Seeking truth and justice

Trump visits Holy Sepulcher and Western Wall in Holy Land

Posted on May 22, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump places a note in the Western Wall in Jerusalem on May 22. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

U.S. President Donald Trump places a note in the Western Wall in Jerusalem on May 22. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

Judith Sudilovsky – Catholic News Service

Following his official welcome to Jerusalem by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, U.S. President Donald Trump began his two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories with a private visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Western Wall.

Details of the visits to the holy sites had been a carefully guarded secret until the last moment, but from early on May 22 the alleyways of the Old City were closed to both residents and tourists, and the main thoroughfares leading to the Old City were closed off to all traffic.

Under tight security and led by the traditional kawas honor guard announcing the way with the thumping of their ornamental staffs, the president made his way by foot through the Old City’s alleyways to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. He and first lady Melania Trump were welcomed at the entrance of the church courtyard by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Archbishop Theophilos III; Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, custos of the Holy Land; and Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manougian. The president spoke briefly to the religious leaders and stopped at the entrance of the church for a group photograph after also speaking to a few other religious.

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“For I was in prison and you visited me not”

Posted on May 21, 2017


by James M. Wall

The full text of Matthew 25:42-43, condemns the sins of those who neither see, hear, nor care about those who suffer.

.  .  .  For I was hungry, and you gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited me not. (KJV)

Do not think for a single moment that Jesus was referring solely to a “brief, but helpful visit” to a prisoner’s cell.

“Visit” in this context means attention must be paid and action must be taken.

With absolute power in its hands, and only scattered opposition from outside, Israel is especially hard on Gaza families.

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Samia Khoury: Enough Is Enough

Posted on May 20, 2017

Samia Khoury writes from Jerusalem [regarding the hunger strike, see also from the message from the Jewish Voice for Peace]:

Dear Friends:

How would you feel if your son or daughter went on a hunger strike demanding justice for more than a month, and nobody bothered to call you or check on you and your beloved one? The silence is so loud that our hearts bleed with those mothers who are gathering daily in various areas including the Red Cross offices in the Palestinian Territories. Yet there is no reaction or action from the Israeli authorities or the international community to respond to their demands for basic rights as political prisoners, in accordance to the Geneva Convention. So many of those political prisoners have been under administrative detention without any charge or trial.

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Nablus: “Samaritan Sunday” of the Greek-Orthodox people

Posted on May 19, 2017

The faithful recalled, together with Patriarch Theophilus III, the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman, in the church that houses Jacob’s well.

Photina, from the Greek “bright”.
The Greek Orthodox tradition gives this name to the Samaritan woman, protagonist of the encounter with Jesus at Jacob’s well, narrated in John’s Gospel.

The episode was recalled at Nablus on Sunday, May 14, in the church that still houses that same well.

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Parliamentary Riffraff

Posted on May 19, 2017

by Uri Avnery

WHEN I first entered the Knesset, I was shocked by the low standard of its debates. Speeches were full of clichés, platitudes and party slogans, the intellectual content was almost nil.

That was 52 years ago. Among the members were David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, Levi Eshkol and several others of their kind.

Today, looking back, that Knesset looks like an Olympus, compared to the present composition of that non-august body.

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1217-2017: 800 Years of Franciscan Presence in the Holy Land

Posted on May 18, 2017

This current year is highly significant for us. Precisely 800 years ago, during the Chapter of Pentecost celebrated at Saint Mary of the Angels, in the Portiuncula, Assisi, our Order opened up its vision to the missionary and universal dimension. In that occasion the Chapter decided to send friars in all the regions of the known world, as witnesses of fraternity and peace.

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WCC calls for prayer for just peace in the Holy Land

Posted on May 18, 2017

Olive tree from the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem ©L.Ranarison / WCC

World Council of Churches

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is calling on Christians worldwide to join in prayer for just peace in the Holy Land by taking part in a Pentecost prayer service on Monday 5 June 2017.

Tied directly to the churches’ celebrations of Pentecost, the service, entitled “Come, Spirit of Peace: A Global Day of Prayer for Just Peace in the Holy Land,” is meant to invoke the Holy Spirit to inspire further engagement by Christians everywhere in the quest for peace and justice in the conflictive arena of Israel and Palestine.

Arranged at the invitation of heads of churches in the Jerusalem area, the service will take place the day after Pentecost (Monday, 5 June 2017) at 11:00 a.m., Jerusalem time, in Jerusalem’s Upper Room (Cenacle) on Mount Zion. It will be followed by a session at the Dormition Abbey, where participants can share the various initiatives they are undertaking to build peace in the Holy Land.

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The hunger strike should be on the front page of every paper

Posted on May 17, 2017


May 16, 2017 – Page 1 of the NY Times? Nothing. International section? Still nothing. HuffPost? Not that I could find. And The Forward? Nothing.

It’s Day 30 of a 1,600 person hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners, and media is essentially silent.

The hunger strike should be on the fron page of every paper.

The NY Times, to be fair, did publish an op-ed by strike leader Marwan Barghouthi as the hunger strike began. But even then, they buckled to right-wing pressure and published a “correction” labeling him a terrorist.

So last week, we launched a Letter to the Editor campaign – and 1,000 JVP supporters like you wrote in to the Times asking for more and better coverage of this quite literally urgent story.

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Holy Qurobo at Mor Aphraim Church – Washington DC

Posted on May 17, 2017

His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II celebrated the Holy Qurobo at Mor Aphraim Church in Washington DC.

His Eminence Mor Dionysius John Kawak, Patriarchal Vicar for the Archdiocese of Eastern USA, assisted His Holiness in the Holy Qurobo.

In his sermon, His Holiness spoke about the tribulations and persecutions that come on Christians in this world and how a Christian believer is in the world but not of this world.

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UNESCO Urges Israel to Ease Access for Humanitarian Organizations in Gaza Strip

Posted on May 17, 2017

UNESCO adopted a resolution which urges Israel to open and facilitate access to the Gaza Strip.

An Israeli tank drives next to Erez Border crossing between the Gaza strip and Southern Israel, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012.

An Israeli tank drives next to Erez Border crossing between the Gaza strip and Southern Israel, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) May 2, 2017  — The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Tuesday adopted a resolution which urges Israel to open and facilitate access to the Gaza Strip for humanitarian organizations.

“The Executive Board… deplores the continuous Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip, which harmfully affects the free and sustained movement of personnel, students and humanitarian relief items and requests Israel to immediately ease this closure,” the resolution read.

Earlier in the day, UNESCO’s executive committee passed a resolution on Israel, referred to as “the occupying power” in the document, which criticizes the nation’s activity in the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. In particular, the resolution qualified Israel’s activity in East Jerusalem as illegal under international law and urged for the appointment of a permanent representative responsible for monitoring the fields of UNESCO’s competence.

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On Nakba 69, Israel Kills a Palestinian Fisherman

Posted on May 16, 2017

by James M. Wall

His name is Muhammad Majid Bakr. He was a 23-year-old Palestinian fisherman killed by an Israeli rifleman patroling on a naval boat in the Gaza Sea.

When he was shot, Muhammad Majid Bakr (left) was fishing at 8:30, Monday morning, 69 years since the day the Nakba began.

Muhammad was shot in the chest when he and his brother Umran Majid Bakr, were in their small fishing boat in the waters of the Gaza Sea.

Bleeding profusely, Muhammad was taken to an Israeli hospital where he died, the latest Palestinian victim whose death came, Israeli officials claim, because his boat had “deviated from the designated fishing zone”.

The Bakr brothers had entered the Gaza Sea the morning of the day Muhammed died, to fish for food to eat, to share, perhaps to sell.

They had traveled from their home in al-Shati, refugees in their own land, a land which has suffered under colonial occupation since the army of a newly-formed state of Israel began its invasion of Palestine on May 15, 1948, 69 years ago.

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Archbishop Pizzaballa in Texas, and Washington, DC, and New York

Posted on May 16, 2017


USA – Following his visit to California [see Archbishop Pizzaballa welcomed by the Arab American Community in California ], Archbishop Pizzaballa continued his pastoral visit to various dioceses in the United States from May 9 -14, 2017. He met with religious and political figures, the Good Shepherd Arabic American community and many Knights and Ladies of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher.

Arriving in Texas on May 9, the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem met with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Sir Thomas Standish of the lieutenancy of Southwestern – Bishop Joseph Fiorenza, Archbishop Emeritus and Bishop George Sheltz, Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, and Bishop William Michael Mulvey from the Diocese of Corpus Christi.

On May 10 and 11, 2017, Bishop Pizzaballa visited Washington, DC, where he was welcomed by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, Bishop Emeritus Denis Madden of Baltimore and H.E. Michael Ruck with some Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher from the Middle Atlantic Lieutenancy. Later in the day, he also met with Mr. Jason Greenblatt, Assistant to President Trump for International Relations.

On May 11, Archbishop Pizzaballa met with Ms. Pamela Pryor of the State Department Office of International Religious Freedom and Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia.

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Catholic Church in the Holy Land says the Israel-Palestine situation “cannot be considered normal”

Posted on May 15, 2017

Palestinian protesters run for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli troops in clashes on May 15 during a protest in the West Bank town of Bethlehem marking the 69th anniversary of their uprooting. Palestinians call the 1948 uprooting "nakba" or catastrophe. (CNS photo/Ammar Awad, Reuters)

Palestinian protesters run for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli troops in clashes on May 15 during a protest in the West Bank town of Bethlehem marking the 69th anniversary of their uprooting. Palestinians call the 1948 uprooting “nakba” or catastrophe. (CNS photo/Ammar Awad, Reuters)

by Gerard O’Connell | Vatican Correspondent | America, the Jesuit Review | May 15, 2017

“The local Church in Israel-Palestine has the responsibility of reminding the Universal Church that Israel-Palestine is an open, festering wound and that the situation cannot be considered normal,” the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic bishops of the Holy Land states in a document issued in Jerusalem on May 14.

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BDS: Upholding our Rights, Resisting the Ongoing Nakba

Posted on May 15, 2017

The BNC Commemorates the 69th Anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba

The Palestinian Nakba, 1948

Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC)

It is possible…
It is possible at least sometimes…
It is possible especially now
To ride a horse
Inside a prison cell
And run away…
It is possible for prison walls
To disappear.
For the cell to become a distant land
Without frontiers
–  Mahmoud Darwish

May 15, 2017 marks the 69th anniversary of the 1948 Nakba, the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland. Between 1947 and 1949, Zionist paramilitaries, and subsequently Israeli forces, made 750,000 to one million indigenous Palestinians into refugees to establish a Jewish-majority state in Palestine.

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Vocation Day at Our Lady of Peace Center

Posted on May 14, 2017

Rémy Brun | Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

AMMAN – Earlier in the month of May, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem held a day for vocations. It is a creative initiative to invite young people to deepen their faith in the light of the Word.

Our Lady of Peace Center hosted for the first time this year a day of spiritual retreat for the youth. The purpose of this event was to allow them to focus on the essentials of the Christian faith and reflect on their vocation by gazing at and listening to the Lord. Father Samer Madanat, in charge of vocations and responsible for the spiritual year at the Latin Patriarchate Seminary, guided this day in the model of an Ignatian retreat. The young people also met with religious men and women from different communities.

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Furniture and Olive Trees

Posted on May 14, 2017

Lag BaOmer 2017

Sunday, May 14 – the 33 days between Passover and Shavuot — is a Jewish holiday marking the cessation of a divinely-sent plague which killed thousands of people. According to one explanation, the plague was sent because people treated one another disrespectfully. This day is celebrated with bonfires and great joy. In Israel on Lag BaOmer a pall of smoke hovers over Jerusalem from all the bonfires throughout the city.

In past years, it has become a tradition among settlers in Hebron to break into the homes of Palestinians and steal property to use as fodder for bonfires. We hope that such abominations are not repeated this year. Destroying and vandalizing Palestinian property is unfortunately a matter of routine in the West Bank. A UN report notes that in 2016, settlers destroyed more than 1300 Palestinian-owned olive trees. This year, in April alone, over 200 trees were destroyed by settlers. This doesn’t include attacks on Palestinians who were working in their orchards, cultivating land, herding flocks, or even in their own homes. There is an average of two attacks per week against Palestinians.

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Learned Ignorance: Intellectual Humility among Jews, Christians, and Muslims

Posted on May 14, 2017

Edited by James L. Heft, S. M., Reuven Firestone, and Omid Safi

Constructive interreligious dialogue is only a recent phenomenon. Until the nineteenth century, most dialogue among believers was carried on as a debate aimed either to disprove the claims of the other, or to convert the other to one’s own tradition. At the end of the nineteenth century, Protestant Christian missionaries of different denominations had created such a cacophony amongst themselves in the mission fields that they decided that it would be best if they could begin to overcome their own differences instead of confusing and even scandalizing the people whom they were trying to convert. By the middle of the twentieth century, the horrors of the Holocaust compelled Christians, especially mainline Protestants and Catholics, to enter into a serious dialogue with Jews, one of the consequences of which was the removal of claims by Christians to have replaced Judaism, and revising text books that communicated that message to Christian believers.

Now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, many branches of Christianity, not least the Catholic Church, are engaged in a world-wide constructive dialogue with Muslims, made all the more necessary by the terrorist attacks of September 11.

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St. Yves unifies a Palestinian family after years of dispersion

Posted on May 12, 2017

A wide range of policies and legal frameworks were set by the Israelis to discriminate against Palestinians and created to hinder family unification procedures. In 2003 the situation deteriorated: all family unifica­tion applications where frozen by an Israeli Ministerial Decree. The Israeli Knesset passed a bill into law which is called: The Nationality and Entry into Israel (Temporary Order) Law, 5763-2003. It nullified the procedures for fa­mily unification of citizens holding an Israeli passport or a Jerusalem ID with residents of the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Children born in the West Bank are forbidden under this law to live in Jerusalem or in Israeli with their family. After 14 years of the implementation of this “tem­porary order”, the law is still in force in 2017.

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Regarding Christians fleeing the Middle East

Posted on May 12, 2017

Christians are increasingly fleeing the Middle East, driven both by extremism and governments backing the U.S. war on terrorism, reports Maria Abi-Habib for the Wall Street Journal.

“By 2025, Christians are expected to represent just over 3% of the Mideast’s population, down from 4.2% in 2010, according to Todd Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Mass. A century before, in 1910, the figure was 13.6%…”

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Festival: “Nablus Road Open Day”

Posted on May 12, 2017


The second edition of the Nablus Road Open Day Festival has given life to the street in the heart of Jerusalem, known for its historical and archaeological sites. From May 4 to May 6, thousands of local residents came to participate in various cultural, artistic and recreational activities, organized after a long period of abandonment, due in particular to the demographic change of the last fifty years.

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A Curious National Home

Posted on May 12, 2017

by Uri Avnery | Gush Shalom

THE PRESENT Israeli government coalition consists of 67 (out of 120) members of the Knesset.

Each member wants to be elected again (and again and again).

In order to be reelected, he or she must attract the attention of the public.

How? The simplest way is to propose a new law. A bill so outrageous, that the media cannot possible ignore it.

This sets up a natural competition. To draw attention, each new bill must be a bit more outrageous than the last. The sky is the limit. Perhaps.

THE LAST bill, concocted by a Member who is an ex-secret service chief, is called “Israel – the National State of the Jewish People”.

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From Hebron, May 2017

Posted on May 12, 2017

Photos taken the first week of May by members of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron

Click here for the 2017 First Quarter Report by the Team

Child detentions

Pictured here: Many young Palestinian men and boys were targeted by Israeli forces this week who accuse them of throwing stones in the clashes last week. In the above photo, a 14-year-old boy from a village outside of al-Khalil/Hebron was on his way with two of his friends to pray at Ibrahimi mosque when soldiers detained him for over an hour, questioned him, and blindfolded him before taking him into the military base. Also, a 16-year-old boy from the Old City was taken by Israeli soldiers behind the military gate and detained for 20 minutes. (May 1 & 6, 2017)

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The Settlement Legality Debate

Posted on May 12, 2017

The resurgence of debates about legality, particularly the legality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, has become an unexpected feature of public discussion of Israel/Palestine over the past decade.

Photo: Settlers rejoice in 1975 after pushing the Israeli government in the direction of legitimating settlements.

by Nathaniel Berman | Brown University | Tikkun | May 11, 2017

I. Why Now?

The resurgence of debates about legality, particularly the legality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, has become an unexpected feature of public discussion of Israel/Palestine over the past decade. This resurgence has been primarily the work of two kinds of forces. On the one hand, pro-settler advocates have been asserting that the pervasive international view of the illegality of the settlements is simply wrong. Such advocates range from a 2012 Israeli government “Report on the Status of Building in the Region of Judea and Samaria” (the “Levy Commission Report”), to articles published in the right-wing press, to activists relentlessly advancing such views in social media. On the other hand, the illegality of the settlements has been vigorously asserted by those active in international campaigns critical of Israel, especially the BDS movement. This article will primarily focus on the pro-settler use of the legality argument, evaluating its soundness and considering the contextual significance of its resurgence.

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50 years of the “temporary” Israeli occupation

Posted on May 12, 2017

Commentary: The month of June will mark 50 years of the “temporary” Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights. Renewed interest in resolving Israeli control of the Palestinians is evidenced by the mainly younger Jewish participants in the recent meeting in Chicago of Jewish Voice for Peace, the continuing hunger strike of Palestinians in Israeli jails, commemoration of the War of Independence and Six Day War in Israel, and the promise of President Trump to work with the Israelis and Palestinians “to work a deal” to finally resolve their conflict. Without an end to the occupation, the establishment of two autonomous states, or of one state with equal rights and responsibilities for all Israelis and Palestinians, the future promises only more and increasing conflict and violence for the people between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. The Israeli need for security and the Palestinian need for freedom must be acknowledged before any creative negotiations can take place between those controlling and those under their control.

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Russia funding reconstruction work in Bethlehem

Posted on May 11, 2017

Russia is funding the reconstruction work in the historic center of the city of Bethlehem, where Jesus was born.


Sputnik | May 11, 2017

The Russian government has allocated $4 million to Palestine for reconstruction work in the historic center of the city of Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, the head of the Russian Representative Office to the Palestinian National Authority told Sputnik Thursday, May 11.

“The reconstruction of Star Street in the historic center of Bethlehem is a Russian project implemented jointly with the foreign and finance ministries of Palestine and the Bethlehem mayoral office,” Aydar Aganin said.

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Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby visits Cremisan

Posted on May 11, 2017

Photo credit: The British Consulate in Jerusalem

The Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Justin Welby visited Cremisan in Beit-Jala, on Monday the 8th of May 2017, receiving the latest updates on the case and witnessing the drastic damages incurred in the area since constructing the annexation wall.

His Grace Justin Welby started his visit by a legal briefing at the Salesian sisters’ Convent by the Society of St. Yves – Catholic Center for Human Rights, addressing legal aspects of the case and its most recent developments in the legal battle that lasted nine years in the Israeli courts.

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Christians and Jews today: “Encounter must be face to face”

Posted on May 10, 2017


Rabbi David Meyer

Interview with Belgian Rabbi David Meyer, lecturer at the “Cardinal Bea” Center for Judaic Studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Rabbi Meyer has taught in various countries, from Belgium to Peru, from China to Italy. In this interview he tells us about the approach to the other in Jewish tradition and the complexity of interreligious dialogue in the Holy Land in addition to his personal experience of dialogue.

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Archbishop Pizzaballa welcomed by the Arab American Community in California

Posted on May 9, 2017


During the ceremony, the Apostolic Administrator awarded the Gold Medal of the Holy Sepulcher to Msgr. Labib Kopti, in appreciation for his long years of service to the Arab Catholic communities in California and the founding of two Arabic-speaking Catholic communities: one at St. Joseph Parish in Pomona (southern California), and St. Thomas More Parish in San Francisco.

Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

USA – On Friday, May 5, 2017, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa met with Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and Vice President of the US Catholic Conference of Bishops, Vice Governor General Patrick Powers of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem and Knights and Ladies of the USA Western Lieutenancy.

On May 6, 2017, the Archbishop met with the Arab Catholic community in Redlands and conferred the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation to the children in Pomona. On May 7, 2017, Archbishop Pizzaballa met with the Arab Catholic community in San Francisco. He conferred the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation to the children at St. Thomas More Church. in the presence numerous faithful and some Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher of the Northwestern Lieutenancy.

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Brighten the Future of Gaza’s Children

Posted on May 9, 2017

Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children

Donna Baranski-Walker, Founder & Executive Director, Rebuilding Alliance, writes:

Recently, the Gaza Power Plant entirely shut down, leaving 1.2 million people in total darkness, and this isn’t the first time. I am writing to ask your help because your action now can give Gaza’s children light and hope.

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The first network of Islamic and Christian university institutes in the Arab world

Posted on May 8, 2017

The first permanent liaison network between Islamic and Christian university institutions and centers in the Arab countries has been inaugurated in Amman. The initiative took place during the conference promoted from May 3 to 6 in Amman by the Kaiciid International Dialogue Center and the Diyar Consortium.

The crucial role of university institutions in countering or fomenting the manipulations of theological and doctrinal content has long been called into question by the work of political leaders and analysts who are questioning how to get out from sectarian conflicts that torment the region.

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