No Picture
News Briefs

Bishops urge president to hold peace talks in Cameroon conflict

February 17, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Yaoundé, Cameroon, Feb 17, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Bishops from around the world have signed an open letter to the Cameroonian president asking that he participate in proposed peace talks meant to bring an end to conflict between the government and Anglophone separatists.

“We are motivated by our concern about the suffering of unarmed civilians, and the stability and prosperity of Cameroon,” 16 bishops from outside Cameroon wrote in a Feb. 17 letter coordinated by the Global Campaign for Peace and Justice in Cameroon. Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport was among the signatories.

“We believe the proposed Swiss-led talks offer the best path to an appropriate political solution through inclusive negotiations,” the bishops continued. “The success of these talks will be critical in Cameroon’s journey towards ensuring peace and your legacy as an effective leader in a troubled region. It is our sincere hope that all interested stakeholders will join these talks and show a spirit of cooperation, pragmatism, and realism to ensure these negotiations succeed.”

They added that “only true peace will allow Catholic dioceses, clinics, and schools to once again minister safely to the blessed congregants and citizens of Anglophone Cameroon.”

The Cameroon crisis is rooted in conflict between the English- and French-speaking areas of Cameroon. Unrest has been ongoing since 2016, when the country’s Anglophone community began protests to demand the return of federalism after the government increased the use of French in schools and courts.

Some 3,000 people have died since the fighting began. According to the UN, there are an estimated 679,000 internally displaced people in Cameroon, and 60,000 Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria.

At least 600,000 children have been unable to attend school in the Anglophone Southwest and Northwest Regions, with most schools having been shut down.

The bishops told president Paul Biya, who has ruled Cameroon for 37 years, that “there will be no military victory for any side. A lasting solution to Cameroon’s problems must come from a mediated process that includes Anglophone armed-separatist groups and non-violent civil-society leaders. If all parties treat each other as they wish to be treated, a solution is possible.”

They noted that a Major National Dialogue held in October 2019 was laudable, but had not stopped the violence.

The dialogue had proposed that the Anglophone regions be given greater self-government, and the elction of local governors. In addition, Biya had ordered that charges against some 300 people held in connection with the Anglophone conflict be dropped, and opposition leader Maurice Kamto was released after nine months of imprisonment.

At least 22 people were killed in an attack on Ntumbo, a village in the Northwest Region, Feb. 14. Separatists blamed the government for the attack, but the government has denied involvement.

The area that is now Cameroon was a German colony in the late 19th century, but the territory was divided into British and French mandates after the German Empire’s defeat in World War I. The mandates were united in an independent Cameroon in 1961.

There is now a separatist movement in the Southwest and Northwest Regions, which were formerly the British Southern Cameroons.

Cameroon held parliamentary elections Feb. 9, which the local bishops noted took place in a calm atmosphere, but with low turnout.

The Cameroonian bishops noted that “four months after the holding of the Major National Dialogue, which proposed solutions for ending the crisis” in the Anglophone reigions, “we are still not satisfied with the situation in these regions.”

They added that “insecurity persists in spite of everything and has prevented many citizens living in these areas from exercising their civil rights.”

[…]

No Picture
News Briefs

Harare archdiocese releases pastoral plan for small Christian communities

February 14, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Harare, Zimbabwe, Feb 14, 2020 / 04:26 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Harare has released a pastoral plan to instigate smaller community cells aimed at fostering an intimate Christian experience.

Archbishop Robert Ndlovu of Harare encouraged these small communities to focus on scripture, liturgy, and charity.

“I urge you to form and establish standardised Small Christian Communities in all parishes, to foster membership, belonging and active participation of all parishioners and also to make the Word of God, Liturgy, Catechesis and charity the thrust of Small Christian Communities,” he wrote in a foreword to the pastoral plan.

The Small Christian Communities will gather regularly at a parishioner’s home. The members will participate in formation, camaraderie, and solidarity. Among other events, the community will share the word of God, celebrate feast days, and band together in times of trouble, like sickness or mourning.

“Small Christian Communities are meant to form a family of God, a people whose hearts beat together- sharing life and sharing about God,” said Father Kizito Nhundu, pastoral vicar of the archdiocese.

The groups will consist of 10 to 15 families from the same region. If a group expands to 20 families then it will split into two separate groups. Nhundu emphasized the importance of smaller groups to ensure intimacy.

“The smaller, the better, we are forming a family of God, that is, people who are united, who share life, who share about God. So the involvement of all the faithful in the Church’s life is important,” said Fr Nhundu.

The project will be monitored by a pastoral council and the progress will be reviewed in March. It is part of the archdiocese’s focus on youth’s formation and vocational discernment, which has been a major emphasis for the archdiocese in the last two years.

“[SCCs] will also serve to accompany young people in their journey of faith, so one will no longer be accompanied by their family only, but also by the community,” he said.

“These SCCs will also serve to accompany young people in their journey of faith, so one will no longer be accompanied by their family only, but also by the community,” he added.

[…]

No Picture
News Briefs

Seminarian’s killing a ‘defining moment’ for Christians in Nigeria

February 11, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

Kaduna, Nigeria, Feb 11, 2020 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- At the funeral Mass for Michael Nnadi, the 18-year-old seminarian abducted and killed by gunmen last month, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto said he hoped the death would be a turning point for persecuted Christians in Nigeria.

“This is a solemn moment for the body of Christ,” Kukah said in his Feb. 11 homily at Good Shepherd Seminary in Kaduna, where Nnadi had studied. The text of the homily was obtained through Aid to the Church in Need United States.

“This is for us the moment of decision. This is the moment that separates darkness from light, good from evil. Our nation is like a ship stranded on the high seas, rudderless and with broken navigational aids. Today, our years of hypocrisy, duplicity, fabricated integrity, false piety, empty morality, fraud and Pharisaism have caught up with us. Nigeria is on the crossroads and its future hangs precariously in a balance. This is a wakeup call for us,” he said.

Nnadi was taken by gunmen from Good Shepherd Seminary around 10:30 pm on Jan. 8, along with fellow seminarians Pius Kanwai, 19; Peter Umenukor, 23; and Stephen Amos, 23. The four seminarians were at the beginning of their philosophy studies.

The gunmen, disguised in military camouflage, broke through the fence surrounding the seminarians’ living quarters and began shooting sporadically. They stole laptops and phones before kidnapping the four young men. All but Nnadi were released by the end of January.

The exact details of Nnadi’s death are unknown, the bishop said, other than he was killed alongside a woman named Mrs. Araga. Kukah noted that for days after Nnadi’s capture, he and Nnadi’s family held out hope that he was still alive. On Feb. 1, Kukah announced that Nnadi had been found dead.

Kukah said he was inspired by Nnadi’s mother’s reaction to the terrible news.

“She looked up at me and said tearfully, ‘My Lord, you said Michael was still alive. Is he really dead?’” he recalled. “Before I could say anything, she provided a moving answer: ‘My Lord, but Michael entered Seminary with all his heart and body, all’, she said with finality.”

Kukah said he was also moved and honored by the reaction to Nnadi’s death, both nationally and internationally.

“(The Aid to the Church in Need) sent me a message to say that when they asked people around the world to light a candle for Michael on the date of his burial, 2,436 persons from Afghanistan, Pakistan, United States of America, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Madagascar, South Africa, Congo, Mali, France, Spain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia responded,” he said.

“In the light of this, I wondered, who are we to mourn? Who are we to refuse this crown of honour and glory? We ceased to mourn for Michael thereon,” he said, adding that he decided to see the martyrdom as an act of honor and victory for Christians.

Good Shepherd Seminary, home to nearly 270 seminarians, is located just off the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria Express Way. According to AFP, the area is “notorious for criminal gangs kidnapping travelers for ransom.”

Schoolgirls and staff from a boarding school located near the same highway were kidnapped in October, and were later released.

In the last year, several priests and seminarians, along with pastors from other Christian denominations, have been kidnapped in Nigeria, some for ranson, and some by Islamist militant and terrorist groups. Kidnappings of Christians have multiplied in recent months, prompting Nigerian Church leaders to express serious concern about the security of their members and to call on the government to prioritize the security of its citizens.

Nnadi’s death should be a decisive moment for all Nigerian Christians, who have suffered severe persecution and instability under the rule of President General Muhammadu Buhari, whose promises for peace and security in the nation have fallen woefully short, Kukah said in his homily.

“No one could have imagined that in winning the Presidency, General Buhari would bring nepotism and clannishness into the military and the ancillary Security Agencies, that his government would be marked by supremacist and divisive policies that would push our country to the brink,” Kukah said.

“This President has displayed the greatest degree of insensitivity in managing our country’s rich diversity. He has subordinated the larger interests of the country to the hegemonic interests of his co-religionists and clansmen and women. The impression created now is that, to hold a key and strategic position in Nigeria today, it is more important to be a northern Muslim than a Nigerian,” he added.

“His north has become one large graveyard, a valley of dry bones, the nastiest and the most brutish part of our dear country.”

Kukah noted that this abuse of power has been condemned by many Muslim leaders and intellectuals, though not to much effect.

“We are being told that this situation has nothing to do with religion,” Kukah said. “Really? It is what happens when politicians use religion to extend the frontiers of their ambition and power. Are we to believe that simply because Boko Haram kills Muslims too, they wear no religious garb? Are we to deny the evidence before us, of kidnappers separating Muslims from infidels or compelling Christians to convert or die? If your son steals from me, do you solve the problem by saying he also steals from you?”

Kukah then echoed the call of Sa’adu Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, a spiritual leader to Muslims in Nigeria who has spoken out against the persecutions, for the northern political elite to reclaim their land.

The persecution of Christians and other minority groups in Nigeria is not new, Kukah added, and has been ongoing since the founding of modern-day Nigeria. But it cannot be ignored by Christians any longer, he added.

“We Christians must be honest enough to accept that we have taken so much for granted and made so much sacrifice in the name of nation-building,” he said, noting how Christians have supported various state leaders, mistakenly believing they would bring peace and stability to Nigeria.

“For how long shall we continue on this road with different ambitions? Christians must rise up and defend their faith with all the moral weapons they have,” he said. “We must become more robust in presenting the values of Christianity especially our message of love and non-violence to a violent society. Among the wolves of the world, we must become more politically alert, wise as the serpent and humble as the dove.”

However, this does not mean resorting to vengeance and violence, which are “the ways of the flesh,” he said.

Instead, Christians must “put back your sword. Turn the other cheek. Pray for your enemy. Give the thief your cloak,” he said.

“None of these makes sense to the human mind without faith. This is why Jesus said the only solution is for us to be born again. The challenge before us is to behold the face of Jesus and ask the question: Are we born against hatred, anger, violence and vengeance?”

He acknowledged the anger and sadness and betrayal felt by all Christians in Nigeria, but again encouraged them to pursue non-violent solutions.

“The only way He has pointed out to us is the non-violent way. It is the road less traveled, but it is the only way,” Kukah said.

He encouraged all Christians in Nigeria to look to Nnadi and to other young Christians killed in recent months as examples of courage, hope, and faith.

“For us Christians, it would seem safe to say that we are all marked men and women today. Yet, we must be ready to be washed in the blood of the lamb,” he said.

“We feel as if our son has been chosen to represent us in the national team of martyrs. Without fear, we will complete the journey he started because his memory will give us strength,” he said.

“We know that Michael’s strength will inspire an army of young people to follow in his steps. We will march on with the cross of Christ entrusted to us, not in agony or pain, because our salvation lies in your cross. We have no vengeance or bitterness in our hearts. We have no drop of sorrow inside us. We are honored that our son has been summoned to receive the crown of martyrdom at the infancy of his journey to the priesthood,” he added.

“May the Lord place him beside His bosom and may he intercede for us. If his blood can bring healing to our nation, then his murderers will never have the final say. May God give him eternal peace.”

[…]

No Picture
News Briefs

Nigerian archbishop: Seminarian’s killing shows government’s security failure

February 4, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Lagos, Nigeria, Feb 4, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- Following the death of an 18-year-old seminarian in Nigeria at the hands of his kidnappers, the Archbishop of Lagos urged government officials to make changes to security measures.

“I received with great sadness the news of the murder of the fourth seminarian, Mr. Michael Nnadi who was kidnapped recently in Kaduna. This was a young man who abandoned all with the desire to serve His creator and humanity, now murdered for no just cause,” Archbishop Alfred Martins said Feb. 3.

“This is just one of several cases of innocent Nigerians being killed on daily basis by gun men while our security services and their chiefs watch as if they were helpless,” he added.

“This appalling situation must come to an end. We cannot just fold our arms and allow these monstrous activities to continue to thrive. The consequences of the dastardly acts on the psyche of Nigerians can only be imagined. The Federal Government must act now before things get out of hand,” he said.

“For a while now, many Nigerians from different walks of life have been calling for a revamping of the security arrangements in the nation even if it means the replacement of the Heads of the various Security Agencies in order to give room for new ideas,” the archbishop stated.

“It is beyond doubt that the gains of the past few years are being lost because those at the helm of affairs and the soldiers in the thick of the war are tired and need to be replaced. The strategy for executing the war needs to be reexamined to determine its effectiveness.”

Nnadi was one of four seminarians kidnapped last month in northwestern Nigeria. The other three were released, but Nnadi’s death was announced Feb. 1.

Pius Kanwai, 19; Peter Umenukor, 23; Stephen Amos, 23; and Michael Nnadi, 18, were taken from Good Shepherd Seminary in Kaduna, around 10:30 pm on Jan. 8 by gunmen.

Nearly 270 seminarians live at Good Shepherd.

Good Shepherd Seminary is located just off the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria Express Way. According to AFP, the area is “notorious for criminal gangs kidnapping travelers for ransom.”

Schoolgirls and staff from a boarding school located near the same highway were kidnapped in October, and were later released.

Nnadi was killed along with another abductee, the wife of a doctor.

Kanwai, Umenukor, and Amos were all released by their captors.

“The security situation in Nigeria is appalling”, Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive president of ACN International, said Jan. 13. “Criminal gangs are further exploiting the chaotic situation and making matters still worse.”

He compared the situation in Nigeria to that of Iraq prior to the Islamic State’s invasion: “Already at that stage, Christians were being abducted, robbed and murdered because there was no protection by the state. This must not be allowed to happen to the Christians of Nigeria. The government must act now, before it is too late.”

Kidnappings of Christians in Nigeria have multiplied in recent months, a situation that has prompted Church leaders to express serious concern about the security of their members and to call on the government to prioritize the security of its citizens.

[…]

No Picture
News Briefs

Ugandan archbishop forbids receiving Holy Communion in hands

February 3, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Kampala, Uganda, Feb 3, 2020 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- The Archbishop of Kampala issued a decree Saturday on the proper celebration of the Eucharist, which forbade the reception of Holy Communion in the hand and reaffirmed that those “living in illicit marital co-habitation” cannot be admitted to Holy Communion.

The Feb. 1 decree of Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga included five norms “meant to streamline the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and curb the abuses that had begun cropping up in the celebration of the Mass.”

The archbishop added that he was issuing the norms “relying on the Liturgical and canonical norms of the Church Universal and basing on the vigilance which is required of him by law to fend off abuses in the liturgical life of the Church.”

Archbishop Lwanga wrote that “Henceforth, it is forbidden to distribute or to receive Holy Communion in the hands,” adding that the Code of Canon Law enjoins that the Eucharist be held in the highest honor by the faithful.

“Due to many reported instances of dishonoring the Eucharist that have been associated with reception of the Eucharist in the hands, it is fitting to return to the more reverent method of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue,” he stated.

It is unclear whether reception of the Eucharist in the hand has been formally permitted in Uganda, or has existed as a custom.

The ordinary then recalled that the ordinary minister of Holy Communion is a cleric. “In light of this norm,” he wrote, laity who have not been designated extraordinary minister of Holy Communion by competent authority are forbidden from distributing Holy Communion. He added that extraordinary ministers must first receive Holy Communion from an ordinary minister before distributing it in turn.

Archbishop Lwanga wrote that “The celebration of the Eucharist is to be carried out in a sacred place unless grave necessity requires otherwise,” citing canon 932, which refers to necessity.

Following that canon, he said, “the Eucharist is henceforth to be celebrated in designated sacred places since there is an adequate number of such designated places in the Archdiocese for that purpose.”

“Following the clear norms of Can. 915, it must be reaffirmed that those living in illicit marital co-habitation and those who persist in any grave and manifest sin, cannot be admitted to Holy Communion,” the archbishop wrote.

Illicit marital co-habitation could refer to a variety of situations, including divorce-and-remarriage, simple cohabitation, concubinage, and polygamy.

The archbishop added that “so as to avoid scandal” Mass may not be said “in the homes of people in such a situation.”

Finally, Archbishop Lwanga noted that the Code of Canon Law says priests and deacons are to wear the vestments prescribed by the rubrics, and in light of this he said, “it is strictly forbidden to admit as a concelebrant, any priest who is not properly vested in the prescribed liturgical vestments.”

“Such a priest should neither concelebrate nor assist at the distribution of Holy Communion,” he wrote. “He should also not sit in the sanctuary but rather take his seat among the faithful in the congregation.”

In 1969, five years after the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, the Congregation for Divine Worship issued an instruction which expressed that Blessed Paul VI had determined not to change the means of administering Holy Communion to the faithful – i.e., to retain distribution of the Host on the tongue to those kneeling, rather than allowing communicants to receive the Host in their hands.

The instruction, Memoriale Domini, indicated that where distribution of Communion in the hand already prevailed, episcopal conferences should weigh carefully whether special circumstances warranted reception of the Eucharist in the hand, avoiding disrespect or false opinions regarding the Eucharist and ill effects that might follow, and if a two-thirds voting majority decided in the affirmative, such a decision could be affirmed by the Holy See.

It noted that “It is certainly true that ancient usage once allowed the faithful to take this divine food in their hands and to place it in their mouths themselves.”

But “Later, with a deepening understanding of the truth of the eucharistic mystery, of its power and of the presence of Christ in it, there came a greater feeling of reverence towards this sacrament and a deeper humility was felt to be demanded when receiving it. Thus the custom was established of the minister placing a particle of consecrated bread on the tongue of the communicant.”

“This method of distributing holy communion must be retained … not merely because it has many centuries of-tradition behind it, but especially because it expresses the faithful’s reverence for the Eucharist.”

The congregation also wrote that this traditional practice “ensures, more effectively, that holy communion is distributed with the proper respect, decorum and dignity. It removes the danger of profanation of the sacred species” and “it ensures that diligent carefulness about the fragments of consecrated bread which the Church has always recommended.”

They noted that “A change in a matter of such moment … does not merely affect discipline. It carries certain dangers with it which may arise from the new manner of administering holy communion: the danger of a loss of reverence for the august sacrament of the altar, of profanation, of adulterating the true doctrine.”

When some bishops asked for permission for Communion in the hand, Bl. Paul VI sought the opinion of all the Church’s Roman rite bishops. Of those responding, 57 percent said that attention should not be paid to the desire for the reception of Communion on the hand. Of those bishops who were open to considering the practice, just over one-third had reservations about it.

And 60 percent of bishops did not even wish that Communion in the hand be experimented with in small communities. More than half did not believe the faithful would receive such a change gladly.

So, in 1969, Bl. Paul VI “decided not to change the existing way of administering holy communion to the faithful,” considering the remarks and advice of his fellow bishops, the gravity of the matter, and the force of the arguments against it.

Despite this instruction, and subsequent expressions of support for the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue from St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the distribution of the Eucharist on the hand has become widely adopted, especially in the West.

The Congregation for Divine Worship’s 2004 instruction on matters regarding the Eucharist, Redemptionis sacramentum, established that: “Although each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice, if any communicant should wish to receive the Sacrament in the hand, in areas where the Bishops’ Conference with the recognitio of the Apostolic See has given permission, the sacred host is to be administered to him or her. However, special care should be taken to ensure that the host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand. If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful.”

In the US, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal states that “The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant.”

[…]

No Picture
News Briefs

Three of four abducted Nigerian seminarians have been released

January 31, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Kaduna, Nigeria, Jan 31, 2020 / 11:13 am (CNA).- Three of the seminarians kidnapped earlier this month in northwestern Nigeria have been released safely by their captors, an official at Good Shepherd Seminary announced Friday.

One of the seminarians who was abducted Jan. 8 remains at large.

Fr. Joel Usman, registrar of the seminary in Kaduna, made the announcement Jan. 31.

One of the three men who were released had been freed Jan. 18. He was dumped on the side of the  Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria Express Way. He was taken to hospital after being found by passing motorists, and was being treated in an intensive care unit.

Pius Kanwai, 19; Peter Umenukor, 23; Stephen Amos, 23; and Michael Nnadi, 18, were taken from Good Shepherd Seminary in Kaduna, around 10:30 pm on Jan. 8 by gunmen.

The gunmen, disguised in military camouflage, broke through the fence surrounding the seminarians’ living quarters and began shooting sporadically. They stole laptops and phones before kidnapping the four young men.

Each of the abductees were first year philosophers, sources told ACI Africa.

Nearly 270 seminarians live at Good Shepherd.

Good Shepherd Seminary is located just off the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria Express Way. According to AFP, the area is “notorious for criminal gangs kidnapping travelers for ransom.”

The news agency said that schoolgirls and staff from a boarding school also located near the highway were kidnapped in October, and were later released.

“The security situation in Nigeria is appalling”, Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive president of ACN International, said Jan. 13. “Criminal gangs are further exploiting the chaotic situation and making matters still worse.”

He compared the situation in Nigeria to that of Iraq prior to the Islamic State’s invasion: “Already at that stage, Christians were being abducted, robbed and murdered because there was no protection by the state. This must not be allowed to happen to the Christians of Nigeria. The government must act now, before it is too late.”

Kidnappings of Christians in Nigeria have multiplied in recent months, a situation that has prompted Church leaders to express serious concern about the security of their members and to call on the government to prioritize the security of its citizens.

[…]