18 September 2019
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.”
18 September 2019
Tags: Refugees Jordan
Election returns in Israel show a tight race between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gatz, with Netanyahu's grip on power hanging in the balance. (video: BBC/YouTube)
Netanyahu faces uncertain future as he trails election (CNN) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s grip on power was hanging in the balance Wednesday after local TV channels projected him trailing his centrist rival Benny Gantz by just one seat, following a re-run general election…
Iran’s president may skip U.N. meeting (The New York Times) Iran’s president and other officials might not attend a United Nations gathering in New York next week because of obstacles raised by the United States, an Iranian state news outlet reported on Wednesday. Tehran and Washington have been locked in a tense standoff over an attack on Saudi Arabia this past weekend for which American officials have blamed Iran…
Pope has lunch with Patriarch Bartholomew (Vatican News) The meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch was held in “a fraternal atmosphere,” according to a communiqué from the Holy See Press Office…
Turkey’s president: up to three million refugees could return to Syria (BBC) Turkey’s president has said that up to three million Syrian refugees could return to their country to live in a “safe zone” in the north. Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the zone, which is already being set up in co-operation with the US, needed to be extended for the goal to be met…
In Ethiopia, religious extremism fans flames of ethnic division (The Africa Report) Ethiopian Christians took to the streets after morning mass on Sunday to protest multiple attacks on Ethiopian Orthodox churches in the country. The protests were mainly centered in the Amhara region and parts of Addis Ababa, and follow a year-long spate of attacks on both Orthodox and Protestant churches in the country…
Move to make Hindi official language upsets minorities in India (UCANews.com) A move by India’s ruling pro-Hindu party to promote Hindi as the prime language in the country, purportedly for national integration, has upset linguistic minorities…
17 September 2019
Tags: India Ethiopia Israel Iran
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)
17 September 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
The cause for the canonization of two missionary priests who were martyred in India in the 19th century, Nicolas Michael Krick and Augustin-Etienne Bourry, has moved forward with the start of a formal inquiry. (photo: Vatican Media)
Sainthood cause for missionary martyrs in India moves forward (Vatican News) The cause of the beatification and canonization of two French missionaries, martyred in the mid-19th century in a remote village in north-east India, took a step forward on Saturday, 14 September, with the inauguration of the Diocesan Board of Inquiry at St. Peter’s Church, Tezu in Arunachal Pradesh…
Priest released from Indian jail; catechist still held (UCANews.com) A court in Jharkhand state, eastern India, has granted bail to a Catholic priest, as some 3,000 mostly tribal people staged a protest demanding the arrest of vandals who attacked a church-run college. The Rev. V.J. Binoy and catechist Munna Hansda of Bhagalpur Diocese were arrested 7 September, in their Rajadah mission area of Godda district, accused of land-grabbing and engaging in forced religious conversions…
Israelis head to polls (NPR) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party are facing voters for the second time in just five months in an unprecedented contest that has the potential to end Netanyahu’s decade-long grip on power…
Iran rules out meeting with Trump (The New York Times) Iran has dismissed the possibility of a meeting between the country’s president, Hassan Rouhani, and President Trump on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next week, the country’s state-run news media reported on Monday…
Church burnings on the rise in Ethiopia (Global Post) Churches belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) are being burned to the ground throughout Ethiopia — one of the world’s most religious countries, where about 98 percent of Ethiopians claim a religious affiliation. Church members have also reportedly been killed while trying to protect their churches…
16 September 2019
Tags: India Ethiopia Israel Iran
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.”
16 September 2019
Tags: Eastern Catholic Churches
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople prays before a reliquary containing bone shards believed to belong to St. Peter the Apostle, in Istanbul, Turkey, on 30 June 2019.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople)
Bartholomew: gift of relics is a crucial step (Vatican News) The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Orthodox Archbishop of Constantinople, has described Pope Francis’ gift of a portion of the relics of Saint Peter as “a new milestone” and a “crucial step” in the journey towards Christian unity…
U.S. says photos implicate Iran in Saudi oil attack; Trump hints at military action (The New York Times) The Trump administration intensified its focus on Iran Sunday as the likely culprit behind attacks on important Saudi Arabian oil facilities over the weekend, with officials citing intelligence assessments to support the accusation and President Trump warning that he was prepared to take military action…
Israel’s Ethiopian community denounces racism (Al Jazeera) More than two months after 19-year-old Solomon Teka was shot dead by an off-duty policeman, members of the Ethiopian-Israeli community continue to hold protests across Israel demanding racial equality. ”Justice for Solomon and all those killed,” chanted a dozen protesters in the northern city of Netanya on Saturday night, as they lit candles and waved colourful posters…
An Indian journalist’s struggle for a free media (UCANews.com) n the age of instant information via social media, an Indian journalist has been working to create a “space for ethical journalism” in the so-called mainstream media. For his “people-centered reporting,” Ravish Kumar of India’s New Delhi Television Network has been named one of this year’s recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, “Asia’s Nobel Prize…”
Visiting one of the most important Christian shrines in Egypt (The Arab Weekly) On the western foothill of Mount Qosqam, in the Egyptian governorate of Asyut, the Monastery of Al Muharraq stands as one of the oldest operational monastic complexes in the world. Albeit unknown to many outside the Coptic Church, it is arguably the most important Christian location in the country. The Holy Family tradition states that the complex was built on the spot where Jesus, Mary and Joseph, along with their helper Salome, settled for six Coptic months and a few days during their flight into Egypt some 2,000 years ago…
13 September 2019
Tags: India Egypt Pope Francis Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Iran
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.
13 September 2019
Nine shards of bone believed to belong to St. Peter lie inside a reliquary. Pope Francis gave the reliquary to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on 29 June. The Vatican has now released a letter the pope wrote to the patriarch about the relics.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople)
Pope writes to Ecumenical Patriarch about relics of St. Peter (Vatican News) Pope Francis has written to the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew, in order, as the Pope says in his letter, “to explain more fully the gift of some fragments of the relics of the Apostle Peter that I presented to Your Holiness.” In the letter to the Orthodox Archbishop of Constantinople, Pope Francis reviews what he calls “the uninterrupted tradition of the Roman Church” which “has always testified that the Apostle Peter, after his martyrdom in the Circus of Nero, was buried in the adjoining necropolis on the Vatican Hill…”
Ethiopia captures suspected ISIS members (VOA) The Ethiopian military has captured an undisclosed number of suspected Islamic State members operating in the country, officials said Wednesday. General Berhanu Jula, deputy chief of staff and director of military operations in the Ethiopian armed forces, confirmed the arrests but did not specify how many extremists were detained or in what part of the country they were apprehended. He said security forces continue to monitor other suspected ISIS sympathizers…
Indian cardinal demands release of priest, catechist (UCANews.com) An Indian cardinal has asked a court to immediately release a priest and catechist who are being detained on charges of conversion and land-grabbing in eastern Jharkhand state. Cardinal George Alencherry, the major archbishop of the eastern rite Syro-Malabar Church, made his appeal on 12 September after a court refused to bail Father V.J. Binoy and catechist Munna Hansda, five days after they were arrested…
600-year-old synagogue collapses in Kerala (India Today) A portion of the over 600-year-old Kadavumbhagam synagogue in Kochi’s Mattancherry collapsed on Tuesday after it was damaged due to rain. The structure had been in a dilapidated condition for the past few years…
Cable cars over Jerusalem spark worries of ’Disneyfication’ of holy city (The New York Times) Trumpeted by right-wing Israeli leaders as a green solution to the challenges of increased tourism and traffic in and around the Old City, the plan [to add cable cars] has provoked howls of protest from horrified Israeli preservationists, environmentalists, planners, architects and others who picture an ancient global heritage site turned into a Jewish-themed Epcot, with thousands of passengers an hour crammed into huge gondolas lofting across the sky. ”A total outrage against a fragile city,” the Israeli architect Moshe Safdie says. “An aesthetic and architectural affront…”
12 September 2019
Tags: Ethiopia Kerala ISIS Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople
As part of a long tradition, the Passion Play is staged for a few weeks every 10 years in Oberammergau, Germany. This photograph is from the mid-19th century.
(photo: Josef Albert via Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.)
Sometimes, people can be surprised at the similarities between Christianity and Islam — bonds that often aren’t easily apparent. We encounter this in the world CNEWA serves, where very often the two religions dwell peacefully together, with believers sharing cultures and, sometimes, traditions.
This month brought another example of this striking commonality.
This year on 10 September, Shi’ite Muslims all over the world observed Ashura, marked on the 10th day of the Islamic Month of Muharram. Muharram is the first month of the Muslim calendar and is one of the four sacred months (Qur’an 9:36) during which war and violence are forbidden.
Muharram also has special meaning for Shi’ite Muslims. It was on the 10th of Muharram almost 1,500 years ago that the army of the Umayyad Calif, Yazid, slaughtered Hussein bin Ali, the grandson of the Prophet. He also killed 70 of his followers, including infants.
It was the death of Ali’s youngest son, Hussein, that was the foundational experience for the Shi’ite sect in Islam.
The Muslim calendar is lunar and is 354/355 days long. Unlike Christians and Jews, who also follow a lunar calendar, Muslims do not correct the lunar calendar over against the solar calendar with 365/6 days. As a result, Muslim holy days move “backwards” during the solar year. Every year on the 10th day of the month of Muharram, Shi’ite Muslims observe the death of Hussein. In most countries the observance takes the form of the ta ? ziya, or passion play. In Shi’ite countries the faithful — with great zeal and at time shocking fervor — re-enact the death of Hussein on the field of Karbela. The re-enactment is accompanied by processions in which believers flagellate themselves or strike the foreheads with stones to the point of drawing blood. Ecstatic manifestations are fairly common during these observances.
Passion plays, of course, are not unique to Shi’ite Islam. In the pre-Reformation Middle Ages, Christians in Europe often re-enacted the Passion and Death of Jesus during Holy Week. Although deeply religious, passion plays also had secular and social overtones with different guilds presenting the passion play in different ways. Wikipedia lists over 15 countries which had or still have some form of passion play.
During the Reformation, with its sober and at times puritanical values, the exuberance and ecstatic nature of passion plays began to be looked down upon. While once extremely prevalent, passion plays in Protestant countries in Europe disappeared after the Reformation.
Of course, for Roman Catholics the legendary Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany, is the most famous. In 1633 the Bavarian town of Oberammergau was in the midst of the plague. The town vowed that, if the plague abated, they would re-enact the Passion of Christ every 10 years. Their prayers were answered and for almost 250 years the town has staged the play. Over the years the spectacle has been updated to be in harmony with the Catholic Church’s teaching on the Jews since the document Nostra Aetate (1965) of Vatican II.
In the year when the play is performed—the next is in 2020—thousands of pilgrims and tourists come from all over the world to attend.
In other places like the Philippines and South and Latin America passion plays—often with shocking detail and realism—are part of the observance of Holy Week. While nonexistent in many parts of the world, passion plays, be they Muslim or Christian, are an attempt by believers to reconnect in a very concrete way with the redemptive sufferings and death of Imam Hussein bin Ali or Jesus Christ.
Similar phenomena can also be found in many of the other religious traditions of the world —serving to remind us that the human experience of faith and belief often finds expression in ways that are startling, dramatic and — despite our differences — profoundly universal.
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.
Tags: Pope Francis