12 December 2019
Sudanese migrant Adut embraces her son, Martin, in Beirut. To learn more about how the church is assisting those who arrive in Lebanon in search of a better life, read A Home for Migrants in the September 2019 edition of ONE. (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
10 December 2019
Tags: Middle East Migrants
Palestinian Melkite Catholics Peter and Eli Hosh prepare meat in the kitchen of their restaurant, Abu Eli, in Bethlehem, West Bank. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Brothers Peter and Eli Hosh grew up knowing that their hometown was not only the place where they went to school and ran down to the corner market for their mother, but the town where Jesus was born.
It is a lesson they and their two sisters continue to teach their own children, especially during the Christmas season.
“I feel that here there is something great here. We are living in a holy place,” said Eli Hosh, who, at 50 is the elder of the two. “Bethlehem is important for our family, and I tell that to my children. Jesus was born here. I always feel the holiness here, this is my city, but the best time in Bethlehem is Christmas.”
Unlike many other Christian families in the Bethlehem area, none of the Hosh siblings have moved abroad.
“The most important thing is for the local Christians to stay,” said Peter Hosh, 33, the youngest of the siblings. “Year by year we see less Christian (families) here. Why? It is difficult everywhere. We have hard things in life, we know, but we have to stay here and fix that. You leave and you have to start from zero; here we have our family, our work. Everybody knows each other.”
Two of Eli Hosh’s daughters are studying at universities abroad in Europe.
“Of course they will come back. Bethlehem is important for our whole family, and we know we need to stay,” he said.
Together the two brothers, who are Melkite Catholics, run one of Bethlehem’s most well-known grilled-meat restaurants, Abu Eli. It was founded in 1999 by their late father, Anton. “Abu Eli” means the father of Eli in Arabic, and traditionally Palestinian men are given the nickname of “father of” after their first-born son. The restaurant is a favorite of local Christians for Christmas Eve dinner, and many tourists visiting over the holiday have also discovered its charms.
This year Peter Hosh said he is able to experience the wonder of Christmas through the eyes of his 3-year-old daughter, Yasmin, who is now beginning to understand the concept of the holiday and that she is living in the place where Jesus was born.
“My mother came over to help us start celebrating and decorating. This season is so special, and my daughter has been asking us to decorate already. We (adults) have a glass of wine, and we enjoy ourselves,” he said. “Every time we tell my daughter that the story of Christmas took place here, she begins to sing a song she learned at her nursery school.”
They bake ginger cookies and special Christmas fruit cake, or buy them at one of the local bakeries for seasonal treats, he said.
Katherine Hosh, 70, said she is proud that all her children have remained in the city.
“I don’t want anyone of my children to leave,” she said. For her, as a Christian in Bethlehem, it is a privilege to be able to go to Mass at St. Catherine Church, adjacent to the Church of the Nativity. “I pray every Sunday.”
Eli and Peter Hosh said they never felt the need to leave Bethlehem for long. Peter Hosh completed all his academic studies, including his B.A. in hotel management, at Bethlehem University.
“I travel abroad, but I can’t stay away from Bethlehem for more than a week,” he said. “If I am away longer, I don’t feel well. I feel more comfortable here than any place in the world. Maybe there is something secret here. Maybe this is a sign that there is something special here. Most of our town is Muslim, so maybe some (Christians) leave (because) they are afraid, but I am not afraid. I feel this is our city, our town.”
Despite the political difficulties, he said, life for him in Bethlehem is good. Everyone knows everyone and greets each other on the street.
Abu Eli welcomes everybody, Peter Hosh said, and he recalled how, before the intifada, the restaurant was full of Israelis on Saturdays.
On Christmas Eve, the restaurant serves fukura, a festive lamb and potato stew that has been cooked for five hours in a covered clay pot on the charcoal flame. The Hoshes put on Christmas music and welcome Christian families celebrating the holiday.
“We feel very happy, you see many people coming here and enjoying themselves and feeling happy. We have known the families for a long time, and you feel like you are a part of their celebration, and you enjoy with them,” said Peter Hosh. “It is not just working. When we finish (serving) we sit down and join them and have a drink and talk.”
Since Christmas Eve is the busiest day of the year for the restaurant, the Hosh family celebrates Christmas together the following day. They go to mass at St. Catherine Church and then have lunch, which the Hosh sisters have prepared.
“I like this tradition,” said Peter. “We visit the church and pray. It is a special day.”
6 December 2019
Tags: Bethlehem Melkite
The Nativity scene is pictured during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the Vatican on 5 December 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
The Vatican unveiled the Nativity scene and lit the Christmas tree with energy-saving lights in St. Peter’s Square during a late afternoon ceremony on 5 December.
The 85-foot-tall spruce tree came from the forests of the Veneto region in northeast Italy and another 20 smaller trees were donated by communities in the region’s province of Vicenza.
It was adorned with silver and gold balls and “next generation” lights meant to have a reduced impact on the environment and use less energy.
The large Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square was made entirely out of wood and replicates traditional northern Trentino-style buildings.
Some 23 life-size wooden figures -- all with handcarved heads -- fill the scene, representing life in a small rural village in the northern Province of Trento in the early 1900s. There is a lumberjack pulling wood with a sled and people making cheese and washing clothes. Some of the faces reproduce the faces of real Italian shepherds from the region, including a man who recently died in an accident. Some of the clothes are real outfits handed down through the generations or once worn by local shepherds.
The scene also features broken tree trunks and limbs salvaged from severe storms in the region in late 2018. About 40 trees will be replanted in the area that had been seriously damaged by hurricane-like winds
and torrential rains.
A smaller Nativity scene, provided by the northern province of Treviso, was set up in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall; with its Gothic arches, it imitates an old style of barns and stables in the Lessinia mountains of the Veneto region.
Early in the day, Pope Francis met with delegations from the northern Italian regions responsible for the tree and Nativity scene.
Thanking the delegations for their gifts, the pope said he was happy to hear that new trees will be planted in the region to help reforest areas hit by last year’s storms.
“These alarming events are warning signs that creation sends us and that ask us to immediately make effective decisions to safeguard our common home,” he said.
The Christmas tree they donated represents “a sign of hope, especially for your forests, that they may be cleared (of debris) as soon as possible in order to begin the work of reforestation,” he said.
The pope reminded his audience of his recent letter on the meaning and importance of setting up Christmas cribs.
“It is a genuine way to transmit the Gospel in a world that sometimes seems to be afraid to remember what Christmas really is and erases Christian signs in order to keep only those of a trivial, commercial” nature, he said.
Pope Francis also asked people to pray for help in seeing Jesus in the face of those who suffer and in lending a hand to those in need.
5 December 2019
Visitors stand in line in the Church of the Nativity on 1 December 2019, in Bethlehem, West Bank. Because of a large number of visitors, the church, which is built on what is believed to be the site where Jesus was born, has extended its visiting hours. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill
4 December 2019
Patriarchs and others attend a meeting in Cairo on 25-29 November 2019.
(photo: CNS/Syriac Catholic Patriarchate)
Amid deadly protests in Iraq, a people’s uprising in Lebanon and continued suffering in Syria, Catholic leaders of the Middle East called upon officials of their homelands to “ensure safety, peace and tranquility and stability for their citizens.”
Meeting in Cairo on 25-29 November, the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the East addressed political, economic and social difficulties that many countries are suffering as a result of unrest, violence, extremism and terrorism as well as the situation of displaced people and the inevitability of returning to their villages and homes.
Massive demonstrations against the political ruling class have plagued Iraq and Lebanon since October.
Despite some confrontations with security forces and supporters of established parties, protesters in Lebanon have largely been spared the violent crackdown seen in Iraq. There, about 400 people have died and thousands have been wounded in protests.
In their final statement, the patriarchs called on the political authority in Iraq “to take courageous action to get the country out of this great crisis so that the bloodshed will stop and life will return to normal by building a strong state on sound foundations, in which true democracy, justice and human dignity prevails, combating corruption.” They also called for “revealing who killed and kidnapped peaceful demonstrators” and asked authorities to hand the killers “over to the judiciary.”
The patriarchs appealed to all to work to “uproot the terrorist ideology of the Islamic State.” While acknowledging the “adversity and tribulation” in Iraq, the patriarchs encouraged Iraqi Christians “to take root in their land and preserve the heritage” of their ancestors.
Turning to Lebanon, the patriarchs said they “support the demands of the Lebanese people in general and the youth in particular, in their movement,” expressing their hope that peace and patriotism be maintained.
The Middle Eastern patriarchs urged Lebanon’s political authority to expedite the formation of a new government “whose first task will be to respond with the popular movement to find radical solutions to the current situation, by transcending personal and factional interests and working to achieve the common good, and freeing the national will from all outside interference.” The patriarchs also stressed the need for the return of refugees and displaced persons to their homelands. Lebanon is host to some 1 million Syrian refugees.
While council members said they “are optimistic about the stability achieved in Syria in most of the country,” they expressed their pain regarding human suffering and damage caused by bombings.
The patriarchs called on “all components of the Syrian people to join hands” to rebuild what is destroyed and to promote the economy.
They also called on “global decision-makers to stop interfering” in Syrian affairs and to help “all the good Syrians to work hard to recover Syria from its long-standing ordeal.”
The council expressed “full support for the Palestinian people tormented by the occupation.”
“We reiterate our call on the international community to recognize the Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital, within the framework of the two states, and the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes,” the patriarchs said.
As for Egypt, the Catholic leaders commended the Egyptian state’s achievements “that have contributed effectively to improving the situation of Egyptians” at all levels, including “practical steps” in consolidating the foundations of citizenship and society.
During the meeting, the patriarchs met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and urged him to work toward reconciliation and dialogue in the countries of the Middle East, especially in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.
They also met with Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II.
2 December 2019
Tags: Egypt Patriarchs
A reliquary containing what is believed to be a small fragment of Jesus’ crib is seen on 1 December 2019, in the Franciscan Church of St. Catherine, adjacent to the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank. Pope Francis gave the relic fragment to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which oversees the main churches and shrines associated with the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. (photo: CNS /Debbie Hill)
As Advent approached, Pope Francis gave a small fragment of Jesus’ crib back to Catholics in the Holy Land.
In Bethelehem, West Bank, Franciscan Father Rami Asakrieh of St. Catherine Church welcomed the relic’s return and called it “a great blessing.”
“This is more blessings for this place,” he said. “You can’t imagine the great joy to have this blessing.”
On 22 November, experts from the Vatican Museums extracted a small fragment from the relic of what has been venerated as Jesus’ manger. The relic, given to the Vatican in the seventh century, has been kept in a chapel under the basilica’s main altar.
Pope Francis gave the relic fragment to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which oversees the main churches and shrines associated with the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus.
The relic arrived in Jerusalem on 29 November and was present during a Mass celebrated by the nuncio, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, in the chapel of Our Lady of Peace at the Notre Dame Center.
After the Mass and time for people to venerate the relic, the Franciscan friars carried it in procession to the Church of St. Saviour, where they recited vespers. The relic was transferred to Bethlehem on 30 November to be in place for beginning of Advent on 1 December.
“May the return to Bethlehem of this piece of holy wood arouse in us the profound desire to be bearers of God. Now it is our hearts that are a manger: the holy crib of God made man,” said Archbishop Leopoldo
Girelli, apostolic nuncio to Israel and Cyprus and apostolic delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, at the handing-over ceremony to the Franciscan friars at Jerusalem’s Notre Dame Center.
Reading a letter sent by Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, Archbishop Girelli said, “Pope Francis accompanies this gift with his blessing and with the fervid wish that the veneration of this illustrious relic can open the hearts of many men and women, adults and youngsters, the elderly and children, to receive with a renewed fervor of faith and love the mystery that changed the course of history. The Holy Father wishes, in particular, that the message of peace announced by the angels on the night of Christmas to the men loved by God, which for 2,000 years has rung out from Bethlehem, brings the gift of peace and reconciliation which our world needs more and more.”
Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, custos of the Holy Land, said the relic would be used to “rekindle faith in Jesus between the different Christian communities of the Holy Land.”
Local Catholics in Bethlehem had the opportunity to venerate the relic at Mass at St. Catherine’s on 1 December before the relic was put away until a proper location and protocol for it can be arranged.
Meanwhile, as Christmas approached, the opening hours of the Church of the Nativity adjacent to St. Catherine had been extended by three hours to 8 p.m. to accommodate the influx of pilgrims who sometimes had to wait up to four hours to go down to the grotto where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was born.
On the first day of Advent, the wait was only about one hour.
“We are going to wait as long as it takes to go in,” said David Williams, 67, of Texas as he waited in line with his tour group and a local guide. “It is very exciting. This is what you read, and when you read it again after having been here there will be new insight.”
Local guide Jaber Saadeh, said that as a Christian he was happy to see the large number of pilgrims coming to Bethlehem.
“I feel so proud and happy to welcome them. We are a peaceful country,” he said.
Coming out from the grotto, Claudia Haita, 44, of Romania, said the wait had not been an issue. Having the opportunity to visit the grotto and say a prayer there had been “good for my soul as a Christian” and strengthened her faith, she said.
Another pilgrim who identified herself only as Maria said she had been overwhelmed by the experience.
“I had an overwhelming feeling of tears of joy but also a feeling of sadness because of the hurting of humanity, of the suffering. It is time to let that go,” she said.
Contributing to this story was Judith Sudilovsky in Bethlehem, West Bank.
18 November 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Bethlehem
Pope Francis greets a woman as he arrives to eat lunch with the poor in the Paul VI hall as he marks World Day of the Poor at the Vatican on 17 November 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
The poor are the church’s treasure because they give every Christian a chance to “speak the same language as Jesus, that of love,” Pope Francis said, celebrating Mass for the World Day of the Poor.
“The poor facilitate our access to heaven,” the pope said in his homily on 17 November. “In fact, they open up the treasure that never ages, that which joins earth and heaven and for which life is truly worth living: love.”
Thousands of poor people and volunteers who assist them joined Pope Francis for the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. After the liturgy and the recitation of the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis hosted a luncheon for 1,500 of them while thousands more throughout the city enjoyed a festive meal at soup kitchens, parish halls and seminaries.
Served by 50 volunteer waiters in white jackets, the pope and his guests in the Vatican audience hall enjoyed a three-course meal of lasagna, chicken in a mushroom cream sauce with potatoes, followed by dessert, fruit and coffee.
To speak Jesus’ language, the pope had said in his homily, one must not speak of oneself or follow one’s own interests but put the needs of others first.
“How many times, even when doing good, the hypocrisy of ‘I’ reigns: I do good, but so people will think I’m good; I help, but to attract the attention of someone important,” Pope Francis said.
Instead, he said, the Gospel encourages charity, not hypocrisy; “giving to someone who cannot pay you back, serving without seeking a reward or something in exchange.”
In order to excel at that, the pope said, each Christian must have at least one friend who is poor.
“The poor are precious in the eyes of God,” he said, because they know they are not self-sufficient and know they need help. “They remind us that that’s how you live the Gospel, like beggars before God.”
“So,” the pope said, “instead of being annoyed when they knock on our doors, we can welcome their cry for help as a call to go out of ourselves, to welcome them with the same loving gaze God has for them.”
“How beautiful it would be if the poor occupied the same place in our hearts that they have in God’s heart,” Pope Francis said.
In the day’s Gospel reading from St. Luke, the crowds ask Jesus when the world will end and how they will know. They want immediate answers, but Jesus tells them to persevere in faith.
Wanting to know or to have everything right now “is not of God,” the pope said. Breathlessly seeking things that will pass takes one’s mind off the things that last; “we follow the clouds that pass and lose sight of the sky.”
Worse, he said, “attracted by the latest ruckus, we no longer find time for God and for our brother or sister living alongside us.”
“This is so true today!” the pope said. “In yearning to run, to conquer everything and do it immediately, those who lag behind annoy us. And they are judged as disposable. How many elderly people, how many unborn babies, how many persons with disabilities and poor people are judged useless. One rushes ahead without worrying that the distances are increasing, that the lust of a few increases the poverty of many.”
The pope’s celebration of the World Day of the Poor concluded a week of special events and services for the homeless, the poor and immigrants in Rome.
The poor served by the city’s Catholic soup kitchens and Vatican charities were invited Nov. 9 to a free concert in the Vatican audience hall featuring Nicola Piovani, the Oscar-winning composer, and the Italian Cinema Orchestra.
From 10-17 November dozens of physicians, nurses and other volunteers staffed a large medical clinic set up in St. Peter’s Square. The clinic offered flu shots, physical exams, routine lab tests and many specialty services often needed by people who live and sleep on the streets, including podiatry, diabetes and cardiology.
As rain beat down on the square on 15 November, Pope Francis paid a surprise visit to the clinic and spent about an hour visiting with the clients and volunteers.
Afterward, the pope went across the street to inaugurate a new shelter, day center and soup kitchen for the poor in the Palazzo Migliori, a four-story, Vatican-owned building that had housed a community of women religious. When the community moved out, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, began renovating it.
The building now can accommodate 50 overnight guests as well as offering a drop-in center for the poor and housing a large commercial kitchen. Meals will be served at the building, but also will be cooked there for distribution to the homeless who live around two Rome train stations.
The Community of Sant’Edigio, a Rome-based lay movement that already runs soup kitchens and a variety of programs for the city’s poor, will manage and staff the shelter.
Watch a video about the lunch below:
15 November 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Poor/Poverty
Pope Francis greets Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt's al-Azhar mosque and university, during a private audience at the Vatican on 15 November 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
14 November 2019
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis
Iraqi demonstrators carry a wounded man during ongoing anti-government protests in Baghdad on 14 November 2019. (photo: CNS/Alaa al-Marjani, Reuters)
Protests have erupted across Iraq, sparking turmoil and uncertainty in a country already suffering from the aftershocks of ISIS. And the toll of the injured and dead keeps rising.
Time magazine reports:
Iraqi protesters draped in their country’s flag have been taking part in demonstrations since 1 October that have left at least 319 people dead and at least 8,000 injured according to the U.N.
Many of the protesters wear face masks and helmets in the hope that this will protect them from security forces’ use of live bullets, tear gas, stun grenades and sound bombs to disperse the crowds of mostly young protesters. But many have been injured and hundreds of families are left searching for their injured loved ones in hospitals. Activists and physicians have been killed or kidnapped while giving aid to the demonstrators in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators have marched over the past six weeks and the protests have spread across the country. Dr Renad Mansour, a Middle East and North Africa Research Fellow at London-based think tank Chatham House describes the protests as “one of the largest grassroots political mobilizations.” Many Iraqis are frustrated that they are without clean water and electricity, despite the country having large oil reserves. Angered by the lack of jobs and basic public services, many protesters say corruption is to blame; money is being placed in the hands of the few, rather than the many, according to Mansour. Violence quickly became part of the equation, as protesters were met with lethal force by security forces.
13 November 2019
Six members of the Carmelite order have joined the Gospel Journey Campaign that started in January 2018 in India. Pictured are Sisters Ginsa Rose, Princy Maria, Ann Ligy, Therese, Little Therese and Treasa Margret. (photo: CNS/Philip Mathew, Global Sisters Report)
Meeting with two Catholic nuns who were on a journey to spread the Gospel proved a turning point in the life of Mohan Kumar, a Hindu man in southern India’s Kerala state.
Sisters Little Therese and Treasa Margret of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel had gone to the 45-year-old alcoholic’s house as part of their Gospel Journey Campaign for spreading Jesus’ message and values to people of different faiths.
A week later, the nuns received a call from Kumar’s wife that her husband had stopped drinking and was acting more loving and kind to the family.
“We thanked God for the miraculous change in Kumar’s life and told the wife that we will continue to pray for her family,” Little Therese, 52, told Global Sisters Report.
For nearly two years, the Carmelite sisters have been on this journey of what they say is “radiating Gospel values on foot as Jesus did.” They walk with few possessions, expecting to live among people struggling with worldly and spiritual needs, in the pattern of Christ and his disciples.
Until May, the sisters, who go only by one or two given names, will be walking in the northeastern-most Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. From there they will go to the western Indian state of Maharashtra and one day hope to visit Mideastern and Asian nations.
The two nuns launched the campaign in Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese in early 2018 and visited Kumar, his wife and their two children at their home.
Sister Margret, 44, said they have many stories of alcoholics quitting their addictions to return to normal life, bringing joy to their families.
She recalled Kumar’s wife sharing many family problems during their talks. Her main worry was her husband’s heavy drinking, which consumed all his earnings.
“We tried to convince Kumar about the need for quitting drinking and taking care of his family. With the permission of the family, we also prayed in their house,” Sister Margret said.
The two nuns walk through towns and villages to evangelize, share the Gospel and teach Scripture among the most marginalized people of all religions. They include unorganized agricultural workers, low-wage urban laborers, the unemployed and tribal (Dalit) people in what was formerly India’s lowest caste.
They were joined in April 2018 by Carmelite Sisters Ginsa Rose, 51, and Therese, 43, and in January this year by Sisters Princy Maria, 55, and Ann Ligy, 60.
“We walk in pairs and talk to poor and marginalized people,” said Sister Little Therese. They also meet people who hang around in public places or sit in groups at coffee shops and share with them the Gospel and Jesus’ love.
Sister Little Therese said they have not faced any major challenges or obstacles during the campaign, although Hindu extremists opposed to Christianity have become more active in Kerala these days.
“Before we started the campaign, we had decided that, if any challenges or obstacles come our way, we would accept them with joy and go forward with courage,” she said as the other nuns nodded.
The people the nuns visit have only good words for them.
“I felt overwhelmed when the sisters shared the messages from the Bible and gave us a prayer card,” Sanjeev Rajan, 37, an auto-rickshaw driver, told Global Sisters Report.
He said the auto-rickshaw drivers are “very ordinary people” who were moved when the nuns spoke to them and prayed for them and their families.
Sister Little Therese said they follow Jesus’ command to his disciples when he sent them to villages in pairs.
“We carry a bag for keeping some essential things for daily use. We never carry any money or food. We survive with what people give us,” she added.
She said they take a two-day break during the week and spend the time in a nearby convent to pray and meditate and review their work. While traveling, they stay in homes that welcome them and eat what is given to them.
Once they are in a new region, Sister Margret said, they never use public or private transportation to move from one place to another.
“We go everywhere on foot, come rain or shine,” she said, and added, “God has been so gracious and merciful to us. None of us has fallen ill or felt tired of walking.”
Sister Ligy, a former teacher and the oldest of the six nuns, told Global Sisters Report she has a walking problem, “but that hasn’t stopped me from the campaign. I always felt that God is guiding me and giving me strength.”
The nuns make it a point to get the family’s permission before they pray for them.
“Once we visited a Muslim house. The mother insisted that we pray for them since she believes that Allah will listen to the prayers of people with pure hearts,” Sister Therese recalled.
According to their superior general, Sister Sibi, the vision of the campaign is based on the verse from the Gospel of St. Luke, “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
The congregation’s general council and Cardinal George Alencherry, major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, have approved the campaign.
After the campaign completed its first year in January, Cardinal Alencherry hailed the nuns for doing “amazing work.” He told them that more sisters from other congregations also want to join the campaign.
Archbishop George Njaralakatt of Tellicherry said the nuns on the Gospel campaign are role models for others. He said he prayed that more sisters will follow the six original travelers to reach out to people who have never known Jesus or the Gospel.
Tags: India Sisters