This Syrian Catholic priest was kidnapped and tortured by ISIS. He still has hope in humanity.

SYRIAN CATHOLIC PRIESTIt became clear that I would need to follow the Rev. Jacques Mourad around all day. To the kitchen, where he was preparing kebab with eggplants or demonstrating how to cut onions just so or washing dishes. To the chapel, where he was picking away wax collecting on candle holders. To the classrooms, where he was nodding his head as nuns from India attempted to recite the Mass in Arabic that he has spent months teaching them. To the door, which he was always leaning out of, calling to someone in the street.

There was nothing too small, or nothing small enough, to occupy Father Jacques, for he believed that God was captured best in simplicity. The woman called by name. The prayer in the chapel, where only two of us had gathered beneath the rising Iraqi sunlight. The coffee filled exactly to the correct level.

We are in the upstairs classroom, where he is seated at the head of a table, reciting the Mass in the Chaldean rite from a prayer book, carefully pronouncing the words in Arabic and Aramaic, waiting as the nuns recite them in return. He pauses, flustered. The translation from Arabic to English that they have been consulting is not accurate. The word hanan has been translated as “to pity.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM AMERICA MAGAZINE

‘Wells of Hope’: Christians, Muslims fighting trafficking together

Wells of Hope” is the title of a documentary, released on Friday in Rome that shows the work done by women of different faiths to combat human trafficking in countries affected by war in the Middle East.

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By Linda Bordoni

Produced by Aurora Vision and filmed in Jordan, “Wells of Hope” is a documentary film presented by Talitha Kum, the worldwide network of consecrated life against trafficking in persons, founded by the International Union of Superiors General.

It tells the story of Shaima, a Syrian girl who fled the war in her country only to have her hopes, and ultimately her life, taken from her in the cruelest of ways.

Talitha Kum coordinator, Sister Gabriella Bottani, was on hand for the film launch at Vatican Radio together with its protagonists and with the film’s director, Lia Beltrami.

Sr. Gabriella said she approached Aurora Vision, a non-profit communications organization committed to spreading a positive message of peace, dialogue and hope, because she believes no stone is to be left unturned in Talitha Kum’s tireless battle against human trafficking.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VATICAN NEWS

Syria: Church perseveres in spite of war

cq5dam.thumbnail.cropped.750.422Archbishop Samir Nassar, of the Maronites (Syria) speaks on the presence of the Church in war-torn Syria.

By Benedict Mayaki

The archbishop of Damascus reiterates the important presence of the Catholic Church in a country where violence has claimed hundreds of thousands of human lives and has led to the forced migration of millions.

Syria has been at war for the past nine years. What began as protests against the regime of President Assad in 2011 degenerated into a war between the Syrian government and anti-government rebel groups.

Speaking to the Vatican Radio, Archbishop Samir Nassar, of Damascus of the Maronites in Syria, touched on pertinent issues such as justice, inter-religious dialogue between Christians and Muslims, migration, and the application of the social teachings of the Church in the context of Syria.

What’s the Church’s relationship with Islam?

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Scholar: Church urges Catholics to engage in dialogue, cooperation with Muslims on peace and social justice issues

Lonsdale priest Father Nick VanDenBroeke apologized Jan. 29 after remarks he had made in a homily about Muslim immigration and Islam being “the greatest threat in the world” sparked national controversy. “My homily on immigration contained words that were hurtful to Muslims. I’m sorry for this,” said VanDenBroeke, pastor of Immaculate Conception, in a statement. “I realize now that my comments were not fully reflective of the Catholic Church’s teaching on Islam.” In a separate statement, Archbishop Bernard Hebda noted he had spoken with Father VanDenBroeke Jan. 29 and reiterated that the Catholic Church holds Muslims in esteem, quoting Popes Benedict XVI and Francis.

To further explore the relationship between the Catholic Church and Islam, The Catholic Spirit interviewed Rita George-Tvrtkovic´, an associate professor of theology at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois. She specializes in medieval and contemporary Christian-Muslim relations. Her books include “A Christian Pilgrim in Medieval Iraq: Riccoldo da Montecroce’s Encounter with Islam” (Brepols, 2012); “Christians, Muslims and Mary: A History” (Paulist Press, 2018); and a co-edited volume, “Nicholas of Cusa and Islam: Polemic and Dialogue in the Late Middle Ages” (Brill, 2014). She earned her PhD at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, and is the former associate director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

George-Tvrtkovic´ will be speaking at the University of St. Thomas Feb. 18 on “What Muslims Can Teach Catholics about Christianity.” The Catholic Spirit received her responses via email. They are edited for length and clarity.

Q. What does the Church teach in general about Islam?

A. The basis for all Catholic relationships with Muslims today is the Second Vatican Council document “Nostra Aetate” (“On the Church’s Relation to Non-Christian Religions,” 1965). The document’s introduction says that “the Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in (other) religions” and encourages interreligious dialogue in general, but it also has two sections devoted to Judaism and Islam in particular.

Section 3 on Islam says that the Church regards Muslims “with esteem” and outlines areas of theological agreement (that God is creator, merciful, powerful, revealer; that Christians and Muslims believe in judgment and resurrection of the body; that they have similar practices such as prayer, fasting and almsgiving; and that they revere some of the same figures, such as Mary).

Areas of disagreement are also mentioned, the most prominent being how Christians and Muslims understand Jesus (Christians believe he is the Son of God, while Muslims consider him a prophet). Section 3 ends with a plea to engage in dialogue and cooperation with Muslims on peace and social justice issues. Since Christians and Muslims are the largest and second largest religions in the world, respectively, it seems especially urgent for our planet that Christians answer this call to collaborate for the common good.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

What Americans can learn from Northern Ireland: Walls make bad neighbors

20160714T1012-4614-CNS-ORANGEORDER-IRELAND.jpgThis summer marked the 50th anniversary of Northern Ireland’s Troubles, a decades-long ethnic civil war that killed more than 3,000 people. The war lasted until 1998, when the Good Friday Agreement reaffirmed British control of Northern Ireland but offered Catholics assurances against government discrimination and the gerrymandering that had previously limited their voice in Northern Ireland’s government.

Today, Northern Ireland’s Catholics and Protestants have equal reason to regret the conflict. Thirty years of war, thousands dead and a peace settlement that cannot heal the psychological scars—why did all of this happen? Some new political science research sheds some light on this question. It may also carry lessons for Americans who worry about social divisions and violence in our own time.

Catholics and Protestants in Belfast came to adjust their daily commutes and shopping routines to avoid street interactions with the religious “other.”

Our research shows that the most diverse neighborhoods of Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast, experienced the most conflict-related deaths, a total of 1,617 within the city limits. “Interfaces,” where Catholic neighborhoods directly abutted Protestant neighborhoods, were exceptionally deadly sites.

Diversity of Catholics & Protestants, 1971 Census. “Interfaces” where Catholic (green) and Protestant (purple) neighborhoods met were exceptionally deadly places. (Map courtesy of the authors)

At first, this finding seems to support the argument for separating different ethnic and religious groups—partitioning neighborhoods, restricting immigration and hardening borders to prevent ethnic and religious “others” from entering one’s own community. (The “peace walls” built to separate Catholic and Protestant enclaves in Belfast are the physical embodiment of this strategy.) But a closer look at Belfast and a comparison with other ethnically divided societies give us reason to question the wisdom of partition.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AMERICA MAGAZINE

The Lebanese saint who unites Christians and Muslims

Image_from_the_Shrine_of_St_Charbel_Credit_Hannah_Brockhaus__CNAImage from the Shrine of St. Charbel. Credit: Hannah Brockhaus / CNA.

July 24, 2019
Hannah Brockhaus
Catholic News Agency

ANNAYA, Lebanon – St. Charbel Makhlouf is known in Lebanon for the miraculous healings of those who visit his tomb to seek his intercession – both Christians and Muslims.

“St. Charbel has no geographic or confessional limits. Nothing is impossible for [his intercession] and when people ask [for something], he answers,” Fr. Louis Matar, coordinator of the Shrine of St. Charbel in Annaya, Lebanon, told CNA.

Speaking in Arabic with the help of an interpreter, Matar said the shrine, which encompasses the monastery where the Maronite Catholic priest, monk, and hermit lived for nearly 20 years, receives around 4 million visitors a year, including both Christians and Muslims.

Matar, who is responsible for archiving the thousands of medically-verified healings attributed to the intercession of the Maronite priest-monk, said that many miraculous cures have been obtained by Muslims.

Since 1950, the year the monastery began to formally record the miraculous healings, they have archived more than 29,000 miracles, Matar said. Prior to 1950, miracles were verified only through the witness of a priest. Now, with more advanced medical technology available, alleged miracles require medical documents demonstrating the person’s initial illness and later, their unexplainable good health.

One of the miracles documented by Matar at the end of December, when he spoke to CNA, was that of a 45-year-old Italian woman. Suffering from a neurological disease, she was hospitalized after it was discovered she had tried to commit suicide by consuming acid.

In the hospital, the doctors discovered that the damage to her esophagus and intestines was so extensive, “the last way possible to cure her was believing in God and praying,” Matar commented.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CATHOLIC SAN FRANCISCO 

Muslims in Paris show solidarity with Christians over Notre-Dame fire

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Preparation of the interreligious meeting in Paris, July 6. (Photo by A PASSILLY)

Muslims in France have participated in an interreligious gathering to show support to Catholics who are still coming to terms with last April’s fire that damaged Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.

The Muslims actually requested the gathering as way to offer their solidarity. The meeting was held on July 6 and organized by the Christian movement Efesia as part of the “Together with Mary” interreligious group.

Musicians had been rehearsing for about an hour and people passing by the Quai de la Tournelle, in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, already had their refrain dedicated to Notre-Dame in mind when, around 6 p.m., the gathering officially began.

They followed one another onto the small platform, with its back to the Seine and then on to the cathedral ravaged by the flames on April 15.

Paris’ Auxiliary Bishop Denis Jachiet was on hand to represent Catholics. Anouar Kbibech, Vice-President of the French Council of Muslim Worship, represented the Sunni Muslims, while Sheikh Mohamed Ali Mortada was there for the Shiites.

Much more than the Cathedral of Catholics

“We had organized an event around Mary just before the fire, at the Shiite mosque in La Courneuve, with our friends from Efesia. At a meeting, after the disaster, we asked ourselves how we could show our support for the Christian community,” said Amrina Darmsy Ladha, a Shiite Muslim, after reading a passage from the Quran in front of the 100 people who gathered there.

Like her, many Muslims came to share their sentiments.

FULL ARTICLE FROM INTERNATIONAL LA-CROIX