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Pope in Bulgaria: Full text of speech to diplomats, authorities…



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After his arrival in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, Sunday morning, Pope Francis was given a state welcome at the city’s Atanas Burov Square, in the presence of authorities, representatives of civil society and the diplomatic corps. During this 3-day foreign visit, the Pope is also travelling to neighbouring North Macedonia.

In his first speech on Bulgarian soil, Pope Francis regarded the country as a land of encounter between different cultures, ethnic groups, civilizations and religions.

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

Mr President,

Mr Prime Minister,

Honourable Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

Distinguished Authorities,

Representatives of the various Religious Confessions,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

            I am happy to be here in Bulgaria, a place of encounter between many cultures and civilizations, a bridge between Eastern and Southern Europe, an open door to the Near East, and a land of ancient Christian roots that nourish its vocation to foster encounter both in the region and in the international community. Here diversity, combined with respect for distinctive identities, is viewed as an opportunity, a source of enrichment, and not as a source of conflict.

            I cordially greet the Authorities of the Republic, and I thank them for the invitation to visit Bulgaria. I thank His Excellency the President for his gracious words of welcome here in this historic Square named after the statesman Atanas Burov, who suffered under a regime that could not tolerate freedom of thought.

            I send my respectful greetings to His Holiness Patriarch Neofit, with whom I will shortly meet, to the Metropolitans and Bishops of the Holy Synod, and to all the faithful of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. My affectionate greetings go to the Bishops, priests, men and women religious, and all the members of the Catholic Church, whom I have come to confirm in faith and to encourage along their daily path of Christian life and witness.

            I also cordially greet the Christians of other Ecclesial Communities, the members of the Jewish community and the followers of Islam.  With you, I reaffirm “the firm conviction that authentic teachings of religions invite us to remain rooted in the values of peace; to defend the values of mutual understanding, human fraternity,  and harmonious coexistence” (Document on Human Fraternity, Abu Dhabi, 4 February 2019).  Let us profit from the hospitality of the Bulgarian people so that every religion, called to foster harmony and concord, can contribute to the growth of a culture and an environment of complete respect for the human person and his or her dignity, by establishing vital links between different civilizations, sensibilities and traditions, and by rejecting every form of violence and coercion.  In this way, those who seek by any means to manipulate and exploit religion will be defeated.

            My visit today recalls that of Saint John Paul II in May 2002, and evokes the happy memory of the nearly decade-long presence in Sofia of the then Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli.  The latter never ceased to feel deep gratitude and esteem for your nation, to the point that he once said that wherever he would go, his house would always be open to everyone, Catholic or Orthodox alike, who came as a brother or sister from Bulgaria (cf. Homily, 25 December 1934).  Saint John XXIII worked tirelessly to promote fraternal cooperation between all Christians. With the Second Vatican Council, which he convoked and over whose first phase he presided, he gave great encouragement and decisive support to the development of ecumenical relationships.

            It is in the wake of these providential events that from 1968 on – a full fifty years ago – an official Delegation composed of the highest civil and ecclesiastical Authorities of Bulgaria has made a yearly visit to the Vatican on the occasion of the feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius. These two Saints evangelized the Slavic peoples and were at the origin of the development of their language, their culture, and above all their abundant and enduring fruits of Christian witness and of holiness.

            Blessed be Saints Cyril and Methodius, co-patrons of Europe!  By their prayers, their genius and their joint apostolic efforts, they serve as an example for us and they continue to be, more than a millennium later, an inspiration for fruitful dialogue, harmony and fraternal encounter between Churches, States and peoples!  May their radiant example raise up many followers in our own day and open up new paths of peace and concord!

            Now, at this particular moment of history, thirty years after the end of the totalitarian regime that imprisoned its liberty and initiatives, Bulgaria faces the effects of the emigration in recent decades of over two million of her citizens in search of new opportunities for employment.  At the same time, Bulgaria – like so many other countries of Europe – must deal with what can only be called a new winter: the demographic winter that has descended like a curtain of ice on a large part of Europe, the consequence of a diminished confidence in the future.  The fall in the birth rate, combined with the intense flow of emigration, has led to the depopulation and abandonment of many villages and cities.  In addition, Bulgaria confronts the phenomenon of those seeking to cross its borders in order to flee wars, conflicts or dire poverty, in the attempt to reach the wealthiest areas of Europe, there to find new opportunities in life or simply a safe refuge.

Mr President,

            I am aware of the efforts that the nation’s leaders have made for years to ensure that young people, in particular, not be constrained to emigrate.  I would encourage you to persevere on this path, to strive to create conditions that lead young people to invest their youthful energies and plan their future, as individuals and families, knowing that in their homeland they can have the possibility of leading a dignified life.  To all Bulgarians, who are familiar with the drama of emigration, I respectfully suggest that you not close your eyes, your hearts or your hands – in accordance with your best tradition – to those who knock at your door.

            Your country has always distinguished itself as a bridge between East and West, capable of favouring encounter between the different cultures, ethnic groups, civilizations and religions that for centuries have lived here in peace.  The development of Bulgaria, including her economic and civil development, necessarily entails a recognition and enhancement of this specific trait.  May this land, bordered by the great Danube River and by the shores of the Black Sea, rendered fruitful by the humble labour of so many generations, open to cultural and commercial exchanges, integrated in the European Union, and with solid links to Russia and Turkey, offer all her sons and daughters a future of hope.

            May God bless Bulgaria, keep her in peace and ever hospitable, and grant her prosperity and happiness!


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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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