AMERICA/MEXICO - The Bishops for the elections: to participate in order to transform

Mexico City - "To participate in the civic and political life of our communities is a civil and Christian obligation that we cannot and should not ignore. Only by participating we can positively transform our nation, in fidelity to its origins and to its historical destiny".
It is with this exhortation that the message "to the dear brothers and sisters of the pilgrim Church in Mexico" of the Bishops, on the occasion of the 2018 elections, published with the date of 19 March begins. The new President of the Republic will be elected next July 1 and the Federal Parliament, nine governors, numerous local deputies and more than 1,000 mayors will be renewed, for a total of more than 3 thousand elective jobs.
Recalling that this year, for the elections, 90 million Mexicans over 18 years of age will be able to vote freely and secretly, the Bishops recall "some elements that help the personal and community discernment that every Christian faithful is called to carry out in order to fulfill the moral obligation to elect its rulers and legislators".
In the text, sent to Agenzia Fides, the Bishops reaffirm that "the Christian faith transcends concrete political proposals and leaves the faithful free to choose in conscience according to the principles and values they have discovered in the experience of faith". Jesus Christ is at the center of our faith, who reveals fundamental truths to make life more dignified and free: "the respect that people deserve from the moment of conception to that of natural death, the importance of heterosexual and monogamous marriage; the validity of the most complete freedom to live individually and as an associate according to our options of conscience in religious matters; the ethical and social centrality that the poorest and most excluded of our societies possess, etc...".
Therefore the Bishops stress the importance of a "critical discernment" that in today's society allows us to choose, according to our conscience, "those who can fulfill the common good in a real and authentic way", for this reason they exhort all Christians and people of good will to participate, as "the more citizens participate in the elections in an organized way, the greater the chances are for our society to mature and be co-responsible in the management of the common good".
The text, signed by Cardinal José Francisco Robles Ortega, Archbishop of Guadalajara, and by Mgr. Alfonso Miranda Guardiola, Auxiliary Bishop of Monterrey, respectively President and Secretary General of the Mexican Episcopal Conference, then offers some practical indications, first of all prayer in the family and in the community, "so that the next elections take place in peace and harmony" and are an opportunity for all of us to work for the Mexican people "who today, in various regions, live a difficult reality and suffer". Therefore it is necessary to avoid to choose on the basis of the "lesser evil" at all costs, but to seek the "possible good", which means "promoting what contributes to the common good, peace, security, justice, respect for human rights, to integral human development and to real solidarity with the poorest and the excluded".
In all the parties one can find candidates committed to the common good, "therefore it is necessary to discern who to vote for". "The vote of Mexicans must produce responsible rulers and authorities, and generate a critical public opinion" the Bishops continue, stressing that "our vote requires sound control over our politicians: in their salary and activities, in the expenses of the parties and publicity, in projects and public works, in the control of corruption, illegality and the elimination of arbitrary choices".
In the final part of the message, it is reiterated that "only the participatory presence, constantly and in solidarity in the life of the country, gradually eliminates violence, corruption, impunity and complicity. It is time that Catholics, together with all men and women of good will, work tirelessly for a more prosperous and peaceful Mexico, more supportive and participatory, more attentive towards the poor and less complicit of those who forget them, manipulate them or marginalize them".
Finally, the Bishops rely on the intercession of Saint Mary of Guadalupe, so that she preserves peace in Mexico, and gives good rulers to Mexicans and allows to discover the ways of justice, reconciliation and hope.
AFRICA/TOGO - Attention and sharing in the 5 Christian communities of Kolowarè

Kolowarè - As Easter approaches, the spirit of attention and sharing in the Togolese communities grows. "Since our parish, Saint Léon IX, was born on December 17, 2016 - says parish priest, Father Silvano Galli, SMA to Fides - the parish council has also been operative, which immediately took its commitments very seriously and particularly in this Easter period promotes various initiatives".
"First of all, it divided our village of Kolowarè into five basic Christian communities with a president, a representative of various Movements and others elected by the community, plus three chosen directly by me, as well as a nun and myself", continues Fr. Galli.
"At the beginning of this Lent, with the help of the various CCBs, the most needy cases in their neighborhood were identified and thanks to the Caritas commission, basic foodstuffs were bought: rice bags, sardine packets, tomato packs, packs of spaghetti, oil cans, packets of nuts, and sixty bags to pack food, with as many bottles for oil that two leaders of Caritas, who came to the mission, prepared to distribute them at Easter", adds the missionary.
"Currently we are engaged in the search for resources to make the parish live, in the short and long term. For immediate resources we have found a new formula for a second collection. In the past few years, in fact, it was about one euro. Now instead, every Sunday a "differentiated" collection is made for each category: for births, for movements for CCB... And so we went from one euro to ten and more", comments Fr. Silvano.
"For long-term resources - continues the priest - the Council planted 60 little plants of cashew nuts, bought 60 bins to water them during the dry season. Cashews are used to sell the fruit at 850/900/950 francs per kg. But it takes about ten years before the tree produces".
"The Council meets every second Sunday of the month and is divided into various commissions: liturgy, feasts and works, Caritas, and others. It is in charge of following the catechumens of its community, children for baptism and, during Lent, it meets for the weekly meeting and prayer. In May and October we meet with each family of the various CCBs for the prayer of the rosary", concludes Fr. Galli.
AMERICA/BRAZIL - The first priest of the Baniwa people ordained in the diocese of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, he will work among his people

Cachoeira - Saturday 17 March was a historic day of profound joy in the Brazilian diocese of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, for the priestly ordination of Fr. Geraldo Trindade Montenegro, first priest of the Baniwa people, one of the 23 indigenous peoples present in the diocese. The event was prepared with care by the entire diocesan community, some traveled several days to participate in the celebration, which was presided by the Bishop, Mgr. Monseñor Edson Damian. In the liturgy, lived with great emotion and participation by all, some elements of indigenous spirituality were included, deeply linked to Christian life.
The new priest, Fr. Geraldo, was born in the community of Araripirá Cachoeira, on the Ayarí river, a border region between Brazil and Colombia. After his formation at the inter-diocesan Seminary of Manaus, he worked as a deacon for just over a year in his parish of origin, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción del Río Içana, where he will now continue his mission as a parish priest.
In a conversation with Agenzia Fides, Fr. Geraldo confides that he decided to become a priest as "an answer to a need of our region, where there is a lack of priests. At the beginning I felt called by this, but with time I discovered that being a priest is much more. To be a priest is to become the presence of Jesus in the daily world".
The same Fr. Geraldo asked the Bishop to work in his region, despite the initial fear of not being accepted in his land. In fact, "if they welcomed me" he added, "I think it will be easier for me to talk with my people and show them that a priest is another member of the community and not one who decides and commands or responds to everything, which unfortunately was very present in our Catholic evangelization".
The Baniwa people are living this moment with great joy and hope, as many catechists have told Fides. Many people in the region have difficulty understanding Portuguese and expressing themselves in this language, so they cannot understand the depth and meaning of what they pray or hear in the biblical text. For this reason, the arrival of someone who expresses himself in their language, is a sign of hope for a region where the presence of priests has been sporadic and transitory for a long time.
The diocese of São Gabriel de Cachoeira, on the border between Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela, is the diocese with the highest percentage of the indigenous population, which exceeds 90%. It has an area of 293,000 square kilometers and 23 indigenous peoples who speak 18 languages live there, three of which are official in the municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, Tukano, Baniwa and Nheengatú.
ASIA/LEBANON - The National Day of the Annunciation moved to April 9th

Beirut - The National Day of the Annunciation, usually celebrated in Lebanon on March 25th, this year has been moved to April 9th. This was confirmed by a document released Tuesday March 20 by the Maronite Patriarchate. The celebration was postponed because this year, for the Churches that follow the Gregorian calendar, March 25 coincides with Palm Sunday.
In Lebanon the Marian solemnity of the Lord's Annunciation has been proclaimed a national holiday since 2010, when the government was led by the Sunnite Saad Hariri. Every year, on the occasion of the feast, organizations of Islamic-Christian dialogue - starting from the Ensemble Autour de Marie group - promote feasts, meetings and celebrations in various parts of the Country.
The Christian solemnity of the Lord's Annunciation was recognized as a Lebanese national holiday with the declared intention of finding in the devotion to Mary - also shared among Muslims - a point of convergence among the different religious communities, in order to defuse even in this way the sectarian tensions that always threaten social coexistence in the Country, and that this year risk to reignite also in view of the political elections, scheduled for May 6th.
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