Prelate discusses restrictions on Church in Tunisia
CWN - January 15, 2014
In interview with the Fides news agency, Tunisia’s sole prelate discussed the challenges the Church faces in the officially Muslim state.
In 1964, amid government threats to close every Catholic church, the Holy See and the Tunisian government signed an agreement subjecting the Church to severe restrictions.
“We cannot in fact carry out the apostolate of the word” because of the 1964 agreement, said Archbishop Ilario Antoniazzi, an Italian-born Jerusalem priest who was ordained Archbishop of Tunis in 2013. “Among other things, in 1964, of the more than 100 churches that until then the Catholic community of Tunisia owned [the majority] were expropriated by the State. Currently we have only five churches and eight Catholic schools.”
“We cannot even buy or lease buildings or receive donations,” he continued. “Let me give an example: if a religious congregation decides to close a convent in Tunisia it cannot sell it to the archbishopric but is nationalized.”
“But this does not prevent us from living in harmony with the Tunisian people,” he added. “Our Church community is composed mainly of foreigners, most of whom are students and workers from sub-Saharan Africa. It is a pastoral challenge because we have calculated that every year we lose about a quarter of the faithful, who go back to their countries of origin because they have completed their studies or because their job contract has expired. This loss is compensated by a quarter of newcomers. In practice, our community renews itself completely in a matter of four years.”
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