ASIA/VIETNAM – In the Missionary Month, the gift of new priests ready for mission

Ho Chi Minh City – In this Missionary Month and with the resumption of pastoral activities after the temporary slowdown of the Covid pandemic, the rhythm of the life of the Church, the fruits of vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life are flourishing throughout Vietnam. As Fides learned, in various simple celebrations or with a few people present, but full of love and joy, 46 new priests were welcomed by their respective communities and 8 new deacons, ready to give themselves to pastoral and missionary work. “The priest is a person who creates a special relationship with all the people around him”, underlined Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Nang, presiding over the priestly ordination mass of 19 deacons of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Ho Chi Minh City, on the morning of October 16, 2021, in the chapel of St Joseph Monastery. In his homily, the Prelate said: “The Sacrament of Consecration transforms an ordinary man into a Pastor of God. The priest is linked to other people around him with a special relationship, as he guides the community of the People of God and communicates, through the Sacraments, Jesus Christ himself”.
Also in Ho Chi Minh City, Bishop Joseph Dinh Duc Dao, former Bishop of the diocese of Xuan Loc, ordained eight new priests belonging to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and then ordained 8 other Redemptorist religious as deacons. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mass was celebrated simply within the congregation, in the absence of relatives and friends of the candidates and in the presence of only some members of the Congregation. The Bishop reminded candidates for the priesthood that “they have been chosen to serve God and his people”. Mons. Dao also invited the candidates to “be linked to God in order to live the Word of the Gospel and to serve the people of God with enthusiasm, as Jesus did”. Previously, on October 13, 2021, Bishop Peter Nguyen Van Vien, Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Hung Hoa in North Vietnam, presided over the ordination of 11 deacons, including one from the Hmong ethnic group, the people who live in the mountains in North Vietnam. Father Joseph Ma A Ca is the first priest among the people of this ethnic minority. According to the new Hmong priest “his priority is to evangelize and give the Good News to these indigenous people, to educate young people and to help them in preserving their culture, tradition and their language”.
Many believe that the priestly ordination of Father Joseph Ca will be an impetus to spread the word of the Gospel to people from indigenous groups in the remote mountainous areas where the Hmong people live, in poverty, in regions where it is difficult to travel and bear the seed of faith. The presence of the first priest could set an example for young Hmong to respond to the vocational call and serve their indigenous communities. “From the beginning the Lord loved me and chose me among others. And now I go up on the altar with joy. I offer to our Lord my soul and my body, which are as white as the shining light. I spread the good news to everyone to save men of all nations”: these are the words of the introductory rites sung at the beginning of the mass of priestly ordination of six deacons, celebrated on the morning of October 18 in the parish church of Tra Kieu, popularly known as the Pilgrimage center to the Blessed Mary, in the diocese of Danang, in central Vietnam. “The six new priests belong to the Lord and continue to walk the path Jesus walked”, said Bishop Joseph Ngan. “They began to live a new consecrated life in the spirit of service, love and forgiveness, in order to bring the lost sheep back to the Father and to approach those who need the mercy of God”. Addressing those present, Bishop Ngan highlighted the role of the priesthood in today’s social life, reminding the new priests that they should live “like the leaven that ferments for life and as the light that shines on earth”. In particular, priests need to “strengthen their fidelity to follow Christ in the trials of our time”, he said. In fact, “Without love, everything becomes insignificant”, he added. “Only those who are filled with love and grace can share that love with others and serve others, sacrificing themselves to help others, as our Lord, Jesus did”, he concluded.

AFRICA/UGANDA – Bishop of Lira to priests: “Always stay focused and firm to overcome challenges”

Lira – “The vocation to serve as a priest is a commitment that must be embraced with love and perseverance in the midst of challenges”. This is what the Bishop of the diocese of Lira, Mgr. Sanctus Lino Wanok said on the occasion of the Eucharistic celebration for his 35th anniversary of priesthood. “Love, perseverance and humility are among the basic conditions for success in the priestly ministry. Anyone who is called to serve as a priest – we read in the note sent to Fides – should be accompanied in a solid and spiritual journey and sustained in his formation, with the aim of abtaining a positive result in the Church”.
According to the text, the Bishop implored the priests to remain focused and steadfast despite the challenges, and, above all, to trust in Providence and in God’s care. “We must remain committed and determined in the fulfillment of our priestly obligations despite the many challenges that afflict the Church today”, he said, addressing the priests present. While thanking all those who have contributed to his priestly journey since his ordination in 1986, Mgr. Sanctus recognized the great support given to him by his parents and all those who guided him during his formation. His Excellency Mgr. Sanctus Lino Wanok was ordained a priest in 1986. In 2011, he was consecrated third Bishop of the Diocese of Nebbi before being appointed Ordinary of the Diocese of Lira in 2018.

AFRICA/TANZANIA – Archbishop of Dar es Salaam orders vaccination of all priests

Dar es Salaam – “Every priest has to be vaccinated against Covid 19 … It is a disease that touches us deeply because it costs us the lives of our loved ones. Let’s take it seriously”, said His Exc. Mgr. Jude Thaddaeus Ruwai’chi OFM, Archbishop of Dar es Salaam, who ordered the vaccination of all his priests. Mgr. Ruwaiçhi announced it during the burial ceremony of the former director of Tumaini Media, Fr. Paul Haule, at the Pugu Pilgrimage in the Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam.
In this regard, the Archbishop reprimanded those who understate Covid-19, stressing that it is a dangerous virus and a general tragedy that harms all people. He also warned against those who speak out against vaccination with unreliable arguments.
“We have prayed and asked God to bring us the vaccine against the coronavirus and now it has been found, but we refuse it. What else do we want God to do for us? God’s will is for us to live ..” . Let us ignore the chatter of the anti-vaccinators. Let us get vaccinated and ask God to protect us from this disease”, he emphasized. Mgr. Ruwaiçhi urges all people to follow the advice of health workers and continue to protect themselves from the virus.
At the beginning of the funeral service for Father Paul Haule in the parish St. Peter Osterbay in Dar es Salaam, the Vice President of Tanzania, Philip Mpango, called on the faithful to do everything possible to protect priests and women religious from infection with the coronavirus. He brought the greetings from President Samia Suluhu Hassan and expressed the grief of the entire government over the death of Father Haule. He was a good and humble priest who always preached peace and ethics in society.
A total of 304,603 people at risk have been vaccinated since the Tanzanian government started the vaccination program on August 3, 2021. Tanzania plans to vaccinate at least 35 million people, or 60% of the population.

ASIA/MYANMAR – Catholic priests and religious at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic

Myitkyina – Burmese priests, religious and lay faithful are on the front line to provide medical care to people who have been infected by the Covid-19 pandemic, while the country has registered about 5,000 new cases of infection every day in recent days. In many dioceses the work of solidarity is very extensive and constitutes a precious contribution to the common good. As Agenzia Fides learned, the Health Commission of the diocese of Myitkyina, in northern Myanmar, has mobilized numerous Catholic volunteers, in this moment of real emergency. Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng, the nun who knelt in recent months to stop the military, who has become an icon of non-violent protest, is among those who wore the gown and protections to conduct the anti-Covid test in the clinic run by the nuns. Sister Ann Rose and the nuns are welcoming the respect and gratitude of many families affected by Covid-19 and of the entire local population, for their dedication. “I am ready to give my life in the service and care of the needy and suffering. I pray intensely to the Lord to save and bless the people of Myanmar”, the nun told Agenzia Fide. Among the various structures, the diocese of Myitkyina has organized a special health center for patients affected by Covid, which provides complete assistance, including the administration of oxygen, to the sick and their families.
“In Myanmar it is not enough for priests and nuns to be only of a good heart. There is a need for priests and nuns who offer themselves without reserve, giving themselves in the name of Christ, for a genuine service to their neighbor, because Christ makes himself present in his suffering brother”, says Fr. Clemente to Agenzia Fides, from the diocese of Keng Tong.
The immense work of solidarity and material and spiritual sharing of the Catholic Church in Myanmar also emerges from the example of Fr. Marcian Thet Kyaw, parish priest in the Archdiocese of Yangon. The parish priest has opened a “Parish Covid Health Care” in his church dedicated to the Epiphany. The Center plays a very important role in Yangon by providing free Covid tests and offering first aid to the sick. Thousands of people in Yangon flock to the Catholic Center every day, which has become a symbol of the Church’s commitment to health services for the needy. There are numerous doctors and nurses, Catholic and non-Catholic, who provide voluntary service. Given the strong need for beds, the Catholic Center has recently expanded to occupy another available space in the church complex. Although the supply of oxygen for hospitals is controlled by the military, hundreds of patients with Covid-19 receive oxygen in this parish center: thanks to the help of some donors, the parish priest managed to obtain 25 devices to provide oxygen to the sick.
Fr. Marcian Thet Kyawha declares to Fides: “I thank the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus: we turn to her, our Mother, every day, and we are receiving a lot of help from donors, thanks to the Providence of God. We place ourselves under the heavenly protection of the Virgin Mary to save so many patients and so many desperate families”. Fr Marcian Thet Kyawha was also infected with Covid-19 and recovered. He now carries out his pastoral and social mission in assisting, consoling and accompanying, with material and spiritual help, the suffering.

ASIA/VIETNAM – Thirty-four new priests from the diocese of Vinh, who will also be ‘fidei donum’ missionaries in other territories

Vinh – “It is a day of great joy, a day of great blessing in the diocese of Vinh, which rejoices for 34 new ordained priests who will also be missionaries, where the Lord will call them to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel”: thus Bishop Alphonso Nguyen Huu Long, Bishop of Vinh, presented the solemn mass of priestly ordination which he presided over in the diocese of Vinh yesterday, July 25. As Fides learned, the Bishop noted: “We are living this moment of great happiness, in a time of great suffering in many parts of the world, especially while many people are fighting hard against the Covid-19 pandemic in Vietnam. This mass of presbyteral ordination should have been celebrated in the presence of all the priests of the diocese, together with many other religious, seminarians and faithful. We are living it in the presence of a small group, in the simplest way and in compliance with the precautionary protocols against Covid-19” . The new priests, the Bishop remarked, will be, precisely in this dramatic situation, like the “Good Samaritan”, bringing care and mercy to wounded hearts, and they will also be missionaries in remote places or even in three dioceses, where the Lord will call them to live.
“Evangelization – he recalled – is the task of every baptized person; the proper mission of every priest is to lead men and women to God in order to have the gift of salvation and eternal life”. Vinh is a diocese where there is an abundance of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. The Bishop recalled: “Priests are called to show their availability and happiness when they are sent for a pastoral service or for a mission in remote areas, in poor countrysides or in regions that are difficult to reach. The population in places of conflict, or where there are natural disasters or a high risk of contagion from a pandemic, really need the presence of priests to have material and spiritual comfort, help in overcoming pain, to receive hope”.
“The priests – said Mgr. Alphonso Nguyen Huu Long – are Apostles and were chosen by Jesus to work in his vineyard. Nowadays, in our world, it is not easy to find young people willing to give their lives to serve people in difficult and dangerous places. But the Lord continues to call young people ready to bring the seed of faith and the love of God to brothers and sisters in difficulty”. The Bishop then explained that he will send some priests to other dioceses in need of priests, sending them on mission “so that all the faithful can have good access to the Good News of the Gospel”. “In the context of the scarcity of priests, and while the population suffers severely from the pandemic and other causes, after a prayer discernment, I have decided to share half of these new priests with isolated territories, in other dioceses that lack priests. In particular, they will be ‘fidei donum’ in the diocese of Hung Hoa, in North Vietnam, which covers 10 provinces in mountainous and lowland areas with about 250,000 faithful but with a limited number of priests”. And he added: “In the diocese of Vinh we are blessed by God because he has given us so many priests and we are happy to share this precious gift with places where people desperately need a priest. We ask our new priests to dedicate their lives to service and to the glory of God until the rest of their lives, not worrying about where they will live, but only thinking about bringing souls to God”.
Turning to the new priests, he said: “You will show your love for God and your ardor, obtaining so many fruits of faith, saying in your heart: Lord, I come to do your will, we thank God who has given us 34 new priests, to bring the Good News, willing to care for the poor and vulnerable”. In this phase marked by the pandemic, the Catholics of Vietnam, in all dioceses, are working to provide for the essential, material and spiritual needs of the people in the quarantine areas and other people in need. Priests, religious and Catholic laity are volunteers to serve, on a pastoral and spiritual level, patients in Covid hospitals, considered a place of high risk of infection.

ASIA/IRAQ – Chaldean bishops and priests on upcoming political elections: faith and ecclesial belonging are not to be exploited for electoral purposes

Erbil – In the coming months, during the campaign in view of the political elections scheduled for October, it will be appropriate to ensure that the references to faith and ecclesial affiliations are not structured for electoral purposes. The Chaldean bishops and priests ask this before concluding the days of spiritual retreat they are spending together in Ankawa, a suburb in Erbil inhabited mostly by Christians. The warning is contained in the singular message spread during the days of spiritual exercises held under the presidency of Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, and marked by the spiritual reflections of Lebanese priest Raphael Traboulsi.
80 participants took part in the days of spiritual exercises, including 10 bishops. In the text of the aforementioned message, Chaldean bishops and priests invite citizens not to desert the polls and to choose their representatives among candidates who show that they have “competence and ability, that is, knowledge of politics and law, good behavior, a sense of the homeland, sincerity, integrity and courage. The ideal candidates – the message continues – are those who have the common good at heart, and do not have as their primary concern the defense of the interests of their own faction.
In the text, released by the official channels of the Chaldean Patriarchate, Bishops and priests address with pastoral concern to all “sons and daughters” of the Chaldean Church, confirming that they are heartened by the spectacle of their patience, constancy and love that so many show for their land, moved by faith, prayer and the precious treasure constituted by the testimonies of their martyrs. This experience of Christ’s embrace, perceived in the testimonies of holiness and martyrdom that punctuate the path of the Eastern Churches, consoles and reassures the lives of many also with regard to the present and the future, in the confident hope that evil will not prevail and the good seed of the Gospel will be able to grow even in the midst of so many difficulties, “as can be seen in the parable of the weeds and the wheat” recounted by Jesus himself in the Gospel of Matthew. Recently , Cardinal Sako himself had pointed out that the risk of fraud and the experience of having been “robbed” of the quota of parliamentary seats reserved by the electoral system for candidates from Christian communities, could also push many Christians to boycott the political elections. In an interview with the Rudaw media network, Patriarch Sako referred in particular to the “tiredness” of Christian voters, due to the widespread belief that the Christian quota “will be hijacked again” by hegemonic parties and political forces.
The Iraqi electoral system reserves 5 of the 329 parliamentary seats for Christian candidates.

ASIA/MYANMAR – Six new Salesian priests, “gift and hope for the nation”

Mandalay – “The ordination of six new Salesian priests is a great gift and hope for the nation. The mission of each of them is to announce and live the Gospel and to be a Good Shepherd in this time of crisis”, says Archbishop Marco Tin Win, Archbishop of Mandalay to Agenzia Fides, who presided over the solemn Holy Mass of ordination held yesterday, June 24 in Aniskan, Pyin Oo Lwin, in the Mandalay region.
The six newly ordained religious are of different ethnic groups and will carry out pastoral service in four different dioceses of Myanmar. Archbishop Tin Win underlined the important role of priests in the time of crisis and difficulty that the nation is experiencing: “They are men of God, they are generally respected, they are close to the people, they give consolation and hope. In this I fear that our churches are also subject to raids and searches by the army. The priests are courageous, but prudent. Often they help the poor, the vulnerable and the sick in hiding. For their humanitarian work of proximity to the needy they can be accused of supporting armed groups and being arrested”, he notes.
“They are men who show the merciful face of the Father towards every man and who, with prayer and the gift of the Sacraments, are the link between the community and the heavenly Father. Let us pray that Myanmar will always have priests, and holy priests”, he concludes.
Addressing the new priests, the Bishop said that the life of the priest is “like a bicycle race”, and one must be attentive to all obstacles and be prudent, but continue pedaling on the journey towards the Kingdom of God”.
The priests go to enrich the Salesian Family in Myanmar which, present in the nation in 1939, currently has communities in Mandalay, Myitkyina, Anisakan, Pyin Oo Lwin, Thibaw and Kalay Myo. The vice-province of Mary Help of Christians has about 60 religious, 2 Bishops while the Salesian Sisters Daughters of Mary Help of Christians are about 50 and there are hundreds of cooperators and lay volunteers. The Salesians respond to the needs of children, young people and their families in times of crisis, engaging above all in educational and pastoral activities.

EUROPE/ITALY – With two new priests, the Burmese community in Italy remembers “the suffering homeland” and prays for Aung San Suu Kyi

Monza – “We remember Aung San Suu Kyi in our prayers so that with the blessing of God she will have good health and the wishes of her heart come true”, says Sister Beatrice, a Burmese nun living in Italy, originally from Myitkyina, capital of the State of Kachin. If there was still any doubt as to how the Burmese religious community in Italy is experiencing what is happening in Myanmar since the coup of 1 February 1, on Saturday, June 19, which corresponds to Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday, completely dispelled it. The site is the International Theological Seminary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions of Monza, an ancient structure wedged in the largest enclosed park in Europe and run by Fr. Gianni Criveller.
The appointment is the celebration that follows the ordination of two new Burmese priests, Gregorio Ba Oo and Columban San Li, PIME missionaries who celebrate their first mass in Burmese.
Nuns, priests, seminarians and lay people fill part of the large park and listen to the songs of the Burmese sisters of the Sisters of Reparation, mainly from the Abbiategrasso headquarters. It is up to Mother Beatrice to introduce the function on “a day of joy, grace and gratitude because the Lord has blessed us in a special way by giving us two priests to make us live in his full presence”. Sister Beatrice has lived in Italy for more than 15 years, but her affection for her country has never died out: “We cannot but remember our beloved homeland which is suffering – she says – for the pain of the loss of her children, for the children who have lost their loved ones, for children who are fleeing, for the children on the battlefield who are working hard to overcome the wickedness of the men who govern it with cruelty and violence” . Wishes that belong to all Burmese: San Li, who is Kachin like Beatrice, and of Ba Oo who is Kayah, from the city of Paung Loung where his family lives and whom he will probably not be able to see again anytime soon: “I heard from them last Sunday and they are doing well. But our town has become a place full of people fleeing from neighboring villages”, refugees from a very bloody war especially in Kayah where the national army has not spared churches and villages that have been mercilessly bombed. The atmosphere in Monza is serene and the violence, although clearly present in the hearts of those present, is far away. Many nuns – mostly from Myanmar – wear the traditional clothes from their villages of origin.
Lin, a chef who works in Bergamo, arrives with two gigantic cakes: the first represents the two new priests and the other, Aung San Suu Kyi. Lin’s young daughter cuts the cake amid chants and applause. For a moment, Myanmar forgets the pain and, connected via the Internet in many places on the planet, celebrates the leader who led the young and fragile Burmese democracy for 5 years. The leader’s trial began a week with allegations lacking factual evidence and without the woman being able to meet her defense team more than twice. But in the world her defenders and supporters are not lacking and the Burmese Catholic religious in Italy pray for her and keep her in their hearts.