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Military Chaplains: Ministering on the ‘front lines’ of the faith

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The 100th anniversary of the end of World War I is being remembered the world over on Sunday. A Military Bishop reflects on the role of military chaplains during peace time.

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

“We can have these ideas that the [military chaplain] spends most of his life knee deep in blood on the front line. It’s not like that at all”, Bishop Paul Mason, Bishop of the Forces in Great Britain explained in an interview with Vatican News. Armistice Day and the remembrance of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One provides an occasion to understand the role of the military chaplain during peace time.

Ministering to families

Bishop Mason described the work of a military chaplain as quite similar to that of a parish priest. Military chaplains spend a lot of time ministering to the needs and challenges faced by service personnel and their families, he said. They provide support to officers, to families, and to young recruits. “They are very busy”.

Ministering to young recruits

In addition, they provide a crucial role in the lives of new recruits who find themselves perhaps for the first time away from home.

“They’re coming to the rather odd and challenging world of the military. They are asking questions. They want to know about things of faith. The number of confirmations or baptisms that our chaplains are doing working with young recruits who are finding themselves at a point in their life, a point of change when they’re asking questions which perhaps they’ve never asked before. Perhaps they’ve never in their life encountered the Church or a priest.”

Ministering as a Military Bishop

Bishop Mason was appointed by Pope Francis to the Bishopric of the Forces in Great Britain in July this year. He said he is still getting used to the role. The priority he has set for himself is that of supporting the chaplains. His message to them is,

“This is the work of the Church. It has prayer at its core. It has the Eucharist at its core. That is my practical role, as well as my symbolic place: to ensure that it stays as that evangelical side of what we’re doing – to bring the Gospel to people wherever we work.”

Listen to our interview with Bishop Paul Mason, Bishop of the Forces in Great Britain

Visiting the garrison churches

He has made a commitment to visit the garrison churches. Although they seem to be like any other normal parish, he has to remind himself that each of those present is connected to the military. “They need support and I try to visit and get down to as many of those churches as I can”, he said.

Place of the Church in the military establishment

Bishop Mason has also begun to understand the importance of the presence of the Church in the hierarchical structure of the military establishment itself.

“To have the physical presence of the Catholic Church, having the conversation at that level, representing the interests of the Catholic Faith at that level, is really important.”

He, therefore, sees his own role as one of ensuring that the Catholic Church is present and fully engaged in order to promote the spread of the Gospel in the military environment.

Keeping the faith alive

Chaplains serving outside of normal parish settings can experience a struggle to keep the faith alive, Bishop Mason continued.

“There are so many other pressures to reduce the spiritual input to effectively a type of social work…. To ensure that the faith-based understanding of the Church within the military remains front and centre”.

Openness to the Faith

On the whole, Bishop Mason has found an openness to matters of faith in the military.

“It’s wonderful. You’re not pushing at a closed door. You’re pushing very much at an open door. Because the experience on the ground is that the place of religious faith in military context at so many levels is that it provides support, it gives morale, it helps people in their journeys of faith, coming to terms with what they are doing.”

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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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