Zambia, a landlocked country in southern Africa, is fortunate to be enjoying a degree of stability - unlike many other African countries. Nevertheless, the country still faces numerous challenges, including poverty, poor infrastructure and at 12% an alarmingly high rate of HIV/AIDS, as a result of which numerous children have been made orphans.
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The 35 religious sisters of the Ukrainian Catholic eparchy (diocese) of Kiev perform an outstanding work of service. They belong to 6 different religious communities and are involved in a wide range of different activities. They prepare children for their First Holy Communion and First Confession, they lead Church choirs and attend to all the many and various needs of the local parish communities. They instruct children, young people and adults in their faith, lead Bible study groups and organise retreats and seminars for girls and young women; they also organise summer camps for the children and visit the sick and elderly in their homes and in the hospitals, comforting them and praying with them. Some of the sisters also carry out domestic duties in the diocesan seminary.
Archbishop René Rebolledo Salinas faces major challenges. For his archdiocese of La Serena covers an area of over 40,000 km2 - the size of Switzerland. Consequently the distances are huge and the 500,000 Catholics of the archdiocese are widely scattered across this area. Many of the villages lie in valleys that are accessible only along rough, unmade roads.
“We will bow to no regime that refuses to bow to God.“ In 1951, just a few hours after uttering these words to the Catholic faithful in Prague‘s St Vitus Cathedral, Archbishop Josef Beran of Prague was abducted by the secret police and interned for the next 16 years. Thousands of priests and religious in what was then Czechoslovakia shared a similar fate and suffered in prisons and labour camps. The building that had housed the archdiocesan seminary in Prague was turned into a centre for a communist propaganda newspaper. For many long years, men who felt called to the priesthood were unable to follow their vocation and not allowed to study. Later, they were only able to do so in the underground Church. Many were secretly ordained, often in neighbouring countries. The official formation of priests was controlled by the Secret Service, and priests who were not acceptable to the state were denied permission to exercise their priesthood and were often forced to work in factories or as window cleaners, simply in order to support themselves.
Ethiopia is an ancient Christian country. “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” So says the Ethiopian to Philip in the Acts of the Apostles (8:36). This spontaneous decision, just a few years after the death of Jesus, marks the beginning of Christianity in Africa, and Ethiopia is the first country in sub-Saharan Africa in which Christianity put down permanent roots.