18 May 2018
This week, we revisit Izbet Chokor, a village of Christians and Muslims about 60 miles southwest of Cairo. The village, with about 1,500 people, is home to two mosques and three Coptic churches. And, as journalist and videographer Don Duncan put it in his story from 2016, “Its residents coexist in peace, living and working closely together.”
How do they do it? The video below offers one explanation. And as one resident said, “The sense of community here is very good. The relationship between Christians and Muslims has been excellent for many decades here, even after the revolution.”
This week, Egypt marked a sad homecoming, as the remains of Coptic Christians beheaded by ISIS in Libya three years ago were finally returned to Cairo for a proper burial. This video about the village of Izbet Chokor reminds us that peace and harmony are not impossible to achieve in that troubled part of the world — but there is still much work to do.
18 May 2018
Tags: Egypt Interreligious Christian-Muslim relations
Palestinians pray at Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem's Old City on 18 May. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said that a competitive attitude between Christians and Muslims fosters the belief that religions are a source of tension and violence, not peace. (photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)
A competitive attitude between Christians and Muslims fosters the belief that religions are a source of tension and violence, not peace, said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.
“It is important that we Christians and Muslims recall the religious and moral values that we share, while acknowledging our differences,” said the cardinal, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
“By recognizing what we hold in common and by showing respect for our legitimate differences, we can more firmly establish a solid foundation for peaceful relations, moving from competition and confrontation to an effective cooperation for the common good,” he said in a message to Muslims.
The annual message was for Ramadan, which began 16 May, and Eid ul Fitr, the feast marking the end of the monthlong fast, which will be on or around 15 June this year. The Vatican published the message 18 May.
Titled, “Christians and Muslims: From Competition to Collaboration,” the message expressed appreciation for “the great effort by the Muslims throughout the world to fast, pray and share the Almighty’s gifts with the poor.”
The importance of the month was an opportunity to share some thoughts about relations between Christians and Muslims and the need to move from competition to collaboration, the cardinal wrote.
“A spirit of competition has too often marked past relations between Christians and Muslims,” he said, adding that “the negative consequences of which are evident: jealousy, recriminations and tensions.”
“In some cases, these have led to violent confrontations, especially where religion has been instrumentalized, above all due to self-interest and political motives,” the message said.
This kind of “interreligious competition” hurts the image of religions and their followers, “and it fosters the view that religions are not sources of peace, but of tension and violence,” it said.
To prevent and overcome such negative consequences, the cardinal wrote, it is key for Christians and Muslims to recognize what values they share and show respect concerning legitimate differences.
Working together for the common good should include assisting those most in need, allowing both sides “to offer a credible witness to the Almighty’s love for the whole of humanity,” the message said.
“So that we may further peaceful and fraternal relations, let us work together and honor each another,” Cardinal Tauran wrote. “In this way we will give glory to the Almighty and promote harmony in society, which is becoming increasingly multi-ethnic, multireligious and multicultural.”
18 May 2018
Tags: Interreligious Middle East Peace Process Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran
Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the U.N. in Geneva, has called for dialogue and encounter to bring peace to the Middle East. (photo: Vatican Media)
Holy See urges dialogue, encounter to bring peace in Holy Land (Vatican News) Amidst worsening violence in the Holy Land and the Middle East, the Holy See on Friday urged the use of dialogue and encounter to bring peace, and called for the recognition of Jerusalem as the city sacred to Christians and Muslims. Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva made the call on Friday at a special session of the Human Rights Council on the deteriorating rights situation in the region…
Putin tells Assad all ‘foreign forces’ to leave Syria (CNN) Russian President Vladimir Putin told Syrian President Bashar al Assad Thursday that “foreign armed forces” would leave Syria, according to Syria’s state-run news agency, SANA. He and his counterpart hailed the beginning of the “political process” in Syria amid an ongoing “fight against terrorism”…
More countries plan to move embassies to Jerusalem (CNBC) On Wednesday, Guatemala joined the U.S. in moving its embassy to Jerusalem. More countries are preparing to make the leap. Paraguay’s Foreign Ministry announced that its embassy will also relocate to Jerusalem, while the Czech Republic, Romania and Honduras reportedly considering the move…
Vatican message for Ramadan: ’Move from competition to collaboration’ (Vatican News) The Vatican is urging Christians and Muslims to “move from competition to collaboration,” saying rivalry between them has had negative consequences. The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue made the exhortation in a message released on Friday on the occasion of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and its conclusion, Eid ul Fitr…
Wealthy Indian Christian donates mosque to his workers for Ramadan (Daily Sabah) A wealthy Christian Indian businessman gave his workers in the United Arab Emirates a generous gift for Ramadan: a mosque. When Saji Cheriyan, an Indian expat, said he decided to build a mosque for the Muslim workers to whom he rents accommodation after noticing that they had to take a taxi to a nearby mosque to worship…
17 May 2018
Tags: Syria India Holy Land Holy See
A new feast to honor Mary as Mother of the Church will be observed the Monday after Pentecost. Marian devotion is widespread among Christians around the world. Here, an altar server prepares for the liturgy near a statue of Mary in a Syriac Catholic church in Stockholm, Sweden. (photo: Magnus Aronson)
On 8 March this year Pope Francis initiated a new feast to honor the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. The feast — which will be observed on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday — will honor Mary as Mother of the Church. Monday 21 May 2018 will be the first observance of this feast in the Catholic Church.
The number of titles given to Mary in the Roman Catholic Church almost goes beyond counting. Some, like Mother of God (Greek: theotokos) are extremely ancient, while others like Mother of the Church seem more recent. In a sense,”Mary, Mother of the Church” is a title both ancient and recent.
Looking back, we find that mention of ”Mary, Mother of the Church” is rare in Catholic history. In 1895, Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical ”Adjutricem populi” (“Helper of the People”) referred to Mary as “Mother of the Church and Queen of the Apostles.” But we rarely hear mention of that title again until the Second Vatican Council.
There, it appears in the Vatican II document ”Lumen Gentium” (the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 21 November 1964). After dealing with the church from almost every aspect, the bishops at the Council decided to add a chapter (VIII) on “Our Lady.” Although the Council does not give him credit, the German theologian Hugo Rahner in 1944 showed that Ambrose (ca. 340-397), bishop of Milan and a Church Father, saw in Mary a type/image of the church. The Council refers to Ambrose and this teaching and develops it.
The title ”Mary, Mother of the Church,” as understood by Vatican II, is extremely important. The church at the same Council committed itself, among other things, to ecumenism — to the work of restoring unity to Christians. The Council was aware that there have been and continue to be different attitudes towards Mary among Christians. Protestant Christians have sometimes disapproved of Marian devotion, seeing it as taking away from the unique role of Christ. Some have even seen the devotion as idolatrous.
Vatican II was aware not only of the deep importance of devotion to Mary, but also aware of some of the excesses that had grown up over the centuries. The Council “strongly urges theologians and preachers … to be careful to refrain as much from all false exaggeration as from too summary an attitude in considering the special dignity of the Mother of God” (LG par. 67). It reminds the faithful “that true devotion consists neither in sterile or transitory affection, nor in a certain vain credulity, but proceeds from true faith.” (ibid.)
This title recognizes that faith, and recognizes Mary as the mother of all Christians. Her maternal embrace enfolds all under mantel. Modern popes have used the term repeatedly; since 1964, the title ”Mary, Mother of the Church” has been used by every pope since Pope John XXIII.
But it wasn’t until now, with this new feast, that Pope Francis has given it expression in the devotional life of the church.
Byzantine and Eastern Orthodox Christians — people with whom CNEWA works closely — have a great devotion to Mary. However, it is a devotion that is different — though no less intense — from that of Roman Catholics. We’ll explore more of that in the coming weeks.
It would be easy to believe that Pope Francis has just added another Marian feast to a liturgical calendar that is perhaps already overburdened with such feasts (a cursory reading of the liturgical calendar shows 15 Marian feasts a year). However, that is not the case. In fact, by instituting this feast, Pope Francis has countered a certain centrifugal force in Catholic Marian devotion. This centrifugal force can unmoor Mary from Christ, placing emphasis on specific geographical locations, acculturations, etc., which have at times occurred. ”Mary, Mother of the Church” focuses attention on Mary and her role within the church (very similar to the theology of Ambrose) and links her closely — indeed, inseparably — to Christ.
In the next two weeks we will look at how two ancient traditions — Catholic in the west and Orthodox in the east — revere and honor Mary, Mother of the Lord and Mother of the Church. Each tradition can enrich and also act as a corrective to the veneration of Mary among Christians.
17 May 2018
Tags: Catholic Mary
Pope Francis greets new ambassadors to the Holy See during an audience in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican on 17 May. Welcoming new ambassadors from seven countries, the pope said that migration “has an intrinsically ethical dimension.” (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Diplomats have a duty to uphold human rights for all people, especially those fleeing their countries due to war, poverty and environmental challenges, Pope Francis told new ambassadors to the Vatican.
The issue of migration “has an intrinsically ethical dimension that transcends national borders and narrow conceptions of security and self-interest,” the pope said on 17 May.
“None of us can ignore our moral responsibility to challenge the ‘globalization of indifference’ that all too often looks the other way in the face of tragic situations of injustice calling for an immediate humanitarian response,” he said.
The pope’s comments came in a speech welcoming new ambassadors to the Vatican from Tanzania, Lesotho, Pakistan, Mongolia, Denmark, Ethiopia and Finland.
Speaking to the group of diplomats, the pope said the work of international diplomacy “is grounded in the shared conviction” of the unity and dignity of all men and women.
The United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he said, is a call for solidarity with “those suffering the scourge of poverty, disease and oppression.”
“Among the most pressing of the humanitarian issues facing the international community at present is the need to welcome, protect, promote and integrate all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands,” the pope said.
While acknowledging the “complexity and delicacy of the political and social issues involved,” Pope Francis called on the international community work toward crafting decisions and policies “marked above all by compassion foresight and courage.”
“For her part, the church, convinced of our responsibility for one another, promotes every effort to cooperate, without violence and without deceit, in building up the world in a spirit of genuine brotherhood and peace,” the pope said.
17 May 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Migrants
Palestinians run for cover from Israeli fire and tear gas at the Israel-Gaza border during a protest against the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem on 14 May. (photo: CNS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, Reuters)
Europe’s bishops lend their support to calls for peace in Middle East (Vatican News) Europe’s Catholic bishops on Wednesday lent their support to the appeal of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land for peace in region, stressing the urgency of protecting life at all costs …
U.N. report says chronic hunger on the rise around the world (Vatican News) The report by the United Nations World Food Program (W.F.P.) examines these “spreading and intensifying” food crises around the world. Entitled “World Food Assistance, Preventing Food Crises,” the new report by the W.F.P. warns that chronic hunger is increasing around the world and food crises are spreading and intensifying. It asks what causes these crises to break out, what determines their scale and how they might be prevented…
Hindus oppose Muslims praying in India’s public places (UCANews.com) Hindu groups’ opposition to Muslims using public places for congregational prayers is creating tension in India, with some suspecting there is a hidden agenda afoot linked to the national elections expected early next year. An amalgam of 22 leading pro-Hindu groups have intensified their calls for a total ban on the country’s 172 million Muslims conducting congregational prayers on public grounds and some roads…
Byzantine prayer app now available (ByzCath.org) A new and unique daily prayer app is now available from Eastern Christian Publications for iOS and Android devices. The app is titled “ECPubs” and is available for free download from either the Apple Store or Google Play. This is the only Byzantine Catholic app available in English with all the changeable prayer texts included for the Daily Office…
16 May 2018
Tags: India Middle East Hunger Hindu
Little Mariam visited CNEWA’s office in Amman just two months after she was born. (photo: CNEWA)
The CNEWA team in Amman, Jordan, was happily surprised recently by a small visitor — one who owes her life, in no small part, to CNEWA’s donors. We’d like you to meet one of our success stories, 2-month-old Mariam.
Before Mariam was born, her parents came to CNEWA, looking for help. The mother was older, and it was clear she needed a Caesarean delivery. The CNEWA staff directed the family to the Italian Hospital, supported by CNEWA in Amman, and helped pay for the surgery.
The delivery went well, but the doctors discovered that Mariam has a small hole in her heart. She is being treated with drugs and, in time, it is hoped the hole will close and Mariam will have a long life.
What a blessing to see Mariam alive and well — and to see the joy on her parents’ faces.
So often, we at CNEWA start to feel a bond with those we serve, especially refugees in need of help. It’s not just a matter of providing food or milk or health care. It is a matter of love — as Jesus commanded us, “Love one another, as I have loved you.”
Mariam and her parents stopped by CNEWA’s Amman office to express their gratitude. (photo: CNEWA)
16 May 2018
Tags: CNEWA Jordan Amman
Pope Francis met with representatives of Dharmic religions — including Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Sikh — at the Vatican on Wednesday 16 May. He said religious leaders need to foster “a culture of encounter … at the service of life, human dignity and the care of creation.” (photo: Vatican Media)
16 May 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Interreligious Dialogue
Pope Francis passes a crucifix as he walks down steps during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican 16 May. During his audience, the pope called for efforts to stop the “spiral of violence” in the Middle East. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope issues plea for peace in Middle East (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Wednesday once more expressed his deep concern at the worsening violence in the Middle East. ”I am very concerned at the escalation of tension in the Holy Land and in the Middle East, and the spiral of violence that is moving away further from the path of peace, dialogue and negotiation,” he said at the end of his general audience in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square…
Syrian rebels leave last besieged area (Reuters) The remaining fighters started to withdraw from the last rebel-held enclave in central Syria on Wednesday, state television reported, sealing the government’s control over the area and opening a major stretch of the country’s most important highway…
Lebanon’s president: country will not wait for a political solution on refugees (Middle East Monitor) Lebanese President Michel Aoun said that his country refuses to wait for a political solution before returning the Syrian refugees to their homeland. “We are surprised by the position of some parties which obstruct this return or do not encourage it,” Aoun said during a meeting with foreign delegations in the presidential palace. “Lebanon faces many challenges with 1.8 million displaced people on its territory since 2015,” he said…
Shi’ite cleric’s win puts Iran to the test in Iraq (Reuters) Already pressured by the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Iran faces a major test in managing Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al Sadr, a formidable opponent who beat Tehran’s longtime allies to achieve a shock victory in Iraq’s parliamentary election…
Pope meets with Buddhists, Hindus, others at Vatican (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Wednesday briefly met a delegation of Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs who participated in a one-day conference in the Vatican, and another group of Buddhist monks from Thailand...
15 May 2018
Tags: Iraq Lebanon Pope Francis Middle East
Mourners carry the body of 8-month-old Palestinian Laila al Ghandour, who died after inhaling tear gas at the Israel-Gaza border during a 15 May protest against the U.S embassy move to Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Mohammed Salem, Reuters)
As the world witnesses “another outburst of hatred and violence, which is once again bleeding all over the Holy Land,” the head of Jerusalem’s Latin Patriarchate called for prayers for peace.
“We need to pray more for peace and our conversion and for all,” said Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the patriarchate, or diocese.
The Associated Press reported that the same day the United States was inaugurating its embassy in Jerusalem, Israeli forces shot and killed 57 Palestinians and injured more than 2,700 during mass protests along the Gaza border 14 May. In addition, a baby died from tear gas inhalation, the Gaza Health Ministry said, bringing the death toll to 58.
“The lives of so many young people have once again been shut down and hundreds of families are mourning their loved ones, dead or wounded,” said the statement from Archbishop Pizzaballa. “As in a kind of vicious circle, we must condemn all forms of violence, any cynical use of human lives and disproportionate violence. Once again we are forced by circumstances to plead and cry out for justice and peace!”
He announced that 19 May, the eve of Pentecost, the church would hold a prayer vigil at the Church of St. Stephen at L’Ecole Biblique. He asked the entire diocese to dedicate a day of prayer and fasting for the peace of Jerusalem and that the liturgy on Pentecost be dedicated to prayer for peace.
“We must truly pray to the Spirit to change our hearts to better understand his will and to give us the strength to continue to work for justice and peace,” the archbishop said.
Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital and now feel that, with its embassy there, the U.S. cannot be a fair broker in the peace process with Israel.
Many Israelis see opening the embassy as the long-awaited official recognition of Jerusalem as their capital and the fulfillment of a promise made by numerous U.S. presidents to move the building from Tel Aviv.
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine Israel Holy Land Israeli-Palestinian conflict