Home » Posts tagged 'Christians'

U.S. bishops call for solidarity with Middle East victims of violence, refugees

By

WASHINGTON — Christians and all people in the Middle East need the solidarity of the U.S. Catholic Church, said the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the head of the Catholic Relief Services board.

The damaged entrance of St. Mary's Church is seen in 2016 in Damascus, Syria. Christians and all people in the Middle East need the solidarity of the U.S. Catholic Church, said the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the head of the Catholic Relief Services board. (CNS photo/Mohammed Badra, EPA)

The damaged entrance of St. Mary’s Church is seen in 2016 in Damascus, Syria. Christians and all people in the Middle East need the solidarity of the U.S. Catholic Church, said the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the head of the Catholic Relief Services board. (CNS photo/Mohammed Badra, EPA)

“A concern for our Christian brethren is inclusive and does not exclude a concern for all the peoples of the region who suffer violence and persecution, both minorities and majorities, both Muslims and Christians,” said a Feb. 10 statement from four bishops.

“To focus attention on the plight of Christians and other minorities is not to ignore the suffering of others,” the statement said. “Rather, by focusing on the most vulnerable members of society, we strengthen the entire fabric of society to protect the rights of all.”

The group included Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace; Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration; and Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, New York, chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services.

The group pointed to the findings of a recent USCCB delegation to Iraq, which confirmed that Christians, Yezidis, Shiite Muslims and other minorities had experienced genocide at the hands of the Islamic State group.

“It is important for Syrians and Iraqis of all faiths to recognize this as genocide, for that recognition is a way to help everyone come to grips with what is happening and to form future generations that will reject any ideology that leads to genocidal acts and other atrocities,” the bishops said in their statement.

The bishops called on Americans to accept “our nation’s fair share” of vulnerable families, regardless of religion and ethnicity, for resettlement as refugees. They called for special consideration of the victims of genocide and other violence.

They urged the U.S. to encourage the Iraqi government and the regional government in Irbil, Iraq, to “strengthen the rule of law based on equal citizenship and ensure the protection of all.”

U.S. aid should assist local and national efforts to improve policing and the court system and encourage local self-governance, the bishops said. Similar efforts are needed in Syria as well, they said.

The U.S. also can provide “generous” humanitarian and development assistance to refugees, displaced people and Iraqi and Syrian communities as they rebuild, the statement said. Such funding can be directed in part to “trusted faith-based nongovernmental agencies” such as Catholic Relief Services and local Caritas agencies, the bishops said.

Comments Off on U.S. bishops call for solidarity with Middle East victims of violence, refugees

Panel: Genocide, wars, indifference will make Mideast Christians extinct

By

Catholic News Service

NEW YORK — Christians in the Middle East face extinction because of genocide, wars and international indifference to their plight, according to panelists at a Dec. 5 interfaith forum in New York.

A concerted multilateral effort to establish a safe haven for them while rebuilding their devastated homelands is preferable to massive permanent resettlement to other countries, including the United States, they said.

Men walk in rubble Nov. 13 near St. Mary's Catholic Church and St. Elias Orthodox Church after a bombing in Damascus, Syria. Christians in the Middle East face extinction because of genocide, wars and international indifference to their plight, said speakers at a Dec. 5 panel discussion in New York. (CNS photo/Mohammed Badra, EPA)

Men walk in rubble Nov. 13 near St. Mary’s Catholic Church and St. Elias Orthodox Church after a bombing in Damascus, Syria. Christians in the Middle East face extinction because of genocide, wars and international indifference to their plight, said speakers at a Dec. 5 panel discussion in New York. (CNS photo/Mohammed Badra, EPA)

Twelve speakers at the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture event explored “The Crisis for Christians in the Middle East,” with a particular focus on vulnerable Christian minorities in Syria and Iraq.

Christians formed the majority in the Middle East until the Crusades in the 12th-14th centuries, but “the past thousand years haven’t been good in many ways,” said Jack Tannous, assistant professor of history at Princeton University.

Tremendous violence perpetrated against Christians led to widespread conversion, he said, and long periods of stasis have been punctuated by large-scale persecution and followed by immigration.

As a result, many Christians were effectively exterminated from the lands where they lived for centuries, said Michael Reynolds, associate professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University.

Genocide is the accurate description for the fate of Christians, especially in areas controlled by the Islamic State, speakers said.

Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said she appreciated that Christians were included in the March 17 genocide declaration by Secretary of State John Kerry, even if the inclusion, she added, was made with difficulty by the current administration and because “it’s popular to talk about minority religions.”

Kerry said the atrocities carried out by the Islamic State group against Yezidis, Christians and other minorities were genocide.

“Today we are witnessing the world’s indifference to the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East and Africa,” said Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress and former U.S. ambassador to Austria. Referencing the Holocaust, he said, “Since 1945, genocide has occurred again and again. ‘Never Again!’ has become hollow. You can’t just declare genocide and say the job is done. You have to back it up with action.”

“Jews know what happens when the world is silent to mass slaughter. We learned it the hard way,” Lauder added.

“People turn off the Middle East because it’s so horrible,” Arriaga de Bucholz said, but having the U.S. declare genocide helps bring attention to the situation and opens the potential for action.

Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, said his organization works with the Eastern churches throughout the Middle East, an area not fully understood or appreciated by those in the Latin church. The charitable and health care efforts particularly by women religious in largely Muslim areas have been well-received, and Christians and others have gotten along well, he said. Nonetheless, there is much outright suffering and persecution, he said.

“Syria is an absolute mess, but the church is still there,” Msgr. Kozar said. Lebanon is at or close to capacity with refugees. Jordan has the greatest concentration of refugees in the world, but its camps are plagued with extortion and a gangland mentality. Christians are considered third-class citizens in Egypt and still suffer reprisals after the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood. Christians in Kurdistan and Iraq face different challenges.

“We are accompanying Christians who believe that somehow Our Lord will accompany and sustain them. We try to bring a reasonable stability,” he said.

Msgr. Kozar and other speakers underscored the deep historic and cultural connection of the Christians to their lands. “There is a tug of war between the goodwill of people here in the West who want to welcome and adopt (the refugees) and presume it’s best to extract them from where they are, and the church leaders and most of the people who want to stay” in the region and return to their countries when it is safe to do so, Msgr. Kozar said. “Family, faith, and church and connected.”

Nina Shea, director of the center for religious freedom at the Hudson Institute, said the current administration’s lack of a religious test for aid dooms tiny minorities and the new administration must make sure Christians and other minorities get their fair share of aid destined for Syria and Iraq.

Also, the United Nations needs a plan to protect minorities. “Otherwise, they will become extinct,” she said.

Retired U.S. Gen. Raymond Odierno, former chief of staff of the U.S. Army, said during his lengthy leadership service in Iraq, he never had a specific mission to protect Christians. He said that was likely because there were bigger problems and if the U.S. singled out Christians, it might be interpreted by the Iraqis as trying “to force our religion on Iraq.”

Odierno said the new administration should be prepared to have a position on what happens to Christians when the fighting wanes in Syria. He advocated a multinational effort to establish a safe haven to protect Christians “until governments can receive them and place them back where they belong, or else, they’ll dwindle.”

The effort will only work if it is multinational and supported by the United Nations, he said. A solo effort by the United States would create a larger problem for Christians because it would look like the U.S. was unilaterally protecting Christians.

Odierno also suggested relocating Christians from the Ninevah Plain of Iraq to Kurdish-controlled areas during what he said could be a 10- to 20-year rebuilding process before they could return home. He could support a no-fly zone there if there’s a threat and if Russia participated, he said.

Odierno said it’s unclear if the U.S. and Russia can work together to protect Christians and he has not spoken to anyone in Russia, “but I believe we should be able to develop common ground on this.”

He said, “It’s up to us as a nation that supports all religions to assist when any religion is being attacked. We should be there and take a look at it … we may be judged 50 years from now.”

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said when bishops visit him from the Middle East, “they don’t say a lot, but unfailingly cry and plead not to be forgotten. They feel desperate, alone and isolated.” He wore a Coptic pectoral cross, a gift to him from Egypt, and he displayed an icon of the Martyrs of Libya.

“We have a God who is calling us to a sense of justice, advocacy and charity. We cannot forget these people,” he said.

The event was organized by the Anglosphere Society, a nonprofit membership organization that promotes the traditional values of English-speaking peoples, in collaboration with the Archdiocese of New York and the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture.

Comments Off on Panel: Genocide, wars, indifference will make Mideast Christians extinct

Christians must make history, never be prophets of doom, pope says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians must put their mark on history, transforming the world every day driven by the joy of proclaiming God’s love, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis waves after celebrating a Mass for the Jubilee for Catechists Sept. 25 in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Pope Francis waves after celebrating a Mass for the Jubilee for Catechists Sept. 25 in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

“We are not prophets of gloom who take delight in unearthing dangers or deviations,” handing down “bitter judgments on our society, on the church, on everything and everyone, polluting the world with our negativity,” he told catechists Sept. 25.

Instead, “whoever proclaims the hope of Jesus carries joy” and can see both far-off new horizons and pressing needs under their nose, driving them to help and “go out from themselves to write history.”

The pope’s homily came during a special Mass for a Year of Mercy jubilee for catechists in St. Peter’s Square.

Nothing is more important for catechists, and all Christians who are likewise called to give witness and share God’s word, than to keep the core, essential message of the faith “front and center: the Lord is risen,” he said.

“The Lord Jesus is risen, the Lord Jesus loves you, and he has given his life for you; risen and alive, he is close to you and waits for you every day.”

“Everything in the faith becomes beautiful when linked to this centerpiece,” he said; from that proclamation all other teachings of the faith gain meaning and force, especially when Jesus’ commandment of loving one another is followed.

“It is by loving that the God-who-is-love is proclaimed to the world: not by the power of convincing, never by imposing the truth, no less by growing fixated on some religious or moral obligation,” he said.

Because God “is not an idea, but a living person,” Pope Francis said, he is proclaimed by an actual encounter with another person, accompanied by listening, welcoming and caring for the other’s past and journey forward.

Also, since God is love, goodness, joy and hope, then God must be proclaimed by living that way “in the present moment,” he said. “We do not speak convincingly about Jesus when we are sad; nor do we transmit God’s beauty merely with beautiful homilies.”

The pope highlighted the day’s Gospel reading in which Jesus tells the story of the poor man named Lazarus who went to heaven, while the rich man who ignored his plight, ended up in hell.

This parable in the Gospel according to Luke tells people “what it means to love,” the pope said.

The rich man did nothing overtly bad or evil, the pope said, he was just indifferent, an illness worse than whatever caused Lazarus’ sores.

The rich man suffered from being self-centered, materialistic and superficial, he said.

“This worldliness is like a ‘black hole’ that swallows up what is good and extinguishes love,” and anaesthetizes the soul, the pope said.

The rich man’s obsession with appearances also means he suffered from a kind of blindness that kept him from seeing anything that did not interest him.

This blindness makes people act “cross-eyed,” the pope said, with one eye looking “with adulation at famous people of high rank, admired by the world,” and the other shifted “away from the many Lazaruses of today, from the poor, from the suffering who are the Lord’s beloved.”

The rich man remains nameless and, therefore, forgotten in history, he said, while “Lazarus is the only one named in all of Jesus’ parables,” and is welcomed to the banquet in the divine kingdom.

“Whoever lives for himself does not write history,” Pope Francis said. “And a Christian must write history.”

With so much worldliness, indifference and selfishness in the world, he said, Christians “must go out from themselves to write history,” which means being disturbed by the pain they see and seeking ways to help without procrastinating or delegating the task to others.

Responding to a situation of need with ‘“I have no time today. I’ll help you tomorrow.’ This is a sin,” he said. The time given to help people now “is time given to Jesus; it is love that remains. It is our treasure in heaven, which we earn here on earth.”

Comments Off on Christians must make history, never be prophets of doom, pope says

Christians aren’t greater than God, must forgive as he does, pope says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — God wants people to be merciful, which means forgiving others and giving freely with love, Pope Francis said.

“We don’t have the power to condemn our brother who makes a mistake, we are not above him. Rather we have a duty to return him to the dignity of a son of the father and to accompany him on his path of conversion,” the pope said Sept. 21 at his weekly general audience.

Pilgrims from Indonesia wave before Pope Francis arrives to lead his weekly audience Sept. 21 in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. (CNS/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

Pilgrims from Indonesia wave before Pope Francis arrives to lead his weekly audience Sept. 21 in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (CNS/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

In his talk, the pope focused on a reading from the Gospel of Luke (6:36-38) in which Jesus tells the disciples to stop judging others and be merciful just as God is.

The motto for the Year of Mercy, “Merciful Like the Father,” comes from this biblical verse, the pope said.

But more than a pithy catchphrase, the motto is a lifelong commitment to give to others the love one has received, without merit, from God, he said. It is a call to reflect upon all that God does for humanity so as to be inspired “to be like him, full of love, compassion and mercy,” he said.

But what does it mean to be merciful, the pope asked his audience. Jesus said it means to forgive and to give, he said.

Mercy is shown by forgiving and not judging and condemning, the pope said.

“A Christian must forgive,” he said. “Why? Because he was forgiven! All of us here in the square have been forgiven, not one of us never needed God’s forgiveness in life.”

“If God has forgiven me, why shouldn’t I forgive others? Am I greater than God?” the pope said, underlining that “judging and condemning one’s brother who sins is wrong.”

“Not because one doesn’t want to recognize the sin, but because to condemn the sinner breaks the bond of fraternity with him and ignores the mercy of God, who does not want to give up on any of his children.”

By asking his disciples not to condemn, “Jesus does not mean to undermine the course of human justice,” Pope Francis said, rather he shows that suspending judgment is needed to hold together a Christian community and maintain fraternal ties.

The other essential element of mercy, he said, is that it is freely giving to others because it flows from having received such abundant gifts from God.

Also, by giving to others, God will return that measure once again, showing “it is we ourselves who decide how we will be judged” after death, the pope said.

For a Christian, he said, merciful love is the only path to follow.

“We all need to be a little more merciful, to not badmouth others, not judge, not rip people apart with criticism, envy, jealousy,” he said.

By giving and forgiving, he said, one’s heart will expand with love, while selfishness and hatred will turn the heart into a hard, tiny stone.

“Which do you want?” he asked.

When people in the audience shouted “no” to having “a heart of stone” and “yes” to a heart filled with love, the pope said, “then be merciful.”

Comments Off on Christians aren’t greater than God, must forgive as he does, pope says

U.S. bishops speak out against terrorist attack in Turkey

By

WASHINGTON — Following the June 28 terrorist attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk airport in Turkey, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference and Chicago’s archbishop issued statements emphasizing the need to find comfort in faith and show support the suffering with prayer and generosity.

The attack left 42 people dead and more than 230 injured.

Paramedics help people outside Istanbul's Ataturk Airport following a June 28 suicide attack. The bombings killed dozens and wounded more than 200 as Turkish officials blamed the carnage at the international terminal on three suspected Islamic State group militants. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Paramedics help people outside Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport following a June 28 suicide attack. The bombings killed dozens and wounded more than 200 as Turkish officials blamed the carnage at the international terminal on three suspected Islamic State group militants. (CNS photo/Reuters)

“Evil tests our humanity. It tempts us to linger in the terror of Istanbul, Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino (and) Orlando,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Christians should not focus on violence and let fear numb their compassion, he added, but instead should focus on faith and “reach out to our brothers and sisters in solidarity.”

“As violence picks up its deadly pace, we can draw strength from God’s endless mercy,” he added.

Chicago Archbishop Blase J. Cupich said the attack during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan “showed a deep lack of respect for faith and human life.”

In the Chicago archdiocese, Catholics joined Muslims June 27 to celebrate the annual Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago Catholic-Muslim’s “iftar,” the meal that traditionally ends Muslim fasting during Ramadan.

“Let the spirit of prayer and respect that pervaded that gathering grow in the coming weeks and months and leave no room for hatred and suspicion among our people,” the archbishop said.

He also asked Catholics of the archdiocese to dedicate themselves to working for peace and understanding in the memory of those lost and injured.

Pope Francis led pilgrims in praying for peace and for the victims of the Istanbul terrorist attack after he recited the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.

The attack took place in the international terminal and the parking lot of the airport when three suspected terrorists opened fire and, shortly after, detonated their suicide vests.

Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters that preliminary signs point to the Islamic State, according to Reuters.

The terrorist organization carried out a similar attack at Brussels Airport and the Maelbeek metro station in Belgium March 22, which killed 32 people and wounded over 300.

Comments Off on U.S. bishops speak out against terrorist attack in Turkey

Christians should apologize for fostering hostility toward gay people, pope says

By

Catholic News Service

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM ARMENIA — Catholics and other Christians not only must apologize to the gay community, they must ask forgiveness of God for ways they have discriminated against homosexual persons or fostered hostility toward them, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis closes his eyes as he reacts to a question from Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service Rome bureau chief, aboard his flight from Yerevan, Armenia, to Rome June 26. The pope reacted as Wooden mentioned the June 12 shooting that killed 49 at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis closes his eyes as he reacts to a question from Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service Rome bureau chief, aboard his flight from Yerevan, Armenia, to Rome June 26. The pope reacted as Wooden mentioned the June 12 shooting that killed 49 at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“I think the church not only must say it is sorry to the gay person it has offended, but also to the poor, to exploited women” and anyone whom the church did not defend when it could, he told reporters June 26.

Spending close to an hour answering questions from reporters traveling with him, Pope Francis was asked to comment on remarks reportedly made a few days previously by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, that the Catholic Church must apologize to gay people for contributing to their marginalization.

At the mention of the massacre in early June at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Pope Francis closed his eyes as if in pain and shook his head in dismay.

“The church must say it is sorry for not having behaved as it should many times, many times — when I say the ‘church,’ I mean we Christians because the church is holy; we are the sinners,” the pope said. “We Christians must say we are sorry.”

Changing what he had said in the past to the plural “we,” Pope Francis said that a gay person, “who has good will and is seeking God, who are we to judge him?”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear, he said. “They must not be discriminated against. They must be respected, pastorally accompanied.”

The pope said people have a right to complain about certain gay-pride demonstrations that purposefully offend the faith or sensitivities of others, but that is not what Cardinal Marx was talking about, he said.

Pope Francis said when he was growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, part of a “closed Catholic culture,” good Catholics would not even enter the house of a person who was divorced. “The culture has changed and thanks be to God!”

“We Christians have much to apologize for and not just in this area,” he said, referring again to its treatment of homosexual persons. “Ask forgiveness and not just say we’’re sorry. Forgive us, Lord.”

Too often, he said, priests act as lords rather than fathers, “a priest who clubs people rather than embraces them and is good, consoles.”

Pope Francis insisted there are many good priests in the world and “many Mother Teresas,” but people often do not see them because “holiness is modest.”

Like any other community of human beings, the Catholic Church is made up of “good people and bad people,” he said. “The grain and the weeds — Jesus says the kingdom is that way. We should not be scandalized by that,” but pray that God makes the wheat grow more and the weeds less.

Pope Francis also was asked about his agreeing to a request by the women’s International Union of Superiors General to set up a commission to study the historic role of female deacons with a view toward considering the possibility of instituting such a ministry today.

Both Sister Carmen Sammut, president of the sisters’ group, and Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, have sent him lists of names of people to serve on the commission, the pope said. But he has not yet chosen the members.

As he did at the meeting with the superiors, Pope Francis told the reporters that his understanding was that women deacons in the early church assisted bishops with the baptism and anointing of women, but did not have a role like Catholic deacons do today.

The pope also joked about a president who once said that the best way to bury someone’s request for action was to name a commission to study it.

Turning serious, though, Pope Francis insisted the role of women in the Catholic Church goes well beyond any offices they hold and he said about 18 months ago he had named a commission of female theologians to discuss women’s contributions to the life of the church.

“Women think differently than we men do,” he said, “and we cannot make good, sound decisions without listening to the women.”

During the inflight news conference, Pope Francis also said:

  • He believes “the intentions of Martin Luther” were not wrong in wanting to reform the church, but “maybe some of his methods were not right.” The church in the 1500s, he said, “was not exactly a model to imitate.”
  • He used the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in 1915-18 because that was the word commonly used in his native Argentina and he had already used it publicly a year ago. Although he said he knew Turkey objects to use of the term, “it would have sounded strange” not to use it in Armenia.
  • Retired Pope Benedict XVI is a “wise man,” a valued adviser and a person dedicated to praying for the entire church, but he can no longer be considered to be exercising papal ministry. “There is only one pope.”
  • “Brexit,” the referendum in which the people of Great Britain voted to leave the European Union, shows just how much work remains to be done by the EU in promoting continental unity while respecting the differences of member countries.
  • The Great and Holy Council of the world’s Orthodox churches was an important first step in Orthodoxy speaking with one voice, even though four of the 14 autocephalous Orthodox churches did not attend the meeting in Crete.
  • When he travels to Azerbaijan in September, he will tell the nation’s leaders and people that the Armenian leaders and people want peace. The two countries have been in a situation of tension since 1988 over control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan.

 

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

Comments Off on Christians should apologize for fostering hostility toward gay people, pope says

Bishops visiting Holy Land urge peace efforts to help ‘forgotten’ Christians

By

Catholic News Service

AMMAN, Jordan — With crises in Syria and Iraq deepening, Catholic bishops on a solidarity visit with the “forgotten” Christians of the Middle East are urging stepped-up peace efforts to resolve conflicts tearing apart the troubled region.

Highlighting the ongoing plight of Iraqi Christian refugees who face another winter of displacement, 18 months after fleeing persecution by Islamic State militants, is also their top concern.

A priest gives Communion to a woman during a Jan. 11 Mass for Iraqi Christian refugees at Our Lady of Peace Center on the outskirts of the Jordanian capital, Amman. (CNS/Dale Gavlak)

A priest gives Communion to a woman during a Jan. 11 Mass for Iraqi Christian refugees at Our Lady of Peace Center on the outskirts of the Jordanian capital, Amman. (CNS/Dale Gavlak)

“They want a future which is full of peace,” Bishop Declan Lang of Bristol, England, said of the Iraqi Christians who attended a packed, solemn Mass at Our Lady of Peace Center on the hilly, tree-lined outskirts of the Jordanian capital.

“These people are of tremendous faith, and that’s where they find their identity. What we are trying to say to them is that you are not forgotten,” Bishop Lang told Catholic News Service.

Bishop Lang has been leading 12 bishops from Europe, South Africa and North America on the third and final leg of a pilgrimage to encourage Christians in the Holy Land. Known as the Holy Land Coordination, the annual event was set up at the invitation of the Holy See at the end of the last century to offer support to local Christian communities of the Holy Land.

The bishops earlier traveled to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to encourage a Palestinian Christian population increasingly dwindling in the land of Jesus’ birth.

But the bishops told Catholic News Service that it also was important to hear from Iraqi Christians and other refugees, so the wider Christian community can effectively help them.

“It’s important that we remind our governments and the general population of the situation of Iraqi Christians,” Bishop Lang said of the some 8,000 Iraqi Christians currently sheltering in neighboring Jordan.

They fled their ancient homeland of more than 14 centuries after Islamic State militants told them to convert to Islam, be killed or leave. Tens of thousands are internally displaced in northern Iraq.

“So one of the responsibilities and obligations that we have is to keep reminding people of the stress and distress of the Iraqi refugees,” Bishop Lang said.

One Iraqi Christian, identified only as Bashar, said after the Mass, “My family and I sadly feel that we can never go back to our home in Mosul.” A mechanical engineer, the man had once owned his own telecom company in Iraq’s second-biggest city, which is now in the hands of Islamic State.

“The military didn’t protect us, and our Muslim neighbors betrayed us, even robbing us of our personal possessions. So we believe that the only future for us is somewhere in the West,” said the man, who now shelters with his family of four at the center’s compound because he has lost his savings.

Bishop Lionel Gendron of St. Jean-Longueuil, Quebec, told CNS that one of the first things he plans to do is talk to the new Canadian government about the issue of opening more resettlement opportunities to Iraqi Christians.

“I will insist on the fact. Iraqis are practically not allowed to go back to their country,” the Canadian bishop said. “Many Syrians left (their country) because of the war and the political situation, while the Iraqis left mainly because of their faith.”

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, told CNS that “the time for peace is now.”

While praising the work of the international Catholic charity, Caritas, which aids more than 1 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees and the other humanitarian efforts in Jordan, he called them “a band-aid.”

“It’s not sustainable in the long run,” said Bishop Cantu, who serves as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace. “We have to look at the root causes of these issues. It’s in everyone’s interest to build peace, so we will certainly be advocating for that as we return.”

“It’s also important that the U.S. take in its fair share of refugees,” Bishop Cantu said of the increasingly divisive issue in the United States.

Stephen Colecchi, director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace, accompanied Bishop Cantu on the visit. He said the office’s work on behalf of “all the peoples of the Middle East” has involved supporting a resolution in Congress declaring that Iraqi Christians and Yezidis have suffered genocide at the hands of Islamic State militants. He said his office also has worked to encourage the U.S. to accept its “fair share of refugees” and “invest in more resources for countries, like Jordan, to cope with the refugee influx, so they are not destabilized.”

Colecchi emphasized the need for active international peace efforts that recognize the rights of religious minorities in the Middle East.

“We’ve got to work for peace and ultimately stop the atrocities of Islamic State and the flow of refugees,” he said.

“A more united and effective response is needed to that kind of extremism from which Muslims are suffering and particularly, Christians and Yezidis, are targeted by,” Colecchi added.

Among the other bishops who took part in the Holy Land Coordination were Bishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town, South Africa; Auxiliary Bishop William Kenney of Birmingham, England; Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore, Ireland; and Bishop William Nolan of Galloway, Scotland.

Comments Off on Bishops visiting Holy Land urge peace efforts to help ‘forgotten’ Christians

Commentary: Church serves, strives to keep Christian presence in Bethlehem

By

 

As we approach the feast of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, we must renew our prayers for peace in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East. Unfortunately, the situation of Christians in that area of the world got worse during the past year, mainly because of the Islamic State that is intent on driving Christians out.

The city of Christ’s birth continues to lose Christians. In 1948, just after World War II and when Israel was recognized as a country, Christians comprised 85 percent of Bethlehem’s population. That slowly declined, but it was still 54 percent after the 1967 war between Israel and the Arab countries that resulted in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, where Bethlehem is located. Read more »

Comments Off on Commentary: Church serves, strives to keep Christian presence in Bethlehem

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

Being Christian is seeking Jesus, not looking for seers, pope says

June 9th, 2015 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Being Christian is looking for, following and imitating Jesus Christ, nothing more, Pope Francis said at his morning Mass.

Being Christian is not looking for those who always have something new to reveal, saying, “‘Where are the seers who will tell us today about the letter that Our Lady will send at four o’clock in the afternoon?’ for example,” he said.

The Resurrection is depicted in a detail of "Christ Risen from the Tomb," a painting by Italian Renaissance artist Bergognone. The artwork is from the Samuel H. Kress Collection at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

The Resurrection is depicted in a detail of “Christ Risen from the Tomb,” a painting by Italian Renaissance artist Bergognone. The artwork is from the Samuel H. Kress Collection at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

“This is not Christian identity. God’s final word is called ‘Jesus’ and nothing more,” the pope said June 9 during the Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta.

Christian identity is “beautiful” and concrete, he said, according to Vatican Radio; it is seen in a living witness to Christ, the Beatitudes and the “Judgment of the Nations,” which refers to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and the other actions mentioned in Matthew 25:31-46.

However, because of human sin, Christians may not be faithful to their identity and may be tempted to weaken or misplace it, the pope said.

The danger of a weakened identity is seen when someone “goes from witness to ideas, watering down witness: ‘Well, sure, I am Christian. Christianity is like so, a beautiful idea. I pray to God,’” the pope said.

The person goes from concrete Gospel commandments to “this religion that’s a bit ‘soft,’ in the air and on the path of the Gnostics,” who emphasized special knowledge over witness.

The danger of losing the proper focus of Christian identity can be seen with “those who always need some novelty” and don’t realize it all begins and ends with Jesus.

They have “forgotten that they have been chosen, anointed,” and have the Holy Spirit, not seers, to guide them.

The pope did not specifically refer to Medjugorje, the site of continuing alleged apparitions. Yet, the pope told reporters June 6 that the Vatican was getting ready to make an announcement concerning an investigation into the claims of six people who have said Mary began appearing to them daily in 1981 and giving them messages.

There is also the risk of being too open to the world and “widening the conscience so much that everything fits in there. ‘Yes, we are Christian, but this is OK …,’” Pope Francis said.

Being too much of the world and too ambiguous is seen in Christians who “cannot and do not know how to give witness to Jesus Christ.”

Jesus “became man and died out of obedience,” the pope said, and “this is identity and there lies witness.”

He asked that people pray for God’s gift of identity and not try to water it down, put it on the wrong track or mold it to the things of the world.

 

Comments Off on Being Christian is seeking Jesus, not looking for seers, pope says
Marquee Powered By Know How Media.