POPE FRANCIS RECEIVES A MARZIPAN SICILIAN CART – THE NEW ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL: PART TWO – CLEARING MINES FROM BAPTISM SITE OF JESUS

Pope Francis tweeted today: Loving and forgiving are tangible and visible signs that faith has transformed our hearts.

POPE FRANCIS RECEIVES A MARZIPAN SICILIAN CART

A story and photo from Vatican Radio’s web page notes that Wednesday at the general audience, Pope Francis was given a marzipan cart in the shape of a migrant boat by a delegation from the archdiocese of Agrigento on the southern coast of Sicily. Countless migrants have arrived here from northern Africa.

SICILIAN CART

Marzipan is an almond and sugar paste which is often used in Sicilian sweets, and the cart was created by students of a pastry school in Agrigento. The delegation was led by Cardinal Francesco Montenegro, archbishop of Agrigento, and included Mayor Lillo Firetto who said the gift was “a sign of Agrigento, the Mediterranean port.”

THE NEW ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL: PART TWO

As I wrote on May 10 in Part One of this story about the multi-year renovation of New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I was absolutely dazzled when I visited the cathedral, not having seen it since its recent restoration. The beauty of every square inch of this massive church was beyond description – everything gleamed and glittered, the stained glass windows, after years of hiding their true colors, are now sublime, the statues beckon to you, as if coming to life.

Following are more photos of some of the glorious altars and the magificent stained glass windows, all cleane to perfection. Several people told me that the newly-cleaned windows made a huge difference in allowing far more light to enter the church than when they were almost black with decades of dust, dirt, smog particles, etc. Some said the windows were now so luminous that it was the first thing they noticed when entering St. Patrick’s.

CLEARING MINES FROM BAPTISM SITE OF JESUS

Vatican Radio reports that the British charity Halo Trust, after reaching an agreement with all Christian denominations in the area, has embarked on a project to clear mines and unexploded ordinance from one of the most sacred Christian sites in the world, where Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan. The one square kilometer site that contains 7 churches and monasteries has been a no-go area for almost 50 years after thousands of mines and booby traps were laid during the 1967 war. Halo Trust’s CEO, Major General James Cowan, told Susy Hodges about this landmark project.

Cowan said the Halo Trust is “very excited” about this important and hugely symbolic project to clear thousands of mines and unexploded ordinance from Jesus’ baptism site along the western bank of the River Jordan. He explained how access to this sacred site, known as Qasr Al-Yahud, with its 7 churches and monasteries, “has been denied to Christians” ever since the 6-day war Arab-Israeli war when the area was heavily mined and booby traps were planted around the churches.

Cowan explained that the Trust has been working “very hard” with both the Israeli and the Palestinian authorities and all the Christian denominations that have churches on the sacred site to acquire permission for the de-mining operation to go-ahead.  Among the 7 churches and monasteries on the mined site is a Franciscan Catholic church. He  pointed out that in 2000, ahead of Pope Saint John Paul’s visit to the River Jordan, a very small area of the mined site was cleared to allow a narrow access to the river enabling pilgrims to come and visit but said “the vast majority (of the site) remains mined.”

Describing the project as an example of a “great ecumenical cooperative spirit,, Cowan said it’s “very uplifting” that this sacred site (where churches were first constructed in 400 AD)  is being “returned to its proper use.” He acknowledged that the negotiations with the various parties were a delicate operation as they are “all aware of how sensitive politics are on the West Bank.” One problem that still remains, said Cowan, is raising the 3 million dollars needed to complete the de-mining operations and he is appealing to all Christians to help fund this project.

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