28 May 2014
In the video above, Pope Francis gently corrects Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on which language Jesus spoke. (source: Huffington Post)
A small controversy erupted Monday during a meeting between Pope Francis and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
As Netanyahu began speaking on the relationship between Christianity and Judaism, he mentioned Jesus Christ, saying via a translator, “Jesus lived here. He spoke Hebrew.”
Pope Francis interrupted, pointing out that Jesus spoke Aramaic.
“He spoke Aramaic, but he knew Hebrew,” Netanyahu responded after some chuckling arose from those seated around them.
Israeli linguistics professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann told Reuters that both men had a point.
“Jesus was a native Aramaic speaker,” he said. “But he would have also known Hebrew because there were extant religious writings in Hebrew.” Zuckermann went on to mention how Hebrew was spoken at the time by the lower class, the exact kind of people Jesus was said to have preached to.
CNEWA’s external affairs officer (and Middle East scholar) Elias Mallon offers this analysis:
The Huffington Post recounts that, during his visit to Israel, Pope Francis corrected Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. It seems that in his attempt to draw links between Christians and Jews, the prime minister stated that Jesus spoke Hebrew. Pope Francis is said to have interjected, “he spoke Aramaic.”
Although Jesus most definitely did not speak Ivrit, the Hebrew of the modern State of Israel, both the pope and prime minister are probably right.
Aramaic was the language generally spoken at the time of Jesus and together with Greek was the lingua franca of the entire Middle East.
While closely related, Hebrew and Aramaic speakers could not understand each other. We know this from 2 Kings 18:26-37. When the leaders of Jerusalem are negotiating the cessation of hostilities with the ambassador of the Assyrian king, the ambassador speaks to them in “the Judean language” in the presence of the Jewish soldiers. But the Jewish negotiators ask him to speak in Aramaic not Hebrew. The clear implication is that the defenders of Jerusalem would not have understood the negotiations if they were carried on in Aramaic.
One often hears that Jesus came from the hinterland, where the uneducated people spoke Hebrew, the older language of the land. However, the image of Galilee as a backwater is no longer tenable. Excavations at Sepphoris, a wealthy city and trade center about three miles from Nazareth, indicate that there was a large Greek-speaking community near the home town of Jesus. Greek merchants would most likely have been familiar with Aramaic if they were doing business in the Middle East. And as a carpenter it would be likely that Jesus had contacts with Sepphoris. It is also possible that he spoke some Greek.
There is mention in John 12:20 of some “Greeks” (hellēnēs) who wished to see Jesus. In the Acts of the Apostles, when referring to Greek-speaking Jews, Luke calls them “Hellenists” (hellēnistos) and not “Greeks.” So it is not unreasonable to assume the people mentioned in John’s Gospel were Greek.
Matthew, Mark and Luke each recount the story of Jesus teaching in the synagogue in Nazareth. Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 relate that the people were astounded at Jesus’ “wisdom” (sofia). Luke 4:16-19, on the other hand, recounts that Jesus was invited to read from the scroll in the synagogue. The reading was from the Book of Isaiah. It is highly unlikely that this reading would have been in any language other than Hebrew. So I would say it is fairly safe to assert that Jesus could speak and read Hebrew, Aramaic and perhaps Greek as well.
Of course in the contemporary Middle East, everything is politicized — demography, linguistics, even beverages. Coffee changes from “Arabic coffee” to “Turkish coffee” depending on where it is consumed. The good-hearted exchange between the prime minister and the pope, while an echo of stress lines in the Middle East, is also an example of how those stresses can be reduced through open exchange and respect.
28 May 2014
In Lebanon, young refugees at a community center run by the Good Shepherd Sisters smile
for a visitor. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Later this week, CNEWA will be taking part in an important gathering in Rome, focusing in large part on helping refugees like those shown in the picture above.
Vatican Radio has the details:
On Friday, 30 May, the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” will host a coordination meeting between the Catholic charitable organizations that operate in the context of the Syrian crisis...
...Speakers will include Archbishop Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, and Bishop SE Antoine Audo, president of Caritas, Syria. Finally, the activities carried out at the information office in Beirut, set up last year to collect and distribute data on the work of Catholic organizations, will be presented. In the afternoon, the practical aspects of cooperation between the various parties in Syria and neighboring countries will be the focus of attention.
The objective of the meeting, in line with the path taken in the last two years by the Holy See, and as a result of the meeting of 4-5 June 2013, organized by the Pontifical Council, is to make an assessment of the work done so far by the Catholic charitable organizations in the context of the crisis, highlighting critical issues and identifying priorities for the future.
Michel Constantin, regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, will represent CNEWA.
Wondering how you can help kids like those in the picture? Click this link to find out.
27 May 2014
Pope Francis embraces Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud, Muslim leader from Argentina, after praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on 26 May. The pope's message left at the Wall contained the text of the Our Father and of the 122nd Psalm, traditionally prayed by Jewish pilgrims who travel to Jerusalem.(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Among the many memorable moments from the pope’s trip, a standout was the one shown above. CNS’s Cindy Wooden took note:
In a Holy Land pilgrimage filled with emotion, the embrace of Pope Francis, Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud this morning was powerful.
Even at a distance of more than 1,400 miles, (thanks to the Vatican Television Center and Vatican Radio) viewers could read in that embrace a sense of “we are actually here; it really happened.”
The embrace, complete with tears, came after Pope Francis visited Jerusalem’s grand mufti and other Muslim leaders near the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque and then prayed at the Western Wall.
The two holy sites make up what is probably the most contested piece of real estate in the world because of its deep religious significance.
Muslims believe Muhammad was taken to the site in his famous “Night Journey” and from there transported to heaven and then back to Mecca.
The Esplanade of the Mosques sits above the sacred Jewish prayer space facing the Western Wall, which is all that remains of the wall that surrounded the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans in the year 70.
An interreligious pilgrimage to the site isn’t a daily occurrence, but Pope Francis wanted to go with his friends.
Read more about that emotional embrace at CNS’s blog.
And you can check out more stories, pictures and video from the trip at our special page, Apostles of Unity in the Holy Land.
23 May 2014
In this image from last year, Pope Francis burns incense before the icon of Mary “Salus Populi Romani” (health of the Roman people) after praying the rosary during a service at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
In what has become a custom before beginning an important trip, Pope Francis stopped by the Basilica of St. Mary Major this morning to offer a private prayer before an icon of Mary. The pontiff leaves for his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land Saturday.
CNS has details:
Pope Francis entrusted his upcoming apostolic journey to the Holy Land to Our Lady when he visited a Marian icon at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome this morning.
He brought roses and prayed in silence before the icon for about 15 minutes, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told us today.
The unannounced morning visit marks what has become a Pope Francis tradition: visiting the “Salus Populi Romani” (health of the Roman people) to pray for Mary’s protection and care before a major trip.
He did the same thing before heading to Brazil last year when he prayed that Mary protect and care for everyone attending World Youth Day and for all young people around the world.
He also visited the day after his election, at the start of his new journey as supreme pontiff.
The icon has special significance for the pope and he has visited it often on different occasions to pray. He has said that the Basilica of St. Mary Major was the first Marian shrine in the West where the image of the Mother of God — the “Theotokos” — was venerated.
According to tradition, this image of Mary embracing Jesus as a young boy was the work of the evangelist St. Luke, who painted it on a tabletop made by Jesus himself in St. Joseph’s carpentry shop. Many centuries later, Jesuit missionaries distributed reproductions of the image to promote Marian devotion around the world.
22 May 2014
The answer: right here.
CNEWA has just launched a new web page, “Apostles of Unity in the Holy Land,” with news, photos, videos and updated information about the trip of Pope Francis this weekend.
Visit this link for details.
The pope leaves for his visit to Jordan, Palestine and Israel this Saturday and returns to the Vatican on Monday. It’s a short trip, but one that promises to be both memorable and historic, as the itinerary makes clear.
Our new web page is designed to be a living resource. We’re going to continue updating the site as we get more information. So be sure to check back often!
22 May 2014
With their parents in pews, children take in the liturgy from the floor of the church.
(photo: Tugela Ridley)
In 2006, we explored how Orthodox Christianity spread through Africa, and uncovered some fascinating history:
Orthodox Christianity is not new to Africa. According to tradition, the Evangelist Mark arrived on the continent around A.D. 43, and founded the Church of Alexandria and, by extension, all Africa. But “all Africa,” for most of the church’s history, effectively ended at the Sahara. Orthodox missionaries sat out the 19th century’s “scramble for Africa,” when European Catholics and Protestants fanned out across the continent to save souls and build colonies. The story of how the Alexandrian Church came to have an affiliate in faraway Uganda, a country with no previous connection to the Orthodox world, is therefore not a tale of white men bearing the message of God to a dark continent. Rather, the Ugandan church traces its roots to two Africans who, rebelling against colonial rule, fled to a religion they felt was pure and politically uncompromised. This makes Uganda’s small community of 60,000 Orthodox Christians nearly unique within their home country. They found their faith on their own.
Read more about Orthodox Africa in the March 2006 issue of ONE.
21 May 2014
A man holds a cardboard cutout of Pope Francis’ face as the pope leads his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 21 May. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
At his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke about his upcoming trip to the Holy Land:
Asking prayers for his 24-26 May trip to the Holy Land, Pope Francis said his visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories would be “strictly religious.”
At the end of his weekly general audience 21 May, Pope Francis told an estimated 50,000 people in St. Peter’s Square that he was about to make the trip.
The first reason for going, he said, “is to meet my brother, Bartholomew,” the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, to mark the 50th anniversary of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. The meeting launched a new era of ecumenical cooperation and dialogue.
“Peter and Andrew will meet once again, and this is very beautiful,” the pope said. Pope Francis is considered the successor of the apostle Peter and Patriarch Bartholomew the successor of his brother, the apostle Andrew.
The pope said the second reason for his trip is “to pray for peace in that land that suffers so much.”
He asked the people in the square to pray for the success of the trip.
20 May 2014
Hired vans bus students home from the Good Shepherd Sisters’ community center in Lebanon. Read more about the inspiring work of the sisters with refugees in Syria, Shepherds and Sheep from the spring 2014 edition of ONE. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
19 May 2014
An image of Pope Francis is displayed at a shop in Jerusalem’s Old City. The pope will visit Jordan, the Palestinian Territories and Israel during his 24-26 May trip, his first to
the region as pope. (photo: CNS/Amir Cohen, Reuters)
16 May 2014
This weekend, the Canadian Catholic TV station Salt + Light will air a documentary about the Middle East, focusing explicitly on the work of CNEWA. The documentary, “Living Stones: Walking Humbling in the Land We Call Holy,” draws from material gathered during a special pilgrimage to the Holy Land for journalists that CNEWA helped sponsor four years ago.
As the station notes:
We often forget the Holy Land is more than just a place of shrines and pilgrimages. This is a land where people live, and millions of them are Christian. In 2010, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) sponsored several trips to the Holy Land for journalists. It was a different kind of pilgrimage, one where they visited people, the living stones of this land we call holy. Join Deacon Pedro Guevara-Mann as he travels through Jordan, Palestine and Israel meeting Christians, learning about the work they do and sharing their stories.
Check out the trailer for the program above. It can be seen on Salt + Light Sunday 18 May at 9 pm ET / 6 pm PT. You can view it online at this link.