Kondoa, Tanzania, Feb 8, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A bishop of a north-central diocese in Tanzania has expressed concern over the growth of radical Islamist violence in the country from foreign sources, while maintaining religious dialogue and hope for the Church.
“There is an extremist fringe, it is true, but the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful … the major problem is external influence, which brings with it new interpretations and even usages of Islam,” Bishop Bernardin Mfumbusa of Kondoa told the charity Aid to the Church in Need Feb. 3.
He added that inter-religious dialogue occurs at different levels in the country – there is a national committee, as well as one in his own diocese.
Tanzania is located on east Africa’s coast, and borders Uganda, Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Rwanda.
It is estimated that the population of more than 120 ethnic groups is divided roughly in thirds among Christians, Muslims and indigenous animists. Muslims are concentrated on the island Zanzibar, and historically, different religious and ethnic groups have coexisted peacefully in the nation.
Bishop Mfumbusa said the “greatest danger” of Islamist violence the “infiltration of foreign Jihadis” and returning Tanzanian Muslims who have been radicalized outside the country.
Violence is limited but growing on the mainland, but he said Christian-Muslim tension on Zanzibar is “not new,” though “the vast majority of people in Zanzibar would prefer to live in peace as extremism poses a danger to the entire society – not only to Christians.”
The bishop added that most Tanzanians of different religions get along well: “About 80 percent of my own family are Muslims, and so far we are living together fine.”
Touching on Christian reprisals against Muslim militia in Central African Republic, Bishop Mfumbusa said he reminds his flock, “Our best hope is forgiveness. We cannot solve evil by doing evil.”
In the Kondoa diocese of Tanzania, home to more than 450,000 people over an area of 5,000 square miles, the Church runs an orphanage which is home to more than 70 children, a health center, and several small pharmacy offices in “the remotest areas in the district.”
“We would wish to do more,” Bishop Mfumbusa said, “but limited human resources hamper our efforts.”
The diocese operates 11 parishes, but the bishop said there is “a potential – a need” to open six more “immediately.” However, “we simply don’t have the personnel,” he explained, saying that this is the biggest challenge facing his diocese.
The Kondoa diocese is served by 13 priests, as well as Bishop Mfumbusa. “Often I live alone as we have only a handful a priests,” he said.
“Luckily, in Africa, most people are part of a large extended family, so people do drop in to greet me all the time. Generally, there are no official appointments and there is a steady flow of visitors – so there is no time to be lonely, really! There is also the consolation of prayer, knowing that the Lord is always near, even when we feel lonely for some reason.”
Bishop Mfumbusa is Kondoa’s first bishop. He was installed when the diocese was established in 2011. The 51-year-old had been ordained a priest of the Diocese of Dodoma, from which the Kondoa diocese was split.
He said the Church in Tanzania is blessed to have more than 500 seminarians, and the number has been growing in recent years. However, one of the “greatest challenges” for priestly formation is the scarcity of books in the country’s five seminaries, as well as a lack of communications infrastructure.
Despite various challenges, the bishop called unity “one of the greatest gifts” of Catholicism in Tanzania.
“Despite ethnic, regional and other differences, the faithful, for example, accept pastors and bishop from other parts of the country or from other ethnic groups without a problem.”
Vatican City, Feb 8, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis will say Mass March 27 in the grotto of the St. Peter’s Basilica for the members of the Italian parliament, according to a letter written by an auxiliary bishop of Rome.
“I am pleased to inform you that on March 27, at 7 a.m., the Holy Father Francis will celebrate a Mass in the ‘grotto’ of Saint Peter’s Basilica with the members of Parliament,” wrote Bishop Lorenzo Leuzzi, an auxiliary of the Diocese of Rome and chaplain to the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Italy’s parliament.
The letter of invitation was sent to each member of Italy’s parliament.
Pope Francis “wishes to meet the requests of many members of the Italian parliament to partake in the morning Mass,” he continued.
The news has not been officially confirmed by the Holy See press office, but Bishop Leuzzi’s letter was leaked to Italian media this week.
According to a source in the chancery of the Diocese of Rome who spoke to CNA Feb. 6, “Fr. Lombardi should confirm the news in the following days.”
The source maintains “the Mass will be strictly private, and none of the members of parliament will be allowed to be accompanied by a member of their families.”
It is expected that at least half of the members of parliament will confirm their presence at the Mass.
According to the source, Bishop Leuzzi “had several requests from Italian politicians to take part in a daily Mass with the Pope.”
In December, Bishop Leuzzi had a private audience with Pope Francis, during which he received a relic of Bl. John Paul II, which has been placed in the chapel of the Chamber of Deputies, Rome’s St. Gregory of Nazianzus parish.
At that audience, the source explained, “Bishop Leuzzi will have asked the Pope for a Mass with the members of parliament.”
The daily Mass will be held in the Vatican grotto so as to allow all the parliamentarians to attend.
Located just below the Renaissance basilica and above Constantine’s fourth century basilica, the grotto can be filled with up to 1,000 persons.
The Italian parliament consists of two houses: the Senate, of whom there are 315, and the Chamber of Deputies, of whom there are 640. There are also a small number of “Senators for Life.”
Pope Francis has often spoke about the need of politicians to care for the common good, and his deep sense of the importance of politics may guide his Mass with the parliamentarians.
In his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii gaudium,” Pope Francis wrote, “I ask God to give us more politicians capable of sincere and effective dialogue aimed at healing the deepest roots – and not simply the appearances – of the evils in our world! Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good.”
And during his Sep. 16 Mass, he preached, “Let us pray for leaders, that they govern us well; that they bring our homeland, our nations, our world, forward, to achieve peace and the common good.”
The Pope then stated that the “word of God helps us to better participate in the common life of a people: those who govern, with the service of humility and love, and the governed, with participation, and especially prayer.”
Vatican City, Feb 8, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Pope has approved the advancement of the causes for canonization of over one hundred lay Catholics persecuted for their faith, as well as a bishop, a religious sister, and two priests.
In a decree on Feb. 7, Pope Francis authorized the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints to promulgate the causes of these Catholics in the various stages of the canonization process.
Layman Paul Yun Ji-chung, along with 123 others who lived in Korea between 1791 and 1888, was recognized for his martyrdom in refusal to renounce the Catholic faith. Yun Ji-chung came from a noble family and converted to Catholicism at the age of 28, eventually helping his mother and and other family members to convert as well.
In 1790, three years after his baptism, Yun Ji-chung’s bishop declared the ancestral rites to be prohibited. The following year, the young man incurred the wrath of the authorities by rejecting the use of Confucian ancestral rites for his mother’s funeral, insisting upon their irrationality.
After his steadfast adherence to the faith, he was beheaded on December 8, 1791 at the age of 32.
Another martyr, Franciscan priest Father Francesco Zirano, was recognized with the title, “servant of God.” Killed in 1603 in Algiers, Father Zirano suffered a brutal death of being skinned alive.
The priest had travelled to Algiers in an attempt to rescue his cousin who had been captured by pirates and made a slave, but Father Zirano was beaten and put into prison soon after his arrival.
Due to a case of mistaken identity, the priest was sentenced to death. He refused to renounce his faith and spent his last days encouraging the other Christians in prison. Father Zirano was executed on January 25, 1603.
Friday’s decree also included the pronouncement of “heroic virtue” for three others who died in the last century: Jesus Maria Echavarria y Aguirre, Bishop of Saltillo, Mexico and founder of the Catechist Sisters of Guadalupe, died in 1954; Father Faustino Ghilardi of the Order of Friars Minor, who died in 1937; and Sister Maria Rocio of Jesus Crucified, who belonged to the Congregation of the Sisters of the Love of God and died in 1956.
Vatican City, Feb 8, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Today the Pope met with over 1,500 Sri Lankan pilgrims, assuring them of his prayers for continued peace in the conflict-ridden nation and expressing his hope for a future visit.
Most of those present were migrants currently living in Italy. After they had participated in a mass celebrated by Sri Lankan Cardinal Malcom Ranjith, Pope Francis joined them saying, “I greet you, dear brothers and sisters of the Sri Lankan community in Italy!”
“I extend fraternal greetings to Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and the other Bishops of your homeland. And I thank Cardinal Ranjith for the invitation to visit Sri Lanka,” he added. “I welcome this invitation, and I think the Lord will grant us the grace.”
The Feb. 8 pilgrimage marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the consecration of the Church in Sri Lanka to Our Lady.
“Seventy-five years ago, the dark clouds of what would be the second world conflict were thickening in the skies and the faithful, guided by a sure intuition of faith, entrusted themselves to Our Lady, who always defends her children from dangers,” Pope Francis recalled.
“In 1940, in the dramatic circumstances of the war, the Archbishop of Colombo, Msgr. Jean-Marie Masson, of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, made a vow to build a shrine in honor of Our Lady if the island were preserved from foreign invasion,” he said.
At the end of the war, the island nation had been preserved, and the Shrine of Our Lady of Lanka at Tewatte was built.
Pope Francis went on to acknowledge that such peace has not lasted through recent years.
“Your homeland is called the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, on account of its natural beauty and its shape. They say that the pearl is formed from the tears of the oyster. Unfortunately, many tears have been shed in recent years, on account of the internal conflict which caused so many victims and so much damage,” he observed.
Sri Lanka has been plagued by civil conflict, violence, and ethnic tensions for decades: an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 people were killed while almost 300,000 have been displaced.
“It is not easy, I know, to heal the wounds and cooperate with yesterday’s enemy to build tomorrow together, but it is the only path that gives hope for the future, for development and for peace,” encouraged Pope Francis.
The pontiff urged those present to turn to Mary for help in the continued rebuilding of peace.
“Dear brothers and sisters, Our Lady is always close to us, she looks upon each one of us with maternal love and accompanies us always on our journey. Do not hesitate to turn to her for every need, especially when the burden of life with all its problems makes itself felt.”
He then assured the pilgrims, “you have a particular place in my prayer. I ask the Lord to grant you the gift of peace and reconciliation, and to help you in your effort to ensure a better future for all who live in Sri Lanka.”
“I entrust you to the maternal intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Lanka. I ask you to pray for me and from my heart I bless you,” he concluded.