Living under critical conditions in Ethiopia

Living under critical conditions in Ethiopia

EPO Delegate Superior

Here is a letter we just received from the Delegate Superior of Ethiopia, giving some news of what they are enduring these days with their dear people of Ethiopia.I have just commnicated with the Delegate and we agreed that the names be removed for evident reasons of security. Those who want to know more can consult the Book of Personnel. Let us join with them in prayer for Peace is this beautiful land.

Philippe Docq, M.Afr.

Photo from NY Times

The crisis

The Ethiopian Government forces launched military operations in Tigray (Northern Region) 12 days ago after the government accused local authorities of attacking a military camp and attempting to loot military assets. The TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front), which is in power in the region, denies the charge and has accused the prime minister (Abiy Ahmed) of concocting the story to justify the offensive. Since the war started, air strikes and ground combat between government forces and the TPLF have killed hundreds of people, and losses of properties and so far 25,000 refugees have crossed into Sudan.

We now hear that in Tigray region all the communications are shut down (no telephone, no internet, and no movement, no electricity) and media are barred. We can hardly get any information from that region apart from what the government of Ethiopia puts on National TV and other media.

We also hear that people are struggling to get food, water and medicine. It is indeed a critical humanitarian situation.

Where are the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) in Ethiopia ?

In Ethiopia, the M.Afr have communities in three places which are Adigrat, Wukro and Kombolcha. Kombolcha is in Amhara region in the central part of Ethiopia and so far this community is safe. In this community we have 2 Missionaries of Africa and one Stagiaire.
Adigrat and Wukro are within Tigray region where the war is. In Adigrat we have seven confreres. We also have one Missionary of Africa in a place called Abiy Adi at some 120 km away from Adigrat. In Adigrat we also have 5 seminarians who are in the pre first cycle (St Paul Formation house).

In Wukro community we have one missionary of Africa who right now is in Spain and two diocesan priests. We also have more than 20 workers in both communities.

Our concern and cry

Since the beginning of the conflict we have no news from our confreres in Adigrat and Wukro. Are they safe? Are they still in their communities? Have they fled? Do they have food or water? We have no information.

I have tried to contact International Red Cross (ICRC) offices in Addis to see if they could help me get some information on our confreres in Tigray and so far they have not yet succeeded. I have also made attempts to reach the Bishop of Adigrat and the Diocesan offices but in vain. It is really very worrying not to know about our confreres and so we are asking you and all the people of good will to pray for our confreres and the entire Ethiopia so that peace may prevail again in this beautiful country.

EPO Delegate Superior
18th November 2020

Birth of Mary at St Anne’s (Jerusalem) by the Franciscans

For a long time, the Missionaries of Africa have had the privilege of taking care of the site where, traditionally, Mother Mary was born. It is in the old Town of Jerusalem that the Crusaders built, in 1104, a Church dedicated to St Anne, the mother of Mary. Every year, on the 8th of september, the feast of the birth of Mary is celebrated. It is normally a magnificient celebration where the Church is filled with many French faithful. This year, the celebration was rather strange, as the confinement regulations prevented regular participants from attending the festivities. Here below, you can see a few photos, taken by Nadim Asfour (CTS). You wll find as well a link to the webpage dedicated to that day, and a video dedicated to the feast of the Birth of Mary in St Anne’s. 

Oath & Declaration of Intent in Jerusalem

Oath & Declaration of Intent in Jerusalem

On Tuesday, 26th November, our Confrere Michael Cardinal Fitzgerald, received the Final Oath of Patient Balma and Nelson Ekeh, as well as the renewal of the Declaration of Intent of Audace Niyibigira, Belito Jose Joaquim, Isac Kinda and Thierry Uyirwoth in the new Chapel of St. Anne’s in Jerusalem. Congratulations to all.

Frans Bouwen honorary member of Pro Oriente

Honorary member of PRO ORIENTE

On Monday, the 18th November 2019, our confrere Frans Bouwen received a certificate of honorary membership of the Austrian Foundation Pro Oriente, as a award for his involvement in Ecumenism. The reception took place at the Austrian Hospice in the Old Jerusalem, a few hundred meters away from St. Anne.  Here is how PRO ORIENTE defines itself:

For 50 years, PRO ORIENTE has passionately pursued – in the spirit of Cardinal Franz König – one grand, common aim: bringing Christians from the East and West closer together. It does this with a very small team and constantly scarce resources, and with the support of some 180 honorary helpers.
This is the aim of PRO ORIENTE and all those who have accompanied and supported us along the way. Much has been achieved, confidence and an atmosphere of brother- and sisterhood have been established, and prejudices have been overcome.

EPO – Jubilee celebration in Jerusalem

As part of the Jubilee celebrations in St Anne’s we organised, on the 7th of March, a morning of lectures and presentations about the Society. We invited the staff and students of Ratisbonne, the Salesian theology university where our candidates go for their theological formation.

We started with a talk by Dave: “150 years old and still going strong!” – a presentation of some of the elements of our history which help us to understand who we are today.

This was followed by a talk given by Frans Bouwen who spoke about the presence of the “White Fathers” (as we were always known) in Jerusalem.

After a break Fr Gaëtan Tiendebéogo presented the film “Witnesses of the Greatest Love” which was about the “martyrs of Algeria” and which was made by the Chemin Neuf community. Finally three of the students shared something of their own personal experience of life with the Missionaries of Africa. Nelson Ekeh spoke of inter-culturality in the Society, Thierry Uyirwoth of his experience of community and Belito Joaquim of our commitment to JPIC. The morning finished with lunch shared by all the participants. The general agreement was that the morning had been both interesting and enjoyable.

Dave Sullivan, M.Afr.

Jérusalem – Semaine de l’Unité des Chrétiens

Regard œcuménique sur l’année 2018 avant la semaine de prière pour l’Unité

JERUSALEM – Le mercredi 16 janvier 2019, l’Ecole Biblique et Archéologique de Jérusalem a accueilli la traditionnelle conférence que donne le Père Frans Bouwen, M.Afr., avant la Semaine de prière pour l’Unité. Le père blanc, spécialiste des Églises orientales et du dialogue avec les Églises chrétiennes d’Orient a présenté l’actualité œcuménique de l’année 2018 aux fidèles et religieux de Jérusalem qui se retrouveront à partir de samedi pour vivre un temps de communion à travers des célébrations quotidiennes.

La semaine de l’unité est un événement de grande importance à Jérusalem, la présence des différentes Eglises chrétiennes a encouragé celles-ci à s’accueillir les unes les autres chaque jour pour partager un temps de prière. Ces célébrations attirent de nombreux fidèles et certains d’entre eux sont même des pèlerins qui viennent tout spécialement dans la Ville Sainte pour participer à cette Semaine si particulière.

Chaque année, à cette occasion, la commission pour le dialogue œcuménique propose une conférence sur l’actualité œcuménique des derniers mois, une façon d’inviter les fidèles à prier en ayant connaissance du chemin parcouru et à parcourir pour vivre l’Unité. C’est le président de cette commission épiscopale, le père Frans Bouwen qui se charge de donner les dernières nouvelles de ces chemins de rencontre entre les différentes Eglises. Le Missionnaire d’Afrique, membre de la Commission mixte du dialogue théologique entre l’Eglise catholique et l’Eglise orthodoxe a une très grande connaissance des Eglises orientales. Cependant, le Père Frans en début de conférence n’a pas manqué de préciser que sa présentation était, par la force des choses, portée par un regard subjectif, celui d’un théologien catholique installé à Jérusalem.

Lisez l’article complet de Cécile Klos sur le site du Patriarcat Latin de Jérusalem.

140 years of presence in Jerusalem

This is an article from the site of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem, dated December 11. The original post is here. The text was translated quickly with online help. In case of doubt, please refer to the original French.

On December 8, 2018, the Missionaries of Africa invited, as they do every year, the faithful and friends to come and celebrate with them the feast of the Immaculate Conception. This year, in addition to the Marian celebration, there was also the launching of the festivities for the jubilee of the 150th anniversary of the congregation and the 140th anniversary of its presence in the Holy Land.

The Mass of December 8 is traditionally celebrated with fervour among the Missionaries of Africa – also known as the White Fathers – because the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is the patron saint’s feast of this Society of priests and also the women’s congregation, the Sisters of Our Lady of Africa. This is also the date of the annual consular mass [1] and on this occasion the Deputy Consul General, Mr. Rémy Bouallègue, joined the ceremony.

But this year, the mass of December 8 was also celebrated in union with the mass for the beatification of the 19 martyrs who died for their faith in Algeria, including four White Fathers murdered on December 27, 1994 in Tizi Ouzou. Finally, this Mass on December 8 celebrated two important jubilees: the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Society of the White Fathers and the 140th anniversary of the presence of the Missionaries in the Holy Land.

Fraternity beyond cultural differences

It is the date of the opening of the first novitiate, October 18, 1868, which was chosen as the date of foundation of the Society of the White Fathers. For the founder, Bishop Lavigerie, the Missionaries of Africa must be “all things to all people” and adapt to the way of life of those to whom they are sent to spread the Gospel. For this reason they ask them to wear the local habit, to eat the same food as the inhabitants and to speak the language that allows them to open themselves to the culture of the country. Founded in North Africa, the society has developed in a large part of Africa. Today, there are still 1200 White Fathers, most of whom are in Black Africa. At the service of parishes and dioceses, they are as close as possible to the needs of the population and actively participate in interreligious dialogue. Also present in Europe, they bring their missionary experience to the dioceses of rich countries, to help welcome migrants and broaden the Church’s vision of the world.

Missionaries of Africa in the Middle East?

To find a congregation that has been mainly oriented towards Africa in the heart of Jerusalem for 140 years may seem questioning at first sight, but it would then be to not know the history of the founder. Charles Lavigerie before being the Archbishop of Algiers and the founder of the Society of the White Fathers was the first ecclesiastical director of the Work of the Schools of the Orient (now the Work of the Orient) and it is in this context that he had known, like a revelation, the Eastern Churches. This memory will come back in a flash when France, which became the owner of the church of Sainte-Anne, sought a religious community to keep it. Arriving in 1878, the White Fathers set up a seminary there in 1882 to train the Greek Melkite Catholic clergy. This seminary operated for 85 years, until the June 1967 war forced its transfer to Lebanon. Since then the White Fathers have continued, in various ways, to work for the Churches of the East, their unity and mission, and the service of the Church of Jerusalem in the fields of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, and action for justice and peace. Thanks to the biblical training sessions, organized in Sainte-Anne since 1976, the Church of Africa is now coming to Jerusalem to pray and recharge their batteries.

Cécile Klos

[1] Each year, the Consul General of France officially visits each of the national domains belonging to France and certain religious communities of French origin, by taking part in the celebration of a mass.

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150 years… of which 140 in Jerusalem

On the 8th of December, at 10h, we celebrated the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in the basilica of St-Anne in Jerusalem. Many invitations were sent out. It is a ‘Consular Mass’ at which the General Consul of France participates, with members of the Consulate. But as the Consul was absent, he was represented by Mr. Remy Bouallegue, his ‘Adjoint’. Though it was raining, a good crowd came for the celebration: lay-people, Sisters, staff and students of the Salesian Institute and many more and about 20 priests concelebrating. Josef Buholzer, the superior of the community, was the main-celebrant, assisted by Mgr Michael Fitzgerald and Benoît Bernard, the newly arrived Rector of the Basilica. Bosco Ufoyuru, our newly ordained deacon, proclaimed the gospel. Continue reading “150 years… of which 140 in Jerusalem”

Jerusalem the eldest

Basilique Ste Anne Jerusalem

Today, we celebrated the 140th anniversary, to the day, of the arrival of the first White Fathers in Jerusalem on October 1, 1878. They left Algiers on September 14 and landed at the port of Jaffa. As a result, we are probably among the oldest – if not the oldest – communities still in existence, without interruption, for so long. We hope to associate these 140 years with our celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Society of Missionaries of Africa.


Fraternal greetings to all,
Frans Bouwen
Ste Ann’s