The WYD are officially over. Most of the young people from all over the world left Cracow already on Sunday. Some groups plan to stay few more days and visit some other places in Poland, the country they just started to discover. For all of the pilgrims the WYD was an unforgettable event and everyone takes back home some seeds – especially those planted in their hearts by words of Pope Francis – in order to let it grow and bring fruits in the future.
As usual, after the big gatherings like that one, after physically and spiritually intensive days as the WYD were, there is a natural tendency to sum up the event, to speak about reflections and conclusions. Many of them will still appear with the time but some of the fruits of the WYD can be seen already.
Gathered in the name of Jesus
The WYD took a lot of months to prepare and involved many resources, so are the gatherings like that worthy and needed? Pilgrims asked about it gave only one answer: yes, very much! They are essential! Why? Not only because the pilgrims could meet their peers from other countries and exchange culturally, not only because they had fun and participated in different concerts and events offered by the Youth Festival, or because they bounded new friendships and learned more about the Church in the world but most of all – because they knew that they gathered in one name - in the name of Jesus. Jesus was the one who called them to come to Cracow and let them feel the unity of the Church, and particularly of the youth in the Church.
"For me, even if it sounds strange, the main impressive was the opening ceremony – says Valerie from France – the moment I realised how many we are. That was an immense experience". Mario from Portugal shared this opinion "Sometimes I feel so lonely and ask myself if the values I am following are the true ones, because I see the world is acting opposite. So having the sense of community of the Church was extremely important for me".
Some of pilgrims brought strong testimonies of the obstacles they had to overcome in order to get to Cracow, of how God moved the mountains of impossibilities so that they could participate in the WYD. Jose Leonardo from Caracas, Venezuela, came to Cracow alone but only thanks to some friends from Spain who collected the money to cover his trip and stay in Cracow. "I am so thankful – he says – and I tried to pay it back by working as a volunteer and pass the goodness I received to others".
Strengthening of faith
To some of them it was of immense importance to see Catholics from different countries speaking and giving testimonies of their faith freely. That is not the case in all the countries, however we often take it for granted – going to the mass, daily access to the sacraments, freedom of faith.
"It was great for me to see other people proclaiming their faith freely, on the streets, through prayer, singing and dancing – says Ida from Philippines who lives in Dubai – There, were I live I cannot do that so openly, I may pray but only in the church, as praying outside can be seen as an offence and can lead to consequences like penalty. Also I need to be careful with showing the symbols of faith as for example wearing a cross. Therefore for me being in Cracow it feels like a freedom, like I can breathe in and out my faith. I feel strengthed by being here and seeing others living the same faith".
Polish Combonian missionary, Magda, who is working and living in Ethiopia since almost 2 years, came here with the group of youth. She confirms that also for Ethiopians this is a great and strengthening experience to be able to meet other believers, as in Ethiopia only around 1% of population is Catholic. Ethiopia has two main religions – Christian Copts and Muslims and not a lot of space is created for the Catholic Church so very often even the Catholic holy mass is celebrated in the Coptic rite. "I see how important it is for my group to be among other Christians and in such amount of people of the same faith. My group is really impressed and lifted" – she said.
Discover diversity and richness of the Church
Although we believe in the same God and proclaim the same faith the culture still influences us a lot – especially our way of expressing our faith. "Seeing how people can live their faith on different ways showed me that I belong to the Church which is rich and diverse – says Ewelina from Podkarpacie, Poland – I was amazed by looking at those colours and flags and people on the streets. Watching how different we are but at the same time to feel that we belong to the same God, that we are His children".
"This meeting was breaking the stereotypes in my head – adds Patricia from Philippines - I met people from the countries where I thought there are no believers. And then I saw them kneeling and praying and I needed to revise my convictions, so I can say that the WYD changed a lot my perspective".
But was such diversity not disturbing? How to communicate with so many cultures and people speaking so many languages? "Even if we do not speak the same language we can communicate – smiles Jose Leonardo – look at me! I connected with people with my heart and my smile. We served and were friendly and kind with each other but also through observing we could learn how different we live all over the world but then we can still stay united in our faith".
Following the example
"Blessed be the merciful" was a theme of this WYD. The youth knows it is not easy to be merciful but they feel encouraged to try further. How? By watching the examples of the Saints and Blessed ones who were patrons of the WYD. Pier Giorgio Frassati seemed to gain a lot of new friends over the last week of July. "He was just like us, his way was simple, he loved God, other people and mountains, paid attention to others and … look, he smoked pipe and still he became blessed! – said Tomek with smile – however… - he adds quickly - he probably did not know that smoking is not so healthy as he smoked probably because it was fashionable at that times. I guess he would not smoke anymore today. Well, it does not matter, but he simply seems "normal", just like each one of us and that's why I like him so much and want to follow his example".
Being witnesses of Jesus
Ewelina came here because she was called to join the choir at the evangelisation centre. She was not actively walking on the streets and telling others about Jesus herself but by watching other evangelisers and listening to their testimonies she felt she is called to be witness of Jesus in everyday life in many more ways than she did till now - in her family, friend's circle but also to those she does not know, to those being perceived as "difficult" by society. "I got this courage by watching the evangelisers – she says – and I wish I can do the same and proclaim Jesus to others, not only those who I feel safe with because I know them but also at the university, at my home, to unknown groups".
Pope that demands
Starting from the opening mass with Cardinal Dziwisz, than participating in welcoming of pope Francis, the Way of Cross, Vigil and holy mass in Brzegi up to the final meeting with volunteers at Tauron Arena young people proved that they knew what they come for. They wanted to listen to the Peter of our times and to take his words back to their home countries, like the seeds that are about to bring fruits in the future. Notwithstanding lack of sleep, changing weather, rain and heat, they were very focused and silent when Pope Francis talked to them.
"I liked Pope Francis for being direct but also very concrete – said Maria Angelica from Colombia – and that he believes in us, that we can change the world. I like that he reminded me that living the live with Jesus is not looking for a comfort, that the faith is an adventure. He made me think how I live and how I spend my time – is it at the sofa? How can I live more and be more? We should not be comforted and closed in our little world we create artificially but we shall put on our shoes and walk with Jesus, be active and even be tired of being active for Jesus. We shall not close ourselves in our little worlds but go outside to other people".
Costs of faith
"I was very much moved by the testimony of the girl from Aleppo during the Vigil who was saying about her daily live in Syria, that when waking up in the morning she is not sure if she will meet all of her friends and family in the evening – says Maria from Lebanon who came here with Saint Rafqa Choir – that made me think about how others live and to appreciate more what I have. Also, I found the experience of tiredness and discomfort in Brzegi, of not sleeping at comfortable bed as an act of solidarity with people living in poverty every day. This is also what Pope Francis said to us Sunday morning – that this hunger and tiredness we experienced over those days is daily reality of many people. That moved me a lot! I realised I shall be more thankful for having home and family, for the things in my life I just take for granted".
Marching and awaiting the ceremony in Brzegi seemed not to be a problem, even if tiredness of walking and being exposed to the sun was visible on pilgrims' faces.
"I really believe that God has planned the timing of the sun and the rain – says Patricia – because during the Vigil the weather was so good! And if it would have rained we would have had really hard time. When we were leaving Brzegi it started to rain so I read it as a kindness of God telling us 'You are so tired, you need to cool down now, my children'" – she finished laughing.
"It does not matter – adds Maria Angelica - believe me! It was the thing I thought less about. I am here because I am searching for God and because I believe He has a message for me. I know why I am here and discomfort was not a big price to pay".
Starting change now, starting from myself
"If you don't give the best of yourself the world will not change – those words hit me really and I take it personally. I want to be that difference – says Patricia– I hope that once I am back in Philippines I can inspire young people like me to be more active in helping others". And Patricia is not the only one who felt to have a mission in the world and in the place she lives.
Pilgrims headed back to their home countries but what left after them in Poland? People asked at the streets of Cracow admitted to be surprised with the joy and atmosphere that was brought to the city by this international crowd. "There were some difficulties in the transport – said Grazyna, age 56, nurse from Cracow – as I am a nurse and I need to move around Cracow to reach all my patients but I really did not mind to leave home a bit earlier. Not only because I wanted to be on time but also because I wanted to experience this atmosphere too. Those young people in their colourful coats reminded me of butterflies that are flying over the meadow – lightly and joyful. I always wanted to travel and see the world. Now the world came to my city so how could I be upset?!"
But Cracow was not the only city in Poland that experienced the invasion of international butterflies. Diocese days that preceded ceremonies in Cracow gave the opportunity to people from different cities in Poland to host international guests. "When taking two pilgrims from Tobago and Trinidad I did not expected that my family will be so blessed with them – says Olga from Warsaw – we are practicing family but still those two guests opened us and encouraged to pray more together as a family. I did not expect that."
"Poland? I adore! – says Jose Manuel – people are a bit more serious than in South America, but I experienced a lot of kindness! "
Kindness and hospitality were top two most listed descriptions of Polish people, and Diocese days built up the bonds that were over language and cultural barriers. For the Ethiopian group Cracow could not cover the charm of Szamotuly, where they left their hearts during days spent with "their" families.
So being Christian is not seating on the sofa, is being active. It is about moving forward, giving the best of ourselves and believing that God is on our side. He sees us with His merciful eyes and always cheers us. But He also calls us to be merciful to others, to take responsibilities and shape our future.
The spark of mercy went out in the world. The seeds of those days were planted in the hearts. The plants out of it are already sprouting. The fruits they bring to us and to the world will depend of our faithfulness and responsibility. But we have the meeting in Panama in three years in order to get reminded about all of that.
So let's meet there. It surely will be worth it!
During the time of the Wednesday General Audience Pope Francis, turning to the faithful, referred to the recently concluded pilgrimage to Poland and to World Youth Day.
“Today I want to share the memory of my apostolic trip to Poland, which ended a few days ago. The occasion for it was World Youth Day”.
...the youth of the world received the message of mercy to carry it everywhere
“Once again young people answered the call: they came from the whole world to celebrate a festival of colours, different faces, languages, different histories. They came here also with their wounds, with their questions, but first of all with the joy of meeting. Once again they formed a mosaic of brotherhood. During this great Jubilee meeting young people received the message of mercy to carry it everywhere through works for the soul and for the body. I thank all young people who came to Krakow! And I thank those who joined us from every corner of the Earth! May the gift received by you become an everyday answer to God's call,” said the Holy Father to the faithful in the Paul VI Hall.
...Europe has no future apart from its founding values
Pope Francis also spoke about the important role that Poland plays in contemporary Europe: “I also visited the Sanctuary in Częstochowa. Before the image of Our Lady, before Her maternal gaze, it is possible to understand the spiritual sense of the pilgrimage of this nation, whose history is inseparably connected with the Cross of Christ. Here we tangibly touch the faith of the holy faithful people of God, which guards hope through trials; and also guards this wisdom, which is a balance between tradition and innovation, between the past and the future. And Poland reminds all of Europe today, that there cannot be talk about the future of the continent apart from its founding values, centred on the Christian vision of man and including the message of mercy expressed so eloquently in the last century by Saints John Paul and Faustina Kowalska.”
…this trip also had a global perspective
He also emphasized the global perspective of his presence in the former German concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau:
“Finally this trip also had a global perspective, by a world urged to answer to the challenge connected with the war threatening it “in pieces”. And here the great silence of the visit in Auschwitz-Birkenau was more telling than any words. In this great silence I prayed for all victims of violence and war. For all of this I thank God and the Virgin Mary.”
…I thank the Polish nation and the Church in Poland for this great festival of youth
Pope Francis, during his first audience after a July summer break, also turned to Polish pilgrims:
“Brothers and sisters, through you I thank the Polish nation and the Church in Poland for this great festival of youth, which we were able to experience in Krakow. Once more I thank the President of Poland, other government representatives, the Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow and the whole Episcopate of Poland and all those who in various ways prepared and made this event possible, which offered a sign of fraternity and peace to Poland, Europe and the world.”
I ask God that these young people who I met in Krakow would carry in their hearts the spark of His mercy to the whole world. I entrust to God the soul of Cardinal Macharski, whom I was able to visit before his death, which took place yesterday! May God bless you!”
Every World Youth Day, the pope holds an evening prayer vigil preceding the concluding Mass celebration. This year’s prayer vigil in Kraków was held at Campus Misericordie where about 1.6 million people gathered to hear his address and pray in communion with Catholics from around the world. Pilgrims trekked nearly nine miles to the site and spent Saturday night on the Campus Misericordie grounds to participate in the Sunday Mass celebrated by Pope Francis. As he entered in the Popemobile accompanied by international youth, Pope Francis smiled wide and waved to the crowds.
The prayer vigil began with a performance of dance and song that portrayed the life and vision of Saint Faustina. Accompanying the performance, young Syrians shared moving words of their persevering faith despite national and personal suffering and strife. Explaining the constant fear and sense of hopelessness, one said, “Every day we live lives surrounded by death. We are gripped by fear that we will not return to find our homes and families as we left them.” However, her faith empowers her resilience. “I believe that sometimes through our pain he teaches us the true meaning of love. My faith in Christ is the reason for my faith and hope. No one can steal this joy from me.”
Following these witnesses, Pope Francis opened his address reflecting on the reality of global conflicts such as Syria’s current crisis. “The suffering and the wars that many young people experience are no longer anonymous, something we read about in the papers. They have a name, they have a face, they have a story, they are close at hand.” Calling on the audience to join him in prayer for the victims of war and Syrian families, he said, “Once and for all, may we realize that nothing justifies shedding the blood of a brother or sister; that nothing is more precious than the person next to us.”
Pope Francis then emphasized the significance of World Youth Day as an international celebration that transcends conflict. “Our response to a world at war has a name: its name is fraternity, its name is brotherhood, its name is communion, its name is family. We celebrate the fact that coming from different cultures, we have come together to pray. Let our best word, our best argument, be our unity in prayer.” While the fear of danger is paralyzing, he referenced a more severe form of paralysis in our lives: indifference. Pope Francis compared this paralysis to a “sofa that makes us feel comfortable, calm, safe” and shields us from all pain and worry. This “sofa happiness” leads to a loss of freedom as others step in to shape our lives and the world.
To combat this apathy, he urged, “Dear young people, we didn’t come into this work to “vegetate”, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on. No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark.” We must not confuse happiness with comfort. Jesus was the ultimate risk-taker and never settled for security. “Following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes and to set out on new and uncharted paths,” Pope Francis explained. We must follow “the path of the ‘craziness’ of our God, who teaches us to encounter him in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the friend in trouble, the prisoner, the refugee and the migrant, and our neighbors who feel abandoned.” Wherever our lives take us, we must actively share the faith with those around us.
Although we may feel inadequate, God “wants to turn your hands, my hands, our hands, into signs of reconciliation, of communion, of creation. He wants your hands to continue building the world of today. And He wants to build that world with you.” God’s plans are directed toward the future, our potential, and our capacity for love. We are not called to be “couch potatoes” or “bench-warmers,” but rather strong witnesses of faith who will leave “a mark on history.”
Pope Francis asked youth to courageously challenge adults and teach them “how to live in diversity, in dialogue, to experience multiculturalism not as a threat but an opportunity. Have the courage to teach us that it is easier to build bridges than walls.” He closed his address with a challenge to “abandon the paths of rejection, division and emptiness.” He asked, “Are you up to this? What answer will you give, with your hands and with your feet, to the Lord, who is the way, the truth and the life?” With the words and witness of Pope Francis to guide us, let us live fearlessly with courage and faith.
Under the beating sun, World Youth Day pilgrims listened to Pope Francis’s words of encouragement during the World Youth Day concluding Mass held at Campus Misericordiae. His homily focused on the Gospel recounting the story of the tax collector Zacchaeus. Pope Francis outlined three modern challenges of faith that Zacchaeus also encountered: self-doubt, shame, and public opposition. He countered each challenge with these realities of Catholicism:
We are worthy of God’s love despite our sins
Zacchaeus didn’t believe he was worthy of receiving God’s mercy and love. This self-doubt prevented him from realizing his “deepest identity” as a child of God. Pope Francis explained that failure to recognize our worth “is like walking away when God wants to look at me, trying to spoil his dream for me. God loves us the way we are, and no sin, fault or mistake of ours makes him change his mind.” He asserted that every person is special and important to God; he sees beyond our exterior appearance and material possessions to our hearts. “God counts on you for what you are, not for what you possess.”
Dwelling on our sins and troubles “is a kind of virus infecting and blocking everything; it closes doors and prevents us from getting up and starting over.” In contrast, God has unfailing hope in our potential and is always “cheering us on.” Pope Francis advised that we begin each day with the prayer, “Lord, I thank you for loving me; help me to be in love with my own life!”
We must sacrifice and take risks to follow Christ
Zacchaeus ignored his pride and risked his reputation as a public figure by climbing a tree to encounter Jesus. Although aware of the risk and humiliation, “he mastered his shame, because the attraction of Jesus was more powerful.” We must do the same, whatever this risk means in the context of our lives. “When it comes to Jesus, we cannot sit around waiting with arms folded; he offers us life. We can’t respond by thinking about it or ‘texting’ a few words.”
Pope Francis urged Catholic youth to partake in confession to place all weaknesses, struggles, and sins in God’s hands. “He will surprise you with his forgiveness and his peace.” Faith demands worldly sacrifice and “a firm ‘no’ to the narcotic of success at any cost and the sedative of worrying only about yourself and your own comfort.”
We need courage to overcome worldly opposition
Lastly, Pope Francis advocated for courage when faced with the world’s criticism and doubt. “People will try to block you, to make you think that God is distant, rigid and insensitive.” We must maintain our hope and show love to all—even our enemies. The crowd surrounding Zacchaeus held him back from encountering Jesus and then criticized him as a sinner unworthy of Jesus’s attention and love. “People may judge you to be dreamers, because you believe in a new humanity, one that rejects hatred between peoples, one that refuses to see borders as barriers and can cherish its own traditions without being self-centered or small-minded.”
When faced with opposition, we must not become discouraged. Instead, we should be a constant witness of faith and hope to. Look beyond the surface and any faults to the humanity of every person you encounter. “Don’t stop at the surface of things; distrust the worldly cult of appearances, cosmetic attempts to improve our looks. Instead, ‘download’ the best ‘link’ of all, that of a heart which sees and transmits goodness without growing weary.”
Pope Francis concluded by recounting Jesus’s call to Zacchaeus, “Come down, for I must stay at your house today.” Applying this invitation to World Youth Day attendees, he shared, “We can say that World Youth Day begins today and continues tomorrow, in your homes, since that is where Jesus wants to meet you from now on.” He wants to enter every aspect of our lives from our work to our relationships.
God’s memory is everlasting and we are precious to him always. Pope Francis stressed the importance of emulating God’s memory, “May we too now try to imitate the faithful memory of God and treasure the good things we have received in these days.” Jesus also calls us by name like he called Zacchaeus down from the tree so He can enter and fulfill our lives with His mercy.
The next international World Youth Day celebration will be held in Panama from January 22 – 27, 2019, Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta announced today. The event will be hosted during the winter months to avoid the country’s rainy season, which occurs in July and August and overlaps with the traditional dates for WYD.
The theme of the event is “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
In a previous interview with La Estrella Panamá, the Apostolic Nuncio in Panama, Archbishop Andrés Carrascosa Coso, assured the world that the organization of this enormous global event does not exceed the country’s capabilities. The event to be hosted by Panama is expected to be much smaller than previous WYDs; Panama is expecting to host about 500,000 pilgrims, significantly fewer than the 2.4 million and 3.7 million pilgrims estimated to have attended WYD Krakow 2016 and Rio 2013, respectively.
Christian churches in Jordan have taken part in a vigil of prayers marking the Week of Prayers for Christian unity and for the souls of martyrs. The event was held at the invitation of the Council of Evangelical Churches of Jordan.
Present at vigil of prayers were Latin Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, a number of priests and pastors from various churches, and members of Parliament Nabil Ghishan and Qais Zayadin.
In a welcoming address, Fr. Rifat Bader said that we experience annually two important week, namely, the Week of Prayer for Unity (January 18-25) and the World Interfaith Harmony Week on the first week of February. This evening, we first pray for our Christian unity, and then do pray for our dear Jordanian homeland so as to maintain its fabric strong and impregnable.
In his address, Patriarch emeritus Twal reviewed the most important dates of the Ecumenical Movement in the world, which are aimed at uniting the Churches of the world. He said, "In our prayer for unity we do pray for three families to whom we belong, and to whom we pray and wish goodness. Firstly, we pray for Christian Churches that make up one family and believe in God-despite being numerous- and that contribute to serving their communities. Secondly, we pray for the human family, hoping that its tragedies would come to an end whereby humans would restore their humanity as well as put an end to violence, extremism and terrorism. Thirdly, we pray for the one Jordanian family, which has shown itself recently to be united in its suffering at bloodshed, and united to address acts of injustice, and evil terrorist acts.”
New Director of the Lutheran Council in Jordan and Palestine Pastor Samer Azar talked about the spirituality of unity that is derived from the prayer of Lord Jesus so as to have ''His disciples united". He also expressed hope that the Week of Christian Unity would produce several daily functionaries in the various Churches of the Kingdom.
Prayers and hymns followed from priests and pastors of different churches and denominations.
Director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media - Jordan
1.What agencies and organizations are assisting the new Syrian refugees, and are they able to integrate in Jordan? Are some of these refugees Christian people, and do they come to your churches in Jordan?
This is not the first time that Jordan receives with open arms brotherly refugees who were adversely affected by wars and conflicts. We all know the tragedy of Palestine, which forced the fleeing of thousands of people who sought refuge in Jordan in 1948 and 1967. In 1991, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees began streaming into Jordan. The Palestinian brethren were privileged to enjoy full citizenship while the Iraqis still await the earliest opportunity to move to other countries of the world or return to their mother homeland.
Today, we are facing a stark humanitarian tragedy--it is the Syrian issue. We never expected to witness all these kinds of tragedies, massacres and deportations to occur in this Arab country. Jordan also received with open arms nearly a million refugees, and the new arrivals from Syria are staying in three camps while a large number are also staying in cities and villages of Jordan.
Facing a tragedy of this magnitude, it was incumbent to pool the efforts of the Church as well as those of international and national institutions including the United Nations and the Caritas Jordan Association (CJA). I hereby pay tribute to the role played by the CJA which has been operational in Jordan for forty-five years. It was established to help the Palestinian refugees in 1967, later carried out a great effort with the Iraqis and today its efforts are culminated with supporting Syrians. The CJA does not limit its services for Christians, but for humans in general--for Muslims as is the case for Christians—all humankind whether believers or not. The CJA message is to convey God's love to humans regardless of race, religion, gender, or nationality.
2. Jordan has already absorbed Palestinian and Iraq refugees. Has all of this movement of people changed the character of Jordan, or put stress on the country? Have they also enriched the church in Jordan in some social ways?
Undoubtedly, Jordan bears the brunt of economic burden. With Jordan opening arms, doors and heart, it incurs heavy burdens and costs. Starting with the security issue, Jordan receives brothers and friends from all parts of the world, bearing in mind the view that not all those who come have good intentions. Thus, the security concern constitutes the greatest burden followed next by the economic burden which includes providing food, potable water and shelter. I am really concerned in particular about the problem of water. This is a major problems facing the Middle East in general and Jordan in particular. Whenever the number of arrivals in Jordan increases, the water problem becomes more serious. Another emerging problem is health services that constitute as well a humanitarian need.
As for the stand of the Church, new churches were established that we never had before such as Chaldean Church and Syriac Church. We also have Maronite and Coptic churches, in addition to the already existing churches. This reflects the mosaic of churches, which in no way constitutes a weakness but rather enrichment. My thinking is directed in particular towards the Iraqi brothers known for their sublime piety. They have given to the church in Jordan new energies represented in chanting psalms, piety and dependence on God Who guides the universe. The Church in Jordan is strong today with the rich diversity of its institutions, history , cultures and nationalities—it is a blessing.
Any other observations? How can the international Christian & Catholic community help ease the situation there etc?
The Catholic world is undoubtedly on the move, in a particular and primary way, through prayer and the call of His Holiness Pope Francis to silence the voices calling for war and destruction. A few days ago, I wrote an article in Jordan's Al Rai daily titled, "Thank you Pope," which is a review of an article I wrote in September 2001 in which I said "Thank you Pope John Paul II because you are calling for no wars amid voices calling for war and revenge in the wake of September 11 events in that same year. Today the whole world says thanks to Pope Francis who organises the largest campaign opposed to a new war where there will neither be a winner nor a loser, for everyone will be a loser".
In addition to these calls opposed to violence, Catholic institutions in the world express solidarity by distributing aid through Caritas, or directly to camps and refugees staying in monasteries, churches and schools. We do not know specifically what is in the offing, as we are faced with various scenarios some of which expose pessimism indicating that matters will be further complicated. Other scenarios express optimism which reveals in the horizon political solutions through dialogue, and this is what we wish of course, because the impact of events will be reflected on all, including Christians, who are suffering today in some countries, new waves of persecution.
some basic Holy Land-Jordan questions:
A. Per the Jordanian Holy Places, for example, we see an example of a mostly Muslim country working to preserve & promote the Xtian & Judeo-Xtian holy sites. Are the sites protected and supervised by the Church and can you say a word or two about those particular dynamics in Jordan?
A few days ago (September 3-4, 2013), King Abdullah II called for convening a special conference which lasted for two days to discuss "the challenges facing Arab Christians in light of the prevailing conditions." There was neither a final statement nor recommendations, because the largest concern was to LISTEN to the pain and hopes of Christians coming from the Middle East as well as their friends coming from friendly countries, including the United States. The initiative reflects the courage of the king who wanted to highlight the situation of Christians in the East and the new sufferings they incur nowadays. The King said in his speech that "the protection of the historical Christian Arab identity is a duty rather than a favour". As we know this was not the first initiative of its kind in Jordan. The history of this country abounds with three papal visits, namely Paul VI 1964, John Paul II 2000, and Benedict XVI 2009.
In addition to the many initiatives of inter-religious dialogue, especially between Muslims and Christians, Jordan has a message of coexistence and harmony between the followers of religions whereby it initiated a few years ago to launch a week of harmony among religions—an idea adopted by the United Nations and later became recognized globally in the first week of February every year.
The holy places in Jordan are numerous and highly important such as the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized, Mount Nebo whioch commemorates Moses, Mkawer where John the Baptist was decapitated and Mar Elias (Birth Place of Prophet Elija)… as well other sites which witness the extraordinary Christian history in this country.
Jordan, through its public and private institutions, works assiduously to develop its tourist – and pilgrimage - services. We have not yet reached the stage of excellence which necessitates that we need to learn from the expertise of others. But as Christians are concerned, there are annual pilgrimages to some areas among which is the Baptism Site, where several churches were built, the largest of which belongs to the Roman Catholic Church. All these churches contribute to providing spiritual service in the first place and humanitarian services to the pilgrims coming from different parts of the world.
Here, I say: Come and see, Jordan is a holy land on which Lord Jesus and the apostles walked, where many early Christians were martyred. But a visit to the Holy Land does not mean only visiting stones and archeological sites, but also meeting the living stones, namely the community of believers.
B. Can you say a word or two about the importance overall of Jordan's Holy Places & territory to the overall Holy Land experience for visitors? I assume Israel receives more tourists.
It is not important to compare this region with others , but with no doubt Jordan has entered the global tourism map in its capacity as a Holy Land. People's eyes continued to be aimed towards the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. But Jordan is also sacred in its soil, water and man. I said previously that we need to learn the art of tourist reception and provide convenience for tourists or pilgrims.
We look forward to the Catholic world to support religious tourism in Jordan as next year, 2014, we will mark the 50th anniversary of the visit of Pope Paul VI, which was the first visit by a Pope outside the walls of Italy. This is an honor for Jordan and we need to develop this message and historical responsibility.
C. Anything else you might point out of interest that pertains to Jordan's Holy Land? Maybe about the Jordanian Holy Land Christians: what makes a Jordanian Christian unique?
When we say "Jordanian Christian", it means a lot, because we go back through this label to the deep roots of history. We go back to the era of Lord Jesus Christ, and the preceding civilizations as well as the successive ones. They are civilizations that expired and history remained a key witness. But the Christian Jordanian does not live in the past, rather in the present as well. He is a citizen in this country who seeks to deepen the concept of "citizenship" for himself and for his Christian brothers as well as for those with whom there are historical relations and civilized partnership. Furthermore, a citizen of Jordan has no other choice but to be committed to the issues of his country, offer services to the community, and contribute to its enrichment with science, ethics and daily efforts in the political, economic, the media and other fields. Suffice it to hear that Christians in Jordan, who make up 3 per cent of the population only, oversee approximately 35 per cent of the national economy. This is an honor and responsibility, we have to keep this patrimony.
D. And finally a word about yourself and your journalism work, your website, your Catholic media organization in Jordan:
I am Father Rif'at Bader, a priest of the Latin Patriarchate (whose spiritual mandate extends over Palestine, Jordan and Cyprus).
Since I was ordained priest in 1995, I expressed interest in media through writing to various media outlets, namely church magazines or daily newspapers. The first area is easy because the priestly upbringing taught us to use the ecclesial, theological and spiritual terminology. But the second area was the hardest, which is writing in the daily press, namely political journalism. What does a Christian Arab cleric in the official press? And what terms he has to use to be acceptable and understood . I thank the Lord for this blessing. I currently write a weekly article in addition to several interviews or articles published on weekly or daily bases in Arab and foreign news agencies. What I write about is the contribution of Christians in these days in building the civilization of love , which is dialogue and fraternity with all the human beings, in this I focus on the contribution that Arab Christians are going to their societies in different fields , and our commitment as religious leaders of today to promote interreligious dialogue and harmony among the believers.
Ten years ago, I launched (www.abouna.org ) website, and I was then a parish priest in a village called Smakieh (in the desert of southern Jordan).
Today the site, whose slogan is: "Media for Humanity" has become one of the most important sources of Christian Arab news. Efforts are currently under way to launch the English-language edition of the site. The Catholic Center for Studies and Media was officially established last year in a national and religious ceremony. It is currently a local, Arab and international reference that seeks to disseminate sound information. Besides the website abouna.org , we have also in the center the office of Noursat satellite TV which is the only catholic TV that podcasts’ in Arabic, it issues from Beirut – Lebanon , and we have the first office outside Lebanon .
My experience was honed through acting as a media spokesperson for the local churches during two important visits, namely John Paul II 2000 and Benedict XVI 2009. I still follow the friendships and partnerships that were established following the two visits, and there is a consideration to conclude partnership agreements with several global media centers - especially with catholic centers in all the world.
For the most part, the religious leaders who took part in Friday’s inauguration ceremony of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, January 20, emphasized piety over politics, offering prayers which, in principle, could be shared by Americans of virtually any political persuasion.
Prior to Trump taking the oath of office, three prominent figures on the American Christian landscape were called upon to offer Scriptural readings and an invocation: Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who went first; Reverend Dr. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, an Evangelical; and Pastor Paula White-Cain of the New Destiny Christian Center, an Evangelical and televangelist.
Dolan delivered a reading from the Book of Wisdom, asking God to help leaders “to govern the world in holiness and righteousness, [and] to render judgment with integrity of heart.
“Though we may be perfect among mortals, if wisdom which comes from you is lacking, we count for nothing,” the reading continued.
Rodriguez read from chapter five of the Gospel of Matthew, from the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, offering blessings upon the poor, the humble, those who hunger and thirst for justice, the merciful, the pure in heart, those who work for justice, and those who are persecuted for doing right.
White-Cain then delivered an invocation, the first time one of the religious leaders spoke in his or her own voice.
“We come to you, heavenly father, in the name of all those with grateful hearts thanking you for this great country,” she said. “We acknowledge that we are a blessed nation, with a rich history of faith.
“Every good and every perfect gift comes from you, and the United States of America is your gift for which we proclaim our gratitude,” White-Cain said.
“Bestow on our president the wisdom necessary to lead this nation, the wisdom to unify us, [and] the strength to stand for what is honorable and right in your eyes,” she said.
“Reveal unto our president the ability to know your will, the confidence to lead us in justice and righteousness, [and] the compassion to yield to our better angels.
“In every generation you have provided the strength and power to become that blessed nation,” she said. “Give us the strength to persevere and to thrive … and join us to your purposes.
“Let your favor be upon this one nation under God, let these United States of America be that one beacon of hope to all people … a true hope to all humankind.”
The choice of White-Cain had stirred some controversy prior to the inauguration ceremony, largely because she’s an exponent of the “prosperity gospel” movement within Christianity that believes God rewards fidelity with health, happiness and material success, meaning that being wealthy can be seen as a sign of God’s favor.
During his inaugural address, Trump made reference to the divine. After promising that Americans will be protected by the military and law enforcement, he added: “Most importantly, we will be protected by God.”
At another point, Trump said that all Americans are “infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.”
Trump made another reference to religion in the address, vowing that radical Islamic terrorism “will be eradicated from the face of the earth.”
After Trump took the oath, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the only non-Christian to take part in the ceremony, offered a prayer.
“Bless President Donald J. Trump and America our great nation,” he said.
“The freedoms we enjoy are not granted in perpetuity, but must be reclaimed in each generation,” Hier said. “It’s not for us to complete the task, but neither are we free to dispense from it.
“A nation’s wealth is measured by her values, not by her vaults,” Hier said, adding, “Bless our allies around the world who share our beliefs.”
The Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the legendary evangelist Billy Graham, joked that “in the Bible rain is a sign of God’s blessing,” and speaking to Trump, “when you came to the platform, it started to rain.
“My prayer is that God will bless you, your family, and your administration, and that God will bless America,” Graham said, before offering a reading from the second chapter of the first letter of Timothy in the New Testament.
Finally, Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of Great Faith Ministries International, the lone African-American to take part in the inauguration, thanked God “for letting us share this great moment together.
“Let us not take for granted the air we breathe nor the life you have given us,” Jackson said.
“We are not enemies, but brothers and sisters,” he said. “We are not foes, but friends.”
He then quoted the famed gospel singer Mahalia Jackson and the song “We Shall Overcome”: “Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe … The Lord will see us through … Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe … We shall live in peace … Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe … We’re on to victory.”
In continuation of Caritas Jordan’s winter campaign, which started last year under a message of “Love and Mercy”, a team from Caritas Jordan and employees from Caritas Ajloun office, headed by the Caritas Jordan General Director Mr. Wael Suleiman, visited Anjara area in Ajloun on Saturday, January 21.
During the visit, Caritas Jordan distributed humanitarian assistance to the needy families in the area in the presence of Anjara parish priest Fr. Hogo, Deputy Wasfi Haddad and Director of Ajloun Governorate Development Dr. Malek Bani Ata. This assistance included food item vouchers, blankets, hygiene buckets and school bags.
Fr. Hogo paid tribute to Caritas' humanitarian role in providing assistance to people in need and in assisting both local community and refugees. For his part, Deputy Wasfi Haddad thanked Caritas for its unstinting efforts to provide aid to the needy families.
Director of Ajloun Governorate Development Dr. Malek Bani Ata praised the significant role which Caritas plays in offering all types of humanitarian and developmental assistance, as well as the effective partnership with the Ministry of Social Development in several developmental projects that serve the local community.
Jordan Caritas Director Mr. Wael Suleiman also gave a detailed elaboration on Caritas' message and its role in the community.
Caritas Jordan is a humanitarian charity non- governmental organization that is affiliated with the Catholic Church. It has an international representation, handling social and humanitarian work. It was established in the wake of the 1967 Arab-Israeli, responding to the humanitarian needs that emerged following the displacement of the Palestinian people who took refuge in Jordan.
Caritas Jordan is a member of International Caritas Confederation and a part of Caritas MONA. Its head office is in Amman. Four centers have been opened since its establishment in different areas of the Kingdom.