NEWS BRIEFS

Tej Francis

BEIRUT, LEBANON

“Faith has grown stronger among Christians who have escaped Iraq”

(Rome Reports) We are at the church of St Tecla in Beirut, Lebanon. Today is not a day of obligation, but the church is still full, mainly with refugees from Iraq; people who have lost everything except their faith.

There are families similar to Milad’s, who suffers from a shortage of food for her three children, despite the support of the Christian community. Milad, one of the refugees says, “What the Church receives; it divides it among the families. But if the Church doesn’t receive these donations or help, it cannot help.”

Hazib Jana says, “Having arrived as refugees, we can say that the faith has grown stronger. More people are coming to Church than before.”  Hazib and Louis are in charge of helping with bureaucratic procedures, distributing food or money, and being able to maintain a community that suffers in foreign land.

Louis Samih, reiterates, “There is some discrimination because the Lebanese consider themselves more educated than us, the Iraqis.”

Unfortunately, most of the Iraqi refugees in Lebanon do not consider returning to their country.

KINSHASA, CONGO

In DR Congo, an upsurge of violence against the Church

(Aid to the Church in Need) In the wake of an attack on a Catholic seminary, the leader of the Church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has issued an appeal about “the alarming security situation” in his country.

In a message sent to international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, the country’s capital, reported on a Feb. 18 “arson attack” on the Malole major seminary. The prelate said the perpetrators were “violent thugs, who have [also] sown terror among the Carmelite Sisters” in nearby Kananga.

The cardinal described the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as marked by a “resurgence of fear, anger and insecurity” among the population. He stressed that the Catholic Church in particular has come under attack recently.

On Feb 19, the parish church of St Dominic in the Limete municipality of Kinshasa was desecrated by a gang of youth. Cardinal Pasinya wrote that “they overturned the tabernacle, ransacked the altar, smashed some of the benches and attempted to set fire to the church. The material damage is considerable.”

The archbishop believes the Catholic Church is “being targeted deliberately, in order to sabotage her mission of peace and reconciliation.”

The Church played a crucial role as mediator in negotiations that led to a Dec 31, 2016 agreement that DRC President Joseph Kabila will step down following elections to be held late this year. The agreement brought the country back from the brink of renewed civil war.

Caracas, Venezuela

Venezuelan Catholics face backlash for opposing government

(CNA/EWTN News).- After speaking against alleged government misconduct, human rights abuses and delay of free elections, Catholic churches and clergy around Venezuela are facing a wave of protests from pro-government supporters.

A string of incidents began on the morning of Jan 29, as supporters of the current government interrupted a Mass at San Pedro Claver Church in a poor neighborhood of Caracas, Reuters reported.

The crowd of around 20 people hurled insults at the clergy, calling them “Satan in a cassock!” and “Fascist!” The protesters also used the chant “Chavez lives!” – in honor of late president and former leader of the ruling Socialist party, Hugo Chavez.

After the death of the socialist leader from cancer in 2013 and his succession by current Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, the country has faced both increases in violence and a number of social and political challenges, including the delay of the country’s regional elections.

The bishops’ strong stance against the current Venezuelan government – and other opinions echoed by priests around the country– has prompted backlash not only in the capital of Caracas, but in around the country. The cathedral of Caracas was hit with rocks, and protesters went to the home of the Archbishop Antonio Lopez of Barquisimeto after he said in a speech that socialism has brought “misery” to the country.

It has the world’s highest inflation rates, price controls and failed economic policies have resulted in severe shortages of basic necessities like medicines, milk, flour, toilet paper and other essentials.

The regional elections – which were scheduled for late 2016 and then delayed by the government – will take place later this year.

Before the delay of the elections, the Church helped to facilitate talks between the Maduro government and the opposition coalition. However, the talks collapsed with tensions and accusations from both sides.

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