Washington – “The decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador is heartbreaking”. As detailed in our recent delegation trip report to the region, El Salvador is currently not in a position to adequately handle the return of the roughly 200,000 Salvadoran TPS recipients. Today’s decision will fragment American families, leaving over 192,000 U.S. citizen children of Salvadoran TPS recipients with uncertain futures. Families will be needlessly separated because of this decision”: with these harsh words , the US Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed its profound disagreement with the current government policy.
A statement sent to Fides, signed by Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the Committee on Migration, informs that on January 8th, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it is terminating Temporary Protected Status for El Salvador.
“DHS has provided an 18-month period during which TPS recipients from El Salvador can legally stay in the United States and prepare for their departure. While we recognize and appreciate this extra time, it will not remedy the underlying protection and family unity concerns that remain for Salvadoran TPS recipients.
We renew our call to Congress to work in a bipartisan manner to find a legislative solution for long-term TPS recipients, and we stand ready to support such efforts”, continues the text.
“TPS recipients are an integral part of our communities, churches, and nation. Without action by Congress, however, recipients’ lives will be upended and many families will be devastated. As with DACA, we strongly urge Congressional members and leadership to come together and address this issue as soon as possible. To Salvadoran TPS recipients, we promise to continue to stand in solidarity with you and pray for you and your families, and all those who are displaced or forced to flee from their homes”, concludes the statement.
Pants on fire award!
Moscow – Thanks to Russia’s military intervention in the Syrian conflict, the “genocide” of Christians was stopped. And now, the Russian Orthodox Church will take on the task of supporting the reconstruction of Syrian churches, but also of mosques and historical monuments. This was stated by Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias, in the traditional television interview broadcast on Rossija channel 1 on Sunday 7 January, the day when Russian Orthodox Christians celebrated Christmas. In the interview, focusing on the condition and recent trials the Middle Eastern Christian communities have had to face, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church also reproposed personal memories useful to account for the Russian approach regarding the Middle Eastern events of recent years. “In 2013”, said the Russian Patriarch, “the heads of local Orthodox Churches came to Moscow to celebrate the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus, and when they met Vladimir Putin, one of the strongest messages was the request that Russia should accept to take part in the protection of Christians in the Middle East. I am pleased”, Kirill added, “that this happened, and thanks to Russia’s intervention, the genocide of Christians was stopped”. The Head of the Russian Church confirmed the intention of the Patriarchate of Moscow to contribute to the humanitarian aid of Middle Eastern populations, and also to the reconstruction of “places of worship, monasteries, monuments, including Muslim monuments and historical monuments”. Kirill also reread in parallel the recent Syrian events and those related to the fall of the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, emphasizing their impact on the condition of local Christian communities. According to the Russian Patriarch, “already in 2014 it was clear that the conflicts started in Syria were caused by extremist groups that, once they had reached power, they would have eliminated the Christian presence in that Country. This is why Christians actively supported Assad and his government “bearing in mind that with him” the Country had a certain balance of power and, very importantly, people felt safe”. In Iraq, on the contrary, recent events have seen the drastic decline of the native Christian communities, rooted in those territories since apostolic times. “During the regime of Saddam Hussein”, said Patriarch Kirill in this regard “I visited Iraq, including the northern part of Iraq. I was in Mosul, I was visiting the ancient Christian monasteries: There I saw the devotion of the people, and they were all happy to see that Christian churches lived in safety in a Muslim environment… Now there is practically nothing: monasteries destroyed, temples blown up”.
Racists posing as Hindu are still racists! Except for them, your race is your religion of your poligion!
Vidisha – Hundreds of police deployment was done at the St. Mary’s Post Graduate College in Vidisha, Sagar Diocese in Madhya Pradesh, central India as Hindu right-wing groups threaten to perform Hindu rituals in the premises.
“Calm has returned to the place now as only policemen on watch have remained in the area. We thank once again the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singhji and the Madhya Pradesh police force. And a big thank you for your prayers. The Fathers and Sisters and other personnel are in a state of shock. Do continue to pray for them,” said Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India , who is following the issue, told Fides news.
On January 4, more than 900 Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad , one of the Hindu right wing student groups threatened to gather and forcibly perform “Aarti of Bharat Mata” and other Hindu goddesses in the college.
“The Madhya Pradesh police assured church authorities full police protection. The priests who manage the College, however feel that the situation is potentially very dangerous as over 900 activists were expected to gather in violation of police orders. There was already an aggression earlier on 30 December despite the presence of 20 policemen. We need to pray more. We are in touch with the Federal Home Ministry,” said Mascarenhas.
“We thank our Home Minister Singh for directly intervening to ensure safety of our Institution and priests, nuns, college personnel and staff and students. A large crowd of activists were reported to have gathered outside the college wanting to enter the premises. But a huge battalion of police is confident of dealing with the situation,” Bishop Theodore added.
It can be recalled that during the last Christmas season, a group of Hindu radicals seminarians and priests of Satna were attacked, when they were in the villages for Christmas carols.
Days ago the “Hindu Jagran Manch” extremist group warned the Christian schools of the state of Uttar Pradesh not to celebrate Christmas, calling it an “act of proselytism”. “It is abominable that the hard-line Hindu outfit groups continue to issue repeated dictate, intimidations and threats to Christians and attacking them in different parts of India”, says Carmelite Father Johnson Digal, a teacher in a Catholic school in Uttar Pradesh state to Agenzia Fides. “Most of all the students are Hindus and Muslims here, but they are cooperative with us so far. Last year one Pastor was forced to tonsure his head and was paraded on a public road, thinking he was converting people without any solid evidence”, he says.
Agra – It is unacceptable that national Hindu right-wing groups keep on threatening Christians ahead of Christmas, say Church leaders in India. Days ago the “Hindu Jagran Manch” extremist group warned the Christian schools of the state of Uttar Pradesh not to celebrate Christmas, calling it an “act of proselytism”. “It is abominable that the hard-line Hindu outfit groups continue to issue repeated dictate, intimidations and threats to Christians and attacking them in different parts of India”, says Carmelite Father Johnson Digal, a teacher in a Catholic school in Uttar Pradesh state to Agenzia Fides. “Most of all the students are Hindus and Muslims here, but they are cooperative with us so far. Last year one Pastor was forced to tonsure his head and was paraded on a public road, thinking he was converting people without any solid evidence”, he says.
Christian schools in Uttar Pradesh – India’s most densely populated state, ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party – have been issued a warning by several Hindu nationalist organizations affiliated to the “Hindu Yuva Vahini”, led by the leader Yogi Adityanath : these suspect that Christmas celebrations in schools, attended by many Hindu students, can encourage conversions.
The threat comes just days after Bajrang Dal activists accused a group of Christians, who were singing carols, a centuries-old tradition in India, of “proselytizing”, and burned their cars in front of a police station in Satna district, in Madhya Pradesh.
Such episodes on Church leaders is not a new phenomena but the fact is the attackers enjoy patronage from different quarters, in a country of great democratic tradition like India, which guarantees religious freedom to its citizens. The Hindu Yuva Vahini, an organization created in 2002 by Adityanath, had lodged a complaint against the Pastor of a Protestant church earlier this year, accusing him of converting Hindus to Christianity. The Pastor was only guiding a Christian liturgy. Back in 2014, Adityanath had warned Christians not to celebrate Christmas outside Churches. “False propaganda of religious conversions, intimidating minority institutions in the name of religion under the patronage of ruling parties has become a great threat to the very constitutional right of citizens in India. Slowly but steadily India is moving towards pseudo-theocracy. It is a time that all the Indians woke up to realize this and defend India against these fascist forces”, comments to Fides Jesuit Fr. Savarimuthu M, a teacher at Xavier Institute for Tribal Education in Jharkhand state.
Cairo – The possible transfer of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would have “negative consequences” not only on the ever fragile stability of the Middle East, but also on that of the world as a whole. This is the alarm launched by the Coptic Orthodox Church yesterday, Tuesday 5 November, with a statement that anticipated the concerns expressed today by Pope Francis, at the end of Wednesday’s general audience. According to the Coptic Orthodox Church, it is necessary to “protect the juridical status of Jerusalem”, in the framework of what is indicated by the UN resolutions on the Holy City. The decision to recognize Jerusalem as the exclusive capital of Israel according to the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate would go against all international conventions in this regard, and would compromise attempts to overcome disputes through dialogue and the search for shared solutions that are respectful of the spiritual profile of the Holy City and its history.
Only in recent years the growing presence of Coptic Orthodox Egyptian pilgrims in the Holy City has marked the factual overcoming of the prohibition to visit Jerusalem which in 1979 had been imposed on its own faithful by the then Patriarch Shenuda III. In the years when the Arab-Israeli conflict was radicalized, Coptic Patriarch Shenuda III had forbidden the faithful of his Church to make pilgrimages to the Jewish state and had not changed position even after the normalization of relations between Egypt and Israel desired by President Sadat. This prohibition has never been formally revoked, but already in 2014 the journey carried out by some ninety Coptic Christians on the occasion of Holy Week to the Holy Land had given way to several observers to underline the inactivity of the anti-pilgrimage disciplinary provision, within the framework of the relationships existing between the two neighboring countries.
What further contributed pilgrimages of the Copts to Holy Land was the journey carried out by Patriarch Tawadros II to Jerusalem in November 2015, on the occasion of the funeral of Archbishop Abraham, head of the local Coptic Orthodox community.
Baja California Sur – To pray for peace and families, victims of violence: yesterday November 23, at least one hundred priests from the five municipalities and more than 300 people gathered in San Martin di La Paz parish, for a celebration led by the Bishop of the Diocese of La Paz en la Baja California Sur , Mgr. Miguel Ángel Alba Díaz.
During the Eucharistic celebration, the Bishop invited to remain silent while on a screen the number of people killed in the last three years was being projected: “2014-2017, about 900 people were killed due to the fury of human barbarism in Baja California Sur”. During the prayer of the faithful, those present prayed for families “victims of violence”, for those who lost their lives in this context, “for all the innocent who died for violence and for the 900 deaths in our area”. Finally the Bishop invited all to follow him in silence for a procession around the temple with lit candles.
The main reason for this celebration was the terrible murder of state lawyer Silvestre De la Toba Camacho. The Bishop said he would not release any further statements about it because society is tired of “sterile speeches” and has asked for the problem to be resolved from the root. On Monday, November 20, Silvestre De la Toba Camacho, president of the State Human Rights Commission in Baja California Sur , in the northwest of the country, was shot dead by a group of assassins while he was in the center of the city, along with his family. Even his son Fernando died while his wife and daughter were seriously injured.
The National Human Rights Commission condemned the crime and ordered the authorities to take precautionary measures to protect the victim’s family. There has been an intense wave of violence in Baja California Sur in the last two years because of disputes between criminal groups who want to control the area and the Sinaloa cartel, one of the world’s most powerful drug traffickers.
The San Silvestro’s agreement was mediated by Congolese Bishops. According to a statement by CENCO sent to Agenzia Fides, the Bishops asked Nikki Haley to “help the Congolese people complete the electoral process within a reasonable deadline and accepted by all parties involved; to obtain the effective observance of the Constitution and the full implementation of the agreement of 31 December 2016 from the politicians; to recommend the Electoral Commission the rapid publication of a realistic and accurate electoral calendar, which will allow for credible, transparent and peaceful elections; to ask the Head of State an explicit commitment not to present himself for the next elections; to obtain from the high authorities of the State, civil and military, the cessation of the repression of peaceful demonstrations and of serious violations of human rights, as well as respect of democratic principles; to encourage the government to continue to pursue the implementation of the political refor
Kinshasa – Outgoing President Joseph Kabila has received some important international awards as the expiration of his mandate, as envisaged by the San Silvestro Agreement, signed on December 31, 2016, is due to expire. According to the agreements, Kabila was to step down by the end of 2017, the year in which the presidential elections were to be held which initially were scheduled in December 2016.
The new presidential elections will take place on December 23, 2018 as declared on November 5 by the Independent National Election Commission . The announcement of CENI in Kinshasa took place shortly after the visit of US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who had imposed an ultimatum on the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo: elections by 2018, otherwise financial support to the DRC would be cut.
“By proposing the expiration of 2018, Nikki Haley offered the Congolese authorities what they were expecting: a second year of power to President Kabila, whose second and last presidential mandate ended on 19 December 2016”, says a note sent to Agenzia Fides by the Peace Network for Congo. “If the 31 December 2016 agreement had already officially confirmed a first postponement of the elections in December 2017, Nikki Haley approved their second postponement to 2018. The US ambassador seems to have satisfied a part, the presidential majority, ignoring the second part, the opposition, who has asked Joseph Kabila to resign”.
The San Silvestro’s agreement was mediated by Congolese Bishops. According to a statement by CENCO sent to Agenzia Fides, the Bishops asked Nikki Haley to “help the Congolese people complete the electoral process within a reasonable deadline and accepted by all parties involved; to obtain the effective observance of the Constitution and the full implementation of the agreement of 31 December 2016 from the politicians; to recommend the Electoral Commission the rapid publication of a realistic and accurate electoral calendar, which will allow for credible, transparent and peaceful elections; to ask the Head of State an explicit commitment not to present himself for the next elections; to obtain from the high authorities of the State, civil and military, the cessation of the repression of peaceful demonstrations and of serious violations of human rights, as well as respect of democratic principles; to encourage the government to continue to pursue the implementation of the political reforms envisaged in the December 31, 2016 agreement, as they are an essential prerequisite for launching a peaceful electoral process; to make every effort to ensure that the panel of experts nominated at the 72nd General Assembly of the United Nations has an operational power within the Electoral Commission”.
The extension, of more than two years, of Kabila’s presidential mandate has expired, creating strong tensions in the Country. Opposition and civil society have threatened to organize demonstrations to force the President to resign.
Washington – The US Episcopal Conference quickly responded to the Trump administration’s decision to put an end to a program implemented under President Barack Obama which aimed at protecting the so-called young “dreamers” from expulsion, defining the move as “reprehensible” and “heartbreaking”.
The program called “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – DACA” had created a temporary shield for nearly 800,000 undocumented youngsters and young adults who had come to the United States as a child and who, thanks to the DACA program, managed to complete higher education and work legally.
Responding to the decision to put an end to the program, the Bishops wrote: “Today, our nation has done the opposite of how Scripture calls us to respond. It is a step back from the progress that we need to make as a country”.
The statement was signed by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president; Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gómez, USCCB vice president; Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration; and Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington, chairman of the Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees, and Travelers.
The Bishops said that the decision by the Trump administration announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a “heartbreaking moment in our history that shows the absence of mercy and goodwill, and a short-sighted vision for the future”.
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. .