– Tej Francis
NIGERIAN PRIEST ABDUCTED ON CHRISTMAS EVE: PRAYER SAVED US
(CNA/EWTN News) A Nigerian priest who was kidnapped on Christmas Eve recalled his experience after Mass this week, saying prayer is what saved him. Father Cajetan Apeh, a recently ordained priest assigned to St. Theresa’s Parish in Anam, was kidnapped along with the church’s pastor on Dec. 24. The two priests were ambushed while returning from gathering supplies in preparation for the visit of Cardinal Francis Arinze on Christmas Day.
According to Vanguard Nigeria, Apeh described the four-day ordeal to the congregation after Mass on January 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The Mass took place at St. Joseph’s Church in Enugu Ezike. Apeh said the priests, who initially thought it to be robbery, were abducted by four Fulani herdsmen with AK 47s and left to survive with very little food and water. Apeh said the kidnappers had tried to hold the priests for ransom and were communicating with their superiors.
Several authorities in Anambra, including the Police Mobile Force and Federal Special Anti-robbery Squad, had been involved with a massive search for the priests. As a result of the joint operations, the abductors were forced to release the two men on Dec. 27. Abeh said prayer was a major factor in their release, Vanguard Nigeria reported. “Due to your prayers and those of others throughout the world, we were released to our superior who travelled to Anam from Enugu, unaccompanied by any policeman or security agent.”
NEW CONGRESS IS MORE THAN ONE-THIRD CATHOLIC
(CNA) The 116th Congress was gavelled into session on January 3, bringing almost 100 new lawmakers into office, and with Catholics making up nearly 30 percent of the congressional freshman class. Catholics account for 28 of the 96 new members of Congress, including newly-elected Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), the only Catholic freshman in the Senate. In total, there are 163 Catholics sitting in either the Senate or House of Representatives, a drop of five from the 115th Congress, but still more than 30 percent of the legislature.
According to figures from Pew Research, the new session sees an end to what had previously been a near even split of Catholic members between the parties in the House of Representatives, with 86 Catholic Democrats now serving alongside 55 Republicans. Catholic education also played a role in shaping many members of the new Congress. According to the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, one out of 10 members of Congress graduated from a Jesuit institution, including 12 Senators and 43 members of the House of Representatives.
SEVEN CHRISTIANS ARRESTED DURING A CHRISTMAS LITURGY
(Agenzia Fides) Seven Christians were taken to prison for religious reasons. As reported by Agenzia Fides, on December 29, 2018, a group of nine police officers, led by the police chief of the district of Phin, stormed a Christmas church service in Nakanong Village in Savannakhet and arrested 3 leaders of the local evangelical Christian community: Akeo, Kert, and Somwang. The arrested were charged with illegal gathering for Christmas church service without permission.
As reported to Fides by the NGO “Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom” (HRWLRF), the three church leaders are detained in the Phin district police headquarters. Soon after, the police returned to the Nakanong church and detained four more Christian men (Boulai, Champee, Agàe and Ayoung). Security forces also demolished the stage, cut off the power line, destroyed the sound system, and seized three mobile phones.
The NGO HRWLRF urges the Lao government to respect the right of the Lao people to religious freedom and the accompanying rights as guaranteed in the Lao constitution and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Laos in 2009. The NGO also urges the Lao government to “release immediately and unconditionally the seven Lao Christians and pay for the damages to the physical properties of the church”.