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.
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.
11 September 2019
Tags: Pope Francis
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.
10 September 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Muslim
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)
9 September 2019
Tags: Ethiopia Education
A collection of pants and shirts on the floor at The Phillips Collection museum in Washington illustrates the lives of migrants lost at sea. "The Warmth of Other Suns: Stories of Global Displacement" exhibit focuses on people forced to leave their homelands.
(photo: CNS/Lee Stalsworth courtesy The Phillips Collection)
A pair of well-worn shoes left in the desert at the U.S.-Mexico border is the last thing you’d expect to find in one of the most prized rooms of the Washington museum known as The Phillips Collection, a premier venue for modern American art as well as classic European expressionists such as Renoir and Matisse.
But there, in a transparent case, in a space that focuses the viewer on the work of Mark Rothko, celebrated as a 20th century American artist but one who was born in what later became Latvia, the small battered shoes are on display.
They’re next to an item that looks as if it belonged to a child -- a piece of cloth embroidered with the image of a lion. A description explains the items were found in 2018 near the Arizona-Mexico border by members of the Undocumented Migration Project at the University of California at Los Angeles.
The items, likely left behind by a migrant heading north, made up part of the 100 multimedia pieces in the museum’s “The Warmth of Other Suns: Global Stories of Displacement” exhibit focused on those forced to leave their homelands. It is on display until 22 September.
“A lot of the works can be very heavy,” explained a museum guide — and she wasn’t talking about the physical weight of the objects.
Much like the person to whom the embroidered item likely belonged, Rothko left his homeland as a child, barely 10 when he left the Russian Empire and headed with his mother to a new life in the United States, where they arrived in late 1913.
They resettled with other family members who had arrived earlier in Portland, Oregon.
A large part of the exhibit focuses on the emotional toll as well as the dangers of such immigration journeys, and one experienced in modern times by a record 70.8 million around the world, fleeing war, persecution and conflict, according to 2018 statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
One of the rooms in the exhibit, with a large-scale photograph of the sea covering a wall, and jeans and shirts strewn on the floor, reminds museum-goers of the stream of recent refugee drownings. The clothing installation, by artist Kader Attia, is titled “La Mer Morte” (The Dead Sea) and is reminiscent of the Italian island of Lampedusa, where Pope Francis in 2013 called attention to tragedies faced by those seeking refuge from conflicts in Africa to Europe.
Audio of waves and video of the sea nearby make it hard to escape the reality of the risks that refugees have confronted: Die drowning while trying to reach safety or die in a different way at home.
The exhibit takes up three floors of the Phillips, which is filled with portraits of refugees who arrived from Europe to Ellis Island in the early 1900s, photos of modern-day refugees from places such as Eritrea, Iraq and Syria who set up a refugee camp torn down in Calais, France, in 2016, audio in various languages in which immigrants speak of their experiences as well as the indignities they or their children suffer in their adoptive countries.
A black and white photograph of a building with a large sign that says “I am an American” showed what one American family of Japanese descent had to do the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked on 7 December 1941. Even after its prompt display of loyalty to the U.S., the family was sent to what was called a War Relocation Authority center, or an internment camp where some Japanese Americans were forced to live during World War II.
Though some of the items have a documentary quality, other art offers political commentary, such as the work of Siah Armajani, a Minnesotan artist, in a piece labeled with the ironic title “Seven Rooms of Hospitality.” It features plastic 3-D printed models of “uncertain spaces occupied by refugees, deportees, and exiles.” They include a cage, a shack and a model of a truck with the name of a company called Hyza on the side and the words describing its contents: “60 men, eight women, and three children, all dead.”
It was a reference to a 2015 incident in which 71 refugees and migrants from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan suffocated in an airtight, refrigerated truck found abandoned on the side of an Austrian highway as they traveled from Hungary to Munich.
There’s also a chilling video made by Erkan Ozgen called “Wonderland” that focuses on a 13-year-old child who can’t speak, but miming with his hands and through grunts, describes an attack he witnessed and escaped from in his native Syria, motioning what seems to be a shooting and someone’s hands being tied. After watching, it’s hard not to hear his trauma through the grunts that travel through the museum floor.
Where a news item will document singular moments of difficulty, struggle, trauma and sometimes death that a displaced person may face, the exhibit’s photos, the audio playing in the background of migrants’ voices, videos of the empty and uninviting landscapes some of them have traveled through bring together the totality of the experience. Though it seems as if hope is absent and the “warmth” promised in the exhibit’s title is all but missing, perhaps it can be found in the space known as the “Rothko room,” where the migrant’s shoes are temporarily residing.
The Rothko room, a place where silence is encouraged, was envisioned as a place to meditate. Duncan Phillips, the museum’s founder, is said to have referred to it as a “chapel” and a painting by the immigrant artist, now widely recognized as a full-fledged American, hangs on each wall.
The paintings are of large and small blocks of bright and sometimes dark colors. According to the museum’s online literature, Phillips said of Rothko’s paintings that “what we recall are not memories but old emotions disturbed or resolved -- some sense of well-being suddenly shadowed by a cloud -- yellow ochres strangely suffused with a drift of gray prevailing over an ambience of rose or the fire diminishing into a glow of embers, or the light when the night descends.”
It’s hard to know how the journey of a displaced person will end, with success or with struggle, with the brightness of a new life like the one Rothko’s family was able to build or trudging through an unwelcoming place. The journey nevertheless began inside the shoes of a child that, like Rothko, was taken by his parents to start a new life in a new land.
6 September 2019
Tags: Refugees Immigration
Countless children are returning to school this month, so we are remembering some of those students we serve around the world. In this image, a child reads Braille at the Shashemene School for the Blind. Learn more about how CNEWA helps give Special Attention for Special Needs in the November 2006 edition of ONE. (photo: Nile Sprague)
5 September 2019
A group of migrants tour historic Kerak, Jordan, on their way to the Ader Learning Center.
We received the following email from Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s regional director in Amman, describing some of CNEWA’s outreach to Filipino migrants who have settled in Jordan:
Our staff took part recently in a pilgrimage to Kerak and the Ader Learning Center, under the care of the Rev. Boulos Baqa’in. Three library staff accompanied some 40 migrants, who visited Kerak Castle with Father Boulos and a tour guide, who explained the biblical, historical, and archeological importance of the place to Jews, Christians and Muslims.
At noon, they attended Divine Liturgy at a Greek Catholic Church. After that, they interacted with children and parents at the Ader Learning Center, which CNEWA supports; they distributed coloring books and games to the children, along with cultural magazines for adults, some books on religion and two balls for playing football.
It was a fulfilling encounter for everyone!
4 September 2019
Tags: Jordan Migrants
The Rev. Khalil Jaar, Amy Peake, left, and Um Rita discuss the washable diapers the Iraqi Christian community is creating for refugees. (photo: CNS/Dale Galvak)
A petite, dark-haired woman busily measures and cuts large pieces of pastel pink and blue fleecy material as another sews.
“We left Iraq with our most precious possessions. ISIS stole everything from us, but thank God, they did take not our daughters,” the woman, known as Um Rita by her colleagues, told Catholic News Service, her eyes welling with tears.
Many Iraqi Christians, who fled Islamic State militants in August 2014, are still displaced, both inside Iraq and as refugees in neighboring lands, such as Jordan.
But the Rev. Khalil Jaar and British humanitarian Amy Peake have teamed up on an initiative that provides a livelihood to some of his Iraqi refugee parishioners, who have run short of funds, in a crowded section of Amman, the Jordanian capital.
“We have around 800 Iraqi refugee families living in my parish in Marka. They came after ISIS took Mosul and arrived here with almost nothing,” explained Father Jaar, who has devoted his ministry to aiding Iraqi and Syrian refugees flooding into Jordan from neighboring conflicts for more than a decade.
“Unlike the Syrian refugees, the Iraqis are not allowed to work. They don’t receive any help from nongovernmental organizations,” he told CNS. “So, you can imagine the situation of these families. I am looking to find a way for them to live in human dignity, to work and to have some money,” said Father Jaar, who grew up as a Palestinian refugee from Bethlehem, West Bank.
The Jordanian government grants work permits to some Syrian refugees, but others, such as Iraqis and Yemenis, are not officially allowed to work. But Father Jaar explained that Iraqis working in the church and on the compound may do so, because they are Christian and it’s a Catholic institution which has been helping them.
“When Amy visited our center, I felt her heart was burdened. She told me, ‘Father, I have a problem.’ ‘I have the solution,’ I told her.” And he chuckled, recounting their first meeting at his parish compound, Our Lady Mother of the Church.
Peake told CNS that at Zaatari, Jordan’s biggest refugee camp for Syrians, she had created a factory to produce high-quality washable diapers -- known in Britain as “nappies” -- and sanitary pads to aid Syrian refugee residents suffering from incontinence, including traumatized children, the elderly and the disabled.
The diapers are free; the idea was to help keep the refugees from spending most of their monthly stipend on disposable diapers.
“Not everybody is going to want to use a washable nappy for obvious reasons. But the 60 percent of people who carried on using them said they saved 25 percent of their monthly income -- which is a huge amount of money,” Peake explained.
Despite the positive results, the United Nations decided not to continue the project.
“Amy proposed to put the sewing machines here and immediately I gave her a big room, because we solve Amy’s problem as well as the problems of many Iraqi refugees in our parish. I see the Lord resolving so many issues,” said Father Jaar. At this time, more than 20 Iraqi Christians are working in the diaper factory.
“Behind each one working in the factory is a family to support with about five children. So, I do thank the Lord for this grace, this blessing he sent to us. I also thank Amy and everyone behind this fantastic relief service,” said the priest. “The families are given the opportunity to work in human dignity, not to beg for the needs of their family.”
Father Jaar said the Iraqi Christians who fled Islamic State are well-educated and skilled. They want the possibility to work, rather than receiving handouts.
“I remember during a food coupon distribution, I saw an Iraqi man crying,” he recalled. “I asked him, ‘Has someone hurt you? Why are you are crying? Why are you sad?’ He said, ‘No, Father, I am sad for myself. The work you are doing to help these people, this used to be my work in Mosul. I was a very rich man and I used to help people. Now, I am asking for someone to help me.’“
“You can imagine the frustration of these people,” Father Jaar said, adding that this man now has a responsible role in the factory. “My duty is to support them, to encourage them, to tell them that you are suffering, but you are suffering for a very high, noble reason: to preserve your faith. For you, for me, you are the living saints in my parish. I thank you for living with me.”
Diapers are distributed to churches working with Iraqi refugees in Amman and nearby Fuhais, as well as organizations such as “the House of Peace for the Elderly” (Dar es Salam for the Elderly), located in Amman, founded and run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. The Collateral Repair Project, which assists 10,000 refugee families in Jordan, is also involved in locating refugees who need the washable diapers.
3 September 2019
Tags: Refugees Jordan
Pope Francis greets Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, at the Vatican 2 September 2019. The 47 bishops from Ukrainian dioceses in Ukraine and 10 other nations met the pope during their synod in Rome. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Before a synod, bishops must learn what their people want and think and need, not so they can change church teaching, but so they can preach the Gospel more effectively, Pope Francis told the bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
Forty-seven bishops from Ukrainian dioceses in Ukraine and 10 other nations, including the United States, Canada and Australia, met the pope on 2 September during their synod in Rome.
Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, told Pope Francis that “every bishop and representative of our local communities has made his journey to Rome carrying with him the sufferings and hopes of the people of God entrusted to our pastoral care.”
The bishops, he said, want to be synodal -- walking together with their people -- “not only during our sessions but also when we return to our communities. Because, in fact, one cannot walk while seated!”
Speaking to the bishops, Pope Francis focused on Archbishop Shevchuk’s remarks and on how the Eastern Catholic churches, like the Orthodox churches, have a longer and uninterrupted history of decisions flowing from bishops’ synods.
“There is a danger,” the pope said, which is “thinking today that making a synodal journey or having an attitude of ‘synodality’ means investigating opinions -- what does this one and that one think -- and then having a meeting to make an agreement. No! The synod is not a parliament!”
While synod members must discuss matters and offer their opinions, he said, the purpose is not “to come to an agreement like in politics: ‘I’ll give you this, you give me that.’“
Bishops must know what their lay faithful, priests and religious think, the pope said, but it’s not a survey or a vote on what should change.
“If the Holy Spirit is not present, there is no synod,” he said. “If the Holy Spirit is not present, there is no synodality. In fact, there is no church.”
The vocation of the church is to evangelize, he said, and the Holy Spirit should help bishops gathered in a synod to do that better.
“Pray to the Holy Spirit,” the pope told the bishops. “Argue among yourselves” like early church leaders did at Ephesus but listen to the Holy Spirit.
“We don’t want to become a congregationalist church, but a synodal church,” he said. “Keep moving forward on this path.”
30 August 2019
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Catholic Church
Pope Francis greets Cardinal Achille Silvestrini in 2016 photo. The cardinal, former prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and a longtime Vatican diplomat, died on 29 August 2019, at the age of 95. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, former prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and a longtime Vatican diplomat, has died at the age of 95.
In a message of condolence to the family of the cardinal, who died on 29 August in Rome, Pope Francis noted that his decades at the Vatican included service to seven popes.
He will be remembered for “a life spent in adhering to his vocation as a priest attentive to the needs of others, a skillful and adaptable diplomat and a pastor faithful to the Gospel and to the church,” Pope Francis said.
Born in the northern Italian city of Brisighella, the future cardinal was ordained a priest in 1946 and subsequently received doctorates from the University of Bologna and the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome before entering the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which provides training to priests for eventual service in the Vatican diplomatic corps.
As a member of the Vatican diplomatic corps, he focused on international issues concerning Vietnam, China, Indonesia and Southeast Asia. He also accompanied Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, then-Vatican secretary of state, to Moscow in 1971 to deliver the Holy See’s adhesion to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
In 1979, he was named by St. John Paul II as secretary of the former Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, now known as the Section for Relations with States. As secretary, a position equivalent to foreign minister, he represented the Vatican on diplomatic missions to various countries, including Spain, Malta, Argentina, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Poland and Haiti.
He was created a cardinal in 1988 and named prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s supreme court, where he served until 1991 when St. John Paul appointed him prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.
During his time as prefect, the Vatican called upon Cardinal Silvestrini’s diplomatic experience in areas of tension, particularly in the Middle East. In May 1993, he led a Vatican delegation to meet with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
He urged Hussein to make signs of goodwill and fulfill U.N. resolutions in order to ease economic restrictions imposed upon Iraq following the Gulf War. Cardinal Silvestrini served as prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches until 2000.
His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 215 members, 118 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave.