Sun

25

May

2014

Pope and Patriarch Concerned for Situation of Christians in the Middle East

Steps towards unity.
Steps towards unity.

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis have Issued a joint declaration from the city of Jerusalem in which they voice their concern for the situation of Christians in the Middle East especially in Egypt, Syria and Iraq.

“From this holy city of Jerusalem, we express our shared profound concern for the situation of Christians in the Middle East and for their right to remain full citizens of their homelands. In trust we turn to the almighty and merciful God in a prayer for peace in the Holy Land and in the Middle East in general. We especially pray for the Churches in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, which have suffered most grievously due to recent events. We encourage all parties regardless of their religious convictions to continue to work for reconciliation and for the just recognition of peoples' rights. We are persuaded that it is not arms, but dialogue, pardon and reconciliation that are the only possible means to achieve peace.” Read the full joint declaration here.

The Pope and Patriarch pray inside Christ’s tomb within the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem 25/05/2014.
The Pope and Patriarch pray inside Christ’s tomb within the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem 25/05/2014.

Pope, Patriarch pray for unity

Update: 26/05/2014

H.H. Pope Francis places a prayer in the Western Wall
H.H. Pope Francis places a prayer in the Western Wall

Pope to Rabbis: together we can contribute to the cause of peace

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Monday told the two Chief Rabbis of Israel that Christians and Jews together "can make a great contribution to the cause of peace and firmly oppose every form of anti-Semitism and all other forms of discrimination".

Full text of Pope Francis' address here

H.H. Pope Francis at the Haram al Sharif - Dome of the Rock
H.H. Pope Francis at the Haram al Sharif - Dome of the Rock

Pope Francis to Muslims: we must confront common challenges

(Vatican Radio) Meeting on Monday morning with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammed Hussein, Pope Francis pointed to the fraternal dialogue and exchange between Christians and Muslims which, he said "offers new strength to confront the common challenges before us". Full text of Pope Francis' address here


Visit to the Great Mufti of Jerusalem and to the Western Wall

Israeli Police attack Jerusalem natives trying to see Pope Francis

Click image to enlarge. Full report in Arabic here

Israel approves 50 settler homes in occupied east Jerusalem

Israel on Monday approved plans for 50 new illegal settler homes in occupied east Jerusalem as Pope Francis wrapped up a visit to the region, city officials said. Read more here.

Arson attack on Jerusalem church during pope visit

 An arsonist set fire to a Catholic church Monday at a contested site in Jerusalem during a visit by Pope Francis, the spokesman for the Abbey of the Dormition told AFP

 

"Someone entered the church, went down to the crypt, picked up a book used by pilgrims and took it to the small room near the organ and set it on fire, burning wooden crosses," Brother Nikodemus Schnabel said, just after Francis celebrated mass next door at the Upper Room in Mount Zion.  Original here


13 Comments

Sun

25

May

2014

Pope Francis calls for two-state solution, stops at Israeli apartheid wall

Article from the Lebanese secular daily newspaper Al Akhbar

On his way to Manger Square in Bethlehem, the Pope decided to stop and pray in front of the apartheid wall where he could read: "Welcome Pope. We need someone to speak about justice.
On his way to Manger Square in Bethlehem, the Pope decided to stop and pray in front of the apartheid wall where he could read: "Welcome Pope. We need someone to speak about justice.

Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop at Israel's towering West Bank apartheid wall in Bethlehem Sunday after calling for an end to the "increasingly unacceptable" Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

The pope has said his three-day visit to the Middle East, which began in Jordan Saturday, has "purely religious" motives, but Palestinians hoped he would show support for statehood, weeks after the collapse of US-brokered peace talks with the Israelis.

 

Francis was to continue his visit with a trip to Jerusalem later Sunday and meetings with Israeli leaders.

Pope stops to acknowledge what so many international leaders try to avoid noticing.


He flirted with the region's sensitive politics when he climbed out of his white, open jeep in Bethlehem as his convoy passed near the apartheid wall erected by the Israelis.

 

Dressed in his white cassock and flanked by anxious Palestinian security guards, he walked over to the eight-meter (26-foot) high concrete barrier, which is topped by a guard tower.

 

Bowing his head in silent prayer, he paused for several minutes in front of the graffiti-daubed wall, his palm resting against the concrete.

 

"Pope we need to see someone to speak about justice. Bethlehem look like Warsaw ghetto. Free Palestine," read the graffiti in English, scrawled over the wall that had been painted by the Israelis only on Friday.

The apartheid wall is illegal under international law.

 

The unexpected stop came as the pope, who is on a three-day visit to the Middle East, was on his way to celebrate mass with 10,000 pilgrims in a packed and colorful Manger Square, next to the site Christians revere as the birthplace of Jesus.

 

At the end of an open-air mass in Manger Square, Pope Francis invited Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to his home in the Vatican for a "heartfelt prayer" for peace.

 

"I wish to invite you, president Mahmoud Abbas, together with President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace," he said.

 

"I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer," he said.

 

"Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment. The men and women of these lands, and of the entire world, all of them, ask us to bring before God their fervent hopes for peace."

 

The pope also made an impassioned plea for the protection of children, where rights groups say minors are mistreated by Israel.

"Children are crying, they are crying a lot, and their crying challenges us," the Argentine pontiff told thousands of Roman Catholic pilgrims in Bethlehem.

 

"All too many children continue to be exploited, maltreated, enslaved, prey to violence and illicit trafficking. Still too many children live in exile, as refugees," said the pontiff.

 

"Their cry is stifled: they must fight, they must work, they cannot cry! But their mothers cry for them. They weep for their children, and they refuse to be consoled," he said.

 

Children are "a marker indicating the health of families, society and the whole world," Francis said, speaking in front of a giant tableau of the birth of Jesus.

A girl from Aida refugee camp hands Pope Francis a letter. The camp is one of three camps in Bethlehem housing more than 20,000 Palestinian refugees whose families were expelled or fled from their homes in what is today Israel in 1948.
A girl from Aida refugee camp hands Pope Francis a letter. The camp is one of three camps in Bethlehem housing more than 20,000 Palestinian refugees whose families were expelled or fled from their homes in what is today Israel in 1948.

International rights groups have heavily criticized the treatment of Palestinian youngsters by Israel's military, with a report this month finding increasing numbers of arrested minors are placed in solitary confinement.

 

Under international pressure to introduce reforms, the Israeli army agreed last year to try alternative treatment of children detained in the West Bank, but the UN Children's Fund has warned of ongoing physical violence and verbal abuse.

 

A 2013 UNICEF report found Israel was the only country in the world to systematically try children in military courts, often after being aggressively awakened in the night by armed soldiers, blindfolded and deprived of sleep.

 

The vast majority of arrests are for throwing stones.

 

Pope Francis' arrival in the West Bank early Sunday marked the start of the second   

Homily of Pope Francis

Manger Square Holy Mass

Bethlehem – 25.05.2014

Extract - "The Child of Bethlehem is frail, like all newborn children. He cannot speak and yet he is the Word made flesh who came to transform the hearts and lives of all men and women. This Child, like every other child, is vulnerable; he needs to be accepted and protected. Today too, children need to be welcomed and defended, from the moment of their conception. Sadly, in this world of ours, with all its highly developed technology, great numbers of children continue to live in inhuman situations, on the fringes of society, in the peripheries of great cities and in the countryside. All too many children continue to be exploited, maltreated, enslaved, prey to violence and illicit trafficking. Still too many children live in exile, as refugees, at times lost at sea, particularly in the waters of the Mediterranean. Today, in acknowledging this, we feel shame before God, before God who became a child.

 

And we have to ask ourselves: Who are we, as we stand before the Child Jesus? Who are we, standing as we stand before today’s children? Are we like Mary and Joseph, who welcomed Jesus and care for him with the love of a father and a mother? Or are we like Herod, who wanted to eliminate him? Are we like the shepherds, who went in haste to kneel before him in worship and offer him their humble gifts? Or are we indifferent? Are we perhaps people who use fine and pious words, yet exploit pictures of poor children in order to make money? Are we ready to be there for children, to “waste time” with them? Are we ready to listen to them, to care for them, to pray for them and with them? Or do we ignore them because we are too caught up in our own affairs?" Full text here

 

Pope Francis' speech at the Palestinian Presidential Palace, Ramallah - 25.05.2014

Extracts - "For decades the Middle East has known the tragic consequences of a protracted conflict which has inflicted many wounds so difficult to heal. Even in the absence of violence, the climate of instability and a lack of mutual understanding have produced insecurity, the violation of rights, isolation and the flight of entire communities, conflicts, shortages and sufferings of every sort.

In expressing my closeness to those who suffer most from this conflict, I wish to state my heartfelt conviction that the time has come to put an end to this situation which has become increasingly unacceptable. For the good of all, there is a need to intensify efforts and initiatives aimed at creating the conditions for a stable peace based on justice, on the recognition of the rights of every individual, and on mutual security. The time has come for everyone to find the courage to be generous and creative in the service of the common good, the courage to forge a peace which rests on the acknowledgment by all of the right of two States to exist and to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders..........

Here I would like to say a word about the active Christian community which contributes significantly to the common good of society, sharing in the joys and sufferings of the whole people. Christians desire to continue in this role as full citizens, along with their fellow citizens, whom they regard as their brothers and sisters." Full address here 


stage of his brief tour aimed at easing an ancient rift with Orthodox Christians and speaking out in favor of regional peace.

 

Looking tired as he arrived from Jordan by helicopter, the pope received a red carpet welcome from local officials and priests.

 

Abbas received him at his palace with a warm embrace.

 

Abbas raised the thorny subject of Jerusalem - claimed both by Israel and the Palestine as their capital.

 

"We have informed his holiness about the tragic situation in Jerusalem... where Israel is systematically acting to change its identity and character, and strangling the Palestinians, both Christians and Muslims, with the aim of pushing them out," he said.

Francis did not mince words in his speech, as he called for peace.

 

"The time has come to put an end to this situation which has become increasingly unacceptable," he said.

 

"The time has come for everyone to find the courage... to forge a peace which rests on the acknowledgement by all of the right of two states to exist and to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders."

 

"For the good of all, there is a need to intensify efforts and initiatives aimed at 


Mass at Manger Square
Mass at Manger Square

creating the conditions for a stable peace based on justice, on the recognition of the rights of every individual, and on mutual security," Francis said in the Biblical city, now a part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

 

The pope, hailing good relations between the Holy See and "the State of Palestine," said the time had come "for everyone to find the courage to be generous and creative" in ending "a protracted conflict which has inflicted many wounds so difficult to heal."

 

Israel began building a vast apartheid barrier through the West Bank in 2002 at the height of the second Palestinian intifada, claiming its construction was crucial for Israeli security.

 

But the Palestinians say the barrier, two thirds of which is located in the West Bank, as a land grab aimed at stealing part of their future state.

 

Arriving in Manger Square, Francis was greeted by a choir singing the Christmas carol "Angels from the Realms of Glory."

 

Since dawn, Catholic pilgrims had filed past security barriers into the square. The scene was dominated by stage where the pope celebrated mass, decked with huge Palestinian and Vatican flags and adorned with a giant tableau depicting the birth of Jesus.

 

The Vatican said the main reason for the visit was a meeting in Jerusalem with Bartholomew I, the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, seeking to heal a nearly 1,000-year rift between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.

Jewish Israeli protesters at the Cenacle, also known as the "Upper Room" in Jerusalem objecting to the Pope offering Mass in the place held to be the location of the Last Supper.
Jewish Israeli protesters at the Cenacle, also known as the "Upper Room" in Jerusalem objecting to the Pope offering Mass in the place held to be the location of the Last Supper.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, police arrested 26 Jewish extremists protesting at a site on Mount Zion where the pope will celebrate mass on Monday.

 

The arrests took place just hours before Francis' arrival in Jerusalem.

 

"Demonstrators at King David's Tomb threw stones and bottles at the security forces, lightly injuring two police," spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, referring to a site revered as holy by Christians, Jews and Muslims where the pope will celebrate mass on Monday.

 

"Among those arrested was a soldier who threatened a police officer with his weapon when one of his friends was arrested," he added, saying some of them had broken into the room where the ancient sarcophagus is located before being evacuated.

 

Israeli public radio said 150 extremists had gathered to denounce the pope's upcoming visit and were chanting slogans against the atrocities committed by the church against Jews during the Crusades and the Inquisition.

The Pope has lunch with several Palestinian families.
The Pope has lunch with several Palestinian families.

US-led peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators collapsed last month amid bitter recriminations, ending a nine-month bid to reach a solution, with no political initiative on the horizon.

 

The pope was to have lunch with several Palestinian families then meet with refugee children at the entrance to Dheishe refugee camp.

 

During the afternoon, he will take a short flight to Tel Aviv where he will be formally welcomed to Israel by President Shimon Peres before flying on to Jerusalem. Original here.


7 Comments

Sat

24

May

2014

The Pope has arrived in Jordan

Pope Francis addresses Jordanian authorities in Amman

Extract: "Jordan has offered a generous welcome to great numbers of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees, as well as to other refugees from troubled areas, particularly neighboring Syria, ravaged by a conflict which has lasted all too long. Such generosity merits the appreciation and support of the international community. The Catholic Church, to the extent of its abilities, has sought to provide assistance to refugees and those in need, especially through Caritas Jordan.

 

While acknowledging with deep regret the continuing grave tensions in the Middle East, I thank the authorities of the Kingdom for all that they are doing and I encourage them to persevere in their efforts to seek lasting peace for the entire region. This great goal urgently requires that a peaceful solution be found to the crisis in Syria, as well as a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Read the full address here

Visit the website abouna.org for full coverage of H.H. Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land in both English and Arabic.

______________________

 

Vatican Secretary of State expresses hopes for Papal visit to Holy Land. News and audio report here.

Arrival in Jordan
Arrival in Jordan

Vatican defends Palestinian sovereignty ahead of papal visit

Article from The Jordan Times newspaper

“Our Lady of the Wall” is an icon painted on the illegal Israeli apartheid separation wall which severs occupied Bethlehem from its historic hinterland of occupied east Jerusalem old city.
“Our Lady of the Wall” is an icon painted on the illegal Israeli apartheid separation wall which severs occupied Bethlehem from its historic hinterland of occupied east Jerusalem old city.

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s Secretary of State on Thursday defended the Palestinians’ right to a “sovereign and independent” homeland and said he hoped Pope Francis’ upcoming visit would lead to “courageous decisions” for peace.

 

“We know that the Pope is going to a particularly suffering land,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, whose role is equivalent to that of a prime minister, told Vatican television ahead of the Pope’s three-day visit starting on Saturday.

 

“I really hope that the fruit will be to help politicians and all people of goodwill take courageous decisions on the path to peace,” Parolin said in the interview, which was posted on the website of Vatican Radio.

 

Asked about particular points that Francis will talk about during the visit amid stalled peace talks, Parolin said they would be in line with Vatican policy.

 

“On the one hand, Israel’s right to exist in peace and security within internationally recognised boundaries.

 

“And the Palestinian people’s right to have a homeland, sovereign and independent, the right to move around freely, the right to live in dignity,” he said.

 

The Pope travels to Jordan first on Saturday where he will meet Syrian refugees, then to Bethlehem in the Palestinian Territories on Sunday and on to Jerusalem where he will hold a prayer for Christian unity and visit holy sites.

 

The Vatican’s decision for Francis to fly by helicopter directly to Bethlehem from Jordan without passing through Israel as normally required by diplomatic protocol is a first that has cheered Palestinians and angered Israelis.

 

The Vatican recognised the Palestinian territories as the “State of Palestine” in 2012 and has incurred Israeli ire in the past for appearing to side with the Palestinians although relations have improved markedly in recent years. Original article here.


1 Comments

Sat

24

May

2014

Pope Francis begins Middle East visit. Arrival in Jordan

Article from the Irish national broadcaster RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann)

H.H. Pope Francis boarding a plane for Jordan this morning (25/05/2014)
H.H. Pope Francis boarding a plane for Jordan this morning (25/05/2014)

Pope Francis is due to arrive in Jordan this morning for his first visit the Middle East.

 

"This is not a protocol visit," Patriarch Louis Sako, Iraq's senior Churchman, told reporters in Amman on the eve of the visit.

 

"This pope feels thepain of Christians and his arrival at this time as peoples of this region are going through conflict, killings and destruction is a message of common living.

“It's an appeal that everyone in this region should have the courage to review their positions, to get out of this suffocating crisis," he said.

 

The Christian population has been declining steadily across the Middle East for generations.

 

In Israel and the occupied West Bank, there has also been an increase in Palestinian Christians looking to leave.


"We are waiting impatiently for a word of peace from the pope that will raise morale. People in the street are asking what message will the pope carry," Mr Sako said.

 

It is the first visit to the region by Pope Francis, leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

After meeting King Abdullah and saying a Mass in an Amman stadium, the pontiff will meet refugees from Syria and Iraq in Bethany on the Jordan, the place where according to tradition Jesus was baptised.

 

On Sunday morning Pope Francis flies by helicopter to Bethlehem, making a six-hour visit to what the Vatican's official programme calls "the State of Palestine," a terminology Israel rejects.

 

In 2012, the Vatican angered Israel by supporting a vote in the United Nations General Assembly to give Palestinians de facto statehood recognition.

 

Israel argues such a move should only come through negotiations. Original article here

Jordan is an aid dependant country which is heavily burdened with Syrian refugees fleeing violence in their country however Jordan has been manipulated by NATO & Gulf states in to supporting sectarian terror in Syria which by extension further worsens the situation within Jordan's own borders.

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US, UK and France training Syrian rebels in Jordan - reports

Recent news Report from RT (Russia Today) states that "Foreign instructors are training Syrian rebels in modern warfare in Jordan, suggest media reports from Europe. Sources claim the trainees will be the security force if Assad goes, while the combat skills they are being taught distort the picture." Read more here

_________________________

Airbridge transporting jihadis from Jordan to Turkey

Recent news report from the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar states that "Recent information revealed the existence of an airbridge between Jordan and Turkey, transporting jihadis after they are trained on Jordan soil." Read more here


Live Coverage - Arrival of Pope Francis in Jordan


4 Comments

Sat

24

May

2014

Rai in Jordan, says Holy Land is our land

Article from the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star

Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Cardinal Beshara Rai arrives at Amman’s St. Charbel Church. “I am here to salute the steadfastness of our sons in the Holy Land.”
Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Cardinal Beshara Rai arrives at Amman’s St. Charbel Church. “I am here to salute the steadfastness of our sons in the Holy Land.”

BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai hailed Friday the steadfastness of Christians in the Holy Land, saying his visit to occupied Jerusalem was meant to reinforce the Christian identity of the city.

 

“I came to the Holy Land to tell our people who are living here that this is our land, we were born here, Jesus Christ was born and resurrected in this land,” Rai told believers during a Mass at Amman’s St. Charbel Church. “I am here to salute the steadfastness of our sons in the Holy Land.”

 

Rai said that despite the numerous difficulties, Christians never “abandoned their land or sold it and they don’t need anyone to bring back their land because they are living in it.”

 

“We have to show steadfastness and oppose all attempts to offend God’s dignity,” he continued, adding that he was praying for tense spots in the Middle East including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Egypt. “We say no to religious discrimination, and no to war, violence and weapons.”

Earlier, Rai cut short an interview with a French television station upon his arrival in Amman after the anchor bombarded him with questions about his controversial tour of the Holy Land alongside Pope Francis.

 

Rai’s visit is the first by the head of the Maronite Church to the Holy Land since the state of Israel was founded in 1948 and is intended to fit in Pope Francis’ three-day pilgrimage to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories that begins Saturday.

 

The France 24 journalist began his interview by asking Rai about the repercussions of his visit, which has stirred controversy in Lebanon.

Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Rai storms out of France 24 interview


“How do you respond to criticism in Lebanon and abroad, with some describing [the trip] as a grave mistake and others described it as suicide?” the anchor asked.

 

Rai responded by saying that the people who welcomed the visit outnumbered those who criticized it in Lebanon and other countries.

 

He said the primary purpose of the visit was to welcome the pope, given that the Holy Land fell under his prerogative as patriarch of Antioch and the Levant, adding that he intended to visit Maronite parishes there.

 

The anchor then tried to cut Rai off to ask another question, but the prelate continued by saying that his visit had no political or military goals.

“I am coming for a religious duty. ... I have explained this before,” the patriarch said.

 

But the anchor continued to bombard Rai with questions about the disputed visit. “Even your predecessors, including Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, did not embark on such a trip. Why is Patriarch Rai an exception? ... You have grown into a controversial figure.”

 

“I am the patriarch today, and this is my decision,” Rai said.

 

The anchor asked whether such a visit could become the norm for future patriarchs, with Rai reiterating that he was in charge of the church.

 

“How do you respond to those who say the trip will improve Israel’s reputation?” the anchor asked.

 

“I already answered. ... I explained this whether you understand or not,” Rai said.

 

“I asked for the president’s and the prime minister’s blessings on my visit to the Holy Land,” Rai repeated several times during the 8-minute interview. “I wish to end this topic.”

 

Ignoring Rai’s plea, the anchor continued to say that Lebanese citizens were forbidden from visiting Israel and would be subject to legal persecution if they do so.

 

“As a patriarch, does that grant you with immunity?” he asked. “I do have immunity and I took the blessings [of the president and the prime minister]. ... I respect my country and its laws. I know how to perform my duties,” Rai replied.

 

The anchor then asked whether Rai would meet with former military officers who were enlisted in the pro-Israel South Lebanon Army and fled into the Jewish state after its soldiers withdrew from Lebanon in 2000.

 

“I will not meet any political or civilian figures,” Rai repeated three times. “I am not here to argue with you, and you too do not even understand. I have explained this before. I am a Lebanese citizen and I respect my country.”

 

“Why are you condemning me? ... I will stop here and you don’t want to understand ... I have said enough,” Rai said.

 

“But I want to talk about the ties between ...,” the anchor said as Rai began removing his earpiece.

 

While Rai will not attend any political meetings with Israeli officials, he said he would meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

 

Rai’s decision to visit the Holy Land has come under scrutiny from various political groups given that Lebanon is technically in a state of war with the Jewish state.

 

While Rai has stressed that his visit to the Holy Land had no political motives, Hezbollah and others have criticized the visit, saying such a trip could be seen as a bid to normalize ties with Israel.

Israeli Police Detain [Israeli] Extremists Before Pope Visit

Article from Indian news outlet NDTV (New Delhi Television)

Israel's national police force said Wednesday it has issued restraining orders against several Jewish extremists who had planned to "disrupt" the upcoming visit of Pope Francis.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said a "number of right-wing activists" have been restrained for their intention to carry out "provocative and illegal acts" during the three-day visit to the Holy Land. The order restricts them from Jerusalem's Old City, where Francis will visit, and orders them to stay away from the pope, Rosenfeld said.

In recent weeks, vandals have scribbled anti-Arab and anti-Christian graffiti on Christian holy sites and properties, including a Roman Catholic visitor's center outside the Old City. Full article here.

 

Above: A picture taken on April 1 shows the walls of the Deir Rafat Catholic convent that were sprayed with graffitis, one, right, reading in Hebrew, "Jesus monkey, Maria cow, Tag price" Read more here



5 Comments

Sat

24

May

2014

East meets West

Leaders of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches meet in Jerusalem

His Holiness Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome and His all Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, Pope of New Rome to meet in Jerusalem in commemoration of the meeting 50 years ago between their predecessors Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras.

Statement by His All-Holiness on the meeting in Jerusalem with Pope Francis

“With expectant joy and an abiding sense of fraternity, we look forward, later this year in the Holy City of Jerusalem, to our commemorative encounter with our beloved brother in Christ, His Holiness Pope Francis. This fiftieth anniversary of the historic meeting between the late Pope Paul VI and our ever-memorable predecessor Patriarch Athenagoras is an exceptional opportunity to deepen the fraternal bonds between Peter and Andrew, for both our Sees owe their foundations to them. For this reason, following in the footsteps of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, we express our desire to further the relations between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches. Two thousand years ago, it was in Jerusalem where the Light dawned from the Tomb. May it be in Jerusalem again where the light of peace, mutual trust, and brotherly love shines brightly, for the sake of our two Churches and the sake of the whole world.” Original here

 

At the Phanar, February 18, 2014

(Constantinople, Turkey) 

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Arrives in the Holy Land to Meet with Pope Francis

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of over 300 million Orthodox Christian faithful worldwide, arrived in the Holy Land on 23/05/2014 in order to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis on May 25 and 26, 2014 in the Holy City of Jerusalem. More coverage of Patriarch Bartholomew's visit here


Visit of Patriarch Bartholomew comes amidst grave discontent among the indigenous Orthodox faithful in the Holy land. They are objecting strongly against the Greek domination of their church and its properties and the marginalisation of indigenous Palestinian clergy and faithful.

Orthodox Christians cry foul as Greek-ruled patriarchate continues ‘exclusion of Arabs’

Members of the Orthodox Christian community stage a sit-in in Sweifieh, Amman, on April 10 in protest against the ‘marginalisation’ of Arab clergymen by church leadership (Petra file photo)
Members of the Orthodox Christian community stage a sit-in in Sweifieh, Amman, on April 10 in protest against the ‘marginalisation’ of Arab clergymen by church leadership (Petra file photo)

The Jordan Times newspaper reports;

AMMAN — On April 10, members of the Orthodox Christians community staged a sit-in in Amman protesting against what they believe is injustice practised by the Jerusalem-based Greek leaders of their church. Read the full article here


4 Comments

Tue

20

May

2014

Armenian Catholic Archbishop Marayati: Christians flee from Aleppo, besieged city

Article from the Vatican’s Pontifical Missions news service, Fides.

The landmark historic Carlton Hotel, Aleppo. The building was destroyed recently by rebels who tunnelled underneath the building to plant a huge quantity of explosives.
The landmark historic Carlton Hotel, Aleppo. The building was destroyed recently by rebels who tunnelled underneath the building to plant a huge quantity of explosives.

Aleppo (Agenzia Fides) - "In recent weeks we have seen a new wave of the exodus of Christians from Aleppo. The families waited for high school to end, then they took their luggage, closed their homes and fled to the coast and to Lebanon, using the only road link with the outside world still viable. Maybe they will come back in four months. Perhaps they will never come back again". This is what the Armenian Catholic Archbishop Boutros Marayati of Aleppo reported to Fides, adding concrete details on the effects of the siege of the city by Syrian anti-Assad militias: "Now the water supply is back, which had been interrupted for more a week", said the Archbishop, "but there is no electricity. When water is distributed, electricity is interrupted and vice versa. The city is under siege and the areas where there are large power stations and water supply lines are all in the hands of the rebels that open and close the valves to force the regime to negotiate. We do not know what these negotiations aim to reach. We are with the people, and we do not understand very well what is going on around us".

 

According to the Archbishop, the presidential elections to be held on June 3 end up increasing the sense of uncertainty and fear which is widely spread: "the election campaign has started, but many fear an escalation of violence, particularly in view of the elections. Anything could happen", explains His Excellency Marayati. News from Homs is not even reassuring: "The siege of the government army has prevailed over the rebels, who evacuated the city centre", says the Armenian Catholic Archbishop, "but since then gangs have plundered everything they find in houses that are still abandoned, even in the neighbourhood where Christians lived". Original here


6 Comments

Sun

18

May

2014

Mea Culpa - The Touchstone of Reconciliation

Christians, Druze gather for reconciliation at Mount Lebanon village

Article from the secular Lebanese daily newspaper Al-Akhbar

Above: Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Rai prays as H.E. Michel Suleiman President of Lebanon, Walid Jumblatt veteran Druze politician and leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, the Vatican’s Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, and Ms. Alice Chabtini Minister for the Displaced participate in laying a commemorative stone.

"Hundreds gathered in a Mount Lebanon village Tuesday for a ceremony marking reconciliation between Druze and Christians whose relations where battered during the 1975-1990 civil war.

Muslim, Christian and Druze, Maronite and Orthodox Christian, Sunni and Shia Muslim clerics join with Druze religious leaders on the occasion of the reconciliation.
Muslim, Christian and Druze, Maronite and Orthodox Christian, Sunni and Shia Muslim clerics join with Druze religious leaders on the occasion of the reconciliation.

Christian residents, who at the time of the war overwhelmingly backed the fascist-styled Lebanese Forces militia, fled the Chouf town of Brih after losing out to Druze fighters two decades ago.

 

But Saturday's ceremony was meant the bury the hatchet between the two as Christians reportedly began to return to their homes in the mixed Maronite - Druze village, located about 23 kilometers southeast of Beirut.

 

President Michel Sleiman, Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai and leader of the so-called Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt attended the ceremony." Original here

Photos: Maronite Patriarchate Bkerke
Photos: Maronite Patriarchate Bkerke

Elements of the political extreme are found among all.

Remembering the violent martyrdom of

Maronite Catholic Bishop Albert Khreish in 1988.

On April 26th, 1988 gunmen kidnapped Bishop Albert Khreish from his home north of Beirut in the port town of Junieh. The body of the bishop was recovered some days later on Sunday May 1st in nearby Ghazir. The police at the time said the 53 year old bishop was shot 30 times and that his face was slashed. The kidnap and discovery of the body were in an area secured and under the control of the then Lebanese Forces mentioned in the above article, this far right militia was noted for the backing it received from Israel. Monsignor Albert Khreish was opposed to the Lebanese Forces Militia. His sister was married to the elder brother of Nayef Hawatmeh then leader of Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

 

In a 2012 article in Al-Akhbar titled “Geagea and the Maronite Church: A Battle for Patriarchy” the newspaper recounts detail of the Bishop Khreish murder.

 

“Khreish was politically opposed to the LF [Lebanese Forces]. He was convinced that the Vatican rejected the then close ties between the Christians and Israel and abhorred the atrocities committed by the LF.

 

The “Khreish phenomenon” posed a threat because the Monsignor combined his words with action. He refused Geagea's slogan, “the [Christian] command is mine,” and continued to teach about public freedoms at the Faculty of Law in Jal el-Dib, an LF stronghold. He formed the "Clerical University Action,” which sought to draw Christian youth away from weapons and drugs. He also insisted that the LF return Church properties, acquired during the civil war, to the Church.

 

Apart from his political and civic work, Khreish proved himself inside the Patriarchate by being a spiritual guide to the Ghazir clergy and a judge in the Maronite Court. Amidst all of this engagement – some of his relatives say because of this engagement – Khreish was killed in an LF secured quarter, in front of our Lady of Harissa, near Bkirki.”

Samir Geagea leader of the Lebanese Forces Party and former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly. Regardless of the violence and its consequences for the region the U.S. continues to support armed conflict in Syria.
Samir Geagea leader of the Lebanese Forces Party and former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly. Regardless of the violence and its consequences for the region the U.S. continues to support armed conflict in Syria.

In 1988 the then commander of the Lebanese Forces Militia was the Maronite, Samir Geagea, today he leads the political successor to this militia the similarly named Lebanese Forces Party.  During the current conflict in neighbouring Syria Samir Geagea has been a vocal supporter of the “opposition” and notwithstanding a body of evidence to prove that the armed opposition in Syria were and are heavily involved in sectarian violence including attacks on Christians, he still, as recently as December 2013 called for Lebanon’s Christians to support the revolutionaries in Syria saying “we as Christians cannot be but with the Syrian revolution.”

 

On the day of the current reconciliation between Druze and Christian in the village of Brih the veteran Druze political leader Walid Jumblatt was in attendance. He is a politician renowned for his political dexterity. In an ironic twist this Druze leader and the leader of the Lebanese Forces held similar views on the Syrian conflict. As recently as March 2013 Walid Jumblatt voiced support for al-Qaeda in Syria, notwithstanding how venerable the Druze community were in Syria to sectarian attacks by elements like the Jabhat al Nusra, the official al-Qaeda in Syria. The veteran leader  has since modified his position.


66 Comments

Tue

06

May

2014

Melkite Catholic Patriarch at the United Nations

Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN and President, Security Council for the month of April, Prof. Joy Ogwu (left), meets His Beatitude, Gregorios III, the Patriarch of Antioch, at the UN Headquarters, New York.
Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN and President, Security Council for the month of April, Prof. Joy Ogwu (left), meets His Beatitude, Gregorios III, the Patriarch of Antioch, at the UN Headquarters, New York.

The Melkite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch H.B. Gregorios III Laham is currently in New York and and on Monday 5th he had a meeting with the outgoing president of the U.N. Security Council, Nigerian Ambassador H. E. Prof. U. Joy Ogwu. The Patriarch took the opportunity to explain the reality of the suffering endured by the Syrian people as a result of the senseless war that displaced millions and claimed the lives of a tens of thousands.

US opens diplomatic mission for syrian “opposition” and gives another $27 million in aid to rebels.

The BBC (British Broadcasting Cooperation) reports that the US will allow the NATO-GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) created “opposition” SNC (Syrian National Coalition) to open a diplomatic mission in Washington, also the US state department is to provide an additional $27m (£16m) in non-lethal assistance, and the stepping up of deliveries to the Free Syrian Army. Britain is also providing more financial aid to rebels. It should be recalled that the current head of the “opposition” SNC (Syrian National Coalition), Ahmed al Jarba, recently made a celebratory visit to the armed rebels, including al-Qaeda affiliates, who seized control of the Syrian border town of Kessab. This Christian Armenian town was subjected to an appalling attack and its residents have had to flee now the rebels are involved in the systematic looting to the town.

Al Mayadeen reporter Nizar Abboud interviews Patriarch Gregoros in New York. 

In Arabic only.


4 Comments

Mon

05

May

2014

Open letter to Patriarch al-Rai: Do not go to the Zionist entity!

The Beirut based Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Cardinal Beshara al-Rai has expressed his intention to accompany His Holiness Pope Francis on his forthcoming visit to the Holy Land (Jordan, Occupied Palestine and Israel). The Maronite church has an active community in the area and clergy do cross between jurisdictions but this will be the first time that a Maronite Patriarch has gone to Israel a country which is still in illegal occupation of parts of south Lebanon, the Syrian Golan and the Palestinian Territories including the Holy Places in east Jerusalem old city.

 

The Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel in Lebanon has written an open letter to the Patriarch asking him to reconsider his proposed trip. The letter can be read here

Update 06/05/2014: Patriarch Rai slams "shameful" campaign against his visit to the Holy Land

Extract from a news report by the Catholic media outlet asianews.it: "The protest is unnecessary,"....... "the Pope has honoured us with his visit to the diocese of patriarchy and it is normal that the patriarch should welcome him," he explained....... In noting that he would not meet Israeli leaders, the patriarch said he was "aware that Israel is an enemy state that is occupying Lebanese territory," but he insisted that he respects "Lebanese law."  Read the full article here.

Update 10/05/2014: Arab priest sacked for backing service in Israel army

Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper reports that, the Greek Orthodox Church in the Holy Land has dismissed an Israeli Arab priest who publicly voiced support for Christian Arabs serving in Israel's army, a church spokesman said Thursday. Read more here


4 Comments

Sun

04

May

2014

Syria Patriarch urges Syrians to vote in presidential poll

Article from the Tehran based al Alam news outlet

The newly appointed Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church  and Patriarch of Antioch  Ignatius Aphrem II Karim with the Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and Head of the universal Maronite Church  Cardinal Bechara al-Rai
The newly appointed Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church and Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Aphrem II Karim with the Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and Head of the universal Maronite Church Cardinal Bechara al-Rai

Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church Mar Ignatius Aphrem II Karim has called for vigorous participation in the upcoming presidential election in Syria.

 

On Friday, the patriarch hailed upcoming presidential elections - set for June 3 - as an important step towards "building the Syria that the honorable Syrians seek."

 

"The sorrowful events in Syria won't discourage the Syrian people from their national commitments and duties,'' added the Patriarch, advising the Syrians against migration and urging them to stay in the country.

 

During his Friday meeting with a solidarity delegation from the Syrian community in Sweden, he underscored the significance of such visits of expatriates for "showing solidarity with their fellow citizens during the times of hardship."

 

Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011. According to reports, Western powers and their regional allies - especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey - are supporting the militants operating inside the country.

 

An estimated 150,000 people have been reportedly killed and millions displaced due to the turmoil that has gripped Syria for over three years. Original here 

Remembering the Words of the late Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch , H.H. Mor Ignatios Zakka I Iwas - "Syrians are the only ones who will decide their destiny, and that decision will be taken in Damascus, not in a European country."



4 Comments

Fri

02

May

2014

“We are a ruined church” Iraqi Patriarch

“Intervention by the West did not solve the problems … it produced more chaos and conflict.”

Article from catholicireland.net

A group of women participate in the 2014 Palm Sunday procession in the village of Telsukuf north of Mosel city, Iraq. Photo ankawa.com
A group of women participate in the 2014 Palm Sunday procession in the village of Telsukuf north of Mosel city, Iraq. Photo ankawa.com

The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq has squarely blamed the policies of the West for the plight of Iraqi’s disappearing Christians.

 

The exodus of Christians from Iraq is “frightening” the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad, Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako, warned and added “We are a ruined church”.

 

The Patriarch pointed out that a few decades ago there was an estimated 600,000 Christians in the city of Baghdad alone.

 

Now the entire Christian population of Iraq has dipped under 400,000, with widespread emigration still continuing.

 

“Intervention by the West in the region did not solve the problems … but on the contrary, produced more chaos and conflict,” he said, criticising the US-led invasion of the country in 2003.

 Iraqi women mourn the victims of an attack by al-Qaeda at Our Lady of Salvation Church, Bagdad, Iraq on 31st October 2010 in which 58 people lost their lives.
Iraqi women mourn the victims of an attack by al-Qaeda at Our Lady of Salvation Church, Bagdad, Iraq on 31st October 2010 in which 58 people lost their lives.

“1,400 years of Islam could not uproot us from our land and our churches, while the policies of the West [have] scattered us and distributed us all around the world,” Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako said.

 

Comparing the situation of the Church under Saddam Hussein’s regime and today, he said that “in the Church of the Ascension, Al-Mashtal, there were about 5,000 families and over 240 students preparing for their First Holy Communion before the regime’s fall.” On “25 April 2014, I celebrated in this church the Holy Mass for First Holy Communion of 13 students only.”

 

“[Iraqi] government authorities bear part of the responsibility of this migration for failing to restore security and stability,” the patriarch said.

 

He also called upon Muslim clerics to “issue a joint statement denying all forms of violence, mistrust and considering others as ‘infidels’” and calling “for peace and brotherhood among the people.” Original here

Iraqi Muslim women light candles at the Chaldean Church in central Baghdad.
Iraqi Muslim women light candles at the Chaldean Church in central Baghdad.