Author Archive

Vatican astronomer yawns at frenzy over Pope’s Big Bang words

Rome, Italy, Oct 30, 2014 / 03:26 pm (Aid to the Church in Need).- A leading Vatican astronomer said that although some see Pope Francis’ recent words on the Big Bang as signifying a change in the Church’s stance on the issue, the pontiff in fact said nothing new.

“It is important to emphasize that Pope Francis was not saying anything new or ‘breaking with tradition’ as I saw one commentator put it,” Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J. told CNA  Oct. 29.

Br. Consolmagno is an American research astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican Observatory, which is an astronomical research and educational institution supported by the Holy See.

Storms of media reports initially arose following a speech Pope Francis gave at the unveiling of a bust of retired pontiff Benedict XVI for the plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Monday.

In his speech, Pope Francis said that “The Big Bang, which nowadays is posited as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine act of creating, but rather requires it.”

He also touched on evolution, saying that the “evolution of nature does not contrast with the notion of creation, as evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”

Due to the explosion of headlines on the web saying that the Pope had officially endorsed a change in the Church’s position on these two theories, Br. Consolmagno said that it’s important remember that both theories came as a result of the work of a Catholic priest and a Catholic monk.

“The genetic basis of modern evolutionary theory is based on the work of Gregor Mendel, a Catholic monk; and the modern Big Bang theory was first proposed by Georges Lemaitre, a Catholic priest,” he said.

Br. Consolmagno explained that the theological basis for these theories can also be found in scripture, and cited St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians as one biblical source.

What Pope Francis said, he noted, is “completely consistent” with what numerous other popes in recent history have said, including St. John Paul II in his address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences entitled “Truth Does Not Contradict Truth” and his 1988 Letter to Director of the Vatican Observatory on Science and Religion.

Pope Pius XII also spoke about these theories in his 1952 address to the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union.

An important thing to keep in mind surrounding these topics is that “The Church does not take ‘positions’ on matters of science,” the astronomer observed.

Therefore, “science is left free to propose explanations and descriptions of the working of the natural world, knowing that none of these descriptions are the final word and that all of them are based on the assumption of a rational universe whose very existence depends on the creative action of God.”

Confusion over Pope Francis’ words also arose when he said that “When we read in Genesis the account of Creation, we risk imagining God as a magician, with a wand able to make everything.”

After this statement the pontiff said that God allowed creation and created beings to develop throughout history according to the internal laws which God gave them at the beginning of creation, and because of this “God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the creator who gives being to all things.”

In response to those who took the Pope’s words as meaning that God is not divine, Br. Consolmagno explained that all the pontiff said was that the Christian notion of God is not the same as other, pagan understandings of the divine being.

He referred to Pope’s use of the term “demiurge,” which comes from a gnostic tradition, and has been considered a heresy since ancient Roman times.

“This was the idea that God was some sort of ‘artisan’ who formed the universe out of pre-existing materials,” he said, which is basically the same notion as the pagan nature gods who were thought to oversee the activities of nature.

In light of this understanding, the astronomer said that what the Pope was most likely implying is that the Christian concept of God is “not a ‘nature God’” like that of the pagans.

Catholics, he continued, “embrace the idea of natural laws to explain how nature works – science – precisely because we do not confuse the actions of those laws with the actions of God.”

God is the reason why the universe exists, time and space included, and why it has laws, the religious brother observed, saying that science merely seeks to describe how these laws function.

Helpful resources for understanding these theories, he said, can be found in the Vatican Observatory’s 2009 book “The Heavens Proclaim, Astronomy and the Vatican” as well as the recent “Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?” which is authored by both himself and physicist Father Paul Mueller.

The devil is no myth – he’s real and we must fight him, Pope says

Vatican City, Oct 30, 2014 / 08:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his homily on Thursday, Pope Francis said that the devil is more than an idea, and in order to fight him, we must follow St. Paul’s instructions and put on the armor of God which protects…

Displaced Christians in Kurdistan – ‘Their tears have run dry’

Erbil, Iraq, Oct 30, 2014 / 04:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Christians who were forced from their homes in northern Iraq by the Islamic State this summer are a people whose soul is being destroyed, said a priest who visited Kurdish Iraq, where many have taken refuge.

“Without question, we are talking about genocide here. Genocide is not only when the people are killed, but also when the soul of a people is destroyed. And that is what is happening in Iraq now,” Fr. Andrzej Halemba, head of Aid to the Church in Need’s Middle East section, said Oct. 28. “It is the most tragic thing that I have ever experienced.”

“I have seen people who have been deeply wounded in their soul. In the various crises in this world I have often seen people who have lost everything. But in Iraq there are Christians who have had to leave everything and take flight three or four times. They can see no light at the end of the tunnel.”

At least 120,000 Christians were forced from Mosul and surrounding cities in Nineveh province in July and August by the Islamic State, a newly-established caliphate spread across portions of Iraq and Syria. The militant Sunni Islamist organization – also known as ISIS – has persecuted all non-Sunnis in its territory – Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Muslims have all fled the caliphate.

All of the displaced are “very traumatized,” Fr. Halemba said. “Normally in such situations it is the women who pull everything together. But in Kurdistan I have seen women who are staring into nothingness and have closed in on themselves. Their tears have run dry. It is something that I have never seen anywhere else.”

Prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the country’s Christian community numbered around 1.5 million. That figure has plummeted, already, to 300,000.

Fr. Halemba said that most of those who have been displaced by the Islamic State do not even wish to return to their homes. “When one has lost all hope, one wishes to leave one’s homeland.”

“The majority do not wish to return to their homes. This is a bad sign for the future of Christianity in Iraq. The Christians feel that in Iraq they have been betrayed and abandoned, and they want to get out.”

They feel they have no one on whom they can depend, Fr. Halemba reported, adding that “it reminds many Christians of the massacres in the Ottoman Era, 100 years ago, when hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Christians were slaughtered.”

The Armenian genocide began in April 1915, as authorities of the Ottoman Empire rounded up, arrested, and massacred up as many as 1.5 million of the Armenian people, a minority group in the empire who were overwhelmingly Christian.

According to Fr. Halemba, Christians in Iraq “are not being helped, either by the central Iraqi government or by the Kurdish regional government,” and so “they feel like second-class citizens.”

“Naturally there is aid from outside,” he said. “But the Christians can only come by it through their own efforts. We have true heroes of neighbourly love in Iraq. Bishops, priests and members of religious orders, but also lay people, have done exemplary work on behalf of their fellow men and women.”

The immediate challenge facing the displaced Christians in Iraqi Kurdistan is winter, Fr. Halemba said.

“It can get very cold in Kurdistan, and it can snow. The rains are already starting to come. There are efforts underway to re-house the people from tents into accommodation containers.”

“But in my opinion the greatest challenge is the mentality of the people. Have they already decided to turn their backs on Iraq and the Middle East forever? This is where we must take action and give the people hope.”

It is important that the displaced “once again believe in the future of their ancient and beautiful country,” reflected Fr. Halemba. “So the international community must work towards ensuring that the government in Baghdad is strengthened and incorporates all the religious and ethnic groups in the country.”

“Only in this way can ISIS be ultimately defeated.”

Archbishop Aquila: Media missed message of joy at synod

Denver, Colo., Oct 30, 2014 / 02:47 am (CNA).- The joy of the Gospel of Marriage is alive, said Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver, explaining that although the mainstream media may have missed the message at the recent Synod on the Family, Pope Franci…

Italian diocese laments suicide of priest who admitted abuse

Trieste, Italy, Oct 30, 2014 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Trieste has announced “with a spirit full of sorrow and dismay” that one of its priests, who had recently admitted to sexual abuse of a minor female, committed suicide on Tuesday.

Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi of Trieste learned Oct. 23 “of a grave matter many years ago that involved a 13 year old girl” and Fr. Maks Suard, according to an Oct. 28 statement from the diocese.

Fr. Suard, 48, was a priest of the Slovenian community of the Trieste diocese, and was parish priest of the small church of Santa Croce, in the territory of the Carso Triestino. He had served as a parish priest in several parishes of the San Dorligo area since his ordination in 1995; he was involved in the Boy Scout movement, and also worked as a teacher of religion in local schools.

On Oct. 25, Archbishop Crepaldi met with Fr. Suard, and on that occasion “the priest had admitted his responsibilities” and consented to the canonical procedure which would have to be taken.

In accord with St. John Paul II’s 2001 motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, abuse cases – which are among the “delicta graviora”, or “more grave crimes” – must be forwarded to and investigated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The policy sped up and made more effective the Vatican’s handling of such cases, which had been previously been handled by the Congregation for Clergy.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can choose either to take over the case or authorize a diocesan trial, in which case the outcome must be forwarded to the congregation.

After Archbishop Crepaldi had explained to Fr. Suard that he had to undergo the procedure, the priest “with humility and serenity of spirit, asked for two days during which he could prepare a resignation letter and a written statement in order to ask forgiveness from God, the Church, and the girl for the evil committed,” the diocese stated.

The archbishop agreed, and arranged to meet with Fr. Suard the afternoon of Oct. 28, at which time he would officially notify the priest of his suspension and of the beginning of the canonical procedure.

Archbishop Crepaldi “had informed Fr. Suard that he was going to arrive at around 4 pm,” and he got to the parish priest’s house around 4.30 pm. He found the rectory door locked, and received no answer to his repeated phone calls to Fr. Suard.

He called the parish sacristan, who opened the rectory; once in the house, the bishop found the body of Fr. Suard, who had committed suicide by hanging.

According a source in the Diocese of Trieste who spoke with CNA under condition of anonymity, the story of Fr. Suard was widely rumored locally, but until now no one had taken any measure.

Archbishop Crepaldi had moved “as soon as he had gotten to know of the case, thus himself breaking a sort of wall of silence in the diocese.”

This would be the reason why, the source maintained, “Fr. Suard wanted that the bishop himself would have found his corpse.”

It is still unclear whether Fr. Suard left any written document, as he had said he intended to do.

“The priest’s case had to follow its path, according to canonical and civil law, which would have perhaps helped him, in time, to a desirable human and Christian recovery, with respect to law,” the diocesan statement said.

“This curia, distraught by the unexpected and dramatic repercussions of this story, entrusts the soul of the priest to the prayers of those of goodwill and to the mercy of the heavenly Father.”

Dialogue must replace fighting, South Sudanese bishops say

Juba, South Sudan, Oct 29, 2014 / 08:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops in South Sudan are calling for an immediate end to violence in their country, saying  it should be replaced with “dialogue and compromise.”

As chair of the U.S. bishops’ international justice and peace committee, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines wrote to Donald Booth, U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, on behalf of the South Sudanese bishops on Oct. 22.

The South Sudanese bishops “call on their political leaders to stop the fighting immediately and replace it with dialogue and compromise, and urge their leaders to trust their people and give them the chance to determine their own future with the help of traditional leaders, faith communities and civil society actors,” Bishop Pates said.

Bishop Pates also thanked Booth for meeting with him in person last month to discuss these issues, calling their session “informative and productive” and urged him to continue putting pressure on both the South Sudanese government and the opposition to end the fighting.

He noted that the South Sudanese bishops “do not offer specific political solutions to the national crisis, but they do offer guidance” as well-respected citizens of their country.

Continued support from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development – a group of African nations assisting in peace negotiation –  and emergency aid from the international community continue to be necessary to “prevent a backward slide into greater poverty” especially as the country enters the dry season when fighting is likely to ramp up.

“The bishops are forthright in their condemnation of all parties and individuals who persist in prosecuting the war at the cost of thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of people forced from their homes,” Bishop Pates wrote.

South Sudan became an independent country in 2011, breaking from the Republic of Sudan eight years after the 2005 conclusion of a 20-year-long civil war. Violence in the new country broke out in mid-December 2013, intensifying a power struggle between forces loyal to president Salva Kiir and those allied behind former vice president Riek Machar.

Violence has continued in the country despite a peace accord signed May 9, 2014.

Thousands of people have been killed and 1.4 million have been displaced by the violence. Almost 5 million people are in severe need of humanitarian assistance, The Independent reports.

The UN estimates that there are some 11,000 child soldiers serving in both the government and rebel armies.

Last March, Pope Francis wrote to Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro of Juba, encouraging him and all parties involved in the conflict to “tirelessly seek peaceful solutions, enabling the common good to prevail over personal interests.”

Are an atheist journalist’s papal interviews reliable?

Vatican City, Oct 29, 2014 / 07:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following the publication of a new text by Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari in ‘La Repubblica’ suggesting that Pope Francis believes in relativism, the Holy See spokesman has questioned whether Scalfari is advancing his own views.

In a recent op-ed in the leftist Italian newspaper, Scalfari mentioned one of his recent conversations with Pope Francis, saying the Pope had acknowledged that truth is relative; and he used this comment to support the idea that the Gospels do not tell the whole truth.

According to Scalfari, “the Pope refuses the word ‘relativism,’ i.e. a real movement with aspects of religious politics; but he does not refuse the word ‘relative’. No to relativism, but that truth is relative is a matter of fact that Pope Francis acknowledges.”

Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, told CNA Oct. 28 that “Scalfari pursues his own discourse” and, “if there are no words published by the Holy See press office and not officially confirmed, the writer takes full responsibility for what he has written.”

The founder of ‘La Repubblica’ and a self-proclaimed atheist, Scalfari has made it understood that he often has private conversations with the Pope, saying “these conversations started eight months ago” and that “the last of our meetings took place in September.”

Scalfari had already published two of his conversations with Pope Francis, on Oct. 1, 2013 and July 13, 2014; both of those texts were dismissed by Fr. Lombardi.

While not denying the meetings, Fr. Lombardi had stressed that the meetings were private and that the words of Pope Francis had been biased by the interviewer.

Shortly after the publication of the first conversation, Scalfari himself admitted that he never uses a recording devices nor takes notes, and that he writes by memory, also sometimes putting within quotes words that the interviewed had not said, but that in Scalfari’s view better explain their thought.

This third round of excerpts of the Scalfari-Bergoglio conversations have not been presented as an interview, but are inserted in a wider comment on a lecture given by the Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman.

In his lecture, Bauman claimed that “truth is an agnostic idea for origins and for nature,” since it can emerge “only from a meeting with its contrary,” and this is the reason why “using the word ‘truth’ in singular mode in a polyphonic world is like applauding with one only hand.”

According to Bauman, “Pope Francis not only preaches the need for dialogue, but he practices it,” and proof of this is that he had granted his first interview to Scalfari.

Scalfari takes the moves from this to comment that “Pope Francis is one of the very few (Popes), in my view the only one, in fact, who faces the quest for truth this way” – that is, in the way Bauman put it.

For this purpose, Scalfari reported he had asked Pope Francis what a missionary Church is in his view.
Pope Francis replied, underscoring his full belonging to the Society of Jesus, and that despite this he had chosen the papal name of Francis.

Scalfari reportedly objected that the Pope chose the name of Francis because “Francis was a mystic; and you love mystics, though you are not a mystic.”

“This is certainly one of the reasons, but it is not the only reason,” Pope Francis reportedly responded.
The Pope stressed that St. Francis “loved a travelling brotherhood that had renounced all the pleasures of life, but did not renounce joy, or love. Some of them, especially Francis, were profoundly mystic in every moment of their life, since they identified with the Lord and forgot their ego.”

However, St. Francis also took care of “practical matters,” and wrote a rule for his order, that “the then Pope approved many years later.” But – Pope Francis reportedly said – “the Pope approved the rules under a condition: a portion of the Franciscans had to live in convents, while only a portion could be missionary and travelling. Francis accepted. The friars in the convents rediscovered St. Benedict, and  study, work, begging; but the real Franciscan and missionary Church is the travelling one.”

Scalfari wrote that he asked the Pope “why the Church must be above all travelling and missionary,” and Pope Francis responded: “We have to speak the ‘languages’ of all the world, which does not necessarily mean the real language – consider that in China there are some 50,000 different languages.”

“A missionary Church must above all understand the people it meets, their way of thinking… this is the premise, that is at once Franciscan and Jesuit, as our Society has always done: understand the other, whether they are socially miserable and culturally poor, or cultivated, remarkable in social life and important for the public life of people, but not for religion.”

Pope Francis also reportedly underscored that “religion abhors political language, which must not be our thing. If we intend with politics a vision of the common good that for us is that of our religion, yes, politics becomes important, and institutions become important for everyone’s good. People should commit to and realize these institution, but not elevating them to the name of a god. No one can appropriate the name of a god that is ecumenical and creator.”

In the end, Scalfari underscored that Pope Francis wants to get in touch with the modern world, and “this means, if I understood well, that the Church must be in harmony with it.”

And what about the truth? “The Pope refuses the word “relativism,” i.e. a real movement with aspects of religious politics; but he does not refuse the word ‘relative’. No to relativism, but that truth is relative is a matter of fact that Pope Francis acknowledges.”

This reasoning brings Scalfari to stress that doctrine was elaborate by “religious thinkers” in the course of centuries, on the basis of the preaching of St. Paul and the Jewish-Christian community of Jerusalem.

Scalfari also dismissed the Gospels, saying “they are the narrations written by people who had never met or seen Jesus of Nazareth … second or third-hand narrations which provided a doctrinal structure.”

Likewise – Scalfari says – “monotheistic religions were born of stories,” because “God has no voice, and no imaginable figure,” while “the Son has, and this is the reason why Christians invented it.”

This is how the culture of encounter pursued by Pope Francis has been completely overturned.

How much Scalfari’s words and reports are reliable, one cannot assess: no proofs are provided that Pope Francis has worded his thoughts the way Scalfari wrote them down.

Pope: Fighting for the poor doesn’t make me Communist – it makes me Catholic

Vatican City, Oct 29, 2014 / 12:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis spoke out against oppression of the poor due to greed and warned again of the growing presence of a “globalization of indifference” – a warning, he said, which has wrongly type-casted him.  

“It is not possible to tackle poverty by promoting containment strategies to merely reassure, rendering the poor ‘domesticated,’ harmless and passive,” the Pope told those gathered for his Oct. 28 encounter with leaders of various Church movements.

He called the basic needs for land, housing and work an “aspiration that should be within the reach of all but which we sadly see is increasingly unavailable to the majority.”  

“It’s strange, but if I talk about this, there are those who think that the Pope is Communist,” he said.

“The fact that the love for the poor is in the center of the gospel is misunderstood,” the Pope added. “Those (values) for which you’re fighting for are sacred rights. It’s the Church’s social doctrine.”

Held in the Vatican’s Old Synod Hall, where previous synods took place before the construction of the Paul VI Hall, the meeting was organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, along with the leaders of various movements.

Solidarity, the Pope observed in his speech, is a word that is often forgotten in today’s society, and which extends far beyond sporadic acts of generosity.

Instead it requires thinking in communal terms, and includes fighting structural causes of poverty such as inequality, unemployment, lack of land and housing, and the denial of social and labor rights, he said. It also requires facing the destructive effects of the “empire of money” such as forced displacement, painful migration, human trafficking, drugs, war and violence.

“Today the phenomenon of exploitation and oppression assumes a new dimension, a graphical and hard edge of social injustice,” the Pope noted, explaining that this “throwaway culture” makes it so that those who are unable to integrate are marginalized and discarded as “cast-offs.”

Situations such as this arise when economic systems make money their god and put it at the heart of their work rather than centering on the human person, created in the image of God, the pontiff continued.

He then turned his attention to the phenomenon of unemployment, saying that each person who works, whether part of the formal system of paid work or not, “has the right to fair remuneration, social security and a pension.”

These people, the pontiff noted, include those who recycle waste, street vendors, garment makers, craftsmen, fishermen, farmers, builders, miners, workers in companies in receivership, cooperatives and common trades which are often excluded from employment rights and denied the option of forming trades unions, as well as those who don’t receive a stable or sufficient income.

“I wish to unite my voice to theirs and to accompany them in their struggle,” Pope Francis said.

On the theme of peace and ecology, the Pope said that it is not possible to pursue land, housing or work if we can’t maintain the planet, or if we destroy it.

“Creation is not our property which we may exploit as we please, (and) even less so the property of the few,” he explained, saying that instead creation is a gift from God that we must care for and use for the good of all humanity with respect and gratitude.

Pope Francis went on to question those present in the audience, asking why, instead of viewing the world as our gift and fighting for justice, do we instead see work taken away, families evicted, peasants expelled from their land, war and harm done to nature.

“Because this system has removed humanity from the center and replaced it with something else! Because of the idolatrous worship of money! Because of the globalization of indifference – ‘what does it matter to me what happens to others, I’ll defend myself,’” the Pope explained.

The world, said the pontiff, has forgotten God and so become “an orphan” because it has turned away from him.

However, Christians have been given a strong guide and “revolutionary program” for how to act, which can be found in the Beatitudes, the Bishop of Rome noted, and encouraged all to read them.

Pope Francis emphasized the importance of walking together, saying that popular movements express urgent need of revitalizing our democracies, which “so often (are) hijacked by many factors.”

“It is impossible to imagine a future for society without the active participation of the majority, and this role extends beyond the logical procedures of formal democracy,” he said.

The Church’s mystery: it’s both visible and spiritual, Pope says

Vatican City, Oct 29, 2014 / 09:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his weekly general audience Pope Francis spoke of the visible actions carried out by the Church, explaining that they are an expression of her deeper spiritual reality rooted in the two natures…

Life is cheaper than salt: a Nigerian bishop facing Boko Haram

Maiduguri, Nigeria, Oct 29, 2014 / 04:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Oliver Doeme, who heads the Nigerian diocese which has suffered the most from Boko Haram, has lamented his government’s failure to effectively counter the militants, saying human life is being devalued.

“We use to think that salt is the cheapest commodity in the market, well, life is cheaper now especially in the Northeastern part of Nigeria,” Bishop Doeme of Maiduguri wrote in a report delivered recently to his fellow bishops and to Aid to the Church in Need, which is helping him to rebuild Church infrastructure and to care for the thousands of displaced persons in his diocese.

Maiduguri is the capital of Borno State, which is the center of activity for the radical Islamist group whos name means “Western education is sinful.” It launched an uprising in 2009, the same year Bishop Doeme was transferred to Maiduguri.

Bishop Doeme’s diocese covers much of the territory of Borno State, as well as the states of Adamawa and Yobe. In May 2013, Nigeria’s president declared a state of emergency in those three states because of Boko Haram’s violence.

“The last one month has seen the intensification and aggressive devastation of the Boko Haram activities in Northern, Central and Southern part of the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri,” Bishop Doeme wrote, noting their “brutality and callousness.”

“Many of our people are being forced out of their ancestral homes, villages and towns. Right now, thousands are living in caves on the mountains, some in the forest; the few who were able to escape are being absorbed by friends and relatives in Maiduguri, Mubi and Yola. Thousands have managed to escape into the Cameroons and are living under very difficult conditions of lack of food, shelter and medication.”

Boko Haram has declared its animosity for Christianity and the Church; eucational institutions; the Nigerian government; and moderate Muslims, attacking all of these alike.

Bishop Doeme commented that “while I refused to believe a single narration of this reality … there is still a religious under-tone to this whole mess. We might shy away from it, we may be silent and unable to speak up or speak out now against the plan to Islamize the Northeast and eventually Nigeria.”

He did acknowledge Boko Haram’s targeting of all who oppose their radical Islamist agenda, noting that “both Christians and Muslims are being affected, both Christians and Muslims have been killed; both Christians and Muslims have been driven out of their ancestral homes, villages and towns, Christians and Muslims have been Internally Displaced and are refuge(e)s in their own home state.”

“But what we are witnessing in Northern Adamawa is a clear confirmation and the unfolding of this agenda,” he added. “I am speaking as a leader and shepherd of the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri and how much destruction and devastation we have seen and are still going through.”

He lamented that his people are dying daily, their homes looted, and “they have become slaves and prisoners in their fatherland … life has become so cheap that it can be wasted any moment.”

Violence continues unabated, Bishop Doeme commented. “In the last one month more Parishes have been closed down and the people and the Priests are on the run.”

He narrated eight attacks on ecclesial institutions in the past month.

First in Pulka, St. Peter parish was burnt down, the rectory looted, and more than 20 “outstation Churches closed and burnt down.” A diocesan hospital was subject to arson. Many people fled to nearby Cameroon, and many youths were captured. “Women who could not escape were forced to convert to Islam and married out to the terrorists; some of the elderly who cannot escape are being killed, some are left to die from hunger and starvation.”

The bishop continued, showing the path of destruction levied by Boko Haram as it advanced along a national highway, the A13. Parishes and rectories have been burnt or requisitioned as operational bases, women enslaved, men conscripted, and some killed. He presented a list of towns and villages under Boko Haram’s control: 10 in Borno, 10 in Yobe, and five in Adamawa.

Bishop Doeme noted that nearly 20 priests of his diocese have taken refuge in Yola, the capital of Adamawa.

“Thank God for our brother, Bishop Stephen Dami Mamza who has been kind to accept them and assigned them to parishes within Yola where they can at least eat and sleep.”

He said that his own cathedral city is threatened by Boko Haram, saying it “is sitting on a keg of gun powder … the number of civilians that have migrated into Maiduguri on foot from Bama, Kawuri and Kunduga is suggestive that the terrorists have an upper hand in the fight.”

“We are faced with a huge humanitarian crisis; people are sleeping on the streets in Maiduguri, despite the Seven or more camps within the city for the Internally Displaced Persons.”

The bishop told Aid to the Church in Need Oct. 25 that the Diocese of Maiduguri “has given some relief materials to over 1,500 IDPs and it has joined hands with the Yola Diocese to assist those who have taken refuge there.”

He added that “we are in dire need of external assistance to help alleviate the difficult situation of the refugees, especially of the children who, out of school and vulnerable to diseases, face an uncertain future.”

In his situation report, Bishop Doeme also discussed the Nigerian government’s and military’s inability to cope with Boko Haram: “What is very worrying and discouraging in the whole scenario, is the attitude of the military whom we mortgage and depend on for security. In the face of these attacks they flee and ask civilians to do the same.”

He said Boko Haram are able to overrun towns “almost unchallenged,” saying their “mastery and tact … is unequalled” by the Nigerian military. The government “cannot safe guard the lives of its citizens,” he charged, adding that “the bottom line is that the government and our political leaders have failed us and we have lost total trust and confidence in our government and our leaders.”

His comments echoed those made previously by such leaders as Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, who has said that “our government has not been able to smoke them out” and “I don’t believe that our government is making this a top priority.”

Bishop Doeme continued: “The almost inaction of the government, the lukewarm attitude and the silence of the government is very disturbing. There is a total disconnection between what our so called leaders in Abuja report in the media and the reality on ground.”

On Oct. 17, the Nigerian government announced a ceasefire with Boko Haram, saying that they had agreed to the release of more than 200 girls abducted in April. Boko Haram never confirmed the ceasefire, and by Oct. 23 there were reports that they had abducted dozens of women and girls from two villages in Adamawa.

A presidential spokesman said Oct. 28 that the government is holding talks with Boko Haram, adding he is optimistic there will be a “concrete and positive” outcome.

Since 2009, Boko Haram’s attacks have killed thousands; including at least 4,000 in 2014 alone, according to Human Rights Watch. The UN estimates that the attacks have led to more than 470,000 internally displaced persons, and some 57,000 refugees.

Bishop Doeme urged that in light of Boko Haram, Nigerians “come together … forgetting our religious, ethnic, regional, cultural and ideological differences to face this menace,” and urged international assistance: “We are sinking fast in the quick sand, let us swallow our empty pride as Nigerians and ask for International assistance in tackling this problem. After all, if we have been assisting other countries and nations restore peace and Order why do we feel that it is humiliating to ask for help now that our house is on fire.”

He concluded saying that “we will ever remain grateful and thankful to all of you for your prayers, support and closeness in this moment of great trials and tribulations.”

“I as the chief shepherd of the Diocese of Maiduguri the Priests and the lay faithful feel the warmth of your prayers and solidarity. We are committed to witness to the Gospel and pay the price when the time comes.”

Plugin by Social Author Bio

Hide me
Sign up below to have the hottest Catholic news delivered to your email daily!
Enter your email address:
Show me