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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THE NEW ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL: PART ONE – EXPO FUNDS CARITAS JORDAN PROJECT PROVIDING WORK FOR REFUGEES

THE LATEST PAPAL TWEETS:
May 9, 2016: Jesus, ascended into heaven, is now in the lordship of God, present in every space and time, close to each one of us.

May 10, 2016: May today’s challenges become forces for unity to overcome our fears and build together a better future for Europe and the world.

After very memorable days in New York City, I am now in Washington, D.C. for some big events for my book, culminating this Sunday morning, starting at 10, with a book-signing at the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

One of the highlights of my entire U.S. visit will take place tonight at a restaurant in Bethesda, Maryland where I will have a “class reunion” with a sizeable group of students to whom I taught French five decades ago! I was new as a teacher at 24 and they were 14 and 15, freshman and sophomores at the Academy of the Holy Names in Silver Spring, Md.

AHN no longer exists but there is a wesbite for alumnae, two of whom, Anne Quinn and Monica Knudsen, “discovered” me on EWTN two years ago, got in touch with my through Facebook and we had our own reunion in Rome in March. I did write about that and posted some photos.

Since that time we have stayed in touch and Anne has organized the dinner that will take place at the Positano restaurant in Bethesda. I’ve also been in the AHN Facebook page an been in touch with a lot of former students. I’ll take photos and share those with you right here! And maybe a few of me signing my books – we have a shipment just for AHN!

In the meantime, today I want to share some of the photos of the newly restored and stunning St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. And also a great story about Jordan and its aid to refugees and ties with the Vatican. Caritas is doing magnificent work in Jordan and I’ve been privileged to spend some quality time with them in Amman.

THE NEW ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL: PART ONE

I have to say that I was absolutely dazzled when I visited St. Patrick’s cathedral twice last week, 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.

Here, in Part One, are some of the photos I took during those two visits. I had taken photos in 2009 during Cardinal Dolan’s installation and will have to go back and review those pre-restoration pictures. In the meantime, click here to see ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of the exterior! http://saintpatrickscathedral.org/restore-st-patricks-cathedral

This beautiful floral arrangement greeted me upon my arrival in New York and I was delightfully surprised to see they were a welcome gift from Cardinal Dolan, a longtime friend.
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Some FYI trivia (but not trivial!), interspersed by photos:

Including the St. Patrick’s Cathedral staff, the architecture team, the construction management team, the owner’s representatives and the Archdiocesan team, more than 200 people a day worked on this project.

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The Bronze Doors: Meticulously restored by G & L Popian, these 9, 200 pound doors had seen the wear and tear of more than 50 years of overlooking 5th Avenue. Walk out front now and see saints depicted on the fully-restored doors, shining for all to see.

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Narthex ceiling: When you walk in look up. Darkened by soot, pollution and years of heavy traffic, the ceiling had turned black in some places and the plaster had cracked. It shimmers and gleams majestically with the restoration.
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Exterior: Outside the Cathedral, check the spires as they now gleam as they first did when they were finished in 1888. Srones were cleaned and re-cut to return them to their original glory.

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St. Patrick’s mighty pipe organ has been refurbished and its roughly 9,000 pipes play in perfect tune. The interior pews, murals and religious statues have all been restored, as were all the stained glass windows that now allow much greater light to filter into the cathedral.
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Links to media stories about the restoration:
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-restoration-of-st-patricks-cathedral/

EXPO FUNDS CARITAS JORDAN PROJECT PROVIDING WORK FOR REFUGEES

(Vatican Radio) A new project providing work for Iraqi refugees in Jordan will be inaugurated in the capital, Amman, on Thursday May 12th by the undersecretary of the Pontifical Council ‘Cor Unum’, Mgr Segundo Tejado Munoz.

The project will be funded by money raised by the Holy See’s pavilion at the Milan Expo which took place from May 1st to October 31st 2015. Pope Francis personally requested that the 150.000 dollars, collected through visitors’ donations, should go directly to the development scheme entitled ‘Promoting job opportunities for displaced Iraqis in Jordan’. Philippa Hitchen reports:

Caritas Jordan will oversee the launch of the project which guarantees a regular income for 15 Iraqi refugees and their families, employed in making preserves, as well as the production and sale of oil and vegetables.

A further 200 refugees will be offered professional training in carpentry, agriculture and food technology, while another 500 will be given temporary employment throughout the year.

After the first six months of funding by the initial donation, the project is expected to support itself through income from the sale of the produce.

The project was presented and approved by ‘Cor Unum’ as a direct response to the Pope’s desire to help the most vulnerable people suffering from the effects of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

Jordan currently hosts around 130.000 Iraqi refugees and over 1.3 million Syrians who have fled from the fighting in their country – and those are just the numbers who’ve been registered by the United Nations.

The director of Caritas Jordan, Wael Suleiman, noted that despite the efforts of the local Church and of various government authorities, it remains extremely hard for refugees to find regular work.