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Pope Francis’ friend Rabbi Skorka helps Polish Catholics mark Day of Judaism

Rabbi Abraham Skorka, pictured in 2015. / Bob Watts via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0).

Lublin, Poland, Jan 18, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis’ friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka helped Catholics in Poland on Monday to mark the Church’s annual Day of Judaism.

Delivering an online lecture on Jan. 17, the Argentine rabbi said that Christians and Jews were called to work together to increase biblical knowledge in Western society.

“The process of removing the Bible from the consciousness of the Western world continues,” he said.

“It is precisely in the issue of saving the brilliance of the Hebrew Bible in people’s minds that Jews and Christians are called to work together. None of us can do it alone.”

The 71-year-old rabbi was speaking on “Jewish-Catholic dialogue 56 years after Nostra aetate,” the Second Vatican Council’s pathbreaking Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions.

The lecture was broadcast as part of an event organized by the Archdiocese of Lublin, the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, and the Archdiocesan Center for Catholic-Jewish Dialogue to mark the 25th Day of Judaism, whose motto this year was “My thoughts are not your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8).

The Day of Judaism, established in 1997 by the Polish bishops’ conference, is held at the start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which takes place on Jan. 18-25. In Poland, the Catholic Church observes a Day of Islam at the end of the ecumenical week.

In his address, Skorka reflected on the historical relationship between Judaism and Christianity, declaring: “In our time, antisemitism is anti-Christianity, and anti-Christianity is antisemitism.”

The Day of Judaism is marked in Poznań, Poland, on Jan. 17, 2022.
The Day of Judaism is marked in Poznań, Poland, on Jan. 17, 2022.

Also speaking at the event in Lublin, eastern Poland, was the local Archbishop Stanisław Budzik, who highlighted the contribution of St. John Paul II, the Polish pope who led the Catholic Church from 1978 to 2005.

Father Mirosław Kalinowski, the rector of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, said that “contacts between Catholics and followers of Judaism must be based on respect and dialogue, for they lead to mutual acceptance and understanding.”

He emphasized that antisemitism was a grave sin that contradicts the Gospel and the teaching of the Catholic Church.

“At the same time, we have the right to respect and tolerance for our system of values,” he commented, noting that his university will host a center for the study of Polish Catholics and Jews who saved lives under Nazism and communism.

The event also highlighted the work of Father Gregor Pawłowski, a Jewish Holocaust survivor who became a Catholic priest. Pawłowski died last October in Israel, where he served both Polish and Hebrew-speaking communities.

As part of the Day of Judaism, a ceremony took place in Poznań, west-central Poland, attended by Michael Schudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, and local Archbishop Stanislaw Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference.

At the end of the service, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, the Primate of Poland, said that the 25th anniversary of the Day of Judaism “should lead us towards what does not end, to the eternity of God, before whose face we stand.”

“This is also the source of our hope and joy,” he said.

Judge dismisses ex-seminarian’s lawsuit against Pontifical North American College seminary

The Pontifical North American College is a major seminary in Rome that educates seminarians from U.S. diocese and elsewhere. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jan 18, 2022 / 12:37 pm (CNA).

A New York judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a former seminarian against the Pontifical North American College major seminary and its administrators, stating that the New York court does not have jurisdiction over the Rome-based seminary and its employees.

In a civil lawsuit filed in February 2021, plaintiff Anthony J. Gorgia, a former student at the NAC, had sought $125 million in damages in civil court against the seminary, as well as rector Father Peter Harman, former vice rector Father Adam Park, and NAC lecturer Father John G. McDonald, along with New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan and the Archdiocese of New York.

Gorgia claimed in the lawsuit that he had been blocked from continuing his studies for the priesthood after he witnessed Park, then the vice rector, give an inappropriate back rub to a subordinate seminarian.

Lawyers for Gorgia and the plaintiffs were not immediately available for comment on Jan. 18 prior to publication.

According to court documents, Judge Lizette Colon of the New York State Supreme Court in Richmond County (Staten Island), New York, granted the defendants’ motions to have the complaints dismissed on Jan. 13, following a virtual hearing held on Jan. 5. 

Gorgia had originally filed suit on 12 causes of action, including defamation, wrongful discharge, sexual harassment, emotional distress, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, interference with prospective economic advantage, and Title VII discrimination.

He later filed a cross-motion to withdraw the Title VII discrimination, sexual harassment, and defamation causes, and the request was granted by the judge. A request to add additional complaints to the suit for breach of implied contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing were denied.

Gorgia's request for the court to permit the late service of the complaint was also denied.

According to the court’s decision, the dismissal of the suit against defendants was granted on multiple grounds, including because the plaintiff failed to provide adequate evidence that the New York court has personal jurisdiction over the NAC and its administrators, since the school’s primary place of business is in Rome, Italy.

“The court’s exercise of jurisdiction over the NAC, Harman, Park, and McDonald would also be improper as it would violate the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” Colon wrote in her decision.

Colon also granted the dismissal because, she said, the plaintiff failed to properly serve the defendants with the lawsuit.

The judge granted the dismissal of the complaints against the Archdiocese of New York and Dolan for failure to timely serve the complaint, lack of subject matter jurisdiction and the ministerial exception doctrine, and failure to allege facts sufficient to state a cause of action.

Colon declined to impose sanctions on Gorgia as requested by the Archdiocese of New York and Dolan for filing “a frivolous and harassing lawsuit.”

“The Court finds the Plaintiff’s actions in filing his complaint were not frivolous … and were made with a good faith basis. The imposition of sanctions is not warranted,” the judge wrote.

Gorgia began his seminary studies in 2015 for the Archdiocese of New York. In the summer of 2017, he started at the North American College in Rome, the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, he left the NAC in 2018 for a period during the first semester of his second year of formation to undergo an operation on his spine in his home diocese.

In the lawsuit, Gorgia accused Harman, Park, and McDonald of creating “false accusations'' about him to prevent his planned return to the seminary after an estimated six-week recovery period. Gorgia claims this was done because of his heterosexual orientation and the defendants’ desire “to protect themselves from exposure of their predatory homosexuality at the NAC.”

The lawsuit stated that Gorgia submitted a letter of resignation as a seminarian of the archdiocese of New York in January 2019, “under duress.”

The suit also claimed that Cardinal Dolan did not fulfill his responsibilities toward Gorgia as a seminarian of his archdiocese by refusing to meet with him or hear his side of the story, and by asking him to complete a nine-month parish internship assignment before being considered for a return to the NAC based on, Gorgia claims, three “utterly false” reasons.

The Archdiocese of New York had said the claims in the case “are absurd and have no basis in fact or law. We are prepared to defend against it, and are seeking its dismissal in court.”

Pope Francis to confer new lay ministries for first time in St. Peter’s Basilica

Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the first Sunday of the Word of God Jan. 26, 2020. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2022 / 08:20 am (CNA).

The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will confer the ministries of catechist, lector, and acolyte upon lay men and women for the first time in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday.

Candidates from three continents will receive the new ministries during the papal Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God on Jan. 23.

Two people from the Amazonian region in Peru will be formally made catechists by the pope, along with other candidates from Brazil, Ghana, Poland, and Spain.

The ministry of lector will be conferred on lay Catholics from South Korea, Pakistan, Ghana, and Italy.

Each of these ministries will be conferred through a rite prepared by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments that will be presented for the first time, according to a Vatican communique issued on Jan. 18.

“Before the homily, the candidates will be summoned, called by name and presented to the Church,” it said.

Those called to the ministry of lector will be presented with a Bible, while catechists will be entrusted with a cross.

In this case, it will be a copy of the pastoral cross used by popes St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II.

Pope Francis established the ministry of catechist as an instituted, vocational service within the Catholic Church last May.

The newly instituted ministry is for lay people who have a particular call to serve the Catholic Church as a teacher of the faith. The ministry lasts for the entirety of life, regardless of whether the person is actively carrying out that activity during every part of his or her life.

According to the apostolic letter Antiquum ministerium, a lay person called to be instituted in the ministry of catechist should have “deep faith and human maturity,” be an active participant in the life of the Christian community, and “capable of welcoming others, being generous and living a life of fraternal communion.”

Among the candidates to be inducted into the ministry by Pope Francis this week is the president of the Roman Oratory Center, which was founded by Arnaldo Canepa, who dedicated more than 40 years of his life to the catechetical instruction of children.

The pope changed Church law in January 2021 so that women can be formally instituted to the lay ministries of lector and acolyte.

In the apostolic letter Spiritus Domini, the pope modified the Code of Canon Law, which previously limited the ministries to lay men.

A lector is a person who reads Scripture — other than the Gospel, which is only proclaimed by deacons and priests — to the congregation at Mass.

After abolishing the minor orders, Pope Paul VI wrote that an acolyte was a ministry in the Church with the “duty to take care of the service of the altar, to help the deacon and the priest in liturgical actions, especially in the celebration of the Holy Mass.”

Potential responsibilities for an acolyte include distributing Holy Communion as an extraordinary minister if such ministers are not present, publicly exposing the Eucharist for adoration in extraordinary circumstances, and “the instruction of the other faithful, who, on a temporary basis, help the deacon and the priest in liturgical services by carrying the missal, cross, candles, etc.”

Due to travel restrictions related to the outbreak of the omicron variant of COVID-19, candidates from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda will not be able to take part in the Mass, as originally planned. Attendance in St. Peter’s Basilica will also be limited to only 2,000 people as a precaution.

The Mass will be broadcast live by EWTN at 9:30 a.m. Rome time (1:30 a.m. MDT).

Cardinal Parolin and Archbishop Peña Parra test positive for COVID-19

Cardinal Pietro Parolin attends an ordination at the Basilica of Sant'Eugenio in Rome, Sept. 5, 2020. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2022 / 07:05 am (CNA).

Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra have tested positive for COVID-19, the Holy See press office confirmed on Tuesday.

Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, has “very mild” symptoms, while his Venezuelan substitute, Peña Parra, is asymptomatic, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told journalists on Jan. 18.

Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra meets with Pope Francis in Vatican City on August 17, 2018. .  Vatican Media
Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra meets with Pope Francis in Vatican City on August 17, 2018. . Vatican Media

Both members of the Roman Curia were fully vaccinated and had received booster shots.

Earlier this week, Parolin, who travels frequently for his diplomatic role, canceled a trip to Erba in northern Italy scheduled for Feb 6. The cardinal turned 67 on Jan. 17.

Parolin issued further coronavirus restrictions within Vatican City last month, requiring people to provide either proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or evidence of recovery from it to enter Vatican offices.

Many cardinals have tested positive for COVID-19 since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, including Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Cardinal De Donatis, and Cardinal Raymond Burke.

Pope Francis sends aid to migrants at Belarus border and victims of typhoon in Philippines

Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Jan. 5, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has sent 100,000 euros (around $114,000) in aid to migrants at the border between Poland and Belarus, the Vatican said on Tuesday.

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development announced on Jan. 18 that the pope had also given the same sum to victims of a devastating storm in the Philippines.

The Vatican department said in a press release that the pope had earmarked the funds for migrants living in freezing winter conditions along the roughly 250-mile border separating Poland and Belarus.

It said that the money would also help Caritas Poland, the country’s biggest charitable organization, “to address the migratory emergency on the border between the two countries.”

The border crisis flared up last summer when thousands of people, largely from Middle Eastern countries, sought to enter the European Union by crossing the Belarus-Poland border.

The Polish government and the EU accused Belarus of helping the migrants to gather at the frontier and enter Poland, an EU member state since 2004. The Belarusian government, led by President Alexander Lukashenko, denied the claim.

Polish officials argued that Belarus, a landlocked Eastern European country, fomented the crisis in response to sanctions imposed by the EU after Lukashenko declared victory in a disputed presidential election in August 2020.

The border crisis has also affected Lithuania and Latvia, both EU member states neighboring Belarus.

Poland responded to the crisis by declaring a state of emergency in the area, fortifying the border, and repelling groups seeking to force their way across with tear gas and water cannons.

The Belarusian government appeared to take steps to de-escalate the crisis in November. Almost 4,000 Iraqi citizens have been repatriated from Belarus, Iraq’s foreign minister said on Jan. 16.

Médecins Sans Frontières announced earlier this month that it had withdrawn its teams after Polish authorities repeatedly denied them access to migrants living in a forested border area in sub-zero temperatures.

“We are concerned that the current policy of restricting access to aid organizations and volunteer groups could result in yet more migrants and refugees dying,” it said on Jan. 6.

“These policies are yet again another example of the EU deliberately creating unsafe conditions for people to seek asylum at its borders.”

Papal funds will also help relief efforts in the Philippines after Super Typhoon Rai struck the southeast Asian country in December.

The tropical cyclone, known locally as Typhoon Odette, killed more than 400 people and has affected more than 7 million others, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The Vatican dicastery said that the funds would be sent to the worst-affected dioceses with help from the apostolic nunciature in the Philippines.

“It is intended to be an immediate expression of the Holy Father’s feeling of spiritual closeness and paternal encouragement towards the people and territories affected,” the dicastery said, recalling that the pope prayed for victims at his Sunday Angelus on Dec. 19.

“This contribution, which accompanies the prayer in support of the beloved Filipino population, is part of the aid that is being activated throughout the Catholic Church and that involves, in addition to various episcopal conferences, numerous charitable organizations,” it said.

Vatican asks bishops to invite local Protestant and Orthodox leaders to participate in synodal path

Cardinal Kurt Koch and Cardinal Mario Grech. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA and Diocese of Gozo via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2022 / 04:05 am (CNA).

The Vatican has issued a letter asking Catholic bishops to invite local Orthodox and Protestant leaders to participate in the diocesan stage of the two-year process leading to the 2023 Synod on Synodality.

Cardinal Mario Grech, the general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, wrote a letter together asking Catholic dioceses to embrace the “ecumenical dimension” of the synodal process.

“The dialogue between Christians of different confessions, united by one baptism, has a special place in the synodal journey,” said the letter highlighted by the Vatican on Jan. 17.

“Indeed, both synodality and ecumenism are processes of ‘walking together.’”

Offering “some practical suggestions to ensure the ecumenical dimension of the synodal journey,” the cardinals encouraged bishops to reach out to leaders of other Christian communities in their area.

“After identifying the main Christian communities present in the area, [the bishop] should prepare and send a letter to their leaders (or better visit them personally for this purpose),” their letter said.

The bishops should then invite local Christian leaders to send delegates to pre-synodal diocesan meetings and submit written reflections on questions included in the preparatory documents.

National bishops’ conferences are likewise asked to invite representatives from other Christian communities and national councils of churches to participate in the synodal process.

The Synod on Synodality is a global, two-year consultative process of “listening and dialogue” that began in October 2021. The first stage is a diocesan phase expected to last until Aug. 15.

The Vatican has asked all dioceses to participate, hold consultations, and collect feedback on specific questions laid out in synod documents. At the end of the current process, an assembly of the Synod of Bishops is scheduled to take place in Rome in October 2023 to produce a final document to advise the pope.

The letter, signed on Oct. 28, was referred to in a Vatican press release on Jan. 17 ahead of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which takes place on Jan. 18-25.

The theme of this year’s Week of Prayer is “We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).

Cardinal Grech and Cardinal Koch said: “Like the Magi, Christians too journey together (synodos) guided by the same heavenly light and encountering the same worldly darkness.”

“They too are called to worship Jesus together and open their treasures. Conscious of our need for the accompaniment and the many gifts of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we call on them to journey with us during these two years and we sincerely pray that Christ will lead us closer to Him and so to one another.”

The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity shared a prayer which it said could be added to the other intentions of the Week of Prayer:

Heavenly Father,
as the Magi journeyed towards Bethlehem led by the star,
so by your heavenly light,
guide the Catholic Church to walk together with all Christians during this time of synod.
As the Magi were united in their worship of Christ,
lead us closer to your Son and so to one another,
so that we become a sign of the unity that you desire for your Church and the whole creation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Ahead of trial, Finnish MP facing jail after tweeting Bible verse says case a test of religious freedom

Päivi Räsänen, Finland’s interior minister from 2011 to 2015. / Screenshot from ADF International’s YouTube channel.

Helsinki, Finland, Jan 18, 2022 / 03:15 am (CNA).

A former government minister facing jail after tweeting a Bible verse said that her trial next week will be a test of religious freedom.

Päivi Räsänen, a physician and mother of five, explained that she had a “calm mind” ahead of the criminal trial beginning on Jan. 24.

“I trust that we still live in a democracy, and we have our constitution and international agreements that guarantee our freedom of speech and religion,” said Räsänen, Finland’s interior minister from 2011 to 2015.

“If I win the case, I think that it is a very important step for freedom of speech and religion. I think it’s not only important for Finland but also in Europe and other countries.”

“If I’m convicted, I think that the worst consequence would not be the fine against me, or even the prison sentence, it would be the censorship.”

“So, now it is time to speak. Because the more we are silent, the narrower the space for freedom of speech and religion grows.”

According to ADF International, a Christian legal group that is supporting her, Räsänen could be given a two-year prison sentence for the tweet, after the Finnish Prosecutor General filed criminal charges against her on April 29, 2020.

The MP could also face additional jail time if convicted of two other alleged offenses relating to her comments in a 2004 pamphlet and on a 2018 television program, the group said.

The Prosecutor General charged Räsänen with incitement against a minority group, arguing that her statements were “likely to cause intolerance, contempt, and hatred towards homosexuals.”

ADF International noted that Räsänen’s comments did not violate Twitter’s policies or the rules of the national broadcaster that screened the 2018 program, which is why they remain available on their platforms.

Finland is a country with a population of 5.5 million people, bordering Norway, Russia, and Sweden. Around two-thirds of the population belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, one of the country’s two national churches, alongside the Finnish Orthodox Church.

The 62-year-old MP, who was chairwoman of the Christian Democrats party from 2004 to 2015, is an active member of the Finnish Lutheran Church. But she questioned her church’s sponsorship of an LGBT pride event in 2019.

On June 17, 2019, she asked in a Twitter post how the sponsorship was compatible with the Bible, linking to a photograph of a biblical passage, Romans 1:24-27, on Instagram. She also posted the text and image on Facebook.

“The purpose [of] my tweet was in no way to insult sexual minorities. My criticism was aimed at the leadership of the church,” she told the journal First Things in 2020.

Police began investigating Räsänen in 2019. She faced several police interviews and had to wait more than a year for the Prosecutor General’s decision.

Juhana Pohjola, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, was also charged for publishing Räsänen’s 2004 pamphlet “Male and Female He Created Them.”

The International Lutheran Council issued a statement in July 2020 describing the decision to prosecute Räsänen as “egregious.”

It said: “The vast majority of Christians in all nations, including Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, share these convictions. Would the Finnish Prosecutor General condemn us all? Moreover, shall the Finnish state risk governmental sanctions from other states based on the abuse of foundational human rights?”

Paul Coleman, ADF International’s executive director, said: “In a free society, everyone should be allowed to share their beliefs without fear of censorship. This is the foundation of every free and democratic society.”

“Criminalizing speech through so-called ‘hate speech’ laws shuts down important public debates and poses a grave threat to our democracies. These sorts of cases create a culture of fear and censorship and are becoming all too common throughout Europe.”

“We hope and trust the Helsinki District Court will uphold the fundamental right to freedom of speech and acquit Päivi Räsänen of these outrageous charges.”

AMERICA/BRAZIL - "Solidarity is fundamental to follow Jesus Christ who stood alongside the most deprived": floods hit Marabà

Marabà - The city of Marabá, in the state of Pará, is going through difficult times due to the flooding of the Itacaiúnas and Tocantins rivers. Local authorities and organizations , as well as the Church, strive to build shelters, transfer homeless people, provide food, mattresses, clothing and other aid to those affected by the floods. The Diocese of Marabá, with its communities, priests, religious and pastoral workers, is caring for the families affected by the floods, collecting and providing aid to those who need it most. "We are united with the people who suffer and with all the people, the realities, the authorities who help the people who suffer. Solidarity is fundamental to following Jesus Christ who stood at the side of the most deprived people. Love for God, for others as well as for oneself, is the word of Jesus to be followed and lived", said the Bishop of Marabá, Mgr. Vital Corbellini, recalling that donations are collected by the parish secretariats.
On Sunday, January 16, after the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis recalled the recent floods that hit the country recently, with these words: "I express my nearness to the people hit by strong rain and flooding in various regions of Brazil during these past weeks. I am especially praying for the victims and their families, and for those who have lost their homes. May God sustain the efforts of those who are providing relief". The torrential rains that have been raging since December in the northeastern region of Brazil, affecting in particular the states of Bahia, Minas Gerais, Espirito Santo and Goias, have caused floods, landslides with the consequent loss of homes, schools and workplaces .

ASIA/SYRIA - Men and women consecrated together to bear witness to Christ in the midst of the tribulations of the Syrian people

Damascus – More than seventy consecrated Catholics, men and women, have gathered in Damascus in recent days to discuss and reflect together on the present and the future of their vocation lived in a Syria brought to its knees by the war, which continues to represent a fragile fault line on which conflicts and tensions between regional and global powers that compete for control of the Middle East are discharged. The meeting, organized by the Damascene headquarters of the Greek-Melkite Catholic Patriarchate from January 17 to 19, is the first opportunity to take stock of the mission of consecrated Catholics in Syria, called to bear witness to Christ in a context still populated by the ghosts of the war and marked by the economic sanctions imposed by the West to hit the government apparatus headed by Bashar Assad. The opening session of the meeting also saw the participation, among others, of Cardinal Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio in Damascus and Franciscan Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo for Catholics of the Latin rite and president of the Episcopal Committee for Consecrated Life in Syria. Annie Leon Demiregian, member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary, recalled that all consecrated men and women, according to their vocation, are also called to grasp the "signs of the times", according to the teaching of Jesus. At a time when we are living under the pressure of so many emergencies that mark daily life in Syria", she noted in her speech, also summarized on the Arab website, "it can, in some ways, be easier to perceive what is really needed to accompany and heal the wounded lives of so many people, witnessing together in deeds the liberation and consolation promised by Jesus but every human being. Several speakers, including Cardinal Zenari and Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, underlined that the meeting of consecrated persons gathered in Damascus is an eloquent sign of the participation of the baptized of the Catholic Church in Syria in the synodal journey which began with a view to the next general assembly of the Synod of Bishops, scheduled for 2023. During the most violent years of the Syrian conflict, the consecrated men and women of the Catholic Church bore witness to Christ by sharing with the Syrian people the sufferings, difficulties and tribulations, even to the shedding of blood.

ASIA/MYANMAR - Army bombs on Christian refugees

Loikaw - Three dead and seven wounded, all Catholics, so much terror and tears: this is the toll of the air raid that the Burmese army, "Tatmadaw", launched in the early hours of January 17, on refugee camps in the forests around Loikaw, the capital of the Burmese state of Kayah, in the east of the country. As sources in the local Catholic Church report to Fides, the refugees had fled from their villages and from Loikaw, which has now become deserted, while clashes raged between the army and the People's Defense Forces, spontaneous militias that appeared in the whole country following the February 1, 2021 coup. Among the internally displaced there are many Catholics, who have abandoned their homes and parishes to take refuge in the forests. In these wooded areas, densely populated with around 600 innocent civilians - the elderly, women, children - the "Tatmadaw" launched air raids that killed three people: two sisters, Natalia, 18, and little Rosetta, 7; and a man, Felice, aged 50. Another seven are the wounded in need of care. All had fled from the nearby village of Moso, where on December 24 the charred bodies of at least 35 civilians, all Catholics, were found, killed by Burmese soldiers in what was called "the Christmas massacre". This morning, January 18, the Catholic community gathered in the bush to celebrate a simple and sober funeral rite, amidst general emotion, while the Catholic priest, Fr. Jacob Khun delivered brief words to the memory of the victims, inviting to hope and prayer. In eastern Myanmar, fighting and aerial and artillery shelling continue. In recent days, the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Doukhu has also been affected, while churches are often turned into reception centers for refugees. Buddhist temples were also emptied and monks fled. The six Catholic parishes in the city of Loikaw are deserted, and the faithful, exposed to hunger, cold, poverty and violence, need material help and spiritual comfort. Displaced Catholics, notes to Fides Gabriel, one of the baptized in Moso, live "in persecution but trust in God, Savior and protector, in the certainty that he will not abandon us". We have nothing, we need everything, but the Lord will provide it".