Notre Dame Cathedral after fire

Notre-Dame: Watch, pray, do not be discouraged.

On Monday 15th April, the first day of Holy Week, the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris was ravaged by a terrible fire. This was a drama which invited us to pray unceasingly, and without being discouraged.


Notre-Dame Cathedral after fire

Shortly before 8pm, the burning spire collapsed into the nave of the cathedral. The fire, which had broken out around 6.50pm in the timbers of the roof, was overcome by about 3.30am, according to the Paris fire department. Two-thirds of the roof has been destroyed. Ravaged by flames in the night of 15th-16th April, the building - the most visited in Europe, welcoming between 12 and 14 million visitors and pilgrims each year - had stood through history and survived countless events, from the French Revolution to the Second World War. An enquiry into ‘involuntary destruction by fire’ has been opened.

“The shocking sight of Notre-Dame in flames reminds us of the dramatic reality lived by too many Christians throughout the world” - Fr Yves Genouville

“The shocking sight of Notre-Dame in flames reminds us of the dramatic reality lived by too many Christians throughout the world”, stated Fr Yves Genouville, French ecclesial assistant to Aid to the Church in Need. “But at the end of a night of sorrow, a striking image: in the midst of smoke and ash, despite the chaos resulting from the flames, the Cross appears, intact. The glorious Cross of Christ, at the foot of which so many pilgrims have come to leave their prayers. The Cross of Christ, at the foot of which Mgr Fridolin Ambongo, Mgr Theodore Mascarenhas, Sr Mona Adhem, and so many others came, during the 2018 ‘Nuits de Temoins’, to leave the sorrows and hopes of a Church faced with the folly of Evil. The Cross of Christ, today weighed down, at the foot of which stood Mary, his Mother, Our Lady, to whom the cathedral of the Paris archdiocese is dedicated.

While this fire has joined the long list of the dramas undergone by the Church in France, ACN, an international pontifical foundation, has received messages of compassion from the whole world. The universal church is united by prayer to the diocese of Paris, and to the Church in France. “Our heart is weeping with all of France, and with the Christians of the world: we are praying for you”, wrote Sr Mona. “We are praying for you, we are praying for France’, Mgr Mascarenhas assured us. “We feel your sorrow. Your loss is our loss, your sorrow our sorrow.”

In a statement, the French Bishops’ Conference invited “Catholics to always remain the living rocks of the Church, by living the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, the source of our hope.”

Guided by this hope, at the start of this Holy Week, as we approach the paschal solemnities, ACN invites all to watch and pray for the Church in France and for the universal Church; to watch and pray at the foot of the cross, at the side of Our Lady, and without discouragement.




Enough indifference toward those suffering...

Enough indifference toward those suffering for their Faith!

Colosseum Bathed in Red Light to Remember World’s Persecuted Christians, Initiative of Aid to the Church in Need.

“There are millions of people in the world who are suffering for their faith, and we pretend as though it were nothing,” the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, denounced to Zenit on Saturday, February 24, in front of the Colosseum illuminated in red.

Even if historians cannot definitively say whether the most famous monument had Christians martyred there, the effect of those mighty walls all dyed red, the color of the blood of the martyrs, yesterday and today, was evocative.

“A very touching event, because it moved us with situations of great pain, great suffering and also great faith, with the intent to shake us out of indifference,” was how Cardinal Parolin described it to Zenit.

Among the hundreds of millions of people who still suffer discrimination or, worse, persecution because of their religious faith, the most numerous are undoubtedly Christians. To them, the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need has dedicated the gesture of illuminating with red light simultaneously, three symbolic places of ancient and modern Christian martyrdom, connected to each other via Skype: the Colosseum in Rome; the Maronite cathedral of St. Elias, in Aleppo, Syria, whose roof was destroyed by bombings; the Chaldean church of St. Paul in Mosul, Iraq, where on December 24, the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldean Catholics, Louis Raphael I Sako, celebrated the first Mass after liberation from the Isis.

But the catalog of countries hostile to religious freedom and in particular to Christians, drafted each year by “Aid to the Church in Need”, goes far beyond Syria and Iraq. There is Pakistan, from where Ashiq and Eisham, arrived in Rome. They are respectively the husband and fifth and last daughter of Asia Bibi, sentenced to death in 2009 for alleged offenses to the prophet Muhammad. Asia’s only ‘crime’ was that she drank water from the same glass as some Muslim women.

Now she is in prison, in isolation. Only a 15-minute meeting is allowed each month for Ashiq and his five children. The last time her children saw her outside the prison she had tied to her neck a belt, ‘like a dog,’ stripped and bleeding, Eisham said, bursting into tears.

Another of the testimonies offered to the public while the Colosseum lit up red is that of Rebecca Bitros, 28, a Nigerian, kidnapped by the Islamic terrorists of Boko Haram, who raped and tortured her only because she is Christian, before she managed to free herself, two years later. Then she gave birth to the son of one of her jailers.

When the militia of Boko Haram assaulted her village, she preferred to surrender herself to them along with her two children, allowing her husband to escape, otherwise he certainly would have been killed. From the years passed in prison, she remembers the rosary she had with her that she recited, the constant threats of the terrorists, the continuous beatings, the killing of one of her two sons thrown into a river, trying to force her to deny her faith and embrace Islam.

Both Rebecca and the relatives of Asia Bibi had been received on Saturday morning by Pope Francis at the Vatican.

“I think of your mother very often and I pray for her,” the Pope told Eisham. For Pope Francis, Asia Bibi and Rebecca are two “martyrs,” he said during the meeting which lasted 40 minutes, compared to the 15 initially planned in the dense agenda of the Pope, as reported by the director of Aid to the Church in Need, Alessandro Monteduro.

Today’s Christian martyrs are “victims of the propagation of a mentality that does not make room for others, which prefers to suppress rather than integrate them, in order to not put in question their own convictions,” said Cardinal Parolin in his speech: “Only by returning to God, the source of the dignity of every human being, can we become peacemakers and reunite societies broken up by hatred and violence.”

At the event under the Colosseum was also the president of the European Parliament, Italian Antonio Tajani, to affirm that “Europe must continue to make its voice heard. We must not lower our guard because the less we talk, the more the freedom of Christians in the world is trampled. It is a question of freedom, of defending the values ​​of our identity as Europeans. We must neither be resigned in the face of these acts, but neither must we renounce acting against them.”

For the general secretary of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Bishop Nunzio Galantino, “The blood of the new martyrs is a condemnation of the superficiality with which we live the faith, too often reduced to appearance, to ceremonies that are not binding, containing pious but irrelevant words. It is sad to see the intermittent compassion of some humanitarian agencies, according to whom, there is violence to condemn, while others can be ignored.”

Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Major Penitentiary and international president of ‘Aid to the Church in Need’, gave the last address, in which he urged for an overthrowing of “the walls of death, starting with that of our indifference; we cannot fail to hear the cry of all the ‘Abels’ of the world ascending to God.”

‘Aid to the Church in Need’ has already promoted other similar events by illuminating in red, famous monuments such as the Trevi Fountain in Rome, the Parliament and the Cathedral of Westminster in London, Christ the Redeemer of Rio de Janeiro, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre in Paris and finally the Cathedral of Manila.

According to a report by this Pontifical Foundation on “Persecuted and Forgotten?” Christians between 2015 and 2017, the persecution of Christians today is more serious than in any other historical period. The report speaks of persecution in Egypt, Iran and India and of the extreme degree of persecution in Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea, Eritrea, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria and Sudan.

Ukraine: Bringing God to people's lives

Many people in the Ukraine are destitute, especially older people and families. The armed conflict taking place in the eastern part of the country also continues to claim victims. The Catholic church helps those in need by providing them with both pastoral and material aid.

The church should not get so wrapped up in its charitable commitments that it forgets that its primary focus needs to be on the salvation of the soul, the Roman Catholic bishop of Kharkiv-Zaporyzhya, Stanislav Shyrokoradiuk, emphasised during an interview with Aid to the Church in Need. Although many church organisations and initiatives have been set up in his diocese to help those in need through concrete measures and material aid, it is also important “to pray with those who are suffering to keep them from losing their faith.”

The bishop, who was himself president of Caritas Spes for 20 years and thus oversaw the charitable activities of the church in the Ukraine, emphasised that people often expect the church to be able to provide them with all the material aid they need. He explained that even though the church is doing a great deal, it cannot assuage every material need. “More than anything, the mission of the church is to bring God to the people and proclaim the truth to them. We should not only give them bread and forget the soul. It is not enough to just do good deeds, we should not cheat the people of the grace necessary for their salvation.”

According to the bishop, it is also important to teach the people to thank God and the benefactors who made the help they received possible and explained, “We approach the distribution of material aid not as a kind of grab-and-go service, but make sure it is done in a beautiful and dignified manner. We hold a reading from the Gospels and the recipients of the aid pray the Lord’s Prayer together for those who donated the gifts. We tell them that God is the one who is giving them the bread, but that He is doing so through their benefactors.”

Bishop Shyrokoradiuk pointed out that the witnesses to the miraculous multiplication of the bread in the Gospels primarily came to Jesus to hear the word of God. Jesus then gave them the bread. He believes that the church needs to “maintain the balance” and place the emphasis on the spiritual. For this reason, it is important to not only engage in charitable work, but also build churches. For example, all the children’s homes in his diocese have a chapel. “The children go there to discuss their problems with God,” he reported, stressing just how important this is.

Last year, Aid to the Church in Need supported pastoral projects in the Ukraine with a total of €4.4 million. The aid was primarily used to build and renovate churches and monasteries, train priests and religious, secure the livelihood of religious sisters as well as acquire vehicles for pastoral care.


Bulgaria: Breaking the cycle for Romani children

“If we don’t do anything, the fate of the Romani children will be sealed,” Salesian Father Martin Jilek from Stara Zagora in Central Bulgaria, 230 kilometres to the east of the capital of Sofia, said. “They are married off by their clan when they are fourteen. Then they have children early on and live off of the child benefit, which is about 40 leva per month and child.” That is equivalent to about 20 euros – the only source of income of many Romani families.

Around 28,000 Roma live in Stara Zagora, most of these children and adolescents. They live in shacks, run-down houses or the shells of unfinished buildings. In Bulgaria, around a million people are said to belong to the Romani people. No exact numbers are known. They live in a parallel society. Clan structures are opaque to those on the outside. The Romani people are despised, hated and banned from public life.

The resentment is so great that even Bulgarians who have a slightly darker skin tone and thus look like the Roma have a hard time getting jobs. The Roma generally only achieve a rudimentary level of education, if any at all. They do not receive any apprenticeship training. For this reason, many Roma fall into unemployment and a life of petty crime. This in turn strengthens the clichés and creates even more obstacles. The only source of income that remains is the child benefit. Children as a “life insurance policy” – and another step towards complete impoverishment: it is a vicious cycle.

Father Martin and his confrères are not content to leave things as they are. With the support of Aid to the Church in Need, they have established a branch right in the middle of the Romani district and want to offer them better opportunities. Father Martin knows just how this can be done: “This is only possible through the children. The adults are practically inaccessible.”

The Salesians have, for example, set up a kind of after school homework programme – which offers so much more. The children come after school, eat together, play and learn. Elementary rules of etiquette are also taught to them there. “When the children have been with us for a few weeks,” Father Martin said, “they start saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. They also calm down and stop being so hyper.” Many don’t get any attention at home from their parents. They roam the streets, are avoided by other pupils. For many it already comes as a surprise when we address them by their names,” Father Martin said. “We take time for the children. The parents are quick to find out about it, and they then suddenly turn up here as well.”

The work day never ends for the Salesians of Stara Zagora. In their monastery, Roma come and go at all hours. They come to attend Holy Mass, carry out small everyday tasks, seek advice or just pay a visit. And the Salesians want to do a lot more. A food bank is also planned. “This will give us the opportunity to talk to the people. We want to convince them to send their children to our school.”

This, however, is the main problem: many parents do not allow their children to receive a higher level of education than primary school. Because if they did, they would not be able to marry them off immediately. “It is hard work to convince the parents that it is better to have completed training or even have a university degree than to just draw child benefit,” Father Martin said. However, the first successes have already been achieved. “Many Roma now know us and understand that we mean them no harm.”


Worldwide: Ignoring the worsening persecution

The persecution of Christians is worse than at any time in history – but it is being largely ignored by the UN and the international community, according to reports.

The new Persecuted and Forgotten? report, launched at a meeting in the Houses of Parliament on October 12, 2017, concludes that the persecution of Christians reached a high water mark in 2015-17 – with growing attacks on the faithful by Daesh (ISIS), Boko Haram, and other fundamentalist groups. According to the report produced by the Aid to the Church in Need UK office, the international community has failed to adequately respond to the needs of Christians attacked by militant extremists.

Persecuted and Forgotten? states: “Governments in the West and the UN failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway. If Christian organisations and other institutions had not filled the gap, the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.”

The report also identified growing problems in certain majority Islamic countries and authoritarian states such as Eritrea and North Korea. Report editor John Pontifex said: “In terms of the numbers of people involved, the gravity of the crimes committed and their impact, it is clear that the persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history. Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution.”

Although the report found in the countries under examination that many faith communities have suffered at the hands of extremists and authoritarian regimes, it concluded Christians have experienced the most hostility and violence. The report supports this claim with a series of examples showing the extent of the problems facing Christians in each of the 13 core countries it assesses in depth – as well as providing an overview of the state of religious freedom for the country’s various denominations.

Persecuted and Forgotten? found that members of China’s 127 million-strong Christian population have suffered increased persecution following new attempts to bring Christianity in line with Communist ideals. More than 2,000 churches and crosses have been pulled down in China’s coastal Province of Zhejiang – and clergy are still being routinely detained by authorities. During the campaign of genocide by Daesh and other Islamist militant groups in the Middle East, Christians were disproportionately affected by the extremists.

In Iraq, more than half of the country’s Christian population became internal refugees and Syria’s second city of Aleppo, which until 2011 was home to the largest Christian community, saw numbers dropping from 150,000 to barely 35,000 by spring 2017 – a fall of more than 75 percent.  Despite national governments and international organisations having determined that a genocide has taken place, local Church leaders in the Middle East have repeatedly said that they feel forgotten by the international community. A number of bishops in the region have accused the UN of overlooking the needs of displaced Christians, despite pledging to deliver aid “neutrally and impartially”.

Extremism has been a growing problem in Africa – particularly in Nigeria where Daesh affiliates Boko Haram have displaced more than 1.8 million. In one diocese alone – Kafanchan – within five years, 988 people had been killed, and 71 Christian-majority villages had been destroyed, as well as 2,712 homes and 20 churches. At the launch in the House of Lords, chaired by Lord Alton, Archbishop John Darwish – who has overseen the care of Syrian Christian refugees denied UN aid – gave a first-hand report about the crisis that has faced Christians and ACN’s John Pontifex presented the findings of Persecuted and Forgotten?

Bishop Matthew Kukah from northern Nigeria spoke about Christians living with violence from Boko Haram and other extremist militants. Work resettling displaced Christians in the towns and villages they were driven out of by Daesh in northern Iraq was described by Father Salar Kajo, who helps oversee the programme returning displaced families to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.


Belarus: Not privilages, just rights

Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk-Mohilev deplores the violation of the rights of the Catholic church in Belarus. He calls for the signing of a concordat between the Belarus state and the Catholic church, a pact that has been in the making for many years, but has yet to be signed. “Without a concordat of this kind in place, the church in the Republic of Belarus cannot completely fulfil its mission as it does in other countries,” he explained. The church is not demanding “any privileges, but an acknowledgement of its rights in order to be able to adequately carry out its work.”

The situation is especially problematic in matters relating to the activities of foreign priests in the country. Although the number of native Belarus priests has “significantly” grown from 60 to 400 over the past 25 years, the work of foreign priests remains “indispensable”, emphasised Archbishop Kondrusiewicz. These priests, who predominately, but not exclusively, come from Poland, are frequently met with obstacles when they try to extend their residence permits. “They are often issued a visa for only three to six months. That is not conducive to doing any sort of real work as priest, and the pastoral work with believers and youth formation are suffering from it. We are trying to develop local vocations, but that takes time. And then you have to factor in the demographic crisis, which also has a negative impact on the number of vocations.”

The archbishop further told ACN that a growing number of foreign priests have recently been denied extensions when they tried to renew their residence permits and have been deported under the pretext of minor offences such as speeding in traffic, even after having worked in Belarus for many years.

“For some unknown reason, Belarus is afraid of foreign priests. But how many church buildings have been and are being built to serve believers in Belarus – and all thanks to the efforts of these foreign priests! These priests come to proclaim the Word of God in places where there are no local priests. How many pastoral and social programmes have they launched! They get to know the culture of Belarus and Belarus becomes their home. And they bring new pastoral experiences with them. Today’s world is not only undergoing economic globalisation, but cultural and religious globalisation as well, and we need to get on board so that we are not left standing at the station, watching the taillights of the train disappear,” Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said.

The archbishop then went on to explain that even foreign priests who are only in Belarus for a short visit have to apply for approval from the authorities before they are allowed to celebrate Holy Mass. A process that is practically impossible to get through in so short a time. “A paradox situation has developed in which a foreign priest may attend Mass as part of the congregation, but when he stands on the other side of the altar and celebrates Holy Mass himself, he becomes a criminal,” the archbishop lamented.

He then touched upon the problems that have arisen concerning the restoration of church buildings expropriated during Soviet times. Archbishop Kondrusiewicz emphasised how valuable these building are, not only for the church itself, but also for the country: “They are our cultural heritage. Tourists and pilgrims are more likely to come here to look at these churches than the modern buildings with their often tasteless architecture.” He then gave as an example an 18th century church from his archdiocese that was expropriated during Soviet times and then restored by the Catholic church with its own funds after the political turnaround. However, ownership of the church has yet to be returned to the parish; instead, the Catholic church has to pay rent in order to be able to use it. “Where is the justice?” he asked and called for restitution laws as they exist in several other eastern European countries.

According to the archbishop, a further problem is that no building regulations have been adopted that take the specific situation of church buildings into account; instead, churches underlie the same regulations as, for example, cultural centres. “However, the churches are built using the donations of parishioners and not public funds as would be the case for a cultural centre. According to regulations, a church must be completed within a year or even less. How is that possible?” This means that permit extensions have to be applied for several times during the ongoing construction work, which costs money every time.

The archbishop is also “very concerned” about the state’s attempts to influence the contents of the teaching materials used for catechesis, which is taught by the church in Belarus as part of its Sunday School programme. “This is just interference in the internal matters of the church and is not reconcilable with religious freedom and the freedom of conscience and of religious organisations.”

About 7 percent of the 9.5 million inhabitants of Belarus are Catholic. Last year, Aid to the Church in Need supported the Catholic church in Belarus with more than €830,000 in aid.


Love One Another

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.


Romans 13: 8-10

Second Reading Sunday 10 September, 2017

Portugal: The connection between ACN and Fatima

The risk of “new powers and serious wars” was underlined by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the Major Penitentiary of the Holy See, during a press conference at the Cova da Iria on September 13th, held to mark the beginning of the international pilgrimage to Fátima. The pilgrimage also marks the 70th anniversary of the beginning of Aid to the Church in Need and the 50 years since the charity was first consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima.

Cardinal Piacenza, who is also the International President of ACN, was at pains to point out just how much “Fátima and ACN have in common”. The Cardinal noted how “Fatima is a light of supernatural charity that supports us whenever we fall”, while ACN was a “light of fraternal charity for those most in need”.

And among those who most need this help, it was important to remember above all the persecuted Christians, especially those living in the “biblical lands”. He went on to single out the need to preserve the Christian presence in the Middle East, and especially in Iraq and Syria, as one of the overriding priorities in the current work of the charity.

Cardinal Piacenza went on to describe some aspects of this work, which is already being undertaken in the form of direct support for these Christian communities, and notably in the “reconstruction of homes and churches” which, he also emphasised, was an “ecumenical effort”.

Also present at the press conference were Philipp Ozores, the international general secretary of ACN, and Catarina Martins, the director of the Portuguese national office of ACN.

Philipp Ozores pointed out that ACN currently supports projects in 150 different countries, and he also referred to the close bonds between the international charity and the message given by Our Lady to the shepherd children 100 years ago. “Fátima is the key to the understanding of our existence”, he stated.

Catarina Martins also spoke of the “importance” of this pilgrimage and of the “inspiration that Our Lady has been for us throughout all these years”. The Portuguese national director of ACN concluded by remembering “Bishop Antonio of Porto, who departed from us so suddenly this Monday”.

The bishop, who was “a generous friend of ACN”, she added, “will always be remembered for his kindness, generosity and sympathy, especially for the poorest, most needy and the most lonely”. She concluded her remarks by promising that ACN would “continue every day to pray for peace in the world, just as Our Lady asked us to do in this place”.


Love One Another

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.


Romans 13: 8-10

Second Reading Sunday 10 September, 2017

Kosovo: Cathedral built for Mother Teresa

Twenty years after the death of St. Teresa of Calcutta, thousands of Christians and Muslims came together to celebrate the consecration of the Roman Catholic Co-cathedral in Pristina.

St. Teresa Cathedral is also the only one in the world dedicated to the Albanian saint. The consecration took place on September 5th, 2017 on the first anniversary of Mother Teresa’s canonization. It was not just an inauguration, but also an ecumenical and interreligious event.

The Cathedral’s cornerstone was laid in August 2005 by the first President of Kosovo, Ibrahim Rugova. The construction itself began in 2007. Aid to the Church in Need has helped with a total of €1.4 million towards the construction of the Co-cathedral throughout different phases of the. Bishop Dode Gjergji thanks the Catholic charity: “We embarked upon this project trusting in God’s providence, the strength of our nation and the contributions of our people. We thought the construction would take decades. Aid to the Church in Need has been the greatest support in this project. Thank you.”

On behalf of ACN’s International President, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the international Spiritual Assistant, Father Martin Barta, said in his speech: “I am deeply pleased that Aid to the Church in Need has actively contributed to building this Co-cathedral.  St. Teresa of Calcutta, please pray for us all, children of God; pray so that on this land – too long bathed by blood and tears, wounded by violence – this church bearing your name may be a space of pure prayer, encounter, dialogue, and respect.

Pope Francis appointed 88-year-old Cardinal Ernest Simoni as his special envoy to lead the ceremony. Bishops of the Albanian and Serbian Orthodox Churches, as well as various Islamic religious communities, attended the ceremony because, even if the Catholic community is a minority in this predominantly Muslim country, they still receive significant respect and authority. Albanian Muslims view Catholics and their priests as the safeguards of Albanian identity and history. The Kosovan government endowed the Catholic Church in Kosovo with special recognition when they approved the building of the Cathedral of Mother Teresa in Pristina, the capital.

A few years ago, the former acting Chairman of the Assembly of Kosovo, Jakup Krasniqi, said that the reason behind the political support for the project was the unique role that the Church plays in their culture and national identity. The earliest written documents in the Albanian language – the Baptismal formula and the Scriptures – come from the Catholic Church. This, according to Kraniqi, is the reason why the two faiths – Islam and Christianity – have lived here side by side, something virtually unique to this area of the Balkans.




Love One Another

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.


Romans 13: 8-10

Second Reading Sunday 10 September, 2017

Pastors for Future Pastors - Rectors meet in Rome

In his homily for All Saints Day, Pope Gregory the Great, a Saint and Doctor of the Church, lists some of the features of the great Communion of the Saints: joy, serenity, consolation, brotherliness. They are the fruit of steadfastness, strength of soul and diligence.

Such words also describe the atmosphere encountered by the rectors and seminary directors who have converged on Rome from different countries and continents, to spend four weeks together at the international pontifical college of ‘Maria Mater Ecclesiae’.

Most are from Africa and Latin America. Naturally there is a programme of events, with lectures, concelebrated Masses, prayer, Rosary, working groups on marriage and the family apostolate and other pastoral themes. But the most important aspect is the opportunity to meet as friends of God and experience this tangible communion of those who are ‘called to be saints’, as Saint Paul says in his Letter to the Romans (1:7). Last year there were 89 of them from 24 different countries.

Most come from the poorest countries, such as Ecuador, Vietnam and the Central African Republic, where the Church has neither the resources nor the facilities for such encounters. The largest contingent last year, almost half the number, was from Madagascar. Almost none of them could afford the flight and accommodation in Rome. So once again ACN was privileged to support this year’s encounter.

For the rectors and formators of the seminaries, these annual meetings in Rome with their brothers from all over the world are an experience that strengthens the soul and brings new courage for the future, despite the often hostile circumstances they face in their own countries.

Father Etienne Randriamanantsoa from Madagascar wants to ‘share these experiences and talks with my brother priests in the diocese’, while Father Ludwig Takuali Utuku from Central Africa feels spiritually renewed and enriched. He was particularly impressed by some of the more profound aspects of the formation, in particular the talks on human maturity and psychology, and he is looking forward to passing on this understanding to his students.

Father Isidor Makutu from Tanzania is also enthusiastic about the holistic approach to the formation of his future priests. He is convinced that ‘the seed being sown here will bear fruit throughout the world’. As for Father Sean Byrnes from the diocese of Wagga in Australia, he sees his vocation in a new light today:It is a calling of God to be pastors for future pastors’, he says. All these men return home to their own countries with renewed energy.

They sense what Saint Paul writes in his Letter to Timothy: ‘The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith’ (1 Tim 1:5).

This article can be found in Mirror 0118.

Bringing the Truth on the Road

There are many different forms of mission, but all involve service to others, all are expressions of love. As Father Werenfried wrote, this pastoral outreach is more than mere humanitarianism, ‘with money you can comfort people, but with love you can redeem them’. 

This is precisely the spirit in which Sister Franziska and Sister Helena of the Missionary Dominican Sisters of Jesus and Mary are working in the towns of Oryol and Bryansk, in Russia. In these towns, which are over 80 miles (130 km) apart:

  • They give catechetical instruction to children, young people and adults.
  • They also visit the sick and take Holy Communion to them; for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
  • They prepare the altar and play the organ;
  • They clean the presbytery and cook for the clergy; they conduct Liturgies of the Word and organise retreats;
  • They visit the elderly and laugh and pray with them.

For all this pastoral work they need a reliable car. They would also love to be able to visit the Sisters from their congregation in other parts of the country. But just recently it has been as though they are driving with the handbrake on.

Their car comes from Poland, which causes complications as it does not meet Russian environmental standards and can’t therefore be registered in Russia. So it has to be registered in Poland and, for legal reasons, return there every six months. Border crossings are expensive.

To cut a long story short the Sisters need to buy a Russian car. They need our help and we will help them.

This article can be found in Mirror 0218.