What Church means to weary Filipino mothers in Beirut

Lebanon’s holiday revelry contrasts with the difficult daily lives of hotel and household workers from the Philippines.

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Catholic Church Mothering Weary Filipino Mothers in Beirut
BY VICTOR GAETAN

 

Ecumenical gestures alongside peace-prayer for Jesus’ homeland – Hector Welgampola

Pope Francis first met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople in the Holy Land on May 25. That encounter in the region of Jesus’ birth also paved the way for the two heirs of Peter and Andrew to pray in the Vatican for peace between Israel and Palestine. Spirit-led gestures!

Some observers were cynical that the two Christian leaders met with Israel’s Jewish President Shimon Peres and Palestine’s Muslim President Mahmoud Abbas only to pray separately, not together. Nonetheless, their June 8 peace prayers were addressed to the same God, God is one, though invoked by varied names. And the four believers prayed for peace. As admitted by President Peres, “The two peoples – Israelis and Palestinians – still are aching for peace.” President Abbas reciprocated by praying that the Holy Land be made “a secure land for all believers.”

In addition to his own prayer and words of welcome, Pope Francis thanked the Eastern Church leader, Patriarch Bartholomew, for attending the prayer event at the seat of the Western Church. On the next day, in an interview with the Spanish-language “La Vanguardia,” the pope spoke of the momentum of ecumenism. “Since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has made efforts to become closer and the Orthodox Church has done the same,” he explained. “It is not conceivable that we Christians are divided, it’s a historical sin that we have to repair,” he added.

The focus on the “historical sin” of division came up again in papal discourse just one week later. This time, the pope was meeting with Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, who was in Rome for an event marking Anglican-Catholic collaboration. The head of the worldwide Anglican communion expressed a desire for full communion between the two Churches. The pope spoke of their shared history, which includes, not only cooperation, but also division. “We cannot claim that our division is anything less than a scandal and an obstacle to our proclaiming the Gospel of salvation to the world,” the pope said after the two men prayed in silence.
“Our vision,” he further noted, “is often blurred by the cumulative burden of our divisions and our will is not always free of that human ambition which can accompany even our desire to preach the Gospel as the Lord commanded.”

The encounter echoed a similar event in the Vatican, way back in 1960. It was a historic meeting between the predecessors of Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby. Pope Saint John XXIII was meeting then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Geoffey Fisher. It was the first time the world’s Catholic leader met with the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

“John XXIII, the Official Biography,” says that the Vatican’s overcautious L’Osservatore Romano newspaper had used the smallest possible print type to downplay Dr. Fisher’s visit. Enduring curial fears with great charity, the pope had said, “Not everyone here understands these things: they want perfection or nothing!” According to Archbishop Fisher’s taped biography, the pope had shown even greater magnanimity as he listened to the Anglican leader. Quoting from his 1959 encyclical, “Ad Petri Cathedram” (toward the See of Peter) the pope had exclaimed how he looked forward to the time “when our separated brethren would return to the Church.”

“Not return, Your Holiness,” the Anglican head had interjected.

“Not return? Why not?” the pope queried, reportedly.

“None of us can go backwards,” said Archbishop Fisher, adding, “we are all running on a parallel course, but we are looking forward until in God’s good time our two courses come and meet.”

While we continue to live in such hope, November 21, 2014, will mark the 50th anniversary of Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism and the Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches. Yet, “God’s ‘s good time” still continues to be “blurred” by what Pope Francis called “the cumulative burden of our divisions.” And as the pope very realistically noted, human ambition seems to thwart God’s good time too, just as it thwarts the peace that humans long for.
It all calls for prayer, more prayer and togetherness in prayerful action as we await the Lord’s healing manna of consociation.
END

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka  retired Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Bangkok. Before joining UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring from UCAN Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita.

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka is a retired Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Bangkok. Before joining UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring from UCAN Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita, and authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary & Stylebook http://books.google.com/books/about/Asian_Church_Glossary_Stylebook.html?id+uAFZQwAACAAJ

 

Pope Francis Holy Land pilgrimage photos from former chaplain for Filipinos

Philippine-born Franciscan Fr. Angelo Beda Ison (front right), who had served for a decade as chaplain of the Filipino community in Israel, sent CiA this photo in which Franciscans presented a plaque to Pope Francis at the Franciscan convent of Casa Nova in Bethlehem where the pope had lunch with families from Palestine during his pilgrimage in the Holy Land on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras (May 24 – 26, 2014). - Photo published with permission.

Philippine-born Franciscan Fr. Angelo Beda Ison (front right), who had served for a decade as chaplain of the Filipino community in Israel, sent CiA this photo in which Franciscans presented a plaque to Pope Francis at the Franciscan convent of Casa Nova in Bethlehem where the pope had lunch with families from Palestine during his pilgrimage in the Holy Land on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras (May 24 – 26, 2014). – Photo published with permission.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Bethlehem’s Manger Square, beside the Church of the Nativity which is dedicated to the Child Jesus. Following is the full text of his homily published on Vatican Radio’s website

“This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12).

What a great grace it is to celebrate the Eucharist in the place where Jesus was born! I thank God and I thank all of you who have welcomed me on my pilgrimage: President Mahmoud Abbas and the other civil authorities; Patriarch Fouad Twal and the other bishops and ordinaries of the Holy Land, the priests, the good Franciscans, the consecrated persons and all those who labor to keep faith, hope and love alive in these lands; the faithful who have come from Gaza and Galilee, and the immigrants from Asia and Africa. Thank you for your welcome!

The Child Jesus, born in Bethlehem, is the sign given by God to those who awaited salvation, and he remains forever the sign of God’s tenderness and presence in our world. The angel announces to the shepherds: “This will be a sign for you: you will find a child…”.
Today too, children are a sign. They are a sign of hope, a sign of life, but also a “diagnostic” sign, a marker indicating the health of families, society and the entire world. Wherever children are accepted, loved, cared for and protected, the family is healthy, society is more healthy and the world is more human. Here we can think of the work carried out by the Ephpheta Paul VI institute for hearing and speech impaired Palestinian children: it is a very real sign of God’s goodness. It is a clear sign that society is healthier.

To us, the men and women of the twenty-first century, God today also says: “This will be a sign for you”, look to the child…
The Child of Bethlehem is frail, like all newborn children. He cannot speak and yet he is the Word made flesh who came to transform the hearts and lives of all men and women. This Child, like every other child, is vulnerable; he needs to be accepted and protected. Today too, children need to be welcomed and defended, from the moment of their conception.

Sadly, in this world, with all its highly developed technology, great numbers of children continue to live in inhuman situations, on the fringes of society, in the peripheries of great cities and in the countryside. All too many children continue to be exploited, maltreated, enslaved, prey to violence and illicit trafficking. Still too many children live in exile, as refugees, at times lost at sea, particularly in the waters of the Mediterranean. Today, in acknowledging this, we feel shame before God, before God who became a child.

And we have to ask ourselves: Who are we, as we stand before the Child Jesus? Who are we, standing as we stand before today’s children? Are we like Mary and Joseph, who welcomed Jesus and care for him with the love of a father and a mother? Or are we like Herod, who wanted to eliminate him? Are we like the shepherds, who went in haste to kneel before him in worship and offer him their humble gifts? Or are we indifferent? Are we perhaps people who use fine and pious words, yet exploit pictures of poor children in order to make money? Are we ready to be there for children, to “waste time” with them? Are we ready to listen to them, to care for them, to pray for them and with them? Or do we ignore them because we are too caught up in our own affairs?

“This will be a sign for us: you will find a child…”. Perhaps that little boy or girl is crying. He is crying because he is hungry, because she is cold, because he or she wants to be picked up and held in our arms… Today too, children are crying, they are crying a lot, and their crying challenges us. In a world which daily discards tons of food and medicine there are children, hungry and suffering from easily curable diseases, who cry out in vain. In an age which insists on the protection of minors, there is a flourishing trade in weapons which end up in the hands of child-soldiers, there is a ready market for goods produced by the slave labor of small children. Their cry is stifled: the cry of these children is stifled! They must fight, they must work, they cannot cry! But their mothers cry for them, as modern-day Rachels: they weep for their children, and they refuse to be consoled (cf. Mt 2:18).

“This will be a sign for you”: you will find a child. The Child Jesus, born in Bethlehem, every child who is born and grows up in every part of our world, is a diagnostic sign indicating the state of health of our families, our communities, our nation. Such a frank and honest diagnosis can lead us to a new kind of lifestyle where our relationships are no longer marked by conflict, oppression and consumerism, but fraternity, forgiveness and reconciliation, solidarity and love.

Mary, Mother of Jesus,
you who accepted, teach us how to accept; you who adored, teach us how to adore;
you who followed, teach us how to follow. Amen

*************

Pope Francis visited the West Bank city of Bethlehem May 25, the second day of his pilgrimage in the Holy Land. He paid a courtesy visit to President Mahmoud Abbas of the State of Palestine and addressed representatives of the Palestinian authority. Before noon, he said Mass for a throng of pilgrims in Manger Square in Bethlehem.

He had lunch with families from Palestine in the Franciscan convent of Casa Nova, before his private visit to the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Philippine-born Father Angelo Beda Ison (front left in cassock) was among religious who welcomed Pope Francis in the Franciscan convent in Bethlehem on the second day of the pope's May 24-26 pilgrimage in the Holy Land. Photo from Fr. Ison published with permission. - Catholic In Asia

Philippine-born Father Angelo Beda Ison (front left in cassock) was among religious who welcomed Pope Francis in the Franciscan convent in Bethlehem on the second day of the pope’s May 24-26 pilgrimage in the Holy Land. Photo from Fr. Ison published with permission. – Catholic In Asia

He proceeded to visit with children from Palestinian Refugee camps of Deheisheh, Aida and Beit Jibrin at the Phoenix Center of the Deheisheh Refugee Camp.

Pope Francis then visited Jerusalem on Monday, the last day of his pilgrimage. There he met with Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu, Nobel Peace Prize Israeli President Shimon Peres and chief rabbis of Israel. Highlights of the pope’s activities on the final pilgrimage day are summed up here

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