13 September 2019
Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald, shown in this photo from 2015, is one of the Catholic Church’s foremost experts on Islam. He will be made a cardinal next month.
(photo: CNS/William Rieter)
Once the top expert on Islam at the Vatican, Cardinal-designate Michael Fitzgerald is unsure whether a new top-ranking title will help or hamper his work ministering in a multicultural inner-city parish in Liverpool, England.
“Ask me in a few years” to see how it goes, the 82-year-old former president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and papal nuncio to Egypt and the Arab League, told Catholic News Service on 12 September.
He and 12 other prelates will be created cardinals in a ceremony at the Vatican on 5 October. He is one of three who are over the age of 80 and will not be eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope.
Cardinal-designate Fitzgerald said while many people have welcomed his elevation to the College of Cardinals, he was hoping others would not be intimidated and think, “We can’t invite him now. He’s too important!”
Having a high profile isn’t a priority in his day-to-day work reaching out to migrants and Muslims in a city that had the earliest mosque in England and has the oldest Chinese community in Europe.
“We have to go out and try to make ourselves known” since many people have moved to the area with no idea a Catholic church is there, he said in a February 2019 interview posted online by the Missionaries of Africa, the order to which he belongs.
Since the missionaries are near Chinatown, “our neighbors are Chinese” and the priests are hoping to build relations with them and the evangelical church close by as well, he said.
The day Pope Francis announced his name among the new cardinals, the cardinal-designate was delivering a sermon in an Anglican church at a service commemorating the merchant seaman who died in World War II.
That meant he didn’t know about the announcement until he got home to his confreres of the Missionaries of Africa who embraced him in celebration.
“They had a call from a neighboring priest who had heard the Angelus and told them,” the cardinal-designate told CNS.
He said he thinks it very significant Pope Francis will give red hats to prelates from the Muslim-majority cities of Rabat, Morocco, and Jakarta, Indonesia, as well as the former and the current presidents of the interreligious council.? ?By making them cardinals the same day, Pope Francis is highlighting “this aspect of the church’s mission, that reaching out to other believers is important,” he told CNS.
Related: Islam’s Many Faces
Born 17 August 1937, to Irish parents in a small town north of Birmingham, England, he once told CNS that his interest in interreligious dialogue may have stemmed from growing up with friends who were “not all Catholics and not all Irish.”
He pursued his dream of becoming a missionary priest and heading to Africa when he went off to school with the Missionaries of Africa at age 12 in 1949.
Arab North Africa piqued his interested and eventually he was sent to Tunisia to study theology for four years and learn Arabic. He would later earn a degree in Arabic at the University of London.
He was ordained a priest in 1961 at the age of 23 and spent two years teaching courses on Islam to Muslim and Christian students in Kampala, Uganda, during the reign of the dictator Idi Amin. He also lived for two years in northern Sudan, carrying out dialogue with Muslims and proclaiming the Gospel to a small Christian community there.
He was frequently called back to Rome, either to teach at the Pontifical Institute for Islamic and Arabic Studies or to hold offices on the general council of the Missionaries of Africa.
His experience made him one of the Catholic Church’s foremost experts on Islam and the Quran, and in 1987 he was appointed secretary of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Non-Christians, which later became the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. He was ordained a bishop in 1992 and became archbishop in 2002 when he became president of the pontifical council.
In February 2006, he became nuncio to Egypt and served as the Holy See’s representative to the Arab League. He and other nuncios of Muslim-majority nations dealt with the controversy and violence in the aftermath of Pope Benedict XVI’s address in Regensburg, Germany, in which his quoting a medieval emperor’s critique of the prophet Muhammad was misinterpreted as an endorsement of that view.
Archbishop Fitzgerald witnessed the uprising of the Egyptian people in 2011 and kept encouraging dialogue at the local level after Muslim clerics at Cairo’s al-Azhar University suspended the official Catholic-Muslim dialogue with the Vatican over concerns of interference when Pope Benedict expressed concern for Christians after a church bombing in Egypt.
Even though he retired at age 75 at the end of 2012, retirement for Cardinal-designate Fitzgerald meant going to the Missionaries of Africa community in Jerusalem to welcome pilgrims, teach courses on the Bible and give talks on Islam.
He moved back to England in late 2018 to work in the inner-city parish of St. Vincent de Paul in Liverpool. It came after the order recognized its mission was to minister not just on the African continent but to all Africans, wherever they live, and it opened a mission in Great Britain.
13 September 2019
Nine shards of bone believed to belong to St. Peter lie inside a reliquary. Pope Francis gave the reliquary to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on 29 June. The Vatican has now released a letter the pope wrote to the patriarch about the relics.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople)
Pope writes to Ecumenical Patriarch about relics of St. Peter (Vatican News) Pope Francis has written to the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew, in order, as the Pope says in his letter, “to explain more fully the gift of some fragments of the relics of the Apostle Peter that I presented to Your Holiness.” In the letter to the Orthodox Archbishop of Constantinople, Pope Francis reviews what he calls “the uninterrupted tradition of the Roman Church” which “has always testified that the Apostle Peter, after his martyrdom in the Circus of Nero, was buried in the adjoining necropolis on the Vatican Hill…”
Ethiopia captures suspected ISIS members (VOA) The Ethiopian military has captured an undisclosed number of suspected Islamic State members operating in the country, officials said Wednesday. General Berhanu Jula, deputy chief of staff and director of military operations in the Ethiopian armed forces, confirmed the arrests but did not specify how many extremists were detained or in what part of the country they were apprehended. He said security forces continue to monitor other suspected ISIS sympathizers…
Indian cardinal demands release of priest, catechist (UCANews.com) An Indian cardinal has asked a court to immediately release a priest and catechist who are being detained on charges of conversion and land-grabbing in eastern Jharkhand state. Cardinal George Alencherry, the major archbishop of the eastern rite Syro-Malabar Church, made his appeal on 12 September after a court refused to bail Father V.J. Binoy and catechist Munna Hansda, five days after they were arrested…
600-year-old synagogue collapses in Kerala (India Today) A portion of the over 600-year-old Kadavumbhagam synagogue in Kochi’s Mattancherry collapsed on Tuesday after it was damaged due to rain. The structure had been in a dilapidated condition for the past few years…
Cable cars over Jerusalem spark worries of ’Disneyfication’ of holy city (The New York Times) Trumpeted by right-wing Israeli leaders as a green solution to the challenges of increased tourism and traffic in and around the Old City, the plan [to add cable cars] has provoked howls of protest from horrified Israeli preservationists, environmentalists, planners, architects and others who picture an ancient global heritage site turned into a Jewish-themed Epcot, with thousands of passengers an hour crammed into huge gondolas lofting across the sky. ”A total outrage against a fragile city,” the Israeli architect Moshe Safdie says. “An aesthetic and architectural affront…”
12 September 2019
Tags: Ethiopia Kerala ISIS Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople
As part of a long tradition, the Passion Play is staged for a few weeks every 10 years in Oberammergau, Germany. This photograph is from the mid-19th century.
(photo: Josef Albert via Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.)
Sometimes, people can be surprised at the similarities between Christianity and Islam — bonds that often aren’t easily apparent. We encounter this in the world CNEWA serves, where very often the two religions dwell peacefully together, with believers sharing cultures and, sometimes, traditions.
This month brought another example of this striking commonality.
This year on 10 September, Shi’ite Muslims all over the world observed Ashura, marked on the 10th day of the Islamic Month of Muharram. Muharram is the first month of the Muslim calendar and is one of the four sacred months (Qur’an 9:36) during which war and violence are forbidden.
Muharram also has special meaning for Shi’ite Muslims. It was on the 10th of Muharram almost 1,500 years ago that the army of the Umayyad Calif, Yazid, slaughtered Hussein bin Ali, the grandson of the Prophet. He also killed 70 of his followers, including infants.
It was the death of Ali’s youngest son, Hussein, that was the foundational experience for the Shi’ite sect in Islam.
The Muslim calendar is lunar and is 354/355 days long. Unlike Christians and Jews, who also follow a lunar calendar, Muslims do not correct the lunar calendar over against the solar calendar with 365/6 days. As a result, Muslim holy days move “backwards” during the solar year. Every year on the 10th day of the month of Muharram, Shi’ite Muslims observe the death of Hussein. In most countries the observance takes the form of the ta ? ziya, or passion play. In Shi’ite countries the faithful — with great zeal and at time shocking fervor — re-enact the death of Hussein on the field of Karbela. The re-enactment is accompanied by processions in which believers flagellate themselves or strike the foreheads with stones to the point of drawing blood. Ecstatic manifestations are fairly common during these observances.
Passion plays, of course, are not unique to Shi’ite Islam. In the pre-Reformation Middle Ages, Christians in Europe often re-enacted the Passion and Death of Jesus during Holy Week. Although deeply religious, passion plays also had secular and social overtones with different guilds presenting the passion play in different ways. Wikipedia lists over 15 countries which had or still have some form of passion play.
During the Reformation, with its sober and at times puritanical values, the exuberance and ecstatic nature of passion plays began to be looked down upon. While once extremely prevalent, passion plays in Protestant countries in Europe disappeared after the Reformation.
Of course, for Roman Catholics the legendary Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany, is the most famous. In 1633 the Bavarian town of Oberammergau was in the midst of the plague. The town vowed that, if the plague abated, they would re-enact the Passion of Christ every 10 years. Their prayers were answered and for almost 250 years the town has staged the play. Over the years the spectacle has been updated to be in harmony with the Catholic Church’s teaching on the Jews since the document Nostra Aetate (1965) of Vatican II.
In the year when the play is performed—the next is in 2020—thousands of pilgrims and tourists come from all over the world to attend.
In other places like the Philippines and South and Latin America passion plays—often with shocking detail and realism—are part of the observance of Holy Week. While nonexistent in many parts of the world, passion plays, be they Muslim or Christian, are an attempt by believers to reconnect in a very concrete way with the redemptive sufferings and death of Imam Hussein bin Ali or Jesus Christ.
Similar phenomena can also be found in many of the other religious traditions of the world —serving to remind us that the human experience of faith and belief often finds expression in ways that are startling, dramatic and — despite our differences — profoundly universal.
12 September 2019
Pope Francis is flanked by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, on 12 September 2019, during an audience with bishops who were ordained over the past year and were attending a course sponsored by the two congregations. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
New bishops need to prepare for a life filled with God’s surprises, with daily plans that change at the last minute and, especially, for a life dedicated to spending time with God and with the people, Pope Francis said.
“God surprises us and often likes to mess up our appointment books: prepare for this without fear,” the pope told about 130 bishops attending a course for bishops ordained in the past year.
Bishops exist to make tangible God’s love for and closeness to his people, the pope told them on 12 September. “But one cannot communicate the closeness of God without experiencing it every day and without letting himself be infected by his tenderness.”
Pope Francis told the new bishops that no matter what else is going on in their lives and ministries, they must spend time in prayer.
“Without this intimacy cultivated daily in prayer, even and especially in times of desolation and dryness, the nucleus of our episcopal ministry splits apart,” he said.
Without a strong relationship to God, the sower of every good seed, a bishop’s own efforts will not seem worth the effort, he said, and it will be difficult to find the patience necessary to wait for the seeds to sprout.
Closeness to God also leads directly to desire for closeness to God’s people, the pope said. “Our identity consists in being near. It is not an external obligation, but a requirement that is part of the logic of gift.”
“Jesus loves to approach his brothers and sisters through us, through our open hands that caress and console them, through our words pronounced to anoint the world with the Gospel and not ourselves,” Pope Francis said.
A bishop cannot simply “proclaim” his closeness to the people, the pope said. He must be like the good Samaritan: seeing people in need rather than looking the other way, stopping to help, bandaging wounds, taking responsibility for them and paying the cost of caring for them.
“Each of these requires putting yourself on the line and getting your hands dirty,” Pope Francis told the bishops.
“Being close to the people,” he said, “is trusting that the grace God faithfully pours out on us and of which we are channels, even through the crosses we bear, is greater than the mud we fear.”
And, he said, a simple lifestyle is part of a bishop’s mission because it is the first and clearest way to proclaim with integrity that “Jesus is enough for us and that the treasure we want to surround ourselves with is made up of those who, in their poverty, remind us of and represent him.”
Bishops must spend more time visiting parishes and other communities than they spend at their desks, and those visits should not be super-formal affairs, he said.
“What comes to mind are pastors who are so groomed that they seem like distilled water that has no taste,” he said. They must truly listen to people, rather than surrounding themselves with “lackeys and yes men,” he added.
12 September 2019
Tags: Pope Francis
Marie Rackley (left) of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada presents a check to CNEWA Canada’s Development Officer Melodie Gabriel (right). (photo: CNEWA)
Thank you to the Catholic Women’s League (C.W.L.) for giving CNEWA Canada the opportunity to speak at their recent National Convention in Calgary.
During the convention, the C.W.L. of Canada presented a check to CNEWA for $16,346.13.
I was pleased to accept the donation and thank the Catholic Women’s League for their ongoing support. I was also able to update attendees on conditions in the Middle East. Christians are few but mighty in these countries and play vital roles in interfaith dialogue, health services and aid to those in need. We thank the C.W.L. for the hope they bring to Holy Land Christians through their prayer and donations — and by spreading the word about CNEWA.
Earlier this summer, CNEWA Canada organized its 6th annual Pilgrimage to the Holy Land for C.W.L. members and CNEWA Canada donors. During the trip, they visited two projects that help women and families in the Holy Land: Shepherd’s Field Hospital and Infant Welfare Center.
These Christian institutions can to do the good work they do because of the ongoing generous support of donors such as the Catholic Women’s League. Thank you!
12 September 2019
Tags: Canada CNEWA Canada
The video above shows some of the recent devastation in Syria, with a growing number of children suffering casualties. A UN report says Syrian government forces backed by Russian warplanes may have committed war crimes in targeting schools and medical facilities.
(video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)
UN: US-led coalition may have committed war crimes in Syria (Al Jazeera) Syrian government forces backed by Russian warplanes may have committed war crimes while targeting medical facilities, schools, markets and farmland in an ongoing deadly campaign in northwestern Syria, UN investigators say. The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria also said on Wednesday that Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a former al-Qaeda affiliate fighting government forces in the northwestern province of Idlib, fired rockets indiscriminately and killed civilians…
Indian state’s plan to fund Christian pastors sparks row (UCANews.com) Hindu groups have opposed a move by the chief minister of India’s Andhra Pradesh state to implement his election promise of paying a US$70 monthly honorarium to Christian pastors. The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the southern state began its resistance after the state government on 27 August asked district officials to count the number of pastors in their areas…
‘Long way to go” before Russia and Ukraine repair relations (CNBC) A high-profile prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine is being seen as a boost to the possible resumption of peace talks, but some experts are tempering those hopes…
Shevchuk: marriage doesn’t solve the priest shortage (Crux) Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, has urged those considering allowing priests in the Latin rite to marry in order to help solve a crippling shortage, to proceed with caution, saying marriage has not curbed shortages in his own rite…
11 September 2019
Tags: Syria India Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Pope Francis greets Mohamed Husin Abdelaziz Hassan, president of Al Azhar University, during a meeting at the Vatican on 11 September. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
On a day remembered for the terrorist attacks against the United States, Pope Francis met with members of a committee of Muslim leaders and Vatican officials promoting a new era of dialogue and world peace.
The first meeting of the committee working to fulfill the goals of the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” was held 11 September in the Vatican residence where the pope lives.
“The date was chosen as a sign of the will to build life and fraternity where others sowed death and destruction,” said a communique by the Vatican press office.
The Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together — which rejects violence and terrorism and promotes identity, dialogue and harmony — was signed in the United Arab Emirates in February by Pope Francis and Egyptian Sheikh Ahmad el Tayeb, grand imam of Al Azhar, a leading authority for many Sunni Muslims.
The seven-person committee is made up of representatives for the Vatican, Al Azhar University and the United Arab Emirates.
The pope greeted each member and gave them a special copy of the document, issued by the Vatican Library.
Calling them “artisans of fraternity,” the pope thanked them and encouraged them to be the source of a new form of politics of “not only of outstretched hands, but of open hearts,” the communique said.
During the committee’s meeting, which the pope did not attend, the members agreed to invite representatives of other religions to be part of the committee, and they made a proposal to ask the United Nations to proclaim a World Day of Human Fraternity, to be celebrated between 3 and 5 February.
When the meeting ended, “each member prayed according to his own faith for the victims of Sept. 11 and of every act of terrorism,” the Vatican statement said.
The members of the committee included: Cardinal-designate Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, former adviser to Egyptian Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Al Azhar University; Mohamed Husin Abdelaziz Hassan, president of Al Azhar University; and Sultan Faisal Al Remeithi, UAE secretary general of the Muslim Council of Elders.
11 September 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Muslim
In this image from 2014, the Rev. M.J. Joseph, pastor of St. Alphonsa Church in India, leads a service for Dalits in a mud hut. Members of this poor and marginalized caste have appealed to Pope Francis for help to fight discrimination. (photo: John Mathew/CNEWA)
Dalits appeal to pope for help (UCANews.com) As Indian bishops prepare for their periodic visit to the Vatican, a group of socially poor Dalit people has appealed to Pope Francis to direct the prelates to work toward ending caste-based discrimination in the Church. The call from the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM) came ahead of the Ad Limina Apostolorum meeting between 200 bishops from India’s 174 dioceses and Pope Francis in three groups from 13 September to 3 October…
Attacked Jesuit mission seeks action in eastern India (UCANews.com) A week after a mob of some 500 suspected Hindu hardliners vandalized a Jesuit mission in the eastern state of Jharkhand, church leaders have appealed to the governor to intervene and ensure police act against those responsible. The 11 September appeal to Governor Draupadi Murmu followed an attack on St. John Berchmans Inter College and an attached hostel for tribal students in the Mundli area of Sahibganj district eight days earlier…
Trapped in Jordan, Syrian refugees see no way home (AP) Seven years after fleeing the civil war in his homeland, Zahir Hamshari’s life is filled with questions and doubts: How to pay the rent? How to cover the electricity bill? How to afford even basic staples like bread and bottled water? But one thing is crystal clear for him. Like many Syrian refugees, he cannot envision returning to his war-torn country. ”There is no future for us in Syria,” Hamshari said. “Nothing encourages us to return back to Syria...”
Catholic bishop in Turkey calls for missionary effort, vocations (The Tablet) A Catholic bishop in Turkey has warned his Church lacks enough priests and places of worship to meet the needs of refugees and local residents, many of whom seek to return to Christianity or learn more about it. ”We need priests, nuns and laypeople who can help with the formation and daily pastoral care of Christians, which is made more complex by great distances”, said Bishop Paolo Bizzeti, an Italian-born Jesuit heading Turkey’s apostolic vicariate of Anatolia. “We also have Muslims who don’t intend to convert but wish to learn more about Christianity and help us convey its true values to Turkish society. This really is a land of opportunity for a Church wishing to become missionary again…”
10 September 2019
Tags: India Refugees Jordan Dalits
Students from Nativity Girls School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, review an assignment. With more kids heading back to school this month, learn how Catholic schools in Ethiopia are Making the Grade, and making young scholars, in the November 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
10 September 2019
Tags: Ethiopia Education
Syrian refugees are seen in 2015 at a makeshift camp in Adana, Turkey. After years of welcoming millions of Syrians, Turkey is now forcing thousands of refugees to leave.
(CNS photo/Nathalie Ritzmann)
Turkey, long a haven for Syrian refugees, is sending them home (The New York Times) Turkey, which for eight years has welcomed millions of Syrian refugees, has reversed course, forcing thousands to leave its major cities in recent weeks and ferrying many of them to its border with Syria in white buses and police vans. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pushing a radical solution — resettling refugees in a swath of Syrian territory controlled by the United States and its Kurdish allies. If that does not happen, he is threatening to send a flood of Syrian migrants to Europe…
Russian Orthodox churches in Europe may reconnect with Moscow (La Croix) Russian Orthodox churches in Europe are preparing to reconnect with Moscow after nearly 90 years under the protection of Constantinople. An extraordinary General Assembly of 186 members met in Paris 7 September to decide whether to reconnect with the Russian Orthodox Church, which they left in 1931 because of persecution under Stalin’s anti-religious policy…
Kerala on high alert following warnings of possible terror attack (Gulf News) All district police chiefs in Kerala have been asked to stay on high alert, said Director General of Police (DGP) Kerala, Loknath Behera on Monday. Earlier on Monday, the Lieutenant General SK Saini, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C), Army Southern Command had warned that there might be an attack on the southern states, following the discovery of some boats from the Sir Creek region in Gujarat…
UN: Israel may have ’willfully killed’ Gaza protestors (The Jerusalem Post) The UN accused Israel of killing and injuring “peaceful” Palestinian protesters at the Gaza border, when it opened the 42nd session of its Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday…
Ancient seal found near Western Wall (The Jerusalem Post) A 2,600-year-old seal bearing a Hebrew name was uncovered in dirt excavated in 2013 near the Western Wall, archaeologist Eli Shukron said on Monday. The seal is inscribed with the name of “Adenyahu Asher Al HaBayit,” meaning “Adenyahu by Appointment of the House,” the most prominent role in the king’s court in the Kingdom of Judea that appears for the first time on the list of ministries of Solomon…
Tags: Refugees Jerusalem Turkey Russian Orthodox Church