HOLY LAND NEWS
‘People feel deprived of their dignity’
BY JOHN PONTIFEX, OF AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED
BLUNTANDREALISTIC , His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, is quick to address the situation of modern-day Palestine. “Christians and Muslims alike are suffering here because they are under the occupation,” he says solemnly. “Everywhere you go, people feel deprived of their dignity.” He is furious about the 26fthigh wall that Israel has built, which effectively cuts off Bethlehem and the West Bank from the rest of the world. Now an astonishing 230 miles long – and only halfbuilt – the wall, built inside West Bank territory, is heavily policed by Israeli troops. Meanwhile, hundreds of roadblocks, earth mounds and checkpoints have cut off West Bank towns from one another. Freedom of movement is now severely limited. Yet more barriers, of one description or another, are in the pipeline. For Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the impact of these restrictions on the people in the West Bank could not be
more significant. “Because of the wall, every large Palestinian town has become a large prison,” he says. “You are free to move inside but you cannot go out.” With the Hamas government’s assets frozen by the international community, the Palestinian Authority has struggled to pay basic wages. This has had a devastating impact on employment in the West Bank, according to the Patriarch. He says the problem has affected entire communities: “The Church has issued reports showing that for some parents the lack of income means they could not pay school fees – and sometimes they could not buy food.” In the years since the wall started going up following the Second Intifada in the year 2000 unemployment has soared. In parts of the Occupied Territories, the proportion of people living in poverty – as understood by independent international agencies – has over the period in question more than doubled to 70 per cent. Unemployment is rising fast, having hit 30 per cent earlier this year. In Patriarch Sabbah’s opinion these problems cut across the divides between the
Patriarch Michael Sabbah: ‘Because of the wall, every large Palestinian town has become a large prison’
Muslims and Christians in the West Bank. “Christians and Muslims alike are suffering here,” he says. “They are both under the occupation.” He acknowledges, however, that the fall-out from the “occupation” had hit the Christians especially hard. This applies especially to Bethlehem, he adds, where the Christian community was financially dependent on tourism. An entire industry is built around servicing the needs of pilgrims – not just souvenir shops, but factories and other firms producing everything from embroidered rosary pouches to olive-wood rosaries. But the once healthy flow of
tourists is now no more than a mere trickle. According to UN statistics, the monthly average of tourists entering Bethlehem has slumped from nearly 100,000 to fewer than 10,000 – all in the space of just four years. The Patriarch feels unable to shed a ray of hope on the situation. He stresses that even as Christmas approached gestures of goodwill are few and far between: “Every day it is getting worse. There are no signs that the politicians will come together. They are going more and more towards war.” The struggles of the Holy Land have have clearly sapped the energies of this defiant religious leader. But as he approaches the end of his tenure as Patriarch, Michel
Sabbah is determined to state his position unreservedly. He is extremely critical of the Israeli government. “Israel pays no attention to anyone – neither the international community nor anyone.” And he goes further, saying of the Israelis: “To kill a Palestinian means nothing. Demolishing their houses is routine. Nobody is paying attention to that.” So why is the West not intervening on human rights grounds? The Patriarch’s answer is swift. Referring to the Nazi Holocaust, he answers: “The western world wants to repair the guilt towards the Jewish people. “They bring the Jewish people here, they help them
to be stable here; then they go away. They are always supporting Israel with many agreements. They have not got the courage to say anything to Israel.” So what is the Patriarch’s prayer this Christmas? Without pausing for breath, he responds: “My prayer this Christmas as always is a prayer for peace. We need peace to come into people’s hearts. The violence is useless.” Those are words he has repeated countless times.
John Pontifex is Head of Press and Information for Aid to the Church in Need (UK) 1 Times Square, Sutton SM1 1LF. Tel. 020 8642 8668. www.acnuk.org
Pope calls on Israel to help Christians
I NAMEETING with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Pope Benedict XVI raised questions about the dwindling Catholic population in the Holy Land, including in Bethlehem, the Vatican has said. The Vatican said the Pope had voiced his concerns particularly in light of the approaching celebration of Christmas. The Pope and the prime minister met for 26 minutes in a small meeting room in the back of the Vatican’s audience hall. Bethlehem’s mayor, Victor Batarseh, told a press conference that a serious drop in Christian tourism to
his town, emigration and Israel’s erection of the security wall, cutting many Bethlehem residents off from jobs in nearby Jerusalem, were having a disastrous impact on Bethlehem and its residents. Oded Ben-Hur, the Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, told Catholic News Service that the Pope had spoken about “the difficult situation of the Christian community in Bethlehem”. Mr Ben-Hur said: “The prime minister promised to do everything possible to alleviate the community’s suffering and to ease access to Bethlehem over the Christmas holidays.” The Vatican said the Pope and prime minister discussed peace in the
Middle East. Mr Ben-Hur explained that Pope Benedict had thanked the prime minister for Israel’s declaration of a cease-fire with Palestinian militias, although the prime minister said it was getting more and more difficult “to withhold reactions” to missiles being launched into Israel from Gaza. Mr Ben-Hur said that when Mr Olmert repeated his government’s invitation for the Pope to visit Israel, the Pope had said he wanted to make such a trip, but was looking for “a moment of calm”. “The prime minister told him: ‘You can bring the calm’,” the ambassador said. Pope Benedict and Mr Olmert met as Vatican and Israeli govern
ment representatives were scheduled to meet in Jerusalem to continue onagain, off-again negotiations regarding the legal and tax status of the Catholic Church and its institutions in Israel. Mr Ben-Hur said Mr Olmert told the Pope he had instructed the Israeli negotiators “to make every effort to finalise the agreements”. The meeting also came one day after the Vatican issued a strong statement in opposition to the Iranian government’s conference questioning whether the Holocaust took place. Telling the Pope he was “the world’s most revered moral voice”, Mr Olmert asked the Pope himself to denounce anti-Semitism in general and the Iran conference specifically.
DECEMBER 22, 2006 THE CATHOLIC HERALD
WORLD BULLETIN Former Burundi president accused of nuncioʼs murder
AFORMERPRESIDENT and other high-ranking officials in Burundi have been accused of masterminding the December 2003 assassination of the apostolic nuncio to Burundi in the Catholic South African weekly The Southern Cross. Archbishop Michael Courtney, an Irish Vatican diplomat, was ambushed and shot several times 25 miles from the nation’s
capital, Bujumbura. He was travelling to southern Burundi, an area that was a stronghold of rebels from the National Liberation Forces, who were initially accused of carrying out the attack. The archbishop –whose term as nuncio was about to end when he was killed – died on December 29, 2003, during emergency surgery at a nearby hospital.
Pope laments preventable deaths
P OPE B ENEDICT XVIhas expressed his sadness that people are dying unnecessarily across the world. In his annual message for the World Day of the Sick the Pope also decried the fact that too many poor people and people in underdeveloped nations are dying of curable diseases. He said: “The Church [calls] for just social policies which can help to eliminate the causes of many diseases and by urging improved care for the dying and those for whom no medical remedy is available.” In 2007 the annual Vatican-sponsored conference and principal Mass for the observance will be held in Seoul, South Korea. Pope Benedict said the world needs to do more “to promote policies which create conditions where human beings can bear even incurable illnesses and deathin a dignified manner”.
Filipinos protest against Arroyo
Marriage down in Australia
The Church has urged Filipinos to protest against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s attempts to change the constitution so that she can extend her period in office. At least half a million Filipinos were expected to attend the anti-government rally in a public park in Manila. Arroyo has survived two impeachment bids and two attempted coups since she came to power in 2001.
T HENUMBER of Catholic weddings in Australia has declined by more than half since 1971, newly released census data has shown. As over all church marriages decline, with only 40 per cent of Australians marrying in churches, the number of Catholic weddings has sunk by 60 per cent since the early 1970s. In 1971 there were 9,781 Catholic marriages compared with 4,075 in 2005.
Milingo ordains two more priests
Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, the excommunicated Zambian prelate, has ordained two more married men, adding to fears that he is trying to set up his own schismatic church. Raymond A Grosswirth and Dominic Riccioby were both illegitimately ordained on December 10 at Trinity Reformed Church in West New York. But the new “priests” were automatically excommunicated for participating in an ordination ceremony not sanctioned by the Church. The ceremony came at the end of a three-day convention of Married Priests Now! –an organisation formed by the archbishop to promote a change in the celibacy requirement for Catholic priests in the Latin Church. Archbishop Milingo was himself excommunicated by the Vatican earlier this year for ordaining married men as bishops. The rebellious cleric has reportedly admitted that he is receiving financial help from Rev Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church.
Compromise needed in Galilee NEWSANALYSISJill, Duchess of Hamilton
SOMEOFCHRISTENDOM ’s most holy sites could be affected by new Israeli government plans. A proposal has been passed to build a tourist footpath without fences or gates around the shores of Lake Galilee. Unless the path darts inland at various points, it is difficult to see how any shore footpath would leave the historically sacred Christian sites unimpaired. As the sole surface freshwater source in Israel, Lake Galilee, with its eastern shoreline in Jordan, has long been the source of controversy among civic planners, conservationists, tourist developers and the pleasure-loving population. However, as yet, the Christian holy sites have been respected and are visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims annually. Because the Galilee region was the setting of Jesus’s ministry and later the centre of his Apostles’ activities, the lake and its shores contain many places mentioned in the New Testament. Capernaum, which became Jesus’s home after he was driven out of Nazareth, has a water frontage. So does Tabgha, the site of the Miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes. If picnicking families and sunbathers were free to walk past these places, it would disturb pilgrims at prayer and perturb the monastic life of local religious communities. In many places along the shore the general Israeli public are charged to lie on beaches or swim. Often illegal fences divide off swimming areas. Known also as Lake Kinneret and Lake of Tiberias by Israelis, the lake covers an area of 64 square miles. But this can be less if water levels recede. This December the level of water, which usually rises with the winter rains, has failed to rise. Israel is nearing drought conditions and the forecast continues to be pessimistic. Meanwhile, a compromise about the future of the lake needs to be reached – one which will leave all parties happy and the site itself, with its historically sacred associations, unimpaired.
Leaders ask for prayers before Holy Land trip
CHURCHLEADERS in England have asked parishes throughout the country to pray for “the little town of Bethlehem” as they approach the final week of Advent. This request comes in the context of an ecumenical trip to the site of Jesus’s birth. The Pilgrimage is being walked before Christmas by the four representative leaders of English churches: the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’ Connor; the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Dr Rowan Williams; Free Churches Moderator, the Reverend David Coffey and the Primate of the Armenian Church of Great Britain Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian. The leaders say they hope the pilgrimage will convey a feeling of “solidarity” to Christians communities of the Holy Land the solidarity of Christians in this land. Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said: “The children of Bethlehem and their future are particularly in our hearts at this time. Your prayers and support, for us and the people of Bethlehem, are a means of expressing our unity in Christ.” Dr Williams added: “On the final two Sundays of Advent many will be using scripture readings mentioning Bethlehem and carols such as “O little town of Bethlehem” perhaps that would be the moment to pause and remember the people of Bethlehem.”
New Year & Epiphany Masses
New Year’s Eve 11.30pm St Bede,Thornton Rd, Clapham Park, LONDON SW12 (Benediction followed by Mass at midnight) New Year’s Day 12.30pm St James, Spanish Place, George St, LONDON W1 3.00pm St Mary of the Angels, Cross Bank Rd BATLEY
Epiphany, Saturday 6 January 11.00am The Oratory, Hagley Road, BIRMINGHAM 12.00 noon Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane, LONDON WC2 12.00noon Christ the King, Lower Castle St, THORNBURY 12.00 noon St Thomas Apostle, Smithy Lane, CLAUGHTON-on-BROCK 12.00noon Christ the King, Northumberland Ave, Whitley, READING 12.15pm The Oratory,Woodstock Rd, OXFORD 12.15pm St Mary Immaculate & Holy Angels, Church St, KELVEDON 12.30pm Our Lady of Perpetual Succour,Watkin St, Fenton, STOKE ON TRENT 3.00pm St Mary Harvington, KIDDERMINSTER 6.30pm St Anthony’s, Scotland Rd, LIVERPOOL
Join the LMS • Longing for beauty, silence and reverence in the Mass? • Want to hear the Church’s treasury of Gregorian chant? • Fed up with the reordering and dumbing-down of our churches? Discover the Traditional Mass! For almost two thousand years it has produced martyrs, vocations and converts in unrivalled numbers.
The Latin Mass Society
11–13 Macklin Street, London WC2B 5NH
Tel: 020 7404 7284 Fax: 020 7831 5585 E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Traditional Catholicism for the 21st Century THE CATHOLIC HERALD DECEMBER 22, 2006
CHRISTMAS TIME! ʻPEACE ON EARTH, GOODWILL TOALL MENʼ ...BUT STILL THE UNBORN PERISH During advent 16,800 babies will be destroyed by abortion in Britain
Dear Catholic Herald reader, Long ago, a young pregnant girl called Mary was told that there would be no room for her or her baby. And this Christmas, 700 young pregnant women will be told the very same thing. Will you help me change this? The Abortion ‘industry’ doesn’t shut down for Christmas. In fact, the festive season is one of its busiest times of the year. That’s right, many tiny, innocent little lives will be lost this Christmas 16,800 during advent alone. I need you to help me stop this carnage. Like Rachel weeping for her children [Matt:2vs.18] Who will shed a tear for these lost lives? Who will comfort the shocked, often guilt-ridden, women - pausing, only a heartbeat away from making the biggest mistake of their lives? For them, this Christmas and every other Christmas for the rest of their lives, could be a lonely miserable time, haunted by sickening memories and crushing guilt unlesswe do something to alleviate their pitiful situation. But what will the overwhelming majority of Christians do?
As usual this Christmas, many Christians will be fully indulged in a self-satisfying spending frenzy, showering their children with every conceivable toy, game and trinket under heaven. And that is up to them, however, who will remember those much less fortunate than themselves?
Experience the real meaning of Christmas
This Christmas, I am asking you and many others to really, really live the Christian message of Christmas. I need you to open your heart and: help someone make it through Christmas. Protect the countless innocent babies and mothers facing the misery of an abortion. Nothing is more important. Surely you can see how wonderful that would be? Right now, LifeLeague volunteers are once again gearing up for a cold Christmas out on the streets of Britain and Ireland. We plan to extend “emergency cover”, right throughout the festive season, at as many abortion and referral facilities that we possible can. I simply must provide this unique service throughout the Christmas period as no one else will. Lives are literally hanging in the balance.
Men and Women volunteer to serve the needy
Its like this. If I and other LifeLeague volunteers don’t turn out, then hundreds of women will be completely left alone
and vulnerable with only the abortion clinic to turn to. I simply cannot even contemplate this, but I need your help, and I need it now, in order to avert this annual disaster. You see, I have organised volunteers. However, to provide national cover, I will have to organise transport, food, and in some areas, emergency accommodation for women who decide to keep their babies. As usual, this costs money. Our volunteers are heroically chipping in all they can, but at this time of year, money is tight, as you and I well know. Many of our volunteers also struggle to make ends meet.
Sacrificing this Christmas for the Innocents
LifeLeague’s finances are seriously depleted after yet another full year of campaigning, so I have no alternative but to ask you to help me. I know your finances are hard stretched at this time of year, as are everyone’s. But surely, as we celebrate the birth of one small baby, our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST, it would be shameful not to do all in our power to protect the 16,800 babies, made in HISimage and likeness, who will be purposely and painfully put to death during the festive season of 2006. Surely if we can afford to ‘eat, drink and be merry’, we can sacrifice of ourselves financially to give a tiny baby the chance to share this world with us!
Open your heart for the unborn
I implore you not to forget our unborn babies and their mothers this Christmas. Please open your heart to their plight by helping me provide personal counselling, emergency care and prayer vigils throughout the country. Help me provide practical help to those with no-one else to turn to this Christmas. You and I both know that many lives will be saved by this project, and the plain truth is, if I don’t organise volunteers to man their posts across the country, noone else will. This means that young women will be left easy prey to family pressures and smooth-talking ‘counsellors’ in the abortion clinics.
Some people willing to give their all
I have pulled together a group of volunteers for this mission. These brave individuals are willing to exchange their Christmas in front of a warm fire, surrounded by friends and family, for a cold, wet Christmas out on the streets just so that vulnerable women can have someone to turn to. So please, send a gift, no matter how small - today. Even on Christmas Eve,
when we are busy with our families and church services, seven hundred women will be travelling from all over the UK and Ireland to abortion clinics - about to destroy their own babies. We cannot allow this to go unchallenged. Only our volunteers stand between these woman and the abortion clinic.
Babies will die, even on Christmas day
enjoy Christmas with our children and grandchildren while thousands of unborn children shamefully perish? Yet, some refuse to do anything about it. I’m sure you will agree with me that the thought of leaving thousands of young mums and babies alone, without help, at the ‘mercy’ of abortion clinics, is just too ghastly to contemplate.
What would our Lord want you to do?
Even as we look forward expectantly to celebrating the birth of our Saviour remember that this very same Christmas night, seven hundred tiny, innocent babies will be purged from a world that had no room or love for them - the equivalent of wiping out two whole Primary schools! Therefore, I pray that you will understand how urgent this request is. If our selfless volunteers can save just one child, then their efforts will have been worth it. My estimated costs for the project are £8250. In the scale of things, this is normally not a massive amount for our organisation to raise but, at Christmas time, it’s impossible to raise even meagre funds. So please, don’t cast this letter aside until you have your cheque written out. I am depending on your support to help these young girls and their precious babies.
Life or Death situation
I cannot stress enough just how vital your contribution is. Think about it - how could we possible
Please, this Christmas, remember the words of our Lord: “Suffer the little children to come unto Me”.I need your financial help to make those words a reality, please support this mission of mercy. Please send the most generous pro-life gift that you can - today. Babies saved by this project will be the best Christmas present any of us could ever ask for.
Thank you so much indeed for your help. Yours in life,
Jamess Dowson James Dowson National Co-ordinator P.S. Christmas is a special, but heartbreaking time for us. It’s a time when children are, quite rightly, exalted and pampered. Yet, the plight of unborn babies and their young mothers is often ignored. Please remember the mothers, unborn babies and LifeLeague volunteers who will be out on the streets this year as you are saying grace over your Christmas dinner. Pray for me. I’ll be praying for you.
Instant credit card donation - telephone 0870 240 3158
I donate: £1,000 £500 £250 £50 £25
Other amount £ toward your work. I enclose cheque postal order or debit my Visa/Mastercard Expiry date: / No: / / / / Last 3 digits on back of card ______ Cardholder’s name: Signature: Date of birth: Please make cheques/PO’s payable to UK Life League Mr/Mrs/Miss/Rev/Fr/Sr: Address Postcode: Please send to UK Life League, Trafalgar House, 11, Waterloo Place, London SW1Y 4AU. Credit Card Hotline: 0870 240 3158