Vatican City, Nov 19, 2013 (CNA) - Correction on Nov. 27, 2013 at 11:09 a.m. MST: Original article incorrectly stated that Msgr. Luciano Alimandi was among the four priests called back to dioceses. Msgr. Alimandi is now working in the Secretariat of State. CNA apologizes for the inaccuracy.
At least 30 priests employed in Vatican departments may be removed from their posts and sent to dioceses in the following months, according to three different Vatican sources.
“The Congregation for Clergy will be the first of the list,” a Vatican source familiar with the congregation told CNA Nov. 14.
Four priests employed in the congregation have been called to serve in dioceses. According to the source, they were “all part of the Cardinal Mauro Piacenza's inner circle.” He was prefect of the Congregation for Clergy until last September.
Cardinal Piacenza was appointed to lead the Vatican's Apostolic Pentientiary tribunal on Sept. 21. Archbishop Beniamino Stella replaced him as prefect for the Congregation of the Clergy.
A second source who had been recently in touch with Archbishop Stella explained to CNA Nov. 10 that “many changes are awaited in the Congregation.”
The source also maintained that “Pope Francis seemingly wants to have less employees in the Vatican departments, and aims to send the most priests he can to serve in parishes and dioceses.”
Pope Francis' reform, the source assured, “would give more power to the local bishops. In the past, when there was a difficult case to handle, an official of the Congregation was sent for an on-site visit to report on it. In the future, local bishops could be entrusted with these reports, thus taking part of the work of the Vatican dicasteries.”
According to another source who spoke to CNA Nov. 14 and asked for anonymity, “the changes would involve all the Vatican departments.”
The source underscored that “when appointed as member of the Council of Eight Cardinals, Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello made several visits to Vatican Congregations, asking each of them a list of people the Congregation could do without.”
According to the source, the list will include about 30 people, all priests. The source added that “part of the priests had been requested back by their home dioceses.”
Washington D.C., Nov 19, 2013 (CNA) -
After lengthy advocacy from both human rights and Christian groups, the U.S. State Department has officially designated the Nigeria-based Islamist group Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization.
“The State Department is right to finally respond to the calls of many in the international community who see this designation as clearly needed,” Benjamin Bull, chief counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, said Nov. 14. “Terrorist groups must not be allowed to engage in genocidal terror, especially when available steps can be taken to help curtail such violence.”
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sinful,” seeks to overthrow the Nigerian government and impose Shariah law throughout the country. It has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on Christians and is reportedly involved with rebels and terrorist groups in the region.
Over the years, Boko Haram has been responsible for the deaths of an estimated 2,800 people according to Human Rights Watch, including more than 690 in 2012, according to the Associated Press.
Emmanuel Ogebe, a legal expert on Nigeria with the Jubilee Campaign, said that although it took “a long time” for the State Department to agree with other federal departments and Congress, “the time has come to help bring an end to this senseless violence.”
The Department of State announced Boko Haram’s new designation Nov. 13. A spokesperson said that “Boko Haram has been conducting an ongoing and brutal campaign against Nigerian military, government, and civilian targets.”
The U.S. government said the group’s “indiscriminate attacks” in Benisheikh, Nigeria in September 2013 killed more than 160 civilians, including women and children. It conducted a suicide bombing of the U.N. building in Abuja in August 2011, killing 21 people and injuring dozens more.
The Boko Haram splinter group Ansaru has raided a police station, ambushed a convoy of Nigerian peacekeepers, and conducted several kidnappings of foreigners.
The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism’s 2012 report ranked Boko Haram the second most deadly terrorist group in the world, surpassed only by the Taliban of Afghanistan.
Official designation of Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist group allows the U.S. government to freeze or seize its bank accounts, to deport its members and associates, and to sanction the group’s supporters.
The U.S. government’s longtime failure to designate the group as terroristic had drawn criticism.
“Thousands of lives have been lost in this largely silent slaughter in Nigeria at the blood-thirsty hands of Boko Haram,” Ogebe said.
He said the State Department has denied Boko Haram’s religious motivations, which he says is “disingenuous” and an impediment to analyzing the group’s threat.
Alliance Defending Freedom and the Jubilee Campaign co-authored a July 2013 report on Boko Haram and authored a formal petition seeking its designation as a terrorist group.
Nigerian newspaper The Guardian said that Pentecostal pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, played a critical role in exposing the double standard in U.S. policy. He testified before Congress in favor of the new designation.
The Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans has also worked to change the policy.
The State Department said the new designation is “only one tool in what must be a comprehensive approach by the Nigerian government.”
It said the Nigerian government must counter Boko Haram and Ansaru through law enforcement, political and development efforts and military engagement “to help root out violent extremism while also addressing the legitimate concerns of the people of northern Nigeria.”
State Department officials said that the lengthy period to declare Boko Haram a terrorist organization was due to its “extensive process of review and research” that included consultations with the Nigerian government and other partners, the Nigerian Guardian reports.
Boko Haram is suspected in the recent kidnapping of French priest Father Georges Vandenbeusch, who founded a shelter for Christians fleeing the terrorist group.
The priest was kidnapped the night of Nov. 13/14 in northern Cameroon near Koza, less than 20 miles from the Nigerian border. The 42-year-old priest was taken by about 15 English-speaking gunmen, BBC News says.
French officials say Fr. Vandenbeusch had been notified of the danger of remaining in Cameroon, but nevertheless “chose to remain in his parish to carry out his work.”
Fr. Vandenbeusch is a priest of the Diocese of Nanterre, in France, and had been a missionary in the Diocese of Maroua-Mokolo since September, 2011.
In his most recent letter to the Nanterre diocese, Fr. Vandenbeusch had written: “But be assured the security here is good, because Cameroon is a refuge for persecuted Islamists (from Nigeria) … apart from the removal of the French family in February, they do not have demands or 'battles' to conduct here, at least for now.”
The emeritus bishop of Nanterre, Bishop Gerard Daucourt, has directed that Fr. Vandenbeusch be remembered at all Masses in the diocese, and has encouraged Eucharistic adoration for his safe return, as well.
The priest's abduction is the latest in a series of such cases targeting Westerners in recent months.
In February, a French family of seven were kidnapped, also in northern Cameroon. They were released after two months and the payment of a more than $3 million ransom. At the time of the kidnapping, French president Francois Hollande said, “I see the hand of Boko Haram in that part of Cameroon.”
The same month, seven foreign employees of a construction company in northern Nigeria were abducted; nine polio vaccinators were murdered; and a moderate Muslim leader was attacked and his bodyguards killed.
In December, 2012, a French engineer was abducted near Katsina, in Nigeria's far-north, by Ansuru.
Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 19, 2013 (CNA) - In the fight to eradicate material problems such as poverty and drugs, we must work to remove the spiritual obstacles in our own hearts, said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.
Speaking to Church leaders from across the Americas on Nov. 16, Archbishop Chaput noted that God is calling us “to build a new 'New World' – a world of mercy, justice, patience and love.”
“The biggest obstacle to that new 'New World' is not the enemies who hate us, and not the unbelievers who revile the Church and the Gospel,” he said.
“The biggest obstacle is the Old World that lives in our own hearts, even in those of us who are bishops, and maybe especially in some of us who are bishops: our pride, our cowardice, our lack of trust in the promises of God.”
The archbishop addressed a gathering of bishops, priests, religious and lay leaders from North, Central and South America, assembled for a four-day conference on “Our Lady of Guadalupe, Star of the New Evangelization on the American Continent.”
The conference was sponsored by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, the Knights of Columbus, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the Higher Institute of Guadalupan Studies.
It built on a similar gathering in Rome last year and drew from Bl. Pope John Paul II's exhortation “Ecclesia in America,” examining the role and mission of the Church throughout the region, with an emphasis on Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Despite progress in cooperation and dialogue throughout the American Church in recent years, grave problems abound in the modern world, Archbishop Chaput said, and the Church must respond to this reality, with all of its confusion, anxieties and indifference.
He spoke of the crippling poverty that exists particularly in the southern part of America, such as in the slums of Brazil.
“Poverty is an acid that destroys human kinship. It burns away the bonds of mutual love and obligation that make individuals into a community,” he said, adding that poverty brings with it a host of other problems ranging from homelessness to human trafficking.
Even in the U.S., the wealthiest nation in the world, one in six people is now living below the poverty line, and these people are often ignored, he noted. Furthermore, despite its wealth, the United States is not exempt from “the moral poverty that comes from an advanced culture relentlessly focused on consuming more of everything.”
This culture, which focuses on satisfying the self while ignoring the needs of others, is “like a parasite of the soul,” which leaves people “constantly eating but constantly hungry for something more – all the while starving the spirit that makes us truly human.”
Moral poverty distorts attitudes towards life, marriage and sexuality, breeding depression, greed and more violence, he said. Robbed of meaning in life, much of the contemporary world numbs itself on consumer comforts, becoming “a cocoon of narcotics, from pornography and abortion to crack cocaine.”
Noting the grave consequences of the drug trade, from poverty and despair to prostitution, corruption and murder, the archbishop argued that the real solution lies not in decriminalizing the drug trade, but in “deeper social and political reform.”
Poverty and drugs feed on each other, he observed, and yet both also reveal a deeper “crisis of identity and purpose” which can be seen throughout the Americas.
“Real human development takes more – much more – than better science, better management and better consumer goods, though all these things are wonderful in their place. Human happiness can’t be separated from the human thirst for meaning.”
Therefore, he reflected, efforts that aim solely at satisfying material needs will always fall short of fully serving the human person.
This is also true in responding to other attacks on human dignity, particularly on the family, which is threatened by the “cult of abortion,” the disintegration of marriages, the loneliness of the elderly and laws that “cripple a family’s right to survive and find work, even across borders when necessary.”
In searching for answers, he said, we must remember that “material, programmatic solutions to problems like these, no matter how good they might be, will never work unless they begin with direct human contact and the tenderness of Christian love.”
To thoroughly address the problems facing the Church in America today, Catholics leaders must take an honest – and when necessary, self-critical – approach, Archbishop Chaput said.
Because they have been called by God and ordained by the Church to lead, the bishops bear responsibility, and their weaknesses and failures affect their flocks, he said. Although they cannot control the factors that shape the world around them, the bishops are responsible for examining their own hearts and reforming them when necessary.
“Success in the work of evangelization belongs to God, in his own time, in his own way,” the archbishop recognized. “But the work belongs to us, now. And it needs to involve more than passing along good doctrine. It needs to lead our people – including the well-catechized – to embrace Jesus Christ and his teaching in a new, more personal way.”
As an example, he pointed to some Catholic colleges and charitable ministries that “seem to be 'Catholic' in name only.”
“Are we willing to admit this? And are we willing to do something about it?” he asked his fellow bishops.
Ultimately, Archbishop Chaput said, we can see that the “new” evangelization is very much like the “old” evangelization.
“We need to understand the hopes and fears of today’s world, and especially its young adults. And we need to master the new technologies and methods to reach people as they are today,” he said. “But programs and techniques don’t convert the human heart. Only the witness of other people can do that.”
Vatican City, Nov 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - During a recent gathering, instructors of U.S. Catholic Conferences came together in Rome to discuss the most pressing issues they face, immigration and human trafficking being the top two.
“One of the biggest emerging issues that we’re seeing, that’s at the state level but also in the United States…was the issue of human trafficking,” director Jenny Kraska told CNA in an Oct. 25 interview.
Kraska is the Director of the Colorado Catholic Conference in the United States, and was one of many others present in Rome for a conference held there every ten years in order to “have conversations with different congregations” within the Vatican.
The goal of the meeting is to discuss local issues “on the state level” as well as a “country level,” but also to understand “how those issues play out in a global front.”
During the directors’ conference, they had the opportunity to meet with three different congregations and councils within the Vatican, two of them being the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Cardinal Turkson, president of the Council for Justice and Peace, addressed the issue of human trafficking as a particular concern, noted Kraska, stating that it is “an issue that will continue to be at the forefront of not only the work that the Church is doing through that congregation, but also the work that all of our state Catholic conferences are doing.”
Another key issue discussed was the topic of immigration within the United States, and the debate surrounding the ongoing process of reform, Kraska revealed.
“It’s something that is obviously very important to the Church in America,” she observed, adding that being in Rome “and seeing the impact that immigration has at a global level,” will assist the directors in the decisions being made on the home front.
Kraska explained that it is her desire that the participants in the gathering will take this global perspective “back to the work that we are going to be doing with immigration reform.”
With “the continued push that the bishops will have,” and “as congress continues to meet in the United States,” Kraska expressed her hope that something will be “passed in the house” and that “something that the senate can hopefully agree on” will “get done before, ideally before the new year.”
“The Church’s position that we are obviously advocating on behalf of would be the respect and dignity for human life,” she continued, saying that “that’s really where all of our thinking and our principals regarding immigration reform start.”
“They start with the respect for the person as created in the image and likeness of Christ.”
“Obviously going forward from there,” Kraska highlighted that “it branches out into all of the different values that we should consider while we examine this issue, especially things like unification of family structure and making sure families are not torn apart.”
“I think those are all things universally that, no matter what state you’re from, no matter what bishop your representing,” she stressed, stating that “those are all really unifying principals” that they as directors offer.
Regarding the ongoing push for religious freedom in light of the Health and Human Services mandate requiring employers to provide health insurance covering contraception, sterilization and some abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs, Kraska noted that she has seen progress.
Recalling numerous rallies and events that have taken place across the United States, she went on to say that “we’ve been able to see coming together as a group and talking about this issue very specifically, is that people are starting to become, if nothing else more aware.”
“It’s really important that people to know that there is these religious liberty issues that are popping up, and that what our rallies, and what the bishop’s initiatives have done, is put that issue and put that terminology at the forefront of people’s minds.”
When asked if she has seen any change on the side of the Obama administration as far as religious freedom being a pressing issue, Kraska stated that “I would like to hope it is.”
“I really would hope that the Obama administration would make it a priority for themselves as well.”
Expressing future goals of the directors following the conference, Kraska explained that “our first and foremost goal always is to advocate on behalf of our local bishop, and our local Church.”
However, she observed that being in Rome with “this experience of not only educating ourselves about lots of different issues that the Church is facing at a universal level” as well as the “spiritual dimension of pilgrimage,” has provided a “new vigor” to the work that they do.
“We’re dealing usually with issues that are very controversial, and that takes its toll, and so I think having the experience of being together in Rome will give us the additional strength that we need to be renewed in our passions for our jobs, and for the work that we do for the Church.”
Fort Worth, Texas, Nov 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis has named Monsignor Michael F. Olson as the new bishop of Fort Worth, Texas, setting the priest on the path to become the second youngest bishop to head a diocese in the U.S.
“I am very humbled and deeply moved by Pope Francis' appointment of me to serve as the Bishop of Fort Worth,” he said. “In a very special way, I am delighted to return home to the Diocese of Fort Worth to serve the priests, deacons, religious and all of the faithful as their bishop.”
Msgr. Olson, 47, is the current rector of Holy Trinity Seminary in the Dallas suburb of Irving. The seminary is associated with the University of Dallas.
Bishop-designate Olson addressed a Nov. 19 press conference in Fort Worth, stressing how important the priesthood is to him.
“I love being a priest, since my ordination,” he said. “I’m consoled that being a bishop means experiencing the fullness of the priesthood.”
He reflected that he prefers to think that a bishop is given to a diocese, not given a diocese. “I’m being given to you, in this new way,” he said, pledging to use his ministry “for the good of all.”
He also stressed care for the souls of priests as “very necessary and important and essential” for his ministry.
The Diocese of Fort Worth has about 710,000 Catholics in 90 parishes across 28 counties, whose total population is over 3.3 million.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S., announced the appointment Tuesday. The bishop-to-be will succeed Bishop Kevin Vann, whom Pope Benedict XVI appointed bishop of Orange, Calif. in September 2012.
Bishop-designate Olson is an Illinois native, born in Park Ridge to Ronald G. and Janice Fetzer Olson on June 29, 1966, the Diocese of Fort Worth reports. He has three sisters. He was raised in Des Plaines, Illinois and received a high school diploma from Quigley Preparatory Seminary North in 1984.
He was originally a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Chicago, but transferred to Fort Worth after his family relocated there.
Bishop-designate Olson was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Fort Worth in June 1994 before serving as parochial vicar at St. Michael Parish in Bedford until 1997.
He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy from the Catholic University of America in the late 1980s. He did doctoral work at the St. Louis University Center for Health Care Ethics from 1997 to 2001 and has served on an ethics committee for the University of Texas Medical Center.
The bishop-designate holds a doctorate in moral theology from Rome’s Academia Alfonsiana.
He has been a formation advisor at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston and was pastor of Fort Worth’s St. Peter the Apostle Parish from 2006 to 2008. Additionally, he was vicar general of the Fort Worth diocese under Bishop Vann and has been rector of Holy Trinity Seminary since 2008. Pope Benedict XVI named him a monsignor in May 2010.
Bishop-designate Olson’s installation will take place January 29 at a 2 p.m. Mass in the Forth Worth Convention Center. Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio will ordain him to the episcopacy.
After Bishop-designate Olson’s ordination, Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico will still be the youngest bishop leading a U.S. diocese. Both men were classmates at St. Mary Seminary in Houston.
Springfield, Ill., Nov 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois has scheduled prayers of supplication and exorcism as reparation for the state's adoption of a law legalizing same-sex marriage.
“It is scandalous that so many Catholic politicians are responsible for enabling the passage of this legislation and even twisting the words of the pope to rationalize their actions despite the clear teaching of the church,” Bishop Paprocki said Nov. 14 in announcing the prayers.
“All politicians now have the moral obligation to work for the repeal of this sinful and objectionable legislation. We must pray for deliverance from this evil which has penetrated our state and our church.”
The prayers will be said Nov. 20 at 4 p.m. in the Springfield cathedral, roughly the same time as Governor Pat Quinn, himself a Catholic, will be signing into law the bill which redefines marriage in Illinois to include same-sex couples. The bill was passed by the state legislature Nov. 5.
Bishop Paprocki explained that he was moved to hold the prayers by the example of the current Pope, saying, “the context for this prayer service may be understood by recalling the words of Pope Francis when he faced a similar situation as Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2010.”
He quoted Pope Francis as saying June 22, 2010, when Argentina was considering adopting gay marriage, that the bill “may gravely harm the family.”
“The identity of the family, and its survival, are in jeopardy here: father, mother, and children … at stake is the total rejection of God's law engraved in our hearts,” then-Archbishop Bergoglio said. “Let us not be naïve: it is not a simple political struggle; is it an intention destructive of the plan of God. It is not a mere legislative project (this is a mere instrument), but rather a 'move' of the father of lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
Bishop Paprocki explained that the Pope's reference to “the father of lies” is an allusion to Christ's identification of the devil as “a liar and the father of lies” in the Gospel according to John.
“So Pope Francis is saying that same-sex 'marriage' comes from the devil and should be condemned as such.”
The Springfield diocese's announcement of the prayer service noted that the prayers to be said will be taken from the 2004 edition of the Rite of Exorcism.
Bishop Paprocki stated that since gay marriage is contrary to God's plan, “those who contract civil same-sex marriage are culpable of serious sin,” according to the release, and he also noted that politicians who enacted the legislation are “morally complicit as co-operators” in facilitating that sin.
He concluded by saying that despite the gravity of the sin of same-sex marriage, “it is good to recall the profound expression of divine mercy uttered by Jesus as he was dying on the cross to save us from our sins, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'”
Illinois' gay marriage law will take effect June 1, 2014. Civil unions had been legal in the state since 2011.
The new law was supported by several legislators who cited Pope Francis' message of mercy and non-judgement for homosexual persons who are trying to live in chastity as having swayed their position.
On Nov. 6, the Chicago Tribune quoted Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, who had been undecided on the bill, as saying, “as a Catholic follower of Jesus and the pope, Pope Francis, I am clear that our Catholic religious doctrine has at its core love, compassion and justice for all people.”
Chicago's daily also quoted House Speaker Michael Madigan, who alluded to Pope Francis' comments, saying that “for those that just happen to be gay – living in a very harmonious, productive relationship but illegal – who am I to judge that they should be illegal?”
Bishop David Malloy of Rockford stated after the bill's passage that “astonishingly, some of those who voted for this human redefinition did so by invoking Pope Francis or their Catholic faith.”
“We must not allow ourselves to be deceived. This decision, however well intended, has no basis in nature and certainly not in the teaching or the practice of our Catholic faith.”
In another statement, he added that the vote's outcome “ignores the unique nature of this institution that is based in the complementarity of men and women and is intimately linked to the procreation and raising of children who have a right to a mother and a father. This legislation undermines this fundamental basis of human interaction and its contribution to a stable society.”
“We pray that those who stood prepared to support this legislation will also be prepared to answer for its consequences on our society.”
The legislation has been questioned for its lack of religious liberty protections. While it neither requires churches to marry gay couples nor forces them to let gay couples use their facilities, concerns have been raised over issues of health insurance, and a lack of protections for business owners who conscientiously object to providing services for same-sex couples.
The Catholic Conference of Illinois stated that is “deeply disappointed that members of the General Assembly chose to redefine what is outside of its authority: a natural institution like marriage. We remain concerned about the very real threats to religious liberty that are at stake with the passage of this bill.”
Bogotá, Colombia, Nov 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Updated on Nov. 19, 2013 at 3:29 p.m. MST: It was confirmed on Tuesday that baby Milagros died on the morning of Nov. 18 after nearly a week of fighting for her life.
In statements to CNA, the assistant manager of the Clinica Santa Teresita, Clemencia Castro, said the baby died from respiratory arrest after she was unable to respond to the efforts “of the medical and paramedical team.” Castro added that the clinic deeply appreciates the prayers offered by the Colombian community for Milagros and hopes “to keep them for each of the babies that come to our institution.”
Colombians are joining together to pray and offer Masses for a 26 week-old baby who was pronounced dead by doctors shortly after birth but awoke after ten hours in the morgue.
“No matter how you look at it, it is a miracle!” said Doctor Farid Vieira, the manager of the St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in the Colombian city of Quibdo.
He told reporters the baby girl was exposed in the morgue for more than ten hours without any kind of protection.
On Nov. 12, the baby's mother 28 year-old Jenny Adriana Hurtado, checked into a hospital in the province of Choco. Her child Milagros was born prematurely via caesarean and had great difficulty breathing because of her underdeveloped lungs, Vieira said.
Although doctors did everything they could to save her, after 35 minutes they pronounced her dead and her apparently “lifeless” body was placed in the hospital morgue.
Vieira recounted that at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, the family came to claim the body. The person responsible for bringing the body to them saw the baby move, open her eyes and begin to cry. She was immediately taken to an incubator.
The hospital did not have the necessary staff and equipment to deal with the situation and sent Milagros to the St. Therese of the Child Jesus Clinic outside Bogota, which specializes in neo-natal intensive care.
In comments to CNA on Nov. 18, the clinic's assistant manager Clemencia Castro said the baby arrived in intensive care with limited breathing and a dangerous infection. She was fitted with an artificial respirator and doctors said they were cautious about the prognosis.
Physicians attending the baby say her condition is “unstable and complicated. The risk of death is imminent. She is difficult patient requiring significant care, and everything possible is being done to keep her stable.”
Castro said that since Milagros was admitted to the clinic, many people have offered to help pay for her medical expenses and pray for her recovery. The baby was also baptized and the Teresian Community, which work at the facility, has offered prayers and Masses for Milagros.
Juba, South Sudan, Nov 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The bishops of South Sudan find “much to celebrate” in the newly independent country, praising peaceful advances, while also noting causes for concern.
“Building a new nation is not a quick nor easy task. Most of our people are living in peace and democracy for the first time in decades. There is religious freedom, with Muslims, Christians and followers of African traditional religion able to practice their faith without obstacles.”
The bishops’ comments come in a pastoral message approved during their plenary meeting in the capital city of Juba held Nov. 12-15.
South Sudan became independent in July 2011, following decades-long civil wars in Sudan.
The bishops praised a “strong” ecumenical spirit among Christian groups, and voiced happiness at the involvement of Muslims in many initiatives.
However, they noted “a widespread feeling that something is not right.”
“We have peace in the sense of absence of widespread violence, but not in the sense of right relationship and abundance of life,” the bishops said.
Citing the need for national reconciliation and healing, the bishops offered to help in this process.
“The Church has the credibility and moral authority to play a leading role in this, but in fact reconciliation comes from God and cannot take place without God. Reconciliation is our mission.”
The bishops welcomed the “leaner” government now regulating the independent country. However, they voiced concern that advances in social services, infrastructure, and other basic needs are proceeding more slowly than desired. Corruption and nepotism are still areas of concern.
The bishops advised the government to select a small number of priorities to ensure their implementation, “rather than trying to do everything all at once.” They said international aid has helped the South Sudanese people “so much,” but now must shift towards long-term development and sustainability, including education.
The Church is itself involved in education in the country: construction on the Catholic University of South Sudan broke ground Nov. 17 in Juba.
The bishops’ pastoral message said they are very concerned about conflicts within the country, including the state of Jonglei. They warned against “tribalism” and efforts to inflame ethnic tension, though they encouraged people to be proud of their tribal heritage. They also denounced violence as “completely unacceptable.”
They praised their country’s new agreement with Sudan to resume oil exports, though they lamented the continued “humanitarian tragedy” in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, and Blue Nile regions of Sudan.
They stressed the need for every Christian to “respond daily to the Lord Jesus” and prayed for the blessing of Christ the King on South Sudan, its people, its allies as well as on those who seek to do harm.
“God’s love is unconditional,” they said. “Repent and believe the Good News!”