappio said the Nuncio’s letter was “friendly and fraternal, and showed concern for my health and requests me to interrupt my fast as soon as possible and return to the diocese.”

Bishop Cappio did not say whether he would heed the Vatican’s request, which is based on the Catholic teaching that it is immoral to put one’s life at risk for a cause that is political in nature and not related to the truths of the faith.

Brazil's council of bishops last week asked Catholics to unite for a day of fasting and prayer in solidarity with Cappio, but it also has urged him to end the strike, saying it had "already served to alert public opinion."

The San Francisco River runs through 500 Brazilian towns providing water to over 12 million people.  The plan by President Luiz Lula da Silva is to divert the course of the river towards irrigation canals in order to foster development in the northeast, the poorest region of Brazil.

Released Bishop Julius Jia will be rearrested soon

Zhengding, China, Dec.18,2007 (CINS/AsiaNews) – After almost four months of detention, Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding (Hebei) was released on 14 December, but he should be detained again very soon. According to local sources, Bishop Jia's family made numerous requests for his release because an uncle is seriously ill and wants to see him before dying.

With Christmas approaching, the source added, the bishop reportedly also asked the local government many times to release him so that he can celebrate the major holiday in his cathedral in Wuqiu, near the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang.

A local Catholic also cited a government official saying that Bishop Jia will again be detained after a few days because he needs to undergo a "learning session," but the official did not specify if that would be before or after Christmas.

The last time the bishop was detained was on 23 August when he reportedly removed a sign displaying the words Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), which government officials had placed it outside his cathedral. The CPCA is a government organisation not recognised by the Holy See which interferes in the life of the Church trying to impose its own bishops without Vatican approval. According to sources, priests of the diocese say they had no details about the detention.

Mgr Jia was also preparing a pastoral letter for his faithful commenting the Pope’s Letter to Chinese Catholics.

Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo, 73, has spent more than 15 years in prison. Since 1980 when he was appointed underground bishop he has been arrested and detained several times. In custody he has been subjected to political indoctrination (brain washing) in order to make him submit to the CPCA and join the Chinese Bishops’ Council, a Bishops’ Conference not recognised by the Holy See.

The diocese of Zhengding is located some 270 km south of Beijing. It has about 110,000 members in the underground Church. It is well known for its charitable works. Bishop Jia himself founded an orphanage for abandoned disabled children that is run by nuns and that is now under tight government surveillance.

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