Holy Land journey: Misdiagnosis of terrorism, and a visit to my roots

By Bishop Gerald Kicanas
One in a series

(Editor’s Note: Bishop Gerald Kicanas (right) of Tucson, Ariz., vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is on a trip to Lebanon, his ancestral homeland, and to Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he will attend an international meeting of  bishops in support of the church in the Holy Land. He has agreed to be a guest blogger for us during the trip.)

DAY FOUR: Jan. 8, 2010

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Yesterday I was able to connect with a Lebanese American family from Tucson who are visiting for the holidays. Ziad Safi and his wife and baby daughter welcomed us into their family home which looked out over the city, a magnificent view. Ziad’s father built the building in which various members of his family now live on different floors. This is very common in Lebanon.

His mother seemed so pleased that her son was home for a while and certainly delighted to see her grandchild. Family is so important to the Lebanese as to many other cultures. His mother has never yet visited in Tucson. I encouraged her to come and visit when that is possible.

As always there was food and drink offered and much time to chat. Almost immediately you get into the situation in the Middle East. It is on everyone’s mind. We discussed the many Christians who have left Lebanon which results from opportunities elsewhere as well as fear of violence and conflict. Despite living elsewhere they like to return to Lebanon. Many families, especially those in the Gulf states, have built large houses in Lebanon where they return from time to time. The challenge is how to encourage the young to stay and use their gifts for their country.

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On Friday Bill (CRS Baltimore), Mindy (CRS Beirut) and I went running in the early morning along the Corniche, a beautiful open space that runs along the Mediterranean Sea. This old man had a hard time keeping up with the two youngsters but there is so much to distract you the run was fun. Groups of men smoking on water pipes along with fishermen with large poles set out into the sea lined the walk.

Many people were out walking or running along the Corniche. It was a delight. You get to see so much doing a run. We passed the place where Rafik Hariri was assassinated. He had a great deal to do with renovating downtown Beirut through Solidaiire, a company he owned. Like the urban renewal in Tucson this development left many hurt feelings as many buildings were taken down for development, a difficult tension.

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Our business day began with a meeting with Rami Khouri, a professor at American University in Beirut. This famous university is one of the jewels of Beirut. It is well known throughout the world and is distinguished in many areas of study. Khouri is the director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs.

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Pope to diplomats: Denial of God devastates creation

VATICAN CITY — In his address today to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican, Pope Benedict focused on the need to safeguard creation, which was the theme of his recent World Peace Day message.

His talk today looked at environmental concerns primarily from a moral perspective, and touched on belief in God, social injustice, misallocation of resources and protection of the unborn.

Here are some highlights from the Vatican’s English-language translation of the pope’s address in French:

The denial of God distorts the freedom of the human person, yet it also devastates creation. It follows that the protection of creation is not principally a response to an aesthetic need, but much more to a moral need, inasmuch as nature expresses a plan of love and truth which is prior to us and which comes from God.

If we wish to build true peace, how can we separate or even set at odds the protection of the environment and the protection of human life, including the life of the unborn?

The pope took aim at military spending.

…the protection of creation is indeed an important element of peace and justice! Among the many challenges which it presents, one of the most serious is increased military spending and cost of maintaining and developing nuclear arsenals. Enormous resources are being consumed for these purposes, when they could be spent on the development of peoples, especially those who are poorest.

He said the community of believers clearly has a role to play in fostering more responsible attitudes and lifestyles.

…the causes of the situation which is now evident to everyone are of the moral order, and the question must be faced within the framework of a great program of education aimed at promoting an effective change of thinking and at creating new lifestyles. The community of believers can and wants to share in this, but, for it to do so, its public role must be recognized.

But the church’s voice is not always welcome, he said.

Sadly, in certain countries, mainly in the West, one encounters in political and cultural circles, as well in the media, scarce respect and at times hostility, if not scorn, directed towards religion and towards Christianity in particular…. There is thus an urgent need to delineate a positive and open secularity which, grounded in the just autonomy of the temporal order and the spiritual order, can foster healthy cooperation and a spirit of shared responsibility.

Finally, he said the environmental crisis reflects a “yearning for salvation” present in the world.

There is so much suffering in our world, and human selfishness continues in many ways to harm creation. For this reason, the yearning for salvation which affects all creation is all the more intense and present in the hearts of all men and women, believers and non-believers alike…. May the light and strength of Jesus help us to respect human ecology, in the knowledge that natural ecology will likewise benefit, since the book of nature is one and indivisible.

Holy Land journey: Challenges for the church in Lebanon

By Bishop Gerald Kicanas
One in a series

(Editor’s Note: Bishop Gerald Kicanas (right) of Tucson, Ariz., vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is on a trip to Lebanon, his ancestral homeland, and to Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he will attend an international meeting of  bishops in support of the church in the Holy Land. He has agreed to be a guest blogger for us during the trip.)

DAY THREE: Jan. 7, 2010

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Today was planned to be focused on learning more about the life of the Catholic Church in Lebanon as well as the place of interfaith dialogue in this land so rich with diverse expressions of faith.

* * *

We left rather early for Harissa to meet with the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia. Traffic in Beirut is not unlike traffic in Tucson or most cities, a nightmare. Congested streets coupled with very aggressive drivers make for quite an adventure. Horns bark as cars cut in and out seeking to get an inch up on another car in order to turn into a lane or make a U-turn from anywhere at any time. We had an experienced driver who seemed to delight in the battle. Honk and move is the strategy. Pedestrians beware.

The nunciature was moved during the war from central Beirut to Harissa, which is located outside the city in the suburban area. We drove along the ever-present turquoise blue sea glimmering in the early morning sun. Mark pointed out to us the Armenian compound as we passed and the Maronite and Greek Orthodox Centers high up on the mountain. Like Tucson, Beirut has its mountains on which many homes and structures have been built. However in the city there is little open space or gardens. The city and its environ are dense with homes and businesses.

We climbed the road leading to the nunciature and entered a beautiful garden space. A religious woman greeted us with a warm welcome in several languages and escorted us in for a brief wait until the nuncio, Archbishop Caccia entered. He is a very young man, new to Lebanon. His family is from Milan and he served in the diplomatic corps in Tanzania and in the Secretariat of State in the Vatican before being named to this challenging and complex responsibility. He was ordained by Pope Benedict XVI as archbishop in September and arrived in Beirut in October.

The group with Archbishop Gabriele Caccia. (Photo courtesy Bishop Kicanas)

He said — at times depending on whom he is talking to — that he tells people he has only been in Beirut for a very short time, just a few months, and, at other times, that he has been here a year since he arrived in Beirut in 2009 and it is now 2010.

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Pope visits Cardinal Etchegaray in hospital

ROME — Pope Benedict went to Rome’s Gemelli hospital this evening to visit French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who was injured when a woman rushed the pope at the start of his Christmas Eve liturgy in St. Peter’s.

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray in a 2006 file photo at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa, Lebanon. (CNS photo)

The pope chatted for a half-hour with the 87-year-old cardinal, who underwent hip replacement surgery after the incident. The Vatican said the cardinal was able to walk the pope to the door of his hospital room at the end of the visit.

The two spoke in French, and the pope asked about the recovery and rehabilitation program the cardinal is undergoing. The Vatican said Cardinal Etchegaray’s condition is very good, and he is expected to leave the hospital sometime next week.

Susanna Maiolo, 25, jumped a security barrier at the start of the Dec. 24 liturgy as Pope Benedict processed into St. Peter’s Basilica. Although Vatican guards tackled her, she was able to grab the pope’s vestments, causing him to lose his balance and tumble to the floor. He was apparently unharmed, but Cardinal Etchegaray suffered a broken hip when he fell in the confusion.

Pope marks 150 years of North American College

VATICAN CITY — The Pontifical North American College, the U.S. national seminary in Rome, is celebrating its 150th anniversary and today Pope Benedict XVI marked the event in an audience with the institution’s students, superiors, faculty and alumni.

The pope said he was confident NAC would continue to produce “wise and generous pastors capable of transmitting the Catholic faith in its integrity, bringing Christ’s infinite mercy to the weak and the lost, and enabling America’s Catholics to be a leaven of the Gospel in the social, political and cultural life of their nation.”

It was Pope Pius IX who inaugurated the college on Dec. 8, 1859, having donated the site on Via dell’Umilta in downtown Rome. In 1953, the college moved to a larger new facility on the Janiculum Hill, not far from the Vatican.

Here is the text of the pope’s remarks today:

Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,

I am pleased to welcome the alumni of the Pontifical North American College, together with the Rector, faculty and students of the seminary on the Janiculum hill, and the student priests of the Casa Santa Maria dell’Umiltà. Our meeting comes at the conclusion of the celebrations marking the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the College’s establishment by my predecessor, Blessed Pius IX. On this happy occasion I willingly join you in thanking the Lord for the many ways in which the College has remained faithful to its founding vision by training generations of worthy preachers of the Gospel and ministers of the sacraments, devoted to the Successor of Peter and committed to the building up of the Church in the United States of America.

It is appropriate, in this Year for Priests, that you have returned to the College and this Eternal City in order to give thanks for the academic and spiritual formation which has nourished your priestly ministry over the years. The present Reunion is an opportunity not only to remember with gratitude the time of your studies, but also to reaffirm your filial affection for the Church of Rome, to recall the apostolic labors of the countless alumni who have gone before you, and to recommit yourselves to the high ideals of holiness, fidelity and pastoral zeal which you embraced on the day of your ordination. It is likewise an occasion to renew your love for the College and your appreciation of its distinctive mission to the Church in your country.

During my Pastoral Visit to the United States, I expressed my conviction that the Church in America is called to cultivate “an intellectual ‘culture’ which is genuinely Catholic, confident in the profound harmony of faith and reason, and prepared to bring the richness of faith’s vision to bear on the pressing issues which affect the future of American society” (Homily at Nationals Stadium, Washington, 17 April 2008). As Blessed Pius IX rightly foresaw, the Pontifical North American College in Rome is uniquely prepared to help meet this perennial challenge. In the century and a half since its foundation, the College has offered its students an exceptional experience of the universality of the Church, the breadth of her intellectual and spiritual tradition, and the urgency of her mandate to bring Christ’s saving truth to the men and women of every time and place. I am confident that, by emphasizing these hallmarks of a Roman education in every aspect of its program of formation, the College will continue to produce wise and generous pastors capable of transmitting the Catholic faith in its integrity, bringing Christ’s infinite mercy to the weak and the lost, and enabling America’s Catholics to be a leaven of the Gospel in the social, political and cultural life of their nation.

Dear brothers, I pray that in these days you will be renewed in the gift of the Holy Spirit which you received on the day of your ordination. In the College chapel, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady is portrayed in the company of four outstanding models and patrons of priestly life and ministry: Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Pius X, Saint John Mary Vianney and Saint Vincent de Paul. During this Year for Priests, may these great saints continue to watch over the students who daily pray in their midst; may they guide and sustain your own ministry, and intercede for the priests of the United States. With cordial good wishes for the spiritual fruitfulness of the coming days, and with great affection in the Lord, I impart to you my Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to all the alumni and friends of the Pontifical North American College.

Another side of new Milwaukee archbishop

Chaplain Jerome E. Listecki, pictured at St. Joseph Church, Wilmette, Wis. (Photo courtesy of Penny Listecki)

The Milwaukee Catholic Herald gave its readers another view of their new archbishop with this story about his military chaplaincy where he  ministered to soldiers in the reserves.

In 1991, when there were more than 500,000 troops stationed in the Persian Gulf, Life magazine planned to do a “chaplain goes to war” story featuring Chaplain Jerome E. Listecki. The then-chaplain was told three times to prepare to join Operation Desert Storm but before he was to ship out, the war ended.

A friend who met the archbishop in the reserves described Milwaukee’s new shepherd as “a good example of what a true priest should be” and fondly remembers that the priest would “wear his military uniform and his combat boots under his vestments.”

Holy Land journey: A full day seeing the needs of Lebanon

By Bishop Gerald Kicanas
One in a series

(Editor’s Note: Bishop Gerald Kicanas (right) of Tucson, Ariz., vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is on a trip to Lebanon, his ancestral homeland, and to Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he will attend an international meeting of  bishops in support of the church in the Holy Land. He has agreed to be a guest blogger for us during the trip.)

DAY TWO: Jan. 6, 2010

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The day began with a hearty breakfast which readied us for what was an informative, engaging, moving and powerful day.

* * *

It began with a visit to the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center, begun in 1994 to respond to a few Sudanese refugees who faced tough conditions and needed special care. A life-size picture of Mother Teresa greets you on the wall as you enter the office.

Women read and watch TV at the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center in Beirut in 2008. (CNS/Norbert Schiller)

It means so much to see the church aligned with the poor and the marginalized. Caritas Lebanon and Catholic Relief Services work hard to be present to those struggling and in need of support to assist and to empower them. I feel that same pride with programs in our diocese like Dioceses Without Borders, a cross-border effort to link the Archdiocese of Hermosillo, Mexico, and the dioceses of Tucson and Phoenix in addressing the needs of our community, and the Kino Border Initiative in Ambos Nogales, a Jesuit-born initiative which is serving migrants crossing into the United States and those sent back across the border. This concern for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers is what the church should be about.

In Lebanon, the Migrant Center reaches out to serve people, mostly women, from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Nepal, Sudan, Somalia, Madagascar, Bangladesh, Iraq and, of course, the Palestinian territories. When Caritas Lebanon first got involved it had only one office and three people being served. This year there are 10 offices serving 110 people. They also serve a detention center with 500 people housed in a former garage, a bleak place where people struggle to retain their human dignity.

In this file photo from 2008, Hussein and Samina Khafagi share a snack of grapes with their four children in their small apartment in Beirut. They were receiving assistance from the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center, which is funded by Catholic Relief Services. (CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

Migrant workers in Lebanon, as in other countries, can be subject to exploitation. They are brought to the country by agencies to serve mostly as domestic workers. They are taken advantage of by these agencies and, at times, they can be physically and sexually abused by their employers or their families. They have no rights and are living a kind of slavery. The Migrant Center provides legal assistance, social counseling, medical aid, and they are working to formulate a unified contract that would protect worker rights. They have begun an advocacy program to raise awareness in Lebanon of these abuses. A sign on the wall in the office shows kitchen utensils surrounded by the words that read, “Would you tolerate someone hitting you or mistreating you?”

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