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Deluge, floods, landslides in Peru leave more than 80 dead, 111,000 homeless

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Catholic News Service

LIMA, Peru — Felicita Chipana was at work when the Rimac River began to rise. By the time she got home, her kitchen was gone, swept away by floodwaters that left scores of families homeless on the east side of this sprawling capital city.

“We have no water, no electricity, and there are mosquitoes everywhere,” she said as a bulldozer cleared sediment out of the river channel below what remained of her rustic house.

Agents of the Peruvian National Police rescue people from floodwaters March 17 near the Rimac and Huaycoloro rivers in Lima. (CNS photo/Ernesto Arias, EPA)

Agents of the Peruvian National Police rescue people from floodwaters March 17 near the Rimac and Huaycoloro rivers in Lima. (CNS photo/Ernesto Arias, EPA)

Her granddaughter had developed a fever after being bitten by mosquitoes, and her daughter had taken the child to the hospital.

Picking her way over boulders carried down the river by the flood, Chipana joined neighbors, who had also lost their houses, as Catholic Church workers coordinating emergency aid noted their names and the number of people in their households.

All morning, dozens of volunteers from several Lima parishes had gathered at Santa Maria Parish in Huachipa, in the Diocese of Chosica on Lima’s east side, the area hardest hit by flooding in March. They sorted and bagged donations of food and water for emergency distribution, setting aside huge sacks of clothes and bedding for later.

Unusually warm water in the Pacific Ocean off Peru is causing heavy rains on the usually arid coast, swamping cities that have poor drainage and destroying wood or mud-brick houses not built to withstand a downpour.

Rain in the Andes Mountains has triggered landslides, sending water and sediment cascading down rivers like the Rimac, blocking roads and sometimes burying vehicles.

As of March 23, 85 people were reported dead, 270 injured and 20 missing in the deluges. Nationwide, 111,000 people had lost their houses and another 670,000 had suffered damage to their homes.

Along the desert coast, flash floods raged down riverbeds that had been dry for years. Near Chipana’s house, floodwaters had swept away two trucks.

A video of a woman struggling out of a maelstrom of water, mud, tree trunks and rubble near a town south of Lima drew hundreds of thousands of viewers on YouTube.

“Urban neighborhoods have been built with no planning,” said Rocio Sanchez of the Chosica Diocese office of Caritas, the church’s humanitarian aid and development agency.

After landslides on the hilly east side of Lima in 2012, local governments stopped giving people title to lots in hazardous areas. But many neighborhoods have been built on unstable hillsides or in flood plains. Most residents of those neighborhoods are people who migrated to the city from rural areas, or, like Chipana, those migrants’ children.

Father Teofilo Perez, pastor of Santa Maria Parish, estimated that 750 of the 75,000 families within the parish boundaries have been affected. Some were stranded until the water level in the Rimac River dropped.

“People don’t take the necessary precautions,” said Father Perez, who became pastor in February, just before the worst of the flooding. “They’ve been building their homes closer and closer to the river.”

Father Perez grew up in Chiclayo, on Peru’s arid northern coast.

“As a boy, I never saw rain,” he said. Now his home town is partly underwater, along with other major coastal cities.

Farther north, farmers in Piura braced themselves last year when an El Nino was expected to pelt the coast with heavy rain. Instead, farmers battled drought.

So when rains came in January, people were grateful, said Manuel Alburqueque, director of the Jesuit-run Rural Research and Promotion Center (CIPCA, for its Spanish initials), in Piura.

But now nearly one-third of the people affected by the disaster live in Piura, where 10 hours of storms March 22 left the city awash. Peru’s weather service predicts that the rains will continue into April.

The Peruvian government has earmarked at least $800 million for reconstruction, which will include rebuilding nearly 200 bridges and repairing more than 3,700 miles of highway.

Periodic flooding has devastated Peru’s coast for thousands of years, but Alburqueque hopes that after the most recent disaster, residents and government officials will pay attention to zoning maps, to avoid rebuilding in high-risk areas.

“We need to build sustainable cities,” he said.

In Lima, Chipana is not sure what will happen to what’s left of her house.

“I’d like to move away from here,” she said, her eyes filling with tears. “But I have nowhere else to go.”

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World faces pressing need to protect water, Vatican official tells U.N.

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UNITED NATIONS — The right to clean water is a basic and pressing need for all people of the planet because without water “there is no life,” said the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations.

A man bathes at a public well in Colombo, Sri Lanka, March 22. (CNS photo/Dinuka Liyanawatte, Reuters)

A man bathes at a public well in Colombo, Sri Lanka, March 22. (CNS photo/Dinuka Liyanawatte, Reuters)

Addressing a U.N. meeting on water-related issues under the world body’s sustainable development goals March 22, Archbishop Bernardito Auza called on all nations to recognize the responsibility to care for and share water because it is a life-sustaining resource.

The archbishop’s comments came as World Water Day was being observed. The day has been set aside by international agencies and governments to focus attention on the need for universal access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in developing countries. Events also focus on advocating for sustainable management of freshwater resources.

WaterAid, a London-based international organization that helps communities access clean water and proper hygiene, said about 633 million people, nearly 10 percent of the world’s population, cannot get the water they need. The group made the comments in a report released March 22.

Archbishop Auza said there is an urgent need to protect and care for the earth, particularly its water supplies.

“Access to safe drinking water is a basic human right and a condition for sustainable development,” Archbishop Auza said. “Thus, it needs to be put front and center in public policy, in particular in programs to life people out of poverty.”

The U.N. nuncio said that competition for water can destabilize nations especially where aquatic resources cross national boundaries. He pointed to water experts and advocates who “ominously predict that the Third World War will be about water.”

Archbishop Auza also cited Pope Francis’ address to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, which he visited in Rome in 2014, advising the staff that “water is not free” and that its protection is vital to prevent war.

“Thus, rather than causing conflict,” the archbishop continued, “the need for water sharing should be an opportunity for cross-border cooperation and greater efforts toward adopting binding instruments to ensure stable and predictable transnational relations.”

He said nongovernmental organizations, joined by each person, must “assume our responsibilities” to preserve clean water for present and future generations to preserve peace and ensure that the earth is “more habitable and fraternal place, where no one is left behind and all are able to eat, drink, live healthy lives and grow in accordance with their dignity.”

Archbishop Auza also noted that an all-day conference being held that day at the Vatican, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Club of Rome. Titled “Watershed: Replenishing Water Values for a Thirsty World,” it drew about 400 policymakers, academics, business leaders and grass-roots advocates.

In a greeting to English speakers at his general audience, Pope Francis welcomed the participants, describing the conference as “yet another stage in the joint commitment of various institutions to raising consciousness about the need to protect water as a treasure belonging to everyone, mindful too of its cultural and religious significance.”

 

More information about World Water Day is available online at www.worldwaterday.org.

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Vatican releases pope’s schedule for May visit to Fatima

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Celebrating the 100th anniversary of apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Francis will lead the evening recitation of rosary and celebrate Mass on the anniversary at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima when he visits Portugal May 12-13.

A statue of Our Lady of Fatima is carried through a crowd in 2016 at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Francis visit Portugal May 12-13. (CNS photo/Paulo Chunho, EPA)

A statue of Our Lady of Fatima is carried through a crowd in 2016 at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Francis visit Portugal May 12-13. (CNS photo/Paulo Chunho, EPA)

The pope will make the two-day pilgrimage to the site where Mary appeared to three shepherd children May 13, 1917. The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.

During his visit, the pope also will meet with President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and have lunch with the bishops of Portugal.

Pope Francis will be the fourth pontiff to visit the Marian shrine, following in the footsteps of Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, who each made visits on a May 13 to mark the anniversary of the first apparition.

Here is the schedule for the pope’s trip to Fatima as released by the Vatican March 20. All times are local, with Eastern Daylight Time in parentheses:

Friday, May 12 (Rome, Fatima)

  • 2 p.m. (8 a.m.) Departure from Rome’s Fiumicino airport.
  • 4:20 p.m. (11:20 a.m.) Arrival at Monte Real air base in Leiria, Portugal. Welcoming ceremony.
  • 4:35 p.m. (11:35 a.m.) Private meeting with the president of Portugal at the Monte Real Air Base.
  • 4:55 p.m. (11:55 a.m.) Visit to the Monte Real air base chapel.
  • 5:15 p.m. (12:15 p.m.) Transfer by helicopter to Fatima stadium.
  • 5:35 p.m. (12:35 p.m.) Arrival at Fatima stadium and transfer to the shrine.
  • 6:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m.) Visit and prayer at the Little Chapel of the Apparitions.
  • 9:30 p.m. (4:15 p.m.) Blessing of the candles at the chapel. Speech by pope and recitation of the rosary.

Saturday, May 13

  • 9:10 a.m. (4:10 a.m.) Meeting with prime minister of Portugal at Our Lady of Mount Carmel house in Fatima.
  • 9:40 a.m. (4:40 a.m.) Visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary at Fatima.
  • 10 a.m. (5 a.m.) Outdoor Mass at the basilica. Homily by pope. Greeting by pope to the sick.
  • 12:30 p.m. (7:30 a.m.) Lunch with the bishops of Portugal at Our Lady of Mount Carmel house in Fatima.
  • 2:45 p.m. (9:45 a.m.) Farewell ceremony at the Monte Real air base.
  • 3 p.m. (10 a.m.) Departure for Rome.
  • 7:05 p.m. (1:05 p.m.) Arrival at Rome’s Ciampino airport.

 

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Czech Cardinal Vlk dies, was clandestine priest under communist regime

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Czech Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, who washed windows and ministered underground during communism, died of cancer March 18 in Prague at the age of 84.

The retired archbishop of Prague was elected the first East European president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences and dedicated his term to rebuilding the church and society after communism in the East and defending Christian values in the face of secularism and materialism in the West.

Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, retired archbishop of Prague, Czech Republic, died March 18 at the age of 84. Cardinal Vlk worked as a window cleaner while secretly carrying out his priestly ministry during the communist era. He is pictured arriving for a general congregation meeting prior to the election of a new pope at the Vatican in this March 7, 2013, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, retired archbishop of Prague, Czech Republic, died March 18 at the age of 84. Cardinal Vlk worked as a window cleaner while secretly carrying out his priestly ministry during the communist era. He is pictured arriving for a general congregation meeting prior to the election of a new pope at the Vatican in this March 7, 2013, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In a telegram to Cardinal Dominik Duka of Prague, Pope Francis recalled “with admiration” the late cardinal’s “tenacious fidelity to Christ despite the privation and persecution against the church.”

The pope also praised his fruitful ministry, which was driven by a desire to share the joy of the Gospel with everyone and promote “an authentic ecclesial renewal” that was always faithful to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Born May 17, 1932, in Lisnice, Czechoslovakia, he studied history at Prague’s Charles University, earned a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Prague and was a trained archivist.

Ten years after he was ordained a priest in 1968, the communist regime revoked his license to engage in priestly ministry. The regime persecuted clerics, imprisoning them and forcing them into menial jobs; he spent the next 10 years washing windows of government buildings.

However, he continued to minister in secret, like other barred priests, and maintained contacts with students and dissident groups.

“The will of God can be different in different moments of our life,” he said in 1991. “Sometimes it is his will that I wash the windows and other times to be archbishop.”

In the years following his 1988 return to open ministry as a priest, Cardinal Vlk and his homeland faced many changes, including massive anti-government protests.

St. John Paul II appointed the then-57-year-old priest to be bishop of Ceske Budejovice in February 1990, two months after Czechoslovakia’s 40-year communist regime was overthrown by a popular and largely nonviolent uprising.

The late pope then named him archbishop of Prague in 1991 and, in 1993, when Czechoslovakia became two countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, he became primate of the Czech church. St. John Paul made him a cardinal in 1994.

Internally, the post-communist church had to cope with a shortage of trained clergy and laity and a lack of churches and other buildings because the communist government had confiscated church property.

Cardinal Vlk was a strong supporter of Catholic lay movements, and said that, like religious orders in past centuries, lay movements today express the “needs of our time.”

The highlighting of the laity’s role may even be a hidden benefit of the priest shortage, he had said. While the lack of clergy has serious implications for sacramental life, “the life of the church is not only the sacraments,” he said. The most important thing is to genuinely “live the life of the Gospel,” he said.

In 2002, President Vaclav Havel awarded Cardinal Vlk the Czech Republic’s senior Masaryk Prize in recognition of his work for democracy and human rights.

With Cardinal Vlk’s death, the College of Cardinals has 224 members, 117 of whom are under age 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave.

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Irish archbishop: St. Patrick was an ‘undocumented migrant’

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ARMAGH, Northern Ireland — The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland has urged Irish people and those of Irish descent celebrating St. Patrick’s Day to remember the plight of migrants.

Archbishop Eamon Martin, St. Patrick’s modern-day successor as archbishop of Armagh, used his message for the March 17 feast to recall that St. Patrick was first brought to Ireland as a slave by traffickers. Read more »

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Four nuns die in traffic accident in Ethiopia

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NEW YORK — Four Daughters of St. Anne sisters, including the provincial superior, were killed in a crash about 80 miles south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Catholic Near East Welfare Association reported.

Four other sisters were traveling in the van when it was hit by a truck en route to Hawassa March 7; one remained in critical condition, CNEWA reported March 8.

Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of CNEWA, had visited the sisters in April 2016.

“The news of the traffic death of four sisters in Ethiopia, the Daughters of St. Anne, touches our hearts and souls very deeply,” Msgr. Kozar said March 7. “Having met the superior and many of the sisters in previous pastoral visits, I know the church of Ethiopia has lost some very devoted servants.”

“To their community and the entire church of Ethiopia and its people, we offer our collective prayers and support. May God welcome these servants into his heavenly kingdom,” he said.

The dead provincial was Sister Weinshet Gebru. Also killed were Sisters Motu Baba, Hanna Bekute, and Gedena Weldu.

The Daughters of St. Anne have served in Ethiopia and Eritrea for more than 50 years. They run schools, health facilities, cutting and sewing schools, vocational training centers, orphanages, and a school for the visually impaired. They partnered with Catholic Near East Welfare Association on several projects.

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Irish archbishop horrified by discovery of human remains buried at former church-run home

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Catholic News Service

DUBLIN — The commission set up to investigate the treatment of unmarried mothers and their babies in Irish care homes during the 20th century says it has found “significant” human remains at the site of a former home in western Ireland.

The entrance to the site of a burial site at the former Mother and Baby home in Tuam, County Galway, Ireland is seen in this 2014 file photo. The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation is probing how unmarried mothers and their babies were treated between 1922 and 1998 at 18 state-regulated institutions, many of them run by religious orders. (CNS photo/Aidan Crawley, EPA)

The entrance to the site of a burial site at the former Mother and Baby home in Tuam, County Galway, Ireland is seen in this 2014 file photo. The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation is probing how unmarried mothers and their babies were treated between 1922 and 1998 at 18 state-regulated institutions, many of them run by religious orders. (CNS photo/Aidan Crawley, EPA)

A spokesman for the commission said March 3 that the body was shocked by the discovery made in Tuam, County Galway, at the site formerly managed by the Bon Secours religious order.

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation is probing how unmarried mothers and their babies were treated between 1922 and 1998 at 18 state-regulated institutions, many of them run by religious orders. Tuam Archbishop Michael Neary said during Mass March 5 he was “horrified and saddened to hear” the commission’s revelations.

“This points to a time of great suffering and pain for the little ones and their mothers,” the archbishop said. “I can only begin to imagine the huge emotional wrench which the mothers suffered in giving up their babies for adoption or by witnessing their death. Some of these young vulnerable women may already have experienced rejection by their families. The pain and brokenness which they endured is beyond our capacity to understand. It is, then, simply too difficult to comprehend their helplessness and suffering as they watched their beloved child die,” Archbishop Neary said.

The commission said the “remains involved a number of individuals with age-at-death ranges from approximately 35 fetal weeks to 2-3 years.”

“Radiocarbon dating of the samples recovered suggest that the remains date from the time frame relevant to the operation of the Mother and Baby Home,” it said.

The causes of death are, as yet, unknown. However, previous reports have highlighted the high levels of infant mortality in the homes due to disease and other natural causes.

The investigation will now center on why the remains were not buried in traditional graves and whether the deaths were reported to the civil authorities at the time.

“The commission is shocked by this discovery and is continuing its investigation into who was responsible for the disposal of human remains in this way,” it added in a statement.

Katherine Zappone, Ireland’s minister for children and youth affairs, said it was “very sad and disturbing news.”

“It was not unexpected as there were claims about human remains on the site over the last number of years,” she said. She added that everybody involved must respond sensitively and respectfully to the situation.

“Today is about remembering and respecting the dignity of the children who lived their short lives in this home,” Zappone said. “We will honor their memory and make sure that we take the right actions now to treat their remains appropriately.”

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Bosnian bishop says again: Mary has not appeared in Medjugorje

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — “The Virgin Mary has not appeared in Medjugorje,” said Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno, the diocese in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which includes Medjugorje.

A statue of Mary is seen outside St. James Church in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in this file photo.  (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A statue of Mary is seen outside St. James Church in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in this file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Two weeks after the Vatican announced Pope Francis was sending a Polish archbishop to study the pastoral needs of the townspeople and the thousands of pilgrims who flock to Medjugorje each year, Bishop Peric posted his statement Feb. 26 on his diocesan website.

Three of the six young people who originally claimed to have seen Mary in Medjugorje in June 1981 say she continues to appear to them each day; the other three say Mary appears to them once a year now.

Bishop Peric noted that a diocesan commission studied the alleged apparitions in 1982-1984 and again in 1984-1986 with more members; and the then-Yugoslavian bishops’ conference studied them from 1987 to 1990. All three commissions concluded that it could not be affirmed that a supernatural event was occurring in the town.

The six young people continued to claim to see Mary and receive messages from her and tens of thousands of pilgrims visited the town, and the alleged visionaries, each year. Pope Benedict XVI established a commission that worked from 2010 to 2014; and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith began looking at that commission’s report in 2014.

Many observers believe Pope Francis appointed his envoy in February to study the pastoral needs of the town and the pilgrims in preparation for releasing a judgment on the alleged apparitions.

The position of the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno “for this entire period has been clear and resolute: these are not real apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” Bishop Peric wrote in his statement, which was posted in Croatian and Italian.

Some people, he said, believe the apparitions were real at least at the beginning, perhaps for the first week, but that the young people continued to claim to see and hear Mary “for other reasons, most of which are not religious.”

Bishop Peric said a study of the transcripts of interviews with the six alleged visionaries from that first week give several motives for suspicion if not total doubt about the supernatural nature of events.

First, he said, the Mary of Medjugorje usually speaks only when spoken to, “she laughs in a strange way, in response to certain questions she disappears and then returns, and she obeyed the ‘seers’ and the pastor who made her come down from the hill into the church even against her will. She does not know with certainty how long she will appear, she allows some of those present to step on her veil lying on the ground, to touch her clothes and her body. This is not the Gospel Mary.”

The seventh time Mary allegedly appeared, June 30, 1981, five of the youngsters were in a nearby town called Cerno and claimed to have seen Mary there. Bishop Peric said that in the recorded interviews all five reported that the apparitions would continue only three more days, July 1-3, 1981.

“Then she changed her mind and still ‘appears,’” the bishop wrote.

“Taking into account all that was examined and studied by this diocesan curia, including the study of the first seven days of the presumed apparitions, one calmly can affirm: The Virgin Mary has not appeared in Medjugorje. This is the truth that we uphold, and we believe in the word of Jesus who said the truth will set you free.”

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South Sudan bishops condemn atrocities, appeal for help to prevent famine

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Catholic News Service

South Sudan’s Catholic bishops asked for the world’s help to prevent mass starvation that threatens the lives of more than 5 million people.

A soldier walks past women carrying their belongings Feb. 11 near Bentiu, South Sudan. South Sudan's Catholic bishops have denounced government and rebel troops for attacking the civilian population and at times operating "scorched-earth" policies in defiance of international law. (CNS photo/Siegfried Modola, Reuters)

A soldier walks past women carrying their belongings Feb. 11 near Bentiu, South Sudan. South Sudan’s Catholic bishops have denounced government and rebel troops for attacking the civilian population and at times operating “scorched-earth” policies in defiance of international law. (CNS photo/Siegfried Modola, Reuters)

In a separate statement, they also said the looming famine was a man-made catastrophe. They denounced government and rebel troops for attacking the civilian population and at times operating “scorched-earth” policies in defiance of international law.

In a Feb. 23 appeal for humanitarian assistance, the bishops said farmers have fled lands without planting crops as civilians are targeted by both sides in the country’s increasingly bloody three-year civil war. Food shortages have been compounded by problems of unemployment, soaring inflation and poor rains, meaning that the country had now entered a critical time, the bishops said.

Citing government predictions, they estimated that about 4.9 million people would be facing famine by April and about 5.5 million people by July.

Among the most vulnerable are more than 3 million refugees and people internally displaced by fighting between the supporters of President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar.

“We anticipate difficult times ahead in 2017 as our people are likely to witness mass starvation by virtue of their multiple displacements, especially (because) the states that traditionally produced cereals in surplus will be missing the planting season, and that will, in turn, lead to further food insecurity in 2017,” the bishops said.

They called for “immediate and unconditional concrete intervention and action … before it is too late.”

In a message sent to churches around the world, the bishops asked Caritas Internationalis and the international community to press for “an immediate stop to the violence and (for) free movement of population.”

They also demanded safe access for aid agencies to reach people in remote areas and secure delivery of humanitarian aid to places where it was needed most urgently.

The bishops also collectively directly addressed the Catholics of the predominantly Christian country in a pastoral letter Feb. 23, telling them that any soldiers who killed, tortured and raped civilians were guilty of war crimes.

“There seems to be a perception that people in certain locations or from certain ethnic groups are with the other side, and thus they are targeted by armed forces,” the bishops said. “They are killed, raped, tortured, burned, beaten, looted, harassed, detained, displaced from their homes and prevented from harvesting their crops.”

“Some towns have become ghost towns, empty except for security forces and perhaps members of one faction or tribe,” they added. “Even when they have fled to our churches or to U.N. camps for protection, they are still harassed by security forces. Many have been forced to flee to neighboring countries for protection.”

The bishops said hatred had become so intense that the victims of such violence were being mutilated and burned even after they were killed.

“People have been herded into their houses, which were then set on fire to burn the occupants. Bodies have been dumped in sewage-filled septic tanks. There is a general lack of respect for human life,” the bishops said.

The church, they said, was increasingly being accused of taking sides in the conflict, but they stressed its neutrality.

“We are for all good things — peace, justice, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, dialogue, the rule of law, good governance — and we are against evil — violence, killing, rape, torture, looting, corruption, arbitrary detention, tribalism, discrimination, oppression — regardless of where they are and who is practicing them,” the bishops said.

They concluded their letter by expressing their joy at the prospect of a visit by Pope Francis to South Sudan in 2017, saying he was “deeply concerned” by the suffering in the country.

“It would draw the attention of the world to the situation here,” the bishops said.

On Feb. 22, Pope Francis used his general audience to appeal for food aid to Sudan, warning the international community that starvation might condemn to death “millions of people, including children.”

In a Feb. 23 statement emailed to Catholic News Service, Auxiliary Bishop William Kenney of Birmingham, England, said that “the world must wake up to this man-made humanitarian disaster.”

“The violence must stop and the international community must intervene,” said Bishop Kenney, a former president of Caritas Europa who has visited South Sudan on several occasions.

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Pope appeals for aid as famine grips ‘martyred South Sudan’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis appealed for humanitarian assistance to South Sudan where famine threatens the lives of millions of people already suffering due to a three-year civil war.

A health worker examines a 4-year-old girl suffering from malnutrition Feb. 13 in Dablual, South Sudan. Pope Francis appealed for humanitarian assistance to South Sudan, where famine threatens the lives of millions of people already suffering due to a three-year civil war. (CNS photo/Nicolas Peissel/EPA)

A health worker examines a 4-year-old girl suffering from malnutrition Feb. 13 in Dablual, South Sudan. Pope Francis appealed for humanitarian assistance to South Sudan, where famine threatens the lives of millions of people already suffering due to a three-year civil war. (CNS photo/Nicolas Peissel/EPA)

In the “martyred South Sudan,” he said, “a fratricidal conflict is compounded by a serious food crisis, which has struck the Horn of Africa and condemns millions of people to starve to death, among them many children,” the pope said.

At the end of his weekly general audience at the Vatican Feb. 22, the pope said that a solid commitment from the international community to assist South Sudan is crucial.

The United Nations Feb. 21 declared a famine in two counties of South Sudan, adding that the catastrophic food shortages will continue to spread, threatening millions of lives.

Civil war has destabilized the world’s youngest country for more than three years due to a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and former Vice-President Riek Machar.

“This famine is man-made,” said Joyce Luma, director of the U.N. World Food Program.

Despite efforts to hold off the famine, she added, “there is only so much that humanitarian assistance can achieve in the absence of meaningful peace and security, both for relief workers and the crisis-affected people they serve.”

Pope Francis urged governments and international organizations to “not stop at just making statements,” but take concrete steps so that necessary food aid “can reach the suffering population.”

“May the Lord sustain these, our brothers and sisters, and those who work to help them,” Pope Francis said.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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