Seeking truth and justice

Israel Chief Rabbinate and Vatican Commission Delegates meeting: a very special harmony pervades

Posted on Dec 9, 2016

A resounding “no” to violence and political rewriting of biblical history: Friendship and identical goals characterize 14th Vatican meeting with delegates of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate

Peter Cardinal Turkson

Lisa Palmieri-Billig, Representative in Italy and Liaison to the Holy See | Vatican Insider | December 4, 2016 | See also “Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews meets with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel”

“The most important aspect of this meeting are the bonds of friendship that have deepened over the years – the meeting of hearts and minds.”

This comment, made by Archbishop Bruno Forte summed up the atmosphere of the two day meeting this week of the bilateral committee of delegates of the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews and Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. The Committee meets regularly and this month’s timely theme was, “Promoting Peace in the Face of Violence in the name of Religion”. Co-chairs of the two 6 member delegations were Peter Cardinal Turkson (President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace) for the Catholics, and Rabbi Rasson Arussi (Chief Rabbi of the Israeli town of Kiryat Ono) for the Jews.

While the topic was widely discussed with foreseeable and total agreement on the positive role religious leaders can play by setting examples of respect and solidarity, by admitting the terrible past sins committed in the name of religion, by the unity of shared common values based on the sanctity of life, by stressing the importance of education, “repudiating the violent use of religion”, etc.

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The lighting of the tree in Bethlehem: a sign of peace

Posted on Dec 9, 2016

On Saturday, December 3, in Manger Square, the lighting of the big Christmas Tree has started the festivities. Bethlehem is waiting for Christmas.

Lights, sounds and a thousand colors. The characteristic Christmas spirit reigns in the city where the Savior was born. The usual lighting of the Christmas Tree; the manger: Bethlehem is waiting for Christmas. An event that every year gathers hundreds of people from all over the world, in Manger Square. All together in a festive atmosphere.

Pilgrim – France

“We arrived yesterday and we were thrilled to be in the place where Jesus was born. We are glad and very excited to be with you here, in Bethlehem!”

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“There’s a war between Muslims; Christians who have fled will not be coming back”

Posted on Dec 9, 2016

Interview with the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa: “Millions of refugees have changed the shape of our parishes. I don’t think those who have fled will want to return to Syria and Iraq”

Pierbattista Pizzaballa

by Andrea Tornielli, Vatican Insider, Dec. 7, 2016

“The ideologies that destroyed Syria and Iraq are reaching us here Jordan too. The radicalism of young people is frightening”. Pierbattista Pizzaballa who recently took office as Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem returned home to the northern Italian city of Bergamo to attend a conference organised by the John XXIII Foundation for the presentation of the volume of the Good Pope’s Opera Omnia “A. G. Roncalli – John XXIII” which focuses on the period from 1911 to 1912. Vatican Insider interviewed him.

How have your first few weeks been? How did the Arab clergy take to having an Italian Administrator at the helm of the Patriarchate after two Arab Patriarchs?
“They have accepted me quite well all things considered. I am doing a tour of the parishes: not a pastoral visit but a meeting with priests to see first-hand what the situation is and find out about any problems. I found people to be very open. I think they understood the reasons for my visit. Naturally, there is a great deal that needs to be done in organisational, administrative and pastoral terms. But I see there is a lot of good will. There are very young priests who need to be guided.”

Why did the Pope send you?
“You would have to ask him, I’m not quite sure what criteria he followed in making his choice. I think the aim is simply to help reorganise the diocese a bit from an administrative and organisational point of view also bearing in mind my previous experience as Custodian of the Holy Land. And to decide some courses of action for the future because the Middle East is changing too. It is a period of transition.”

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Persecuted Christian bishops denied UK visas

Posted on Dec 9, 2016

Credit: dinosmichail via Shutterstock

London, England, Dec 8, 2016 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News)

U.K. officials drew strong criticism for denying visas to Middle East bishops from regions that have suffered Islamic State group persecution, preventing them from attending a cathedral consecration.

“These are men who have pressing pastoral responsibilities as Christian areas held by ISIS are liberated,” said Archbishop Athanasius Toma of the Syriac Orthodox Church in the U.K. “That is why we cannot understand why Britain is treating Christians in this way.”

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Adam Keller: “Say no to legalized land robbery!”

Posted on Dec 8, 2016

adam-keller-113-x115Adam Keller (Hebrew: אדם קלר‎‎; born 1955 in Tel Aviv-Yafo) is an Israeli peace activist who was among the founders of Gush Shalom, of which he is a spokesperson. He writes:

Starting this morning (Thur. Dec. 8), concerned Israeli citizens are holding a protest vigil outside the Prime Minister’s residence (corner of Aza and Balfour Streets, Jerusalem). They will stay there every day between 10:00 to 17:00, during the coming week.

The Settlement Legalization Bill, which the right-wing Knesset majority is vigorously seeking to enact, is a manifestly illegal measure, by which the seizure of privately-owned Palestinian land would be declared “legal”. The government’s own Attorney General, the Knesset’s own legal counsel, have stated it clearly and unambiguously. So did the United States Government and the European Union leaders.

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Despite distance, Iraqi Christians keep the spirit of Christmas alive

Posted on Dec 8, 2016

Displaced Iraqi Christians try to keep the spirit of Christmas alive. War, violence and discrimination have forced many Christians to leave their homes and live as refugees. Yet despite the distance and across different time zones, families find ways to stay together.

Iraqi refugee Sami Dankha, 51, feeds his son Alin, 1, at his home in Istanbul, Turkey. He lives in Istanbul with his wife and five children; his brothers live in New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands. (Credit: CNS photo/Oscar Durand.)

by Oscar Durand | CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE | December 5, 2016

ISTANBUL, Turkey – Sami Dankha, his three brothers and their families used to kick off Christmas celebrations by attending a packed Christmas Eve Mass at St. Thomas Church in Baghdad. Wearing brand new clothes and sporting fresh haircuts, they would spend the night chatting, singing and eating pacha, a dish made from sheep’s head that Iraqis consider a delicacy and a staple of Christmas.

But that was 20 years ago. Today, Dankha, 51, his wife, Faten, and their five children live in Turkey as refugees, far away from the rest of their families. They are waiting for an answer to their resettlement application to Australia.

“If you count Christmas and Easter, it has been about 40 times we haven’t gathered,” said Dankha, whose brothers now live in New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands.

Years of instability, violence and discrimination have forced Iraqi Christian families to leave their homes.

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‘Tis the season, and Bethlehem businesses hope for a merry one

Posted on Dec 8, 2016

This year, the Israeli separation barrier construction continues to slowly creep around Bethlehem, creating an isolated enclave. There has been no real move toward a long-term peace agreement, nor any easing of travel restrictions or any significant improvement in the economic or political situations, but Palestinians are embracing what they can of the holiday spirit.

Muslim Palestinian Ashraf Natsheh, 28, holds his daughter Lara, 10 months, next to his wife, Shahad, 26, in front of the Christmas tree in Manger Square Dec. 5 in Bethlehem, West Bank. They had been unable to get into Bethlehem last year. (Credit: CNS photo/Debbie Hill.)

In Bethlehem, a big white Christmas tree made of lights was set up in Nativity square and locals hope for conflict free holidays as they set up Santa Claus decorations and holiday light in their shops. After two years where political reality replaced holiday cheer, Christians dare to hope again.

Catholic News Service | December 7, 2016

BETHLEHEM, West Bank – Even the Christmas decorations seem more cheerful this year in Bethlehem.

A new display of Santa’s reindeer and sleigh were about to alight at the main traffic circle on Manger Street, and a big white Christmas tree made of lights perched merrily next to them.

The official Christmas tree in Nativity Square was a focus of great commotion as pilgrims and locals struck poses for photos and selfies on December 5. A few days earlier, at the official tree lighting ceremony, the square was packed with hundreds of onlookers ready to welcome the Christmas season to the birthplace of Jesus.

After two Christmas seasons in which the political reality had overtaken holiday cheer, people seemed primed to finally feel some merriment in Bethlehem. In 2014, the summer Gaza war was still keeping away tourists, and last year a spate of stabbings and shootings overshadowed any hope of holiday cheer.

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Christmas and the Nakba

Posted on Dec 7, 2016

Christmas Means Love and Steadfastness for Palestinians

Christmas celebration in the ethnically cleansed Kufr Bir’im. Photo courtesy of Waad Ghantous.

by Xavier Abu Eid | This Week in Palestine | View PDF

On a cold Thursday, December 25, 1947, the situation was tense in Palestine. But very few imagined that this would be the last Christmas that they would spend in their hometowns. Among the hundreds of villages that were totally cleansed during the Nakba of 1948 were dozens of Christian communities, including those in Ein Karem, Beisan, Al-Bassa, Suhmata, Safad, Al-Birwa, Safad, Mansoura, and Ma’lul, among others. From this time on, Christmas had more than just a religious significance for thousands of Palestinians.

Between December 1947 and 1949, almost 800,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced, among them dozens of thousands of Palestinian Christians. Take the case of Jaffa, which in 1948 was home to almost 71,000 Palestinians, among them 16,000 Christians. After 1948, only 4,000 were allowed to remain, among them a few hundred Christians. The local Melkite Church was reduced from 2,000 faithful at Christmas 1947 to around 100 at Christmas 1948. In January 1948, 25 Palestinians and the Spanish Deputy Consul, Manuel Allende, were killed by a terror attack conducted by the Haganah against the Semiramis Hotel in Qatamon, a predominantly Palestinian Christian neighborhood of Jerusalem. They were celebrating Orthodox Christmas. This crime, together with the prominent massacre of Deir Yassin in April, prompted the exile of thousands of Jerusalemites from the western areas of the city.

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A Space Where Religion and Politics Meet

Posted on Dec 7, 2016

Nabi Musa as an Example of Islamic Festivals in Palestine

Sufis gathering in Nabi Salih in order to join the procession that leaves the Al-Aqsa Mosque for the Nabi Mousa Festival (at a shrine near Jericho), 2014. (Photo courtesy of: Nabhan Albabli, head of the Refayie branch of Sufism in Palestine)

by Mahmoud Abu Eid| This Week in Palestine | View PDF

O Jerusalem we’ve come to visit you in a celebration
At a festival that was built upon the shoulders of real men.
Your love is in our Hearts and minds
And it raises a fire in my heart [even if we are] far away from you.
Muhammad visited you and Jesus lived in you.
In you, the cross created its brotherhood with the crescent,
In you, the light of the Church of Resurrection is a candle,
And the minarets of Al-Aqsa are like the branches of beauty.
The walls of the city welcome everyone.
The Prophet said, to Al Aqsa we will head
And if I am far from you, my eye will not sleep.

Verse of a song that pilgrims sing on their way to mawasem (regional festivals)

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Book Review: Holy Lands: Reviving Pluralism in the Middle East

Posted on Dec 7, 2016


Holy Lands: Reviving Pluralism in the Middle East by Nicolas Pelham
Columbia Global Reports, New York 2016 | 183 pages, $18.00

Reviewed by Mahmoud Muna, The Educational Bookshop – Jerusalem | This Week in Palestine | View PDF

How did we get here? The Middle East of today is a place of no tolerance or harmony but a region full of sectarianism and racism. Holy Lands: Reviving Pluralism in the Middle East, an extensive work laid out in six political and historical essays by Nicolas Pelham, The Economist’s Middle East correspondent, is an attempt to understand how a congenial culture nose-dived into the misery of today.

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Palestinian Sufis in Gaza

Posted on Dec 7, 2016

“I follow the Way of Love,
and where Love’s caravan ta kes its path,
there is my religion, my faith.”

Sufi celebration in Gaza. Photo by Nabhan Albabli.

by Naryman Daqqa | This Week in Palestine, December 2016 | View PDF

This was the song of the Grand Sufi, Sheikh Muhi ud-Din bin Arabi, as he wandered the land of the Lord, humbly seeking divine love.

Have you ever thought of the meaning of Sufism? Sufism entered Islam as one of its schools, as a group that adopted a path different from that of Sunni and Shi’a Muslims. The origin of the name is disputed. Some connect it to the Ancient Greek sofia (wisdom), as Sufis strive to achieve wisdom by worshiping God and attaining a pure and loving soul. The British named the Sufis after the simple souf (wool textile) coats that the ascetic faithful used to wear as a form of practicing endurance in order to come closer to Allah. Sufism focuses on the spiritual dimension of Islam while also adhering to its other pillars. (The five pillars of Islam are shahada, sincere confession of faith; salat, prayer; sawm, fasting during Ramadan; zakat, giving of alms; and haji, the pilgrimage to Mekka.) Sufism is a path a believer undertakes to reach Allah; that is, to reach knowledge of Allah through efforts extended in rituals, by way of self-discipline, and by purifying the heart of any misconduct, hoping to reach a state called Ihsan. The belief is that Ihsan is to worship Allah as if you saw Him; and even if you do not see Him, He sees you.

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Confronting the Assyrian Christian Genocide in the Middle East

Posted on Dec 7, 2016

Hard Path. 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)

Teresa Donnellan | America Magazine, the National Catholic Review, Dec. 7, 2016

Over the course of 120 years living as Christians in the Middle East, Juliana Taimoorazy’s family has lost eight members to persecution “for their Christianity, for being Assyrian,” she said. Similarly over the last decade the Assyrian Christian population in Iraq has been decimated.

“I am very aware that my ethnicity is dying,” Ms. Taimoorazy said, warning Assyrians could see their culture melt away if regional persecution is not stopped.

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The Coordination of the Pastoral Care of Migrants meets with Archbishop Pizzaballa

Posted on Dec 7, 2016

The Coordination of the Pastoral Care of Migrants meets with Archbishop Pizzaballa

JERUSALEM – On Tuesday, December 6, 2016, members of the Coordination of the Pastoral Among Migrants met at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem to discuss the Church’s work with the migrants and asylum seekers and to meet with Archbishop Pizzaballa for the first time.

Present at the meeting were more than thirty members of the Filipino, Indian, Sri Lankan, African, Lebanese and Rumanian chaplaincies, priests and sisters, a representative of the prison ministry team, those working with the Israeli NGOs and the Bedouin and the parish priests of Haifa and Tiberias. The opening prayer was based on words of Pope Francis for the upcoming World Migrants’ Day in January.

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Bishop Raises Funds to Free ISIS hostages

Posted on Dec 6, 2016

Assyrian Christian bishop Mar Afram Athneil, right, greets Maryam David Thalya after her release from more than a year of captivity by the Islamic State group in this March 27, 2016 photo from the northeastern Syrian city of Hassakeh. Thalya was the last to be freed from 226 Assyrians captured by the militants when they overran Assyrian Christian villages in northern Syria. Working secretly, Athneil negotiated with the militants as the Assyrian diaspora worldwide donated money for ransoms. In the end, millions of dollars ended up in IS pockets, but the hostages were freed. (Assyrian Church of the East Relief Organization via AP video)

Dec 6 2016 – 2:43pm | Lori Hinnant – Associated Press

Deep inside Syria, a bishop worked secretly to save the lives of 226 members of his flock from the Islamic State group—by amassing millions of dollars from his community around the world to buy their freedom.

The Assyrian Christians were seized from the Khabur River valley in northern Syria, among the last holdouts of a minority that had been chased across the Mideast for generations. On Feb. 23, 2015, IS fighters attacked 35 Christian towns simultaneously, sweeping up scores of people.

It took more than a year, and videotaped killings of three captives, before all the rest were freed.

Paying ransoms is illegal in the United States and most of the West, and the idea of giving money to the Islamic State group is morally fraught, even for those who saw no alternative.

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Second Sunday of Advent: monks voices in the desert

Posted on Dec 6, 2016

Second Sunday of Advent: monks voices in the desert

by Cécile Klos | Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

JUDEA – Every second Sunday of Advent, the community of monks and nuns of Abu Gosh travel to the desert to sing Vespers. A manner for them to make verses of the psalms sound in another way in their hearts and in this country that is dear to them.

“A voice crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Every year on the second Sunday of Advent, the oracle of Isaiah is recalled in the Gospel.

Responding to this message, it is to the desert that the Olivetan Benedictine monks and nuns of the Abbey of Abu Gosh go and sing the Sunday Vespers.

Amid the desert dunes, the psalms are sung to thank God for the wonders of creation. “It’s a way for us to live the Word so embodied. We have answered the call to a life of prayer in this particular country, a country unlike any other. When we go to the desert, as now, to live this liturgical time at the place of the life of Christ, we do not really feel we have left our monastery because we remain at the very heart of the Word.”

To visit the website of the Abu Gosh community: https://abbaye-abugosh.info/

Community friends accompanied the Brothers and Sisters for this time of prayer outside the walls. Such surroundings readily invite one to prayer and the younger persons are much moved, as are the adults.

Since its founding in 1976, the Abbey of Abu Gosh has as its vocation to make the Word of God resound on this land so full of God, yet so wounded by human conflicts. Singing the Psalms in the desert is one way to place God at the heart of humans.

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The Palestine National Orchestra

Posted on Dec 5, 2016

Concerts on December 31 and January 1 (scroll down for details)


This Week in Palestine | View PDF

The Palestine National Orchestra (PNO) is Palestine’s first professional orchestra since 1948. Established in 2010 by the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM), it is a festival chamber orchestra that meets once or twice per year for intensive rehearsals and concert tours. Its members are professional musicians of Palestinian origin, as well as internationals with connections to Palestine. In addition to its performances in Palestine, the orchestra’s international tours have included Jordan (2012) and Indonesia (2013).

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Palestine: Cross-Border Celebrations

Posted on Dec 5, 2016

In a world often afflicted by a sense of exclusivism between religions, Palestine knows many instances of Muslim-Christian mutual openness and conviviality surrounding religious celebrations.

A Christmas procession in Beit Sahour. Photo courtesy of the Arab Educational Institute, Bethlehem.

by Fuad Giacaman and Toine van Teeffelen | This Week in Palestine | click for PDF

Jamila, a Muslim woman from Beit Sahour, cherishes special memories about Christmastime in her predominantly Christian town:

“As a six-year-old child, I lived near Shepherds Field in Beit Sahour. I used to meet with my Christian and Muslim friends to pray and sing Christmas hymns before the Christmas midnight Mass. We used to carry oil lamps and walk barefooted at night, heading towards Manger Square to commemorate the shepherds who were guided by the star to the birthplace of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. I also remember how during the Christmas feast our Christian neighbors used to come knocking at the door to offer us Christmas gifts and sweets. From our side, we as Muslims used to give them little gifts and sweets during Islamic feasts, such as katayef at the breaking of the fast in Ramadan (katayef is a sort of sweet dumpling filled with cream or nuts, and commonly eaten during Ramadan nights).”

In cities such as Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Ramallah, where Christian communities live side by side with the Muslim majority, one can still find many traces of border-crossing traditions.

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Feeling less alone: a Senior Center in Beit Sahour

Posted on Dec 5, 2016

The Senior Center in Beit Sahour cares for dozens of elderly people by involving them in various activities and programs to make them feel a little less alone.

A day care center where to spend time, get together and feel less alone. This center is located in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem: the elderly can benefit from recreation programs and activities that aim to foster, enrich and develop interpersonal relationships.

Member of Senior Center

“The center has been operating for over 27 years, but I began coming here only three years ago, because all my sons and my daughters are married, and my husband and I were alone… We are very happy: we come here to pray, play cards, chat, laugh and eat together.”

Singing, rejoicing and engaging in the suggested recreational activities: the center offers this and much more, to try to give these ‘differently young people’ a little affection and a lot of company.

Member of Senior Center

“I have been coming to this center for six years. I am very happy here. They offer a great service here, and it is better than staying at home alone. I have nowhere else to go.”

Director of Senior Center

“A senior who has worked all his life, deserves honor and respect. We have over 130 members whom we always try to help by making them feel useful and more capable of giving.”

A place that is the result of an act of love.

The elderly, as recalled by Pope Francis, have “the mission to witness to the values that really matter and which endure forever because they are engraved on the heart of every human being and guaranteed by the Word of God”.

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Palestinian village Susya tests citizen power

Posted on Dec 5, 2016

Susana Bates / Drew Altizer Photography / TheatreWorksU.S. Rep. Anna G. Eshoo was a keynote speaker at TheatreWorks Silicon Valleyâ s Leading Ladies event celebrating passion in arts and innovation, held Feb. 7, 2015, at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.

by Rabbi Arik Ascherman* | PUBLISHED: December 4, 2016 at 6:11 pm in the San Jose Mercury News, updated December 5, 2016

Nobody knows what will be the policy of the next administration regarding human rights in the Occupied Territories. As a rabbi and co-founder of the Israeli interfaith NGO Haqel (The Field): Arabs and Jews in Defense of Human Rights, I believe in God’s power to work miracles in the human heart. I also know that we need to be prepared for the worst.

While I can provide a long list of instances where the U.S. should have parlayed its friendship with Israel into more vigorous advocacy for human rights, there are instances where administrations from both parties have defended God’s Image in every human being.

One example is Susya, an “unrecognized” Palestinian village in the South Hebron Hills in the Occupied West Bank.

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No Nativity without Al-Majous

Posted on Dec 4, 2016

No Nativity without Al-Majous

St. Apollinaris Nuovo in Ravenna; the three Wise Men stepping forward with their gifts in outstretched arms. Photo courtesy of the author.

by Andreas F. Kuntz* | This Week in Palestine, December 2016 | View PDF

Everybody knows the Wise Men (also called Magi and in Arabic al-majous) who came from afar to Palestine around 2,000 years ago. They belong to Christmas celebrations, to Christmas-crib exhibitions, and are featured in many of the images that show the baby Jesus being worshiped. For Bethlehem, they mean even much more: A main street in the historic center is named after the star they followed. Star Street has been listed by UNESCO World Heritage as a pilgrimage route together with a centuries-old church, the Church of the Nativity.

But there are even more reasons why the Wise Men should have a place in Christian religious celebrations in Bethlehem. The Wise Men represent a special kind of pilgrim, coming from outside the Levant.

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Pope Francis meets U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Vatican

Posted on Dec 2, 2016

Pope Francis meets U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Vatican Dec. 2, 2016. Credit: L’Osservatore Romano.

by Elise Harris, Vatican City, Dec 2, 2016 / 07:58 am (CNA/EWTN News)

While he was in town for a global meeting on the crisis in the Mediterranean region, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stopped by the Vatican for a meeting with Pope Francis that likely centered largely on the challenges of migration.

Kerry is currently in Rome for the three-day “Rome Med – Mediterranean Dialogues” meeting, which this year runs Dec. 1-3. The second annual event is a high-level initiative of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, as well as the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI).

The main purpose of the gathering is to draft a “positive agenda” for the Mediterranean region given the current challenges by coming up with new ideas and rethinking traditional approaches at both the local and international levels.

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Sabeel Christmas Message, 2016

Posted on Dec 2, 2016

151201 sabeel

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will towards men and women.
Sabeel Christmas Message, 2016*



Dear Friends,

Christmas is a time of joy. Amid the sorrows and hardships of daily life, we need the Christmas spirit, the good news and gladness of Christmas. The birth of Jesus Christ gives us joy and hope, “to you is born … a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Christmas never fails to refresh and renew us so that we can cope with the difficulties of daily life.

Yet the Christmas story is also full of trauma and tragedy. The beauty and innocence of the Christ child is juxtaposed with the selfishness and cruelty of Herod and the callousness of the people of power.

As we reflect on the Christmas story this season, what are some of the relevant lessons that we can learn?

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Christian Religious Celebrations in Palestine

Posted on Dec 2, 2016

patriarch-michel-sabbahby  Patriarch Michel Sabbah* | This Week in Palestine, December 2016 | View PDF

Every day is a feast that we celebrate with gratitude. Palestinian Christians end the liturgical year with two feasts, honoring All Saints Day on November 1 and commemorating the dead on All Souls Day on November 2.

The main feasts for the Virgin Mary include the Annunciation on March 25, which recalls the appearance of Angel Gabriel to Mary in Nazareth as he announced that she would be the mother of the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ (Lk 1:26–39; Jn 1:1–5, 14). This day is the feast of the city of Nazareth.

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Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews meets with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel

Posted on Dec 2, 2016

Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews meets with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel

Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

[See also “Israel Chief Rabbinate and Vatican Commission Delegates meeting: a very special harmony pervades“]

The Bilateral Commission Meeting of the Delegations of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews took place in Rome, in November 28-30, 2016 in presence of Cardinal Turkson, Archbishop Pizzaballa, Bishop Marcuzzo, and several rabbis, among them the rabbis Rasson Arussi and David Rosen. Below is the full text of the declaration issued at the end of the meeting. The main theme : promoting peace in the face of violence in the name of religion.

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Jewish-Christian relations highlighted in latest Current Dialogue

Posted on Dec 2, 2016

World Council of Churches

29 November 2016

At the close of the 50th year since promulgation of Vatican II’s declaration on Christian relations with other religions, relations between Christians and Jews, and between Christians and Muslims, are freshly explored in the just-released issue of Current Dialogue.

The publication, now in its 58th issue, is compiled and edited by the World Council of Churches (WCC) programme on Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation.

The issue features a dozen Christian and Jewish theologians reflecting on the state of Jewish-Christian relations today and whether there exists a “special relationship” between the two religious traditions. In a related feature, Lawrence H. Schiffman writes on “what Jewish-Christian relations in antiquity can teach us today.”

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Bethlehem prepares as Christmas approaches

Posted on Dec 2, 2016

The region of Bethlehem is hoping that this year the arrival of pilgrims will boost tourism, which has been in crisis for more than two years. The hotels at this time of year are usually filled to 80/90 percent occupancy but did not reach half that figure last year, according to the Palestinian Authority’s estimate. The losses are colossal in this city, surrounded by the separation wall. Bethlehem, where one in five workers is unemployed, lives mainly from tourism.

Bethlehem prepares as Christmas approaches

by Vivien Laguette | Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

BEIT JALA / BETHLEHEM – Since the First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2016, the city of Judea where the Savior was born has been preparing to celebrate Christmas

On Sunday, November 27, Bishop Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem and Palestine, celebrated Mass in the local parish Church of the Annunciation in the town of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem. He took the opportunity to recall, in his homily, the four different times of the coming of Christ throughout history.

“The first time, he explained, is in the past with the birth of Christ, the fairest of the sons of men. The birth of the Messiah, awaited for centuries, welcomed by the tenderness of a mother.”

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Follow-up on meetings about getting Palestinian villages on maps

Posted on Dec 1, 2016

Tamsin of Rebuilding Alliance writes about bringing a delegation from Palestine and Israel to meet Congressional staff in person. Their goal is to get Palestinian villages on maps.

Our delegation, including a distinguished artist from the Palestinian village of Um al Kheir as well as two mapping experts from the Israeli human rights group Bimkom, was well-received at every office we visited. Here are the House and Senate offices we met with on Nov. 14 and 15:

Rep. Womack (R-AR), Sen. Casey (D-PA), Rep. Bishop (R-MI), Rep. Bonamici (D-OR), Sen. Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Markey (D-MA), Rep. Ellison (D-MN), Sen. Boozman (R-AR), Sen. Murray (D-WA), Sen. Warren (D-MA), Rep. Eshoo (D-CA).

We visited the Monday after the election, and nearly everyone was wondering what the future will hold. We got a variety of responses from staffers, many of whom were unsure how the issue of Palestinian rights will be dealt with when the new administration comes in. Many of them acknowledged that while Congress cannot demand anything of private companies, it is important for the mapping companies to show what exists in reality. Several offices agreed that it seemed strange that Israeli settlements are mapped, while Palestinian villages have been left off, and promised to do what they can to contact Google and Apple.

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Senator George J. Mitchell: A Guide to Brokering Peace

Posted on Dec 1, 2016

The Editors, America Magazine, the National Catholic Review, Nov. 30, 2016

In this week’s podcast, Senator George J. Mitchell speaks to Tim Reidy and Kevin Clarke about his experience negotiating peace deals in the Middle East and Northern Ireland. His latest book, A Path to Peace, written with Alon Sachar, lays out possible avenues for peace in the Middle East going forward. George J. Mitchell was the primary architect of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement for peace in Northern Ireland and served as U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace.

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Is Europe doing enough to protect persecuted Christians?

Posted on Dec 1, 2016

Credit: UnSplash

Vienna, Austria, Dec 1, 2016 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- European leaders gathered this week at a conference in Vienna to discuss Christian persecution and its resounding effect on Europe, particularly emphasizing the need to seriously address religious discrimination and genocide around the world.

“The persecution faced by Christians around the world must be recognized and treated by the international community with the seriousness it deserves,” Ellen Fantini, executive director of the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians, stated Nov. 29.

“The pressure faced by Christians in Europe is much more subtle – what Pope Francis has called ‘polite persecution’.”

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Churches’ diaconal action in the Middle East analyzed

Posted on Dec 1, 2016

World Council of Churches

© Bethany M. Waggoner

01 December 2016 – The story shared by Fr Yukoub Babawe of the Oum-El-Nour Relief Committee of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Iraq’s city of Erbil moved and challenged participants at a recent meeting in Beirut.

Each day churches in Erbil have offered shelter, food and basic support to more than 20,000 people from the Nineveh plain and Mosul during an occupation by terrorist fighters from the group calling itself Islamic State.

Yukoub outlined Oum-El-Nour’s initiatives and revealed the suffering of the internally displaced, whilst elucidating on massive efforts and solidarity from the local community and the church in their diaconal work.

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