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Pope in North Macedonia: Full text of speech to authorities, civil society, diplomats

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After Pope Francis landed in the North Macedonian capital, Skopje, Tuesday morning, after nearly an hour’s flight from neighbouring Bulgaria, he was according a welcome at the presidential palace. There, the addressed the nation’s authorities, representatives of civil society and the diplomatic corps. This is the first visit by a Pope to North Macedonia.

In his first speech on North Macedonian soil, Pope Francis urged for respect for diversity and human dignity for a future of peace and prosperity in the Balkan nation.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

            I am very grateful to the President for his kind words of welcome and for the gracious invitation to visit North Macedonia that he, together with the Prime Minister, extended to me.

            I also thank the representatives of the other religious communities present among us.  I offer a warm greeting to the Catholic community, represented here by the Bishop of Skopje and Eparch of the Eparchy of Blessed Virgin Mary of the Assumption in Strumica-Skopje, which is an active and integral part of your society, sharing fully in the joys, concerns and daily life of your people.

            This is the first time that the Successor of the Apostle Peter has come to the Republic of North Macedonia.  I am happy to do so on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Holy See, which occurred a few years after the country became independent in September 1991.

            Your land, a bridge between East and West and a meeting-point for numerous cultural currents, embodies many of the distinctive marks of this region.  With the elegant testimonies of its Byzantine and Ottoman past, its lofty mountain fortresses and the splendid iconostases of its ancient churches, which speak of a Christian presence dating back to apostolic times, North Macedonia reflects all the depth and richness of its millennial culture.  But allow me to say that these great cultural treasures are themselves only a reflection of your more precious patrimony: the multiethnic and multi-religious countenance of your people, the legacy of a rich and, indeed, complex history of relationships forged over the course of centuries.

            This crucible of cultures and ethnic and religious identities has resulted in a peaceful and enduring coexistence in which those individual identities have found expression and developed without rejecting, dominating or discriminating against others.  They have thus given rise to a fabric of relationships and interactions that can serve as an example and a point of reference for a serene and fraternal communal life marked by diversity and reciprocal respect.

            These particular features are also highly significant for increased integration with the nations of Europe.  It is my hope that this integration will develop in a way that is beneficial for the entire region of the Western Balkans, with unfailing respect for diversity and for fundamental rights.

            Here, in fact, the different religious identities of Orthodox, Catholics, other Christians, Muslims and Jews, and the ethnic differences between Macedonians, Albanians, Serbs, Croats, and persons of other backgrounds, have created a mosaic in which every piece is essential for the uniqueness and beauty of the whole.  That beauty will become all the more evident to the extent that you succeed in passing it on and planting it in the hearts of the coming generation.

            Every effort made to enable the diverse religious expressions and the different ethnic groups to find a common ground of understanding and respect for the dignity of every human person, and consequently the guarantee of fundamental freedoms, will surely prove fruitful.  Indeed, those efforts will serve as the necessary seedbed for a future of peace and prosperity.

            I would also like to acknowledge the generous efforts made by your Republic – both by the State authorities themselves and with the valued contribution of various international Agencies, the Red Cross, Caritas and several non-governmental organizations – to welcome and provide assistance to the great number of migrants and refugees coming from different Middle Eastern countries.  Fleeing from war or from conditions of dire poverty often caused precisely by grave outbreaks of violence, in the years 2015 and 2016, they crossed your borders, headed for the most part towards northern and western Europe.  With you, they found a secure haven.  The ready solidarity offered to those in such great need – people who had left behind so many of their dear ones, to say nothing of their homes, their work and their homeland – does you honour.  It says something about the soul of this people that, having itself experienced great privations, you recognize in solidarity and in the sharing of goods the route to all authentic development.  It is my hope that you will cherish the chain of solidarity that emerged from that emergency, and thus support all volunteer efforts to meet the many different forms of hardship and need.

            I wish likewise to pay homage in a very special way to one of your illustrious fellow-citizens, who, moved by the love of God, made love of neighbour the supreme law of her life.  She won the admiration of the whole world and pioneered a specific and radical way of devoting one’s life to the service of the abandoned, the discarded, and the poorest of the poor.  I am naturally referring to the woman universally known as Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  Born in 1910 in a suburb of Skopje with the name of Anjezë Gonxha Bojaxhiu, she carried out her apostolate of humble and complete self-giving in India and, through her Sisters, reached out to the most varied geographical and existential peripheries.  I am pleased that I will shortly be able to pause in prayer at the Memorial dedicated to her, built on the site of the Church of the Sacred Heart, where she was baptized.

            You are rightly proud of this great woman.  I urge you to continue to work in a spirit of commitment, dedication and hope, so that the sons and daughters of this land, following her example, can recognize, attain and fully develop the vocation that God has envisaged for them.

            Mr President,

            From the time that North Macedonia gained its independence, the Holy See has closely followed the steps that this country has taken to advance dialogue and understanding between the civil authorities and religious confessions.

            Today, God’s providence offers me the chance to demonstrate personally this closeness and to express gratitude as well for the yearly visit made to the Vatican by an official Delegation of yours on the feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius.  I encourage you to persevere with confidence along the path you have taken, in order to make your country a beacon of peace, acceptance and fruitful integration between cultures, religions and peoples.  Drawing from their respective identities and the vitality of their cultural and civil life, they will thus be able to build a common destiny in openness to the enrichment that each has to offer.

            May God protect and bless North Macedonia, preserve it in concord, and grant it prosperity and joy!

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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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CATHOLIC WORLD

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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