22 May 2018
A French pilgrim prays during a special service for peace in the Holy Land on 19 May at the Church of St. Stephen in Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Even in times of violence and despair, the power of joint prayer for peace can be felt, said Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Local Palestinians, religious and foreign worshippers gathered at the Dominican Church of St. Stephen on 19 May, answering the archbishop’s call for a joint peace prayer in the face of 16 May violence along the Gaza-Israeli border, in which 62 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,000 were injured.
“We feel helpless for the killing of innocent people and the obstinate refusal to find alternative solutions,” said Archbishop Pizzaballa. “We must go through the strength of prayer to still believe we can change [the situation] and our land will one day be with peace and justice. We want fear and suspicion to give way to knowledge, where differences are opportunities.”
Though it may not be possible to change things as one would like in the wider world, the faithful must continue to try to change things in their own smaller communities, he said.
Their faith, he said, will give “courage to defend justice.”
Palestinian demonstrations along the border began 31 March, protesting the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and marking the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call Al Naqba, or catastrophe — the establishment of the State of Israel. Israel says it has been using live ammunition to prevent Palestinian protesters — whom they say are being incited by Hamas — from breaking through the Gaza border fence, raising fears that they would carry out terrorist attacks on neighboring Jewish villages.
Rosary Sister Virginia Habib, director of the Catechetical Center of the Latin Patriarchate, said during difficult circumstances such as these, she urges the young people “not to forgo hope.”
“We are surrounded by lots of violence in all the Middle East, not just here; we as Christians should not feel frustrated — our Christian faith tells us that the Lord will help us defeat death,” said Habib.
At Pentecost, the faithful are still in the spirit of the Resurrection, she said, and there is hope that evil will not have the final word in their daily life.
“We live our lives, and we continue to come here to pray and keep praying to offer all our mortifications so that peace will take place,” Sister Habib said. “Peace will not happen in our land until peace has taken place in our own heart.”
She said she tells young people that, as Christians, they are called upon to react to the injustices they see following the teachings of Jesus. She said they listen to her because she is living the same experiences as they are.
LaSallian Christian Brother Peter Iorlano said Christians must be witnesses to peace, especially those living and working among Jews and Muslims, to speak out about injustices but in a “level-headed” way.
“You don’t want to fuel the fire,” he said. “You have to be aware of your [surroundings] and how we can be seduced into being violent. We need to be really self-critical and conscientious and say: This is not just. In a way everyone is suffering but … people with power are the ones who can make a difference.”
Archbishop Pizzaballa told Catholic News Service the Christian community draws strength from supporting one another and not allowing the conflict to enter in their hearts. The strength of their daily life, taking care of their children and family, is what frees them to have hope and be positive, he said.
“Life is difficult, but we must always pray for peace,” said Faiyad Elias, 55, of Jerusalem.
Christy Bandak, 43, of Bethlehem, said the only hope people have is in their faith.
“Negotiations have failed, human means have failed. … Peace is a gift from God. That is the only way out,” said Bandak. “Christians, if they are really Christians, are peacemakers. When you hear [about] the bombings and the shootings, one can be afraid. It is a reason to pray to strengthen your faith. We can’t fall into the abyss of desperation.”
Souad Handal, 49, of Bethlehem, West Bank, said as Palestinian Christians, they experience the same injustices as Muslim Palestinians, said but though the situation is getting harder, they do not believe in violence.
“Palestinians want our freedom [but] we [Christians] believe in Jesus as a peacemaker,” Handal said. “We ask for the peace of the land. We can ask only God to help us.”
Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan, who also attended the prayer service, said Christians must raise their voices in the call for justice and be ready to offer themselves as bridges of peace.
21 May 2018
Tags: Jerusalem Palestinians
A Franciscan Missionary of Mary listens to a lay person share his insights during one of their regular catechetical meetings in Amman. (photo: Nader Daoud)
In the current edition of ONE, writer Dale Gavlak offers an inspiring glimpse at how the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary are helping spread the faith in Jordan, particularly among refugees:
In myriad ways, large and small, through spiritual formation and fostering a sense of companionship, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary have provided displaced Iraqis — and many others still — with a measure of healing.
The Synod of Bishops’ Special Assembly for the Middle East, called by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, declared that “catechesis is meant to make the faith known and lived. Young people and adults, each individual and entire communities of believers, should be properly catechized.”
It further said that, “since young people live in places characterized by all kinds of conflicts, they are to be catechized, strengthened in their faith and enlightened by the commandment of love, so that they can make a positive contribution.”
“Catechesis in our life is not solely for teaching or knowing faith, but also a call to live what one knows,” says Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s regional director in Amman, of the sisters’ vital ministry.
“It aims to enrich one’s life to live as Christ did, promote moral formation, teach how to pray with Christ, and prepare Christians to live in a community and participate actively in the life and mission of the church,” he says.
“For me, the basis of my spirituality was formed in Iraq,” says Rami Wa’ed, a 25-year-old Syriac Catholic from Mosul and one of the youth group’s leaders.
“I have always loved being in the church: listening to the sermons, being part of the youth meetings, participating in many ways — first in Mosul, then in other places in Iraq and now here,” he says.
“No matter how much we partake of the spiritual experiences, we feel we need more,” he adds, his eyes alight with excitement. “Spiritual expertise is what we and others need to develop in our lives.”
Read more about Inspiring the Faithful in Jordan in the March 2018 edition of ONE. And check out the video below for another glimpse at the sisters’ ministry.
18 May 2018
Tags: Sisters Jordan Iraqi Refugees Amman
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.”
17 May 2018
Tags: Interreligious Middle East Peace Process Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran
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.
16 May 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Migrants
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)
15 May 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Interreligious Dialogue
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.
14 May 2018
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine Israel Holy Land Israeli-Palestinian conflict
The Rev. Ragheed Aziz Ganni is among four Iraqi clergymen who will be investigated for possible sainthood. They were martyred outside their church in Mosul in 2007. (photo: AsiaNews)
The Vatican has given its permission for the opening of the sainthood cause of an Iraqi priest and three deacons who were murdered by armed gunmen in Mosul.
The Congregation for Saints’ Causes gave the “nihil obstat” (“no objection”), permitting a diocesan bishop to open a local inquiry into a candidate’s sanctity, according to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, 14 May.
Fides confirmed that the Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Detroit would be handling the process because of the difficult conditions facing the church in Mosul.
Chaldean Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni, his cousin Deacon Basman Yousef Daud, and Deacons Wahid Hanna Isho and Gassan Isam Bidawed were killed on 3 June 2007, in front of the Holy Spirit Church in Mosul. Father Ganni had just finished celebrating Mass for the feast of Pentecost.
The three deacons had been accompanying Father Ganni because of increasing threats against him by militants. According to AsiaNews, armed gunman shot the four men and then booby-trapped their car with explosives to prevent others from safely recovering the bodies.
Father Ganni was born in Mosul in 1972. He graduated in engineering and studied theology from 1996 to 2003 at Rome’s Pontifical Irish College and the Pontifical University of Thomas Aquinas the “Angelicum,” where he received a license in ecumenical theology.
11 May 2018
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Priests
Awatef Youssef, from Qaraqosh, stands with her husband, Amir Marzina, and son, Manuel, in their temporary home in northern Iraq. They are among the thousands who fled ISIS in 2014 and are now trying to start over. A religious sister writes about her experience ministering to these displaced families in A Letter From Iraq in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Raed Rafei)
9 May 2018
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians
Toddler Joao Bento wears a pope outfit during the general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 9 May. (photo: CNS/Claudio Peri, EPA)
8 May 2018
The Rev. Alan Dietzenbach listens to Adib Kassas, acting imam at the mosque in Dubuque, Iowa, speak about Arabic calligraphy and the decoration around the arch. The artwork was a gift from Catholic parishes in Dubuque to the center as a sign of friendship. (photo: CNS/Dan Russo, The Witness)
Artist Donna Slade had never set foot in a mosque before beginning work on the intricate calligraphy in Arabic that now decorates the arch above the central point in the worship space at the Tri-State Islamic Center.
“I really enjoyed it,” Slade said of the experience. “It was great working with them.”
Slade, a member of Church of the Nativity in Dubuque, collaborated with Fayez Alasmary, a young member of the mosque, and Adib Kassas, a member of the mosque’s advisory board who serves as an imam. The trio perfected the curved lettering that expresses a verse from the Quran, the Muslim holy book.
The artwork was a gift from the Catholic parishes of Dubuque to the Islamic community. Muslims have been present in the city for years, with the first permanent worship space opening in December 2016.
“This is a gift from them expressing their welcome to us, and expressing that they are interested in building a relationship and cooperating together,” said Kassas, a physician who arrived in Dubuque from Syria about 13 years ago. “I really feel it’s a great gesture for them. Muslims have loved this gesture, accepted it and welcomed it.”
Aref Khatib, Islamic Center president, explained that the gift has a deep significance for both communities.
“It means to me bringing everyone together and realizing we should not be discriminating and we should not be judging one another. That’s God’s job, not our job,” Khatib told The Witness, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.
“When you look at the universe, everything is different color and different shapes, just like human beings are and that’s the beauty of Allah’s creation. We should embrace the diversity,” he said.
The idea for the gift came from the Rev. Alan Dietzenbach, parochial vicar at St. Raphael Cathedral and St. Patrick Parish.
“I’ve always been inspired by my confirmation saint, St. Francis of Assisi, who during the height of the Crusades, crossed Christian and Muslim battle lines to meet the sultan and seek to be an instrument of peace and understanding in the midst of conflict,” Father Dietzenbach said. “When we look back at the history of Christianity and Islam, we tend to focus on the times of contention and overlook all the times when these two religions coexisted and faithful Christians and Muslims worked and peacefully lived side-by-side.”
The effort grew from the relationships built by John Eby, associate professor of history at Loras College and a member of the cathedral parish, through his work with the Children of Abraham. The organization encourages dialogue among Jews, Christians and Muslims.
“This is a great example of how to love your neighbor as yourself and to show hospitality and inclusion,” Eby said. “An important concept in Islam is ‘ihsan.’ It means to beautify your actions and beautify the world. Not only is this [art] beautifying this space, it’s literally taking this action of hospitality and making it the most beautiful expression of hospitality.”
The verse painted over the archway from the Quran translates in English to read, “Oh, people. We have created you from a male and a female and made you into branches of humanity and different gatherings into nations so that you may come to know each other. Behold the most honored among you in the eye of God is the most deeply conscious of him. Truly, God is all-knowing, all-aware.”
Kassas called the Catholic community’s gift “an example and an application of this verse.”
“What this passage talks about is that we all come from one origin,” he said. “People divide themselves into groups and isolate themselves from others, thinking that they are better than them, but the truth is, God said we have made you into that kind of division to get to know one another.”
Father Dietzenbach hopes the art will serve as a lasting symbol of cooperation between the two groups.
“I hope that this gift is a sign of solidarity and love and a reminder that religious freedom is a right we hold together as we strive to make our own community a place of peace, understanding, and kinship,” he said.
Tags: Muslim United States Muslim Americans