VATICAN INSIDER OFFERS A TRIVIAL PURSUIT WEEKEND – CARDINAL PAROLIN IN BEIRUT: ENTIRE CHURCH STANDS IN SOLIDARITY WITH LEBANON

Link to weekly edition of L’Osservatore Romano in English:

https://www.osservatoreromano.va/en/pdfreader.html/ing/2020/09/ING_2020_036_0409.pdf.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NewsletterOR-EN

Today is the day of prayer and fasting that Pope Francis urged us to make for the Country of Lebanon and the city of Beirut that, as you know, still suffers enormously from an explosion that occurred at the seaport a month ago. Francis sent Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin to Beirut to show his love and closeness and support of the Lebanese people, especially those killed or wounded. Below is a Vatican report of that visit.

This is a city I know and love very much and where I have friends and I’ve accompanied the cardinal in my thoughts and prayers.

Today also marks the 4th anniversary of the canonization of Saint Teresa of Calcutta – Mother Teresa. Vatican news interviewed the postulator of her cause and you can follow that story here: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2020-09/saint-mother-teresa-kolkata-annivesary-canonization.html

VATICAN INSIDER OFFERS A TRIVIAL PURSUIT WEEKEND

This week on Vatican Insider, after an overview of the news stories this week in the Vatican and a Q&A on cremation and burial, I look at some topics that have surface in emails I’ve received over time. I answer questions about the patron saint of television (who and why?), the statue of St. Peter in the basilica named for him, why Popes wear white (who started that?), Rome’s most visited nativity scene and look at which is larger, the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica or that of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)

CARDINAL PAROLIN IN BEIRUT: ENTIRE CHURCH STANDS IN SOLIDARITY WITH LEBANON

Following the Pope’s invitation for a universal day of prayer and fasting for Lebanon on Friday, Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, expresses the Church’s closeness and solidarity with the nation, amid its economic and political crisis exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent explosion in Beirut.

By Vatican News

Pope Francis, during the Wednesday General Audience, called for a universal day of prayer and fasting on Friday for Lebanon, in the aftermath of the deadly 4 August explosion at the Beirut port, as well as the ongoing economic and political crisis in the country.

The Pope also announced he would send Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin to Lebanon as his representative “to be present with its people” and to express his “solidarity and spiritual closeness.”

Ahead of the day of prayer, Cardinal Parolin met Thursday with the Lebanese Bishops, representatives of different religious communities, and humanitarian organizations at the St. George Maronite Cathedral in Beirut.

Solidarity with Lebanon
Addressing the religious leaders during the meeting, Cardinal Parolin explained that his visit was “to express the nearness of the Catholic Church throughout the world.”

He pointed out that the Pope’s appeal for a day of prayer generated immediate responses from all over the world. “You are not alone!” he said, assuring Lebanon’s leaders.

He also called on the nation’s political leaders, urging them to “foster the talents of young people and their aspirations for peace and a better future,” adding that only together can we “defeat all forms of authoritarianism by promoting inclusive citizenship based on the respect of fundamental rights and duties.”

“Our suffering can help us purify our intentions and strengthen our resolve to live together in peace and dignity, to strive for a better governance that favors responsibility, transparency and accountability,” he said.

Pointing out the unique value of Lebanon – a part of the Holy Land that was visited by Jesus, His Apostles, and Our Lady – Cardinal Parolin reminded the religious leaders that they have a “primary mission to give hope to an afflicted population, to honor and serve our brothers and sisters in humanity, starting with the most vulnerable.”

He concluded by encouraging the many “beautiful” examples of solidarity already happening all over Beirut, and appealed to the international community to not leave Lebanon alone, as the world “also needs the unique ongoing experiment of pluralism, living together in solidarity and freedom that is Lebanon.”

Find strength to set out again

At a Mass celebrated at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa, on the same day, Cardinal Parolin encouraged all Lebanese “to continue to hope and to find the strength and energy to set out again”, despite the economic, social and political crisis which has only been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic and the explosion in August.

Our Lady of Harissa –

The Vatican Secretary of State appealed that the reconstruction of the country should be done not only at the material level, but also in a way that fosters a new approach to the management of public affairs based on laws, transparency, collective responsibility and the common good.

Cardinal Parolin concluded his homily with Pope Francis’s words during the General Audience on Wednesday: “And now I ask you to entrust to Mary, Our Lady of Harissa, our anxieties and our hopes. May she support all those who mourn their loved ones and may she give courage to all those who have lost their homes and, with them, part of their lives! May she intercede before the Lord Jesus so that the Land of Cedars may blossom again and spread the fragrance of living together throughout the Middle East.”

POPE SETS SEPTEMBER 4 AS DAY OF PRAYER AND FASTING FOR LEBANON

POPE SETS SEPTEMBER 4 AS DAY OF PRAYER AND FASTING FOR LEBANON

day’s general audience, held in the San Damaso courtyard, was the first since February in the presence of the faithful. Approximately 500 attended this week’s audience.

At the end of the general audience catechesis in Italian and summaries in a number of languages, Pope Francis, in the presence of a priest from Lebanon, made a heartfelt appeal for aid to that “beloved nation.”

Fr. Georges Breidi, 35, of the Congregation of the Maronite Lebanese Missionaries who is studying in Rome at the Gregorian University, presented the Holy Father with a Lebanese flag. As Fr. Breidi stood, holding one end pf the flag, Pope Francis held another as he read his appeal. The priest later said brief words in Italian and both the Pope and priest stood together with the faithful present at the audience to pray in silence for Lebanon. (Vatican media photo)

Dear brothers and sisters, one month after the tragedy that struck the city of Beirut, my thoughts still go to dear Lebanon and its particularly tried population. And this priest who is here has carried the flag of Lebanon to this audience.

As Saint John Paul II said thirty years ago at a crucial moment in the country’s history, I too repeat today: “Faced with the repeated tragedies that each of the inhabitants of this land knows, we become aware of the extreme danger that threatens the very existence of the country. Lebanon cannot be abandoned in its solitude “(Apostolic Letter to all the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the situation in Lebanon, 7 September 1989)

For over a hundred years, Lebanon has been a country of hope. Even during the darkest periods of its history, the Lebanese have kept their faith in God and demonstrated the ability to make their land a place of tolerance, respect and coexistence unique in the region. The affirmation that Lebanon represents something more than a state is profoundly true: Lebanon “is a message of freedom, it is an example of pluralism both for the East and for the West” (ibid.). For the good of the country itself, but also of the world, we cannot allow this patrimony to be lost.

I encourage all Lebanese to continue to hope and to find the strength and energy necessary to start again. I ask politicians and religious leaders to engage with sincerity and transparency in the reconstruction work, dropping partisan interests and looking at the common good and the future of the nation. I also renew my invitation to the international community to support the country to help it emerge from the serious crisis, without being involved in regional tensions.

In particular, I address the inhabitants of Beirut, severely tested by the explosion: take courage, brothers and sisters! May faith and prayer be your strength! Do not abandon your homes and your heritage, do not let the dreams fail of those who have believed in the future of a beautiful and prosperous country.

Dear pastors, bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, lay people, continue to accompany your faithful. I ask you bishops and priests for apostolic zeal; I ask you for poverty, no luxury, poverty with your poor people who are suffering. You must give the example of poverty and humility. Help your faithful and your people to stand up and be protagonists of a new rebirth. May all of you be agents of harmony and renewal in the name of common interest, of a true culture of encounter, of living together in peace, of brotherhood. A word so dear to St. Francis: brotherhood. May this harmony be a renewal in the common interest. On this foundation it will be possible to ensure the continuity of the Christian presence and your invaluable contribution to the country, the Arab world and the whole region, in a spirit of brotherhood among all the religious traditions that exist in Lebanon.

It is for this reason that I would like to invite everyone to live a universal day of prayer and fasting for Lebanon this Friday, September 4. I intend to send my representative that day to Lebanon to accompany the population: the Secretary of State (Cardinal Pietro Parolin) will go in my name to express my closeness and solidarity. We offer our prayers for all of Lebanon and for Beirut. We are also close with the concrete commitment of charity, as on other similar occasions. I also invite the brothers and sisters of other confessions and religious traditions to join this initiative in the ways they deem most appropriate, but all together.

And now I ask you to entrust our anxieties and hopes to Mary, Our Lady of Harissa. May she support those who mourn their loved ones and instill courage in all those who have lost their homes and part of their lives with them. May she intercede with the Lord Jesus so that the Land of Cedars may flourish again and spread the perfume of living together throughout the Middle East Region. And now I invite everyone, as far as possible, to stand up in silence and pray in silence for Lebanon.

 

POPE FRANCIS RESUMES WEEKLY AUDIENCES AFTER JULY VACATION BREAK – POPE AT AUDIENCE LAUNCHES NEW CATECHESIS SERIES ON HEALING THE WORLD

An interesting article today by Vatican News on the background of weekly papal general audiences. Pope Frances resumed this weekly encounter today at the end of his brief working vacation in the Vatican. As he has done for months because of Covid-19, the catechesis was live-streamed from the papal library in the Apostolic Palace. Following that piece is a summary of Francis’ new weekly catechesis on “Healing the World.”

Come spend several minutes with me as we go to Assisi to celebrate today’s feast of St. Clare of Assisi. We visit the church named for her and venerate her perfectly preserved remains: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZkyGvWcJrE

POPE FRANCIS RESUMES WEEKLY AUDIENCES AFTER JULY VACATION BREAK

By Vatican News

Pope Francis’s summer break is over. As of Wednesday, August 5th, Pope Francis resumed his weekly general audiences, which he suspends annually in July. The last public general audience held in the Paul VI audience hall took place on March 7.

These audiences begin at 9:30 local Rome time and last for about one hour. After public general audiences, Pope Francis customarily greets a number of people.

After the last public audience in March, the Vatican moved the audiences from St. Peter’s Square to the library of the Apostolic Palace in order to comply with measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. On March 18, for the first time, Vatican News began offering an English commentary for the general audience.

As Pope Francis again picks up his weekly general audience, it will be his 318th catechesis. The only other time outside of July (vacation) that general audiences are suspended are during the papal trips. As soon as Pope Francis returns from such a trip, he always recaps his journey. Sometimes this happens the day following his return.

During the general audience, the Pope gives a catechesis on the Christian faith. Short summaries of these catecheses are translated into 7 languages: French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish. Longer summaries of these catecheses are published on Vatican News and full texts can be found on the official Vatican web portal.

The general audiences can be viewed live with playback available on the various language channels of the Vatican Media YouTube channel.

So far, Pope Francis has completed 15 catechesis series. The first series was on the Creed, a theme he took up from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. Themes that followed this series were on: the Sacraments, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Church, the family, mercy, Christian hope, the Ten Commandments, the Our Father, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Beatitudes. The last cycle he began is on Christian prayer.

Sometimes, Pope Francis makes appeals at the conclusion of the general audience. Some of these appeals call for peace in areas ravaged by war and terror, others remind us of the plight of persecuted Christians, some appeal for Christian solidarity with victims of natural disasters, or draw attention to tragedies such as migration, unemployment or poverty. In his General Audience prior to the summer break, he prayed for the victims of an earthquake in Mexico. On June 10, he took the opportunity to condemn the tragedy of child labor.

Pope Paul VI held the weekly general audience in St Peter’s Basilica. When the Vatican audience hall was inaugurated on June 30, 1971 Pope Paul VI said: “We inaugurate this beautiful and large hall that We wanted to build above all for two reasons: to free St. Peter’s Basilica from the large and vivacious crowds that had become normal, and to offer Our visitors an even more suitable place for large gatherings.”

In 1963, Pope Paul VI commissioned the building of what would later become known as the Paul VI Hall. It seats 6300 people and is still used for general audiences in extreme cold or when it rains. In 2007, solar panels were installed on its roof.

With Pope John Paul II’s pontificate, attendance at the weekly general audience went beyond the capacity of Paul VI Hall. To deal with the huge crowds who wanted to attend them, the venue was moved St. Peter’s Square. In fact, as Pope John Paul II was entering St. Peter’s Square for the general audience of May 13, 1981 that an attempt was made on his life.

The coronavirus pandemic has now made this impossible. However, through radio, television and digital platforms, the Pope’s general audience is made available to millions of the faithful throughout the world with simultaneous commentary in French, German, English, Spanish and Portuguese.

POPE AT AUDIENCE LAUNCHES NEW CATECHESIS SERIES ON HEALING THE WORLD

Live streaming once again from the papal library in the Apostolic Palace, as he has done throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis today began a new series of weekly catecheses and announced the themes for coming weeks as well.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” began the Holy Father, “In responding to the grave challenges caused by the present pandemic, we Christians are guided by the wisdom and strength born of the virtues of faith, hope and love. As God’s gifts, these virtues heal us and enable us in turn to bring Christ’s healing presence to our world.”

He then noted that these theological virtues, “can inspire in us a new and creative spirit to help us face today’s deeply rooted physical, social and spiritual infirmities and change the unjust and destructive behaviors that threaten the future of our human family.”

Francis said that, “today the Church seeks to continue the Lord’s healing ministry, not only to individuals but also to society as a whole. She does this by proposing a number of principles drawn from the Gospel that include the dignity of the human person, the common good, the preferential option for the poor, the universal destination of goods, solidarity, subsidiarity and the care for our common home.”

Pope Francis concluded his catechesis by noting the themes for future weekly encounters: “In coming weeks, I will reflect on these and other themes of the Church’s social doctrine, confident that they can shed light on today’s acute social problems and contribute to the building of a future of hope for coming generations.”

At the end of language greetings to pilgrims tuning in to the audience, Pope Francis prayed for Lebanon in the aftermath of the explosion in Beirut on Tuesday.

“Yesterday in Beirut, near the port, there were massive explosions causing dozens of deaths, wounding thousands and causing serious destruction. Let us pray for the victims, for their families; and let us pray for Lebanon so that, through the dedication of all its social, political and religious elements, it might face this extremely tragic and painful moment and, with the help of the international community, overcome the grave crisis they are experiencing.”

According to local authorities, the explosion was caused by tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse in the port of Lebanon’s capital.

VATICAN INSIDER: SOME TRIVIA AND FUN STORIES FROM THE VATICAN (PART II) – UNESCO “REGRETS” TURKISH DECISION ON HAGIA SOPHIA, A WORLD HERITAGE SITE – JULY 24, FEAST OF BELOVED LEBANESE SAINT CHARBEL MAKHLOUF

Click here for English edition of weekly L’Osservatore Romano: https://www.osservatoreromano.va/en/pdfreader.html/ing/2020/07/ING_2020_030_2407.pdf.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NewsletterOR-EN

VATICAN INSIDER: SOME TRIVIA AND FUN STORIES FROM THE VATICAN (PART II)

Wherever you are as you listen to Vatican Insider this weekend, if you’ve decided to spend a brief moment with me, I think I have a fun offering for you in what is normally the interview segment.

I’ve called this Special “Inquiring Minds Want To Know” because I’m going to bring you some trivia – some little known, and often unusual facts about the Vatican, Popes or the Church. Join me for Part II as I look at who is the patron saint of television, the story of the statue of St. Peter in the basilica named for him and why Popes wear white. I’ll also look at who made one of the most visited nativity scenes in Rome and lastly, will tell you which has the biggest dome – St. Peter’s Basilica or the U.S. capitol?

Remember these stories might be a bit of trivia but they are not trivial!

UNESCO “REGRETS” TURKISH DECISION ON HAGIA SOPHIA, A WORLD HERITAGE SITE

There could be an interesting twist in Turkey’s July 10 decision to turn the once Christian basilica-then mosque-then museum of Hagia Sophia back into a mosque. In 1934, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of the Republic of Turkey, turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, which later became a UNESCO world heritage site. It was Turkey’s current president Erdogan who announce the recent change on July 10. Reaction against the change poured in, not only from many Turks but from around the world and one of the strongest voices was that of UNECSO.

Two things in particular struck me and I have contacted UNESCO but do not have an answer as I write:

1. “This decision announced today raises the issue of the impact of this change of status on the property’s universal value. States have an obligation to ensure that modifications do not affect the Outstanding Universal Value of inscribed sites on their territories.”

2. “UNESCO calls upon the Turkish authorities to initiate dialogue without delay, in order to prevent any detrimental effect on the universal value of this exceptional heritage, the state of conservation of which will be examined by the World Heritage Committee at its next session.”

Both of these imply some possible change in the monetary aspect of being a World Heritage site, such as monies earmarked for restoration, etc.

Hagia Sophia re-opened today for Muslim prayer. Today’s date was important as July 24, 1923 marks the date that Allied powers and Turkey signed the Treaty of Lausanne that ended the Ottoman Empire and signaled the start of the Republic of Turkey. An estimated 7,000 police closed off and policed a large portion of Istanbul adjacent to Hagia Sophia. Those who could not get inside brought their own prayer rugs and prayed outside in the adjacent garden area. An estimated 1,000 faithful prayed inside, including President Erdogan.

Following is the complete statement from the UNESCO website:

Hagia Sophia: UNESCO deeply regrets the decision of the Turkish authorities, made without prior discussion, and calls for the universal value of World Heritage to be preserved.

Paris, Friday 10 July – The Director-General of UNESCO deeply regrets the decision of the Turkish authorities, made without prior discussion, to change the status of Hagia Sophia. This evening, she shared her serious concerns with the Ambassador of Turkey to UNESCO.

Hagia Sophia is part of the Historic Areas of Istanbul, a property inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. “Hagia Sophia is an architectural masterpiece and a unique testimony to interactions between Europe and Asia over the centuries. Its status as a museum reflects the universal nature of its heritage, and makes it a powerful symbol for dialogue,” said Director-General Audrey Azoulay.

This decision announced today raises the issue of the impact of this change of status on the property’s universal value. States have an obligation to ensure that modifications do not affect the Outstanding Universal Value of inscribed sites on their territories. UNESCO must be given prior notice of any such modifications, which, if necessary, are then examined by the World Heritage Committee.

UNESCO also recalls that the effective, inclusive and equitable participation of communities and other stakeholders concerned by the property is necessary to preserve this heritage and highlight its uniqueness and significance. The purpose of this requirement is to protect and transmit the Outstanding Universal Value of heritage, and it is inherent to the spirit of the World Heritage Convention.

These concerns were shared with the Republic of Turkey in several letters, and again yesterday evening with the representative of the Turkish Delegation to UNESCO. It is regrettable that the Turkish decision was made without any form of dialogue or prior notice. UNESCO calls upon the Turkish authorities to initiate dialogue without delay, in order to prevent any detrimental effect on the universal value of this exceptional heritage, the state of conservation of which will be examined by the World Heritage Committee at its next session.

“It is important to avoid any implementing measure, without prior discussion with UNESCO, that would affect physical access to the site, the structure of the buildings, the site’s moveable property, or the site’s management,” stressed Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture. Such measures could constitute breaches of the rules derived from the 1972 World Heritage Convention. (https://en.unesco.org/news/unesco-statement-hagia-sophia-istanbul)

JULY 24, FEAST OF BELOVED LEBANESE SAINT CHARBEL MAKHLOUF

On one of my visits to Lebanon, a very good friend took me to Saint Maroun Monastery in Annaya, the shrine of St. Charbel, perhaps the most beloved of Lebanon’s saints, beloved by both Christians and Muslims. We spent an afternoon and early evening exploring the Monastery of St. Maroun, the hermitage and small museum and also attended Mass in a church built in 1840. Our final moments were at the tomb of the saint that, since 1952, has been in a cave-like structure.

Thousands and thousands of medically-verified miraculous healings have been attributed to St. Charbel’s intercession. For the past 70 years, since the healings have been recorded, more than 29,00 such cases have been archived.

Charbel, a Catholic Maronite monk and priest renown for his holiness, lived from May 8, 1828 to December 24, 1898. for several decades after his death, his body was incorrupt. Though his body is no longer incorrupt, his tomb is one of several in the world that has oil exuding from it, said to have miraculous healing as attested to by many witnesses.

I have a small bottle of that oil – still unopened – from that visit.

Here are some photos I took on that afternoon visit. The shrine is well above sea level and it was cold as we were on our mini pilgrimage.

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POPE PROVIDES FUNDING FOR SCHOLARSHIPS IN LEBANON

I don’t know when it began and why I have not noticed it before today but the Vatican news portal now is asking for donations to support its work. There is a ribbon/banner to this effect at the end of every article. I suppose the Vatican had to come to this. Perhaps you saw the story I posted yesterday about Vatican finances.

Relative to the papal news about Lebanon: Following are some photos I took on a visit to Lebanon and to the shrine of Our Lady of Harissa. You will see Our Lady atop a huge structure, some photos I took of the Lebanese photo from near the top of that structure and of a young Lebanese man, Eifad, and his mother. Harissa is a shrine very dear to Muslims as well as Christians. As I was climbing the steps to get to the statue, I leaned over to take one particular photo (you can guess which one! ) and I think the young man thought I was about to go over the railing because he leaned over to help me. We struck up a conversation and I learned that his mother had tried for years to have a child. She visited the shrine and within a month found she was pregnant. I have always loved that story and love this photo whenever I see it.

One of the photos shows the apostolic nunciature and its gardens as seen from the shrine. In fact, I had just come to the shrine from the nunciature where I visited a good friend. Abp. Gabriele Caccia who was nuncio at the time – he is now the Holy See envoy to the United Nations.

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POPE PROVIDES FUNDING FOR SCHOLARSHIPS IN LEBANON

An extraordinary intervention by Pope Francis intends to support the education of young people in Lebanon, which has been hit by “a serious crisis that is causing suffering and poverty” and risks robbing future generations of hope.

By Vatican News

On Thursday, the Holy See Press Office announced that Pope Francis has sent a donation of $200,000 to support 400 scholarships in Lebanon.

The donation was made “in the hope of achieving a gesture of solidarity and with the desire that all involved at national and international levels will responsibly pursue the search for the common good, overcoming every division and partisan issue”.

In a communiqué announcing the gift, the Press Office notes that,“Pope Francis with fatherly concern has continued to follow in recent months the situation of beloved Lebanon… that has always been an example of the coexistence and fraternity that the Document on Human Fraternity wished to offer to the whole world”.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the State of Greater Lebanon, the predecessor of the modern nation. Yet, the communique notes, “the Land of the Cedars … is experiencing a severe crisis that is causing suffering and poverty, and that risks ‘robbing of hope’ especially younger generations who see their present as arduous and their future as uncertain”.

The ongoing crisis has made it difficult to ensure that young people in the country have access to education, which in many places, and especially smaller areas, has been provided by ecclesiastical institutions. The Holy Father’s gift is intended to help meet that need.

According the Press Office, the donation was made through the Secretariat of State and the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. “The intervention is in addition to the contribution that the Emergency Fund of the CEC (Congregation for the Eastern Churches) has made in recent days to deal with the emergency linked to the Covid-19 pandemic”, the communiqué states.

The Pope’s donation is accompanied by the prayer that Our Lady of Lebanon, “the Mother of God who watches over Lebanon from Harissa Mountain” together with all the saints of Lebanon, “might protect the Lebanese people”.

THE ANNUNCIATION: “AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH” – A DAY OF DECREES

THE ANNUNCIATION: “AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH”

What a beautiful day this is – March 25, feast of the Annunciation!

Pope Francis’ brief message today (which I posted earlier on Facebook) and his praying the Our Father with Christians from around the world, all united to Rome at the same time, was a very moving experience. I had been looking forward to this since Sunday when he announced it and was just sitting down in front of TV when my doorbell rang! To say I was astonished is an understatement! No one is out and about and we are all in quarantine these days so who would ring my doorbell!

It was our doorman Carlo to tell me that the building’s satellite system, which had been down since Friday the 13th (yes!), hours after I got back from the US, was back up and the technicians wanted to know if I had satellite back. I checked my TV and all I saw was “no signal from the antenna.” And this was happening precisely at 12 noon when I wanted to see the Pope and pray with him!

Carlo and three technicians came to my place – masks and all – and with a few manoeuvers managed to get my satellite back up and running. I had opened the door for them before they arrived and was in the living room as they worked – we were all the required distance of separation if not more!

How are we living these days? I sanitized the door handle and everything else they had touched – just in case! Better safe than sorry, as the expression goes!

In any case, I prayed the Our Father ten minutes late but then did it several times today!

I have one amazing memory that I think about every year on this day, the feast of the Annunciation. It happened ten years ago…..

On February 18, 2010, I was in Lebanon on my way to Iraq when the government announced that it had made March 25 a national Christian-Muslim Day, something that had never occurred before in the history of Christian-Muslim relations. The decision was confirmed two days later during a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Prime Minister Hariri in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.

On February 18, I was in the offices of a Catholic newspaper in Beirut where people were scurrying to get this announcement in the press! The first joint celebration occurred a month later on March 25 as an official national holiday sanctioned by the government of Lebanon. All public buildings, schools, banks and university were closed and the government encouraged private businesses to do the same.

For Christians, Mary is the Mother of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For Muslims, Mary is a much-revered figure as the Mother of the prophet Jesus. In September 1995 I was a member of the Holy See delegation to the UN conference on Women in Beijing. On September 8, a member of the Iran delegation came to our office with a beautiful picture of Mary, saying their delegation wanted to celebrate her birthday that day and this was their gift to us!

Fra Angelico’s Annunciation:

Two years ago, again in the Middle East, in Amman, Jordan for the first time Christians and Muslims held an inter-religious celebration to mark the Annunciation. Patriarchal vicar Bishop William Shomali said the celebration was part of the “theological, religious, and spiritual dialogue” that accompanies everyday life in Jordan. “We want to show the common points between Christians and Muslims on the Annunciation, in which even Muslims believe.”

A DAY OF DECREES

Earlier today I posted two decrees from two different Vatican congregations regarding how Easter liturgies are to be celebrated worldwide in the Church during the coronavirus epidemic. You will probably get news in this regard from your own bishops but now you know the rules and understand what he will say we can do – and not do – and why.

Two more decrees came down from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – one is a Note for the presentation of the Decree Cum sanctissima on the liturgical celebration in honor of Saints in the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite, and the second is a Note for the presentation of the Decree Quo magis approving seven Eucharistic Prefaces for the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite.

Each is fairly lengthy and I do not have time now to summarize those now. However, if Vatican News posts a summary before I can get to that, I’ll put the link up here, on Facebook and on Twitter.

POPE THANKS LEBANESE PRESIDENT FOR WELCOMING SYRIAN REFUGEES – FRANCIS TO PRESIDE PENITENTIAL SERVICE IN ST. PETER’S BASILICA – U.S. DIOCESES WHERE YOU CAN EAT MEAT ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY

Papal tweet for March 16: The Church wishes to be close to each person with the love, compassion and consolation that come from Christ.

POPE THANKS LEBANESE PRESIDENT FOR WELCOMING SYRIAN REFUGEES

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis held a private audience on Thursday with Mr. Michel Aoun, President of the Republic of Lebanon, and his wife, Nadia.

A communique from the Holy See Press Office said their discussions were “cordial.”

“The Parties focused on the good bilateral relations between the Holy See and Lebanon, underlining the historic and institutional role of the Church in the life of the country. Satisfaction was then expressed for the efforts on the part of all the various political parties in putting an end to the presidential vacancy, emphasising the hope for an increasingly fruitful future collaboration between the members of diverse ethnic and religious communities in favour of the common good and the development of the nation,” the communique read.

Turning to current events on the international stage, the Pope thanked President Aoun for his country’s welcome of Syrian refugees.

“The discussion then turned to Syria, with special attention to international efforts to find a political solution to the conflict. Furthermore, appreciation was expressed at the welcome that Lebanon has extended to many Syrian refugees. Finally, there was a broader exchange of views on the regional context, referring also to other ongoing conflicts and the situation of Christians in the Middle East.”

President Michel Aoun subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

FRANCIS TO PRESIDE PENITENTIAL SERVICE IN ST. PETER’S BASILICA

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will preside over a penitential service at the Vatican in anticipation of the  ’24 Hours for the Lord’ initiative.

The service will take place on Friday March 17, one week before all churches around the world are asked to offer the sacrament of Confession, a request made by the Pontifical Council for the Promoting of the New Evangelization.

The theme of the initiative this year comes from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew: ‘I desire Mercy’ (Mt 9:13).

On Friday March 24, the churches of Santa Maria in Trastevere and Le Stimmate di San Francesco will remain open from 8pm for Confession and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. On Saturday March 25, a service of thanksgiving will take place at 5pm in the church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. Monsignor Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promoting of the New Evangelization, will preside over First Vespers of the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

People around the world can show their support for the initiative by using the #24hoursfortheLord hashtag.

Here’s a link to the booklet if you watch this on EWTN: http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/libretti/2017/20170317-libretto-liturgia-penitenziale.pdf

U.S. DIOCESES WHERE YOU CAN EAT MEAT ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY

(churchpop.com) Catholics are not supposed to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. Everyone knows that. (Catholics are also supposed to do penance on Fridays all year round; read more here.)

But sometimes there are exceptions! This Friday, March 17th 2017, might be one of those exceptions for you, depending on where you live.

It just so happens that this Friday is St. Patrick’s Day. That by itself doesn’t mean you can eat meat, but you can if at least one of these other conditions is met:

First, if St. Patrick is the patron of your diocese (e.g. the Archdiocese of New York), his feast is a solemnity for you and fasting is not required. This is true for all solemnities, such as the feast of St. Joseph (March 20th), which sometimes falls on a Friday during Lent.

Second, a bishop can grant a dispensation to everyone in his diocese from the normal fasting requirement. Dubbed the “Corned Beef Indult” (since corned beef is a customary food for St. Patrick’s Day), Rocco Palmo says the bishops of at least 112 dioceses in the United States have granted permission to their faithful to forego the normal abstinence from meat this Friday to allow for better celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

For complete list, click here: https://churchpop.com/2017/03/15/you-can-eat-meat-in-these-u-s-dioceses-this-friday-st-patricks-day/

VATICAN INSIDER: AN INSIDER’S LOOK AT THE LIFE OF NORMA MCCORVEY – PAPAL ALMONER SUPPORTS FARMERS, PRODUCERS FROM EARTHQUAKE-STRUCK TOWNS – COULD ONE BISHOP’S IDEA HELP THE WORLD’S DIOCESES?

Pope Francis on Twitter today: The Christian heart is always full of joy. Always. Joy received as a gift and kept in order to be shared with everyone.

Shall we all try to share a moment of joy with one new person this weekend!

If you follow events in the Holy Land, having perhaps made several pilgrimages to Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon (yes, all are the Holy Land), there are two websites you really might want to visit to keep well informed on all that is happening in the area, especially vis-à-vis the Catholic Church.

The first is http://en.lpj.org/

The LPJ stands for Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and it is a fact-filled site with daily news stories (such as “Don’t Move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Bishops Ask Secretary of State), videos, upcoming events, a look at the Order of the Holy Sepulchre (to which I belong) and information for visitors and pilgrims. You might already be familiar with this site: if not, it is a must-visit site if you love the Holy Land, or are simply curious to know more.

A second site will probably be less familiar: http://en.abouna.org/

The “en” in the site refers to the English version, as you probably guessed: the original is in Arabic (abouna.org). “Abouna” is Arabic for Father. A good friend of mine in Amman, Jordan, Fr. Rifat Bader, put this together a few years ago and he and his team (a fairly small one) are doing a great job. He is the founder and director of the Amman-based Catholic Center for Studies and Media.

Father is pointing at me – we are at the Beirut Airport in September 2012 for the arrival of Pope Benedict:

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I saw a story here this morning (also on lpj.org) about the arrival in Amman today of another friend, Bishop William Shomali, as the new patriarchal vicar of Jordan (for the Latin Patriarchate). He succeeds Bishop Maroun Lahham whom I interviewed in 2014 on my trip to Jordan. When Bishop Shomali and I first met, he was rector of the Patriarchate seminary in Beit Sahour, not far from Bethlehem.. I had lunch with then-Father Shomali, the seminarians and staff just before they all left on Christmas vacation.

He is on the right on this photo –

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…and on the top of the group photo, wearing a gray scarf.

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VATICAN INSIDER: AN INSIDER’S LOOK AT THE LIFE OF NORMA MCCORVEY

My guest this week on “Vatican Insider” in the interview segment is Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life. As I wrote last weekend on these pages, she was in Rome last week with Fr. Frank Pavone and I had interviewed her about their work at Priests for Life, the March for Life in DC, etc. She suggested that we do a separate interview about someone big in the prolife movement and a good friend to Janet and Father Frank who was in failing health – that is, Norma McCorvey, the Roe of Roe v Wade in the 1973 Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion.

It was Norma’s courageous decision later in life, to renounce abortion – the goal she had espoused as the plaintiff in Roe v Wade – and to denounce it as the deliberate killing of a human being in its mother’s womb that led her to spend successive decades trying to overturn the law she had been instrumental in creating – even though she never set foot in court.

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Listen as Janet tells the inside story of Norma McCorvey who died one hour after we did our interview!

PAPAL ALMONER SUPPORTS FARMERS, PRODUCERS FROM EARTHQUAKE- STRUCK TOWNS

(Vatican Radio)  The Office of Papal Charities this week helped out the earthquake-hit regions of central Italy at the express wish of Pope Francis, buying typical food products from local producers and distributing it to several soup kitchens in Rome.

Central Italy was hit by a powerful 6.3 magnitude quake in August 2016, which killed nearly 300 people. Other earthquakes have since caused major damage to the area.

Farmers and merchants in the affected areas have since suffered a drastic reduction in their revenues.

A communique from the Office of Papal Charities said the organization selected “several groups of farmers and producers at risk of closure because of the damages provoked by the earthquake” from which to buy alimentary products.

Papal Almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, is standing on the right:

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It said vendors were chosen in conjunction with Bishop Domenico Pompili of Rieti, Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole of Ascoli Piceno, Archbishop Francesco Giovanni Brugnaro of Camerino-San Severino Marche, and Archbishop Renato Boccardo of Spoleto-Norcia.

“The Office of Papal Charities bought a large quantity of their products with the intention, expressed by the Holy Father, to help and encourage them in their activities. It is a gesture in line with the Magisterium of Pope Francis, who in his meetings has often said that ‘when a person does not earn their bread, their dignity is lost’”.

The food products bought in the name of the Pope were distributed to several soup kitchens in Rome to make meals for homeless people in need.

The Vatican supermarket currently sells products from the earthquake hit zones of central Italy, in an effort to help out the local economy.

COULD ONE BISHOP’S IDEA HELP THE WORLD’S DIOCESES?

(Vatican Radio) A bishop in Scotland has high hopes for his diocese as a new fundraising initiative was recently launched at his cathedral.

Bishop John Keenan is encouraging the faithful of the Diocese of Paisley to become ‘Friends’ of certain diocesan projects in a bid to combat a £3 million (€3.5 million) deficit. Bishop Keenan explained in a letter read out at all Masses in St Mirin’s Cathedral that the cause for the deficit is not surprising. “It is the same deadly combination of rising costs and falling income that you know all too well from your own home finances.” (photo: news.va)

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The bishop emphasised that a change in culture is needed. In his letter, he tells the lay faithful that he would rather put his trust in his own people than in professional fundraisers. If his desire for a deficit-free diocese is to be realised, then annual savings worth £300,000 must be found. He added that the “bulk of our efforts to eradicate the deficit will come from fundraising.”

He has appointed Fr Oliver Freney, administrator of St Mirin’s Cathedral, as the new diocesan Director of Fundraising and has challenged him to raise £100,000 annually. He said that the ‘Friends Project’ will be the “heart and soul of his fundraising campaign.”

Fr Freney was joined by several young people from the diocese for the launch at St Mirin’s. His fellow priests will be launching it in their parishes over the coming weeks. He said after the launch: “If every member of our diocese signed up to give just £5 a year, we would be in surplus.” He added that he encourages parishioners to “think about our situation and give thoughtfully and generously.”

The diocesan treasurer attended the launch. Fr Stephen Bailey explained that the faithful could opt to become ‘Friends’ of particular projects like ‘vocations’, ‘education’ and ‘youth’.  He added that Bishop Keenan wants to let people know how their money is being spent.

Bishop Keenan recently led the diocesan community through a synod, during which the important role of the lay faithful within the Church was highlighted.

STORY OF A MIRACLE FROM BEIRUT

As a preface to this AsiaNews story, I want to briefly mention something I learned on two different trips to Lebanon, including Pope Benedict XVI’s trip in September 2012 to present the Apostolic Exhortation that was the concluding document of the special 2010 synod of bishops for the Middle East. Muslims, in case you were not aware, have a very great devotion to Mary as the Mother of Jesus who, for Muslims, is a prophet. It seems from today’s story they also have an interest in St. Charbel.

Our Lady of Harissa, just outside of Beirut, is a very popular destination for Muslims who, like their Christian counterparts, have a special place in their hearts for this particular shrine. I was able to visit the shrine on both my 2010 and 2012 trips to Lebanon and I took some splendid photos of the shrine and adjacent area, Here are just a few:

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A view from the top:

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Now here’s a wonderful story: As I was trying to take one photo, bending backward over the railing that circled up and around the stairway to the statue, this young man asked if I needed help. I learned he was sure I was about to fall over the railing and wanted to help! He took the photo for me and the three of us spoke for a few minutes.  He said his name was Fadi and he introduced his mother, mentioning that they were Lebanese Muslims devoted to Mary. It seems that Fadi’s mother, after years of trying without success to have a child, made a journey to Our Lady of Harissa, did some serious praying and found out, four days later that she was pregnant. Fadi and his mother visit this shrine every year on his birthday!

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I first saw an act of Muslim devotion to Mary, if you will, when I was a member of the Holy See delegation to the September 1995 U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing. Some members of the Iranian delegation brought a beautiful poster of Mary to Abp. Renato Martino, adjunct head of delegation, on Our Lady’s September 8th birthday. A lovely gesture that delighted our entire delegation.

STORY OF A MIRACLE FROM BEIRUT

(AsiaNews – Beirut) – Milan, a three-year old girl from a Sunni family in Syria, was healed thanks to the intervention of St. Charbel, the Lebanese hermit saint, canonized in 1977 by Pope Paul VI. The family is a family of refugees from Damascus, who arrived in Lebanon after the civil war that has been destroying the country more than four years.

The girl had a tumor and during treatment was also attacked by a very serious virus. Her mother’s  prayer to St. Charbel healed her daughter and now little Milan, seems to have a very special relationship with “Father Charbel.”

The episode occurred two months ago and is documented by the reports of OTV (Orange TV), in Arabic.  Below we publish the literal translation.

Some Christian devotions have spread in many parts of the Muslim world (such as devotion to Mary, Our Lady, and the desire to be freed from the devil.

Click here to see AsiaNews and the video that tells Milan’s story (Translation of Arabic is below): http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Muslim-toddler-cured-by-a-miracle-of-St.-Charbel-%28Video%29-35514.html

Speaker: Emigrated from Damascus to Ta’albeya, having fled the terror of Daesh [Arabic acronym for the Islamic State-ed], in search of peace and security she was gripped by a tumor just as she was blowing out the candles of her second year of life:

– (Mother) “Her type of cancer is very difficult, because her tumor, disappears and reappears regularly and each time it returns, it grows stronger threatening to take her away from us. This is due to the fact that following the transplant she was hit by a virus called CNP, a highly dangerous virus, as deadly as her illness. She took really powerful drugs but the disease didn’t go away. Indeed, over time, it worsened dramatically. So, we kind of reached a decision for her own peace of mind to take her out of hospital, placing ourselves in God’s hands, waiting to see what would happen”.

(Soundtrack: The song of Majida El Rumi dedicated to St Charbel: “He drowned in his own pain, light oil lamps“)

Speaker: A lengthy Golgotha ​​for little Milan who suffered so much pain, but the faith of her mother saved her.

(Soundtrack: The song of Majida El Rumi dedicated to St Charbel: “O Charbel Charbel help us oh help us, O Charbel protect us, O Charbel protect all of us”

– (Mother): I brought her here to Zahle [Christian village in the Bekaa Valley that houses a shrine of St. Charbel- ed] on a pilgrimage. The next day, Tuesday, we went to the doctor for another analysis of the virus, and the doctor told me that the test result was negative, all of a sudden there was no trace of the virus. A miracle had eradicated the virus from her body. ”

(Soundtrack: The song of Majida El Rumi dedicated to St Charbel: “You whose gifts give glory to Lebanon!”

Speaker: Charbel took the hand of this Sunni Muslim family to defeat, through his intercession, the disease of their small child, their little girl, through his intercession.

– (Mother): “It was 8 pm, and on the way back home, she had fallen asleep. When Milan woke up she said ‘Today, Father Charbel came to see me’ ”

– (Milan): “Father Charbel told me, I prayed to God to heal you! He gave me water and it was enough ”

(Soundtrack: The song of Majida El Rumi dedicated to St. Charbel, “Leave me like an Oak kneeling in front of  the vine that is pressed but never destroyed”.

Speaker: The relationship that unites the three-year old girl with St. Charbel is an extraordinary relationship, a friend in times of sadness, her refuge to feel less pain, his church is the only place where she feels safe.

– The Mother: “Whenever she feels pain, she goes and takes the holy card of St. Charbel, cries, then starts to talk to him, but I do not know what she says or understand the nature of this relationship that unites them. These things no one knows except the two of them.”

(Soundtrack: The song of Majida El Rumi dedicated to St Charbel: “O Charbel Protect, Protect us!”

Little Milan: “I love you very much St. Charbel!”

 

POPE FRANCIS FOCUSES ON FATHERS, FATHERHOOD AT WEEKLY AUDIENCE – PATRIARCHS AND CHRISTIAN LEADERS MEET IN LEBANON

POPE FRANCIS FOCUSES ON FATHERS, FATHERHOOD AT WEEKLY AUDIENCE

Wednesday at the general audience in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis returned to the theme of the family and dedicated his catechesis to fathers and fatherhood. Weeks ago the Pope had announced that, between the two synods dedicated to the family – October 2014 and this coming October – he would be dedicating a series of catechesis to the family. In a previous audience he spoke on mothers and motherhood and today, at the end of his talk, said he will further pursue this theme and focus on “the beauty of paternity,” saying, “May the Lord help us to understand these things well.”

At the end of the general audience, performers from the Medrano circus entertained the Holy Father, who visibly enjoyed the jugglers and other acts, and the faithful who filled the hall on a cold January morning

Pope Francis began his talk by noting that, “Father is a universal word, known to all. It indicates a fundamental relationship that is real and ancient as the history of mankind. Today, however, we have reached the point of affirming that ours would be a ‘society without fathers’. In other words, in particular in western culture, the figure of the father seems to be symbolically absent, seems to have vanished. … At first, this was perceived as a form of liberation: freedom from the father-master, …. Indeed, in the past in some cases authoritarianism, indeed even oppression, reigned in some homes: parents who treated their children like servants, who did not respect the personal needs of their growth, fathers who did not help them to embark on their path in freedom, to assume their own responsibilities for building their future and that of society”.

And now, said the Pope, “we have gone from one extreme to the other. …. from the invasive presence of fathers … to their absence. … Fathers are so focused on themselves, on their work and at times their personal fulfilment, that they even forget their families, leaving children and the young to their own devices. … Now, on this shared path of reflection on the family, I would like to say to all Christian communities that we must be more careful: the absence of the paternal figure in the life of children and the young produces voids and wounds that can be very serious.” The Pope explained how serious it is when children do not have “examples and authoritative guidance in their everyday life” or “closeness and love from their fathers.”

“The feeling of orphanhood experienced by many young people,” explained the Holy Father,” is more profound than we might think. They are orphans in their families because their fathers are often absent, also physically, from the home, but above all because when they are present, they do not act like fathers: they do not speak with their children, they do not give their children, by their example accompanied by words, those principles, those values, those rules for life that the young need in the same way as they need bread. … At times it seems as if fathers are not sure what position they should occupy in the family, or how to educate their children. And so, in doubt, they abstain, they withdraw and neglect their responsibilities, possibly seeking refuge in an improbable relationship of parity with their children.”

The Pope said that sometimes the civil community”neglects or poorly exercises” its responsibilities and this too leaves children “as orphans, and does not offer them true prospects. The young are therefore orphaned of sure paths to follow, orphaned of teachers in whom they can trust, orphaned of ideals to warm their hearts, orphaned of values and hopes that support them day by day. They are filled with idols but robbed of their hearts; they are driven to dream of enjoyment and pleasure, but they are not given work; they are deluded by the god of money and denied true richness.”

Pope Francis concluded by noting that, “just as Jesus promised that he would not leave us orphans, let us ask him to deepen and renew our appreciation of fatherhood and to raise up good fathers for the benefit of our families, our Church and our world.”

PATRIARCHS AND CHRISTIAN LEADERS MEET IN LEBANON

(From Beirut – AsiaNews) – A meeting of the Patriarchs and Christian leaders of the East was held yesterday in Bkerke, the seat of the Patriarchate of Lebanon to address the situation of Christians in the Middle East and ask the Arab and international community to stop supporting terrorism, aid the refugee emergency and work for their return home. The need for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis was also underscored.

Patriarch Beshara Rai said that the goal of the gathering was to study the situation of Christian refugees and that of the faithful who have decided to stay in their country, despite war and difficulties. For them, he added, it is urgent to help them secure a job, schools, housing so “they can stay in their respective countries and preserve their Christian tradition and mission.” The other goal is an appeal “to the two communities Arab and international” to come to the aid of the refugees, helping them to return home and to rebuild their houses. This can be done “by ending the war in Syria and Iraq by peaceful means, through political negotiations and a serious dialogue between the warring parties, neutralizing terrorist organizations.” This can only be achieved if the Arab and the international community “cease to support [the terrorists] in financial and military terms, closing the borders where it is necessary to prevent the movement of mercenaries”.

“Political and economic designs – he added – cannot justify these terrible attacks against humanity.” For the Christian patriarchs and leaders, greater efforts must be made to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, on the basis of the formula “two peoples, two states”, allowing the return of refugees to their homes. “It ‘obvious – said Patriarch Rai – that both the Israeli Palestinian conflict and Israeli-Arab conflict is the root cause of the misfortunes that we are experiencing today in the Middle East.” Christian leaders are asking for greater effort on the part of governments and non-governmental organizations to assist refugees and securing the release of all those who have been abducted, or detained, whether civil, military or religious figures. These include the two bishops, the Greek-orthodox bishop of Aleppo, Boulos Yazigi, and the Syriac Orthodox, Youhanna Ibrahim, in the hands of fundamentalist groups in Syria for almost two years.

The situation in Lebanon was also discussed particular the lack of President since last May and the Christian and Muslim political groups who are boycotting the election of the head of state. The meeting was attended by Greek-orthodox patriarch Youhanna Yazigi; Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Mar Aghnatios Afram II; Patriarch Greek-catholic Gregory III Laham; Syrian Catholic Patriarch Mar Aghnatios Youssef III Younane; Joseph Arnaout, representative of the Armenian Catholicos of Cilicia, Nercès Bedros IX; Michel Kassargi, Chaldean bishop in Lebanon; Pastor Sélim Sahyoun, President of the High Council of the Evangelical community in Lebanon and Syria; the Apostolic Nuncio Gabriele Caccia; several representatives of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant charitable organizations.