ASIA/SYRIA - The icon of the "Mysterious Supper" returns to the Syrian village of Maalula
18/01/2019

Maalula - A copy of the icon of the Mysterious Supper - stolen from the shrine of St. Sergius and Bacchus in Maalula in 2014 when the Syrian village was occupied by al-Nusra jihadists - has been relocated to the ancient altar. The initiative to have a faithful copy of the icon painted and brought back to Maalula was inspired and brought to completion thanks to the collaboration that involved the NGO Perigeo, the Zaccaria Institute of the Barnabite Fathers of Milan and the University Center for the international solidarity of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart. The icon - symbol, explain the architects of the initiative in a statement sent to Agenzia Fides, "returns to reunite the Syrian Christian community, to testify that the violence of terrorism can only strengthen the identity of those who believe in peaceful coexistence".
During their visit to Syria, the leaders of the institutions involved in the initiative, also delivered a reproduction of Our Lady of Providence, donated by the Barnabite Fathers to Mar Ignatios Aphrem II, Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, along with some contributions for initiatives and projects to support groups of young people in Damascus, Maalula and Aleppo. The delegation was also able to visit the city of Homs, and also made contact to launch a series of activities in favor of the Syrian people, "which calls for recognition and attention" in a delicate phase, characterized by the need to support the reconstruction and national reconciliation after the devastating years of the conflict.
Maalula, 55 km northeast of Damascus, known worldwide for being one of the places where Aramaic is still spoken, the language of Jesus, houses both the monastery of Saint Tekla - home to a Greek Orthodox female monastic community - and the sanctuary dedicated to Saints Sergius and Bacchus, that belongs to the Greek-Melchite Catholic Church.
Between September 2013 and March 2014, the rock village of Maalula was occupied by jihadist militias, in one of the most intense phases of the Syrian conflict.
After the reconquest of the village by the Syrian government army, the images and descriptions disseminated by government sources and also by international news agencies documented the devastation suffered by the Christian places of worship during the months of occupation by the jihadist militias. In particular, serious damage was inflicted on the Greek-Melchite shrine, where the church had been devastated, religious objects, images and sacred books had been damaged, and both the icons kept in the sacristy and the bells had disappeared, along with the cross that surmounted the dome of the convent.
The sanctuary of Mar Sarkis , was founded at the end of the fifth century and is dedicated to the saints Sergius and Bacchus, Roman soldiers martyred for their faith under the Emperor Galerius. . Hotel Safir is on the hill above the sanctuary, a hotel that dominated the village and had been chosen as the headquarters of the rebel militias.
Before being devastated by the civil war, there were 5,000 Syrians living in the rock village of Maalula, most of them Christians .
In the original icon of the Mysterious Supper

AFRICA/DR CONGO - Nearly 900 people killed in the West in clashes among communities
18/01/2019

Kinshasa - Almost 900 people were massacred in four villages in community violence in the west of the Democratic Republic of Congo , between 16 and 18 December. This was reported by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The massacre took place near Yumbi, in the province of Mai-Ndombe, about 300 km north of the capital Kinshasa and it apparently it is not related to the tensions regarding the elections held on December 30th but to rivalry between the Banunu and Batendé communities.
In addition to the victims there are serious material damages: 465 private houses and public buildings were set on fire or looted. These include two schools, a health center, a clinic, a market and an office of the Independent National Electoral Commission . Over 16,000 people have taken refuge in the neighboring Republic of Congo .
Following the massacre, the authorities in Kinshasa decided to postpone the vote in the area scheduled for December 30th.

ASIA/INDIA - Resignation of the Bishop of Tuticorin and appointment of successor
18/01/2019

Vatican City – Today the Holy Father has accepted the resignation from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Tuticorin , presented by His Exc. Mgr. Yvon Ambroise.
The Pope appointed Rev. Fr. Stephen Antony Pillai, of the clergy of Vellore, currently Director of the Diocesan Retreat Center and Professor of St. Paul's Seminary in Tiruchirapalli as Bishop of Tuticorin.
Rev. Fr. Stephen Antony Pillai was born on 22 June 1952 in Keezha Manakudy, Diocese of Kottar. He studied philosophy at Santhome Minor Seminary, Chennai and Arul Anandar College, Madurai and Theology in St. Paul's Seminary in Tiruchirapalli, he obtained a Masters Degree in Theology at the St. Peter's Pontifical Seminary in Bangalore and a PhD in Biblical Theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome.
Since his priestly ordination on May 7, 1979, for the Diocese of Vellore, he has held the following positions: Parish vicar of Our Lady of Lourdes Sanctuary in Chetpet ; Parish Vicar of the Sacred Heart Church in Polur ; Studies for a Masters Degree in Theology at the St. Peter's Pontifical Seminary in Bangalore ; Parish priest of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Thachambadi ; Studies for a Doctorate in Biblical Theology in Rome ; Missionary in Guadaloupe, France ; Director of the Catholic Pastoral Center of Vellore ; Professor at St. Paul's Seminary in Tiruchirapalli ; Parish priest of the Cathedral of Vellore ; Vicar General and Parish Priest of the Cathedral Vice Rector and professor at St. Paul's Seminary in Tiruchirapalli ; Parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in Chetpet, Vicar Forane and Member of the Episcopal Council of the Diocese of Vellore ; External lecturer at the Don Bosco Major Seminary, in Chennai and Pallottine Major Seminary in Mysore .
Since 2017 he has been Director of the Diocesan Retreat Center, and external Professor at St. Paul's Seminary in Tiruchirapalli.

AFRICA/NIGERIA - Resignation of the Bishop of Ijebu-Ode and appointment of successor
18/01/2019

Vatican City – Today Pope Francis has accepted the resignation from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Ijebu-Ode , presented by His Exc. Mgr. Albert Ayinde Fasina. The Holy Father appointed the Fr. Francis Obafemi Adesina, of the clergy of Osogbo, currently rector of Saints Peter and Paul Seminary in Ibadan as Bishop of Ijebu-Ode.
Fr. Francis Obafemi Adesina was born in Wenchi , on January 28, 1964. He has Nigerian citizenship. He completed his philosophical and theological studies at Saints Peter and Paul Seminary in Ibadan. He later obtained a Licentiate in Biblical Theology at the Pontifical Biblical Institute and a Doctorate at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome. He was ordained a priest on October 14, 1989 for the Diocese of Oyo. Later it was incardinated in the new Diocese of Osogbo.
Since his priestly ordination he has held the following positions: Collaborator at St. Benedict Cathedral, Diocese of Oyo ; Collaborator at St. Mary, Ilesa ; Parish priest of St. Augustine, Ipetumodu ; Chaplain of the Renewal of the Spirit ; Director of the Pastoral Center, then Diocese of Oyo ; Diocesan Coordinator of the Pastoral Plan ; Cappellano, Federal Polytecnic, Ede ; Diocesan Secretary, Diocese of Oyo ; Studies for a Licentiate in Biblical Theology at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, in Rome , Parish priest of the Cathedral of St. Mary ; Formator at the Saints Peter and Paul Seminary, in Ibadan ; Director of Art & Culture ; Studies for a Doctorate at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, Rome ; Dean of Students in Saints Peter and Paul Seminary, in Ibadan ; since 2013 Rector of Saints Peter and Paul Seminary, in Ibadan.

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