Born in Beirut, Lebanon on August 31, 1950 (Son of Fawzi Francis Kobti and Verginie Elias El-Sharif). Studied at the Latin Patriarchate Seminary of Jerusalem from 1963-1975. Worked as a teacher at Terra Santa College 1973-1974 (Franciscan Fathers of the Custody of the Holy...Read More
Seeking truth and justice
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) July 1, 2015 – Israeli authorities set new restrictions Tuesday on Palestinians entering Jerusalem from the occupied West Bank after attacks targeting Israeli military and settlers, revoking the entry permits of hundreds set to travel during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The announcement by COGAT, the agency that manages civilian affairs in the occupied Palestinian territory, was the latest reversal to measures easing movement for Palestinians for Ramadan.
The new restrictions now require a permit for women aged between 16 and 30 to enter Jerusalem on Fridays. The same applies for men aged 30-50, while those under the age of 12 and over 50 can enter without a permit.
Israel announced at the beginning of Ramadan that women of all ages and men over 40 from the West Bank would be allowed to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem for the duration of the holy month.
While Israel initially eased travel restrictions for Palestinians this year, authorities said such increases in movement came on the condition that security wasn’t “breached.”
Ramadan often offers a rare opportunity for Palestinians to visit East Jerusalem, part of Palestinian territory occupied by Israel, as entry to the city remains strictly limited during rest of the year.Read More
by Giacomo Galeazzi
Abouna.org, June 2, 2015 – The Chaldean Church raises the alarm in light of the escalating violence and persecutions unleashed by the Caliphate.
“Things are getting worse for us Christians and other religious minorities. The situation in Iraq is getting worse by the day.” It was the Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad who raised the alarm bells about the escalating violence and persecution at the hands of the Caliphate.
A year after Abu Bakr al Baghdadi proclaimed the Caliphate, the Islamic State is gaining ground and strength, expanding beyond the Iraqi and Syrian borders. Does the international community lack an efficient strategy?
“Yes. Despite the terrible conditions, our commitment in this land is to preserve spaces for dialogue. The common good needs good sense. Yet, sadly, fanaticism is increasingly taking over and this is why everything is going badly.
What can halt the jihadist advance?
“Only a reaction from the moderate Sunnis. Fundamentalist fanatics following al Baghdadi’s orders have not read the Holy Scriptures or they would know that God is merciful. My appeal is addressed to moderate Muslims: they know that having faith means embracing God’s will. Hence moderate Muslims must react against ISIS’ destructive madness and try to interact with the population as a whole and collaborate with the rest of society. Only then can they act in favour of the common good, the good of everyone and therefore their good too.”Read More
Association pro Terra Sancta, June 2015 – “We have recently started a summer camp for the children of Aleppo. Initially there were 50 and then, in just a little while, it was up to 120 attending!” says Father Ibrahim, friar of the Custody of the Holy Land and Parish of Aleppo.
A courageous initiative, which has brought a festive spirit and joy amidst the rubble of a city under siege since 2012. For the motto of the camp, the words of St. Paul were selected: “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice!”
At the beginning, as always, there were some difficulties, says Father Ibrahim: “The parents at first were very scared at the thought of letting their children outside of their homes and didn’t have the courage to come to us and register them. So we phoned all of the families to convince them. The opening day was a great day of celebration, with singing and dancing, chocolates, sweets and even a clown! The parents were deeply moved and full of amazement, perhaps even more so than their children”.
Initially intended for children between ages six and ten, the friars of St. Francis Monastery soon had to extend inscriptions and welcome even younger children, starting from age three.
“And thanks to Providence and the Spirit that blows wherever it will, the number of volunteers who are aiding us in these activities is also increasing; and among them, unexpectedly, are many mothers who have become actively involved.”
And so for four days a week, the young of Aleppo now have a place where they can go to play, meet one another in a welcoming environment, and express their skills. Cooking courses are also planned, with the older ones preparing lunch, and then everyone joining in to eat together.Read More
Association pro Terra Sancta, June 25, 2015 – Thursday 25 June took place the ceremony of laying the foundation stone for the creation of the Terra Sancta Museum, the world’s first museum dedicated to the roots of Christianity and the preservation of the Holy Places, a profound desire of the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land.
Approximately one hundred people were present at the event which took place at the Lapidarium of the Convent of the Flagellation in Jerusalem, one of the future sites of the Museum and ‒ as pointed out by the current director of the archaeological museum of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Father Eugenio Alliata ‒ a very important archaeological site in its own right that contains remains from the time of Jesus.Read More
by Gabrielle Cubera
(Catholic News Agency) New York City, June 27, 2015 – Growing unrest in the Middle East is causing great concern for the Christian community around the world, and author George J. Marlin is hoping to enlighten Western Christians on how seriously matters are progressing, as their brethren in the Middle East continue to undergo persecution.
His latest book, Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy, was published earlier this month by St. Augustine’s Press, and details the rise of radical Islamism and its impact on Christians throughout the Middle East.
“Western civilization was built on Christianity which, sadly enough, is being forgotten for Western Europe, and even in this nation here,” Marlin told CNA.
“I think the Church’s job is to remind the West that its civilization was based on the concept that man is a creature made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore is entitled by his very nature … basic rights, including the freedom to practice one’s religion.”Read More
Catholic News Agency, June 19, 2015 – Speaking to a global gathering of priests, Pope Francis signaled an openness to changing the date of Easter in the West so that all Christians around the world could celebrate the feast on the same day.
The Pope on June 12 said “we have to come to an agreement” for a common date on Easter.
His comments came in remarks to the World Retreat of Priests at the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome. The event drew priests from five continents.
The Pope joked that Christians could say to one another: “When did Christ rise from the dead? My Christ rose today, and yours next week,” adding that this disunity is a scandal.
The Orthodox churches normally celebrate Easter a week after the Catholics. Some Orthodox leaders have also reflected on the dating of the Christian holy day. In May, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II wrote to the papal nuncio in Egypt suggesting a common date for Easter.
Historian Lucetta Scaraffia, writing in the Vatican daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, said the Pope is offering this initiative to change the date of Easter “as a gift of unity with the other Christian churches.”Read More
(International Crisis Group) Jerusalem/Brussels, June 30, 2015
Middle East Report N° 159 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan underway and Jewish high holidays soon to follow, tensions have started to rise, if only slightly, at the Holy Esplanade – the Temple Mount (har habayit) to Jews, the Noble Sanctuary (al-haram al-sharif) to Muslims. In mid-2014, it seemed the site might be the epicentre of the next Palestinian uprising, even a broader Jewish-Muslim clash. Israel believes 2015’s relative calm is sustainable, if ministers and Knesset members refrain from pushing, as they did last year, to change the setup. Even if this proves correct during the holiday season, quiet is unlikely to endure. While Jewish Temple activism was crucial in sparking the last round of unrest, the religious salience of and political contestation around the Esplanade, especially among Jews but also Muslims, has been increasing for two decades. This has eroded the status quo arrangement that has mostly kept the peace since Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967. Any further slippage must be prevented and the status quo braced.
Judaism’s holiest site and Islam’s third-most after Mecca and Medina, containing the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, is a microcosm of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It sees repeated violent upsurges that never decisively end, only fade; as a final-status issue in a stalemated peace process, its disposition remains unclear, a situation which Israel has exploited to expand control. Managed by an Israeli-Jordanian condominium, the site exemplifies political exclusion of Palestinians from what they consider their capital and the inability of their fractured national movement to defend it meaningfully. As a location that is both a paramount pillar of Judaism and centrally important in Islam, it invites Arab denial of Jewish history and connection to the Holy Land and Jewish rejection, especially within the religious camps, of Palestinian and Muslim ties. As the iconic national and religious symbol for both sides, it showcases the increasing weight of the Religious Zionist camp in Israel and Islamist voices among Palestinians.Read More
Abouna.org, July 1, 2015 – On the heels of Pope Francis’ canonization of two Arab Palestinian nuns, namely Mariam of Jesus Crucified Bawardi and Marie Alphonsine Ghattas, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal celebrated Mass at the Rosary Sisters School in Marj Al-Hamam in Amman. He was assisted by Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan Bishop Maroun Lahham and Bishop Salim Sayegh. Present were large groups of nuns, among whom were Rosary Sisters nuns including Superior General of the Rosary Sisters Congregation Mother Iness AI-Yacoub, and a large number of people.
In his homily, Patriarch Twal said that the homily would focus on one question, namely “Who is great in the eyes of people, and who is great in the eyes of God? He responded: “In the eyes of people, the great people are the influential, namely the politicians, army commanders, kings and presidents. They are the ones who own huge wealth and spend money at will. They are the scientists and the inventors. They are the athletes who acquire medals and are offered mundane beauty.”
He added: “As for the two news saints, they did not own any of these mentioned qualities. They neither owned wealth, nor influence, nor knowledge, nor even mundane beauty. But their inner beauty was reflected on their faces as they had a spiritual touch that attracted to them all those who had known them. They were born poor and died poor. They did not own anything, they did not take pride in power, and even they did not have authority in their religious congregations. On the contrary, they did not receive medals of merit in their lives. They probably were subject to criticism unlike what they actually deserved.”
Reviewing the stages they had in their lives which were characterized by prayer and poverty, he said: “The canonization of these two nuns constitutes a blessing, a challenge and a hope. It is a blessing since it indicates that God walks hand-in-hand in the procession of the Christian grouping of our country, and resuscitates it with holiness. These two saints constitute a challenge to us, as both of them call on us to rise to the level of their holiness with God’s grace. Lastly, they serve as a hope to us at the current difficult circumstances our countries, peoples and believers are experiencing. I hope that oppression will come to an end, I hope that violence will come to an end…these two saints remind us that the final saying in our lives and in history belongs to God. It is an expression of life, peace and reconciliation which we hold in our hearts to continue courageously our procession in our countries, particularly in the Orient which God wanted to be our inheritance and a land of testimony.”Read More
(Vatican Radio) July 1, 2015 – The United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday held a special panel on the effects of terrorism on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, told the panel the international community has not always been effective in preventing and curbing terrorism, especially in the Middle East and different parts of Africa.
“While considering the negative effects of terrorism on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, we should also be clear in our reasoning that these effects will continue, and indeed will become worse, if the causes of terrorism are not clearly and swiftly addressed by the national States concerned and the international community,” said Archbishop Tomasi.
“Terrorism also facilitates trafficking of persons and weapons, thus creating a black market for human commerce,” he continued. “Where terrorism has effectively taken hold, irreparable social and cultural damage has been done that will resonate through future generations.”Read More
Christian Peace Team in Hebron, July 1, 2015 – Starting 1995 hundreds of shops were closed by Israel under military orders, but last year there finally was an agreement to start opening some of these shops. Pictured here are the keys carried by an old Palestinian man who is hoping to return to his shop after 15 years of its being closed.Read More