17 October 2013
Pope Francis shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a private audience in the pontiff’s library at the Vatican, on 17 October. (photo: CNS/Maurizio Brambatti, pool via Reuters)
Pope Francis today offered a practical gift to a visitor from the Middle East, according to CNS:
Pope Francis gave Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a fancy pen as a gift, and Abbas told the pope, “I hope to sign the peace agreement with Israel with this pen.”
Pope Francis responded with his hope that the agreement would be reached “soon, soon.”
The exchange took place 17 October in the papal library after the pope and Palestinian president had spent almost half an hour meeting privately.
Abbas had given the pope a Bible and a framed scene of Bethlehem, West Bank. The pope gave Abbas a framed scene of the Vatican along with the pen, “because you obviously have many things to sign,” which is when Abbas spoke about his hopes to sign a peace treaty.
A Vatican statement about Abbas’ meeting with the pope and a later meeting with the Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, said, “The reinstatement of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians” was a topic in both conversations.
“The parties expressed their hope that this process may bear fruit and enable a just and lasting solution to be found to the conflict,” it said. “Hope was expressed that the parties to the conflict will make courageous and determined decisions in order to promote peace” and that the international community would support their efforts. The U.S.-mediated talks began in July.
The Vatican statement did not mention Pope Francis’ possible trip to the Holy Land, although when Abbas greeted Archbishop Mamberti he told him that he had invited the pope to visit. Abbas’ delegation also included the mayor of Bethlehem, which likely would be on the itinerary of a papal trip.
In April, Israeli President Shimon Peres also invited the pope, and Israeli media have been reporting that a papal visit is expected in the spring. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced on 16 October that the prime minister would meet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome on 23 October and meet the pope during the same trip.
The Vatican statement on Abbas’ meetings said the pope and Palestinian leader also discussed the ongoing war in Syria and expressed their hopes that “dialogue and reconciliation may supplant the logic of violence as soon as possible.”
The two also discussed the work underway on a Vatican-Palestinian agreement regulating “several essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine,” as well as the situation of Christian communities in the Palestinian territories and the contributions Christians make to society throughout the Middle East.
16 October 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Middle East Christians Palestine Vatican Middle East Peace Process
Pope Francis wears a firefighter’s helmet as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 16 October. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
In his weekly general audience, Pope Francis today spoke of how the church is “apostolic”:
The church can describe itself as “apostolic” only if it shares the Gospel with the world, remaining faithful to the teaching of the apostles and living out Gospel values, Pope Francis said.
“A church closed in on itself and its past, a church concerned only with its little rules, customs and attitudes is a church that betrays its identity,” the pope told more than 70,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square on 16 October for his weekly general audience.
Continuing a series of audience talks about how the creed describes the church, Pope Francis said the adjective “apostolic” comes from the church’s connection to the 12 men Jesus chose as his closest companions and sent to share with the entire world what he had told and shown them.
The church, he said, has “the firm conviction of being sent,” and of having an obligation to “safeguard and transmit” the teaching of the apostles.
Pope Francis said he wanted to emphasize the connection between the church’s apostolic identity and its obligation to be missionary, “because Christ calls everyone to go out, to encounter others; he sends us, asks us to move in order to bring the joy of the Gospel.”
“Once again,” he said, “let’s ask ourselves: Are we missionaries with our words, but especially with our Christian lifestyles; are we witnesses? Or are we closed, both in our hearts and inside our churches? Are we ‘sacristy Christians,’ Christians in word only who live like pagans?”
The pope said he wasn’t trying to scold anyone. “I also ask myself: ‘How am I a Christian? With my witness?’ ”
Read the rest at CNS.
15 October 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Catholic Evangelization
A woman waits to board a boat as she returns to her village on 13 October after Cyclone Phailin hit the village of Sunapur in the eastern Indian state of Orissa. India had its biggest disaster relief operation in history, evacuating the region and successfully moving more than a million people out of harm’s way before Cyclone Phailin swept through Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, ravaging crops and infrastructure and flattening hundreds of thousands of houses. Learn more about CNEWA’s work in India at this link. (photo: CNS/Adnan Abidi, Reuters)
11 October 2013
Tags: India Refugees Relief Homes/housing
Clowns cheer as Pope Francis leads his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 9 October. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
In his remarks at his weekly general audience Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke of what it means to be “catholic.” As CNS reports:
Professing that the church is “catholic” means accepting its teachings, accepting the gifts it offers to help one grow in holiness and accepting the fact that it is composed of different people with different gifts and opinions, Pope Francis said.
“Let’s ask ourselves: Do we live in harmony in our communities? Or do we fight among ourselves?” the pope asked 9 October as he focused his weekly general audience talk on the meaning of the creed’s profession that the church is “catholic.”
“Is there gossip” in the parish or movement, do people “accept each other, accept that there is a correct variety” or “do we tend to try to make everything uniform?” Pope Francis asked the estimated 60,000 visitors and pilgrims who braved the rain to join him. Many in the square had umbrellas, but Pope Francis spent almost 30 minutes in the rain, riding among the crowd in an open popemobile.
“We are not all the same and we shouldn’t all be the same,” he said. Each person has his or her own gifts, qualities and character, which “is one of the beauties of the church — everyone brings what God has given him or her to enrich the others.”
“When we try to impose uniformity, we kill the gifts of the Holy Spirit,” the pope said. He asked people at the audience to pray that the Spirit would make all church members more “catholic.”
Read the rest.
10 October 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Unity Catholic
In this 2005 photo, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, talks with Rabbi David Rosen, president of the International Jewish Committee for Interfaith Consultations, during a conference in Rome on 25 September on “Nostra Aetate,” the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on interreligious dialogue. (photo: CNS/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)
A leading figure on interfaith dialogue and ecumenism spoke out recently on the challenges facing Christians in some parts of the world today:
Pope John XXIII’s encyclical “Pacem in Terris” contains key principles of religious freedom that continue to have relevance for interreligious relations today. That’s the view of Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, former nuncio to Egypt and former president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Now based in Jerusalem, he was in Rome attending a recent conference marking the 50th anniversary of Pope John’s encyclical letter. …
In an interview, Archbishop Fitzgerald said: “There are principles of religious freedom, to practice one’s religion, not only in private but also in public, and freedom of conviction so that one can change one’s religion and this presents problems in the Islamic world in many countries. … There’s one country which doesn’t allow any churches or any public worship at all and that’s against fundamental human rights. I think the way forward is to found our dialogue on human rights and I think we can work together on that. …
“There have been some very encouraging signs,” Archbishop Fitzgerald said, including “an initiative taken by Al Azhar to bring priests and imams together.” He added: “If they can have an open attitude towards ministers of other religions, this will translate into common action and support — and there have been signs of support by Muslims for Christians who’ve been attacked.”
You can read more and hear the entire interview at the link.
You can find more of Archbishop Fitzgerald’s thoughts on interfaith dialogue in an essay he wrote for ONE in 2008, Islam’s Many Faces. He also sat down for an interview with us last year, marking the 50th anniversary of Vatican II and discussing the Middle East today.
9 October 2013
Tags: Unity Interreligious Dialogue religious freedom Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald
In this image from 2010, sisters and patients gather for evening prayer at Grace Home, a home for HIV-infected children and patients in Trichur, India. Read more about the remarkable work at the home in Full of Grace. And to learn how you can help, visit our India giving page. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
8 October 2013
Tags: India Children Sisters Health Care HIV/AIDS
In Astoria, Greek Orthodox priests and faithful celebrate the annual feast of St. Irene Chrysovalantou. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
Several years ago, we toured Astoria, New York, and discovered a thriving Greek enclave:
Officially, Piraeus is Greece’s third largest city, after Athens and Thessalonica. But don’t tell that to Greek-Americans in the New York area. For them, the “third city of Greece” is, in fact, Astoria, a neighborhood on the northwestern edge of the Borough of Queens.
Once home to singer Tony Bennett, stage star Ethel Merman and television’s Archie Bunker, Astoria at its height as a Greek-speaking enclave in the 1970’s boasted an estimated 300,000 Greek-Americans — more than the number of Greeks living in Piraeus.
Economic advancement, marriages, retirement, death and, to a lesser degree, assimilation, have contributed to the decline in the number of Astoria’s Greek-Americans. About 40,000 Greek-Americans remain in this traditionally working-class neighborhood of row houses and apartment buildings. But even as young urban professionals — fleeing Manhattan’s escalating housing costs — and other immigrant groups replace them, Astoria retains its Greek flavor, thanks almost entirely to the abundance of Greek restaurants and cafes, butchers and bakers, churches and clubs.
“We’ve given the area a different color,” said Spiro Svolakos, 53, who came to Astoria almost 30 years ago. “We’ve made it a restaurant town.”
Dutch and German immigrants first settled in the farthest northwestern reaches of Long Island in the early 17th century. Early residents called the settlement Hallet’s Cove, but in the early 19th century renamed it after John Jacob Astor to lure America’s first millionaire to invest there. Waves of other immigrants soon followed. The late 19th century brought Czechs, Irish and Italians, groups that founded Astoria’s Catholic parishes, schools and social clubs. Greek immigrants joined them.
In the 1920’s, new immigration laws — based on nationality — significantly curtailed Southern European immigration to the United States. But after the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act, which ended the national-quota system, tens of thousands of Greeks, many of them from the island of Cyprus, streamed in. Most settled in the New York area, including Astoria, which quickly became the hub of local Greek-American life and a home away from home.
“As soon as you arrived in Astoria, you had your deli, your fish market, your butcher,” recalled Eugene Bouzalakos, who came to Astoria in 1979. “You didn’t even have to speak English. The schools spoke Greek, the church people spoke Greek. You didn’t miss Greece because you had everything.”
...” One thing about Greeks,” said Maria Bouzalakos, ”they like to see people eat.“
“And if there are four of us eating, I set a table for five,” added her husband, Eugene. “Always, someone comes. If not, I have set a place for Christ.”
“I go to Greece a lot, and I lament to them how they’ve sold their heart and soul for the euro,” said butcher John Gatzonis.
“They have given up their religion and have become Europeans,” he said, recalling a recent trip to Greece when he saw most Greeks disregarding the traditional period of fasting preceding the feast of the Dormition of Mary in August.
“If one wants to see a Greek now, you don’t go to Greece, you go to North America or Australia,” he said. “I’ve evolved, but to some extent I’m the same Greek I was in 1956.”
The family meal is one of those traditions preserved by many of Astoria’s remaining Greek-American families.
In all eastern Mediterranean cultures, “the meal time, the dinner time is a sacred time,” said Father George Anastasiou of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
“Christ instituted the Last Supper as a meal. To eat with your family is sacred. You can see that to this day in Greek culture. We don’t have that American style of eating. We all order six, seven, eight dishes, and it becomes a familial thing.”
Read more about Discovering New York’s Greek Enclave in the November 2007 issue of ONE.
7 October 2013
The haunting melodies of the Armenian liturgy are chanted by a Bourj Hammoud choir. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
Several years ago, we profiled Armenians who had settled in Lebanon:
Determined to preserve their cultural identity, religion, language and traditions, these Armenian refugees established clubs, schools, churches, hospitals and dispensaries. Today they attend Armenian churches and schools, eat Armenian food, speak Armenian and read Armenian periodicals. Whether members of the Armenian Apostolic, Catholic or Evangelical churches, Lebanon’s Armenians live in harmony. Although tight-knit, they too are affected by the specters of unemployment, emigration and cultural disintegration haunting all Lebanese.
Roughly 100,000 people — 80 percent of the population of Bourj Hammoud — are Armenian. One of the most densely populated areas in the country, Bourj Hammoud has become one of the largest manufacturing hubs in Lebanon, a center for jewelry, shoes and clothing, all crafted by Armenians. And while Armenians prefer to work with fellow Armenians, their clients are usually fashion-conscious Maronites, Sunni Muslims and Druze. Yet inflation and regional economic challenges have affected even this affluent quarter.
“I have difficulty earning a living today; there is no work here,” says Armenak Kaiserian, who has run a shoe repair shop in Bourj Hammoud for 40 years.
In the narrow streets of Bourj Hammoud, traffic is so dense even the most intrepid drivers hesitate to venture there. Casting a rather somber pall on the area, five-story buildings border the narrow streets; drying clothes, hanging on lines along balconies, compete with webs of electric and telephone cable. Although it is hard to imagine, everyone in Bourj Hammoud can distinguish his or her own wires among the mess.
Read more about Lebanon’s Little Armenia in the July-August 2002 issue of the magazine.
4 October 2013
Tags: Lebanon Cultural Identity Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church
A little boy shows Pope Francis where to sit during a lunch break in Assisi on 4 October. (photo: Catholic TV/Vatican)
On Friday, Pope Francis paid a pastoral visit to Assisi, home of the saint whose name he took, and spoke of how Christians must strip themselves of worldliness:
The pope offered this message in the same hall in which St. Francis, about 800 years ago, undressed himself and laid his fine clothes at his wealthy father’s feet, renouncing his riches and inheritance in favour of a life of poverty consecrated to God.
The pope once again put aside his prepared speech and began his impromptu remarks by debunking a notion that had circulated in the press in recent days: that he would imitate St. Francis by divesting the bishops, the cardinals and himself, as well. However, he said, today serves as a good occasion to invite the church to strip itself of worldliness.
All of the baptized comprise the church and all have to follow Jesus, who stripped himself and chose to be a servant and to be humiliated on his way to the cross. “And if we want to be Christians, there is no other way,” he said.
Without the cross, without Jesus and without stripping ourselves of worldliness, he said, “we become pastry shop Christians … like nice sweet things but not real Christians.”
“We need to strip the church,” he said. “We are in very grave danger. We are in danger of worldliness.”
The Christian cannot enter into the spirit of the world, which leads to vanity, arrogance and pride, he continued. And these lead to idolatry, which is the gravest sin.
The church is not just the clergy, the hierarchy and religious, he said. “The church is all of us and we all have to strip ourselves of this worldliness. Worldliness does us harm. It is so sad to find a worldly Christian.”
“Our Lord told us: We cannot serve two masters: either we serve money or we serve God. … We can’t cancel with one hand what we write with another,” he remarked. “The Gospel is the Gospel.”
The pope acknowledged the local poor who were gathered with him, saying: “Many of you have been stripped by this savage world that does not give work, that does not help, that does not care if children die of hunger … that does not care if many families do not have anything to eat or money to bring bread home.”
Referring to the hundreds of refugees who died in a shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa Thursday, the pope lamented the large numbers of people who die trying to escape dire conditions in their home countries.
It is ridiculous that a Christian would want to follow a worldly path, he continued. “The worldly spirit kills. It kills people; it kills the church.”
The pope then asked the Lord to bestow upon Christians the courage to strip themselves of the spirit of the world, which he called “the leprosy, the cancer of society and the cancer of the revelation of God and the enemy of Jesus.”
He concluded: “I ask the Lord that he gives us all the grace to strip ourselves.”
3 October 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Catholic Assisi
Migrants are seen on a rescue boat as they arrive with a group that includes Syrian refugees at the port of Pozzallo, Italy, on 17 September. More than two million refugees have fled Syria’s civil war, with some landing in Italy. To learn how you can help, visit our Emergency: Syria page. (photo: CNS/Antonio Parrinello, Reuters)
Tags: Syria Refugees Syrian Civil War Migrants Italy