19 September 2019
The Rev. Kevin O’Connell baptizes a child at Sacred Heart Church in Amman, Jordan. Many Filipino migrants are seeking to start a new life Far From Home in Jordan. And the church is there for them. Read about it in the November 2011 edition of ONE. (photo: Tanya Habjouqa)
18 September 2019
Tags: Jordan Migrants
Some of the 200 Iraqi Christian schoolchildren who study English, science, math, Arabic and Aramaic are seen at an afternoon school program set up by the Rev. Khalil Jaar at Our Lady Mother of the Church in Amman, Jordan. (photo: CNS/Dale Gavlak)
A shy 12-year-old Iraqi refugee boy waited with his parents and younger brother to register for the new school year. Someone measured him for the distinctive school uniform of maroon trousers and white striped shirt.
“The children ask themselves why they are here, why did they change their school and leave their school friends,” said the Rev. Khalil Jaar, who set up a school at his parish, Our Lady Mother of the Church.
“The first thing I like to do is to support these families and make them feel welcome. I know they are in shock,” the priest told Catholic News Service.
When Father Jaar spoke to the family, he discovered the boys had gone without schooling for the past two years.
“We will do our best to bring (them) up to speed. It’s important that they have Iraqi teachers like we do here, because they will immediately feel comfortable that they are in an Iraqi atmosphere,” the priest said.
As a new school year begins in the Middle East, Jordan -- which hosts the world’s second-largest refugee population per capita -- is facing the challenges of providing these youngsters with an education.
The U.N. refugee agency reported in August that of the 233,000 refugee children of school age in Jordan, 83,920 -- more than one-third -- are out of school and are not enrolled in any formal or informal education system, despite improvements made in recent years.
“Access to quality education continues to be a challenge for many, especially the most vulnerable, who are often forced to drop out of school to support their families,” UNHCR spokeswoman Lilly Carlisle said.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has asked people to help close “the refugee education gap.”
Father Jaar has been at the forefront of doing just that at his parish school, established in September 2014 when some 800 Iraqi Christian families sought refuge in Jordan following their escape from Islamic State militants. The families arrived after the school year had started and were unable to attend Jordanian schools that year.
Father Jaar, who grew up as a Palestinian refugee from Bethlehem, West Bank, has devoted his ministry to aiding Iraqi and Syrian refugees flooding into Jordan from neighboring conflicts for more than a decade.
His church compound hosts a formal school for more than 600 students from Jordan, Syria and Iraq. The school operates under the auspices of Jordan’s Ministry of Education in the mornings.
“The Iraqis in this formal school are only some 80 pupils. But we must pay for them to attend because they are foreigners. We do our best to collect charity from friends to pay for them,” the priest said. He spends about $565 per year per Iraqi student to attend this government-approved school.
The compound hosts an afternoon informal school for 200 Iraqi Christian children four times a week. They are taught math, science, English, Arabic and Aramaic, the language of Christ that they use to pray.
They start their school by praying the Our Father in Aramaic.
“I insist that it is very important to maintain this valuable language for them,” he said.
But equally important is for the children to master English, he said, in the event they are eventually resettled in the West and/or they pursue higher educational studies. So Father Jaar emphasizes the study of English at the afternoon school.
But the priest has experienced his own challenges with running the afternoon school, in which education is provided free of charge. He must raise about $5,650 every month to pay Iraqi teachers, the transportation for the students, snacks, books, stationery and some extra activities.
“We know that our Lord will keep taking care of us. I do my best to keep in contact with my friends and the friends of the school. They are very generous. For the time being, we always had exactly what we need. This makes us depend on God,” Father Jaar said. “In spite all the difficulties of the school, I keep going with this project because I feel responsible to protect the children’s right to education. This is very important.”
Father Jaar has also made free computer science classes available to about 140 Iraqi students, ages 16-18; upon completion, they receive an international computer license.
“Many are unable to enroll in colleges here, so I invite them to be involved. Already many have started to work professionally from home on their computers,” he said.
“I am always available to help people without any discrimination. I don’t care about their nationality or religion,” Father Jaar said. “I am serving human beings here by trying to give them a better life.”
17 September 2019
Tags: Refugees Jordan
Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople meet privately at the Vatican on 17 September 2019. In a letter to the patriarch, released by the Vatican last week, Pope Francis said he gave the patriarch relics from the tomb of St. Peter in June as a sign of how God has graced the search for Christian unity. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
16 September 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
Pope Francis greets bishops from Eastern Catholic churches during a meeting at the Vatican on 14 September 2019. Meeting some 40 bishops serving in Europe, the pope praised them for their fidelity to Rome and encouraged them to be more active in seeking Christian unity.
(photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Praising the fidelity of Eastern Catholics, Pope Francis also urged them to be more active in the search for Christian unity, especially unity with their Orthodox counterparts.
In heaven, he said, “the Lord will not seek an account of which or how many territories remained under our jurisdiction. He will not ask how we contributed to the development of our national identities. Instead, he will ask how much we loved our neighbor, every neighbor, and how well we were able to proclaim the Gospel of salvation to those we met along the road of life.”
The pope met 14 September with about 40 bishops in Europe from Eastern Catholic churches; they included bishops from the Eastern-rite Ukrainian, Romanian, Greek and Slovak churches, but also those who minister to migrant communities from outside of Europe, including the Coptic, Chaldean and Syriac Catholic
Churches from the Middle East and the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches of India.
The multiple expressions of Catholic liturgy, spirituality and governance are a sign of the Catholic Church’s true unity, Pope Francis said. “Uniformity is the destruction of unity; Christian truth is not monotonous, but ‘symphonic,’ otherwise it would not come from the Holy Spirit.”
Preserving their Eastern identity while holding fast to their unity with Rome came at the price of martyrdom for many of the Eastern Catholic churches, the pope acknowledged. “This fidelity is a precious gem in your treasury of faith, a distinctive and indelible sign.”
Unity with the wider Catholic Church, he said, does not detract from the identity of the Eastern churches but “contributes to its full realization, for example, by protecting it from the temptation of closing in on itself and falling into national or ethnic particularisms that exclude others.”
While the Eastern churches have national roots and cultures, and in many cases have contributed to preserving local languages and identity, the churches are called to proclaim the Gospel, not a national identity, he said.
“This is a danger of the present time in our civilization,” the pope said, because one can see “particularisms that become populisms and seek to dictate and make everything uniform.”
At the same time, he said, the witness of the saints and martyrs of the Eastern Catholic churches calls Eastern Catholics today to purify their “ecclesial memory” -- for example, the memory of knowing the Orthodox did not experience the same level of persecution under communism -- “and to aspire to ever greater unity with all who believe in Christ.”
In a world where so many people sow division, he said, Catholics are “called to be artisans of dialogue, promoters of reconciliation and patient builders of a civilization of encounter that can preserve our times from the incivility of conflict.”
“The way shown to us from on high is made up of prayer, humility and love, not of regional or even traditionalist claims; no. The way is prayer, humility and love,” the pope said.
As churches that share a spirituality, liturgy and theology with the Orthodox churches, he said, the Eastern Catholic churches have a special role to play in promoting Christian unity.
Pope Francis encouraged shared academic programs, especially for priests “so that they can be trained to have an open mind.”
But it is especially in concrete service to others that Catholics and Orthodox should join together, he said. “Love knows no canonical or jurisdictional boundaries. It pains me to see, even among Catholics, squabbles about jurisdictions.”
13 September 2019
Tags: Eastern Catholic Churches
Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald, shown in this photo from 2015, is one of the Catholic Church's foremost experts on Islam. He will be made a cardinal next month.
(photo: CNS/William Rieter)
Once the top expert on Islam at the Vatican, Cardinal-designate Michael Fitzgerald is unsure whether a new top-ranking title will help or hamper his work ministering in a multicultural inner-city parish in Liverpool, England.
“Ask me in a few years” to see how it goes, the 82-year-old former president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and papal nuncio to Egypt and the Arab League, told Catholic News Service on 12 September.
He and 12 other prelates will be created cardinals in a ceremony at the Vatican on 5 October. He is one of three who are over the age of 80 and will not be eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope.
Cardinal-designate Fitzgerald said while many people have welcomed his elevation to the College of Cardinals, he was hoping others would not be intimidated and think, “We can’t invite him now. He’s too important!”
Having a high profile isn’t a priority in his day-to-day work reaching out to migrants and Muslims in a city that had the earliest mosque in England and has the oldest Chinese community in Europe.
“We have to go out and try to make ourselves known” since many people have moved to the area with no idea a Catholic church is there, he said in a February 2019 interview posted online by the Missionaries of Africa, the order to which he belongs.
Since the missionaries are near Chinatown, “our neighbors are Chinese” and the priests are hoping to build relations with them and the evangelical church close by as well, he said.
The day Pope Francis announced his name among the new cardinals, the cardinal-designate was delivering a sermon in an Anglican church at a service commemorating the merchant seaman who died in World War II.
That meant he didn’t know about the announcement until he got home to his confreres of the Missionaries of Africa who embraced him in celebration.
“They had a call from a neighboring priest who had heard the Angelus and told them,” the cardinal-designate told CNS.
He said he thinks it very significant Pope Francis will give red hats to prelates from the Muslim-majority cities of Rabat, Morocco, and Jakarta, Indonesia, as well as the former and the current presidents of the interreligious council.? ?By making them cardinals the same day, Pope Francis is highlighting “this aspect of the church’s mission, that reaching out to other believers is important,” he told CNS.
Related: Islam’s Many Faces
Born 17 August 1937, to Irish parents in a small town north of Birmingham, England, he once told CNS that his interest in interreligious dialogue may have stemmed from growing up with friends who were “not all Catholics and not all Irish.”
He pursued his dream of becoming a missionary priest and heading to Africa when he went off to school with the Missionaries of Africa at age 12 in 1949.
Arab North Africa piqued his interested and eventually he was sent to Tunisia to study theology for four years and learn Arabic. He would later earn a degree in Arabic at the University of London.
He was ordained a priest in 1961 at the age of 23 and spent two years teaching courses on Islam to Muslim and Christian students in Kampala, Uganda, during the reign of the dictator Idi Amin. He also lived for two years in northern Sudan, carrying out dialogue with Muslims and proclaiming the Gospel to a small Christian community there.
He was frequently called back to Rome, either to teach at the Pontifical Institute for Islamic and Arabic Studies or to hold offices on the general council of the Missionaries of Africa.
His experience made him one of the Catholic Church’s foremost experts on Islam and the Quran, and in 1987 he was appointed secretary of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Non-Christians, which later became the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. He was ordained a bishop in 1992 and became archbishop in 2002 when he became president of the pontifical council.
In February 2006, he became nuncio to Egypt and served as the Holy See’s representative to the Arab League. He and other nuncios of Muslim-majority nations dealt with the controversy and violence in the aftermath of Pope Benedict XVI’s address in Regensburg, Germany, in which his quoting a medieval emperor’s critique of the prophet Muhammad was misinterpreted as an endorsement of that view.
Archbishop Fitzgerald witnessed the uprising of the Egyptian people in 2011 and kept encouraging dialogue at the local level after Muslim clerics at Cairo’s al-Azhar University suspended the official Catholic-Muslim dialogue with the Vatican over concerns of interference when Pope Benedict expressed concern for Christians after a church bombing in Egypt.
Even though he retired at age 75 at the end of 2012, retirement for Cardinal-designate Fitzgerald meant going to the Missionaries of Africa community in Jerusalem to welcome pilgrims, teach courses on the Bible and give talks on Islam.
He moved back to England in late 2018 to work in the inner-city parish of St. Vincent de Paul in Liverpool. It came after the order recognized its mission was to minister not just on the African continent but to all Africans, wherever they live, and it opened a mission in Great Britain.
12 September 2019
Pope Francis is flanked by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, on 12 September 2019, during an audience with bishops who were ordained over the past year and were attending a course sponsored by the two congregations. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
New bishops need to prepare for a life filled with God’s surprises, with daily plans that change at the last minute and, especially, for a life dedicated to spending time with God and with the people, Pope Francis said.
“God surprises us and often likes to mess up our appointment books: prepare for this without fear,” the pope told about 130 bishops attending a course for bishops ordained in the past year.
Bishops exist to make tangible God’s love for and closeness to his people, the pope told them on 12 September. “But one cannot communicate the closeness of God without experiencing it every day and without letting himself be infected by his tenderness.”
Pope Francis told the new bishops that no matter what else is going on in their lives and ministries, they must spend time in prayer.
“Without this intimacy cultivated daily in prayer, even and especially in times of desolation and dryness, the nucleus of our episcopal ministry splits apart,” he said.
Without a strong relationship to God, the sower of every good seed, a bishop’s own efforts will not seem worth the effort, he said, and it will be difficult to find the patience necessary to wait for the seeds to sprout.
Closeness to God also leads directly to desire for closeness to God’s people, the pope said. “Our identity consists in being near. It is not an external obligation, but a requirement that is part of the logic of gift.”
“Jesus loves to approach his brothers and sisters through us, through our open hands that caress and console them, through our words pronounced to anoint the world with the Gospel and not ourselves,” Pope Francis said.
A bishop cannot simply “proclaim” his closeness to the people, the pope said. He must be like the good Samaritan: seeing people in need rather than looking the other way, stopping to help, bandaging wounds, taking responsibility for them and paying the cost of caring for them.
“Each of these requires putting yourself on the line and getting your hands dirty,” Pope Francis told the bishops.
“Being close to the people,” he said, “is trusting that the grace God faithfully pours out on us and of which we are channels, even through the crosses we bear, is greater than the mud we fear.”
And, he said, a simple lifestyle is part of a bishop’s mission because it is the first and clearest way to proclaim with integrity that “Jesus is enough for us and that the treasure we want to surround ourselves with is made up of those who, in their poverty, remind us of and represent him.”
Bishops must spend more time visiting parishes and other communities than they spend at their desks, and those visits should not be super-formal affairs, he said.
“What comes to mind are pastors who are so groomed that they seem like distilled water that has no taste,” he said. They must truly listen to people, rather than surrounding themselves with “lackeys and yes men,” he added.
11 September 2019
Tags: Pope Francis
Pope Francis greets Mohamed Husin Abdelaziz Hassan, president of Al Azhar University, during a meeting at the Vatican on 11 September. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
On a day remembered for the terrorist attacks against the United States, Pope Francis met with members of a committee of Muslim leaders and Vatican officials promoting a new era of dialogue and world peace.
The first meeting of the committee working to fulfill the goals of the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” was held 11 September in the Vatican residence where the pope lives.
“The date was chosen as a sign of the will to build life and fraternity where others sowed death and destruction,” said a communique by the Vatican press office.
The Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together — which rejects violence and terrorism and promotes identity, dialogue and harmony — was signed in the United Arab Emirates in February by Pope Francis and Egyptian Sheikh Ahmad el Tayeb, grand imam of Al Azhar, a leading authority for many Sunni Muslims.
The seven-person committee is made up of representatives for the Vatican, Al Azhar University and the United Arab Emirates.
The pope greeted each member and gave them a special copy of the document, issued by the Vatican Library.
Calling them “artisans of fraternity,” the pope thanked them and encouraged them to be the source of a new form of politics of “not only of outstretched hands, but of open hearts,” the communique said.
During the committee’s meeting, which the pope did not attend, the members agreed to invite representatives of other religions to be part of the committee, and they made a proposal to ask the United Nations to proclaim a World Day of Human Fraternity, to be celebrated between 3 and 5 February.
When the meeting ended, “each member prayed according to his own faith for the victims of Sept. 11 and of every act of terrorism,” the Vatican statement said.
The members of the committee included: Cardinal-designate Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, former adviser to Egyptian Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Al Azhar University; Mohamed Husin Abdelaziz Hassan, president of Al Azhar University; and Sultan Faisal Al Remeithi, UAE secretary general of the Muslim Council of Elders.
10 September 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Muslim
Students from Nativity Girls School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, review an assignment. With more kids heading back to school this month, learn how Catholic schools in Ethiopia are Making the Grade, and making young scholars, in the November 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
9 September 2019
Tags: Ethiopia Education
A collection of pants and shirts on the floor at The Phillips Collection museum in Washington illustrates the lives of migrants lost at sea. "The Warmth of Other Suns: Stories of Global Displacement" exhibit focuses on people forced to leave their homelands.
(photo: CNS/Lee Stalsworth courtesy The Phillips Collection)
A pair of well-worn shoes left in the desert at the U.S.-Mexico border is the last thing you’d expect to find in one of the most prized rooms of the Washington museum known as The Phillips Collection, a premier venue for modern American art as well as classic European expressionists such as Renoir and Matisse.
But there, in a transparent case, in a space that focuses the viewer on the work of Mark Rothko, celebrated as a 20th century American artist but one who was born in what later became Latvia, the small battered shoes are on display.
They’re next to an item that looks as if it belonged to a child -- a piece of cloth embroidered with the image of a lion. A description explains the items were found in 2018 near the Arizona-Mexico border by members of the Undocumented Migration Project at the University of California at Los Angeles.
The items, likely left behind by a migrant heading north, made up part of the 100 multimedia pieces in the museum’s “The Warmth of Other Suns: Global Stories of Displacement” exhibit focused on those forced to leave their homelands. It is on display until 22 September.
“A lot of the works can be very heavy,” explained a museum guide — and she wasn’t talking about the physical weight of the objects.
Much like the person to whom the embroidered item likely belonged, Rothko left his homeland as a child, barely 10 when he left the Russian Empire and headed with his mother to a new life in the United States, where they arrived in late 1913.
They resettled with other family members who had arrived earlier in Portland, Oregon.
A large part of the exhibit focuses on the emotional toll as well as the dangers of such immigration journeys, and one experienced in modern times by a record 70.8 million around the world, fleeing war, persecution and conflict, according to 2018 statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
One of the rooms in the exhibit, with a large-scale photograph of the sea covering a wall, and jeans and shirts strewn on the floor, reminds museum-goers of the stream of recent refugee drownings. The clothing installation, by artist Kader Attia, is titled “La Mer Morte” (The Dead Sea) and is reminiscent of the Italian island of Lampedusa, where Pope Francis in 2013 called attention to tragedies faced by those seeking refuge from conflicts in Africa to Europe.
Audio of waves and video of the sea nearby make it hard to escape the reality of the risks that refugees have confronted: Die drowning while trying to reach safety or die in a different way at home.
The exhibit takes up three floors of the Phillips, which is filled with portraits of refugees who arrived from Europe to Ellis Island in the early 1900s, photos of modern-day refugees from places such as Eritrea, Iraq and Syria who set up a refugee camp torn down in Calais, France, in 2016, audio in various languages in which immigrants speak of their experiences as well as the indignities they or their children suffer in their adoptive countries.
A black and white photograph of a building with a large sign that says “I am an American” showed what one American family of Japanese descent had to do the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked on 7 December 1941. Even after its prompt display of loyalty to the U.S., the family was sent to what was called a War Relocation Authority center, or an internment camp where some Japanese Americans were forced to live during World War II.
Though some of the items have a documentary quality, other art offers political commentary, such as the work of Siah Armajani, a Minnesotan artist, in a piece labeled with the ironic title “Seven Rooms of Hospitality.” It features plastic 3-D printed models of “uncertain spaces occupied by refugees, deportees, and exiles.” They include a cage, a shack and a model of a truck with the name of a company called Hyza on the side and the words describing its contents: “60 men, eight women, and three children, all dead.”
It was a reference to a 2015 incident in which 71 refugees and migrants from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan suffocated in an airtight, refrigerated truck found abandoned on the side of an Austrian highway as they traveled from Hungary to Munich.
There’s also a chilling video made by Erkan Ozgen called “Wonderland” that focuses on a 13-year-old child who can’t speak, but miming with his hands and through grunts, describes an attack he witnessed and escaped from in his native Syria, motioning what seems to be a shooting and someone’s hands being tied. After watching, it’s hard not to hear his trauma through the grunts that travel through the museum floor.
Where a news item will document singular moments of difficulty, struggle, trauma and sometimes death that a displaced person may face, the exhibit’s photos, the audio playing in the background of migrants’ voices, videos of the empty and uninviting landscapes some of them have traveled through bring together the totality of the experience. Though it seems as if hope is absent and the “warmth” promised in the exhibit’s title is all but missing, perhaps it can be found in the space known as the “Rothko room,” where the migrant’s shoes are temporarily residing.
The Rothko room, a place where silence is encouraged, was envisioned as a place to meditate. Duncan Phillips, the museum’s founder, is said to have referred to it as a “chapel” and a painting by the immigrant artist, now widely recognized as a full-fledged American, hangs on each wall.
The paintings are of large and small blocks of bright and sometimes dark colors. According to the museum’s online literature, Phillips said of Rothko’s paintings that “what we recall are not memories but old emotions disturbed or resolved -- some sense of well-being suddenly shadowed by a cloud -- yellow ochres strangely suffused with a drift of gray prevailing over an ambience of rose or the fire diminishing into a glow of embers, or the light when the night descends.”
It’s hard to know how the journey of a displaced person will end, with success or with struggle, with the brightness of a new life like the one Rothko’s family was able to build or trudging through an unwelcoming place. The journey nevertheless began inside the shoes of a child that, like Rothko, was taken by his parents to start a new life in a new land.
6 September 2019
Tags: Refugees Immigration
Countless children are returning to school this month, so we are remembering some of those students we serve around the world. In this image, a child reads Braille at the Shashemene School for the Blind. Learn more about how CNEWA helps give Special Attention for Special Needs in the November 2006 edition of ONE. (photo: Nile Sprague)