Feb. 25, 2011
Catholic News Service | US cardinal keeps watchful eye on situation
unfolding in Middle East
By Christie L. Chicoine
Catholic News Service
PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Cardinal John P. Foley is keeping a
watchful eye on the revolution in Egypt and other nations in the
Middle East, despite his recent retirement and resignation as grand
master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.
The organization helps to raise funds for the works of the church
in that region.
"I can understand the current unrest -- it's an expression of
desire for democracy, but I hope it doesn't become a situation in
which Christians are further discriminated against in any of these
countries," Cardinal Foley said. "The situation is so unstable
there, and of course Christians are such a minority there."
In Egypt, about 10 percent of the population is Christian,
primarily Coptic Orthodox, he explained.
"We had just been asked by the Holy Father to help especially the
Latin-rite Christians in Egypt and Lebanon in addition to Israel,
Palestine and Jordan," Cardinal Foley said.
Feb. 24, 2011
Catholic News Service | Gaza church nurtures hope despite Israeli
blockade and Hamas control
By Paul Jeffrey
Catholic News Service
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (CNS) -- The only Catholic church in the
Gaza Strip is alive and well, despite an Israeli blockade of the
besieged Palestinian enclave and the tight cultural and political
control exercised by Gaza's Islamist government.
"Despite all the bad things you hear about Gaza, there is life
here," said Father Jorge Hernandez of Holy Family Catholic Church.
"People here pray and lead virtuous lives. They are happy, even
living in Gaza with all its problems.
"This is their homeland. Their loved ones are buried here. God is
here, and it's a fruit of the Holy Spirit that people here embrace
and celebrate the life they have," Father Hernandez said.
Feb. 18, 2011
America Magazine, the Catholic Weekly | Lost Youth in Egypt?
From CNS, staff and other sources
Two priests with strong ties to Egypt said they feared young
Egyptian Catholics will turn away from the church because it did not
back protests that led to the resignation of President Hosni
Mubarak. The Rev. Makarios Isaac, an Egyptian-born priest of the
Archdiocese of Toronto and an associate of the Maryknoll Fathers and
Brothers, said the main Muslim and Orthodox leaders forbade
participation in the protests and the Coptic Catholic patriarch of
Alexandria, Cardinal Antonios Naguib, told protesters to go home. He
feared Egyptian young people will now “turn their backs on the
church” and say, “You never stood with us...you never taught us to
stand up for our rights.” The Rev. Douglas May of Maryknoll, who
worked in Egypt for 18 years of Mubarak’s nearly 30-year rule, said
Christian leaders in Egypt played it safe. “I’m afraid that the
church leadership has lost its credibility with the Christian youth
over this,” he said.
Feb. 18, 2011
Zenit | Christians in Iraq: The Future and the Hope
Address of the Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See
ROME, FEB. 15, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the
address given by Habeeb Mohammed Hadi Ali Al-Sadr, ambassador of
Iraq to the Holy See, at the meeting entitled "Christianity in
Iraq," held in Velletri, Italy, on Jan. 29. The talk addresses the
present situation of Christians in the country.
* * *
Christians in Iraq have been witnesses of a bitter period, that
of Saddam, which resulted in wars, embargoes and disasters.
Throughout this period, Christians had no voice, for years their
will was paralyzed, given that the regime prohibited them from
expressing their opinions, from forming parties or nongovernmental
associations, which could have taken care of their problems and
ensured their continuity, given that their respective leaders reside
abroad. As a consequence, in the 90s of the past century, waves of
emigrants left the country, fleeing from the inferno of the Iraqi
regime. Coming to April 2003, with the fall of that odious "statue,"
Christians hoped to return to the flourishing garden of a free Iraq.
A real paradise in which all hopes could flourish, which up to then
had been suffocated, and where their true love for the country could
be planted, which even now is full of the most beautiful Iraqi
However, the enemies of today's Iraq are the associations of
Saddam infidels who, after the capitulation of the regime, took
advantage of the vacuum of power created as a consequence of the
American decision to dissolve all the structures of the security
services. In this way, they were able to sow death and ruin
throughout the country. They have done everything to destroy from
the beginning the project of the new democratic Iraq. In all this,
it is clear that Christians together with their Muslim brothers
drink the bitterness of this new war, because the country is
stubbornly in a new war: the war against fundamentalists and
terrorists. It is the most ferocious war of all the ones engaged in
by the old regime. In fact, it is a war against ghosts, shadows,
which act against the people taking on different appearances that
enable them to be present at pre-established times and places and
commit their odious crimes without being bothered.
Feb. 16, 2011
Episcopal Peace Fellowship | Welcome to the Palestine Israel Network
We met as concerned Episcopalians in Chicago the weekend of
October 15, 2010 to establish a network dedicated to a more robust
Episcopal Church witness for justice and peace for our Palestinian
and Israeli brothers and sisters .
We are responding to:
the promise made in our baptismal covenant to “ … strive
for justice and peace among all people, and respect the
dignity of every human being”;
the call of Palestinian Civil Society for Boycott,
Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel until it complies
with International Law and Universal Principles of Human
Rights (July, 2005);
and the prayerful call of Palestinian Christians
expressed in the Kairos Palestine Document (December, 2009).
We believe the Episcopal Church can and should play a vital role
in seeking justice and peace for Palestinians and Israelis. We
believe that without justice, there will be no lasting peace which
both people deserve.
Feb. 15, 2011
Zenit | Patriarch Looks for Better, Brighter Egypt
Expresses Thanks for "Patriotic Youth"
CAIRO, Egypt, FEB. 14, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The Coptic Catholic
patriarch of Alexandria says the Church in Egypt is joining with all
of the nation's "loyal citizens" to thank God for the "wonderful
success" of the youth movement that began last month and led to the
resignation of the president.
Cardinal Antonios Naguib said in a statement Sunday, "We are sure
that all expectations will be met, God willing."
Since Jan. 25, Egypt has been the site of massive protests and
demonstrations urging the resignation of Hosni Mubarak. The
president finally stepped down Friday. A military council is now
ruling the nation.
The cardinal spoke of forces "that refuse[d] the wrong situation
controlling the country for so long." He said there is hope for a
"better and brighter future for the Egyptian civilization" and noted
the "love of Egypt and the dignity of its citizens."
"Egypt has been making its history for 7,000 years with letters
of light and fire," Cardinal Naguib said. "And it is now shining
with a new radiance."
Feb. 12, 2011
Zenit | Nuncio in Egypt: Nation's Future in Hands of the People
Says Governments Should Act for "Common Good"
ROME, FEB. 11, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The future of Egypt is now in
the hands of its people, says the apostolic nuncio in the country.
Archbishop Michael Louis Fitzgerald, who has held the post of
nuncio in Egypt since 2006, told ZENIT that "it is for Egyptians to
find the right solution to the present crisis."
After 18 days of protests that left some 300 dead, President
Hosni Mubarak stepped down earlier today. Mubarak, 82, had ruled the
country for 30 years.
The archbishop recalled that last Sunday, Benedict XVI "prayed
that Egypt and the people of Egypt may find once more harmony and
peace," and added that "apart from that, there has been no specific
statement from the Holy See."
"Yet," he continued, "the teaching of the social doctrine of the
Church is clear. Every human community needs an authority to govern
it, but the authority does not derive its moral legitimacy from
itself. It must act for the common good, using morally licit means
to attain this good, and not acting in a despotic manner."
Feb. 11, 2011
America Magazine, the Catholic Weekly | Through Arab Eyes
[scroll down for article]
The world has turned upside down again. U.S. policy had imagined
that “stability” in the Middle East and Mediterranean Africa came
from support for Arab dictators—and unquestioning defense of Israel.
Dictators might squelch democracy, but they would “keep the lid on.”
Unexpectedly, in Tunisia and Egypt the lid is now off.
Why are we surprised? Because the corporate media—cable and
satellite companies, like Comcast and DirecTV—fearing pressure from
the Bush administration during the Iraq war and from the Israel
lobby at all times, have frozen out Arab voices.
Suddenly our media have discovered that Al Jazeera, the Arab
television channel based in Qatar, has beaten them to the punch in
Egypt with round-the-clock coverage in Cairo, Suez and elsewhere.
Traffic to its English-language Web site increased by 2,500 percent
in a single week.
Feb. 11, 2011
America Magazine, the Catholic Weekly | Waking Up in Jerusalem by
Alicia von Stamwitz
In my files I have a yellowed letter dated Sept. 10, 1978, from
the office of the sixth prime minister of the State of Israel. An
embossed seal, with olive branches cupping an ivory menorah, crowns
the elegant letterhead.
“Dear Ms. Arellano” (my maiden name), Menachem Begin’s secretary
had typed. “Before leaving for Camp David, the Prime Minister asked
me to thank you for your letter of August 6 and for your sentiments
and good wishes.” I blush to remember those sentiments.
I was a born-again Christian at Tufts University in Massachusetts
that year, and many of us Christians were friends with the Jewish
students. More than a third of the student population was Jewish, so
we were naturally paired in dorm rooms, dining halls and college
classes. We also felt a kind of spiritual kinship. “Remember, Jesus
was not a Christian,” the evangelical minister on campus said. “He
Newly enthralled by everything religious, I peppered my Jewish
friends with questions about their traditions and history. I signed
up for a Hebrew language class and pored over books and articles on
the Holocaust, Zionism and the State of Israel. It was a compelling
narrative: God was rescuing his chosen people, just as my
highlighted and underlined Bible verses said he would.
In this state of spiritual exaltation, I wrote Mr. Begin. I told
him about my studies and the Zion tree my roommate arranged to have
planted “in the fallow hills of Jerusalem” on my 20th birthday. I
thanked him for his leadership and concluded by saying that I hoped
to visit the Holy Land someday.
A Journey Beyond Bias
All that passed, as youthful obsessions often do. After college,
I returned to my comfortable Catholic faith and gradually forgot
about my Zionist leanings—until this summer, when I received an
invitation to visit the Holy Land. It did not come from Israel,
though. I was invited by Palestinian officials to join a faith-based
tour for Christian journalists.
Feb. 9, 2011
Zenit | What Lies Ahead for Egypt?
Interview With Editor of "Democracy Review"
By Emile Ameen
CAIRO, Egypt, FEB. 9, 2011 (Zenit.org).- As the future of Egypt
hangs in the balance, the nation's Christians might be worried that
things can only get worse for them.
But according to one political scientist, fears of a future
Islamist Egyptian state are undermined with a simple look at the
protestors: their trendy clothing and the faces of "emancipated
ZENIT met in Cairo with Hala Mustafa, editor-in-chief of
"Democracy Review," a magazine published by the Al-Ahram Foundation.
An expert in political and strategic affairs, she gave us a quick
analysis of the situation.
ZENIT: How do you describe the current situation in Egypt from
Jan. 25 to now?
Mustafa: Generally, whether we are with the Egyptian regime or
against it, I think that the old regime's period is really over. In
fact, what is happening now is that some powerful people who
prevailed in the regime and controlled the events during the last 10
years are attempting to stay put. Focusing now on whether the
president is staying in power or leaving does not change much in the
events because whether the president leaves now or after a few
months, new things are revealed, and a new Egypt is rebirthing from
the womb of the liberation square.
Feb. 9, 2011
Zenit | Christians and Muslims Seen More United Than Divided
Patriarch Notes Promise in Damascus Event
DAMASCUS, Syria, FEB. 8, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Last December,
Christians and Muslims gathered in Damascus for the 1st
International Congress of Muslim-Christian Brotherhood.
The Dec. 15 conference was sponsored by Syrian President Bashar
al-Asad and Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, patriarch of the Greek
Catholic Melkite Church. The conference was a follow-up to the synod
on the Middle East held last October at the Vatican, and view as one
of the first "visible fruits" of it.
Some 1,000 people participated -- Christians and Muslims,
representatives from Eastern Churches, and participants from
Lebanon, Jordan and other Arab nations.
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan of Antioch
explained that the conference was a "positive realization of what
the holy synod in Rome called for, especially for Islam and
Christianity and the issues of sharing land and country, and some
ethics related to daily life."
Feb. 6, 2011
Catholic San Francisco | Marin woman’s work to remove land mines
expands to Holy Land
Marin woman’s work to remove land mines expands to Holy Land
February 2nd, 2011
By George Raine
Heidi Kuhn’s world view from her office in San Rafael includes
her beloved St. Raphael Church and Mt. Tamalpais and, far over the
horizon, 70 nations in which more than an estimated 70 million land
mines are buried.
Some 26,000 people are killed and maimed by the explosions every
year, nearly half of them children, making off-limits fertile land
that could otherwise be planted. Thirteen years ago, Kuhn became an
advocate for land mine victims and people whose land is held hostage
– by transforming “mines to vines.”
Her humanitarian, interfaith, non-political nonprofit
organization, Roots of Peace, yanks land mines out of the ground and
replaces them with bountiful vineyards and orchards. Roots of Peace
is currently managing a major land mine-removal effort in 28 of the
34 provinces in Afghanistan, having generated $60 million in
funding, and this month it reaches into the Middle East, the land
mine heartland of the world.
The effort begins with demining two sacred sites: Qasr el Yahud,
the baptismal site of Jesus on the Jordan River, and the Fields of
Bethlehem at the ancient Palestinian village of Husan. With final
approval anticipated this month from the Knesset, the legislative
branch of the Israeli government, the broader effort in the area is
the estimated one million land mines and unexploded ordnance
believed hidden over more than 50,000 acres of land in Israel and
the West Bank, where the Palestinians are supportive of Roots of
“The Holy Lands are not holy when there are land mines in the
ground,” said Kuhn. “What we are doing by removing a land mine is
literally removing a seed of hatred from the ground and the heart as
well,” she said. “Whether stepped on by the boot of a soldier or the
sandal of a child, it is a weapon that doesn’t differentiate.”
Feb. 5, 2011
Zenit | [Orthodox] Patriarch to Egyptians: It's Time to Go Home
Catholics Wave Banner of "Non-Destruction"
ROME, FEB. 4, 2011 (Zenit.org).- As Egypt endures its 10th day of
protests attempting to oust President Hosni Mubarak, the Catholic
Coptic patriarch of Alexandria is urging people to return to their
homes and jobs.
Cardinal Antonios Naguib told his countrymen that the hour has
come "to return to your homes and your jobs in peace, following the
invitation extended by the authorities to be able to recover what
the country has lost."
Cardinal Naguib said the Church "carries in its heart" this
"precarious moment of [the nation's] history."
Feb. 4, 2011
National Catholic Reporter | Egyptian demonstrators say they 'will
not be silenced' by Claire Schaeffer-Duffy
Even with the recent outbreak of violence on the streets of
Cairo, demonstrators calling for the removal of Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak will “not be silenced,” says Philip Rizk, a filmmaker
and blogger who has been assisting foreign journalists in their
coverage of the unrest.
Rizk, who has been working with a Swiss TV crew, spoke to NCR
today after he had been holed up in an office for fear of his
Following is NCR's interview with Rizk, which caught him
recovering from the events of the day and looking ahead to tomorrow,
which protesters have set as the deadline for Mubarak to step down.
The conversation has been edited for clarity.
NCR: Can you tell me what’s happening to you? Why do you think
protestors came to your door?
Rizk: As I am half German, half Egyptian, Egyptians don’t always
recognize me as Egyptian and are skeptical about my identity. Since
yesterday, there have been masses on the street targeting foreigners
because of state propaganda. On the TV and radio, they have been
saying that foreign journalists are spreading false information
about Egypt, that many of the foreigners are spies, working for
Israel or Iran. So there is this massive hysteria around people who
I had a very hard time getting to the building where I needed to
go. When I got upstairs, [colleagues] told me that pro-government
supporters were coming up, targeting the office. I was there locked
inside for about an hour and a half with the thugs at the door. The
staff inside were ready for full out battle. We heard that other
places -- offices, apartments -- had been stormed by thugs.
I was in the building until the army intervened. As far as I
know, the army intervened and forced these thugs to move on.
I was just on the phone with a friend of mine in Tahrir Square --
Freedom Square, as it is called. There is gunfire coming from all
directions and my friend was just hit in the head by a stone. Since
yesterday, pro-Mubarak supporters are throwing stones, throwing
Molotov cocktails at these anti-government demonstrators. The
situation on the street is very volatile.
Feb. 4, 2011
America Magazine, the Catholic Weekly | Faith and Freedom by Maryann
Why does Pope Benedict XVI’s message for the 2011 World Day of
Peace focus on “religious freedom as the path to peace”? The
connection might not seem immediately obvious. Religious liberty is
often thought of as a human rights concern, not a security issue.
It is both. There are currently major armed conflicts in 16
locations in the world, according to the Stockholm International
Peace Research Institute. Major armed conflicts are the world’s
worst wars, those in which over 1,000 people were directly killed by
combatants in the preceding year.
Religious freedom is a security issue, and peace depends on it.
Nine of those 16 places where the world’s worst wars rage are
countries that are among the world’s worst violators of religious
freedom: Sudan, Pakistan, Iraq, Myanmar (Burma), Afghanistan,
Somalia, India, Turkey and Sri Lanka. Each year the U.S. Commission
on International Reli-gious Freedom reports on the countries where
religious freedom is either violated or not adequately protected by
Two more of those major armed conflicts have major religious
dimensions, in the Philippines and Israel. Even though the state
does not officially persecute in these cases (and these countries
are not on any of the commission’s watch lists), religious
minorities often describe themselves as feeling persecuted. They are
allowed to worship, but they feel their religious affiliation is
part of the cause of their second-class citizenship.
Feb. 4, 2011
America Magazine, the Catholic Weekly | Current Comment: The Arab
Revolt [scroll down]
The popular uprising begun in Tunisia has raced across North
Africa and the Arab world, especially Egypt. Egypt’s President Hosni
Mubarak has announced he will not run for re-election; so has Yemeni
President Ali Abdullah Saleh; Jordan’s King Abdullah II has
appointed a new cabinet; and the Palestinian Authority has announced
local elections. The whole region is in upheaval. The movement arose
not from militant Islam but from popular discontent over political
repression and deteriorating economic conditions, and is led by
largely secular forces.
Feb. 4, 2011
America Magazine, the Catholic Weekly | Jordan's Sisterhood
Three communities of sisters offer solace and support in troubled
Kevin Clarke | FEBRUARY 14, 2011
The Italian Hospital is nestled at the crest of a steep rise
overlooking the city of Al-Karak, Jordan, surrounded by the remnants
of a crusader castle, its crumbling walls a reminder in sandstone of
the region’s many conflicts. From this vantage point raids were once
launched on passing Muslim caravans. On the roof of the hospital’s
adjoining convent at dusk, Alessandra Fumagalli, C.M.S., leans along
the parapet. Before her a purple and rust sunset breaks the line of
a mountain in the near distance; the fading light falls across the
small houses and scrub desert below. Far to the west, the sunset
sparkles across the surface of the Dead Sea. Sister Alessandra
surveys the sleepy valley a moment. “At night all the homes on the
hillside light up,” she says. “It’s so beautiful, it looks like
Christmas. You can see why Jesus wanted to be born here.”
Sister Alessandra’s perspective is indeed beautiful, but the view
is hardly the only compensation she derives from her work among the
poor in Karak and its surrounding villages, so far from her native
Italy. She describes her mission as a satisfying, silent
evangelization of doing, for and among her Muslim neighbors. Like
the crusaders before them, this handful of Comboni sisters keeps
watch over the people of Karak, but they offer an altogether
different Christian presence among their Muslim neighbors.
Feb. 4, 2011
America Magazine, the Catholic Weekly | Egypt: Church Follows Unrest
Church leaders watched the unfolding political drama in Egypt
with a mixture of hope for reform and concern over potential
violence, said the head of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.
Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M., said on Jan. 30 that the unrest
that has weakened the 30-year rule of Egypt’s President Hosni
Mubarak came as a surprise to Catholics in the region.
“We all sense that these are epochal changes. None of us would
have imagined these kinds of developments a few months ago,” Father
Pizzaballa said. “This means that there are currents, especially in
the Arab world, that now have found visible expression. This is
certainly a positive sign, but it’s also worrying because we don’t
know how all this will end,” he said. Mubarak’s opponents include
both radical and moderate Muslim groups, and it is unclear who might
assume power if the president resigns. Father Pizzaballa said he
hoped that “respect for religious minorities will be preserved” in
Feb. 2, 2011
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land | Bishop
Younan preaches on Christian unity
We are happy that we
Palestinian Christians were asked by the World Council of
Churches and the
Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity to
prepare this Week of
Prayer for Christian Unity to come out from Jerusalem, from
the local Christian
Churches. We as a committee thought it appropriate to focus on
the life of the apostles
in the early church: “and they continued in the apostles’
teaching, in the breaking
of bread, in fellowship, and in prayer.” (Acts 2:42)
What started on that day
of Pentecost in Jerusalem, was a spirit of unity and
As I often say, to work
for unity in Jerusalem is an art. We are in need of capable
artists to produce
something so beautiful. We all know the work required and the
careful planning to
design a Middle Eastern Carpet. It is as if each of our churches is
a different color of
thread (or yarn), yet woven together the carpet becomes so
much more beautiful than
each strand of yarn by itself. The individual threads do
not loose their identity
or individual character. The beauty of their particular color
remains intact. Yet
coming together under the direction of an artist, the finished
carpet is more beautiful
than all of the individual strands. And it is none other than
the Holy Spirit that
guides this process of coming together to produce this beautiful
Picture with me such a beautiful carpet hanging here on the
wall—a beautiful carpet,
perhaps with an image of the Lord’s Supper with Jesus
sitting in the
middle—Imagine how beautiful this carpet would be.
If ecumenism succeeds
in Jerusalem, it can succeed in the whole world.
Feb. 1, 2011
Zenit | Iraqi Diocese to Build Hospital, University
Employ Skilled Christian Refugees
ANKAWA, Iraq, JAN. 31, 2011 (Zenit.org).-
The Iraqi Archdiocese of Arbil is moving forward with plans to
construct a hospital and a university, providing services and jobs
for thousands of Christian fleeing violence in the south.
Today the regional government gave the archdiocese a guarantee
that it will gift two pieces of land in Ankawa, a suburb of Arbil in
northern Iraq, for the building of these institutions, Aid to the
Church in Need reported.
Archbishop Bashar Warda of Arbil told the aid agency that the
initiatives are expected to provide employment, training, and other
opportunities for the thousands fleeing anti-Christian violence in
the Baghdad and Mosul regions.
In particular, he noted that the projects respond to the fact
that many highly-skilled professionals with expertise in education
and medicine have relocated to the north.