16 December 2015
People attend the lighting of the Christmas tree on Manger Square in Bethlehem, West Bank, 5 December. In a message released today, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal urged a more spiritual celebration of Christmas this year and called for an end to the arms trade.
(photo: CNS/Abed Al Hashlamoun, EPA)
Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal urged moderate celebrations of Christmas this year because of the current political situation, but he also called for an end to the arms trade.
In his 16 December Christmas message, he urged a more spiritual holiday celebration and also encouraged all parishes to turn off the Christmas tree lights for five minutes in solidarity with all the victims of violence and terrorism. In Bethlehem, West Bank, the Christmas Mass will be offered for the victims and their families, he said, “that they take to heart the participation in the joy and peace of Christmas.”
At the local level, he urged Palestinian and Israeli leaders to have the courage to work toward a just peace, rather than war and violence.
“Enough of stalling, reluctance and false pretenses,” he admonished. “Respect international resolutions. Listen to the voice of your people who aspire for peace, act in their best interest. Each of the two peoples of the Holy Land, Israelis and Palestinians, have the right to dignity, to an independent state and sustainable security.”
“What suffering it is, to once again see our beloved Holy Land caught in the vicious cycle of bloody violence. What pain to see anew, hatred prevail over reason and dialogue. The anguish of the people of this land is ours, which we cannot ignore or disregard. Enough! We are tired of this conflict as we see the Holy Land sullied with blood,” he added.
He called for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and for the two to exist in “peace and tranquility.”
Without naming specific groups, he said the situation in the Holy Land is a reflection of what is happening around the world, which is “facing an unprecedented terrorist threat.”
He said that though recent attacks have taken place against France, Lebanon, Russia and the United States, people in Iraq and Syria have been suffering for years from the war. Syria is at the center of the crisis, he said.
“The future of the Middle East depends on the resolution of this conflict,” he said.
He also condemned and called for an end to the weapon trade, which he said is perpetuating the conflict. He blamed “several international powers” for the continuation of a situation of “total absurdity and duplicity.”
“On the one side, some speak of dialogue, justice and peace, while on the other hand promote the sale of arms to the belligerents,” he said in his message. “We call to conversion these unscrupulous arm dealers who may be without conscience, to make amends. Great is your responsibility in these devastating tragedies, and you will answer before God for the blood of your brothers.”
He urged world leaders to find the roots and cause of “this scourge.”
“We must combat poverty and injustice, which may constitute a breeding ground for terrorism. Similarly we must promote education on tolerance and acceptance of the other,” he said.
In response to a journalist’s question, the patriarch said that while he welcomed current international attention and solidarity with the plight of Christians in the Middle East in light of the fighting, he lamented that it is only when their own interests are affected that they have finally begun to take notice of the Christians of the Middle East.
“There have been thousands and thousands of Iraqis and Syrians who are suffering,” he said.
He noted the importance of the 50th anniversary of “Nostra Aetate,” the Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, and its role as the foundation for dialogue.
“Here in the Holy Land, this dialogue is of paramount importance where difficulties exist, but it is necessary to continue to hope all the more, to the viability of a Jewish-Christian-Muslim dialogue,” he said.
He invited pilgrims to continue visiting the Holy Land, despite the current tense situation, and said they would find three doors designated as Doors of Mercy during the Year of Mercy.
“The pilgrim route is safe and they (pilgrims) are respected and appreciate by all sectors in the Holy Land,” he said.
15 December 2015
Sister Liza Mundamattom plays with a child in a village in Bastar, India. To learn more about the courageous work these sisters are doing in a dangerous corner of India, read Serving in the Red in the Summer 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Jose Jacob)
14 December 2015
Meron Getachew learns tailoring at a church-run training course in Ethiopia. To learn more about how the church is training young people to develop new skills, read “Bright Lights, Big Problems” in the Autumn edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
11 December 2015
Armenian archbishops from France, Ukraine, Russia and Nagorno-Karabakh concelebrate the blessing of chrism at Etchmiadzin in 1996. To learn more about Armenia’s spiritual core, read “Where God Descended” in the May 2008 edition of ONE. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
10 December 2015
An Indian boy puts his school books out to dry as floodwaters recede in Chennai on 7 December 2015. Residents in India’s southern Tamil Nadu state were grappling with the aftermath of devastating floods as authorities stepped up relief work following the worst deluge in decades that killed over 250 people. (photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)
As India struggles to recover from devastating floods, the Catholic Church is stepping in to help:
The Catholic Church in India has expressed solidarity with the victims of Tamil Nadu floods and appealed to the people to come forward and make voluntary donations for the relief and rehabilitation of the affected.
“The need of the hour calls us to express solidarity with the flood affected suffering families and communities and to contribute our mite for their relief and rehabilitation,” Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) said in a statement.
Two days of heavy rains through 2 December brought double the normal rainfall the Tamil Nadu state capital normally receives during its entire two-month rainy season.
The deluge has affected Cuddalore, Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur, Villupuram and Tanjavur districts with the state capital Chennai being the worst hit.
9 December 2015
Pope Francis presents a rose at an icon of Mary and the child Jesus — known as “Doors of Mercy” — as he begins his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 9 December.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis requested the ancient Ukrainian icon “Doors of Mercy” to be brought to the Vatican for the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Vatican Radio has details:
This icon, which combines both Western and Eastern traditions, is particularly symbolic and encourages all Christians to unity and peace for the sake of charity.
The Icon was met at the airport by the Ambassador of Ukraine to the Holy See, Tatyana Izhevska; and Ambassador of Poland to the Holy See, Piotr Nowina-Konopka; and representatives from the Vatican.
The image of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, which dates from the seventeenth century, comes from the cathedral of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the Polish city of Jaroslaw. The icon, which takes its name from the Byzantine Lenten liturgical text, “Open the Doors of Mercy to me, O Mother of God.” is considered miraculous and was given a crown by St. John Paul II in 1996.
A copy of of the icon is also found in the Argentinian church belonging to Pope Francis’ former spiritual director, Ukrainian Catholic priest Father Stephan Chmil, who was later made a bishop.
7 December 2015
Young members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church rest during a traditional celebration. To learn more about this ancient branch of Christianity, read our profile in the May 2010
edition of ONE. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
4 December 2015
The bells of Holy Cross Cathedral call together Uzhorod’s Carpatho-Rusyn Greek Catholic community. Read more about the church coming “Out From Underground” in the Autumn
edition of ONE. (photo: Oleg Grigoryev)
3 December 2015
The Alslivi children — who moved from Mosul, Iraq, to Sweden — brave a harsh winter’s day to do some grocery shopping. To learn more about Iraqi refugees in Sweden, read “A Nordic Refuge No More” in the May 2011 edition of ONE. (photo: Magnus Aronson)
2 December 2015
Although the Feast of St. Nicholas doesn’t come until 6 December, the saint made an early appearance at the pope’s General Audience on Wednesday. Wolfgang Georg Kimmig-Liebe of Germany, dressed as St. Nicholas, stands among the crowd before Pope Francis arrives for his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 2 December.
(photo: CNS/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)