Amman hospital patients have special needs, including ways to meet up with family

By Mark Pattison

AMMAN, Jordan –- The Italian Hospital in Amman has more refugee patients than Jordanian patients. In addition to their physical problems, many have psychological needs that stem from their being terrorized in their homeland.

One patient sat curled up in his bed while a friend stood at his bedside. The patient gave no evidence that he was aware of all the people milling around.

Adnan Adnidihad, 62, a refugee from Iraq, is recovering from psychological problems at the Italian Hospital in Amman, Jordan. (CNS/Mark Pattison)

Adnan Adnidihad, 62, a refugee from Iraq, is recovering from psychological problems at the Italian Hospital in Amman, Jordan. (CNS/Mark Pattison)

Among the patients were two residents of Mosul, Iraq, who had sought refuge in Jordan.

Agnan Adnidihad is 62 years old, but looks a couple of decades older. With Dr. Khalid Shammas, the hospital’s chief physician, interpreting, Adnidihad said he has family in the United States, including a daughter in San Diego, but the nation’s doors are not open to him at this time.

Adnidihad is a member of the Assyrian Orthodox Church, and it was nearly a week after the Orthodox Easter when he was interviewed. “It is the same everywhere” for Easter, Adnidihad said. Shammas added, “Of course, being away from his own country, it is different for him.”

“They took everything away,” Shammas added, a reference to the Islamic State, which has terrorized Mosul since late last summer. “His money, his jewelry, gold. Everything. They left Mosul without anything.”

Arshad Daghdoni, 30, a refugee from Iraq, rests at the Italian Hospital in Amman, Jordan. (CNS/Mark Pattison)

Arshad Daghdoni, 30, a refugee from Iraq, rests at the Italian Hospital in Amman, Jordan. (CNS/Mark Pattison)

If he were to gain entry to the United States, Adnidihad thinks he would quickly find gainful employment. In Mosul, Shammas said, “he used to have a place where he would renovate machines — cars.”

Then there is the situation of Arshad Daghdoni. Already by age 30, he has had a stroke and a heart attack. The Assyrian Catholic also broke his ankle late last year.

Daghdoni, who learned English while in high school in Mosul, worked for more than a year for the U.S. military in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad as an interpreter. Despite this on his resume, he cannot get to the United States.

His family lives in near New Haven, Connecticut, but he can’t get to them –- his appeals to the United States and United Nations have to this point fallen on deaf ears —  and they can’t get to him.

“They don’t even all have green cards,” he said.

The men were just two of the patients. A third was a newborn baby whose parents were refugees from the civil war in Syria. The child’s father could not speak English, and the baby’s mother did not want to be photographed.

– – –

I will continue to blog from time to time about things I encountered on my #holyjordan journey. Also, look me up on Twitter at @MeMarkPattison.

For all who labor and are burdened

By Michelle Hough*

VATICAN CITY — Tomorrow, May 1, many countries will mark International Labor Day to celebrate the workers of the world. It is a public holiday here in Italy and in many other nations. But there are millions of people who rarely get days off. These are the estimated 21 million people who are the victims of trafficking.

You don’t have to go to “the peripheries,” in the words of Pope Francis, to meet these victims, because often they are “hiding in plain sight” in our societies. They’ve picked and packaged our food, they’ve made our cheap clothes, they’re looking after our children and parents and they are walking the streets in our cities.

With the support of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, COATNET — Christian Organizations Against Trafficking in Human Beings — made this short film about trafficking.

Here are 10 things you may not know about trafficking:

  1. Trafficking is another name for modern slavery. Trafficking is the exploitation of people who may be trafficked into prostitution, forced labour or domestic servitude through deception or kidnapping. Sometimes they are transported across borders.
  2. Trafficking is said to be the third largest criminal industry in the world.
  3. The demand for cheap clothes, cheap sex and cheap, illegal and informal labor is at the roots of trafficking.
  4. Victims are often women from poor backgrounds and with little education. They end up being abused as domestic workers or being forced into prostitution.
  5. Children are also vulnerable to trafficking. They may end up in sexual exploitation or bonded or domestic labor, or made to become camel jockeys, drugs couriers or child soldiers.
  6. Men are trafficked, too. They are heavily exploited in agriculture or construction, often live in inhuman conditions and are sometimes sexually abused.
  7. It is not necessarily men who are traffickers. Women sometimes befriend other women of their country and lure them into a situation where they are trafficked. There are “madams” who ensure a constant supply of sex workers from Africa and Eastern Europe to richer countries.
  8. Some traffickers make people believe they will have better life in another country, but once they get them abroad they take away their passport, their rights and their freedom. Sometimes recruitment agencies facilitate the trafficking.
  9. People are sometimes trafficked and killed for their organs and their heads, which are used in traditional medicine.
  10. People who escape a trafficked situation may end up being a slave again because they have no documents and they can’t find other work. Other former victims of trafficking don’t want to return to their kin because they feel ashamed that they’ve been duped and that they’ve failed their family.

*Hough is a communications officer for Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based confederation of more than 160 national Catholic charities from around the world.

Getting the most out of a visit to the Vatican Museums

By Elliot Williams

VATICAN CITY — If you plan on visiting the Vatican Museums, one of the most visited attractions in all of Rome, and one of the most visited art museums in the world, it is important to have some valuable information beforehand.

A school group enters the Vatican Museums. (CNS/Paul Haring)

A school group enters the Vatican Museums. (CNS/Paul Haring)

With 4.4 miles of exhibit halls that display some of the world’s most famous masterpieces, this is an admittedly exhausting, but must-see location on your trip to Vatican City. You will want to eat a big breakfast — perhaps three cornetti (Italy’s version of the croissant) — beforehand to make it through the museums, which spread throughout two Vatican palaces.

Here are the basics:

— First and foremost, the museums are open Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 6 pm, but the ticket office closes at 4 pm. The museums are typically closed on Sundays.

However, on the last Sunday of each month — except when a holiday falls on a Sunday — the public can enter for free from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. On the free Sundays, the museums close at 2 p.m. It must be noted that the queue on these free Sundays extends almost to the Colosseum (I’m exaggerating, but you will be waiting quite a while) so plan accordingly.

In addition, the Vatican Museums have announced their seasonal night openings. On Friday evenings from April 24 until Oct. 30 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. (except during the month of August) you can visit the Vatican treasures and, perhaps, be lucky enough to catch some live music. To visit the museums at night, it is obligatory to purchase the tickets online in advance.

— For a calendar of the Vatican Museums’ opening hours for 2015, holidays and special events, you can click here.

— Of course, the wise pilgrim wants to know how this visit will fit into the budget. The basic prices are:

General admission: € 16,00

Children (up to 18 years of age): € 8,00

— You can — and really should — purchase tickets online in advance so you can skip the line. You cannot purchase these tickets more than 60 days in advance of your visit.


There no doubt will be ladies and gentlemen throwing tour offers your direction if you are walking toward St. Peter’s Square wearing anything remotely touristy. Do not be alarmed. With any tour agency you are taking a chance. These experiences get mixed reviews -– some participants wait for hours on a coach bus, leaving them with little time to see the museums themselves, while others have a great time and learn plenty, getting their full money’s worth.

My advice is to do your research well in advance, and read plenty of reviews. Your overall best bet is to book an official tour through the museums website, either with a group larger than 16 people, individually or with an exclusive tour guide for groups of up to 15 people.For an extra fee, there also are guided tours with options to see both the Vatican Museums and the Vatican Gardens, or the Santa Rosa necropolis, also known as the necropolis of Via Triumphalis.

A detail of the Santa Rosa necropolis. (CNS/Vatican Museums)

A detail of the Santa Rosa necropolis. (CNS/Vatican Museums)

Whatever you choose, you are going to need plenty of time to see the museums (at least two hours); it took me three hours to go through all the exhibits by myself with an audio guide (which costs € 7).

The Sistine Chapel alone makes the whole visit to the museums worth it. This 15th-century masterpiece is certainly the most famous building in all of the museums. It served as a private chapel for Pope Sixtus IV, with frescoes by the reluctant Michelangelo who didn’t consider himself a painter when Pope Julius II commissioned him for the work in 1508.

The Sistine Chapel. (CNS/Paul Haring)

The Sistine Chapel. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Yet, if his “Creation of Adam,” the ceiling’s centerpiece, doesn’t expand your belief in what is humanly possible, nothing will. Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment” on the wall behind the altar is just as awe-inspiring; it took the artist five years to complete (1536-1541) and covers 200 square meters with 391 figures. The frescoes that adorn the other walls were completed by famous painters Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli in the late 1400s and depict scenes from the lives of Moses and Christ.

If you’re looking for a quiet place to pray, however, the Sistine Chapel is not the place for you. As the museums’ main attraction, one can imagine why this chapel becomes packed quicker than you can say Giovannino de’ Dolci (who was involved in the actual construction of the chapel). Despite the attendants shouting into a microphone, “SHHH, Be quiet!” every few minutes, the chapel is so beautiful that most visitors (including me) can’t keep their spiritual reflections to themselves. You also will be kindly, or sometimes unkindly, reminded that there is no photography allowed in the chapel. But don’t worry, pictures don’t do the paintings justice, so hopefully your aunt back home won’t be too upset if you can’t send a ‘Sistine-selfie’ to her.

By the time you reach the stunning ceiling frescoes in the final and longest gallery of the Vatican Museums, the Gallery of Maps, you will most likely be craving a large bowl of carbonara and quite possibly a nap. Luckily for you, you’ve just seen some of the world’s greatest artistic achievements.

For more Vatican Museum Tips, click here.

Elliot Williams is a Communication major at Villanova University. He is originally from Abington, PA, and is studying abroad at Roma Tre University, while interning for Catholic News Service’s Rome bureau. Elliot is an avid Nutella fanatic.

Where to give to help Nepal’s earthquake victims

The death toll from the earthquake in Nepal is rising, and Catholic aid agencies are among those helping its victims. Pope Francis offered prayers and encouraged the rescue workers.

Want to do more? Where do you live? Contact your favorite Catholic aid agency to channel your funds, using the following links: Catholic Relief Services; CAFOD; Troicaire; Development and Peace; Caritas Australia; or the central office for Caritas in Rome.

Prefer to donate to someone smaller? Try religious orders, like the Salesian Missions, who have missionaries in the country.

Survivors look at destroyed buildings April 27 following an earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal. More than 3,600 people were known to have been killed and more than 6,500 others injured after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit a mountainous region near Kathmandu April 25. (CNS photo/Abir Abdullah, EPA)

Survivors look at destroyed buildings April 27 following an earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal. More than 3,600 people were known to have been killed and more than 6,500 others injured after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit a mountainous region near Kathmandu April 25. (CNS photo/Abir Abdullah, EPA)

Notes on peace and justice

Books help children learn about faith-based action

Two new books with the goal of helping children connect with the idea of faith-based action have been developed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Green Street Park” and “Drop by Drop” are new entries from the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development and published by Loyola Press.

two-feet-green-street-park-coverJill Rauh, assistant director of education and outreach in the department and the mother of a 2-year-old son, wrote the books. They illustrate the two feet of Christian love in action: social justice and charitable works, she said.

“It’s an area where there are not a lot of children’s books to reflect our call to discipleship in the world and how do we put God’s love for the world into action,” Rauh said.

“Green Street Park,” written for children in kindergarten through second grade, tells the story of children playing in a park who encounter trash and overgrown brush. Inspired by St. Francis of Assisi’s love of creation, the children organize a plan to clear the debris and plant a community garden to beatify the park.

two-feet-drop-by-drop-cover“Drop by Drop,” intended for second- through fourth-graders, focuses on the actions of students at a Catholic school who step up to raise money for water projects in Africa. They act after hearing from a Catholic Relief Services worker visiting their classroom who tells the story of a young girl in Burkina Faso. The girl, Sylvie, yearns to attend school, but cannot because she spends much of her day collecting water from a river miles away from home for her family. That changes when the village gets a well, inspiring the American students to act to help other communities

The books are accompanied by “Pray Me a Story” guides developed by Loyola Press. The books and guides are being promoted to schools and parish school of religion activities.

Rauh said the books can be used in tandem with Pope Francis’ planned encyclical on the environment coming this summer.

“It’s an opportunity for the students to have a real deep impact, a prayer experience, a faith experience rather than just hear a story,” she said.

The materials can be ordered here.

 Pax Christi International concerned about ‘excessive’ military spending

Although worldwide military spending declined slightly in 2014, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Pax Christi International has raised concerns about the almost $1.8 trillion spent on weapons systems last year.

The international Catholic peace organization called such massive spending a “scandal” and “excessive” in a “world where human and ecological well-being are in dire need of investment.”

Pax Christi raised its concern April 13, the Global Day of Action on Military Spending.

The 2014 figure is about 1.7 percent less than the peak of spending in 2011, according to a report released by the Stockholm institute April 13.

The report identified the top 10 nations in order of spending as the U.S., China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, United Kingdom, India, Germany, Japan and South Korea. The U.S., even with a 0.4 percent reduction in spending, still came in at about $610 billion and accounted for 34 percent of the world’s military spending in 2014, according to the report.

Spending by China and Russia increased 167 percent and 84.5 percent, respectively, the Stockholm institute reported. It cited continued declines in military expenditures in Western Europe, which it attributed to austerity measures undertaken by numerous governments. Military spending increased in Central Europe, led by Poland, the report said.

Pax Christi raised concern about boosts in major spending increases in the Middle East and Africa based on the report’s findings.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute is an independent organization that researches conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. It was established in 1966 and the Swedish government is its primary funder.

In week of wonders, Melkite wedding was one of the best

The bride and groom wear crowns at a Melkite Catholic wedding in Jordan. (CNS/Mark Pattison)

The bride and groom wear crowns at a Melkite Catholic wedding in Jordan. (CNS/Mark Pattison)

By Mark Pattison

ADER, Jordan — Melkite Catholic Father Boulos Paul, we were told, was too busy to accommodate an audience of about a dozen writers and bloggers on religion. He is, after all, the pastor of two parishes, one in Karak and another, smaller parish of about 50 families — about 300 people total — in the smaller town of Ader.

But we were offered a chance to go to a wedding at the church in Ader. Would that be OK?

Are you kidding?

We got to the church a good half-hour before the scheduled 6 p.m. wedding ceremony was to begin. The church was decked out in wedding finery, but absolutely empty.

Outside, we chatted with one of the parish elders, Michael Bagain, who returned to Ader two years ago after spending the previous 35 years in and around Chicago, where his children still live.

Bagain said Ader is home to three Christian “tribes.” The Melkites are all named Bagain, the Latin-rite Catholics are all named Hijazeen, and the Orthodox are all named Madanat. So the nuptials were between Mr. and Ms. Bagain, Michael Bagain confirmed.

By this time, the groom and his best man had arrived. There was the typical nervous pacing and frowning into a smartphone one might see prior to an American wedding.

The bride’s family arrived, dressed in stylish clothes appropriate for a wedding. And here we were, Americans, who got only a couple hours’ notice of this blessed event and were wearing jeans and sneakers. What must the others be thinking?

Soon the courtyard in front of the church filled, and everyone took their places for the grand procession.

A pre-wedding ritual: firing a gun before the ceremony. (CNS/Mark Pattison)

A pre-wedding ritual: firing a gun before the ceremony. (CNS/Mark Pattison)

The women led a song with rhythmic hand-clapping; even the bride took part. A couple of the women ululated during the song. Soon afterward, one man took out a pistol, held it straight in the air and fired five shots. Nobody in the courtyard flinched. Well, none of the Melkites, that is.

Slowly, the wedding principals and the guests began surging through the narrow doors of St. Georges Melkite Church. With all of the excitement apparently over on the outside, it was time to go inside and find a seat.

Once a wedding chant by a small men’s chorus ended, Father Paul spoke to the assembly in Arabic, then switched to English to repeat some of the highlights for his temporary flock. He concluded his remarks by announcing: “I know you want to take pictures. If you want to take pictures, you can move closer.”

The bridge and groom clasped hands and held them aloft. (CNS/Mark Pattison)

The bridge and groom clasped hands and held them aloft. (CNS/Mark Pattison)

That was my cue. Under the dictum of “don’t ask permission first, ask forgiveness later,” I made my way to the back of the sanctuary, where there was lots of singing. Nearly everything, including Father Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel — the only Scripture reading that I could tell was being proclaimed — was sung or chanted. I fought to hold my position in the sanctuary amid the priest, the choir, two cantors, three flower girls, one ring bearer, five women whose purpose there I could not ever quite ascertain, a couple of videographers hired to record the happy occasion, and some light stands.

There was no homily in this Melkite ceremony. There also were no vows in the style we in the Latin-rite church have come to expect. But Father Paul moved closer to the couple and had them hold their clasped hands aloft for quite some time.

Next, he gave them each a crown — the bride already was wearing a tiara. The bride and groom exchanged crowns, then exchanged them again.

After that, Father Paul led the wedding party in a counterclockwise procession around the altar of the crowded sanctuary. I had no idea what any of this meant, but it was exhilarating to witness.

The priest leads the wedding party around the sactuary. (CNS/Mark Pattison)

The priest leads the wedding party around the sactuary. (CNS/Mark Pattison)

A couple of days after the fact, we get an explanation for some of what we saw. The hand-clapping song and the ululating were typical pre-wedding rituals in the region. The hand-raising is also customary in the Eastern church. The crowns were a reminder of the biblical mandate to go forth and multiply. The gun was a more recent tradition.

After a churchwide recitation of a prayer I gathered must be the Our Father, Father Paul took a clear, small, glass cup filled with wine and gave it to the bride, groom and their attendants to drink. There was more ululating, and the men’s chorus was changing.

There probably was not much more to this ceremony — we were told that a Melkite wedding generally runs 40 to 50 minutes — but we get the sign from the tour leaders that it was time for us to go. Mr. and Mrs. Bagain have a whole life yet to lead as husband and wife, but we American interlopers had a two-hour trek to get to a hotel on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea.

In a week filled with wonders, the intimacy and immediacy of this moment may rank as the best.

– – –

I will continue to blog from time to time about things I encountered on my Jordan journey. Also, look me up on Twitter at @MeMarkPattison for Jordan-related tweets with the hashtag #holyjordan.

Shroud of Turin goes on public display

The Shroud of Turin unveiled yesterday for the media. Now on public display, (CNS/Paul Haring)

The Shroud of Turin unveiled yesterday for the media. Now on public display, (CNS/Paul Haring)

TURIN, Italy  A thin white cloth draped over the glasscovered Shroud of Turin was pulled down and billowed to the floor, marking the official opening of the venerated icon’s exposition to the public.

The unveiling came during a Mass held in the city’s cathedral of St. John the Baptist today in the presence of a small group of dignitaries, religious and lay faithful. 

“We have put ourselves in the wake of generations of pilgrims” who come to contemplate the shroud and “it will do us good to feel like we are drops in the river thahas run through the centuries of a humanity in need of God,” Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin, papal custodian of the shroud, said in his homily.

As it was for countless pilgrims over the centuries, the shroud continues to be an invitation to reflect on Jesus’ incarnation, death and resurrection, he said, which in turn inspires and calls people to reach out to others in need. “The shroud invites us to never let ourselves be beaten down by evil, but to overcome it with good,” he said. 

As people gaze at the image, may they no longer feel alone or afraid as soon they can discover “it is not we who are looking at that image,” but it is Christ who is gazing back at themhe said.

The shroud, believed by many Christians to have wrapped the crucified body of Christ, will be on public display through June 24. More than 2 million people were expected to visit, and, before the official opening in mid-April, 1 million people had already pre-booked their visit through the archdiocese’s free, but mandatory online andon-site reservation process. 

One couple from Paris with their two small children stood disappointed on the flagstone street alongside the long metal barricades that kept them and scores of other visiting foreigners and locals from attending the invitation-only Mass.

The couple, who identified themselves only by their first names, Constance and Hubert, said they were heading to southern France from the Italian Alps and came through Turin as a shortcut.

“I saw on the Internet that today is the first day the shroud is being shown, so we came to see, but we won’t have the possibility,” Constance said, since thehadn’t booked ahead and had family waiting for them.

She said she remembered seeing the shroud as a young girl with her parents and “I have memories of it being like a ‘shock’ when you see it,” trying to find the right word in English for the impact and amazement she felt. She said she wanted her kids and husband to experience the shroud for the first time, too.

Members of the media had their own look at the Shroud of Turin yesterday, before it went on public display today. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Members of the media had their own look at the Shroud of Turin yesterday, before it went on public display today. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Media outlets were given an exclusive preview yesterday when Archbishop Nosiglia had the shroud unveiled for reporters. 

Flanked by uniformed members of the Italian military and police forces, the shroud’s high-tech protective case was positioned upright like a large landscape portrait, surrounded by large red velvet drapes and with a smallbox of green ivy and white tulips below.

At least 100 journalists were perched on a winding three-tiered platform pilgrims would later have as their viewing stand. They had cameras, mobile devices and eyes focused on the shadowy photonegative image of a man’s bearded face, crossed hands and long body on the 14-foot by 4-foot linen cloth.

The man in the image bears all the signs of the wounds corresponding to the Gospel accounts of the torture Jesus endured in his passion and death. Scientists have determined the dark stains around the head, hands, feet and right side are human blood, type AB.

The church supports scientific research concerning the shroud and its possible age and origins, which continues to see heated debate, but it has itself never officially ruled on the shroud’s authenticity.

Instead, the church invites the faithful to reflect on shroud’s image as a way to grasp the kind of suffering Jesus endured during his passion and death, and the love for humanity that sacrifice entailed.


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