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Marian statue, once desecrated by Islamic State, returns to Iraqi parish

March 29, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Mosul, Iraq, Mar 29, 2021 / 05:10 pm (CNA).- A statue of the Virgin Mary that had been desecrated by the Islamic State but was later restored has been returned to its original church.

The statue was decapitated, and its hands cut off, in Karemlesh, a largely Christian town 18 miles east of Mosul, during the Islamic State’s occupation of the villages in the Nineveh Plains from 2014 to 2017. It belongs to St. Adday church.

The statue has been partially restored. The original head was found in the rubble when the statue was recovered.

The head has been placed back onto the statue in a manner that still shows the damage from where it had been decapitated, and the hands dangle below the wrist.

It was present at Pope Francis’ March 7 Mass in Erbil.

The statue returned to Karemlesh March 18, and on March 19 it was placed in St. Adday church with a simple ceremony.

“Having Her here is a sign of courage and bravery for our people. That everyone can see that the destroyed and restored image returns to the church with a new appearance is a beautiful sign. This encourages them to have the courage to continue,” Fr. Thabet Habeb, pastor of St. Adday, told CNA.

He added that “after the Pope’s visit, we hope that there may be some attention to the Chaldean community.”

The Islamic State swept through large swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, giving families of Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities an ultimatum – convert to Islam, die, or leave.

In 2017 the Nineveh Plain was liberated from the rule of the Islamic State.


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Burmese cardinal urges prayer octave for China

March 14, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Yangon, Burma, Mar 14, 2021 / 09:50 am (CNA).- Charles Maung Cardinal Bo of Yangon on Sunday called for the expansion of a day of prayer for the Church in China, established by Benedict XVI, into an octave.

In 2007, Benedict designated May 24, the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, as a Worldwide Day of Prayer for the Church in China.

“On behalf of the Church throughout Asia, as President of the Federation of Asian Bishops [sic] Conferences, I would like to call on the faithful to extend that to a Week of Prayer for the Church in China and the peoples of China, from Sunday 23 May until Sunday 30 May,” Cardinal Bo wrote in a March 14 statement.

He said that “Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the peoples of China have faced increasing challenges, which impact us all. It is right that we should pray not only for the Church but for all persons in the People’s Republic  of China.”

“We should ask Our Lady of Sheshan to protect all humanity and therefore the dignity of each and every person in China, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI’s prayer, ‘to believe, to hope, to love’,” he added.

In February 2020 China began enforcing administrative measures to control every aspect of religious activity within the country, mandating that all religions and believers in China comply with regulations issued by the Chinese Communist Party, which must be acknowledged as the higher authority. 

In May the legislature of China approved a resolution to impose new “security laws” on its formerly autonomous region, Hong Kong— a move pro-democracy protestors and Catholics in the country feared would undermine Hong Kongers’ freedoms, including freedom of religion.

A bishop of the underground Church was arrested in June.

In July a technology publication reported that the Diocese of Hong Kong has been targeted by “spear-phishing” operations from the Chinese government.

The Hong Kong diocese intervened in August to cancel a Catholic pro-democracy ad campaign and prayer that was set to run in local papers.

The same month, Hong Kong entrepreneur and media executive Jimmy Lai was arrested on criminal charges stemming from his support for democracy on the island territory.

In September researchers at an Australian think tank found that re-education camps for Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region had expanded in the past year, despite government claims that most detainees had been released.

In October the Vatican and China renewed their provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops for another two years.

Last month, Bitter Winter reported that beginning May 1, China’s state-run Catholic Church and bishops’ conference will select, approve, and consecrated episcopal candidates, with no mention of the Vatican’s involvement in the process.

Cardinal Bo said that though much of the world, including Burma, faces its own challenges, “in a spirit of solidarity it is right to focus not only on our own challenges but to pray also for others.”

The cardinal said his proposal expresses love for the peoples of China, “my respect for their ancient civilization and extraordinary economic growth, and my hopes that as it continues to rise as a global power, it may become a force for good and a protector of the rights of the most vulnerable and marginalized of the world.”

“I am calling for prayer for each person in China that they may seek and realize the full measure of happiness that our Creator has given to them.”

“So I urge the faithful, throughout the world, to join me in prayer for the Church and the peoples of China, from 23-30 May, and especially to join with Pope Francis, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and the whole Church to ask, in the worlds [sic] of Benedict XVI, the ‘Mother of China and all Asia’ to support the faithful, that ‘they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world, and of the world to Jesus’, and ‘always be credible witness to this love, ever clinging to the rock of Peter’.”


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Pope Francis blesses Marian statue desecrated by Islamic State

March 8, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Erbil, Iraq, Mar 8, 2021 / 01:37 pm (CNA).- A statue of the Virgin Mary that had been desecrated by the Islamic State was present at Pope Francis’ Mass in Erbil on Sunday.

The statue was decapitated, and its hands cut off, in Karemlesh, a largely Christian town 18 miles east of Mosul, during the Islamic State’s occupation of the villages in the Nineveh Plains from 2014 to 2017. It belonged to St. Adday church.

The statue has been partially restored; its head has been replaced, though its hands have not.

Speaking March 7 to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, Fr. Thabet Habeb, the pastor of St. Adday, recalled that when he first saw the image of the beheaded Virgin he experienced “a very sad feeling, because I saw my church like this, along with everything else. We prayed before this Virgin for many years and it was destroyed. It was something very important for the parish, for our church.”

Fr. Habeb said the statue “will return to Karemlesh and will be in our church upon our return.”

The priest hopes that a fruit of the Holy Father’s visit to Iraq will be that the government and the world would look at “this martyr Church, which must be aided so it can continue to bring the Gospel.”

The Islamic State swept through large swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, giving families of Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities an ultimatum – convert to Islam, die, or leave.

In 2017 the Nineveh Plain the area was liberated from the rule of the Islamic State.


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Nigerian bishop laments continuing insecurity since seminarian’s killing a year ago

February 15, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Sokoto, Nigeria, Feb 15, 2021 / 07:19 pm (CNA).- One year after the burial of Michael Nnadi, an 18-year-old Nigerian seminarian abducted and killed by gunmen, the local bishop has indicated his sorrow at the lack of progress in preventing abductions and murders.

“It is quite tragic that one year later, we are still closer to nowhere we hope to be. The harvest of death has gotten richer, more and more people are dying,’ Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto said to journalists following a Feb. 12 memorial Mass.

“Things have gotten progressively worse as far as the lives of our ordinary people are concerned,” Bishop Kukah said in Sokoto’s Holy Family Cathedral.

He added, “It is a matter of great concern and great sadness that we haven’t come anywhere close to securing our people and securing our country.”

Nnadi was taken by gunmen from Good Shepherd Seminary in Kaduna around 10:30 pm on Jan. 8, 2020, 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.
All but Nnadi were released by the end of January, but on Feb. 1, 2020 Bishop Kukah announced that Nnadi had been found dead.

Bishop Kukah described Michael’s death as a “message of renewal” for Africa’s most populous country.

“Amid all this trouble, we as Christians have a message of renewal that this is not where God wants our country to be,” Bishop Kukah said.

He added, “We believe in the supremacy of His will and we also believe that amid all these confusion, death, unnecessary blood-shedding, that He has a message for us, and the message is for us to urgently think about building our country.”

“There is a saying in Christianity that the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christianity. Our religion has never triumphed because of patronage or government or because of the amounts of kingdoms that we run,” the bishop said.

In honor of the slain seminarian, the bishop’s residence has been renamed Michael Nnadi House.

The bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Kaduna have also approved the construction of a shrine at Good Shepherd Seminary in honor of Nnadi.

“In future,” Bishop Kukah said, “we hope to advance the course for Michael for him to be recognized by the Catholic Church as a martyr.”

According to the bishop, Michael’s course for sainthood should be advanced because “we have never had that kind of experience. That the people who killed him, actually came and testified that they killed Michael because he was preaching to them and telling them that what they were doing was not right.”

Mustapha Mohamed, one of Michael’s killers, said they murdered Nnadi because he “continued to preach the gospel of Christ” to his captors.


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