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Bishop criticizes Texas senator for politicizing summit on Mideast Christians

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — A Catholic bishop criticized Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for politicizing a conference of diverse political and church leaders working on behalf of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.

“When you come to a hard political stance on anything, it’s going to cause a flare-up, and that’s what happened last night,” Maronite Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of Brooklyn, New York, told Catholic News Service Sept. 11.

Cruz was a keynote speaker at the gala solidarity dinner at the inaugural summit of In Defense of Christians, a new organization with the aim of shaping policy and heightening awareness of Christians in the Middle East.

The conference brought together more than 500 politicians, church leaders, including Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs flown in from the Middle East, and Christians in the diaspora. The patriarchs emphasized that their differences did not preclude unity on behalf of all minorities in the Middle East.

Cruz, touted as a potential Republican candidate for president in 2016, left the stage after he was booed for saying that Christians have no better ally than Israel.

In a statement posted on his website, Cruz said: “After just a few minutes, I had no choice. I told them that if you will not stand with Israel, if you will not stand with the Jews, then I will not stand with you. And then I walked off the stage.”

Bishop Mansour said he felt Cruz “had a litmus test for us: If we don’t stand with Israel, then he won’t stand with us. Well, that’s not an approach that is viable for a Christian.

“Christians don’t ally themselves to any state,” said Bishop Mansour. “We are not allied to the state — to the United States or to Iraq, or to Syria. Christians must be free to engage their society, to build up what is beautiful in it, and to critique what is not.”

Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen, distinguished professor of ethics and global development at Georgetown University, attended the conference but was not at the gala.

In a blog for ncronline.org, scheduled for publication Sept. 15, Father Christiansen contrasted the unanimity of the patriarchs’ message on Christians with Cruz’s remarks, which he called divisive.

“Members of the audience responded that calls made by Cruz and other speakers for respect for Jews and their inclusion in a pluralist Middle East had met with wide approval,” wrote Father Christiansen, who has spent years advocating for Mideast Christians in his work as a policy adviser for the U.S. bishops’ conference and as editor of America magazine.

“It was Cruz’s assertion that Israel was an ally of Middle Eastern Christians to which they objected,” he wrote. “They felt that their effort to build a coalition had been hijacked for the sake of Cruz’s own political ambitions and the ultra-Zionist cause.”

Bishop Mansour, who said he liked Cruz personally, told CNS: “I ran after him, and I saw him, face to face, as you and I are talking. He was very upset.”

But he pointed out that many in the audience at the gala dinner were Palestinian Christians.

“Come on, you have to talk to your audience, you have to talk to the people who are here. I felt that showed a great insensitivity on his part,” said Bishop Mansour, whose comments were echoed by others in attendance.

“We’ve been very careful, all the organizers and everybody involved,” said Bishop Mansour. “The only one who was not very careful was Sen. Cruz.”

“He made it very clear about defense of Jews and defense of Christians, but he did not mention defense of Muslims,” said Bishop Mansour. He said everyone at the conference had been “very careful to defend the best of the Muslim tradition and to condemn the worst in it.”

The bishop noted that 18 congressmen and senators had had talks with the Christian leaders on Capitol Hill without any kind of animosity.

After Cruz left the stage, one of the event organizers chastised the crowd, and In Defense of Christians posted a statement on its website from its president, Toufic Baaklini:

“As (Lebanese) Cardinal (Bechara) Rai so eloquently put it to the attendees of the In Defense of Christians’ inaugural summit gala dinner: ‘At every wedding, there are a few problems.’ In this case, a few politically motivated opportunists chose to divide a room that for more than 48 hours sought unity in opposing the shared threat of genocide, faced not only by our Christian brothers and sisters, but our Jewish brothers and sisters and people of all other faiths and all people of good will.

“Tonight’s injection of politics when the focus should have been on unity and faith momentarily played into the hands of a few who do not adhere to IDC’s principles. They were made no longer welcome,” the statement said, without indicating whether that meant the hecklers or Cruz.

The senator also posted a statement on his website:

“Tonight in Washington should have been a night of unity as we came together for the inaugural event for a group that calls itself ‘In Defense of Christians.’ Instead, it unfortunately deteriorated into a shameful display of bigotry and hatred,” the statement said.

“When I spoke in strong support of Israel and the Jewish people, who are being persecuted and murdered by the same vicious terrorists who are also slaughtering Christians, many Christians in the audience applauded. But, sadly, a vocal and angry minority of attendees at the conference tried to shout down my expression of solidarity with Israel.

“They cannot shout down the truth. And we should not shy away from expressing the truth, even in the face of, especially in the face of, ignorance and bigotry,” it said.

 

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Viewpoint: When global problems heat up

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If there’s anything good to say about the state of the world this month, it’s that at least we’re going to have nice weather for the apocalypse.

The poet Robert Frost once noted that “some say the world will end in fire and some say ice.” Who knew it could end during one of the balmy summer days we’ve enjoyed in the Diocese of Wilmington this year?

It’s not the heat; it’s the history of recent world conflicts and the dangers they portend. Here’s a review of this summer’s news: Read more »

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Working to end the madness, restore dignity in the Middle East

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Catholic Near East Welfare Association

 

Catholic Near East Welfare Association works with churches to aid the poor, create dialogue, inspire peace

 

“The situation on the ground [in Gaza] is horrific. The attack on the Shajaia neighborhood yesterday [July 20] was very ugly and left 50 dead (including 17 children, 14 women and 4 senior citizens) as well as 210 wounded and 70,000 displaced. … “Those who visited the neighborhood during the two-hour humanitarian ceasefire yesterday reported bodies of women and children scattered in the narrow streets. …

“The Latin and Greek Orthodox parishes have opened facilities to receive those displaced mostly from Shajaia. There has not been any human loss affecting Christians, and property damage is limited to broken glass and minor damage. Let’s hope it remains this way. The most serious damage to the community is clearly psychological.

“We are continuously assessing the situation and continue to pray for an end to this madness.” Read more »

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Pope urges Israeli, Palestinian leaders to end Holy Land conflict

July 18th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Expressing his serious concerns over the escalating violence in the Holy Land, Pope Francis telephoned Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, urging all sides to end hostilities and build peace.

Palestinians look at a destroyed building in Gaza City shortly after an airstrike by Israeli Defense Forces July 17. Caritas Jerusalem officials say Gaza civilians are paying the price for the Israeli-Hamas conflict. (CNS photo/Oliver Weiken, EPA)

Palestinians look at a destroyed building in Gaza City shortly after an airstrike by Israeli Defense Forces July 17. Caritas Jerusalem officials say Gaza civilians are paying the price for the Israeli-Hamas conflict. (CNS photo/Oliver Weiken, EPA)

The morning after Israel launched a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, the pope personally telephoned the two leaders July 18 to express “his very serious concerns about the current situation of conflict.”

Phoning Peres at 10 in the morning and Abbas at 11:30 Rome time, the pope told the leaders that the conflict was creating “numerous victims and was giving way to a state of serious humanitarian emergency,” the Vatican said in a written statement July 18.

The pope told the two presidents, whom the pope “considers to be men of peace and who want peace,” that constant prayer was needed.

He also urged them to “work hard at making sure all interested parties and those who have political responsibilities on the local and international levels dedicate themselves to bring an end to all hostilities, striving to foster a truce, peace and a reconciliation of hearts,” the Vatican said.

The pope assured the two leaders of his “constant prayers” as well as the prayers of the whole church “for peace in the Holy Land.”

Meanwhile, the pope also assured the parish priest of the Holy Family Church, the only Catholic parish in Gaza, of his prayers.

One of the pope’s secretaries sent an email around 7 p.m. July 17 to Father Jorge Hernandez, an Argentine priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word.

According to the Vatican, the brief message said, “I accompany you all with my prayers. May the Holy Virgin keep watch over you.”

Holy Family Parish had been holding eucharistic adoration and celebrated a special Mass “to implore forgiveness, justice and peace for all,” according to Vatican Radio.

The priest has opened the parish school to “numerous families” who fled their homes in bombed neighborhoods, according to Fides, the Vatican’s missionary news service. The families “didn’t sleep a wink all night because of the bombing,” a Brazilian nun, identified only as Sister Laudis, told Fides.

“The houses were shaking, the children were crying,” said the nun who said she had spoken with Father Hernandez after leaving Gaza July 17 for Beit Jalla, a village near Bethlehem.

 

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Pope Francis discusses peace in Middle East with Israel’s prime minister

December 2nd, 2013 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel Dec. 2, and discussed prospects for peace in the Middle East and the pope’s still-unscheduled trip to the Holy Land.

The two met privately for about 25 minutes in the pope’s library.

Pope Francis presents a gift to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a private audience at the Vatican December 2. (CNS photo/Maria Grazia Picciarella, pool)

A statement from the Vatican press office said the leaders discussed the “complex political and social situation in the Middle East, with particular reference to the resumption of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, hoping that a just and lasting solution may be found as soon as possible.”

The pope’s plans for a trip to the Holy Land also came up, but the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, told reporters no date had been set. Unofficial reports suggest the trip will be in May or June.

After their private meeting, the prime minister presented the pope with a book about the Spanish Inquisition’s persecution of the Jews.

The book, “The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain,” was written by the prime minister’s father, Benzion Netanyahu, a noted historian who died in 2012 at the age of 102. It argues that Spanish Christians of Jewish origin were persecuted not for any religious deviations but because of racism and envy of their economic success.

The prime minister had inscribed his present, a copy of the book’s Spanish edition, “To His Holiness Pope Franciscus, a great shepherd of our common heritage.”

Netanyahu also gave Pope Francis a silver menorah, the nine-branched candelabrum used in celebrating the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, sitting on a silver tray with a little silver oil pitcher.

The pope gave Netanyahu a bronze plaque bearing an image of St. Paul.

It was the two men’s first meeting, but Netanyahu had met with Blessed John Paul II in 1997 and with Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.

 

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