Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
25 June 2019
Greg Kandra

Security personnel investigate the scene of a bomb explosion on 9 April 2017, inside the Orthodox Church of St. George in Tanta, Egypt. The Holy See is calling for tolerance and inclusivity to combat terrorism against religion. (photo: CNS/Khaled Elfiqi, EPA)

Holy See urges tolerance to combat terrorism against religion (Vatican News) The Holy See is urging patience, perseverance, wisdom, courage and leadership in countering terrorism against every religion by fostering tolerance and inclusivity. ”I hope we will all become part of the short- and long-term solution,” Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York, urged on Monday at an event on countering terrorism and other acts of violence against all religious believers by fostering a culture of tolerance and inclusivity…

Iran president calls U.S. sanctions ’outrageous and idiotic’ (USA Today) Iran President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday mocked President Donald Trump’s decision to impose “outrageous and idiotic” new sanctions, saying the effort to target top Iranian authorities reflects confusion at the White House…

Melkite bishops call for peace in Syria during synod (CNS) Melkite Catholic bishops from around the world, gathering in Lebanon for their annual synod, called for reconciliation and peace in Syria. In Syria, the war is almost over, but the horizon is unclear,” the bishops said in a statement following the 17-21 June gathering, which was led by Melkite Catholic Patriarch Joseph Absi…

The biggest displacement crisis that almost no one is talking about (Slate) The world’s largest new population of displaced people results from a conflict that has received shockingly little international attention: More than 1.5 million people were displaced by violence in Ethiopia last year, nearly all of them internally. This increase doubled the total number of displaced people in the country…

Indian cardinal celebrates Corpus Christi in Italy with a special chalice (Vatican News) Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai, celebrated the solemnity of Corpus Christi in the Cathedral of Orvieto, Italy, on Sunday, bringing along with him a precious chalice where it originated over five decades ago. For the occasion, a delegation from Mumbai Archdiocese brought the “Golden Lily” chalice which Pope St. Paul VI had gifted the archdiocese when he visited the western Indian city in December 1964…

Tags: India Ethiopia Holy See Melkite

24 June 2019

CNEWA’s ONE magazine took home top honors from the Catholic Press Association at its annual awards last week.

CNEWA’s flagship publication, ONE, took home top honors at the Catholic Media Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, last week.

The magazine was named Magazine of the Year (Mission Magazine category) at the Catholic Press Association Awards, and won 26 others in a wide range of categories including writing, photography, blogging and design.

In addition, the magazine’s publisher, Msgr. John E. Kozar, received the prestigious Bishop John England Award, which annually honors a publisher who has been a staunch defender of press freedom.

In one magazine category, Best Layout or Article Column, CNEWA’s graphic designer Paul Grillo swept all the awards — and also won second place in the All Member Awards for Graphic Artist/Designer of the Year.

Citing the overall quality of the magazine, the judges praised the “great work” of the staff, cited the “excellent” layouts, singled out the “beautiful, informative coverage” and made a point to underscore the “exceptional journalism” that has become a hallmark of the publication.

The judges included faculty from Spring Hill College, Loyola University, Marquette University and media professionals and journalists from around the country.

A complete list of the awards can be found below, with links to the winning stories:

First Place:

Magazine/Newsletter of the Year (Mission Magazines)

Best Layout or Article Column (Mission Magazines): This, Our Exile by Paul Grillo

Best Feature Article (Mission Magazines): For I Was in Prison by Don Duncan

Best Reporting on a Special Age Group: Windows to the World by Mark Raczkiewycz

Best Writing — In-Depth: Confronting Abuse of Women in Georgia by Molly Corso

Best Multiple Picture Package — Feature: This, Our Exile by Petterik Wiggers

Best Single Photo, Color: Thoroughfare in Mai-Aini refugee camp by Petterik Wiggers

Second Place:

Best Electronic Newsletter: “Discover ONE Online”

Graphic Artist/Designer of the Year: Paul Grillo

Best Blog — Group or Association: One-to-One by CNEWA Staff

Best Layout or Article Column (Mission Magazines): ‘For I Was in Prison’ by Paul Grillo

Best Coverage — Immigration:

Inspiring the Faithful in Jordan by Dale Gavlak

This, Our Exile by Emeline Wuilbercq

A Refuge in Lebanon by Doreen Abi Raad

Best Feature Article (Mission Magazines): This, Our Exile by Emeline Wuilbercq

Best Writing — In-Depth: A Source of Light by Gayane Abrahamyan

Best Multiple Picture Package — Feature: Windows to the World by Ivan Chernichkin

Third Place:

Best Layout or Article Column (Mission Magazines): A Letter From Iraq by Paul Grillo

Best Coverage — Ecumenical/Interfaith Issues:

Defining ‘Christian’ in Palestine by Samar Hazboun

‘For I Was in Prison’ by Don Duncan

Healing the Forgotten by Anubha George

Best Reporting of Social Justice Issues — Option for the Poor and Vulnerable: Healing the Forgotten by Anubha George

Honorable Mention:

Best Cover, Color: ONE magazine, June 2018 by Paul Grillo and Nazik Armenakyan

Best Online Content Not Published in Print: CNEWA Connections by Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

Best Essay (Mission Magazines): A Letter From Iraq by Sister Clara Nacy

Best Reporting of Social Justice Issues — Option for the Poor and Vulnerable: Confronting Abuse of Women in Georgia by Molly Corso

Best Reporting of Social Justice Issues — Solidarity: Signs of Hope by Magdy Samaan

Best Reporting of Social Justice Issues — Life and Dignity of the Human Person: Windows to the World by Mark Raczkiewycz

Best Story and Photo Package: This, Our Exile by Emeline Wuilbercq and Petterik Wiggers

Best Writing — In-Depth: A Refuge to Mend and Grow by Anubha George

Best Multiple Picture Package — Feature: For I Was in Prison by Don Duncan

Tags: CNEWA Catholic Press

24 June 2019
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2018, Pope Francis greets Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople outside the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy. Continuing a longstanding custom, the Ecumenical Patriarch will send a delegation to Rome this week to mark the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
(photo: CNS/Vatican Media)

Ecumenical Patriarch’s delegation to visit Rome (Vatican News) An official delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Istanbul, Turkey, will be in Rome, 27-29 June, on the occasion of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, 29 June. St. Peter, the first ?bishop of Rome, ?and St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, were both martyred in Rome and are patrons of the Eternal City. Their feast is a holiday both in Rome and in the Vatican. Each year, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Vatican send delegations for the feasts of their respective patrons. The Vatican sends a delegation to Istanbul on the 30 November feast of St. Andrew, the patron of the Patriarchate…

Tent collapse kills 14 at Hindu event in India (Vatican News) Locals in the Barmer district of India’s northwestern state of Rajasthan were gathered on Sunday for a Hindu religious event that took place during heavy rain and a thunderstorm. Video footage showed the man leading the event, Murlidhar Maharaj, shouting for the assembly to disperse, as wind could be heard rattling the venue. Witnesses said a stampede-like situation followed…

Russian Orthodox Church reconsiders blessing of missiles (The Telegraph) The Russian Orthodox Church is reconsidering the popular practice of priests blessing weapons including nuclear missiles. A document drafted by a commission on church law last week recommended that clergy perform benedictions for soldiers rather than military equipment…

UN warns of humanitarian disaster in Syria’s Idlib (Al Jazeera) In Syria, the devastation of continued air raids on Idlib is being laid bare. Nearly 500 civilians — many of them women and children — have been killed since the Russia-backed Syrian government offensive began nine weeks ago…

Iran faces new U.S. sanctions, threatens to shoot down another drone (CBS News) President Trump planned to unveil new sanctions against Iran on Monday as the U.S. and Iran traded more threats of military action. The tension could reach a new high with the expected sanctions, the latest response from Washington to Iran’s shooting down of a U.S. spy drone. Iran insists the drone and an accompanying U.S. manned military plane violated its airspace, but the Pentagon says the aircraft remained over international waters…

Conflict between Christians, Muslims in Ethiopia over planned mosque (BBC) For Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians, the ancient city of Aksum is a sacred place, home to the Biblical Queen of Sheba and Ark of the Covenant. The ark is believed to contain the 10 commandments handed down to Moses by God, and is said to be under the guard of monks in the city. Some Muslim groups are campaigning to build a mosque in the city — a suggestion rejected by Christian leaders, saying they would rather die…

Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

21 June 2019
Julie Asher, Catholic News Service

CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, visits the Home of Faith in Kerala, India, which cares for children with disabilities. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)

Msgr. John Kozar, president of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, and publisher of CNEWA’s ONE magazine, is the 2019 winner of the Catholic Press Association’s Bishop John England Award.

The award, the CPA’s highest honor for publishers, was announced at lunch on 20 June during the annual Catholic Media Conference in St. Petersburg.

Michael LaCivita, communications director for CNEWA, accepted the award on Msgr. Kozar’s behalf, informing the crowd the priest could not be with them because he had to have a medical procedure and he is suffering from kidney failure. LaCivita asked for prayers for Msgr. Kozar but added that he is otherwise in good health and good spirits and is in line to get a donor kidney.

The Bishop John England Award is given to a Catholic press publisher who “clearly has acted in his role as publisher; and clearly has acted in defense of the publication or used the publication, in accordance with its mission, to defend the First Amendment rights of the publisher, the institution owning the publication, and/or the church as a whole.”

The nomination entry for Msgr. Kozar described him as “a champion of journalism, promoting accountability and transparency in reporting, affirming a commitment to excellence and promoting the church’s evangelical witness throughout the world, especially in some of its most embattled corners.”

Whether spotlighting India’s “untouchables,” Iraqi and Syrian refugees or Armenia’s elderly “orphans,” it said, “John Kozar has been an advocate for commanding storytelling that informs as well as celebrates compassion and outreach service of the Gospel.”

It also said Msgr. Kozar — ordained for the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1971 — was “a parish priest on loan to the missions” and someone who “has promoted formation of persons as the cornerstone of healing a broken world.”

The nomination called the priest more than a publisher, saying: “He is in his bones a journalist who relishes getting a good story and sharing it.” Through his photography, essays, videos, emails and reports, he has kept readers “informed and engaged, bolstering CNEWA’s credibility and winning readers’ loyalty.”

Using his “considerable skills” as a photojournalist, which he first developed in high school, Msgr. Kozar takes readers to far-flung corners of the globe to show the Gospel at work,” it said. His ethic and spirit of transparency and accountability “set the standard for every publisher.”

This year there were three nominees for the Bishop John England award. The other two were Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, publisher of The Tablet newspaper of the diocese; and Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey, publisher of The Beacon newspaper of his diocese.

The award is named after the first bishop of Charleston, South Carolina, who in 1822 founded The Catholic Miscellany, the first Catholic newspaper in the U.S. Bishop England edited the paper, wrote most of its material and even helped print it. He published a missal and a catechism and wrote the first pastoral letter published in the United States.

Tags: CNEWA ONE magazine Catholic Press

21 June 2019
J.D. Conor Mauro

An Israeli border policeman stands guard near Ramallah, West Bank, on 17 May 2019, as Palestinians make their way to attend Friday prayer at Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City. (photo: CNS/Raneen Sawafta, Reuters)

Jerusalem’s Old City: How Palestine’s past is being slowly erased (Middle East Eye) The Old City has huge historic, economic, religious and now national symbolism for both Palestinians and Israelis, particularly because of the Al-Aqsa compound, known as Haram al-Sharif to Muslims and Temple Mount to Jews. This is the most explosive issue in an already incendiary conflict…

Iraqi envoy to Vatican urges international help for Christians to return home (Crux) Speaking outside the program at an event in Rome on migration, the newly arrived ambassador from Iraq to the Vatican said Wednesday that the country’s Christian community is at risk after violence perpetrated by ISIS, but people who fled now want to go back…

Tags: Iraq Jerusalem Palestine Iraqi Christians

20 June 2019
CNEWA staff

Msgr. John E. Kozar poses for a snapshot at Alphonsa Balika Bhavan, an institute in Trivandrum, while on a 2015 pastoral visit to India. (photo: CNEWA)

The Catholic Press Association Thursday afternoon honored CNEWA’s President Msgr. John E. Kozar with the prestigious Bishop John England Award. The award was presented at the Catholic Media Conference now underway in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The Bishop England Award— named for the bishop who founded the first Catholic newspaper in the United States, the Catholic Miscellany in 1822 — honors a publisher who has been a staunch defender of press freedom.

As the nominating criteria puts it: “The recipient of the Bishop John England Award should clearly have acted in defense of the publication or used their publication, in accordance with its mission, to defend the First Amendment rights of the publisher, the institution owning the publication, and/or the Catholic Church as a whole.”

The nomination for Msgr. Kozar described his achievements in communications:

“During his eight years as president of Catholic Near East Welfare Association and as publisher of CNEWA’s magazine, ONE, Msgr. John E. Kozar has been a champion of journalism, promoting accountability and transparency in reporting, affirming a commitment to excellence, and promoting the church’s evangelical witness throughout the world — especially in some of its most embattled corners.

More than a publisher, he is in his bones a journalist who relishes getting a good story and sharing it. A photographer and essayist, he has used his considerable skills as a photojournalist — skills he first developed in high school — to take readers to far-flung corners of the globe to show the Gospel at work.

John Kozar has also redefined how CNEWA tells the story of its own mission, challenging the CNEWA staff to articulate the association’s work with clarity, optimism and zeal — emphasizing our work of ‘accompaniment’ and encouraging a spirit of invitation. The result has been a dynamic approach to communications that has attracted new readers in all media.

He has accomplished this with an ethic and spirit of transparency and accountability that sets the standard for every publisher. Through his essays, videos, emails and reports, Msgr. Kozar has kept readers informed and engaged, bolstering CNEWA’s credibility and winning readers’ loyalty and trust.”

Previous winners include Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, Cardinal Francis George, Greg Erlandson and Cardinal John O’Connor.

We at CNEWA could not be prouder, and can’t think of anyone more deserving. On behalf of all of us: congratulations, Msgr. Kozar!

CNEWA’s Director of Communications Michael La Civita accepted the Bishop John England award on behalf of Msgr. Kozar, who was unable to attend the conference in Florida. (photo: CNEWA)

Tags: CNEWA Catholic Press

18 June 2019
J.D. Conor Mauro

Muhammad Morsi announces his victory at a press conference on 18 June 2012, following the second round of Egypt’s presidential elections. (photo: Jonathan Rashad via Wikimedia Commons)

Egypt’s ex-President Muhammad Morsi buried in Cairo (Al Jazeera) Egypt’s former President Muhammad Morsi was buried on Tuesday in eastern Cairo, his son said. Mr. Morsi had collapsed in court on Monday and died shortly after. He was buried at dawn alongside other senior figures of the Muslim Brotherhood, his son, Ahmed Morsi, said on his Facebook page…

Five years later, Mosul’s Christians slowly rebuild (Christian Today) Yesterday, 17 June marked the fifth anniversary of one of the darkest moments for Mosul’s Christians — the day they were told by ISIS to “convert, pay or die.” The ultimatum for Christians to convert to Islam, pay a “protection tax” or face death triggered a mass exodus out of the city. Up to half a million residents, including around 3,000 Christian families, made the painful decision to leave their homes and their livelihoods in search of safety elsewhere. Many of them went to the city of Erbil in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq…

Syria clashes kill 45 fighters (Daily Star Lebanon) Clashes between pro-government forces and extremist-led groups that control Syria’s northwest killed at least 45 combatants Tuesday, a war monitor said. The fighting flared on the edge of the Hama province when extremist group Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (formerly Al Nusra Front) launched a dawn attack on government positions, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said…

Free chickens for Syria’s struggling farmers (Al Monitor) The Syrian government will distribute free chickens and feed to farmers to support rural areas ravaged by years of conflict, an agriculture ministry official told AFP on Tuesday. A cabinet statement said 1 billion Syrian pounds ($2.3 million) has been allocated to the initiative, which aims to provide 15 egg-laying chickens and 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of feed to each family…

Iran will not wage war against any nation, says Hassan Rouhani (The Guardian) Iran has declared it “will not wage war against any nation” after the U.S. announced that a further 1,000 troops are to be sent to the Middle East amid rising tensions…

Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Iran

17 June 2019
Doreen Abi Raad, Catholic News Service

Maronite Catholic bishops from around the world met in Lebanon last week for their annual synod at Bkerke, the patriarchal seat north of Beirut.
(photo: CNS/Mychel Akl for Maronite Catholic Patriarchate)

Maronite Catholic bishops from around the world, meeting in Lebanon, called for unity among politicians and the international community to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees.

Returning the refugees to their homeland, the bishops said in their synod final statement, would lift Lebanon from the “heavy burden” it faces in hosting them, which they noted is recognized by international authorities as “exceeding Lebanon’s potential.”

It also would encourage the preservation of Syria’s history, heritage and culture, the bishops said.

With an existing population of around 4 million, Lebanon has absorbed more than 1.5 million refugees from neighboring Syria. This has inflicted humanitarian and socio-economic strains on the tiny country, about two thirds the size of Connecticut. Lebanon has the world’s highest number of refugees per capita.

The Maronite prelates also pointed to Lebanon’s housing crisis, calling on government officials to revive housing loans, which were suspended due to a weakening of the central bank’s capacities. The stagnation, the bishops said, is forcing young couples to abandon marriage and plans for a family and a future. The bishops stressed that the housing sector is vital to the country’s economic growth, trade and production.

The bishops also looked at Maronite dioceses in other countries and addressed the “growing needs they face, due to an accumulation of crises.”

Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay of Australia told Catholic News Service his parishes have not been directly affected by the approximate 18,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq that have settled in Australia.

However, he said, Lebanon’s refugee crisis is of great concern to the Lebanese diaspora in Australia who have family in their ancestral homeland. The Maronite diocese of Australia has 15 parishes and six missions, or Mass centers, serving more than 200,000 Maronites.

“Whenever we’re talking to the faithful that have relatives in Lebanon, they are conveying to us the suffering of their relatives” due to the country’s economic slump exacerbated by the refugee crisis. Increasingly, their relatives in Lebanon are facing unemployment, unable to meet basic livelihood needs and slipping further into poverty, he said. Many have lost their jobs to Syrian refugees.

Bishop Tarabay relayed his flock’s distress: “They’re asking, ‘What can be done to help the Lebanese people?’“

The Maronite bishops concluded their synod statement with the confidence that Mary “will help us to guide the world’s leaders to work to stop the wars in the Middle East and the world and to bring about a just, comprehensive and lasting peace and the return of all displaced and abducted people to their lands and homelands.”

The 10-15 June synod took place at the patriarchal seat of Bkerke, north of Beirut. It was preceded by a spiritual retreat.

Tags: Lebanon Maronite Maronite Catholic

17 June 2019
Greg Kandra

Surrounded by buildings braced to prevent them from falling, Pope Francis celebrates Mass on 16 June 2019, in the square outside the cathedral in Camerino, Italy. The cathedral is still closed to the public almost three years after it suffered heavy damage from an earthquake. After Mass, the pope voiced concern over tensions in the Middle East. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)

Pope calls attention to Middle East after Sunday Mass (Vatican News) Before reciting the Angelus after Mass, Pope Francis voiced his concern over “increasing tensions in the Persian Gulf.” ”I call on everyone”, he said, “to use the instruments of diplomacy to resolve the complex problems of the conflicts in the Middle East. I also renew to the international community my heartfelt appeal for every possible effort to be made to promote dialogue and peace…”

Tensions continue to rise in Gulf (Vatican News) Tensions continued to rise in the region, with Saudi Arabia joining the United States in pointing the finger of blame at Iran for the recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran has described accusations as unfounded. Both ships were struck at dawn last Thursday by what U.S. military officials believe were mines. On Sunday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said his country would not hesitate to tackle any threats…

Indian poverty linked to religion and caste ( A new report by Oxfam, a confederation of 20 developmental organizations, points to a strong correlation between poverty and social identity. The report released this month, titled “Mind the Gap: The State of Employment in India 2019,” stresses that India’s poor are most likely to be Dalits, other so-called lower castes, tribal people and Muslims. A central finding is that the poor are still discriminated against on the basis of their religion or caste…

Interreligious group meets with pope (Vatican News) The leaders of six religions in Hong Kong are in Rome this week to mark the 40th anniversary of an organization dedicated to improving inter religious ties…

Russian Orthodox Church backs down in church dispute (Radio Free Europe) The Russian Orthodox Church says it has rejected “the right” to build a cathedral at a disputed site in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg. In a statement released on 16 June, Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye said that in an “atmosphere of total lies and deceit” building the church on the site would still be potential cause for discord. Metropolitan Kirill said he does not want to “give the devil that opportunity...”

Tags: India Middle East Russian Orthodox

14 June 2019
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

Claudio Di Segni, a tenor and director of the choir at Rome's main synagogue, performs with the choir on 13 June 2019, during a concert at the synagogue marking the 25th anniversary of formal diplomatic ties between Israel and the Holy See. (photo: CNS/Robert Duncan)

Plaintive pleas and rousing, rhythmic recognitions of God’s goodness filled the air at Rome’s main synagogue as Israeli and Vatican officials celebrated 25 years of formal diplomatic relations.

“A concert of sacred Jewish music in a highly symbolic place like the major synagogue of Rome highlights our special bond that is founded in our common root: the Bible,” Oren David, the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, told Catholic News Service.

“Songs from the Psalms show that we have a common heritage, which is reflected in the biblical values that we share, and we want to bring attention to the special and unique bond between us,” said David, who hosted the concert on 13 June.

Nathan Lam, the cantor of Stephen Wise Temple in Los Angeles, was one of four cantors to perform at the concert. He said the singers, who are ordained for service and can preside at weddings and funerals, purposefully chose songs with texts common to Jews and Christians for the celebration.

Jews and Christians will interpret those texts differently, he said, “but the fact that we share them is a very important commonality.”

“I hope this leads to more and more dialogue, to more and more celebrations of relationships that are productive and good,” Lam said.

Celebrating 25 years of formal Vatican-Israeli diplomatic relations is not only about the relationship of two states. The ties were built on decades of Catholic-Jewish dialogue, which first focused on healing a relationship wounded by anti-Jewish church teaching and then moved on to common religious and moral teachings.

Celebrating what has been accomplished does not mean ignoring the sticky issues that remain on a diplomatic, political and religious level: for example, diplomats on both sides continue to try to negotiate an agreement governing church property ownership and taxation issues; the Vatican continues to call for international guarantees of Jerusalem’s status as a city sacred to Jews, Christian and Muslims; and Jewish religious leaders continue to press Catholic theologians involved in dialogue to discuss the religious significance of the land of Israel.

The Israeli ambassador and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, mentioned the three issues in their remarks before the concert. But they both also insisted there was much more to celebrate than to worry about.

“In our relations, political and religious issues are intertwined, this is why they are so special,” the ambassador told CNS.

For Catholics, the “special” relationship includes recognizing that Jesus was a Jew, the apostles were Jews and that Christianity not only recognized the Hebrew Scriptures -- the Old Testament -- as part of God’s revelation, but Catholics adopted and adapted Jewish liturgy, including the chanting and singing of the Psalms.

“Our liturgy stems from the liturgy of the Jewish people,” said the Rev. Norbert Hofmann, secretary of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. “For example, reading texts, interpreting texts, giving sermons on texts -- that already can be found in Judaism, in Jewish liturgy and practice.”

“Jews and Christians are praying with the same texts,” he said, “but with a different interpretation” because Christians would read those texts in the light of their faith in Jesus.

Lam, the “chazzan” or cantor, prayed that those differing understandings would not overshadow the basic shared faith in one God, the creator of all, and -- to a lesser degree -- in the power of music to carry prayer and to touch hearts.

Like Christian sacred music, Jewish sacred music includes many styles influenced by the cultures the Jews were living in when the music was written. The cantor and choir of the Rome synagogue, who also performed 13 June, had a unique sound and style reflecting what the program described as the Jewish “Roman rite.”

The songs are sacred not because of their style, Lam said, but because the texts are the word of God, and the music upholds, reflects and emphasizes its content.

For Jews and for Christians, the Psalms have a special connection to liturgical music and not just because

they are written in a poetic form that makes it natural to chant or sing them.

Lam, who has been the cantor at Stephen Wise Temple for 43 years, said the Psalms seem to be growing in importance for both Jews and Christians “because the Psalms are a great source of comfort, knowledge, joy and wisdom.”

The central piece of the anniversary concert fittingly was Psalm 122 with its prayer for the peace of Jerusalem, peace in the world and, finally a personal, “I pray for your good.”

You can watch a related video from CNS below:

Tags: Vatican Jewish-Catholic relations

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