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Card. Parolin: Pope brings peace, unity to Bulgaria & North Macedonia

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The Vatican’s Cardinal Secretary of State looks ahead to Pope Francis’ 29th Apostolic Journey abroad, which takes him to Bulgaria and to North Macedonia from 5 to 7 May.

By Linda Bordoni

During Pope Francis’ Apostolic Visit to the Balkan nations of Bulgaria and North Macedonia, Cardinal Pietro Parolin says the Pope will be highlighting “that which unites”.

Speaking to Vatican News on the eve of the Pope’s departure, Cardinal Parolin pointed to the logo and motto of the trip to Bulgaria, which is “Pacem in Terris” – Peace on Earth – the title of an encyclical by Pope St. John XXIII, the first visitor and Apostolic Delegate to the country.

“The Pope will be a bearer of peace, a witness to the Risen Christ,” the Cardinal explained, and since we are in Easter time, we remember the apparitions of the Risen Jesus to his disciples when his first greeting was “Peace be with you. Peace I leave you; my peace give you”.

Parolin added that the theme of peace, which was central to John XXIII’s pontificate, will be built upon by Pope Francis with those attitudes of which John XXIII was a witness: “the search for friendship, gentleness, amiability, encounter with the other,” and the capacity to highlight what unites more than what divides.

“These great features of the figure and the Pontificate of John XXIII had already emerged at the time when he was Papal Nuncio in Bulgaria; I believe that it is along these lines that the contribution of Pope Francis during this journey will be placed,” he said.

Ecumenism

With an eye to the Pope’s schedule in Bulgaria that lists a moment of prayer before the Throne of Saints Cyril and Methodius, a meeting with representatives of different religious denominations, and a visit to Patriarch Neophyte – the head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church – the Cardinal noted that the visit shines the spotlight on some particularly significant figures of the present and past, such as those of the two Saints: the brothers Cyril and Methodius.

They were saints of the Church of the first millennium, the Cardinal said, a Church that was still undivided but where tensions were already being experienced and which would ultimately lead to fracture and division.

The witness they provide in their search for unity, in their desire to evangelize new peoples using new methods and new languages, Parolin said, adds meaning to the Pope’s encounter with the people of Bulgaria that is to take place in a dimension of ecumenical fraternity, “recognizing each other as brothers in the one Lord”, and at the same time striving to overcome the divisions and the tensions that still exist.

It speaks, he said, of the desire to pursue the Christian mission to bring the Gospel to the world, certain that the effect of this evangelization will be all the more profound and incisive the more united we are, proclaiming together the Word of salvation that the Lord has entrusted to us.

Migrants and refugees

Pope Francis is also scheduled to visit a refugee camp during his journey. Cardinal Parolin recalled the four verbs chosen by the Pope in calling for solidarity and action regarding migrants and refugees: “Welcome, Protect, Promote and Integrate”.

He pointed out that Pope Francis carries forward this teaching with concrete gestures and never tires of bearing witness to this important issue during almost all of his journeys and in many other situations and occasions as well.

“Here, too, he wants to underline this aspect, taking into account that protecting also means defending and protecting the dignity of each of our brothers and sisters who find themselves in a situation of vulnerability and often of marginalization,” he said.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

In North Macedonia, the Pope will visit the city of Skopje, birthplace of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, focusing attention on the poor.

Together with John XXIII and Saints Cyril and Methodius, Cardinal Parolin said Mother Teresa is clearly a dominant figure of this journey.

“When I was in Macedonia a few years ago, I was able to see how much affection and devotion there is towards Mother Teresa. Naturally, this attention towards the poor, the marginalized, towards those who find themselves in need, translates into something very concrete,” he said.

Mother Teresa, he recalled, compared herself to “just a drop in the ocean, noting however, the ocean would be less because of that missing drop”.

Cardinal Parolin said the Pope is bound to make that teaching his own and insist on asking the faithful to put charity into action.

Challenges and opportunities

“I believe”, Cardinal Parolin said, “there are no challenges, but opportunities in this journey”, especially taking into account the geographical and historical reality of Bulgaria, which, he said, is a crossroads of meetings and peoples, and the multi-ethnic and multi-religious society in North Macedonia.

Once again, he concluded, it is an occasion to launch the theme of the culture of encounter and of the mutual richness provided by diversity.

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CATHOLIC WORLD

Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump – CAN fumes

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Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump - CAN fumes

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has reacted to President Muhammadu Buhari’s revelation of his conversation with United States President, Donald Trump, on the massacre of Christians in Nigeria, saying President Buhari was economical with the truth.

President Buhari had on Tuesday, revealed that at the heat of the bloody clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria, the United States President, Donald Trump, unequivocally accused him of killing Christians.

Buhari said these in his closing remarks at the two-day ministerial performance review retreat held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Tuesday.

At a point, the President digressed from his prepared speech and narrated his encounter with Trump on the bloody clashes.

He said he managed to explain to the American leader that the clashes were not about ethnicity or religion.

He said, “I believe I was about the only African among the less developed countries the President of United States invited.

“When I was in his office, only myself and himself, only God is my witness, he looked at me in the face, and asked, ‘Why are you killing Christians?’

“I wonder, if you were the person, how you will react. I hope what I was feeling inside did not betray my emotion, so I told him that the problem between the cattle rearers and farmers, I know is older than me not to talk of him. I think I am a couple of years older than him.

“With climate change and population growth and the culture of the cattle rearers, if you have 50 cows and they eat grass, any root, to your water point, then they will follow it. It doesn’t matter whose farm it is.

“The First Republic set of leadership was the most responsible leadership we ever had. I asked the Minister of Agriculture to get a gazette of the early 60s which delineated the cattle route where they used meager resources then to put earth dams, wind mills even sanitary department.

“So, any cattle rearers that allowed his cattle to go to somebody’s farm would be arrested, taken before the court. The farmer would be called to submit his bill and if he couldn’t pay, the cattle would be sold, but subsequent leaders, the VVIPs (very important persons) encroached on the cattle routes. They took over the cattle rearing areas.

“So, I tried and explained to him (Trump) that this has got nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. It is a cultural thing.”

However, CAN’s Vice President and Chairman of the association in Kaduna State, John Hayab, was not impressed with Buhari’s submission, saying “Buhari and his government will never stop from amusing us with their tales by moonlight because what is happening in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Birnin Gwari, Southern Kaduna, Taraba, Plateau and others cannot be described as a cultural thing.

He told Punch correspondent in an interview: “President Buhari’s weak story about his conversation with President Donald Trump further confirms why his government does not care about the killings in our country by calling them cultural things.

“Just this (Tuesday) evening, I received a report from the Kaduna Baptist Conference President about the number of their members that have been killed by bandits in Kaduna State from January 2020 to date to be 105 and our President will call it a cultural thing? All we can say is may God save our Nigeria.”

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Nuncio tasks clergy, laity on good stewardship

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Nuncio tasks clergy, laity on good stewardship

The Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, has urged the clergy, religious and lay faithful to be trustworthy, transparent, selfless and generous stewards in the discharge of their duties in the Church, following the way of Jesus.

Archbishop Filipazzi made the call during the opening ceremony of the maiden General Assembly of the Abuja Archdiocese, which was held on at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Friday September 4.

The General Assembly, with the theme “Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja: Together in Evangelization,” saw Bishops, priests, religious men and women, and the laity gathered together to discuss means of strengthening the faith of God’s people amid the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis.

Addressing participants, Archbishop Filipazzi said that “an administrator is neither a master nor a slave who cannot decide anything, but one who is given a responsibility by the Master.” In this light, the faithful are called to be “true administrators of divine mystery” entrusted to them by Our Lord, according to their varying roles in the Church.

The Apostolic Nuncio also said “differences must not lead to division,” as everyone, though different, must strive for unity since there is no room for divisions in the body of Christ.

Archbishop Filipazzi, speaking on the upsurge in violence in northern Nigeria in a Vatican News interview on 29 August, had also called for shunning divisions along religious and ethnic lines.

Rather, he appealed for “general respect of the law and general intervention of the government” in the violent attacks which have claimed many lives and caused massive material damage.

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Assumpta CMO raises fund to roof “St Joseph’s Hall of Faith”

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Assumpta CMO raises fund to roof “St. Joseph's Hall of Faith”

The Catholic Men Organization, CMO, Maria Assumpta Cathedral Parish Owerri, joined their counterparts in the Archdiocese to celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday, August 30.

The celebration earlier scheduled for May 10 this year was differed because of Covid-19 pandemic.

The occasion began with a Pontifical Mass presided over by His Grace, Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, Archbishop of Owerri cum Parish Priest of the Cathedral Parish.

In his homily, Archbishop Obinna called on Christians to live a life of witnessing to Christ at all times. He said that the zeal to preach the word of God is like a fire that burns inside the heart of a Christian and will not abate until one bears witness to Christ. This, he said, must be done in the course of our daily lives, in our places of work, in our families, among our friends, through living life that is Christ-like.

He congratulated the Christian fathers on the occasion and appealed for support to enable them complete their building project in no distant time. His Grace also appreciated the performance of the CMO choir during the Mass.

The theme for the parish celebration is: “Catholic Men As Spiritual Heads of the Domestic Church: Implications in the Family.”

The parish CMO used the celebration to raise fund for the roofing of their building project named: “St. Joseph’s Hall of Faith.”

In his brief remark at the occasion, the Parish CMO President, Arc. Anthony Emeka Ozoude said, “We have been able to complete the block work,” adding that, “the task before us now is to put a roof on the building.”

He therefore made a passionate appeal for generous donations from members and well wishers, assuring donors that every kobo donated will be prudently applied for the purpose.

Arc. Ozoude recalled that early this year, the parish CMO executive identified a three-prong programme of focus, namely: Membership revalidation, Debt recovery and Fund raising for the roofing.

He advised members not to sit on the fence anymore as there is so much to gain spiritually, morally and even intellectually from participating in the CMO activities both at the parish, stations and prayer groups levels.

“The committed members who attend our programmes regularly have discovered this and have remained resolute in their participation,” he said.

Activities marking this year’s celebration included Retreat, visit to ailing members in their homes, thanksgiving Mass blessing of the mini altars for the 5 prayer groups of CMO etc.

Arc. Ozoude thanked in a special way, Archbishop Obinna, the Cathedral Administrator and priests working in the Cathedral for their support. He also commended the various stations and prayer groups for their cooperation.

The CMO president acknowledged the good work and sacrifice of the Planning Committee, headed by Dr. Uche Ukozor and thanked them for a job well done.

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