March 9, 2012 Leave a comment
Priests: The Hands of Christ in a Broken World.
The church in Bethlehem had survived more than 1,000 years, through wars and conquests, but its future now seemed in jeopardy. Spray-painted all over its ancient stone walls were the Arabic letters for Hamas. The year was 1994 and the city was about to pass from Israeli to Palestinian control. I was meeting with the church’s clergy as an Israeli government adviser on inter-religious affairs. They were despondent but too frightened to file a complaint. The same Hamas thugs who had desecrated their sanctuary were liable to take their lives.
The trauma of those priests is now commonplace among Middle Eastern Christians. Their share of the region’s population has plunged from 20% a century ago to less than 5% today and falling. In Egypt, 200,000 Coptic Christians fled their homes last year after beatings and massacres by Muslim extremist mobs. Since 2003, 70 Iraqi churches have been burned and nearly a thousand Christians killed in Baghdad alone, causing more than half of this million-member community to flee. Conversion to Christianity is a capital offense in Iran, where last month Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was sentenced to death. Saudi Arabia outlaws private Christian prayer.
As 800,000 Jews were once expelled from Arab countries, so are Christians being forced from lands they’ve inhabited for centuries.
The only place in the Middle East where Christians aren’t endangered but flourishing is Israel. Since Israel’s founding in 1948, its Christian communities (including Russian and Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians and Protestants) have expanded more than 1,000%.
Christians are prominent in all aspects of Israeli life, serving in the Knesset, the Foreign Ministry and on the Supreme Court. They are exempt from military service, but thousands have volunteered and been sworn in on special New Testaments printed in Hebrew. Israeli Arab Christians are on average more affluent than Israeli Jews and better-educated, even scoring higher on their SATs.
This does not mean that Israeli Christians do not occasionally encounter intolerance. But in contrast to elsewhere in the Middle East where hatred of Christians is ignored or encouraged, Israel remains committed to its Declaration of Independence pledge to “ensure the complete equality of all its citizens irrespective of religion.” It guarantees free access to all Christian holy places, which are under the exclusive aegis of Christian clergy. When Muslims tried to erect a mosque near the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Israeli government interceded to preserve the sanctity of the shrine.
Israel abounds with such sites (Capernaum, the Hill of the Beatitudes, the birth place of St. John the Baptist) but the state constitutes only part of the Holy Land. The rest, according to Jewish and Christian tradition, is in Gaza and the West Bank. Christians in those areas suffer the same plight as their co-religionists throughout the region.
Since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, half the Christian community has fled. Christmas decorations and public displays of crucifixes are forbidden. In a December 2010 broadcast, Hamas officials exhorted Muslims to slaughter their Christian neighbors. Rami Ayad, owner of Gaza’s only Christian bookstore, was murdered, his store reduced to ash. This is the same Hamas with which the Palestinian Authority of the West Bank recently signed a unity pact.
Little wonder, then, that the West Bank is also hemorrhaging Christians. Once 15% of the population, they now make up less than 2%. Some have attributed the flight to Israeli policies that allegedly deny Christians economic opportunities, stunt demographic growth, and impede access to the holy sites of Jerusalem. In fact, most West Bank Christians live in cities such as Nablus, Jericho and Ramallah, which are under Palestinian Authority control. All those cities have experienced marked economic growth and sharp population increase—among Muslims.
Israel, in spite of its need to safeguard its borders from terrorists, allows holiday access to Jerusalem’s churches to Christians from both the West Bank and Gaza. In Jerusalem, the number of Arabs—among them Christians—has tripled since the city’s reunification by Israel in 1967.
There must be another reason, then, for the West Bank’s Christian exodus. The answer lies in Bethlehem. Under Israeli auspices, the city’s Christian population grew by 57%. But under the Palestinian Authority since 1995, those numbers have plummeted. Palestinian gunmen seized Christian homes—compelling Israel to build a protective barrier between them and Jewish neighborhoods—and then occupied the Church of the Nativity, looting it and using it as a latrine. Today, Christians comprise a mere one-fifth of their holy city’s population.
The extinction of the Middle East’s Christian communities is an injustice of historic magnitude. Yet Israel provides an example of how this trend can not only be prevented but reversed. With the respect and appreciation that they receive in the Jewish state, the Christians of Muslim countries could not only survive but thrive.
Ray Ozzie, the man who succeeded Bill Gates as Microsoft’s tech visionary, believes the world has moved past the personal computer, potentially leaving behind the world’s largest software company.
The PC, which was Microsoft’s foundation and still determines the company’s financial performance, has been nudged aside by powerful phones and tablets running Apple and Google software, the former Microsoft executive said.
“People argue about ‘are we in a post-PC world?’. Why are we arguing? Of course we are in a post-PC world,” Ozzie said at a technology conference run by tech blog GeekWire in Seattle on Wednesday.
Read on in the Sydney Morning Herald here.
Also related is: Led by Apple’s iPad, tablet sales seen exceeding desktop PC in 2013.
Industry insiders now believe there will be greater consumer demand for the rapidly expanding tablet market, led by Apple’s iPad, than there will be for desktop PCs in 2013.
Global tablet sales are expected by Taiwan-based PC makers to reach 130 million next year, according to DigiTimes. That could be enough to exceed worldwide demand for traditional desktop PCs…
March 9, 2012 2 Comments
Just a short note but interesting via Fr Hugh Somerville-Knapman (OSB) re: the first liturgical resources for the Ordinariate:
The second update concerns the Ordinariate’s newly-approved RSV lectionary which was mentioned yesterday. The question was raised as to whether the Ordinariate had negotiated their way through the copyright minefield to the point where they could publish anew a RSV lectionary. The answer is, no. Instead one of the other possibilities mentioned was closer to the mark. Monsignor Burnham has confirmed to me that the remaining stock of the Ignatius Press edition of the RSV Lectionary has been bought up in America on their behalf, and each Ordinariate group has been given a set. If the demand proves heavy enough, consideration will be given to trying to get a hand-missal produced for the faithful. But for now, each Ordinariate church having an Ignatius RSV lectionary is sufficient to get the liturgical ball rolling. Strength to their arm!
So it seems the wider anglophone Church will be getting the ESV as originally announced. Soon I will post some examples of ESV passages of scripture as we will find them in the new Lectionary when it comes.
Have you ever felt this way?
When I am before the Blessed Sacrament I feel such a lively faith that I can’t describe it. Christ in the Eucharist is almost tangible to me. When it is time for me to leave, I have to tear myself away from His sacred presence.
- St Anthony Claret
March 9, 2012 5 Comments
In via Fr Christopher Phillips’ fine blog:
The Catholic News Agency reports:Rome, Italy, Mar 8, 2012 / 03:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo said he is delighted to have first-hand papal approval for changing the order by which children in his diocese receive the sacraments.
“I was very surprised in what the Pope said to me, in terms of how happy he was that the sacraments of initiation have been restored to their proper order of baptism, confirmation then first Eucharist,” said Bishop Aquila, after meeting Pope Benedict on March 8.
Bishop Aquila was one of five bishops from North and South Dakota to meet with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican as part of their March 5-10 “ad limina” visit to the Rome.
Over the past seven years the Diocese of Fargo has changed the typical order of the sacraments of initiation. Instead of confirmation coming third and at an older age, it is now conferred on children at a younger age and prior to First Communion.
Bishop Aquila said he made the changes because “it really puts the emphasis on the Eucharist as being what completes the sacraments of initiation” and on confirmation as “sealing and completing baptism.”
When the sacraments are conferred in this order, he said, it becomes more obvious that “both baptism and confirmation lead to the Eucharist.” This sacramental assistance helps Catholics live “that intimate relationship of being the beloved sons and daughters of the Father in our daily lives,” he added.
The Bishop of Fargo said the changes have also distanced the Sacrament of Confirmation from “some false theologies that see it as being a sacrament of maturity or as a sacrament for ‘me choosing God.’”
Instead, young people in Fargo now have “the fullness of the spirit and the completion of the gifts of the spirit” to assist them in “living their lives within the world,” especially “in the trials they face in junior high and high school.”
Bishop Aquila explained his theological thinking to Pope Benedict during today’s meeting.
In response, he said, the Pope asked if he had “begun to speak to other bishops about this.” He told the pontiff that he had and that “certainly bishops within the Dakotas are now really looking towards the implementation in the restoration in the ordering of the sacraments.”
I’m pleased to say that our parish has had this restored order of the sacraments for the past several years. By the time our children have reached the age of reason (about 7 years) they are prepared to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, and at the same Mass (celebrated by the bishop) they receive First Holy Communion. During the week prior, they make their First Confession.
Fortified by the sacraments from a young age, our children are able to grow in grace and to be better prepared to enter adolescence.
The article says: ‘… have also distanced the Sacrament of Confirmation from “some false theologies that see it as being a sacrament of maturity or as a sacrament for ‘me choosing God.’” This is something that needs to be looked into more closely.