30 September 2019
Pope Francis attends the unveiling of a large bronze statue titled, “Angels Unawares,” by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on 29 September 2019. The statue depicts a group of migrants and refugees on a boat. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Christians have a moral obligation to show God’s care for all those who are marginalized, especially migrants and refugees, Pope Francis said.
“This loving care for the less privileged is presented as a characteristic trait of the God of Israel and is likewise required, as a moral duty, of all those who would belong to his people,” the pope said in his homily on 29 September during an outdoor Mass for the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
Some 40,000 men, women and children packed St. Peter’s Square as the sounds of upbeat hymns filled the air. According to the Vatican, the members of the choir singing at the Mass hailed from Romania, Congo, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Peru and Italy.
The choir wasn’t the only aspect of the liturgy that celebrated migrants and refugees. According to the Vatican Section for Migrants and Refugees, the incense used at the Mass came from the Bokolmanyo refugee camp in southern Ethiopia, where refugees are restarting the 600-year old tradition of collecting high-quality incense.
After the Mass, Pope Francis unveiled a large bronze statue, “Angels Unawares,” in St. Peter’s Square.
Designed and sculpted by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, the sculpture depicts a group of migrants and refugees on a boat. Within the group, a pair of angel wings can be seen, which suggests “that within the migrant and refugee is the sacred,” the artist’s website said.
Cardinal-designate Michael Czerny, a fellow Canadian and co-head of the Migrants and Refugees Section, had a very personal connection to the sculpture. His parents, who immigrated to Canada from
Czechoslovakia, are depicted among the people on the boat.
“It’s really amazing,” the cardinal told Catholic News Service, adding that when his brother and sister-in-law arrive in Rome to see him become a cardinal on 5 October, he expects they will pose for many photos in front of the artwork.
Before praying the Angelus prayer at the end of Mass, the pope said he wanted the statue in St. Peter’s Square “to remind everyone of the evangelical challenge to welcome.”
The 20-foot tall sculpture is inspired by Hebrews 13:2, which in the King James translation says, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” The sculpture will be displayed in St. Peter’s Square for an undetermined time while a smaller replica will be permanently displayed in the Rome Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.
In his homily, the pope began by reflecting on the world day’s theme — “It’s not just about migrants” — and emphasized that God calls on Christians to care for all “victims of the throwaway culture.”
“The Lord calls us to practice charity toward them. He calls us to restore their humanity, as well as our own, and to leave no one behind,” he said.
However, he continued, caring for migrants and refugees is also an invitation to reflect on the injustices that occur in the world where those “who pay the price are always the little ones, the poor, the most vulnerable.”
“Wars only affect some regions of the world, yet weapons of war are produced and sold in other regions which are then unwilling to take in the refugees generated by these conflicts,” he said.
Recalling the Sunday Gospel reading in which Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the pope said that men and women today also can be tempted to turn a blind eye “to our brothers and sisters in difficulty.”
As Christians, he said, “we cannot be indifferent to the tragedy of old and new forms of poverty, to the bleak isolation, contempt and discrimination experienced by those who do not belong to ‘our’ group.”
Pope Francis said the commandment to love God and neighbor is part of “building a more just world” where all people have access to the “goods of the earth” and where “fundamental rights and dignity are guaranteed to all.”
“Loving our neighbor means feeling compassion for the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, drawing close to them, touching their sores and sharing their stories, and thus manifesting concretely God’s tender love for them,” the pope said.
30 September 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Migrants
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, speaks at the United Nations on 27 September 2019, during a high-level panel discussion on the future of persecuted Christians. Also pictured are Ambassador Katalin Annamaria Bogyay, Hungary’s permanent representative to the U.N., and Teodoro Lopez Locsin Jr., the Philippines’ secretary of foreign affairs.
(photo: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)
At United Nations: Concern that world is ‘ignoring’ persecuted Christians (CNS) Christians are the most persecuted religious group worldwide, but hypocrisy, political correctness and ignorance prevent the international community from implementing a comprehensive response to pervasive violence against them, said speakers at a U.N. event on 27 September. The participants in a high-level panel discussion said 80 percent of people killed because of their religious beliefs are Christian and the number of Christians hurt or displaced is on the rise…
Church celebrates Extraordinary Missionary Month in October (Vatican News) The Extraordinary Missionary Month was announced by Pope Francis to mark the 100th anniversary of Pope Benedict XV’s Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud. The theme chosen is “Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World”…
U.S. sees rising threat from Qaeda branch in Syria (The New York Times) American counterterrorism officials are voicing increased alarm about a Qaeda affiliate in Syria that they say is plotting attacks against the West by exploiting the chaotic security situation in the country’s northwest and the protection inadvertently afforded by Russian air defenses shielding Syrian government forces allied with Moscow…
Israel, Hamas working together on development projects for Gaza (Al-Monitor) Representatives of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for economic aid to the Palestinians convened in New York on 26 September for another round of talks on raising funds for the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Strip. Prior to the conference, the United Nations issued an emergency report on the state of the PA and demanded immediate action on Gaza’s health system, on the verge of collapse. Its top priority is infrastructure development plans for Gaza, most of which Israel has authorized. Some are already being implemented but require additional funding to be completed…
Ethiopian Jews: next year in Jerusalem! (The Jerusalem Post) The remaining community of Ethiopian Jews sent a clear message to Israel in their Rosh Hashanah wish saying “Next Year in Jerusalem.” There are still Some 7,500 Ethiopian Jews living in Gondar and Addis Ababa…
Pope establishes ’Sunday of the Word of God’ each year (Vatican News) Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter, Motu proprio “Aperuit illis,” published on 30 September, establishes that “the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God”…
Indian pilgrimage operator wins tourism award (Vatican News) At a ceremony marking World Tourism Day in New Delhi on 27 September, the International Pilgrimage Revolution (IPR) was honored in the Best Inbound Tour Operators category for 2017-2018…
27 September 2019
Tags: Syria India Gaza Strip/West Bank Persecution
The Rev. Martin McDermott blesses a parishioner during Mass at St. Joseph’s Church in Beirut. The parish is providing pastoral care to migrant workers in Lebanon. Read more about how the church community is creating A Home for Migrants in the September 2019 edition of ONE.
(photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
The new edition of ONE magazine has a series of stories involving ways people are Finding a Home in new and often challenging places, frequently with the help and support of the church. It is a situation with special resonance this weekend; Sunday, we mark World Day of Migrants and Refugees .
Some of the migrants seeking better lives are domestic workers from the Philippines who have settled in Lebanon, as Doreen Abi Raad reports:
Emelyn rises at 6 each morning to prepare breakfast and usher the children off to school, accompanying them to the bus stop. So begins her long day of cleaning, cooking, ironing and general housekeeping, ending a couple of hours before midnight.
The children and the house are not hers. They belong to her employers, and form part of her job. Her own two children are 5,500 miles away in the Philippines. She misses them terribly.
For five years, 36-year-old Emelyn has been living in Beirut, Lebanon, employed as a domestic worker. Her partner in the Philippines finds sporadic employment in construction, making Emelyn the primary breadwinner. The couple never married because they could not afford a wedding.
Emelyn’s eyes well up with tears, her voice turning to a strained whisper as she shares the painful conversations and text messages she experiences with her 12-year-old daughter back home.
“Why, mama? You’ve been there a long time. Don’t you miss me?”
“If I don’t work here, you won’t have anything there: a house, electricity, water,” Emelyn reminds her daughter. “You won’t have a nice dress, new shoes.”
Sometimes her daughter feels so angry at these circumstances, she refuses to speak to her. But both are looking forward to Emelyn’s visit near Christmas — her first return in five years.
What Emelyn would most like to do is to set up a small convenience store back near her home.
Despite the anguish of being away from her children — and despite the tedious, hard work she performs daily — Emelyn is thankful.
“God heard my prayers,” she says. “I work for a good family. They treat me as part of their family, not like a maid.” Her Greek Orthodox employers, recognizing how she values her Catholic faith, provided Emelyn with two copies of the Bible — one in English and another in her native language, Tagalog.
The high point of Emelyn’s week is Sunday, her only day off. She attends Mass in Beirut in English at the Jesuit-run St. Joseph’s Church, and afterward goes upstairs to the Afro-Asian Migrant Center to meet up with her friends. There they spend their day together, having fun, sharing a meal and being spiritually nourished in their common Catholic faith.
The center was established at St. Joseph’s in 2000, by an American Jesuit, the Rev. Martin McDermott, now 86. He has been working with migrants since the early 1980’s, in partnership with a Dutch Jesuit, the Rev. Theo Vlught, who recently returned to his homeland at the age of 90.
But Father McDermott is not working alone in providing pastoral care to migrants. The Jesuit-run center he founded forms part of a pastoral care committee, established by the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon, for migrants throughout the country. The charity of the Catholic churches in Lebanon, Caritas Lebanon, operates safe houses and shelters for migrants in distress. And since September 2017, the American Jesuit has been joined in his work at St. Joseph’s by the Rev. Henry Ponce, S.J. — the first time the Jesuit Province of the Philippines sent one of their own priests to the Middle East.
Read more about A Home for Migrants in Lebanon in the September 2019 edition of ONE.
27 September 2019
Tags: Lebanon Migrants
In this image from April, migrants and refugees walk away from a camp near the town of Diavata, Greece. Pope Francis will mark the World Day of Migrants and Refugees this Sunday.
(photo: CNS/Alexandros Avramidis, Reuters)
Pope Francis to mark World Day for Migrants and Refugees (Vatican News) Pope Francis recalled that next Sunday, 29 September, marks the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees. He announced that he will preside over Mass at 10.30am in St Peter’s Square on that day, to mark the occasion…
U.S. accuses Syria of chemical attack (Al Jazeera) The United States has concluded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces used chemical weapons in an attack in May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said, vowing a response…
Ethiopian Orthodox ask government to respond to violence, church burnings (AFP) Orthodox Christian leaders in Ethiopia are demanding that the government respond to what they describe as an surge in violence that has seen dozens of churches burned to the ground. As they prepared to celebrate one of the year’s most significant holidays — Meskel, or “the finding of the cross” — church officials on Friday urged Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to protect them and hold perpetrators of religious violence to account. ..
Church in India expresses concern about ‘Love Jihad’ (UCANews.com) Catholic leaders have supported a call to investigate two cases of “Love Jihad,” an alleged practice of Muslim men courting women with the aim of converting and marrying them. George Kurian, vice-chairman of the National Commission of Minorities, has asked the federal Home Ministry to press its National Investigation Agency to probe two cases reported by Christians in Kerala state…
Reports: number of Jews in Israel and worldwide on the rise (The Jerusalem Post) The population of the State of Israel has increased 2.1 percent since last year, according to a report released in time for Rosh Hashanah by the Central Bureau of Statistics. Today, there are 9.1 million citizens of Israel, of which some 6.7 million (74 percent) are Jewish, the report shows...
26 September 2019
Tags: Syria India Refugees Migrants Jews
In this image from 2016, Pope Francis greets Syrian refugees he brought to Rome from the Greek island of Lesbos, at Ciampino airport in Rome. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
The World Day of Migrants and Refugees is observed this year on Sunday 29 September. Pope Francis has presented an important message to set this year’s observance within a context.
The world is facing the largest mass movement of people in history. There have been mass movements of people before. Most of these were connected with violence. The movements of the “barbarians” in Roman Empire in the 4th and 5th centuries and the Mongol invasions of the 13th century are merely two examples. Each of these was accompanied by great destruction and changed the world forever. The present mass movement of peoples is different in several ways: it is not connected with military violence and it is not limited to one people like the Vandals, the Huns or the Mongols.
With refugees coming from the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and elsewhere the contemporary mass movement of people is unique in world history. The world of CNEWA is doubly impacted by this kind of movement. Some of the countries where we work, such as Iraq, are experiencing massive emigrations, especially of the young. Other countries, such as Lebanon and Jordan, are “target countries” that are being flooded with refugees they can hardly sustain.
Which brings us back to Pope Francis.
The theme of his message is “it is not just about migrants.” Speaking of a “growing trend to extreme individualism” and “a utilitarian (value = usefulness) mentality,” the pope speaks of a “globalization of indifference.” This is a truly frightening concept. Resistance and even opposition may be difficult but they can usually be dealt with. Indifference, on the other hand, is almost invincible. Why? Because it says “I just don’t care.”
In his message, the pope recognizes the challenges which “target countries” face in receiving and absorbing often large numbers of displaced people. Consider, for example, Lebanon. For a period, almost a quarter of the population of Lebanon consisted of refugees. The social, political and economic impact of this reality was almost impossible for Lebanon, a tiny country about one-third the size of Maryland. Francis recognizes that this generates fear and “to some extent, the fear is legitimate…because the preparation for this encounter is lacking.”
Nevertheless, in this tremendous challenge, the pope sees an opportunity to retrieve the compassion which is central to the message of Jesus.
There is no doubt that the mass movement of peoples in our world has an impact on just about every aspect of a target county’s life. It would be naïve and foolhardy—and Francis is most definitely neither—to overlook the overwhelming political challenges which are inextricably interwoven with the moral and religious dimensions.
The moral and religious dimensions of treatment of migrants are something also deeply woven into the much touted Judeo-Christian moral code. While Francis is aware of this, far too many Catholics are not. But it is deeply engrained in our religious tradition. The word ger in Hebrew means “alien, foreigner, stranger.” It appears 88 times in the Old Testament, mostly in the legal texts. The Law of Moses consistently sees three specially protected groups in Israelite society: the widow, the orphan and the stranger (ger). Abuse and mistreatment of these people are what traditionally are referred to as “crimes that cry out to God for vengeance.” That is to say: in the Law of Moses, if the widow, the orphan and stranger are not protected by the dominant society, God will punish that society.
It is rare but not unheard of that a law in the Old Testament is accompanied by a rationale. However, there is an extraordinary verse in Leviticus 19:33 (with similar verses in Exodus 22; 21, 23:9): “If a stranger lives in your land, you must not molest him. The stranger (ger) is to be to you like a native. You must love the stranger (ger) as yourself for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am YHWH your God.” There are several things important here. By ending the law with “I am YHWH your God,” it is clear this is not merely a suggestion or ideal. It is a demand of the God of Israel.
Another interesting point, with contemporary implications, is that the Israelites are commanded to treat the stranger like a “native.” The Hebrew word used here is ?ezra?. It has the connotation of something which has sprung up from the native soil (see Psalm 37:35). It is interesting that the racism of the Nazis was expressed by Blut und Boden (“Blood and Soil”). Recently the expression has been used by people and politicians on the extreme right to attack migrants as “foreigners” (very often of a different skin color).
But such treatment contradicts the Judeo-Christian tradition. With an almost uncanny precision, God commands the Israelites to love the stranger as if he or she were as native as the local soil.
That is not an easy thing to do. There are huge challenges and people are—at times justifiably—afraid. However, Pope Francis in a pastoral way is calling us to overcome our often very real fears and respond to the challenge—indeed the command—of God to love the stranger as ourselves.
For Jesus, this is the Great Commandment: to love our God with all our being and our neighbor as ourselves.
For the follower of Jesus, regardless how difficult it may be, this is not merely an option.
26 September 2019
Tags: Refugees Migrants
Qaraqosh residents attend a funeral at Immaculate Conception Cathedral, which still bears damage from the occupation of ISIS in Iraq. Read how Iraqi Christians are facing the future with Resolve in the September 2019 edition of ONE. (photo: Raed Rafei)
26 September 2019
Tags: Iraqi Christians
Pope Francis met with religious congregations battling human trafficking on 26 September.
(photo: Vatican Media)
Pope urges Church to fight human trafficking (Vatican News) Pope Francis on 26 September met participants in the general assembly of Talitha Kum, a worldwide network of religious congregations fighting against trafficking in human persons. He urged more congregations and Church sectors to join in this fight…
Netanyahu chosen to form new government in Israel (Al Jazeera) Israel’s president has tasked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with forming a new government after last week’s deadlocked election, his office announced. The announcement on Wednesday followed a joint meeting between President Reuven Rivlin, Netanyahu and the prime minister’s main challenger, Benny Gantz, who ruled out joining a government led by “a leader against whom stands a severe [corruption] indictment”…
Tribal Christian lynched for reportedly selling beef in India (UCANews.com) A mob has attacked and killed a Christian tribal man and injured two others accused of slaughtering a cow and selling beef in India’s Jharkhand state. A 15-strong cow vigilante group attacked Kalantus Barla, Fagu Kachhapand and Phillip Hahoro on 22 September in the eastern state. Barla died hours after the attack and the other two are in hospital with severe injuries, police officer V. Homkar told media…
Former rebel stronghold in Syria begins to rebuild (AP) Portraits of Syrian President Bashar Assad adorn a few buildings still intact after years of fighting and Russian soldiers hand out food and other supplies to residents of this Syrian town that was recently captured by the Syrian army. Khan Sheikoun, which holds a strategic position in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, fell to Assad’s forces last month following weeks of a massive offensive by Syrian troops backed by Russian military support. On Wednesday, a group of foreign reporters on a trip to Syria organized by the Russian Defense Ministry saw municipal workers clearing the streets of debris, and Russian troops distributing aid…
25 September 2019
Tags: Syria India Israel human trafficking
Amabel Sibug plays guitar at the Church of the Annunciation in Amman. (photo: Nader Daoud)
In the new edition of ONE, reporter Dale Gavlak writes about efforts to welcome migrants in Jordan:
They come decked out in their finest: Pristine white, lacy blouses complement blue jeans and colorful trousers. Scores of Filipino women, mostly young, pack the wooden pews of Our Lady of the Annunciation Roman Catholic Church in the Jordanian capital city of Amman.
Father Gerald Metal hails from the Philippines, too, and provides words of encouragement to the community before beginning to celebrate the Mass. Behind him, a huge mosaic of a shining Archangel Gabriel declares to a humble, astonished Virgin Mary the miracle she is about to experience.
For many in this congregation of domestic helpers — along with a sprinkling of foreign diplomats and aid workers — a miracle is exactly what they need.
Once a sparsely settled kingdom squeezed between Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian West Bank, Jordan has become the refuge and safe haven for millions of refugees. For decades, waves of Palestinians flooded the resource-poor nation; they have since been joined by Iraqis and Syrians fleeing extremism and war in their respective homelands. Yet despite the general instability of the region, migrant workers from the Philippines continue to seek work there to support their families — a decision often burdened with regrets.
A member of the choir, Aurea Gutierrez Perlai, leads the communion hymn, dressed in a pink floral blouse, her long, dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. The past 25 years have been full of unexpected challenges for Ms. Perlai.
“I came here in 1994 because my aunt encouraged me to come and work. But from the beginning, I regretted my decision,” she says with a pained expression after Mass….
… Ms. Perlai says she has found support through a pair of Filipina women who belong to a community of the Catholic Church known as the Teresian Association.
“Elisa [Estrada] and Amabel [Sibug] invited me and the children to get involved in the choir at church. My daughter, Nicole, now 13, plays guitar for the choir. Amabel taught her how to play and is working with Nicole on her very first recital. And my son, Jordan, who is 11, serves at the altar,” Ms. Perlai says proudly.
“They are like mothers to us. They stand beside us, asking us always what we may need, and how they can support us.”
An international community of the faithful present in 30 countries, the Teresian Association seeks to transform society in light of the Gospel through education and culture.
And check out reporter Dale Gavlak’s reflections on the Teresians in the video below.
25 September 2019
Tags: Jordan Migrants
In this image from February, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, talks with journalists in Rome. This week at the UN, he called for solutions to save the world’s forests.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Cardinal says solutions to save forests needed ’without delay’ (CNS) At a time of increasing urbanization, the “irreplaceable importance” of forests is being “taken for granted and underestimated,” the Vatican’s secretary of state said 23 September at a high-level meeting at the United Nations. ”We all recognize how important forests are for the whole world and indeed for the very future of humanity: They are the world’s most reliable renewable resource and are essential for integral human development,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin said…
Ethiopia: 1200 killed in unrest over the past year (AP) The office of Ethiopia’s attorney general says more than 1,200 people have been killed and more than 1.2 million displaced in clashes in the country over the past year. The clashes, mostly along ethnic lines, have continued to strain the reforms announced by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed after he took office in April 2018…
Israel bars Gaza soccer players from leaving Gaza Strip (Haaretz) The Jerusalem District Court has barred the majority of the soccer players of a Rafah team from leaving the Gaza Strip and traveling to the West Bank for the return final match in the Palestinian soccer cup championship…
Cleaning operation at Western Wall (EuroNews.com) Equipped with long sticks, a team of cleaners on Tuesday (24 September) led by the Rabbi of the Western Wall gouged out written notes that visitors to Judaism’s Western Wall in Jerusalem traditionally cram into its crevices…
24 September 2019
Tags: Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank Jerusalem United Nations
The September 2019 edition of ONE focuses on stories of home and family.
The familiar saying tells us “there’s no place like home” — and the new edition of ONE magazine, now online, brings that message beautifully alive.
In the September issue, you will discover how so many of those we serve seek to find a home — often, after fleeing war or persecution — and how they are able to find it. You will learn how Filipino migrants are finding a sense of welcome and family in Lebanon, thanks to a group of Jesuit priests. You will meet Iraqi Christians returning to their homeland, with renewed resolve and a sense of purpose. And CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, offers some thoughts on how the ultimate home, and ultimate family, for so many of those we serve is the church.
We invite you to check out those stories and much more in ONE. Meantime, check out a special preview below, from Msgr. Kozar.