Updates March 2011



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  We seek to keep you literally "updated" on movement in terms of truth and justice in the Middle East in general with a particular eye on Palestine.  The links below will take you to various articles and websites that offer the perspective of leaders in the religious, NGO, and human rights communities. Additionally, Al-Bushra, ever vigilant, provides links to regular reporting as well as opinion pieces by journalists. The dates given here indicate when the link was posted; the most recent posting is at the top. Check the article itself for the date of publication.  

Comments made over the years by Israeli leaders


31 July 2011 15:48:08 -0700


Mar. 31, 2011

Zenit | An Inside Look at Egypt

Interview With Cardinal Antonios Naguib

By Marie Al-Sameen

CAIRO, Egypt, MARCH 31, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The patriarch of Egypt's Coptic Catholic Church says his country -- some six weeks after the Feb. 11 resignation of President Hosni Mubarak -- "lacks clarity" and citizens are expecting "rapid change toward stability, work, productivity and security."

ZENIT's Arabic edition spoke with Cardinal Antonios Naguib, patriarch of Alexandria, to discuss the situation in Egypt after the people's revolt that brought about the resignation of the president.

He offers his outlook on the political situation, the Church's mission, and the need to "prioritize national interests over private interests" since "Egypt needs her faithful children."

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Mar. 30, 2011

Zenit | Libyan Prelate Says Church Has Muslim Support

TRIPOLI, Libya, MARCH 29, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The apostolic vicar of Tripoli says the work of the Church in Libya goes on, and that Muslims have promised their support for Christian ministry.

Bishop Giovanni Martinelli told the Fides agency that the situation in Tripoli is "quite calm" despite the ongoing conflict as rebels seek to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi. The prelate added that the "mood of the people is brought down by the continual queues for fuel and the difficulties in obtaining food."

The 69-year-old bishop reported a meeting with representatives from other Christian denominations in Tripoli as well as the World Islamic Call Society (WICS).

"It was like a gathering of friends, very positive," he said. "The representatives from WICS reiterated their appreciation for the work of Christians in Libya and reaffirmed their willingness to cooperate with us."

Bishop Martinelli also affirmed that "fraternal solidarity" shown by other episcopal conferences has been a source of comfort.

He expressed gratitude for conferences including those of Italy, northern Africa and the United States.



Mar. 30, 2011

Zenit | US Cardinal Defends Rights of Muslims

Underlines Religious Liberty for All

WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 29, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is stressing the value of religious liberty for all faiths, defending in particular the rights of Muslims.

The former archbishop of Washington made this appeal today on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in a testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights hearing regarding "Protecting the Civil Rights of American Muslims."

The cardinal affirmed, "We see religious freedom as an essential foundation for our life together in our own nation and across the globe."

He noted that this freedom "is destroyed by attacks on people in some countries because of their religion and by the terrible misuse of religion to incite hatred and even justify violence."

"A justified concern for security and the appropriate pursuit of those who pervert religion to attack others cannot be allowed to turn into a new form of religious discrimination and intolerance," the prelate pointed out.

He continued, "This is why we stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters in defense of their dignity and rights, just as we welcome and expect their reciprocity and solidarity with us when the rights of Christians and other religious groups are violated around the world."

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Mar. 29, 2011

Zenit | Pontiff Affirms Communion With New Maronite Patriarch

Bechara Boutros Rai Installed in Lebanon

ROME, MARCH 28, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI has officially affirmed communion with the new patriarch of the Maronite Church, who was installed in the office Friday.

Bechara Boutros Rai, 77, succeeds Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, becoming the 77th patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites. Cardinal Sfeir has resigned at age 90.

Ten days before the patriarch's installation, Benedict XVI granted "Ecclesiastica Communio."

"It is a motive of pride for your Church to be united from the beginning to the Successor of Peter," wrote the Pope in a letter granting the official recognition of communion, in conformity with the Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches. "Peter was called by Jesus to preserve the unity of his one Church in truth and in love. Following a beautiful and ancient tradition, Peter's name is added to the patriarch's."

In the letter, the Holy Father said he hoped the new patriarch would be able to have "all the ardor, illumined by wisdom and tempered by prudence, to guide the Maronite Church."

He spoke of the glory of St. Marone, who established this Church, as well as the "array of Lebanese saints."

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Mar. 28, 2011

Zenit | Holy Land Custos: Politics Is Mute So Violence Speaks

Reacts to Flare-up of Hostilities in Jerusalem, Gaza

ROME, MARCH 28, 2011 (Zenit.org).- When politics is at a standstill, the "languages" of violence and mistrust enter the conversation, according to the Franciscan custos of the Holy Land.

Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa shared this reflection with Vatican Radio, in response to the new increase in tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

A terrorist bombing March 23 at a bus stop in Jerusalem killed one person and wounded more than 50 others; such an event has not occurred in Jerusalem since 2008, when a Palestinian extremist entered a rabbinical school and killed eight students.

The Israeli air force launched attacks against three sites in the Gaza Strip the next day, as at least 11 rockets were fired into Southern Israel.

"I hope that it's not a going back and a reopening of a strategy of terror, as we saw in recent years," Father Pizzaballa said. "I hope it will remain an isolated incident. Nevertheless, it's true that there has been a sort of deterioration, first of all in political relations and then, consequently, in everything else."

The Franciscan characterized political leaders as seemingly "paralyzed."

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Mar. 28, 2011

Zenit | Faith Alive in West Bank

A response to: Christians and the Middle East

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Anthony Ordona. I spent some time in Nablus, in the West Bank, and attended Mass at a lovely little church with a small, but wonderful congregation. One thing that most Americans seem not to know is that there are not only generations of Palestinian Catholics, but other Palestinian Christians living in the West Bank and in Israel. Their faith lives, while being fundamentally difficult, are rich and loving. I am deeply grateful each time I recall the warm familial embrace and welcome I received from them. We need to do what we can to ensure that these dwindling populations are supported and helped to grow.

D. Brosky

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania



Mar. 24, 2011

Zenit | Carmelites Keep Christians in Middle East

Collaborate to Provide Jobs; Point to Signs of Hope

KOENIGSTEIN, Germany, MARCH 23, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Discalced Carmelites in Lebanon say it is crucial for Christians to remain in the Middle East, and they are collaborating to bring jobs and hope to the faithful there.

This was the report from Father Raymond Abdo, the provincial of the Discalced Carmelite Fathers in Lebanon, when he spoke with Aid to the Church in Need.

He told the charity that the most important service that can be done for Middle East Christians is helping them not to emigrate. Though the priest acknowledged the difficulties, he affirmed that he wants his own presence in the Middle East to be a testimony that "it is possible to stay."

Father Abdo said it is important to convince Christians not to sell their houses and properties. He said that money coming from Iran and the Gulf states is being used to purchase real estate.

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Mar. 24, 2011

Zenit | Maronite Leaders See Holy Spirit in New Patriarch

Patriarch Béchara Raï Noted as Pioneer for Unity

BKERKE, Lebanon, MARCH 23, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The Maronite leaders who elected Bishop Béchara Raï as the 77th patriarch of that Church are affirming the Holy Spirit's role in the decision.

In a statement following the March 15 election, the Maronite prelates affirmed that this event is "a further confirmation of the work of the Holy Spirit that continues, and is the essential beyond the suppositions and expectations."

"We entrusted ourselves to the Holy Spirit to elect the right person for the right post," they affirmed.

The prelates stated, "This work was carried out with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that guides the Church through the Apostles and their successors; it is the Holy Spirit who chooses the person to be father, head and patriarch."

The new patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites chose as his motto "Communion and Charity," expressing the hope that "the Maronite Church will continue her journey in history under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the blessing of Our Lady of Bkerke and of Lebanon, and this because she will be guided by the Spirit who is with us."

Bishop Raï will be inaugurated on March 25 in Bkerke, Lebanon, the see of the Maronite Catholic Church.

The Lebanese prime minister, Najib Mikati, received with joy the news of the election of the patriarch.

Read more


Mar. 22, 2011

Zenit | 2009-2010 Report of Custody of the Holy Land

Friars Continue Supporting Holy Places, Christian Community

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 21, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is the report for 2009-2010 of the projects completed by the Custody of the Holy Land of the Order of Friars Minor.

The Vatican press office published the report today in conjunction with an appeal from Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, to support the Good Friday Collection for the Holy Land.

* * *

The Custody of the Holy Land continues incessantly its path for the protection and preservation of the Holy Places in Jesus’ Land. Its mission is to keep alive the liturgy in the places of worship, to take care of pilgrims, to enhance apostolic works, and support the Christian Community; for these reasons, in the years 2009/2010 the Custody gave special attention to the planning and the fulfillment of the following projects....

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Mar. 22, 2011

Zenit | Vatican Urges Support of Holy Land Collection

Appeals to Faithful to Promote Peace in the East

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 21, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The Congregation for Eastern Churches is urging Catholics worldwide to support the Good Friday collection for the Church in the Holy Land.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of that dicastery, sent a letter with an appeal to recall this "commitment that dates back to apostolic times."

He affirmed that "the Holy Land expects the brotherhood of the universal Church and desires to reciprocate it in sharing the experience of grace and suffering that marks her journey."

"The Christians of the East are experiencing the actuality of martyrdom and are suffering because of the instability or absence of peace," the prelate observed.

He continued: "The most disturbing sign of this is their inexorable exodus.

Read more


Mar. 20, 2011

Zenit | Iraqi Prelate's Words on Anti-Christian Attacks

"We Do Not Want to Hide Our Faith or Identity out of Fear for Our Lives"

DUNDALK, Ireland, MARCH 19, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of an address given Wednesday by Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, at the Armagh Diocesan Pastoral Centre in Dundalk, during the presentation of the 2011 report of Aid to the Church in Need on Christians oppressed for the faith.

* * *

For Everything there is a Season

Good afternoon Cardinal Brady, Bishop Clifford, ladies and gentlemen and fellow clergy. I thank you for the honor to mark the launch today of the 2011 edition of Aid to the Church in Need's report on Christians oppressed for their faith, entitled 'Persecuted and Forgotten?'

This report and the work of Aid to Church in Need is critical to us as members of the worldwide Christian community. This information will significantly contribute to building international support and solidarity for Christians around the world where our human rights to religious freedom has been stripped away.

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Mar. 17, 2011

Zenit | Iraqi Bishop: Christians Ready to Claim Right to Exist

Visits Ireland for Release of 2011 Report "Persecuted and Forgotten"

DUNDALK, Ireland, MARCH 16, 2011 (Zenit.org).- It is said that one of the Islamic fundamentalists who assassinated Father Ragheed Ganni in 2007 screamed to his victim before killing him, "I told you to close the church. ... Why are you still here?"

This scene was brought to mind today by Cardinal Seán Brady, archbishop of Armagh, Ireland, at an event to mark the launch of the 2011 edition of Aid to the Church in Need’s report on Christians oppressed for their faith. This year's volume is titled "Persecuted and Forgotten?"

Cardinal Brady's reflection responded to an address from Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq.

Archbishop Warda's speech indirectly provided its own answer to the assassin's haunting question. "Iraqis," he said, "are a people who have experienced immense suffering but who are also strong, resilient and prepared to claim their right to existence."

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Mar. 14, 2011

Zenit | Syrian Archbishop: Iraqi Refugees Renewed Our Church

Letter of Maronite Archbishop Nassar of Damascus

DAMASCUS, Syria, MARCH 14, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the letter written by Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus, titled "Thanks to the Iraqi Refugees."

* * *

Syria has facilitated the reception of Iraqi refugees. Thousands of them have come, above all to Damascus, and hundreds of them continue to come to flee from death and the violence they have suffered since 2003. U.N. agencies organize their exodus to other more clement skies. While waiting for their visas, these refugees stay in Damascus, at times for two or three years and sometimes more.

These well-formed Christians, fervent and practicing, take refuge in Christian faith and hope. They fill our churches, invigorate our parishes and reinforce the Christian faith in Syria, offering new encouragement to our parishes.

Iraqi refugees take part assiduously in daily Mass despite the fact they come from far away, on foot or public transport.

Read more


Mar. 4, 2011

Zenit | Israeli Embassy Welcomes Pope's "Positive View"

New Book "Exonerates" Jews From Death of Jesus

ROME, MARCH 4, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The Israeli embassy to the Holy See "welcomes wholeheartedly" Benedict XVI's new book, in which the Pope reiterates that the Jews are not guilty of Jesus' death.

A statement released Thursday in English and Italian from the Israeli embassy responded to excerpts of "Jesus of Nazareth" that were released to the press this week. The book will be available March 10.

"We welcome wholeheartedly the emphasis reiterated by the Pope in his new book, in which he exonerates the Jews from responsibility for the death of Jesus," the statement says.

The embassy itself noted that this is not new teaching. In 1965, the Second Vatican Council declaration "Nostra Aetate" already explicitly stated that "what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today."

The embassy observed that the book is consistent with "the Church's official policy" and added that "Jesus of Nazareth" is a "confirmation of the Pope's known positive stance towards the Jewish People and the State of Israel."

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Mar. 4, 2011

Zenit | Statement of International Catholic-Jewish Committee

"40 Years of Dialogue: Reflections and Future Perspectives"

PARIS, MARCH 3, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is the joint declaration of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) and the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews that was released at the conclusion of its 21st meeting. The four-day meeting, which ended Wednesday in Paris, focused on the theme "40 Years of Dialogue: Reflections and Future Perspectives."

* * *

The 21st meeting of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee (ILC) was held in Paris, France from February 27 – March 2, 2011.

The conference, titled "40 Years of Dialogue: Reflections and Future Perspectives" addressed the past, present and future of Catholic-Jewish dialogue in its international settings. The event began with a review of the 40-year history of the ILC, which was begun in 1970. For the current conference, delegates came from the United States, Europe, Israel, Australia, Latin America and Africa. The conference highlighted the positive relationship that began with the Second Vatican Council and the promulgation ofNostra Aetate (the declaration on the relationship of the Church to non-Christian Religions) in 1965.

The ILC sponsored a special three-day pre-conference called the "Emerging Leadership Delegation", which brought together young people from both faith communities to discuss the challenges of the future and to help expand the dialogue to involve more young people around the world. These delegates were invited to participate fully in the ILC plenary sessions where their insights and fresh ideas contributed positively to the proceedings.

A principal outcome of the conference was the deepening of personal relationships and of a shared desire to confront together the enormous challenges facing Catholics and Jews in a world in rapid and unpredictable transformation. Also acknowledged was a common religious duty to help relieve the global consequences of poverty, injustice, discrimination and the denial of universal human rights. Participants were especially sensitive to the call of the younger generation for true freedom and full participation in their societies.

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Mar. 4, 2011

Zenit | Mideast Looks Ahead; Pakistan's Great Loss

Sant'Egidio Gathers Muslim, Christian Leaders

By Edward Pentin

ROME, MARCH 3, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Around this time of year, the Sant'Egidio lay community in Rome brings together Christian and Muslim scholars and religious and political leaders for a one-day conference on the Middle East.

Each one sheds light on the troubled region and offers hope, but this year's event, which took place Feb. 23, was especially hopeful and timely in light of the uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East.

Many speakers expressed their aspirations that the regime changes that have taken place -- with further ones probable -- offer a chance for the region to embrace religious freedom and democracy, although they didn't ignore the risks of extremists hijacking the levers of power.

Italy's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Franco Frattini, opened the conference by advocating more European Union funds be spent on dialogue between Christians and Muslims in the region -- "money that should be spent, and would be well spent." He noted that an opportunity exists for those countries going through a transition to democracy to include principles of religious freedom in any new constitutions. This can only happen, he said, if it comes from the people, "not dictated to by Brussels or Rome," and that one of the added benefits would be to arrest Christian emigration from the region.

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Mar. 4, 2011

Zenit | Church in Lebanon Seeks Greater Role for Laity

Follows Up on Synod Resolutions

BEIRUT, Lebanon, MARCH 3, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The 24th proposition from last October's synod on the Middle East affirms that the synod fathers want lay people to have greater responsibility in the Church, being apostles at work and witnesses to Christ in the world.

The Church in Lebanon is trying to bring this about.

A meeting Feb 25. presided over by the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, gathered key bishops and a group of about 20 young laypeople to discuss this project.

The laity and their bishops considered the current situation of laypeople in Lebanon, within its particular context as a nest of diverse Christian traditions and interreligious dialogue.

Archbishop Caccia affirmed that the plurality of the Churches existing in Lebanon is a richness for the Church, and the collaboration between the Christian laypeople living in the seven Catholic Churches "sui iuris" in Lebanon is a necessity.

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Mar. 4, 2011

Zenit | Arab Unrest Leads to Appeals to the West

Iranian Muslim Asks Support for Youth; Priests Note Plight of Refugees

ROME, MARCH 3, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The outcome of the revolution wave in the Arab world is far from settled, but in the meantime, calls for support are coming in for the young protestors themselves, and refugees caught in the crossfire.

"If millions of Muslim young people who today cry out against injustices felt the solidarity of the West and were not discriminated against, they would become very important and useful partners and next door neighbors for the future of Europe," one Iranian Muslim theologian told Vatican Radio.

Shahrzad Housmand is a professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University. "We ask the Western world and men of faith to help the leaders of the protest in Arab countries to direct it to a democratic change," he said.

The theologian suggested that such support is in the best interests of the West, "because the dictatorships favor fundamentalist violence. Today young people -- who constitute half of the Arab world -- are tired of the narrow religious vision, injustice and oppression that humiliates their human dignity."

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