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Pope in Bulgaria: Full text of speech to Bulgarian Orthodox Church



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Soon after his meeting with Bulgaria’s authorities, civil society and the diplomatic corps in Sofia on Sunday, Pope Francis met Patriarch Neophyte and the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church at the Synod Palace in the capital.

In his address to the Holy Synod, Pope Francis reflected on the example of the Apostles of the Slavs, Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the 9th-century evangelizers from Thessalonica, who preached Christianity to the Slavic people.

Please find below the full text of the Pope’s speech:

Your Holiness,

Venerable Metropolitans and Bishops,

Dear Brothers,

Christos vozkrese!

            In the joy of the Risen Saviour, I offer you Easter greetings on this Sunday known in the Christian East as “Saint Thomas Sunday”.  Let us consider the Apostle, who puts his hand in the Lord’s side, touches his wounds and proclaims, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).  The wounds opened in the course of history between us Christians remain painful bruises on the Body of Christ which is the Church.  Even today, their effects are tangible; we can touch them with our hands.  Yet, perhaps together we can touch those wounds, confess that Jesus is risen, and proclaim him our Lord and our God.  Perhaps together we can recognize our failings and immerse ourselves in his wounds of love.  And in this way, we can discover the joy of forgiveness and enjoy a foretaste of the day when, with God’s help, we can celebrate the Paschal mystery at one altar.

            On this journey, we are sustained by great numbers of our brothers and sisters, to whom I would especially like to render homage: the witnesses of Easter.  How many Christians in this country endured suffering for the name of Jesus, particularly during the persecution of the last century!  The ecumenism of blood!  They spread a pleasing perfume over this “Land of Roses”.  They passed through the thicket of trials in order to spread the fragrance of the Gospel.  They blossomed in fertile and well-cultivated ground, as part of a people rich in faith and genuine humanity that gave them strong, deep roots.  I think in particular of the monastic tradition that from generation to generation has nurtured the faith of the people.  I believe that these witnesses of Easter, brothers and sisters of different confessions united in heaven by divine charity, now look to us as seeds planted in the earth and meant to bear fruit.  While so many other brothers and sisters of ours throughout the world continue to suffer for their faith, they ask us not to remain closed, but to open ourselves, for only in this way can those seeds bear fruit.  

            This meeting, which I have greatly desired, follows that of Saint John Paul II with Patriarch Maxim during the first visit of the Bishop of Rome to Bulgaria.  It also follows in the footsteps of Saint John XXIII, who, in the years he lived here, became greatly attached to this people, “so simple and good” (Giornale dell’anima, Bologna, 1987, 325), valuing their honesty, their hard work and their dignity amid trials.  Here, as a guest welcomed with affection, I experience a deep fraternal nostalgia, that healthy longing for unity among children of the same Father that was felt with growing intensity by Pope John during his time in this city.  During the Second Vatican Council, which he convened, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church sent observers, and from that time on, our contacts have multiplied.  I think of the visits that, for fifty years now, Bulgarian delegations have made to the Vatican and which I annually have the joy of receiving; so too, the presence in Rome of an Orthodox Bulgarian community that prays in one of the churches of my Diocese.  I appreciate the gracious welcome given to my envoys, whose presence has increased in recent years, and the cooperation shown with the local Catholic community, especially in the area of culture.  I am confident that, with the help of God, and in his good time, these contacts will have a positive effect on many other dimensions of our dialogue.  In the meantime, we are called to journey and act together in order to bear witness to the Lord, particularly by serving the poorest and most neglected of our brothers and sisters, in whom he is present.  The ecumenism of the poor.

            Our guides on this journey are, above all, Saints Cyril and Methodius, who have linked us since the first millennium and whose living memory in our Churches continues to be a source of inspiration, for despite adversities they made their highest priority the proclamation of the Lord, the call to mission.  As Saint Cyril put it: “With joy I set out for the Christian faith; however weary and physically weak, I will go with joy” (Vita Constantini, VI, 7; XIV, 9).  And despite premonitions of the painful divisions which would take place in centuries to come, they chose the prospect of communion.  Mission and communion: two words that distinguished the life of these two saints and that can illumine our own journey towards growth in fraternity.  The ecumenism of mission.

            Cyril and Methodius, Byzantines by culture, were daring enough to translate the Bible into a language accessible to the Slavic peoples, so that the divine Word could precede human words.  Their courageous apostolate remains today a model of evangelization and a challenge to proclaim the Gospel to the next generation.  How important it is, while respecting our own traditions and distinctive identities, to help one another to find ways of passing on the faith in language and forms that allow young people to experience the joy of a God who loves them and calls them!  Otherwise, they will be tempted to put their trust in the deceitful siren songs of a consumerist society.

            Communion and mission, closeness and proclamation.  Saints Cyril and Methodius also have much to say to us about the future of European society.  Indeed, “they were in a certain sense the promoters of a united Europe and of a profound peace among all the continent’s inhabitants, showing the basis for a new art of living together, with respect for differences, which in no way are an obstacle to unity” (SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Greeting to the Official Bulgarian Delegation, 24 May 1999: Insegnamenti XXII, 1 [1999], 1080).  We too, as heirs of the faith of the saints, are called to be builders of communion and peacemakers in the name of Jesus.  Bulgaria is a “spiritual crossroads, a land of contacts and mutual understanding” (ID., Address at the Arrival Ceremony, Sofia, 23 May 2002: Insegnamenti, XXV, 1 [2002], 864).  Here various confessions, from the Armenian to the Evangelical, and different religious traditions, from the Jewish to the Muslim, have found a welcome.


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Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump – CAN fumes



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



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”



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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