Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
1 October 2019
Joseph Hazboun

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri paid a visit to the Jerusalem office of CNEWA-Pontifical Mission this morning to meet the staff and hear about challenges facing Christians in Jerusalem. (photo: CNEWA)

This morning, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation of the Eastern Churches, and Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, the Holy See’s representative in Jerusalem, visited CNEWA-Pontifical Mission’s Jerusalem office. During an hour-long visit, we were privileged to describe our work and our mission and discuss issues of concern to the people we serve.

Among other things, we explained to the cardinal how the local community looks to CNEWA-Pontifical Mission as a sign of the pope’s interest, closeness and support toward those in need in the Palestine and Israel — and how we seek to express that through the programs and projects we support.

We also discussed challenges facing local Christians — including their lack of identity, and how many don’t feel a sense of belonging to the land of Jesus. We talked, as well, about the effects of emigration on the local population. We shared with the cardinal how we approach these and other issues in close partnership with the local church.

At the end of the visit, we gave Cardinal Sandri a small reminder of this historic visit: a ceramic pomegranate decorated with the walls of Jerusalem and the most important Christian monuments in the holy city.

CNEWA's regional director in Jerusalem presented Cardinal Sandri with a gift: a ceramic pomegranate made by local artisans. (photo: CNEWA)

Tags: Jerusalem CNEWA Pontifical Mission

31 August 2018
Joseph Hazboun

CNEWA's regional director in Jerusalem, Joseph Hazboun, left, exchanges gifts with Anba Antonius, the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem. (photo: CNEWA)

When I first visited the small but beautiful chapel of the Coptic Sisters’ convent in the Old City of Jerusalem, I was shocked at the amount of mold and mildew that covered the ceiling and walls, leaving a pungent odor in the air. The sisters told me that they covered the ceiling with plastic sheeting to prevent old plaster from falling onto the floor when they received guests and held liturgies in the chapel.

CNEWA provided a small grant to improve the conditions inside the convent. Rehabilitation work involved removing the old plaster of the ceiling and walls, which not only solved the humidity problem but revealed the original stone walls of the chapel that had been covered over for decades. The grant also renovated three small rooms of the convent to ensure the health and safety of the sisters.

This photo was taken during a recent joint visit of the CNEWA team with His Excellency, Anba Antonius, the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem.

His Excellency offered the Jerusalem Office a beautiful icon of the Holy Family on their trip to Egypt, which was hand-painted by his brother, and an icon of Mark the Evangelist, who brought Christianity into Egypt. Similar paintings can also be found in the sisters’ chapel, which was renovated under the grant.

Tags: Jerusalem Coptic Orthodox Church

25 October 2017
Joseph Hazboun

Sister Davida Twal has made a big difference at the Rosary Sisters Elementary School in Bethlehem. Here, schoolchildren greet her and Mrs. Alexandra Bukowska-Mccabe, Representative of Poland to the Palestinian Authority, during a recent visit. (photo: CNEWA)

When Sister Davida Twal was entrusted with the responsibility of running the Rosary Sisters Elementary School in Bethlehem — a few steps from the “King David Wells” mentioned in the Bible (2 Sam 23:15) — little did she know that her leadership skills and long experience in school administration in Jerusalem and later in Gaza would be crucial to help turn the school into a wonderful safe haven for the children of Bethlehem.

When she arrived, in 2014, the kindergarten had around 16 children; the whole school, which goes up to 7th grade, had a total of 294 students.

Today, thanks to Sister Davida — and in close cooperation with CNEWA and a few other partner donors — the school has around 67 children in kindergarten, and a total of 415 students. The school is at full capacity and has had to turn away students. But thanks to a generous grant through CNEWA (Shaheen Endowment), the school will be able to expand, adding three more classrooms to enable more children to enroll.

27 May 2014
Joseph Hazboun

Pope Francis listens as CNEWA’s Joseph Hazboun (in the foreground) describes life as a Palestinian Christian during a luncheon in Bethlehem. (photo: CNEWA)

Joseph Hazboun works in CNEWA’s Jerusalem office and was one of those invited to have lunch with Pope Francis during his visit to the Holy Land last weekend.

It was like a dream... I felt I was watching TV... the pope was sitting in front of me at the table surrounded by five families from the various areas representing the Holy Land’s indigenous Christian community as well as the hardships and difficulties we face under occupation.

I felt it was inappropriate to speak in his presence. But the extraordinary circumstances — and my wife’s elbow — brought me back to reality. Since I speak fluent Italian, I started by introducing the families present at the table to Pope Francis and gave the first opportunity to speak to a family from the village of Iqrit, which was destroyed after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and its Catholic villagers were expelled when Iqrit became part of the state of Israel.

A family from the Cremisan Valley had their land confiscated for the construction of the Israeli Separation Wall. They spoke next. They were followed by a young lady from the Gaza Strip, who explained the hardships of living under siege and prohibited from visiting the holy sites until they are at least 35 years of age — and only once or twice per year if they are lucky. This was followed by an intervention from the mother of Khaled Halabi, who has been detained in Israeli prisons for more than 10 years, representing hundreds of detained Palestinian youth.

A young person from Jerusalem explained how he was caught up in the system and denied residency in Jerusalem and has no ID at all, although both his parents have Jerusalem IDs. His Beatitude, Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, noted that this young person does not exist officially as he has no ID and no passport.

(photo: CNEWA)

After everyone had an opportunity to speak, I spoke to His Holiness about the hardships of the Christian community in Jerusalem. Seeing how affected he was at hearing all these tragic stories, pain and human suffering, I apologized to His Holiness and explained to him that being present as a representative of the Christian community of Jerusalem, I was obliged to complete the chain of personal stories about the sufferings and hardships of the Christian community. He was very touched by what he heard and expressed his interest in knowing the whole story. I explained to him the threats Christian families in Jerusalem face because of the family reunification law imposed by the Israeli Authorities, which prevents families from living together in their hometown of Jerusalem.

He was so tender, so loving, so compassionate. My wife expressed to His Holiness how much we love him, how honored we all were to dine with him; he smiled tenderly. I seized the opportunity to tell the pope that I was practically one of his employees. I could sense he wasn’t sure he actually understood what I said. So I explained to him that I work for CNEWA/Pontifical Mission for Palestine, a mission established in 1949 by Pope Pius XII to care for Palestinian refugees following the Israeli-Arab war and how we continue our services today because — unfortunately — the problem of the refugees has not yet been resolved.