Posts made in June, 2015

Chlorine weapons allegations against both sides in Syria

Posted on Jun 30, 2015

Pope Francis meets with Ahmet Üzümcü, the Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), at the Vatican, 27 September 2013. – ANSA

(Vatican Radio) June 26, 2015 – The United Nations Security Council on Friday held an informal meeting on how the international community should respond to the Syrian civil war.

Activists claim more people were killed in May 2015 than in any other month of the war. Even worse, both the government and rebels are accusing each other of using chlorine as a weapon.

“There are allegations of use claimed by Syrian authorities: They claim that some opposition groups have used them,” said Ahmet Üzümcü, the Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Here is an account of Marie Duhamel’s interview with Ahmet Üzümcü:

“One of the teams was in Damascus recently, and they are inquiring about them,” Üzümcü told Vatican Radio. “But there is another team which is dealing with the other allegations by the opposition groups, they claim that the Syrian government did use chlorine against them. So this is an ongoing work, but generally speaking, the progress has been quite significant which I welcome and this is a good example of the determination and the political will demonstrated by the international community as a whole.”

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United Church of Christ Votes to Boycott & Divest from Companies Profiting from Israel’s Occupation

Posted on Jun 30, 2015


United Church of Christ, June 30, 2015 – The United Church of Christ Palestine-Israel Network (UCC PIN) is pleased to announce that today the plenary of the 30th General Synod taking place in Cleveland passed Resolution #4, calling for boycotts and divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.

“As disciples of Jesus, we hear and seek to heed his call to be peacemakers, responding to violence with nonviolence and extending love to all,” said Rev. John Deckenback, Conference Minister of the Central Atlantic Conference of the UCC, which submitted the resolution to the synod. “It is in that spirit of love for both Israelis and Palestinians, and a desire to support Palestinians in their nonviolent struggle for freedom, that the United Church of Christ has passed this resolution.”

“In approving this resolution, the UCC has demonstrated its commitment to justice and equality,” said Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Christian Palestinian and Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, who travelled to Cleveland for the synod. “For Palestinians living under occupation or facing systematic discrimination as citizens of Israel, enduring the destruction of their homes and businesses, the theft of their land for settlements, and living under blockade and siege in Gaza, this action sends a strong signal that they are not alone, and that there are churches who still dare to speak truth to power and stand with the oppressed.”

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Orthodox Patriarch Aphrem II:“I only ask the West one thing: Stop arming our assassins”

Posted on Jun 30, 2015

Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Aphrem II

By Gianna Valente, June 29, 2015 – Interview with the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch, Aphrem II: martyrdom is not a human sacrifice offered to God in order to obtain his favour. This is why it is blasphemous to call suicide bombers “martyrs”.

“When we look at martyrs we see that the Church is not just one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Throughout its journey through history the Church has also been a suffering Church.” According to the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, martyrdom reveals an essential element of the nature of the Church. A connotation that could be added to those professed in the Creed and which always accompanies those who follow in Christ’s footsteps, whatever life throws at them, acting as his disciples. This is a distinctive trait which can be clearly seen now in many of the experiences Christians and Churches in the Middle East are facing.

In recent days, Patriarch Aphrem – who met the Pope in Rome on 19 June – has become involved in the trials and tribulations that are afflicting his people. His last pastoral mission, which has just come to an end, was in Qamishli, his home town. He went there to meet the thousands of new Christian refugees who fled after IS jihadists launched an offensive against the nearby urban centre of Hassake, in the Syria’s north-eastern Jazira province.

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A large meeting of solidarity and prayer at Tabgha

Posted on Jun 29, 2015

In the wake of the arson perpetrated against the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves in Tabgha, many testimonials of solidarity flowed in. A large gathering of prayer and unity was held on Sunday 21 June 2015.

(Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) Tabgha, July 29, 2015 – The news is already sadly known: at the night of the 18th of June, some unknown figures set fire to the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and to the adjacent Benedictine Monastery. Thanks to the immediate intervention of Benedictine monks and their volunteers, only the southern part of the atrium was completely destroyed by the flames. This meditated criminal and very serious act, have stirred tremendous emotion within the Christian community of Israel, including all denominations, also among Moslems, Druze and Jews.

Days of intense solidarity

Over four days after the vandalism, it was an on-going pilgrimage of solidarity, starting with the Latin Patriarchal Vicar, Mgr Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, who on behalf of the Patriarch and the Assembly of Catholic Bishops, was the first to show up on site early Thursday morning. Until Sunday evening, end of the demonstration of young Galileans, thousands called on the Benedictine monks to express their solidarity: families, parishioners, schools, movements, institutions, of all religious ranks.

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International conference on religious tourism in Bethlehem

Posted on Jun 29, 2015

An international conference on religious tourism with the goal of promoting local growth was held in Bethlehem.

Christian Media Center, June 22, 2015 – “Promote sustainable socio-economic development for the host communities:” this is the topic at the international conference on religious tourism that was held in Bethlehem on June 15 and 16. The regional program for tourism in the Middle East, a part of the UN’s World Organization for Tourism, promoted the event in cooperation with the Palestinian Tourism Ministry.

Promoter, International Conference on Religious Tourism
“This is a historic conference, because it is the first time that the United Nations has organized a conference in Palestine, as a host country; this is an opportunity for tourism but it is also political.”

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Summary of the content of the Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Palestine

Posted on Jun 29, 2015

…based on the text provided by L’Osservatore Romano.

by Father Imad Twal, General Administrator

Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, June 28, 2015 – The following is a summary of the content of the Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Palestine, based on the text provided by L’Osservatore Romano.

The Agreement has a specific nature that takes into account the legal and political situations that surround the conflict, and the rules that have gradually built up over the centuries.

The Preamble, which refers to current international law, frames a series of key points: the self-determination of the Palestinian people; the objective of the two-state solution; the meaning, not only symbolic, of Jerusalem, in terms of its holy character for Jews, Christians and Muslims and its universal religious and cultural value as heritage for all humanity; and the Holy See’s interests in the Holy Land.

The two Parties, considering their mutual daily relations, indicate in the negotiated agreement a way of working, together and separately, not only in defining the condition of the Catholic Church in Palestine but also for the good of people and institutions. The Agreement is therefore an instrument for use in the process of attaining that just and lasting peace that may be the result only of an agreement between the Palestinian and Israeli authorities. The idea that the future of the Holy Land rests in the hands of the actors present there is supported by the Holy See’s wish to exercise her educational, spiritual and moral mission, but with reference to and amplifying the formula of Article 24 of the Lateran Pact, the Holy See shall take no part in any temporal rivalries between other States, nor in any international congresses called to settle such matters, save and except in the event of such parties making a mutual appeal to the pacific mission of the Holy See .

Chapter 2 of the Agreement relates to the theme of freedom of worship and conscience, exploring its various dimensions and content, ranging from the civil effects of canonical marriage, the customary facilities for the different rites, respect for feast days and the right of Christians who work in public offices to be able comply with the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, religious assistance for the armed forces and prisoners, and the right of parents to impart a religious and moral education to their children. The explicit acknowledgement of authentic conscientious objection as a practice consistent with the right of freedom of thought, belief and religion is notable for its current relevance.

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Patriarch Sabbah: “To our people, do not be disturbed, do not heed the sedition”

Posted on Jun 28, 2015, June 27 2015 – Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem of the Latins [Roman Catholics] Michel Sabbah said on Friday, June 26: “We are determined to keep on staying in our land. We fear nothing and we do not want protection from anybody.” He made this statement in response to a statement issued by the Bait Al Maqdis (Jerusalem) Emirate of the Islamic State ”ISIS” which threatens to slaughter the Christians if they do not leave Jerusalem before Eid Al Fitr.

Patriarch Sabbah added:”If this were a real threat by those called ISIS, then they are welcome. But if this statement is intended to cover up for the criminal act that had taken place in the Church of Multiplication in Tabgha, then this will boomerang.” He continued,” To all the sons of our people, Muslims and Christians, do not be disturbed, do not heed the sedition.”

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Qassisieh: Vatican’s recognition of the State of Palestine is ‘historic”

Posted on Jun 28, 2015, June 27, 2015 – Palestine Ambassador to the Vatican Issa Qassisieh has welcomed the Holy See’s recognition of the State of Palestine within the 1967 border in the framework of the comprehensive agreement concluded on June 26. He termed this recognition as a humanitarian and moral position adopted by the Vatican in its capacity as an important country at the spiritual and religious levels, and stressed that this day is considered a historic day in the life of the Palestinian people.

He added in a press statement after the signing ceremony, “We are grateful to the Vatican and proud of this recognition which has political, humanitarian and legal connotations in the context of endorsing the legitimate rights of our people to establish their independent and sovereign state on the 1967 border with Jerusalem as it s capital.”

Qassisieh stressed that this recognition reflects the Vatican’s keenness and conviction to support peace and justice in the land of peace. It, furthermore, addresses a message to the world regarding the need to recognize the Palestinian state in order to bring justice to our Palestinian people, and to attain the two-state solution in accordance with international resolutions, he added.

The Palestinian ambassador continued that arrangements have been in place for guaranteeing the rights of the Catholic Church which include the freedom to establish educational institutions and to conduct activities relevant to the fields of training, education and health in accordance with the Palestinian law.

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Iconography: a Byzantine art born in the Holy Land

Posted on Jun 28, 2015

In the heart of the old city of Bethlehem, The Bethlehem Icon School is on a mission to revive an authentic art, which dates back to the 4th and 5th centuries in an attempt to integrate this sacred art as part of the Christian culture of Palestine.

(Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) Bethlehem, June 26, 2015 – What distinguishes the Bethlehem Icon School from other art institutes in Bethlehem is its capability to infuse humility and unselfishness in students’ comportment, because the work they are producing is first and foremost dedicated to God.

Moreover, the school takes students from an environment soaked in materialism and selfishness into an environment in which the student can form his or her mindset and spirit through the life of prayer and work that’s consecrated to God.

One of the essential qualities that an icon must incorporate is tranquility, for tranquility in the icon is crucial for eliminating distractions. And through this element, iconographers seek to enrich and inspire their faith and the faith of people who are revering the living God.

Not only does the school teach the various techniques of writing icons but it also makes sure to hold weekly seminars on the origins of iconography in order for students to have adequate knowledge on the different stages of this sacred art.

The Bethlehem Icon School is the only school in the Middle East that teaches this ancient art, which saw its birth with the arrival of monks that lived in the desert in the third and and fourth centuries. For Palestinian monks, learning iconography was and still is considered a responsibility, joy and grace for it’s a medium to offer appreciation and respect to God.

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Two Sisters among the Bedouins

Posted on Jun 26, 2015

Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, June 24, 2015 – A comeback on the nursery school in a Bedouin camp in the Judean Desert with the Combonian sisters: a dramatic reality on the ground, often ignored, on the sideline of the society.

The appointment was fixed near Maale Adumim settlement, on the road running downhill from Jerusalem to Jericho. Sr Azezet and Sr Agnes arrived in a jeep, the only way to travel easily through the desert and gave a ride to a small team made of Andrea and Lorenzo, two brothers from the Family of the Visitation, Henrique Abreu, in charge of LPJ projects, and Sr Azezet’s niece.

After Maale Adumim and the settlement of Kedar, they went through the Judean desert next to the famous Muntar Hill, not far from the Monastery of Mar Saba, where the natural scenery is gratifying with sand dunes blending with old stones and thorns with wild herbs. At their final destination they discovered a combination of tents, sheds and shacks for sheep: that’s where the Bedouins live. It is there that the sisters founded their nursery school.

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