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Current Issue
December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
7 December 2017
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.




Embed from Getty Images
In this image from 2015, Mandaeans take part in a religious ritual on the bank the Shat al-Arab river in the southern city of Basra, south of Baghdad.
(photo: Haidar Mohammed Ali/AFP/Getty Images)


The Middle East has always been a crossroad to soldiers of fortune, traders and missionaries. We should not be surprised, therefore, to find some of the most exotic religions in the world there. One of these would be the Mandaeans, whose name comes from the Aramaic (manda ‘ḥay, “teaching/knowledge of life.”)

Almost at the same time as Christianity appeared in the Middle East, gnostic (from Greek γνῶσις, gnosis, “knowledge”) religions began to appear. The gnostic religions are very different each other, yet show a remarkable ability to take over beliefs from Indian religions, Greco-Roman religions, Judaism and Christianity itself. For over 300 years, Christianity resisted incursions of gnostic religion into its faith. One of these, Manichaeism — a dualist, anti-body form of Gnosticism — provided a major threat to orthodox Christianity. In fact, Augustine of Hippo (354-430), the great theologian and saint, was a follower of Manichaeism before his conversion to Christianity.

The Mandaeans are within this large tradition of gnostic religions — one of many that interacted with Christianity in the region for centuries. It is estimated that Mandaeism took form in the 1st through 3rd centuries AD in Iraq, at the same time and place where Eastern Christianity was beginning to grow.

Traditionally, they were found in southern Iraq along the great rivers, which isn’t surprising. Water is very important for Mandaeans, since baptism is one of their major and frequently performed rituals. In fact, they are sometimes referred to as “baptizers.” Many years ago, I had an Arabic teacher from southern Iraq who told me she was a “Baptist.” I thought it strange because Baptists Christians are extremely rare in the Middle East, but one day I asked her if she was manda ‘ḥay. She lit up and said, “You know of us?” She was, of course, a Mandaean. While fascinated, I could not say I knew a lot about her faith.

As “baptizers,” Mandaeans hold John the Baptist in extremely high regard, though they do not consider him divine. They look upon Jesus as a false Messiah who corrupted the message of John the Baptist.

Mandaeans believe in a supreme deity from whom there are emanations into the created world. In their teaching, human beings were originally astral beings (stars) that have fallen to their present state. Such emanations from an original divine being are common in gnostic religions.Through observing the “Mysteries” — secret rituals — the believer is able to move through higher states of being until ultimate returning to his astral identity.

As is often the case in gnostic religions, there is a strict “caste” system. The “enlightened” are those who have achieved the teaching of life. Among the enlightened are the priests who hold the highest in rank. The majority of believers form the laity, whose task it is to purify themselves through repeated baptisms and to seek ever deeper awareness of the manda ‘ḥay until ultimately reaching enlightenment.

Most of the religious minorities we have dealt with in the past several weeks are secretive. For many of them, however, secrecy is a survival strategy, a way to protect themselves from the dominant religion in the region. Secrecy for gnostic religions, however, is an essential part of a faith which places great stress on the esoteric, i.e. secret, saving knowledge.

Time and history may have finally caught up with this religion, though. The Gulf War which began in 2003 forced many Mandaeans to flee. Living between Baghdad and the Persian Gulf along the two rivers, they found themselves in a battle zone. Already a tiny, minority faith, many Mandaeans fled to different places around the world — including the United States, where a small Mandean community of about 2,000 people resides in Worcester, Massachusetts.

At present it is estimated that they are between 60-70,000 Mandaeans in the entire world. Whether they will survive the 21st century is an open question.

Related:
Religious Minorities in the Middle East — Introduction

Religious Minorities in the Middle East, Part 1: The Yazidis

Religious Minorities in the Middle East, Part 2: The Shabak

Religious Minorities in the Middle East, Part 3: The ‘Alawi



7 December 2017
Greg Kandra




A Lebanese drummer fires up the crowd at a dance club in downtown Montréal. Read about the Lebanese immigrant population in the Canadian city in the September 2004 edition of ONE.
(photo: Cody Christopulos)


Several years ago, we took readers to Canada, to discover a thriving population of Lebanese immigrants:

You will find them bowed in churches, whispering praise to “Allah” (God).

You will find them animated in cafes and bars, smoking water pipes and exclaiming “haram” (it’s a shame) over the latest injustice in the Holy Land or some bad call during a European soccer match.

You will find them seated in restaurants before plates of lamb sausages and salads, pounding their fists on tables and crying “mish maouleh” (impossible) in response to some devilishly tall tale.

You will find them frenzied near altars, elbowing their way to capture the perfect photograph of a loved one exchanging marriage vows and begging “lazza choue” (pardon me).

You will find them bellies bared in dance clubs, twisting their torsos and asking “in jeid?” (really) over the reported affection of some member of the opposite sex.

They are everywhere. They are Lebanese and they have found a home in Montréal.

That the most distinct people of the Middle East have found refuge and new life in the most distinct of Canada’s great cities should come as no surprise. The urbane, gregarious and multilingual Lebanese seem a natural fit for Québec’s cosmopolitan center, whose denizens fiercely protect their Francophone patrimony.

Read more.



7 December 2017
Greg Kandra




Palestinians protested President Trump’s announcement yesterday, in which he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (video: EuroNews/YouTube)

Protests over U.S. move on Jerusalem leave at least 16 injured (BBC) At least 16 Palestinians have been wounded in clashes in the occupied West Bank, during protests against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Reports suggest the injuries are mostly from tear gas and rubber bullets, but at least one was hurt by live fire. Israel has deployed hundreds of extra troops in the West Bank. Mr Trump’s announcement — met with worldwide dismay — reversed decades of US policy on the sensitive issue. Palestinians in the both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have gone on strike and taken to the streets in protest...

Russian military declares ISIS defeated in Syria (Reuters) Russia’s military said on Thursday it had accomplished its mission of defeating Islamic State in Syria, and there were no remaining settlements there under the group’s control. Russian bombers had used unprecedented force in the final stages to finish off the militant group, a senior Russian officer said...

Germany preparing to send refugees back to Syria (Foreign Policy) Later this week, the interior ministers of the German states will be discussing, and voting on, a proposal to be begin forcibly repatriating Syrian refugees once their asylum status lapses — as early as next June...

U.S. vows to keep sanctions on Russia over Ukraine (The Washington Post) U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday that Ukraine was the sole sticking point keeping the United States and Russia from forging a closer relationship and that all other disputes were secondary. “The issue that stands in the way is Ukraine,” Tillerson said...

Can Putin get the Romanovs a Christian burial? (Newsweek) There is a political dimension to the story of the royal remains. It is widely believed, although not officially confirmed, that Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, would like to organize a symbolic ceremony that would bring closure to Russia’s divisive and bloody twentieth century. Such an event could involve a burial of the two members of the royal family, the czarevich Alexei and his sister Maria, who have never been put to rest, and a solemn church recognition of all other remains as belonging to the Romanovs, who were all inducted into sainthood but whose bodies, from the Russian Orthodox Church’s viewpoint, have never been recovered...



Tags: Syria Palestine Israel Jerusalem Russia

6 December 2017
Greg Kandra




The video above shows Muslims helping restore a church in Mosul, Iraq. (video: YouTube)

This video appeared on Facebook this week: it shows a group of Muslims pitching in to help rebuild and restore a Christian church in Mosul that was desecrated by ISIS.

Our external affairs officer, the Rev. Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., translated the Arabic for us.

The title of the video is: “The Muslim people of Mosul return the cross to the church in the district of Tel Kaif.”

A sign in Syriac and Arabic reads: “Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

Over a picture of the church, the text announces that this was the office of Daesh (ISIS) and a shooting range.

Usama al-Sahir, president of a group called “Giving Without Borders,” narrates:

“Our response to this attack is to strengthen the bonds between Muslims and Christians. We begin with the people of Mosul. As Muslims, we work to strengthen bonds. There is no division between Christians and Muslims. We are beginning today to invite our people and our friends. We say to them: this is your place, return to it. May worship return, God willing. We do this task, which is an obligation...(unclear). God willing, Mosul gathers us together, all of us. We call our Christian brothers to return to Tel Kaif and to return to their churches and to return as before to their religious practices. Next week, we shall turn our efforts to cleaning the Church of the Resurrection.”

This isn’t the first time Muslims have volunteered to help repair a church destroyed by ISIS. A report from earlier this year described efforts to restore a Chaldean church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

For more on displaced Christians returning to Mosul, read Hard Choices in the September 2017 edition of ONE.



6 December 2017
CNEWA staff




The gold-covered Dome of the Rock at the Temple Mount complex is seen in this overview of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Following reports that U.S. President Donald Trump planned to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, heads of local churches today wrote a letter to the president, pleading for him not to change the city’s status. (photo: CNS /Atef Safadi, EPA)

This morning, the patriarchs and heads of local churches in Jerusalem sent a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump, addressing concerns about the status of Jerusalem. The full text is below. You can find the original document on the website for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

+

Dear Mr. President,

We are fully aware and appreciative of how you are dedicating special attention to the status of Jerusalem in these days. We are following with attentiveness and we see that it is our duty to address this letter to Your Excellency. On July 17, 2000, we addressed a similar letter to the leaders who met in Camp David to decide the status of Jerusalem. They kindly took our letter into consideration. Today, Mr. President, we are confident that you too will take our viewpoint into consideration on the very important status of Jerusalem.

Our land is called to be a land of peace. Jerusalem, the city of God, is a city of peace for us and for the world. Unfortunately, though, our holy land with Jerusalem the Holy city, is today a land of conflict.

Those who love Jerusalem have every will to work and make it a land and a city of peace, life and dignity for all its inhabitants. The prayers of all believers in it — the three religions and two peoples who belong to this city — rise to God and ask for peace, as the Psalmist says: “Return to us, God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see!” (80.14). Inspire our leaders, and fill their minds and hearts with justice and peace.

Mr. President, we have been following, with concern, the reports about the possibility of changing how the United States understands and deals with the status of Jerusalem. We are certain that such steps will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, moving us farther from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division. We ask from you Mr. President to help us all walk towards more love and a definitive peace, which cannot be reached without Jerusalem being for all.

Our solemn advice and plea is for the United States to continue recognizing the present international status of Jerusalem. Any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm. We are confident that, with strong support from our friends, Israelis and Palestinians can work towards negotiating a sustainable and just peace, benefiting all who long for the Holy City of Jerusalem to fulfill its destiny. The Holy City can be shared and fully enjoyed once a political process helps liberate the hearts of all people, that live within it, from the conditions of conflict and destructiveness that they are experiencing.

Christmas is upon us soon. It is a feast of peace. The Angels have sung in our sky: Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to the people of good will. In this coming Christmas, we plea for Jerusalem not to be deprived from peace, we ask you Mr. President to help us listen to the song of the angels. As the Christian leaders of Jerusalem, we invite you to walk with us in hope as we build a just, inclusive peace for all the peoples of this unique and Holy City.

With our best regards, and best wishes for a Merry Christmas.

Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem
+Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
+Patriarch Nourhan Manougian, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate
+Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator, Latin Patriarchate
+Fr. Francesco Patton, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land
+Archbishop Anba Antonious, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
+Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate
+Archbishop Aba Embakob, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate
+Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate
+Archbishop Mosa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate
+Archbishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East
+Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
+Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
+Msgr. Georges Dankaye’, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate



6 December 2017
Greg Kandra




A woman lights a candle before a large icon of St. Nicholas in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior last May. A relic of the saint was sent from Bari, Italy, to Russia for veneration at the Moscow cathedral and at an Orthodox cathedral in St. Petersburg from late May to late July.
(photo: CNS/Robert Duncan)


Today marks the feast of St. Nicholas — the figure who would become immortalized in the popular imagination as Santa Claus.

As Michael J.L. La Civita noted a few years back:

According to tradition, Nicholas was born in the mid-third century to a wealthy Christian couple in Patara, a town near the southern shores of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). After the premature death of his parents, Nicholas gave up his wealth and entered a monastery, later traveling to Egypt and the Holy Land. He returned to his monastery, hoping to live quietly as a hermit. However, against his will, he was elected as Bishop of Myra, a small town near Patara.

Although little else is known about Nicholas, his popularity rests on his compassion for the poor and his passion for the faith.

“The reason for this special veneration of this special bishop, who left neither theological works nor other writings,” writes Leonid Ouspensky, a noted Russian theologian, “is evidently that the church sees in him a personification of a shepherd, of its defender and intercessor.”

The Byzantine Catholic Church website today offers this tribute to the beloved saint:

Most of the stories that come to us through history are of him living the Christian life — such as providing a dowry to three young women so they could marry and avoid slavery (the three bags of gold he threw through their windows landed in their stockings, and so today we hang our stockings by the chimney with care). All of the stories about St. Nicholas that come to us through history are about his love for people, especially the poor. St. Nicholas was good. So good that his goodness shines through history — and radiates even from the man in the red suit. Such goodness can only be found in one who dwells intimately with Lord — for He is the only good One (Mt 19:17).

O holy father,
The fruit of your good works enlightens and delights the hearts of the faithful.
Who cannot wonder at your measureless patience and humility?
At your tender care for the poor?
At your compassion for the afflicted?
O holy Nicholas,
You have divinely taught all things well,
Now wearing your unfading crown,
You intercede for our souls.
(From the Vespers of St. Nicholas)

St. Nicholas, pray for us!



6 December 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis delivers an appeal for Jerusalem during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican on 6 December. The pope expressed concern following reports that U.S. President Donald Trump plans to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as the capital of Israel.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)


U.S. plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital raising alarm in Middle East (The New York Times) President Trump plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the American Embassy there, upending nearly seven decades of American foreign policy and potentially destroying his efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians...

Pope appeals for wisdom, prudence to prevail over Jerusalem (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed for respect for Jerusalem’s status quo according to the pertinent United Nations Resolutions regarding the city. Speaking after his catechesis to the crowds in the Paul VI Hall during the weekly General Audience, the Pope said “my thoughts go to Jerusalem and I cannot keep silent my deep concern for the situation that has been created in the past days”...

Pope greets Palestinian delegation at audience (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis before his General Audience on Wednesday, greeted a Palestinian delegation hosted by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue...

Protesters clash with police in Kiev (Radio Free Europe) Hundreds of anticorruption protesters clashed with police in Kiev, calling for the ouster of Ukaine’s president, as authorities launched a manhunt to find protest leader Mikheil Saakashvili after his dramatic escape from police custody. Ukrainian Prosecutor-General’s Office spokesman Andriy Lysenko said late on 5 December that the authorities ordered the manhunt for the former Georgian president after a chaotic scene in which Saakashvili’s supporters freed him from a police van after security forces stormed his apartment and detained him...

Indian archdiocese ready to gather evidence on Kandhamal martyrs (Vatican Radio) The Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in eastern India’s Odisha state is preparing to initiate the sainthood cause of those who perished in the 2008 anti-Christian violence by Hindu extremists in Kandhamal district. In a December 3 letter, Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar appointed Father Purushottam Nayak to research and prepare a dossier containing documents for some 100 martyrs of Kandhamal, Mattersindia reported...



Tags: India Ukraine Palestine Israel Jerusalem

5 December 2017
Catholic News Service




Residents carry their belongings as they evacuate their home on 2 December after flooding caused by Typhoon Ockhi in the coastal village of Chellanam in the southern state of Kerala, India. The storm claimed the lives of at least 32 poor Catholic fishermen who were at sea and 200 more were missing. (photo: CNS/Sivaram V, Reuters)

A typhoon that rapidly developed on the southern Indian coast claimed the lives of at least 32 poor Catholic fishermen who were at sea and another 200 more were missing.

Thousands of other coastal residents had relocated to relief camps by 4 December, ucanews.com reported.

The confirmed deaths were in Kerala and Tamil Nadu states, according to government sources.

All the dead are Catholic men who had gone out to sea, said Father V. Wilfred, a priest of Vizhinjam parish, a fishing village near Kerala’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram.

Antony Silvaster, a Catholic fisherman in the fishing village of Vizhinjam, said there was no warning of the storm. He said that with 200 fishermen missing, the community expected the death toll to rise.

Worst affected was the coastal area near India’s southern tip, a Catholic stronghold.

Gusty winds and heavy rains began to lash the coast in southern India 30 November after a depression near Sri Lanka rapidly developed into a typhoon, named Ockhi. The storm’s intensity declined by 4 December.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India expressed solidarity with the fishing communities and offered prayers for the families affected by the storm.

“We offer our condolences to the families of all those who have lost their lives and we wish to comfort those who have been afflicted by pain and suffering caused by the devastating hurricane in the past few days,” Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, conference secretary general, said in a statement December.

The bishops’ conference also asked diocese throughout India to offer prayers during Masses 10 December.

Archbishop Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum and local priests traveled to the devastated area and began arranging for the delivery of relief supplies.

The Kerala government had opened 29 camps for an estimated 3,000 people forced from their homes. About 200 houses were destroyed, state Fisheries Minister J. Mercykutty Amma told local media.

Father Justin Jude of Poonthura said people also lost boats and nets. He urged the government to provide adequate compensation so that fishing families could return to work as soon as possible.

Typhoons are rare on India’s west coast. The last major typhoon on the Kerala coast occurred in 1941, killing 62 people and destroying about 50,000 homes.



5 December 2017
Greg Kandra




Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, shown here celebrating the Divine Liturgy last September, has vowed to continue providing financial assistance to Syria.
(photo: Robert Duncan/CNS)


Patriarch vows Russian Orthodox Church will continue to help Syria (TASS) The Russian Orthodox Church will continue to provide assistance to Syria, with fundraising campaigns being organized in churches, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said at a meeting with Patriarch John X of Antioch on Tuesday...

Israel fires at Syrian military facility (Al Jazeera) Israel again fired missiles at a Syrian military facility near Damascus late on Monday, according to a war monitor, the second reported Israeli strike in Syria in the past week...

Lebanon’s prime minister rescinds resignation (Reuters) Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri rescinded his resignation on Tuesday and said all members of the government had agreed to stay out of conflicts in Arab countries. Hariri quit his job in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia a month ago but later said he might withdraw the resignation, providing all parties in Lebanon’s government agree to adhere to the state’s policy of “dissociation” from regional conflicts...

Coptic cathedral reopens after Palm Sunday bombing (World Watch Monitor) A Coptic cathedral has been restored and reopened eight months after a suicide bombing there on Palm Sunday killed 28 and injured 74 others. St George’s Cathedral in Tanta, north of Cairo, has been renamed the Cathedral of St George and the Martyrs, and its blood-splattered pillars have been left untouched as a reminder of what happened...

Gaza’s isolation takes toll on medical patients (CNN) CNN went to see what treatment for cancer patients is like in Gaza. Doctors describe a constant struggle to keep hospitals stocked with medicines and equipment...



1 December 2017
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service




Pope Francis prays with Christian, Muslim and Buddhist religious leaders and Rohingya refugees from Myanmar during an interreligious and ecumenical meeting for peace in the garden of the archbishop’s residence in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 1 December. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Each human being is created in the image and likeness of God, yet so often people desecrate that image with violence as seen in the treatment of Myanmar’s Rohingya minority, Pope Francis said.

“Today, the presence of God is also called ‘Rohingya,’” the pope said Dec. 1 after meeting, clasping hands with and listening intently to 16 Rohingya who have found shelter in Bangladesh.

“They, too, are images of the living God,” Pope Francis told a gathering of Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu leaders gathered in Dhaka for an interreligious meeting for peace.

“Dear brothers and sisters,” he told the crowd, “let us show the world what its selfishness is doing to the image of God.”

“Let’s keeping helping” the Rohingya, he said. “Let’s continue working so their rights are recognized. Let’s not close our hearts. Let’s not look away.”

The Rohingya, like all people, are created in God’s image, the pope insisted. “Each of us must respond.”

The refugees traveled to Dhaka from Cox’s Bazar, the southern Bangladeshi city hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled Myanmar. More than 620,000 Rohingya have crossed the border into Bangladesh since late August.

Speaking directly to them, Pope Francis said, “We are all close to you.”

In comparison to the suffering the Rohingya have endured, he said, the response of the people at the gathering actually is small. “But we make room for you in our hearts.”

“In the name of all those who have persecuted you and have done you harm, especially for the indifference of the world, I ask forgiveness,” he said.

Pope Francis’ remarks, which he made in Italian, were translated for the crowd and for the Rohingya. Many of them were in tears.

In his formal speech at the interreligious meeting, Pope Francis insisted “mere tolerance” for people of other religions or ethnic groups was not enough to create a society where everyone’s rights are respected and peace reigns.

Believers must “reach out to others in mutual trust and understanding,” not ignoring differences, but seeing them as “a potential source of enrichment and growth.”

The “openness of heart” to which believers of all faiths are called includes “the pursuit of goodness, justice and solidarity,” he said. “It leads to seeking the good of our neighbors.”

Pope Francis urged the people of Bangladesh to make openness, acceptance and cooperation the “beating heart” of their nation. Such attitudes, he said, are the only antidote to corruption, “destructive religious ideologies and the temptation to turn a blind eye to the needs of the poor, refugees, persecuted minorities and those who are most vulnerable.”

According to a Vatican translation, Farid Uddin Masud, speaking for the Muslim community, told the pope, “it is compassion and love which today’s world needs most. The only remedy and solution to the problem of malice, envy and fighting among nations, races and creeds lies in the compassionate love preached and practiced by the great men and women of the world.”

Masud, a famous prayer leader and advocate of dialogue and tolerance, is thought by some to have been the main target of a 2016 bombing at a major Muslim prayer service in Sholakia, Bangladesh. Four people were killed.

Praising the pope for speaking on behalf of “the oppressed, irrespective of religion, caste and nationality,” Masud particularly cited Pope Francis’ concern for the Rohingya. He said he hoped that the pope’s public support would strengthen international efforts to defend their rights.

Anisuzzaman, a famous professor of Bengali literature, told the gathering that in a world torn by strife, the pope’s message of encounter and dialogue takes on added importance.

“Those of us who are frustrated to find the forces of hatred and cruelty overtaking those of love and compassion can surely find solace in the pope’s message of peace and harmony and of fraternity and goodwill,” he said, according to the Vatican’s translation of his speech. “We note with great relief that the pope has, time and again, expressed his sympathy with the Rohingya from Myanmar, who have been forcibly ejected from their home and earth and subjected to violence and inhuman treatment.”

The pope arrived at the meeting in a rickshaw after a meeting with Bangladesh’s Catholic bishops. He had told the bishops that interreligious and ecumenical dialogue are essential part to the life of the church in Bangladesh.

“Yours is a nation where ethnic diversity is mirrored in a diversity of religious traditions,” he said. “Work unremittingly to build bridges and to foster dialogue, for these efforts not only facilitate communication between different religious groups, but also awaken the spiritual energies needed for the work of nation-building in unity, justice and peace.”

The Catholic Church’s preferential “option for the poor,” including the Rohingya refugees, is a sign of God’s love and mercy and must continue to shine forth in concrete acts of charity, Pope Francis told the bishops.

“The inspiration for your works of assistance to the needy must always be that pastoral charity which is quick to recognize human woundedness and to respond with generosity, one person at a time,” Pope Francis said.







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