Bethlehem – Lourdes and Bethlehem share a “common destiny”, because “without pilgrimages, Bethlehem, like Lourdes, would be a small forgotten village”. With these words charged with realism the mayoress of Lourdes, Madame Josette Bourdeu, connoted the special bond which unites the town where Jesus was born with the French village-shrine in the Pyrenees. Madame Bourdeu said this recently when she led a French delegation to visit the Holy Land and to sign a partnership between the two French and Palestinian municipalities, establishing concrete and active cooperation between the towns.
The agreement – according to the Official Communications media of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem – was completed on 1 March this year and aims particularly to create jobs in the field of tourism also through commerce of religious articles made by Palestinian Christian artisans. This form collaboration will help launch projects in the field of social economy, promoting the sale of Palestinian handicraft through the network of places of pilgrimage most visited by Christians all over the world including the shrines of Fatima, Czestochowa, Guadalupe and Aparecida. In 2012 the Marian Shrine of Lourdes adopted as its “official Rosary” beads carved from olive wood by a family in Bethlehem, and about 25,000 of them are sold every year. .
San José – “Mercy or Violence?” is the title of a message issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Costa Rica, at the end of a recent assembly: “With deep sorrow we present information supplied by the national Judicial Research Office – we read in the first lines of the report sent to Fides -: In 2015 our country registered 560 murders, the highest number in recent years according to the United Nations Organisation “. Although lower compared with neighbouring countries, ithe figure is nevertheless a cause of concern also because “a quarter of these crimes are connected with episodes of drug trafficking ” say the Bishops.
“Profoundly shocking, the numbers of acts violence on children, which have doubled in less than a decade . In 2014 the National Children’s Hospital assisted 2,400 children victims of violence, in 2015 the number rose to 3,100 “. The bishops denounce widespread domestic violence and gang bullying and aggression.
In this situation the Bishops’ Conference complains of scarce control regarding violence, recalling that the country chose to do without commitment by the army in order release more resources for social policies. They add: “Every form of injustice is an act of violence. In our country ihunger, lack of decent homes and medical care etc….are acts of violence on 317,660 families, over one million men women and children live in poverty, and for another 374,185 poverty is extreme”.
Prompted by Pope Francis’ call to give central place to mercy and reconciliation, the Bishops conclude : “We have in our hands the possibility of restoring to Costa Rica a society shining with peace and full respect for human life”.
Cairo – Karim Kamal, founder of the Union General of Copts for the Motherland, has asked the President of Egypt Abdel Fattah al Sisi to intervene regarding the case of a group of Copt youths recently accused of verbally offending Islam and sentenced to five years in prison. Kamal urges Egypt’s Head of State to grant amnesty to the young men in question. But the request, made public in the Egyptian media, also expresses harsh criticism of the law on blasphemy and offence to religion, misused to persecute innocent people, while extremists and fomenters of religious hatred go unpunished.
The case in question in the appeal addressed to al Sisi involves four Copt students charged with offending the Islamic religion, by sharing in the Spring of 2015 a video-clip of a few seconds, recorded on a mobile phone, in which they mime the scene of the slitting of the throat of a Muslim in prayer, imitating the horrendous executions carried out by Jihadists of the self-proclaimed Islamic State . At the end of February the Egyptian court in Minya issued a heavy sentence to the young men: three will serve five years in prison, and the fourth, not yet eighteen years old, will be sent to a guarded residence for minor offenders. .
Caracas – The World Health Organization has launched a global alert on the spread of the zika virus. Currently, America is the most affected continent . In Venezuela, there are between 6 and 10 thousand symptomatic cases of the disease, to which are added 30 to 40% of asymptomatic cases. The Minister of Health has confirmed the state of alert and the monitoring of 4700 suspected cases.
Posadas – The outbreak of dengue fever, that was proliferating in the Country, has been declared an epidemic and there is a greater spread of cases in various provinces. The infections started from Misiones province, where 36 cases were confirmed and about 800 considered suspect cases. Health services in Misiones are responding well, through actions of rapid rehydration for patients who have symptoms. According to the Ministry of Health, there are outbreaks of dengue in six locations in the province of Misiones and a total of 173 positive cases, plus others scattered in different cities for a total of 379 cases.
The Ministry has sent economic aid in the provinces where carriers of the virus have been identified and has strengthened the prevention campaign. In areas affected by dengue the health office is providing the distribution of insecticides and repellents for fumigation.
Vatican City – At the beginning of the new year, our Agency presents its new website, which aims to make information more accessible and useful to those who want to expand their interests on the wide horizons of humanity.
This was a need much felt by the entire editorial staff, in order to reach a vast category of men and women from all continents, in eight languages in which the Agency publishes its news.
We are aware that ours is a service goes beyond the vast confines of the Church, and that affects humanity, because all that is human – said Blessed Paul VI – interests us.
Beirut – The Maronite Church “does not support a presidential candidate over another, but is in favor of any serious solution to enable the Country to emerge from the institutional paralysis and finally elect a new President. In this perspective, the news of an agreement between Geagea and Aoun is seen as positive”. This is how Fr. Paul Karam, President of Caritas Lebanon, outlines the attitude of the Maronite Church community in front of the new political scenario in the Country after the leader of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, announced the availability of his political formation to support the candidacy of former General Michel Aoun, his longtime rival, at the office of President of the Lebanese Republic .
Geagea’s political move is revolutionizing the system of alliances and conflicts that have long characterized the political landscape of Lebanon, and brought the Country to the institutional paralysis that has blocked the election of a new President for 18 months. “Of course”, adds Fr. Karam “the Church positively looks at the fact that forces and Christian political leaders in contrast agree to reconstruct the political framework and solve the Country’s problems. We now need to see if this attempt will produce concrete results or find insurmountable opposition. But overall, the rapprochement between Geagea and Aoun has spread a sense of novelty throughout the Country, in the hope that it will help bring the Country out of serious institutional crisis”.
Michel Aoun is 82 years old. In the delicate institutional system of Lebanon, the President of the Republic is reserved to a Maronite Christian. Maronite Patriarch Boutros Bechara Rai is now in Italy, where he continues to closely follow the developments of the political situation in Lebanon.
Kinshasa – Thousands of children who live in extreme poverty continue to be abused and exploited in exchange for a paltry remuneration. We are talking about children who are employed in the mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo to extract cobalt useful for the construction of lithium batteries. The children work in dangerous conditions. According to a recent report by Amnesty International and Afrewatch, cobalt is used by multinational companies for smartphone and tablet batteries.