Church News 24 May 2020

As the Church celebrates the weeklong 5th anniversary of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter on care for the environment, the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya has pointed out that creation is a way through which humanity relates. 

“Creation not only reveals and points to our symbolic communion with the Divine but is also a concrete means for communion within the human family and within the lager biotic community,” the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya and South Sudan, Archbishop Hubertus van Megen said on Monday, May 18 while conducting a tree planting ceremony in Nairobi to mark Laudato Si’ Week(LWS).

He quoted Pope Francis’ words in Laudato Si’ that“As part of the universe, called into being by one Father, all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect.”

The tree planting ceremony which was attended by 15 people and televised through other media platforms due to safety measures put in place to stem the spread of Coronavirus was convened under the theme Everything is connected. 

Most Rev. van Megen emphasized that according to the Pontiff, “Human life is a pilgrimage in communion, along with the rest of God’s creatures, bonded together by God’s love.”

“Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother River and Mother Earth,” he said in reference to Laudato Si’.

Highlighting evil of social inequalities, the Nuncio said, “The Pope is also critical of the enormous inequalities in our midst, whereby we continue to tolerate some, considering themselves worthier than others.”

Speaking during the ceremony that was organized by the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM), a global network that works within the Catholic Church to better care for creation, the Pope’s representative also underscored that when humanity turns to self-love, it leads to exploitation of creation.

KENYA: AMECEA Mourns as CUEA’s African Theologian Prof. Nyamiti Joins the Ancestors

AMECEA chairman Rt. Rev. Charles Kasonde has sent a message of condolence to the Archdiocese of Tabora as tributes to one of the founding lecturers Prof. Charles Nyamiti who died on Tuesday May 19 2020 spreads across the eastern Africa region.

“I received with deep sorrow the news of the passing on to our heavenly home the icon of African theology Rev. Prof. Charles Nyamiti. On behalf of AMECEA, the Secretariat and the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), I would like to convey our condolence to you, the Archdiocese of Tabora and the immediate family of Prof. Nyamiti in this sorrowful moment,” the chairman of AMECEA has written to Most Rev. Paul R. Ruzoka who is the archbishop of Tabora.

Recalling the last moment when he met the deceased and Archbishop Ruzoka when they discussed his return from Nairobi to his home Diocese last year Bishop Kasonde says, “Although God blessed Prof. Nyamiti with many talents, he never fell short of faith in God his Creator and commitment to priesthood.”

“During the many years he served at CUEA, Prof. Nyamiti groomed and mentored many young people, the clergy, Religious and laity to explore the science of African theology and appreciate the beauty of fine arts through Church music, talents which he generously shared with many of his students and added flavor to the life of all who lived around him,” Bishop Kasonde added.

Prof Nyamiti served the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) in the Department of Dogmatic Theology from 1984 to 2001. When he retired in accordance with CUEA policy, he went back to Tabora Archdiocese his home Diocese.

In 2002, he returned to Nairobi on request by CUEA through its University council chairman the late Mgr. M. Mgulunde so that he would continue publishing his theological writings.

Discussing with AMECEA chairman about his second return to Tabora last year, Prof. Nyamiti wrote, “Conscious of age my bishop, Archbishop Paul Ruzoka, asks me to return to my home Diocese, a fact which I happily welcome, after 35 years of service to AMECEA in CUEA.”

Born in Tabora, Tanzania, in 1931 he was ordained to priesthood in 1962. Soon after in 1963, he was sent to Louvain University in Belgium where he graduated with a doctorate in Systematic Theology in 1969, a field in which he published more than 56 books. While there, he also developed interest in music with specialization in theory and composition. 

He also studied Anthropology in Vienna in Austria, a discipline which opened his eyes to the richness of African cultures and traditional religion.  This became the basis of his theological contribution in African Christological investigations where he portrays Jesus as “our Brother-Ancestor.

While in Nairobi, he taught at Hekima Jesuit School of Theology, St Thomas Aquinas Seminary and Apostles of Jesus Theology Scholasticate and he authored more than 56 theological books and articles.

In his eulogy the Vice Chancellor of CUEA Prof. Stephen Mbugua said, “He is certainly one of the greatest theologians CUEA has produced, having written more than 50 theological books and supervised many PhD theses in reflection of his work. When someone does a PhD as a reflection of his work, it means that he was an accomplished theologian. He researched on African ancestors, and now he has joined them.”

“From our sources, we know that he was very strict in his teaching but also in his supervision because he literary advocated quality and something that would contribute to Catholic theology, as a Systematic theologian. Even for those who did not have access to him, his books are available,” he added.

“Prof. Nyamiti was also a person of good morals and good faith. Many lectures here say that even when he talked about Jesus as an ancestor. Conceptualizing it to our African theology, an ancestor is a saint, a person who lived well. He always said that he did not mind meeting Jesus his Ancestor. He was always ready to die and never complained about his ailing health,” noted Prof. Mbugua.

“Going back to his Diocese last year, he carried with him a lorry load of books, meaning that even in his retirement he had not given up on his being a scholar. He is a big reference in the library here at CUEA, and he is still alive as a teaching material to our students and our lecturers, therefore he still lives on because of his contribution,” continue the Vice Chancellor who added, “I think CUEA should have something as a memorial to him.”

In an eulogy which circulated on YouTube, one described him as “the amazing Charles Nyamiti, a pioneer of inculturated theology” while another said, “What a journey! He served the Church so well, and now he rests among his own people.”

The Laudato Si’ week commenced Saturday, May 16 with online Prayer service. Other activities include tree planting, web conferencing.

A Laudato Si’ retreat and radio shows about the need for care of creation have been ongoing through-out the week and will be closed on Sunday, May 24, with an online Prayer service that will be live streamed via social media platforms. 

His Excellency Most Rev. van Megen further suggested a prayer on protection of creation for the good of all which seeks God’s intervention for the poor and the earth that are crying out.

“O Lord, seize us with your power and light, help us to protect all life, to prepare for a better future, for the coming of your Kingdom of justice, peace, love and beauty,” reads

SOUTH SUDAN: Bishop of Tombura-Yambio Diocese Declares Novena Over COVID-19 Pandemic

The Local Ordinary of South Sudan’s Catholic diocese of Tombura-Yambio, Bishop Edward Hiiboro Kussala has declared nine days of prayer for all the faithful to ask for God’s intervention for COVID-19 to come to an end as the Catholic Church begins days of preparation for the feast of Pentecost.

“The Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio invokes a novena to the Holy Spirit to pray for the descent of God’s Holy Spirit on the Republic of South Sudan and on the world for God to heal the world of the fear, confusion and difficulties the Coronavirus has brought upon us,” Bishop Hiiboro told AMECEA online in an audio clip Thursday, May 21.

“We take upon ourselves nine good days to pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit in the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit to help us respond to the challenges, the difficulties, the worries and the pains caused by Coronavirus,” the Bishop highlighted. 

For the nine days of prayer scheduled from May 22 to May 30, there are prayers composed with specific themes for each day where Christians will pray for solidarity, charity, mercy, support for the poor, peace, reconciliation, upholding the dignity of work, Laudato Si’ protection of environment our Mother Earth  and holiness of life.

The novena also has a general prayer to the Holy Spirit that will be recited by everybody. By receiving the Holy Spirit, with all its seven gifts, the Prelate said, “we will be able to stand strong in faith, in God and in the face of Coronavirus challenges.”

The Bishop encouraged all the faithful in his Diocese that, “God supersedes all the pain caused by Coronavirus, God heals, God cures, God fulfils all the human desires (and) we must get our hearts prepared, our minds prepared, our attitude prepared and let ourselves be open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

Reminding the people that even though there are no testing machines in the country, and there are no proper hospitals and other Personal Protective Equipment’s (PPE) required to handle the deadly disease, the Prelate said, “Our hospital is God himself, the facilities we need is God himself and therefore we need to reinforce our faith in him and follow his instructions.”

In his audio clip, the South Sudanese Church leader encouraged solidarity during this period of pandemic so that people should care and protect one another from contracting the virus. 

The Bishop further said that “We become instruments of God during this period of Coronavirus to heal this world by helping each other follow those simple and important instructions that we have been repeating.” 

Following reports that South Sudan’s Vice President Riek Machar and his wife tested positive of COVID-19, the Bishop anticipated increased fear among citizens in the nation and urged the government to implement rigorous measures to curb the spread of the virus. 

 “For this I want to call on the government to continue reinforcing all those measures that need to be done to prevent the spread of the virus to the villages,” he underscored. 

He further gave hope to the South Sudanese that “so many Nations have strongly fought the Coronavirus and have subdued it” and so South Sudan could also fight the same way. 

Meanwhile the Prelate has encouraged the Catholic faithful to enlighten the people that the virus exists in the country and COVID-19 is a killer disease which can only be contained by following the fundamental regulations issued by the government and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

“I also encourage all the people that as we pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit we may make use of the resources we have. I still encourage the use of herbal medicine and since the virus does not have cure yet, let us use anything that we know that can be of control of this virus,” the Bishop concluded. 

By Thursday, May 21, South Sudan had recorded a total of 481 confirmed cases of COVID-19 including four deaths and four recoveries.

KENYA: “Speak The Truth, Report Fairly” Bishops to Journalists

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) has urged journalists to be factual in their news reporting especially during this period of COVID-19 pandemic when so much information is being shared across social media platforms about the disease.

“As Journalists, you serve a fundamental purpose in society when you speak the truth and report fairly, objectively and accurately,” the Chairman of KCCB’s Social Communications Commission, Bishop Joseph Obanyi said on Sunday, May 17, while presiding over a televised Mass at Holy Family Basilica, Nairobi.

“I appeal to all members of the Press to understand that they have the responsibility of stemming the spread of fake news and to rediscover the dignity of journalism and the personal responsibility of journalists to communicate the truth,” Bishop Obanyi said. 

Acknowledging the challenges journalist are facing specially to cover news during this pandemic, the Church leaders encouraged them to be cautious not to be infected by the virus saying, “We call upon you to take care to protect yourselves from infection.”

The Bishops also appreciated the work journalists have been doing on disseminating information and keeping people abreast about Coronavirus.  

“We, as Catholic Bishops, appreciate the commendable work done by media houses and journalists in ensuring Kenyans are informed about Covid-19 and other important news,” Bishop Obanyi of Kakamega Diocese stated.

The Prelates further appreciated the work of health care workers who are in the forefront saving lives amidst challenges. 

In reference to the work done by health workers, the bishops have urged the Kenyan government “to sensitize, protect and support them do their work of saving lives.”

“We also request that Faith Based Organizations who run health facilities be included in governments’ support for infection prevention and control to be able to prevent infections and protect healthcare workers and other patients as we continue to offer essential health services,” Bishop Obanyi underscored.

In their statement titled “message of hope and encouragement,” the Bishops have continued to encourage adherence to safety measures issued by the government and the World Health Organization (WHO) as they ask for “individual’s responsibility” to stem the spread of Coronavirus.

MALAWI: PMS Malawi Awaits ECM Determination on Holding Children Congress

The Pontifical Mission Society of Malawi has suspended preparatory meetings for the first ever Children Congress scheduled to run from 12th to 17th August in the capital Lilongwe.

National PMS Director Fr. Vincent Mwakhwawa said they await determination from the bishops when they meet end June and the emerging trends on Coronavirus in the country.

“We have suspended the meetings especially here in Lilongwe and at the National office because they involve people coming together in groups, which is being discouraged as a preventive measure to containing further spread of the virus,” he said.

He said they are hopeful the situation will improve, hence ruling out cancellation of the congress.

According to Fr. Mwakhwawa, children in their respective homes are still reflecting on activities they were told to prepare for presentation during the congress.

PMS among others planned during the congress to discuss various topical issues affecting their social and spiritual welfare such as child protection against physical and psychological abuses, their responsibility in protecting and managing the environment.

The Congress is expected to be attended by over 1,000 children representatives drawn from all the eight dioceses in the country.

ZAMBIA: Churches Concerned with Intimidation of Media As Country Prepares for General Elections

The Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG) is greatly concerned with the continued intimidation and harassment of the media. 

CCMG is an alliance of four faith-based organizations namely the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ), Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflections (JCTR), and Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) through Caritas Zambia. It has been formed to help promote credible elections through non-partisan citizen monitoring.

In a statement, the CCMG Steering Committee Chairperson Fr. Cleophas Lungu said, “CCMG thus notes with concern the recent happenings aimed at limiting press freedom, censoring and intimidating the media. CCMG calls on government to take concrete actions to investigate and hold individuals accountable for any violations.

Fr. Cleophas Lungu also noted that in any democratic society world over, free press plays an important role.

“A free press plays an important role in a democratic society, allowing the dissemination of information and a space for the exchange of opinions and ideas. Particularly in these challenging times of the Covid-19, governments have a duty to uphold and protect the freedom of the press so that free information sharing is guaranteed,” he said.

Recently Mpika District Commissioner instructed Mpika FM not to host a paid for program featuring Mr. Hakainde Hicilema who is president of the United Party for National Development (UPND), an opposition political party.

Also, there were reports about unauthorized entry of suspected Patriotic Front cadres, the ruling political party, into Muchinga Radio studios in Chinsali on 15 May 2020 to disrupt yet another paid for program featuring UPND President via telephone, and another attack on Isoka FM on May 18 during an interview with the UPND President.

And in condemning the development Fr. Lungu said CCMG is concerned that such acts of intimidation represent a restriction of press freedom, which is a fundamental component of democracy.

He added that as the nation prepares for 2021 elections, the media must remain free as part of a democratic, transparent and credible electoral process. 

CCMG has however welcomed the statement by the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services noting that “it is a violation of the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act for any person to procure other people to storm a radio station and disrupt a broadcast program or order a broadcast station to broadcast in a certain manner.

CCMG has since called on government to hold the individuals responsible accountable for their actions. 

“Law enforcement agencies should investigate the incidents in Chinsali and Isoka and ensure that the individuals involved are brought to book. CCMG also calls on government officials to refrain from using their office to intimidate the media, and those who do so should be disciplined according to the appropriate procedures,” Fr. Lungu said adding “We call upon the Independent Broadcasting Authority to play its role in providing protection to the media through existing statutes to ensure that media houses operate independently.”

Founded ahead of the 20 January 2015, the Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG) is an alliance of four faith-based organizations formed to help promote credible elections through non-partisan citizen monitoring.

SOUTH SUDAN: Consider Total Lockdown in South Sudan, Archbishop Ameyu Appeals to Leaders

The Catholic Archbishop of Juba Most Rev. Stephen Ameyu Martin is calling on the government of South Sudan to consider total lockdown to prevent further spread of Coronavirus.

Speaking to ACI correspondent on Tuesday on a telephone interview in Juba Archbishop Ameyu said he prefers that the country goes for total lockdown, especially in Juba where the rate of infection is very high.

He advises the government to distribute food to citizens during total lock down to address issues of hunger and safety from this pandemic.

The archbishop expresses concern that some people are looking at Coronavirus as if it’s not a deadly disease. He urges the citizens to observe the health emergency measures seriously for their own safety.

MALAWI: What Happens to Education Sector If COVID-19 is Here to Stay?

Perhaps it is not only the education sector that faces a hard bite in Malawi if Coronavirus is here to stay as disclosed by the World health body. Having in mind that this sector is the backbone of other sectors, let’s see what is to be chewed this guest has really come to stay on this planet.

A week ago, The World Health Organisation (WHO) through its Emergencies Director Michael Ryan disclosed the likelihood that COVID-19 might be included on the list of viruses staying with humankind.

“This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities and this may never go away,” quoted Ryan on international media.

He added that efforts by countries and health stakeholders to combat the virus might not wipe out it entirely just like HIV.

“HIV has not gone away, but we have come to terms with the virus,” added Ryan. 

If Ryan’s prophecy comes true, Malawi’s education sector has a hard task to adjust staying with the visitor.

As a way of preventing the spread of the virus, social distancing has been recommended, but looking at the picture of pupils enrolled in our government primary schools, it is doubtful whether Malawi can implement it social distance in government primary schools. 

Social distancing demands the country to have more school blocks to be used by learners and more teachers to be recruited, a development achievement that Malawi has failed for decades.

Government secondary schools have a similar image of high students. The teacher ratio is a development that is to frustrate social distancing if we are to live with COVID-19 with schools open.

In an attempt to enroll more students in public institutions of higher education, the government adopted a policy of enrolling candidates based on class space. Though this was a good move as it helped more students to walk through the corridors of public universities and colleges, this could not be ideal if Coronavirus is here to stay with us. 

Many public universities and colleges face a challenge of limited class space as some courses have hundreds of students, filling the classrooms to door frames. If the virus is here to stay with us, Malawi will need millions of dollars for the education sector to adjust to living with COVID-19.

Propagandas splashed by politicians on additional schools and recruitment of teachers must be turned to reality if the virus has felt at home on earth, something that demands a healthy pocket to be done.

Private schools also face a similar challenge. The owners need to invest for them to live with COVID-19. The virus is to demand more teacher recruitment, additional space to be used for learning and other facilities that are to make social distance effective.  

SOUTH SUDAN: South Sudanese Bishop Resorts to Virtual Management after Confinement in Kenya

When Kenya issued directives to curb the spread of COVID-19 in March, including ban on inbound and outbound flights after a report of the first positive case, a South Sudanese Prelate Bishop Edward Hiiboro Kussala who was in Kenya for treatment found himself restrained from travelling back to his native country and opted to continue with management of his Diocese virtually.

In an interview with AMECEA Online on how the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio is being managed in his absence after staying in Kenya for about three months, the Bishop says he has formed an ad hoc committee to monitor the activities of the Diocese and he collaborates with the committee members through media platforms which he says are quite “effective.”

“I came to Nairobi for treatment and just when I got cured and I wanted to go back in March, the Coronavirus had overtaken the world and eventually Kenya imposed the regulations of quarantine and lockdown,” the Bishop said Thursday, May 21.

 “When I came to realize that it was not possible that I could physically be in the Diocese in Tombura-Yambio, I began thinking how I could use this period of Coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to continue with my work. I then appointed an ad hoc committee in the diocesan curia to monitor and to carry out the activities of the Diocese together with me and the people in the Diocese without saying the leader is not here,” he added.

The committee which is made up of 11 people, is chaired by the Vicar-General of the Diocese Fr. Thomas Bagbiowia and the Administrator of Diocesan Curia Fr. Ezekiel Sungerukuari.

According to Bishop Hiiboro, the committee looks into pastoral, spiritual and social activities and also what the Diocese can do about the Coronavirus pandemic.

“We always have meetings and the committee has actually helped me to organize the Diocese much better during this period,” the Prelate narrated. 

He acknowledged the significance of social media platforms which have enabled quick, effective and smooth communication such that even while away from his Diocese, he still manages to run it. 

“We normally hold meetings via Stream Yard, Zoom or Skype. We also use emails, WhatsApp and phone calls with the staff to see the things they do. So, we have found the social media to be a very useful,” the Church leader underscored. 

He added, “This is something we were not doing before. We used to call meetings, and a priest who lives about 100 miles away had to drive all the way to the Curia to meet with me. But now it is not the case. 

The Bishop calls upon the Church to grab the opportunity and use the social media platforms as evangelization instruments to reach out to the young people who normally use social media. 

While away from his Diocese, the Local Ordinary of Tombura-Yambio also created a committee dubbed “Diocesan Health Emergency Preparedness Taskforce” whose task is “to study what Coronavirus is all about and its impact in the community, to create awareness to the people, to study what remedy can be provided and also to help people prepare for the aftermath of the Coronavirus.”

“When Coronavirus goes, we will be prepared and we will not be shaken. The taskforce holds meetings with different groups to see that the diocese is engaged and involved in the society and in the community,” Bishop Hiiboro explained. 

The fact that the use of social media platforms can still make people interact so well and continue with other activities, the Bishop says that things may not be the same again post COVID-19. 

“Somethings are actually not going to work as we were used to after this pandemic. We are actually faced with the reality that we are going to reduce the number of our staff. At the moment we are assessing and seeing which departments we can merge together as sectors,” the Prelate disclosed.

“We are surely going to reduce the number of our employees which is going to be very sad because these are people we have trained and we have been working very much together but since most of our donors are affected by this Coronavirus, most of the projects may not take off and this is going to be very serious,” he added.

“The impact is going to be huge if the donors will not be able to supportive us and definitely we have to think of what we are going to do; how we will be able to raise money locally, look at the budget, the usefulness of the programs the Churches are carrying out,” the Bishop imagines

KENYA: Church Reaches Out to Needy Muslim Families in Malindi

The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission Office in Malindi Diocese (CJPC-Malindi), in collaboration with the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), other partners and people of goodwill, on 12th May 2020, donated foodstuff to 15 needy Muslim families in Mambrui area of Magarini Sub-county, Kilifi County.

The donation which included maize flour and beans was delivered by the Gongoni Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Samuel Kenga, accompanied by the CJPC – Malindi Coordinator, Mr. Moses Mpuria.

According to Mpuria, the donation is to supplement the farm produce the beneficiaries had.

Speaking during the event, Fr. Kenga said the Church’s preferential option for the poor targets all suffering persons, regardless of religious affiliation or cultural backgrounds.

Receiving the donation on behalf of the families, Mambrui Muslim leader Ustadh Muutaman of Madrassa Al-Ghannai appreciated the support rendered by the Catholic Church in Malindi, terming it good neighbourliness, ujirani mwema.

Ustadh Muutaman was instrumental in identifying the needy families through the inter-faith group initiative that has been in existence in Gongoni Parish for the purpose of development and peaceful coexistence of the people within the community.

“The decision to consult Ustadh Muutaman to help in identifying the beneficiaries was influenced by the realization that Mambrui was mostly populated by Muslims and lacked small Christian communities which are the means through which the Diocese identifies the needy,” Mpuria said.

The Diocesan Covid-19 Response Initiative was started on 21st April, 2020, as part of the overall diocesan initiative which has been in existence within the Lenten Campaign period.

The diocesan initiative has various projects within it such as Project 720, which targets to provide vulnerable girls with sanitary towels and has so far reached 250 girls. There is also the Self-care Plan for priests as well as provision of liquid soap, face masks and water packs to needy people as part of efforts to complement the ongoing campaign by the Government and the Ministry of Health to sensitize Kenyans on the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Mpuria, their baskets of donation have been categorized into two programs – the General Vulnerable Program and the Nutrition Program. The General Vulnerable Program has so far reached 150 families and caters for families that are dependent on a sole provider who is involved in casual work and cannot currently sustain the family due to the COVID-19 crisis. The Nutrition Program has reached 250 people and targets vulnerable groups such as the elderly, sickly and malnourished children below the age of 5 years.

Mpuria paid tribute to the CJPC National Office, the Pontifical Mission Society (PMS) National Office, the Italian Organization – Karibuni Onlus and parishioners from the Diocese of Malindi, for their continued support to the Diocesan Covid-19 Response Initiative.

He called on Kenyans to continue supporting the initiative through whichever means available.

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