MISSIONARIES OF CHARITY AND 14 DISABLED CHILDREN FROM KABUL ARRIVE AT ROME AIRPORT

MISSIONARIES OF CHARITY AND 14 DISABLED CHILDREN FROM KABUL ARRIVE AT ROME AIRPORT

(CNA Rome Newsroom, Aug 26, 2021)

Religious sisters from the Missionaries of Charity and 14 disabled children from an orphanage in Afghanistan arrived safely on Wednesday at Rome’s international airport.

A Catholic priest and five sisters from the order founded by Mother Teresa arrived on one of two evacuation flights from Kabul that landed in Rome on Aug. 25 carrying a total of 277 people.

Fr. Giovanni Scalese, the ecclesiastical superior of the Catholic mission in Afghanistan, also arrived on the flight. He spent eight years in Kabul, offering daily Mass for foreign residents in the city at the only Catholic church in Afghanistan, located inside of the Italian embassy.

“I would never have returned to Italy without these children,” Fr. Scalese told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

“We could not leave them there.”

The children, aged between six and 20 years old, were residents of an orphanage founded in 2006 by the Missionaries of Charity in Kabul, which has now been forced to close due to the Taliban’s takeover of the city.

Sr. Bhatti Shahnaz, another Catholic religious sister who arrived in Rome on the evacuation flight, also worked with disabled children in Afghanistan with her community, the Sisters of Charity of St. Jeanne Antide.

“The 50 intellectually disabled children we looked after are still there,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Accompanying this article was a photo and description from Fr. Doriano Vincenzo De Luca from his Facebook page: (1) Doriano Vincenzo De Luca | Facebook

Fr. De Luca: The small Catholic community in #Afghanistan arrived in Rome. They arrived yesterday afternoon in Fiumicino with one of the many flights from Kabul Father Giovanni Scalese, five nuns and fourteen disabled children.

JESUITS, MISSIONARIES OF CHARITY STRANDED IN AFGHANISTAN

Who knows how many other men and women religious from other countries live and work in Afghanistan and are now stranded there or attempting to leave! Even if we do not know names, let’s spiritually adopt a priest or nun or brother who might be desperately needing our prayers in this moment!  The Lord will know who they are!

JESUITS, MISSIONARIES OF CHARITY STRANDED IN AFGHANISTAN

Two Jesuits and four Missionary of Charity (MC) nuns are stranded in Afghanistan, as the country and its capital fell to the Taliban. Afghans as well as foreigners are trying to flee the country amid pandemonium and chaos at Kabul airport.

By Vatican News staff writer

Two Jesuits stranded in strife-torn Afghanistan have sought prayers as the Taliban militants took control of the troubled south-east Asian nation.  “Thank you for your continuous prayers for our safety. The way the situation is changing in the country, it is anyone’s imagination … safety does not make sense here. It is a chaotic situation,” Indian priest Father Jerome Sequeira, the country head of the Jesuit mission in Afghanistan, wrote in a message to his friends and colleagues.

Afghanistan fell to the Taliban after the United States ended its 20 years of operations there.  A relative calm reigned in the Afghan capital Kabul on August 16, a day after its president fled and the Taliban installed themselves in the presidential palace.  However, Kabul airport was a scene of pandemonium and roads leading to it were clogged with traffic and people, as thousands scrambled to flee the country in panic.

KABUL (Vatican media – AFP or licensors)

Missionaries of Charity nuns
Four Missionaries of Charity (MC) nuns are also stranded in Afghanistan and will probably be moved to their countries, UCA News reported.  “Our two priests are stuck in Afghanistan and are waiting for their evacuation,” said a Jesuit priest based in the Indian capital New Delhi. “We have also suspended our mission in Afghanistan indefinitely as we are not sure when the situation will improve,” he said.  A senior nun at the Missionaries of Charity headquarters in eastern India’s Kolkata city confirmed that four of their nuns are in Afghanistan, including an Indian.  She gave no details of the other three, fearing for their safety.  The Missionaries of Charity, which St. Teresa of Kolkata founded in 1950, arrived in Kabul in 2004 for humanitarian work.

The two Jesuit priests and the Missionary of Charity nun are among many Indians waiting for the Indian government’s evacuation flights to get them out of the country.

Fr. Sequeira in Kabul
Father Sequeira, who works for the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), had gone to Kabul airport to take the 10:45 flight to India. “It resembled a chaotic railway station,” he told Matters India August 16 evening, speaking from “a secure place” in the city.  He said he came to the country in 2006 and never in the past 15 years has he seen such a breakdown of system.

He narrated how he had to drag his luggage as large crowds and vehicles jammed the roads. “Thousands of people are trying to flee. I managed to reach the second gate but then Taliban were shooting in the air and trying to control the crowd. Before, my reaching, thousands of people had managed to enter the airport building but the entire airport staff had abandoned the place. Without any security check and boarding passes people had gone into the flight,” Father Sequeira said.

He referred to images on social media showing people clinging on to a US military aircraft on the tarmac as it tried to take off.  “In this chaotic situation no flight will land at the moment. Seeing this senseless situation, no country will dare to fly to Kabul at the moment. It was a terrifying experience,” said the Jesuit priest who works for the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).

Fr. Rodrigues in Bamiyan
The other Jesuit Father Robert Rodrigues from southern India’s Karnataka state is stuck in Bamiyan in central Afghanistan.  He managed to get inside Bamiyan airport in the evening on August 15, checked in and was awaiting a United Nations flight to land, which would fly him to Kabul some 25 minutes away.  Meanwhile, the situation changed dramatically and the entire airport security personnel just abandoned the airport.

Father Sequeira said Father Rodrigues is safe and was “much better and relaxed” on August 16.  “We are seeking possible ways to evacuate him from Bamiyan to Kabul through the help of UN agencies,” Father Sequeira said.

Taliban taking over system

According to him, the Taliban is busy in occupying government systems and putting their own persons. “They are not harming the civilians at the moment but it will come once they have fully captured all the systems of the country. They have the list of all organizations and profile too. In some places they have started door-to-door enquiries about the personnel of the organization,” Father Sequeira’s message explained.

He said the Jesuit Refugee Service has indefinitely suspended its activities in Afghanistan “and all are hibernating in their homes or communities.”  “All flights are cancelled and it all depends on the agreement between UN bodies and the Taliban.” He said the entire JRS body is putting all efforts to evacuate him and Father Rodrigues. “At the moment, I am safe,” Father Sequeira wrote.

The JRS country head lamented how the international community could have given up the country to the Taliban after investing and establishing so much in 20 years.  “With the way the Taliban took over provinces, all thought it would take some 90 days for them to reach Kabul. But they swept over the capital in ten days,” he added.  According to him, the Taliban militants have taken control of 33 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

Meanwhile, the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed worries that the upheaval caused by the Taliban takeover is compromising the country’s other battle against the coronavirus.  It said the chaos has slowed the vaccination programme.  It is concerned over the unfolding safety and humanitarian needs in the country, including risk of disease outbreaks and rise in Covid-19 transmission.

14 years of Jesuit mission in Afghanistan
Father Stany D’Souza, president of the Jesuit Conference of South Asia, said both the Jesuits are safe, adding they are in touch with them.  Until last month, the Jesuits had planned to continue their mission in Afghanistan.

Saint Pope John Paul II established a mission sui juris for Afghanistan on May 16, 2002, and entrusted it to the Barnabite fathers.  Two years later the Jesuits ventured into the country to help the Afghan people rebuild their war-ravaged nation through education.

The JRS launched programmes to educate the youth, especially the internally displaced persons, returnees from neighboring countries and other vulnerable sections.  The Jesuits have trained more than 300 young teachers and through them were educating more than 25,000 children in four provinces. Young girls were major beneficiaries of the Jesuit mission in a country still haunted by memories of the Taliban’s anti-female attitude before it was toppled in 2001.  The Indian Jesuits were also involved in livelihood interventions.

They too had their troubles with the Taliban. On June 2, 2014, suspected Taliban fighters abducted JRS director Father Alexis Prem Kumar, who was accompanying teachers on a visit to a school for refugees in the village of Sohadat, some 500 miles west of Kabul.  The priest from southern India’s Tamil Nadu state was held handcuffed during most of his 8-month captivity. His release on February 22, 2015 was secured with the help of the Indian government.

However, the Jesuits’ links with Afghanistan go back more than 400 years.  In 1581, Mughal Emperor Akbar took along a Jesuit priest from Agra in northern India to Kabul.  A year later, in 1582, Jesuit Brother Bento de Goes stopped at Kabul on his way to China.  But there was no lasting Jesuit presence in the country.   (Source: Matters India, UCA News)

 

 

POPE AWAKENED BY EARTHQUAKE LAST WEEK, SAID MASS AT 4 AM – INTERVIEW WITH MOTHER SUPERIOR OF MISSIONARIES OF CHARITY

POPE AWAKENED BY EARTHQUAKE LAST WEEK, SAID MASS AT 4 AM

VATICAN CITY (Josephine McKenna – Religious News Service) — While Pope Francis has expressed his sympathy for the victims of Italy’s devastating earthquake, few may have realized the pontiff himself was shaken by the 6.2 magnitude temblor as he slept at his residence inside the walls of the Vatican.

Bishop Domenico Pompili of Rieti, which is close to the medieval towns most affected by the quake, said the pope had telephoned him three times since Wednesday (Aug. 24) to ask about the victims and their families.

More than 290 people were killed when houses and buildings collapsed in the towns north of Rome.

During one of the calls Francis disclosed that the shock waves woke him 100 miles away.

“He told me he had felt the earthquake,” Pompili told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. “He had woken up, was informed and celebrated Mass for us at 4 a.m.”

Francis led prayers for the quake victims at the Vatican on Sunday (Aug. 28) and announced plans to visit survivors in the affected area soon.

“He feels very upset,” Pompili said. “He came to this area a couple of times, almost anonymously, in January and July. He loves us.”

Pompili, who was appointed by Francis in 2015, said the pope had also called him during the rescue operations to find out how many children were trapped and how many had been saved.

Italian media reports said the pope did not want to interfere with the emergency operations led by the civil protection department and was expected to visit the area before the Jubilee Year of Mercy ended on November 20.

“I hope to come to see you as soon as possible, to bring you in person the comfort of the faith, the embrace of a father and a brother, and the support of Christian hope,” the pope said in remarks at the noontime Angelus prayer at the Vatican on Sunday.

In a related development, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg met with Francis at the Vatican on Monday and afterward announced that Facebook will give 500,000 euros, or about $560,000, to the Italian Red Cross to help relief efforts in the earthquake-stricken region north of Rome.

He said the money would be in the form of advertising credits that can be used on the Facebook platform to promote fundraising, organize volunteers, solicit blood donations, and to help people who need accommodations.

Italy held a day of national mourning for the quake victims Saturday.

The president, Sergio Mattarella, and the prime minister, Matteo Renzi, joined hundreds at a state funeral in Ascoli Piceno to mourn 35 of the victims, including an 18-month-old baby, while flags flew at half-staff across the country.

More funerals were due to be held in the devastated town of Amatrice on Tuesday evening.

INTERVIEW WITH MOTHER SUPERIOR OF MISSIONARIES OF CHARITY

(Vatican Radio) – Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta is set to be canonized on Sunday, September 4th.

Mother Teresa founded the religious order Missionaries of Charity, which is based in Calcutta, India. She dedicated her life to helping the poorest of the poor.

She was beatified by John Paul II in 2003, just 6 years after her death at the age of 87.

The current Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity is Sister Mary Prema Pierick, who first met Mother Teresa in 1980.

SR PREMA

Listen to part 1 of the interview with Sister Prema: 

She told Vatican Radio Mother Teresa’s holiness was so present in her life, the members of the congregation took it for granted.

“We lived with Mother and we took it for granted that she is available and that she is always attentive to us,” she said.

Listen to Part 2 of the interview with Sister Prema:

“We enjoyed her presence and we wanted to know from her how she lived the day, and how she went about the work she was doing,” Sister Prema continued.

“But deeply, I did not know how she was united with Jesus, and how deeply she lived the Gospel message of Jesus,” – Sister Prema said – “I can see that the works of mercy had become like a second nature to Mother, but that was Mother, and we took it for granted.”

(http://www.news.va/en/news/sister-prema-mercy-second-nature-to-mother-teresa)