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Caritas Bulgaria: ‘may the Pope’s visit open our hearts’

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Ahead of Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to Bulgaria and North Macedonia we shine the light on the work of Caritas Bulgaria as it assists those in need and reaches out to migrants and refugees.

By Linda Bordoni

Pope Francis is preparing to head to the Eastern periphery of Europe for a three-day apostolic visit to Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

His journey to the two predominantly Orthodox countries with small, but active Catholic minorities, is scheduled to take place from 5 to 7 May.

Both Bulgaria and North Macedonia have high unemployment and poverty rates, high rates of emigration and an ongoing struggle to handle migrants and refugees.

Bulgaria, where Pope Francis will pay a private visit to a refugee camp near Sofia, is grappling with political dissent regarding migration issues. These were triggered in 2015 when large numbers of Syrians, Iraqis and others began trying to reach Central and Western Europe using overland routes rather than by crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

Reaching out to those most in need – including refugees and migrants – is Caritas Bulgaria which is part of the world family of Caritas Internationalis – the humanitarian arm of the Catholic Church.

Vanya Klecherova, communications and fundraising director at Caritas Bulgaria told Vatican News she hopes Pope Francis’ visit will open hearts and foster solidarity and welcome.

Listen to the interview with Vanya Klecherova

Vanya said that Caritas Bulgaria has been working to reduce poverty and promote human dignity for over 25 years implementing social services for people in need.

She explained that the social, health and educational care and services provided by Caritas Bulgaria through its member organisations are in support of the elderly, children and young people with disabilities, children and youth at risk, asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants, single mothers, homeless people.

“Last year Caritas Bulgaria helped 5660 people in need”, she said.

The elderly

Vanya said that in Bulgaria one of the most vulnerable groups of people is that of the elderly, many of whom live in isolated villages with no access to the health and social care that they need. For them, Caritas Bulgaria implements healthcare services thanks to a mobile team of professionals who visit older patients in their homes and a Day Care Centre for elderly people who are lonely.

The homeless

Another vulnerable group, Vanya continued, is that of homeless people for whom Caritas provides shelters in various towns, mobile healthcare teams and programmes to assist them with food, clothing and social counselling.

“We also help them with the search for employment and to integrate”, she said.

Migrants and refugees

Vanya said that last year around 2500 people sought asylum in Bulgaria, and out of them 712 received international protection.

Caritas, she said, helps them to integrate by teaching them Bulgarian, by helping find employment organize meetings between companies and job-seekers, by help refugees to find housing, or at least temporary accommodation for foreigners.

“There are two centers of this type in Bulgaria and Caritas is the only organization that visits people who are accommodated in these centers”, she said.   

Children and young people at risk

For children and young people at risk Caritas carries out various activities to support their education care for children living in poverty, and representatives of vulnerable groups. Various activities are carried out with children and adolescents to prevent drug addiction and human trafficking.

Vanya also specified that for children and young people with disabilities there are Caritas kinesitherapy, work-therapy, psychotherapy, speech therapy, art therapy and other specialised activities. Single mothers are also taken care of with a host of services.

Pope Francis’s visit

Vanya speaks of Pope Francis’ upcoming apostolic visit saying she hopes his meeting with migrants will foster welcome.

“I hope this gesture of the Holy Father will show all of us Bulgarians that we are equal in our vulnerability. So we have to help each other as Christians and good people. This is the only way we can make the world a better place for living”, she said.

She expressed her hope that his presence will move people to mercy and realise that refugees are vulnerable just as we are all vulnerable and that among them there are elderly people, sick people, children without parents, people with disabilities “just like Bulgarians”.

“I hope”, she concluded, “that this meeting with the Pope will open the hearts of people and make them more merciful towards all vulnerable people”.

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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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