Home » Archive by category 'International News'

Father of Pakistani woman on death row appeals for visitation rights

By

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNS) — The father of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman on death row, has filed a High Court petition demanding the right to visit his daughter in jail after being repeatedly denied access since her 2010 conviction, his lawyer said.

Ucanews.com reports that Sardar Mushtaq Gill, the lawyer for Bibi’s father, Soran Masih, said Aug. 23: “We filed a petition in the Lahore High Court after several requests to visit Asia Bibi were rejected by jail authorities and the province’s Home Department. … It is Masih’s fundamental right to visit his daughter in jail, and this cannot be denied by jail authorities or the Punjab government.” Read more »

Comments Off on Father of Pakistani woman on death row appeals for visitation rights

Spiritual costs of Cuban embargo have been high, says U.S. priest

By

Catholic News Service

The U.S. trade embargo against Cuba turns 55 in October, and its effects are clear in the dilapidated buildings, scant food supply of Cuban stores and infrastructure around the island.

But what’s not easy to see is the spiritual cost. Trinitarian Father Juan Molina, director of the U.S. bishops’ Office for the Church in Latin America, said that spiritual cost has been great.

A vehicle is parked next to the National Capitol Building in Havana in this Dec. 26, 2014, file photo. The Vatican played a key role in restoring U.S.-Cuban diplomatic ties. (CNS photo/Alejandro Ernesto, EPA)

A vehicle is parked next to the National Capitol Building in Havana in this Dec. 26, 2014, file photo. The Vatican played a key role in restoring U.S.-Cuban diplomatic ties. (CNS photo/Alejandro Ernesto, EPA)

“The embargo has literally put a block between two hands, two sister churches working together,” Father Molina said. “The church in the United States is very much a missionary church that goes to very different places around the world, not only to spend time with their brothers and sisters, but also to help them.”

The embargo has prevented Cubans from receiving supplies from the U.S., even during natural disasters and emergencies. Financial donations from U.S. church members and groups that want to help pastoral programs for the church in Cuba also have been blocked. But it also has eroded something even more important to the Catholic Church: a spiritual fraternity between Catholics on the island and those in the United States.

“All that has been lost for last 50 years,” Father Molina said.

Richard Coll, a foreign policy adviser for Latin America and global trade at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he sees hope, however, and it arrived with the Dec. 17 news that diplomatic relations between the two countries would be restored — a move facilitated by the diplomatic hand of the Vatican.

“It was a day that marked Cuba,” and one largely welcomed by the island’s denizens, said Lourdes Maria Escalona, who works at a Catholic formation center on the eastern end of the island.

In April, Cuba was removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Both countries opened embassies in each other’s territory July 20, and on Aug. 14, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry raised the U.S. flag at the embassy in Havana.

The hope now, Coll said, is “that there’s no backtracking” by Congress on the flexibility granted to Americans so they can travel to Cuba, which includes permission to travel to the island for religious activities. The greater hope, however, is getting rid of the embargo.

“Certainly the conference (of bishops) in the United States, in conjunction with the Cuban bishops’ conference, for many years, has favored that kind of action, the lifting of the embargo,” Coll said. Such a move can bring about greater dialogue, commerce and contact with the Cuban people, their government, and foster human rights, freedom and democracy, just as it did in the similar landscape of Eastern Europe after the Berlin Wall fell, he said.

“The more they were able to rely on commerce and engage in dialogue with the West, the more possible it became for their own societies to be able to open up to human rights advances and eventually to a move toward democracy rather than pulling away from the West,” Coll said.

Even St. John Paul II, an ardent opponent of communism, favored lifting the sanctions.

“Embargoes,” he said while addressing a group of young people during his visit to Cuba in 1998, “are always deplorable because they hurt the most needy.”

Any benefits that come from the historic thaw have the potential to affect more than just relations between Cuba and the U.S., Coll said.

“Cuba is a key that unlocks many other doors within Latin America,” said Coll. “You can think about the situation in Venezuela, for example … that’s related very much to what’s happening in Cuba.”

Success with Cuba can lead to success addressing issues such as religious freedom, violence and poverty in other neighboring nations. And that’s very much an interest of Pope Francis but it’s also not an interest that began with him, Coll said.

“Sometimes in the press, and elsewhere, there’s a desire to talk about how Francis is a revolutionary and so different from other popes, but on Cuba policy and on many other issues, including even economic policy, I would argue that Francis is very much in the tradition of Benedict XVI, John Paul II, going back to Leo XIII, so this is a chain … it really is a pretty unbroken chain,” Coll said.

Eduardo Azcarate, a native Cuban who lives in Falls Church, Virginia, said he does not like to get involved in politics and does not like to address the embargo. But the embargo has made it complicated for Cuban Catholics like him to help the church and its members carry out its mission.

“If the embargo did not exist … it perhaps would help to facilitate an openness of service, of help to the church” in Cuba, he said.

However, he also tries to understand those who favor the sanctions and those who see it as “holding a chip” to “remind the government about the importance of human rights and religious freedom.”

Just before Kerry arrived in Havana, a group of activists was arrested and released, following a protest in which they wore masks with the image of U.S. President Barack Obama.

The topic of the embargo almost seems unavoidable for Pope Francis, who will head directly from Cuba to the United States Sept. 22.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the pope speaks about that,” Father Molina said, though it may not be a welcome topic in Congress.

“The challenge is that we’re going to be heading into 2016, which is a presidential election year, and I think that most candidates are going to be very cautious and most members of Congress are going to be very cautious about taking any action,” Coll said.

But the pope may see it as a priceless opportunity for world diplomacy, Father Molina said, and as another step in the path of his predecessors.

At a recent panel of policy advisers in Washington, Demetrios Papademetriou, president emeritus of the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, said directly or indirectly, the subject of the embargo will come up during his U.S. visit.

“Even if the pope does not say the words Cuba directly, he will probably say something about facilitating dialogue and opening up within Latin America,” he said. “After all, let’s not forget that this is a pope that understands, has lived all his life, has preached, became a cardinal, in Latin America. He has lived with these issues,”

Videos to accompany this story can be found at https://youtu.be/Fjzyz3x1Yk4 and https://youtu.be/xYczSMHQOQA.

 

Comments Off on Spiritual costs of Cuban embargo have been high, says U.S. priest

In Ireland, U.S. cardinals praise role of immigrants

By

Catholic News Service

KNOCK, Ireland — Two American cardinals of Irish descent praised the role of immigrants, especially Irish, in building the United States.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York stands with Franciscan University of Steubenville students who came to see the cardinal open the novena in Knock, Ireland, Aug. 14. (CNS photo/Sarah Mac Donald)

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York stands with Franciscan University of Steubenville students who came to see the cardinal open the novena in Knock, Ireland, Aug. 14. (CNS photo/Sarah Mac Donald)

The United States is “a nation of immigrants and we are proud of that,” New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan told Catholic News Service at the Marian shrine of Knock, where he delivered a keynote opening a novena.

He said that while everybody was talking about the so-called immigrant problem, “We in United States would say the immigrants are not a problem, the immigrants are a gift.

“If there is one thing we have done well, it is to welcome the immigrant. Every person in the United States, unless you are Native American, is a descendant of an immigrant,” he told CNS.

Recalling that his own great-great-grandfather came to America from Ireland, he commented, “We didn’t have this intense anti-immigrant sentiment back then; America was known as a land of welcome, and there weren’t these restrictions.”

Rebuffing this anti-immigrant mentality he said: “There is an unfortunate inaccurate uncharitable stereotype of the immigrant. Some of the most patriotic and loyal Americans are immigrants because they love their adopted country. They are more patriotic and loyal than we are.”

Discussing Pope Francis’ September visit to the United States, he said the pope was particularly concerned about the treatment of immigrants and had suggested that America “might be a light to the rest of the world, showing it how to welcome and embrace and assimilate the immigrant.”

Cardinal Dolan said Pope Francis expressed a desire to see the work of American Catholic charities helping immigrants because New York is synonymous with the Statue of Liberty. He also wanted to see an inner city Catholic school, so he is scheduled to visit Our Lady Queen of Angels in Harlem, and there he will also meet about 150 immigrants and some of the charities working with them. He is also scheduled to meet with immigrants in Philadelphia.

Cardinal Dolan said that during his week in Ireland, more than 160 Americans had visited ancient places of pilgrimage, and many of the people they met expressed gratitude to the U.S. bishops and Catholic leaders for their “call for sound and fair immigration reform” in the United States.

Separately, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston led 1,500 people commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed Into Heaven and St. Nicholas in Galway Aug. 14. Boston Cardinal Richard Cushing represented Blessed Paul VI at the dedication of the cathedral in 1965.

In his homily, Cardinal O’Malley spoke of the deep historic links between the United States and Ireland and particularly between his city of Boston and Galway.

He noted that Massachusetts was a Puritan colony that was historically hostile to Catholicism, where Catholics were forbidden residence, priests imprisoned, and an effigy of the pope was burned every November on Boston Common.

But all of this changed following the 19th-century famine in Ireland that sent millions of Irish across the sea to start a new life and to send help back to those who stayed behind.

“As a young seminarian, I was here in Ireland when John F. Kennedy, the first Irish Catholic president of the United States, came to visit the land of his ancestors. He received the cead mile failte, the 100,000 welcomes of the Irish people,” he recalled.

“In Boston, we are very proud of our Irish heritage,” he said.

Comments Off on In Ireland, U.S. cardinals praise role of immigrants

French churches get increased security before feast of Assumption

By

 

PARIS — Catholic churches in France have been placed under police protection and urged to take extra security measures against possible Islamist attacks before the Aug. 15 feast of the Assumption.

“Every religious gathering, whatever its magnitude … is vulnerable today to acts of malevolence, which may extend to terrorism,” the country’s Interior Ministry and bishops’ conference said in a joint message to Catholic dioceses. The message was published Aug. 11 in France’s Catholic daily, La Croix.

Read more »

Comments Off on French churches get increased security before feast of Assumption

Papal message for World Peace Day to focus on overcoming indifference

By

 

Catholic News Service

 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Selfishness and fear keep too many people ignorant of the suffering of others and prevent them from finding creative ways to express solidarity and to promote peace, said a statement from the Vatican’s justice and peace office.

To promote a reflection on the need for a “conversion of mind and heart” open to the needs of others, Pope Francis has chosen “Overcome indifference and win peace” as the theme for the church’s celebration of the World Day of Peace 2016. Read more »

Comments Off on Papal message for World Peace Day to focus on overcoming indifference

Church leaders lodge complaint to Israelis about rabbi’s arson remarks

By

 

Catholic News Service

 

AMMAN, Jordan — The Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land filed an official complaint to Israeli police against the leader of a radical Israeli movement over his remarks supporting and encouraging the burning of churches.

Father Pietro Felet, the assembly’s secretary-general, filed the complaint Aug. 7 against Israeli Rabbi Bentzi Gopstein and the Lehava movement on behalf of more than 20 patriarchs and bishops. Read more »

Comments Off on Church leaders lodge complaint to Israelis about rabbi’s arson remarks

Dozens of Christians feared to be among 230 kidnapped in Syria

By

 

Catholic News Service

 

AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) — Dozens of Christians are feared to be among the 230 people abducted by Islamic State after the extremist group’s militants captured a central Syrian town in early August.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Syria-based activist Bebars al-Talawy said they have no information where militants took their captives after overrunning the heavily populated town of Qaryatain. Al-Talawy put the number of Christians abducted at 60.

It is believed that many of the Christians had previously fled from Aleppo province in Syria’s north to seek refuge in Qaryatain. Read more »

Comments Off on Dozens of Christians feared to be among 230 kidnapped in Syria

Ukrainian bishop warns of mass starvation, millions of refugees

By

Catholic News Service

WARSAW, Poland — A Ukrainian bishop said a Russian-backed separatist rebellion has plunged his country into its worst humanitarian crisis since World War II and warned that “millions of refugees” could soon head for Europe to escape starvation.

Boy sleeps in his mother's arms as she listens to a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops delegation talk to internally displaced people at a camp iin Kharkiv, Ukraine, June 21. The delegation was visiting the camp for people forced to flee fighting between rebel separatist forces and the Ukrainian army in the eastern part of the country. Now, a Ukrainian bishops is predicting the political situation could cause starvation and mass refugees. (CNS photo/Sergey Kozlov, EPA)

Boy sleeps in his mother’s arms as she listens to a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops delegation talk to internally displaced people at a camp iin Kharkiv, Ukraine, June 21. The delegation was visiting the camp for people forced to flee fighting between rebel separatist forces and the Ukrainian army in the eastern part of the country. Now, a Ukrainian bishops is predicting the political situation could cause starvation and mass refugees. (CNS photo/Sergey Kozlov, EPA)

“Huge numbers are now caught between hammer and anvil; the separatists aren’t looking after them, and the Ukrainian government won’t care for them because they haven’t declared which side they’re on,” said Auxiliary Bishop Jan Sobilo of Kharkiv-Zaporizhia.

“Not since World War II have we seen such poverty and destitution,” he told CNS July 29.

“People are continually arriving at our Catholic communities asking for food, medicines, money and shelter,” he said, noting they included young widows with small children, whose husbands have stayed in the war zone or been killed.

The bishop spoke as the Catholic Caritas organization also warned of growing starvation and desperation in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine.

Bishop Sobilo told CNS lack of water currently posed the biggest problem in eastern Ukraine, where food prices were three times higher than in the rest of the country.

He added that local children would be unable to start the new school year because most schools were closed and said the Ukrainian authorities had hushed up a spiraling rate of suicides.

“Whereas family members and friends were ready to help for a month or two, most have now exhausted their money and savings and had to ask the refugees to move on,” Bishop Sobilo said.

“Many elderly educated people, who previously had jobs, have been unable to face begging on the streets and have thrown themselves from windows and bridges. Such people often have no means of survival and no one to turn to, and have ended up starving.”

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied direct Russian involvement in Ukraine, church leaders repeatedly have accused Moscow of military intervention in the war. A June United Nations report said more than 6,400 people have died and 16,000 have been wounded.

In a July 28 interview with Germany’s Cologne-based Dom Radio, Andrij Waskowycz, president of Caritas Ukraine, said 700,000 Ukrainians had now left the country, while 1.4 million more were internally displaced by the fighting and lacked basic necessities.

“He said a February cease-fire agreement had failed to prevent daily skirmishes and conflicts, adding that at least 100,000 people were now without water in the separatist-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Bishop Sobilo said church leaders had been promised access to Catholics by separatist forces, but had been barred from visiting the “occupied territories” by the Ukrainian troops controlling the makeshift borders.

He added that Western aid often failed to reach those in need and was “not always the right kind of help.” He said it was “more effective and less wasteful” for church donors to send money.

“This is a war of oligarchs, and any future peace will depend on the conversion of those oligarchs in Russia and Ukraine who’ve kept the conflict going with their lies,” the bishop said.

“The West should get ready to accept the millions of homeless, hungry refugees who will soon head across central and western Ukraine toward Europe,” he said. “Pope Francis has urged help for refugees from Africa, and we now have parts of Africa right here. Unless solidarity is shown with them, countless innocent people will die simply because they happened to live in an unlucky place during a conflict ignited by those with a personal interest in war and suffering.”

 

Comments Off on Ukrainian bishop warns of mass starvation, millions of refugees

Church leaders want Israel to step up protection of Christian sites

By

Catholic News Service

JERUSALEM — Although Israeli officials have publicly criticized the June arson attack that seriously damaged the Benedictine Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha, anti-Christian violence is not new, said a representative of the religious order.

An Ultra-Orthodox Jew walks past the Dormition Abbey on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem July 27. Christian leaders want Israel to step up protection of Christian sites. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

An Ultra-Orthodox Jew walks past the Dormition Abbey on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem July 27. Christian leaders want Israel to step up protection of Christian sites. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

Benedictine Father Nikodemus Schnabel, spokesman for the Benedictine Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion,  told Catholic News Service that fires and vandalism have plagued other churches and church property for years.

The abbey was set on fire May 25, 2014, soon after Pope Francis visited the site during his Holy Land pilgrimage. It is located near a yeshiva and the Tomb of David, where the Cenacle, or the Upper Room, site of the Last Supper, is located.

A year earlier, two cars owned by the Benedictines were set on fire. Benedictine monks often are victims of verbal and spitting attacks, and Christian tombstones are smashed, Father Schnabel said. In March, a Greek Orthodox seminary was damaged in an arson attack and a wall was sprayed with anti-Christian graffiti.

Although there have been photos of people spitting at and verbally abusing the monks, no arrests in connection with any of the incidents have been made, Father Schnabel said. A Benedictine request that a security camera be installed near their property has gone unheeded, he added.

“We are very thankful for the many signs of solidarity from our friends in the civil society, but (until Tabgha) we never heard any officials respond,” the Benedictine priest said.

With the official condemnations of the Tabgha attack, the Benedictines are “very happy with the words,” but are “now looking for results,” he said.

No charges have been brought in connection with the incident, although police announced July 11 that they had arrested several suspects.

The building housing the traditional locations of the Cenacle and the Tomb of David continues to be a point of contention within the National Religious Party, a Zionist political party whose supporters believe in the right of Israel over all areas of the biblical Jewish Holy Land. The party has used the building as a rallying point, charging at times that it will be transferred to the Vatican or Christians.

Makor Rishon, a newspaper identified with conservative national and religious values, regularly publishes anti-Christian articles and charges against Christians and the monastery in particular.

“It is a very tiny group of national religious Jews,” said Father Schnabel, emphasizing that it was important to point out that the perpetrators are not, as often portrayed in the media, ultra-Orthodox Jews. Many are those who are prohibited from entering the West Bank by Israeli authorities, those known as “the hilltop youth” who establish illegal settlements on hilltops in the West Bank, he said.

The Benedictine said those who carry out the attacks adhere to an ultranationalist stance that often calls for ridding Israel of non-Jewish individuals and organizations.

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal blamed government inaction and a lack of education about tolerance and understanding for the continuing attacks.

“Sometimes the government of Israel condemns (incidents) and many private Israeli institutions and Israelis come or write beautiful letters condemning the attacks, saying this is not their way,” noted Patriarch Twal. “But it is not enough for the government to condemn the actions. We ask for follow-up with action.”

He charged that the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tacitly encourages such behavior.

“They are in the government. All the right-wing government is their allies. This is their line,” he said. “They are an integral part of the government. This is our society. We haven’t a normal life.”

In a June 22 statement, the Christian Palestinian initiative Kairos Palestine expressed concern that such continued incidents could “fan dissent and fire religious conflicts in the Holy Land.” It said that failing to hold the perpetrators accountable for their deeds encourages them to continue with such actions.

“The Israeli authorities are responsible for this kind of terrorism and the absence of security for the religious Christian and Muslim sites,” Kairos Palestine said.

Under police order not to speak about the case so as not to interfere in the police investigation of the Tabgha attack, Father Schnabel said: “We feel that there is not the lack of ability to look for results and arrests but a serious lack of will. I hope I am wrong but we have that feeling.”

As difficult as it may be, the priest said, it is necessary for Israel and its officials to acknowledge that a small fringe within society does not tolerate minorities; this is part of the religious freedom and democracy that Father Schnabel is convinced Israel supports.

Arresting the culprits helps with a feeling of justice being done, but it is only treating the symptom of the illness rather than the problem itself, he said.

“You have to go to the root of the problem,” he said.

 

Comments Off on Church leaders want Israel to step up protection of Christian sites

Priest says life in Gaza is worse a year after the war

By

Catholic News Service

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — One year after a war with Israel that turned daily life here into a nightmare, a Catholic priest in Gaza said the situation in this besieged Palestinian territory has deteriorated even further.

“Compared with a year ago, we’re worse off. Although a truce stopped the war, the blockade of Gaza by Israel has grown more intense. This has direct consequences for the population,” said Father Jorge Hernandez, pastor of Holy Family Catholic Parish in Gaza City.

A boy rides his bike amid the ruins of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, June 9. Houses in the area were destroyed during the 2014 war between Israel and the Hamas government of Gaza. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

A boy rides his bike amid the ruins of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, June 9. Houses in the area were destroyed during the 2014 war between Israel and the Hamas government of Gaza. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

The priest said the war also served as a recruiting tool for Hamas, the Islamic party that has controlled Gaza since 2007.

“The war generated new activism throughout Gaza. The number of people willing to fight has multiplied, whether on behalf of Hamas or Islamic Jihad or the Salafists, and now even with the Islamic State. Despite that, the great majority of the people of Gaza is not aligned with one party or another. They just want to live a normal life,” Father Hernandez, an Argentine missionary of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, told Catholic News Service.

The 50-day war cost the lives of more than 2,250 Palestinians, 65 percent of whom were civilians, according to a June report from a U.N. investigation. The report said “the scale of the devastation was unprecedented.” It said the Israeli military launched more than 6,000 air strikes, 14,500 tank shells and 45,000 artillery shells into Gaza between July 7 and Aug. 26, 2014.

The war also “caused immense distress and disruption to the lives of Israeli civilians,” the U.N. said, reporting that nearly 4,900 rockets and more than 1,700 mortars were fired by Palestinian armed groups during that period. Sixty-six Israeli soldiers were killed, along with six civilians.

The report also cites as possible war crimes the conduct of Israeli operations in residential neighborhoods, as well as the killing of 21 suspected collaborators by Hamas’ armed wing.

Father Hernandez said militants came to his church compound twice looking for alleged spies among some 1,400 civilians who took shelter there. Church buildings were damaged when Israel bombed a neighboring house. At one point, Father Hernandez and several members of the Missionaries of Charity shepherded a group of 29 disabled children and nine elderly women into the open.

“We put them in the patio in front of church, a place that’s far from any homes. And then we prayed that Israel wouldn’t bomb the church,” he said.

Gaza’s children continue to be affected by the war, the priest said. Besides thousands who remain in temporary shelters, he said the overwhelming violence of the conflict has created discipline problems, with normal tensions in the family and on the street more quickly escalating into physical violence. And lingering stress generates health problems.

“Some kids continue to have problems with speech or bed-wetting, and now that there are rumors of another war; some are even talking about specific dates. )ne child’s hair has started to fall out again,” he said.

One Catholic leader in the region said that Gaza’s Christians have nonetheless adjusted to their perilous situation.

“When I came here immediately after the war, everyone I talked to pleaded for a one-way ticket out of Gaza. But I no longer hear that. They are resilient, this is their home, and they’re resolved that they’re going to make a contribution to society. They are proud to be both Christian and Palestinian, no matter the difficult conditions,” said Sami El-Yousef, regional director for Palestine and Israel of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

Of Gaza’s 1.8 million population, only about 1,300 are Christian. Catholics number fewer than 200. Relations between this small minority and the Muslim majority have been marred by discrimination.

“When one looks for work here, the first thing they ask is if you are a Muslim. If you are, then they ask if you support Hamas or Fatah. If neither, they ask which mosque you go to, because they want to know who you’re loyal to,” Father Hernandez said. “But if you’re a Christian, you won’t get asked those questions because you won’t get the job. The only way Christians can get jobs is through a Muslim friend who serves as an intermediary. No store or school or bank will give them a job, so they come to the church asking for help.”

There are occasional episodes of harassment of Christians on the street, Father Hernandez said, which is one reason he maintains good relations with Hamas officials.

“It’s important for me to have good contacts, because if there’s a problem I just call someone at a high level and immediately they respond and grab the responsible person. If I had to go to the police to file a report, and the police officer had a long beard, then nothing would happen,” he said.

Vatican support for Palestinians, which has strengthened under Pope Francis, has helped ease tensions on the ground, Father Hernandez said.

“We are treated by Israel as Palestinians, but at times other Palestinians don’t want to recognize us as Palestinians. What the pope has done has helped us a lot within our community. We are just as Palestinian as Hamas. And if they forget that, we remind them of what the pope has said and done,” he said.

Father Hernandez had an opportunity to personally thank Pope Francis for the Vatican’s protagonism when the priest was invited to the Vatican the day after the war ended last year.

“Bishop William Shomali (the auxiliary bishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) called me on the phone and said I had to leave Gaza immediately,” Father Hernandez recalled. “But we had just finished living through a war. I couldn’t understand what was more urgent than remaining here with the people. But he didn’t want to tell me the reason over the phone. I pushed him, and finally he told me in Latin, ‘The man in white wants to see you.’ At first I thought I was losing my Latin. I asked him if I was understanding correctly, and he said yes. I called my superior, and he went to talk with the Latin Patriarch. He called me back in 30 minutes and told me it was true. So I packed my things and left.”

Two days later, Father Hernandez was embraced by his fellow Argentine inside the Vatican.

“He was a true pastor, hurting for all that had happened to the people here. He was sad about the violence on both sides. When we spoke of the children, he got emotional. We spoke at length about how the chemicals used in the war had affected the health of the people. He knew a lot about what had gone on in Gaza,” Father Hernandez said.

“I told him how much we appreciated a message he sent us in the middle of the war. I told him we had translated it for all the people, and that it was a big source of hope and courage for us.”

The priest said that at one point during the hourlong meeting he confessed to Francis that he was nervous. “He told me not to worry, to feel at home. I looked around and thought, ‘The Vatican is now my house. Caramba.’”

 

Comments Off on Priest says life in Gaza is worse a year after the war
Marquee Powered By Know How Media.