Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis beatifies Paul VI, the closing of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, a look at the various documents and speeches coming out of the meetings, we talk to a number of bishops after the Synod and a Consistory is held to name two new saints as well as look at the problems in the Middle East.
Home for the holiday. Doors flung open as family gathers from near and far. A moment to thank God for the blessings of the past year.
Imagine the place you call home is Aleppo, Syria. Every family, including yours, has a member who has been raped, or martyred or broken by the psychological, material, and emotional strain of a three-year and seemingly endless war. As we in Toronto bask in the afterglow of the bounty we call Thanksgiving weekend, many of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and elsewhere hope for at least some of the crumbs that fall from our tables.
On Thanksgiving weekend, I was disturbed by the testimony of Munir, a Salesian priest from Aleppo who risks his life as the provincial superior of St. John Bosco’s mission in Syria, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and Turkey. While we at home were asking ourselves whether to indulge in dark meat or white, a slice of baked ham or a second helping of pumpkin pie, the young people he holds near to his heart were wrestling with questions of a different magnitude. Does God still exist? Does he care about our suffering? Has the rest of the world forgotten about us? Why are the world’s legitimate powers so ineffective in responding to our plight, while so many unscrupulous forces wreak torturous havoc on us so effectively?
To our brothers and sisters in Aleppo and elsewhere, the blessings of God seem to lie beyond a door which is open to us but closed to them. Thanksgiving requires that we who sit at laden tables get up and open these doors and invite them in. How will I do that? How will you?
Written by Father Michael Pace SDB, Pastor, guest blogger.
Sebastian Gomes, Salt + Light writer/producer/director of The Francis Effect, gives us a glimpse into filming the documentary:
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: the current situation in the Middle East is catastrophic, and there’s no end in sight. It’s a volatile mix of religious, political, historical, ethnic, social and economic elements all firing at the same time. Catholics living in the midst of it have told us that: 1) the only certain thing is that things are uncertain, and 2) Don’t believe anyone who claims to entirely understand what’s happening.
Many highly intelligent people around the world have spoken about this being a defining moment in human history. Enter Pope Francis. His election in March of 2013 shocked the world, and the following eighteen months have been quite the encore. There have already been moments of great significance concerning the Middle East: the day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, or the Pope’s trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories. It would be naïve and unreasonable to think that Pope Francis can single-handedly solve these complex and deep-seeded issues. But we have to be honest with ourselves: no one else even comes close. There is something in Pope Francis, the man, the moral figure that is not found in any other world leader today. And for that reason he is a beacon of hope.
Msgr. John Kozar, who runs the pontifical Catholic Near East Welfare Association, told me in our interview for “The Francis Effect” that for the people of the Middle East – both Christian and Muslim – Pope Francis is not simply the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, but a man of peace for the entire human family. As you can tell from the following excerpt, our interview was remarkably candid, focusing primarily on the Syrian crisis and the suffering of Christians and Muslims throughout the Middle East. But we also discussed the reform of the Vatican bureaucracy and the shift away from some of the trappings and excesses of the papal office under Francis.
Gomes: From your point of view, how significant is the moral authority that this pope has gained because of the things he says and the things he does on a global scale?
Kozar: Well, let me begin by alluding to a few people that I just recently met in Rome for some meetings. One of them was a bishop from Syria. And he said this two or three times: ‘Overwhelmingly, the Christian population in my suffering country and the Muslims,’ he said, ‘I repeat, and the Muslims, are beseeching me in the strongest way possible to implore the Holy Father to kindly, please get involved with this whole quest for peace in this part of the world. He is the only moral figure that can command enough respect that possibly might bring some peace.’ I thought that was pretty strong. Because this is an area where there’s very little hope. And externally and internationally people want to write it off: ‘forget it. It’s not worth it.’ But imagine: ‘this is the only man that has that moral fibre and that moral acceptance. This upright figure, he might be able to do it. Please, implore him to help us.’
Gomes: This pope has mentioned “an ecumenism of blood,” speaking specifically about a solidarity that all Christians feel with the Christians in the Middle East who are being displaced or being killed. What do you make of that? How do you think that has been received on the ground?
Kozar: Well, I think it’s a very notable approach, and I think it has caught on because there are, I think, all of the Christian denominations and varieties and sub-varieties – there’s enough suffering to go around for all of them. But we can’t exclude; he includes also the non-Christians. This was brought home by some of the bishops from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, that some of our Muslim brothers and sisters suffer greatly. But the suffering might not be perceived in such strong terms because the numbers are so huge that if people flee that community, it doesn’t seem to draw a lot of attention. With Christians being really tiny minorities in some places and still diminishing, it seems to be more dramatic. But I think the Pope is reaching out and suggesting that there is a commonality of suffering here, of martyrdom that’s shared by all of the Christian traditions. And one of the things that I find very uplifting is that the lines of distinction are not very strong. When I was with Pope Benedict for that celebration [Mass during a September 2012 trip to Lebanon] I was at a Eucharist with, I think, 400,000 people. I was seated beside some Orthodox Patriarchs and Archbishops, and a few Protestant representatives, and then the faithful and many Muslims. And there was a one-ness. There was a one-ness gathered to pray for peace. And this man now, Francis, as Peter is potentially the great unifier. And I think, yes, people in this troubled part of the world and all over the world, they’re really grabbed by that.
Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis holds his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square and Pax Christi speaks out against the coalition bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria.
It was not too long ago that we heard about the Syrian civil war every night on the news. As the original struggle of the Syrian people for greater liberty morphed into a violent tit-for-tat with Bashar al-Assad’s government, the eyes of the international community were fixed on the country, appalled daily by the skyrocketing death toll.
A significant result of that more than three-year war, of which there is yet no end in sight, has been the displacement of millions of Syrian citizens, mostly to the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. While they have for the time being escaped the deadly violence of the conflict, their state of living has greatly deteriorated.
The fear of the citizens of the Middle East is that this extraordinary crisis will become ordinary, i.e. “the norm.” Refugee camps have sprung up and continue to grow throughout the region, while a lack of resources and infrastructure in the host countries diminishes the hope that a more dignified social and economic co-existence can be nurtured between citizens and refugees.
In collaboration with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Salt and Light Television has moved into the initial stages of producing a feature documentary on the terrible reality faced by millions of Syrians and their families. It will also look at how the host countries are dealing with the crisis and how the Catholic Church is responding through the work of Caritas and Development and Peace. We hope to remind the world that this crisis is still just that: a crisis, and that the devastating prospect of a permanent refugee presence in the Middle East remains, and may be materializing before our eyes.
Stay tuned for more information in the coming months. To learn more about the work of Development and Peace amidst the Syrian crisis click here.
Today on Perspectives, part two of our interview with Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J., an Egyptian-based Jesuit who tackles the day-to-day issues facing Christians in Egypt.
Today on Perspectives, part one of our interview with Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J., an Egyptian-based Jesuit who tackles the day-to-day issues facing Christians in Egypt.
On this worldwide day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, Salt and Light is pleased to broadcast the Vigil of Prayer with Pope Francis LIVE from St. Peter’s Square beginning at 1pm ET / 10am PT. You can tune in either by watching our television network or viewing our live stream at saltandlighttv.org/live.
For more information on why we fast and pray for peace:
The following is a special prayer for peace in Syria composed by Catholics Confront Global Poverty, a joint initiative of the USCCB and Catholic Relief Services:
God of Compassion,
Hear the cries of the people of Syria,
Bring healing to those suffering from the violence, Bring comfort to those mourning the dead, Strengthen Syria’s neighbors in their care and welcome for refugees, Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms, And protect those committed to peace.
God of Hope,
Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence and to seek reconciliation with enemies, Inspire the Church around the world with compassion for the people of Syria, And give us hope for a future of peace built on justice for all.
We ask this through Jesus Christ,
Prince of Peace and Light of the World, Amen.
Petition: For the people of Syria, that God may strengthen the resolve of leaders to end the fighting and choose a future of peace. Let us pray to the Lord.
(CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Since its founding in 1926, the need for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) has only grown. This papal agency, created by Pius XI to support the Eastern Catholic Churches, is helping sustain vulnerable Christian populations amidst poverty and violence. Leading this mission is Msgr. John Kozar, a priest from the diocese of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who previously served as national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies. Witness host Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB speaks with Msgr. Kozar during his recent visit to Canada.
Join us in prayer for the intentions entrusted to us by Pope Benedict XVI. For January 2013, we join the Holy Father in praying for:
The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Daily Offering Prayer
God, our Father, I offer You my day. I offer You my prayers, thoughts, words, actions, joys, and sufferings in union with the Heart of Jesus, who continues to offer Himself in the Eucharist for the salvation of the world. May the Holy Spirit, Who guided Jesus, be my guide and my strength today so that I may witness to your love. With Mary, the mother of our Lord and the Church, I pray for all Apostles of Prayer and for the prayer intentions proposed by the Holy Father this month. Amen.