Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

AMECEA Secretary General Advises Sudan and South Sudan to Embrace Dialogue

The people of Sudan and South Sudan have been urged to resolve all their differences through dialogue and to respect one another.

Speaking to Catholic Radio Network (CRN) in Juba in mid-Sept. after attending a two-day meeting in preparation for the 19th plenary Assembly of Association for Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa (AMECEA) to be held in July 2018 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, AMECEA Secretary-General Rev. Fr. Ferdinand Lugonzo called on the political leaders in the two countries to embrace the spirit of reconciliation with sincerity because revenge cannot resolve the conflicts.

Fr. Lugonzo urged Sudan and South Sudanese political leaders to follow the process of discussion to alleviate the citizens from suffering.

General Secretaries from Episcopal Conferences in their meeting also discussed how members of AMECEA can organize the synod for the youth to discuss on how the Church in Africa can celebrate it to promote faith and vocation.


Source: CRN 


Togo: Catholic bishops join calls for constitutional reform

The Catholic bishops of Togo have issued a Pastoral Letter adding their voice to calls for constitutional refom in the country and a return to the 1992 constitution that sets presidential term limits. In their just-released letter, the bishops urged for a return to that constitution to resolve the on-going crisis.  “Constitutional reforms are of particular importance, without which it is impossible to bring peace and social cohesion in our country", said the bishops.

Thousands of people across the small West African nation have been demonstrating for term limits on President Faure Gnassingbe, who has been in power since his father died in 2005, after 38 years in power.

The protests began in August, when security forces killed at least two people and injured several others.

The government last week introduced a draft bill on constitutional reform in parliament in an effort to contain the growing anti-government protests.

The Episcopal Conference of Togo condemned the use of excessive force to quell the demonstrations as well as the incitement to ethnic hatred spread through social media. It called on the army to remain neutral "avoiding any intrusion into the political debate, in accordance with the Constitution". After urging political leaders, including the opposition, as well as ordinary citizens not to give in to the calls for violence, the Bishops concluded by inviting everyone to pray for peace.

In another development, the head of Togo's parliament said on Tuesday (19 Sept.) that the country will hold a referendum on presidential term limits and other constitutional reforms in the coming days after a government bill failed to get sufficient backing to become law,

(Source Fides, Reuters)

Nigeria: The Catholic Bishops’ statement on the issues affecting the Church and their country

The Catholic Bishops of Nigeria are calling on the federal and state governments to urgently address situations of injustice and give every Nigerian a sense of belonging. The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria made this appeal in a communique at the end their recent second plenary for 2017 in  Jalingo.

In the statement, the bishops addressed several challenges facing the country. They cited among others, protests and agitations, which exploit the grievances of different segments of the country; violence perpetrated by armed herdsmen, Boko Haram militants and other groups. The bishops commended the vast majority of Nigerians for “standing together and remaining law-abiding citizens in the face of many difficulties, challenges and even provocation,” the statement read in part.  “We condole with the victims of terrorism, natural disasters, conflicts and violent crimes, while we continue to pray for the deceased. The solidarity shown by many Nigerians to those affected by the recent floods that affected some parts of the country is a sign of hope for our common peaceful co-existence. We equally commend the assistance rendered by individual Dioceses and other humanitarian agencies to the displaced and distressed persons. We appeal to the Government to carry the Church along in the work of the rehabilitation of such persons.”

Please find below the full statement…



A Communiqué issued at the End of Second Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) at St. Charles Borromeo Pastoral Centre, Jalingo, Taraba State, 7-15 September 2017.

We, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, held our Second Plenary Meeting of the year at St. Charles Borromeo Pastoral Centre, Jalingo, Taraba State, from 7 to 15 September 2017. Having prayerfully reflected on the issues affecting the Church and our country, we now issue this Communiqué.

Our country is currently passing through a phase that is marked by tension, agitation and a general sense of hopelessness and dissatisfaction. This we believe is as a result of years of injustice, inequity, corruption, and impunity. There are agitations in many sectors of the country against the one-sidedness in appointments to key institutions and sensitive national offices, against marginalisation, and unfair distribution of resources and amenities. There are also allegations of cases of selective application of the rule of law. In his inaugural speech as civilian President of Nigeria on 29 May 2015, the President sent out a message of hope and of his commitment to national integration and cohesion. He said:“Having just a few minutes ago sworn on the Holy Book, I intend to keep my oath and serve as President to all Nigerians. I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody. A few people have privately voiced fears that on coming back to office I shall go after them. These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores.”

More than two years later, the reality on ground and the verdict of most of our people across the nation – irrespective of religious affiliation, ethnic group or social status – point to the contrary. The inability of the Government to address the inequitable situation in the country has provided breeding ground for violent reactions, protests and agitations, which exploit the grievances of different segments of the country. We call on Government at all levels to urgently address these anomalies, remove everything that smacks of injustice, and give everybody and every part of our country a sense of belonging. We insist that merit and ability should be the primary criteria in making appointments and genuine needs the criteria for the distribution of amenities. We also urge the Government to be always sensitive to the multi- religious and multi-ethnic configuration of the nation.

As Catholic Bishops, we affirm that the legitimacy of every Government derives from its ability to listen to the legitimate yearnings and genuine cries of the people and honestly seek to address them. We therefore urge the Government at all levels to engage the aggrieved sections of the citizenry in a conversation worthy of a democracy. We are concerned that the deployment of soldiers in the midst of already restive youths could increase the nervousness among the populace with the potential of igniting a fire that could turn into an uncontrollable conflagration. On the other hand, we enjoin all aggrieved persons and groups to employ peaceful means within the framework of the existing laws of the land to express their grievances or even exercise legitimate pressure on the Government. Care must be taken by all to avoid actions and utterances capable of causing yet another armed conflict in the nation or any of its parts.

We demand fair treatment from those State Governments in the North that deny some of our Dioceses their rights to own landed properties for mission work by their refusal to issue them with Certificates of Occupancy. People of different religions need to co-exist, communicate, and be allowed to freely practise their respective religions everywhere in this country.

Furthermore, the other members of the political class in all the arms of government have, as a matter of urgency, to reduce drastically the immodest cost of running government in this country. If for no other reason, they have to do this as a sign of solidarity with most of their compatriots for whom the basic necessities of life – feeding, clothing, shelter, healthcare, energy, quality education – have almost become unrealizable dreams.

The continued havoc caused by armed herdsmen in various parts of our country, can no longer be treated as mere clash between pastoralists and farmers. For apart from wanton destruction of farmlands and crops, some of these armed herdsmen are known to have laid siege on entire villages, killing, maiming, kidnapping, and raping. Besides, there are also reports that some of them are foreigners who have entered the country without proper checks by the competent authorities. Such persons are therefore to be considered a great threat to our national and individual security and their activities treated as acts of terrorism. We demand that adequate and prompt action be taken and be clearly seen to have been taken to stop their onslaught.

4. SOME LIGHT IN THE MIDST OF DARKNESS Along with other groups in Nigeria, we acknowledge the modest success recorded in the ongoing fight against corruption, the substantial curtailing of the activities of Boko Haram, and the release of some of the Chibok Girls. We note the positive report about the economy gradually coming out of recession. Nevertheless, we expect the Government to put in place economic policies and strategies that will make positive impact on the lives of our people, thereby reducing hardship and advancing the socio- economic welfare of citizens.

We commend the vast majority of Nigerians for standing together and remaining law-abiding citizens in the face of many difficulties, challenges and even provocation. We condole with the victims of terrorism, natural disasters, conflicts and violent crimes, while we continue to pray for the deceased. The solidarity shown by many Nigerians to those affected by the recent floodsthat affected some parts of the country is a sign of hope for our common peaceful co-existence. We equally commend the assistance rendered by individual Dioceses and other humanitarian agencies to the displaced and distressed persons. We appeal to the Government to carry the Church along in the work of the rehabilitation of such persons.

5. NATION-BUILDING: A COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY Since the founding of our country Nigeria, too much attention seems to have been focused on “sharing the national cake” rather than on “baking that cake” by first building a strong and stable nation. The task of nation-building is a responsibility that rests on all the citizens of the country. We therefore call on all Nigerians to put more effort into working for the common good according to the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity. Individuals as well as smaller groups ought to have enough space for development while all contribute to the commonweal. Irrespective of nomenclature, we sincerely believe that most Nigerians earnestly desire a truly federal system of government that enhances the welfare of all citizens. This would not only address the allegations of marginalization, but also make the fight against corruption more successful.

Nevertheless, no matter what system of government we adopt, without a true conversion of heart by all and the readiness to make sacrifices for the common good, especially by persons in public office, we shall only be reshuffling our problems without solving them and shifting the epicentres of our national tragedies.

As a Church, we reaffirm our commitment to the integral development of the citizens of Nigeria, especially through the provision of quality education. In this regard, we once more call on all State Governments to return to the old tradition by which Church and State collaborated in the provision of high quality education for all our citizens.

We also enjoin the Federal and State ministries and departments of education to ensure adequate and comprehensive curriculum for Christian Religious Studies (CRS), in such a way that individual right to religious freedom and the right of the Church to teach and disseminate the Christian faith is not infringed upon. We totally condemn the so-called Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and dubious Maternal Health techniques that are not only contrary to divine law but also would encourage immorality. All health related programmes ought to show respect for the dignity and sanctity of human life, every human life, from conception to natural death.

We note with great concern the ongoing strikes among various members of professional groups in our country. We appeal to the federal government to honour all legal agreements with these organisations so as to limit the grave damage that is already being done to our society.

In our journey towards national restoration, the role of Christians, the Clergy as well as theLaity, is fundamental. As priests, our commitment to Christ in our total and obedient self-giving to him through prayers and service of our brothers and sisters not only makes us grow in holiness but also contributes immensely to the restoration of our nation. While not permitted to participate in partisan politics, clerics are urged to foster among people peace and harmony based on justice (cf. Canon 287). The lay faithful, on the other hand, are expected and encouraged to bear witness to the Gospel in their private, public and political lives. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “The Mission of the lay faithful is… to configure social life correctly, respecting its legitimate autonomy and cooperating with other citizens according to their respective competence and fulfilling their own responsibility” (Deus Caritas Est,22).We therefore earnestly call on the Lay Faithful to intensify their efforts in bringing the light of the Good News to those places only they can reach. They are by their life of witness to bring Christ into the temporal order such as politics, business, and in their places of daily engagements (Christifideles Laici 42). By their vocation they are to challenge government policies that negate fundamental human rights and their individual and collective right as Christians.

8. THE MODERN MEDIA AS ALLY We observe that modern media, especially social media, can be effective means of information, education and evangelization. We, however, notethat rather than tap their great potential benefits for expanding knowledge, many, especially our youth, have become exposed to such negative dimensions of the social media as organs for crime, the dissemination of hate speeches, slander,for peddling outright falsehood and misinformation. In these difficult times, we appeal to our people to be more circumspect and positive in the use of information obtained from and disseminated through the modern media.

The Catholic Church in Nigeria declared the year 2017 a Marian Year, in honour of the Centenary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima, Portugal. We invite all Christ’s Faithful to participate actively in this national celebration and to its solemn conclusion scheduled to take place in Benin City from 12 to 14, October, 2017. During this celebration we shall re-consecrate Nigeria to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In doing so, we entrust Nigeria to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Nigeria, asking her to intercede on our behalf to stabilize the Nigerian ship of state. May she also obtain for us all the blessings and graces that we need as a nation. May she pray for us to attain peace in our hearts, unity, and tranquility.

We are grateful to God for the appointments, ordinations and installations of new Catholic Bishops in Nigeria: Most Rev Donatus AKPAN, ordained and installed Bishop of Ogoja Diocese on 7 July 2017; and Most Rev Hilary DACHELEM, ordained and installed Bishop of Bauchi Diocese on 17 August 2017.
We heartily congratulate them and warmly welcome them into the CBCN. We are grateful to His Holiness Pope Francis for the appointment of a new Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido FILIPAZZI. We welcome him to Nigeria and pray that his tenure be blessed with a resounding pastoral and spiritual growth for our Church and the nation.
We thank the Holy Father Pope Francis for intervening directly to definitively resolve the crisis in Ahiara Diocese, which has lingered for nearly five years. We urge all the priests and the lay faithful of Ahiara Diocese to unconditionally embrace the paternal gesture of the Holy Father.

We, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria,do hereby make a passionate appeal to all our Christians and the rest of Nigerians not to lose hope. We may be traumatized but we shall not be broken (cf. 2Cor.4:8).We advise that Nigerians look at themselves and the country in a better light. Much cheering news abounds in the land amidst the suffering and hardship, the pain and the feeling of helplessness. We are hopeful that Nigeria will survive the present hardship and will become the better for it. “And our hope does not disappoint us” (Rom 5:5). We all are stakeholders in the Nigerian project. We must therefore work hand in hand with a better understanding of ourselves to build the Nigeria of our dreams.

We welcome back our President, Muhammadu Buhari, from his medical leave. We thank God who brought him back safely to the country to continue to work assiduously for the betterment of our land.

May Our Lady Queen of Nigeria continue to intercede for us now and forever. Amen.

Most Revd Ignatius Ayau KAIGAMA President (CBCN)
Archbishop of Jos

Most Revd William A. AVENYA
Secretary (CBCN)
Bishop of Gboko

Rescuers continue search for survivors after Mexico quake

(Vatican Radio) Mexico's president has declared three days of national mourning following the 7.1 earthquake which has killed more than 200 people, devastating large areas of Mexico City, the surrounding area, and nearby neighbouring states.

James Blears is in Mexico City. Listen to his report:

Rescue services, the armed forces, and federal police have been carefully removing rubble at the Enrique Rebsamen kindergarten, primary and secondary school in southern Mexico City.  So far it's reported that 32 children and five adults have died.  More children are still trapped and could yet be rescued alive. 

In Puebla state to the south east, which was the epicentre of the quake, a church collapsed during a service with great loss of life.  The state of Morelos to the south of Mexico City has also suffered many deaths and massive structural damage.  The quake occurred on the 32 anniversary of another earthquake which killed more than 10,000 people.  Many can hardly believe the tragic coincidence.

Many killed in Mexico quake

At least 226 people were killed on Tuesday when a  powerful earthquake shook central Mexico collapsing numerous buildings. Thousands of residents fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped.

Hours after the magnitude 7.1 quake struck, rescue workers were still searching through the wreckage of a primary school that partly collapsed in the city's south looking for any children who might be trapped.

President Enrique Pena Nieto visited the school late Tuesday and said 22 bodies had been recovered there, two of them adults.

The quake is the worst in Mexico since a 1985 quake on the same date killed thousands. It came less than two weeks after another powerful quake caused 90 deaths in the country's south.

Countdown begins for Focolare’s GenFest in Manila

(Vatican Radio)  The next international youth festival of the Focolare Movement is being hosted in the Philippines next year.  The countdown has begun for the 11th GenFest, and thousands of young people from around the world are preparing themselves for the July 6-8, 2018 event in Manila.  The main event will be held in the World Trade Centre Metro Manila, while all the workshops will be held at De La Salle University.

The GenFest, a gathering of young people from across the globe, is part of the Focolare Movement started in 1943 by Chiara Lubich, a charismatic Italian Catholic lay woman. The Focolare Movement started as a current of spiritual and social renewal to work in cooperation with people of all good will in order to build a more united world, following the inspiration of Jesus’ prayer to the Father ‘May they all be one’ (Jn 17:21), respecting and valuing diversity.  It focuses on dialogue as a method, has a constant commitment to building bridges and relationships of fraternity among individuals, peoples and cultural worlds.

“Beyond All Border”

“Beyond All Border” is the theme of GenFest 2018 in the Philippines, home to Asia’s largest Catholic population.  The theme intends to focus the boundaries that need to be overcome at personal and social levels. This will be manifested in typical GenFest style with artistic manifestations, music, dances, expositions, and forums to enable everyone to think differently and to transform life into something more beautiful.

Youth delegates from 14 countries across the world, including India are to attend the Manila GenFest. ‎They hail from different cultures, nations, and religions.  Registrations will be open in October 2017.‎

GenFest, a major event of Focolare’s “Youth for a United World” (Y4UW) movement, brings together young people between the ages of 17 and 30 of different ethnicities, nationalities and cultures. They belong to various Christian denominations, different religions, or do not profess a religious belief, but all are united by the desire to build a more united world.

Asia’s youth power

In terms of youth, Asia is regarded as the continent of the future and of young people.  The US Census Bureau data indicate that three billion young people in the world are below 25 years of age and 60% of these live in Asia. And so, almost half of the Asian populations (over 4 billion people) are under 25.

“It is clear that the event could not but be held in our continent in Asia,” said Kiara Cariaso, a Filipino and member of the GenFest organizing team.  “We want the world to see not only the network of projects, camps, solidarity actions, support to lawfulness, and “no” to war and armaments but also the solitude, abandonment and superficial relationships which millions of youth scattered around the world are already engaged in,” Cariaso added.

Marco De Salvo of the Y4UWY central secretariat noted that “many of the youths live in territories of war, conflict and social distress.”  “This is the frontline where many have chosen to start changing the world,” he said.   

Raffael Torquini, Brazilian, of the GenFest Marketing Team said, “We want to be there where we see the needs and hear our people’s cries for help at all latitudes.”  “There are infinite challenges and barriers but what matters is to overcome them together and take one step ahead towards unity,” Torquini added.

Since the first GenFest in 1973 in Loppiano, Italy, the youth rallies have been held in intervals of 2 to ‎five years, with the last one held in Budapest, Hungary in 2012.   

Catholic village in Sagar diocese threatened

(Vatican Radio) A tiny Christian community in central India’s Madhya Pradesh state is being threatened by a right-wing Hindu nationalist group to flee the village or face dire consequences, the local bishop told Vatican Radio.   Bishop Anthony Chirayath of the Syro-Malabar diocese of Sagar, who was visiting his Catholics in Mohanpur village in Guna district on Wednesday told Vatican Radio that the situation there was “very serious”. 

On 11th September night a group of RSS followers came and threatened Fr. Siljo Kidangan the priest in charge and the inmates of a hostel run for tribal boys.   On the following day a group comprising of the Tehsildar, Naib Tehsildar, RI, Sarpanch, Patwari and 2 policemen came and threatened the priest and afterwards forcefully confiscated the hostel he said. The case regarding the ownership of the land is pending in civil and high court the bishop added. The priest has taken refuge in the nearby mission.

Bishop Anthony Chirayath was on his way to the village to show solidarity with the priest and the villagers when the Vatican Radio contacted him.

Mohanpur Mission was started in 1997 to reach out to the poor tribal villagers who are mostly farm labourers. It is situated 30 KM north of district headquarters of Guna. There are around 30 Catholics only in this village. Catholic mission has a hostel for poor tribal boys who attend the local government school. Various social work projects are undertaken in and around 40 villages by the diocesan social work department, the ‘Manav Vikas’ to help the poor.

Indonesian Church backs government drive against human trafficking ‎

Indonesia’s Catholic Church officials have welcomed a government move to tackle human trafficking by making it easier for migrant workers to be legal with necessary documents. 

The Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration has launched a one-stop service to issue official documentation to migrant workers in Kupang, capital of Catholic majority East Nusa Tenggara province, which has the highest number of human trafficking cases

Obtaining permits used to be a very long process and could take months, said Samuel Adu, an official at the ministry.  "This was exploited by brokers who passed on workers illegally along a human trafficking chain,” he said.  With the new system, the process of obtaining permits is much quicker, less than a week.

Corruption-free system

Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, secretary of the Commission for Justice, Peace and Pastoral for Migrant-Itinerant People of the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (KWI) welcomed the move, but asked the government to ensure the new system is corruption free.  "Corruption,” he said, “is commonly practiced in issuing permits."

Father Yohanes Kristoforus Tara, coordinator of the Commission for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation of the Franciscans in Timor also welcomed the move but also called on the government to provide would-be migrants with skills training.  He said this would make the government effort against  trafficking more effective.

Reyna Usman, another official at the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration said the new service in East Nusa Tenggara will also help the families of migrant workers stay in touch with them as every information will be logged.

According to the East Nusa Tenggara Regional Police more than 1,600 people were trafficked over the last two years, many of them were children.

Aplonia Sara Mali Bere, a former migrant worker from Atambua in Belu district who twice went to Malaysia to work illegally was optimistic about the new system.  She said hat with better protection, a lot of migrant workers will now go through official channels.  (Source: UCANEWS)

S. Lanka Muslim centre’s initiative to help understanding of Islam ‎

A Muslim centre in Sri Lanka recently dedicated a day people of other faiths to help them learn about Islam in a nation that is witnessing renewed violence against Muslim.  The Centre for Islamic Studies (CIS) organized an ‘Open Mosque Day’ at Colombo’s historic Akbar Mosque in order to promote understanding and appreciate diversity.  Christians, Buddhists and Hindus could visit the centre to learn about the Islamic religion and traditions in Sri Lanka. 

Bridging the gap

“This is a positive effort, worthy of note,” noted Venerable Diyakaduwe Somananda Thero of the Buddhist temple Baddegewaththa Viharaya after visiting the CIS. “It comes at a crucial time to dispel certain misconceptions about Islamic traditions,” he told AsiaNews. “Today many act and think badly about Muslims."

Hindu priest, Rahumananda Sharma from the Sri Karumari Amman Kovil temple in Panchikawatte was equally positive about the CIS initiative. He hoped "the CIS will organize guided tours in other mosques.”  “All of the nation's population should have the opportunity to participate in events like this. This is very important," he told AsiaNews. 

The ‎‘Open Mosque Day’ was devoted to learning about Muslim values ​​and traditions, and countering bias among non-Muslims.

Several Buddhist and Catholic women observed that earlier they had wrong ideas about Muslim customs on women and marriage.  “Now, however, we understand that this is part of their religion."  When they asked about why women wore the Islamic veil, they were told it is “the immense beauty of women, who must protect their body."

Participants were divided according to English, Tamil and Sinhalese language groups with a guide each.  The visitors were explained the purification rite of the washing of hands and feet, shown the prayer room (with separate areas for men and women) and some prayers.

Shifan Rafaideen, one of the guides, was pleased with the CIS initiative. "As a Muslim, it is important to participate in the process of raising awareness. Giving the right information and eliminating biases is the greatest work a Muslim can do," Rafaideen added.   (Source: AsiaNews)

Vatican at UN calls for dialogue in Central African Republic

(Vatican Radio) The Holy See’s foreign minister has called for renewed dialogue in the Central African Republic, as well as more effective action to protect civilians of all religious groups.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher’s words came during a meeting at the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday. The Vatican Secretary for Relations with States said the Holy See is “greatly concerned” about the intensification of conflict in the CAR, which Pope Francis visited in November 2015.

Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:

He praised the role of the UN stabilization mission (MINUSCA) which is working to bring peace to the capital, Bangui, but at the same time he called for greater protection of civilians, without distinction of rank or religious creed, in order to earn the trust of the local population.

Protect vulnerable women and children

Noting that women and children are the most vulnerable victims of the conflict, Archbishop Gallagher appealed to UN peacekeepers to defend their dignity, to guarantee their freedom of movement and to protect them from armed aggression or abuse.

International community must support CAR

While calling on the CAR government to guarantee the rule of law, to curb and combat corruption, and to ensure access to health care and education for all citizens, Archbishop Gallagher also called on the international community to support democracy and inclusive development in the country.

The financial aid promised during last autumn’s Brussels Conference must be made available, he said, in order to facilitate reconstruction and financial recovery.

Dialogue, disarmament and justice for victims

Calling for a sincere dialogue between all the political forces in the country, Archbishop Gallagher said peace also requires the disarmament and integration of former combatants, justice for the victims of crimes and the safe return of refugees, both Christian and Muslim.

Please find below the full statement by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher to the closed ministerial-level meeting on the Central African Republic during the 72th Session of the UN General Assembly

Mr. Chairperson.

            The Holy See is greatly concerned at the intensification of the conflict underway in the Central African Republic, which is causing further deaths and injuries among the civil population and aggravating the situation of refugees and internally displaced persons.

            The Holy See appreciates the role of MINUSCA [The UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic], as well as the extension of its mandate by the UN, which is directed to restoring peace to the capital, Bangui, and to neutralizing, in so far as possible, the actions of armed groups, which inflict suffering on defenseless populations. It also wishes, however, to see more effective action in protecting civilians, without distinction of religious creed or rank, in order to avoid partiality and to earn greater trust from the local population. Thus, the increase in the number of peacekeepers and the reorganization of their operations must have as its priority the protection of the security of all citizens and the restoration of peace. Well aware that those who are most vulnerable in the current conflict are women and children, I appeal to MINUSCA to defend their dignity as defenseless people, to guarantee their personal safety and freedom of movement, and to protect them from armed aggression and from any abuse or humiliation that would degrade their human dignity. As Pope Francis remarked during his visit to Bangui, dignity is a “moral value, rightly synonymous with honesty, loyalty, graciousness and honour, which characterizes men and women conscious of their rights and duties, and which leads them to mutual respect” (Address to the Authorities and to the Diplomatic Corps, 29 November 2015).

            The International Community is called to give every necessary support for the democratic and inclusive development of those structures that will permit the growth of the country. Of course, it is the national Government’s duty to guarantee the rule of law, to curb and combat corruption, which saps the trust of citizens, and to ensure access to health care and education for citizens of every level, without discrimination. But this in turn requires the coordinated action of the International Community, so that the financial aid promised during the Brussels Conference of last autumn is made available, giving an injection of resources to the country and facilitating its reconstruction as well as its financial recovery. 

            In any country, a healthy dynamic between the various political forces can be achieved only through sincere dialogue. With the help of the International Community, such a dialogue must become the privileged path to arrive at peace and to give to the Central African Republic the necessary stability for its social, economic and political renewal. Indeed, dialogue is the only solution to any armed conflict and the only way to silence the weapons of war and to give life to words of reconciliation. We might recall here the positive outcome of the pastoral visit of Pope Francis (29-30 November 2015), which gave rise to strong and clear gestures of cooperation, promoted also by the heads of the other religious confessions. Recently, the Holy Father made an appeal to all sectors of the Central African Republic: “may weapons be silenced and may the good will to dialogue prevail so as to give the country peace and development” (Pope Francis, Angelus 21 May 2017).

To reach a fruitful outcome, that process of dialogue must provide for:

-           a ceasefire between all the parties to the conflict;

-           the right means for disarming the various armed groups, while studying how best to reinsert their members into the civil and democratic community;

-           justice for the victims of heinous attacks on the unarmed population;

-           and the guaranteed return of migrants and refugees, both Christian and Muslim, who should be able to take possession of their property and return to a serene and tranquil life.

In this effort of inclusive dialogue, the Catholic Church’s commitment will not be lacking. Together with other religious confessions, the Church will seek what unites, while rejecting that which causes division or contention, since the search for peace comes before every other good.

Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.