One church opens for faithful Catholic remnant in Somaliland

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kanisadA Catholic church has re-opened in Hargeisa, Somalia: the only Catholic house of worship in the African country.

Bishop Giorgio Bertin, the apostolic administrator of Mogadishu, told Aid to the Church in Need that he had re-consecrated the church of St. Anthony of Padua, which had been shut down for years because of the danger Christians face in the overwhelmingly Muslim country. “Not many people come to Mass—ten at most,” the bishop said; “but nonetheless it is important.”

Bishop Bertin said that he spoke to local officials in Hargeisa last year about re-opening the church. Hargeisa is located in Somaliland, a region that has declared its independence. Although neither the Somali government nor the international community has recognized Somaliland as an independent state, in practice the region is fairly free from control by the provisional government in Mogadishu.

Bishop Bertin reports that “there is no possible way of having a presence in Mogadishu.” Although there are a few Catholics still living in Somalia, their lives are in danger if they are identified. All pastoral work is done secretly, the bishop explains, saying: “Even if it has to be silently, it is better to be there than not to be there.”

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