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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Here is my letter to president Obama and select senators and congressmen. I hope everyone will send similar letters. (obama
It is called the “Teaching” Gospel because Matthew arranged the words of Jesus in an orderly manner. For all who love the Word of God, this Gospel is for you! But beware, it also has some very difficult advice on ISIS.
In chapters 5 through 7 the most challenging of our Lord’s teaching shines through: the Beatitudes; the teaching on marriage; and the teaching against revenge. It is here that we are close to the very words of Jesus himself, unfiltered and powerful. Saving his other teachings on the sanctity of marriage, and the imperative of the Beatitudes to go beyond the letter of the law, let us take up our Lord’s teaching on retaliation, which is a clear window into his very personal response to the hatred and evil of his day, which he himself endured. This teaching against retaliation is sincere, because he lived it himself, and he asked all who desire to follow him, to live it as well.
The words and stories that Jesus uses to describe his teaching are very much his own. “You have heard it said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but what I say is offer no resistance.” He did not mean to be passive in front of evil; in fact, he himself was not passive. Instead he meant very clearly that we not fight evil with evil. Jesus asks us to follow him, to be like him, to love like him, even our enemies, and to do well even to those who do evil. He invites us to resist like he did; not in the usual way, but rather in a creative way; and for this he gave us three very unique examples.
We know his examples as: “turn the other check,” “go the extra mile,” and “give the shirt on your back.” These expressions are based on popular parlance, because this is how we have watered down his teaching. But what Jesus actually said is very different!
He did not say “turn the other cheek;” he said, “if someone strikes you on the right cheek offer him the left.” A strike on the right cheek could only be done as a back-handed slap, sending a clear signal that the one slapping is superior, and the one receiving the slap is inferior. For Jesus this was not acceptable, he asked us to be defiant in the face of such cruelty, and not accept an inferior status, but rather demand that the oppressor strike us again, but this time as an equal! Let us not forget how Jesus stood before Pontius Pilot, as an equal, even though the Roman leader claimed to have “power” over him.
Likewise, Jesus did not say “go the extra mile,” as if to mean we must “give more of ourselves.” Rather, our Lord knew all too well the unjust law that allowed Roman soldiers to force him and his Jewish countrymen to carry their equipment, but not for more than one mile. Jesus thus asked his countrymen to go the “extra mile”, so as to buy back their internal freedom from their oppressor, to embarrass the oppressor, albeit politely, and to go one more mile, but this time freely, so as to honor one’s innate dignity.
Lastly, Jesus did not say “give the shirt off your back,” as if this is some generous action for someone in need. Rather he said, “if someone sues for your cloak, offer him your shirt as well.” Thus, instead of being a victim of another’s unjust suit, turn and give him your shirt as well. In this way, you show him a fearless love, with the hope that it will perhaps shame him, and awaken him to justice.
By means of these three examples our Lord is clear: no retaliation of evil for evil, but at the same time, be defiant in the face of oppression, have a non-violent attitude, refuse to accept unjust treatment, and be creative in how to respond to injustice!
How appropriate is our Lord’s imperatives today in face of hate groups such as ISIS and others!
I propose three strong Christian responses to ISIS and other such criminal groups:
- Prosecute for genocide. This means that we work to influence the United States Government, the United Nations, and individual persons to bring the crimes of ISIS for genocide to the International Court as well as individual courts of law wherever possible. ISIS and other such groups give ample information on their websites as to who is in charge. Let’s begin prosecuting them for their crimes.
- Work to resist the advance of ISIS, create a safety zone for innocent victims of their genocide, help them return to their homes, and defend them as they defend themselves.
- Continue our case against ISIS in the courts of public opinion with media and legislative action to expose their crimes against humanity.
For more info please see In Defense of Christian website www.idcconvention.org and the Wilberforce Initiative website www.21wilberforce.org
By peering into the window of Jesus’ teaching on retaliation we can see the splendor of truth and creative resistance as ways to follow him. We hear our Lord’s command to never return evil for evil, but this does not mean that we have to sit idly by and accept the evil we encounter. Rather we actively protect ourselves and innocent victims with a loving defiance so as to face every injustice squarely.
This very personal glimpse into the heart and mind of our Lord Jesus Christ inspires us to follow him ever more closely, even to the Cross!
May we who are nicknamed by ISIS as the “people of the Cross,” be truly who we are, and live by that Cross in a defiant love that is as much as possible like that of our Savior and our Lord!
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+ Gregory John Mansour
Feast of the Holy Cross 2015
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
The following letter from retired Congressman Frank Wolf says it all. I hope you will do all in your power to write your public officials and raise awareness of this effort to call it what it is: genocide. (Letterofcongressmanwolf
Pope Francis today [September 1, 2015] conceded to priests during the upcoming Holy Year the disposition to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and seek forgiveness for it.
He also expressed his hope that solutions may soon be found to recover full communion with the Fraternity of St Pius X.
In an articulated letter addressed to the President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, the Pope focused on a series of points which he said “require attention to enable the celebration” of the upcoming Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
Highlighting the fact that the Holy Year must be a true moment of encounter and closeness to the Lord for all believers, Pope Francis addressed the question of Jubilee Indulgences which – he said – represent a genuine experience of God’s mercy.
And to the traditional list of all the ways one may obtain an Indulgence by crossing a Holy Door or a Door of Mercy, the Pope added a couple of dispositions and requests pointing out that in every occasion, the solemn moment must be linked, first and foremost, to the profession of faith, deep repentance, the celebration of the Eucharist and a reflection on mercy.
In the letter Pope Francis specifically turns his attention to women who have resorted to abortion and “bear the scar of this agonizing and painful decision” saying the forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented. “For this reason – he writes – I have decided to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.”
Pointing out that a Jubilee Year has often constituted an opportunity for a great amnesty, the Pope includes prisoners in his list of believers seeking pardon, whom he says, may obtain the Indulgence in the chapels of the jails.
And holding out the possibility of obtaining an Indulgence to the sick, the elderly, the homebound and even the deceased, the Pope never neglects to point out that the experience of mercy must be visible in works of faith, hope and charity.
Finally, turning to those faithful who for various reasons choose to attend churches officiated by priests of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, Pope Francis said they too will validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins, trusting that in the near future full communion will be recovered with Rome.
Please find below the full text of the Pope’s letter:
To My Venerable Brother
Archbishop Rino Fisichella President of the Pontifical Council
for the Promotion of the New Evangelization
With the approach of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy I would like to focus on several points which I believe require attention to enable the celebration of the Holy Year to be for all believers a true moment of encounter with the mercy of God. It is indeed my wish that the Jubilee be a living experience of the closeness of the Father, whose tenderness is almost tangible, so that the faith of every believer may be strengthened and thus testimony to it be ever more effective.
My thought first of all goes to all the faithful who, whether in individual Dioceses or as pilgrims to Rome, will experience the grace of the Jubilee. I wish that the Jubilee Indulgence may reach each one as a genuine experience of God’s mercy, which comes to meet each person in the Face of the Father who welcomes and forgives, forgetting completely the sin committed. To experience and obtain the Indulgence, the faithful are called to make a brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door, open in every Cathedral or in the churches designated by the Diocesan Bishop, and in the four Papal Basilicas in Rome, as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion. Likewise, I dispose that the Indulgence may be obtained in the Shrines in which the Door of Mercy is open and in the churches which traditionally are identified as Jubilee Churches. It is important that this moment be linked, first and foremost, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy. It will be necessary to accompany these celebrations with the profession of faith and with prayer for me and for the intentions that I bear in my heart for the good of the Church and of the entire world.
Additionally, I am thinking of those for whom, for various reasons, it will be impossible to enter the Holy Door, particularly the sick and people who are elderly and alone, often confined to the home. For them it will be of great help to live their sickness and suffering as an experience of closeness to the Lord who in the mystery of his Passion, death and Resurrection indicates the royal road which gives meaning to pain and loneliness. Living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial, receiving communion or attending Holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various means of communication, will be for them the means of obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence. My thoughts also turn to those incarcerated, whose freedom is limited. The Jubilee Year has always constituted an opportunity for great amnesty, which is intended to include the many people who, despite deserving punishment, have become conscious of the injustice they worked and sincerely wish to re-enter society and make their honest contribution to it. May they all be touched in a tangible way by the mercy of the Father who wants to be close to those who have the greatest need of his forgiveness. They may obtain the Indulgence in the chapels of the prisons. May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom.
I have asked the Church in this Jubilee Year to rediscover the richness encompassed by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The experience of mercy, indeed, becomes visible in the witness of concrete signs as Jesus himself taught us. Each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence. Hence the commitment to live by mercy so as to obtain the grace of complete and exhaustive forgiveness by the power of the love of the Father who excludes no one. The Jubilee Indulgence is thus full, the fruit of the very event which is to be celebrated and experienced with faith, hope and charity.
Furthermore, the Jubilee Indulgence can also be obtained for the deceased. We are bound to them by the witness of faith and charity that they have left us. Thus, as we remember them in the Eucharistic celebration, thus we can, in the great mystery of the Communion of Saints, pray for them, that the merciful Face of the Father free them of every remnant of fault and strongly embrace them in the unending beatitude.
One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life. A widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life. The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails. Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe they they have no other option. I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father. For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it. May priests fulfil this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.
A final consideration concerns those faithful who for various reasons choose to attend churches officiated by priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X. This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one. From various quarters, several Brother Bishops have told me of their good faith and sacramental practice, combined however with an uneasy situation from the pastoral standpoint. I trust that in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the Fraternity. In the meantime, motivated by the need to respond to the good of these faithful, through my own disposition, I establish that those who during the Holy Year of Mercy approach these priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins.
Trusting in the intercession of the Mother of Mercy, I entrust the preparations for this Extraordinary Jubilee Year to her protection.
From the Vatican, 1 September 2015 (from Vatican Radio)
Part of the war in Syria is to live under indiscriminate bombing, a kind of Russian roulette which is always unpredictable. This Sunday, August 23, 2015, a rain of mortars fell on the neighborhood including two shells on the roof of the church. Since it is constructed with stone vaults it held despite the damage: cracks larger than arches, water tanks and fuel tanks ripped open, air conditioning out of service. The nearby Latin Church and several families in the neighborhood were also affected. Nine people were killed and forty seven innocent and poor were wounded. These are people who have not been able to leave the ,country and escape the fighting. Of those who died, survivors say: “You won’t have to see and live this cruel tragedy without end. You won’t see your children, your friends and your neighbors suffer and die in the blind violence and fanatical killing unable to save them or help them without understanding why.” The survivors bury the dead without having been able to treat the wounded since they lack means and competence. They sink into silent prayer before the relics of martyrs, the seeds of Faith.
Maronite Archbishop of Damascus
Dear Brother Priests, Deacons and Subdeacons, Men and Women Religious, and Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The crisis in Syria and Iraq continues, and our thoughts are ever with our brothers and sisters enduring unimaginable hardships. Thousands have been forced to abandon their native homes, entire communities have been abducted, women and girls sold into sex slavery, boys forced to fight alongside ISIS, many have been martyred for their faith. Churches, schools, and monasteries are closed, occupied and destroyed.
I write to tell you of my experience with the new organization entitled In Defense of Christians (IDC), which seeks to equip American Christians with tools of unity, advocacy, and awareness to respond to this crisis. Their nonpartisan approach is markedly ecumenical, uniting Middle Eastern Christians, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, to form a coherent and coordinated voice of Christian concern to national and international leaders and the global community.
This September 9-11, IDC will hosts an inaugural National Leadership Convention in Washington DC “Mobilizing America for Christians in the Middle East.” The program includes:
- An “Ecumenical Prayer Service for Christians in the Middle East”
- Political advocacy in Congress
- Press conferences and policy round tables with leading experts to develop needed responses and solutions to this crisis
- A capstone Solidarity Dinner to “Mobilize Americans for Christians in the Middle East” the evening of September 11
- A full program of the events, which can be found at idcconvention.org.
They would also like to invite us to promote the three-day National Leadership Convention among our parishes and communities, so that interested members might be able to attend and be equipped with the tools to mobilize our local communities across ecumenical lines upon return.
Attached to this correspondence is a flyer for the IDC National Leadership Conference (IDCflyer2015) , where further information on programming and registration can be found.
Pope Francis has called us to live in solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East, in what he calls an “ecumenism of blood”. We continue to encourage our priests, religious and lay faithful to stand in solidarity with Christians in the Middle East.
On July 19th, 2015 in Southfield Michigan, CAMECT (Christian Arab and Middle Eastern Churches Together), IDC (In Defense of Christians), Tele Lumiere (the official Christian Television station in the Middle East, headquartered in Lebanon), and the Chaldean Catholic Community of Detroit released the following joint statement:
“At the Symposium entitled “Christianity in the Middle East: Ancient Yet Ever New II,” held the weekend of July 17-19, 2015, in Southfield, Michigan, participants learned the tremendous transforming power of the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, who still works in the hearts of his followers in the Middle East and throughout the world. They were likewise sobered by the distressing presence and persistence of ISIS. In direct response, they were emboldened to encourage members of the international community to pursue criminal charges of genocide against ISIS.
Dr Gregory Stanton, Founder and President of Genocide Watch, described the ten stages of planned and premeditated genocide, his tenth stage being “denial”. There is no doubt that ISIS and other similar groups have a premeditated intention to destroy those who think differently from them, and the world seems to be in denial. But to the 350 people gathered this weekend there was no denial.
The weekend was a joint effort of CAMECT (Christian Arab and Middle Eastern Churches Together), IDC (In Defense of Christians), Tele Lumiere (the official Christian Television station in the Middle East, headquartered in Lebanon), and the Chaldean Catholic Community of Detroit. This joint effort was good opportunity to help each of the groups, as well as participants, to outreach, advocate, and to speak out with one voice.
The Symposium featured a wide array of experts in the area of Genocide, Humanitarian Aid, Media Relations, and Political Activism. We began on Friday with an address by Congressman Dave Trott, followed by a beautiful ambience created by the spiritual hymns of Doris Farhat. The next day, was divided in 2 sessions. The first addressed the current situation of the Christians in the Middle East, and the second what can be done about it.
A video presentation given by Mar Louis Raphael Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, began the day, followed by Dr. Gregory Stanton, President of Genocide Watch, and Jack Kallassy, CEO of Tele Lumiere, Lebanon, gave the morning lectures. Mr. Basil Bacall, Founder of Adopt a Refugee Organization, Dr. Musib Gappy, President of the Chaldean American Association of Health Care Professionals, and Dr. Edmund Ghareeb, Professor and Lecturer, gave the afternoon sessions.
To summarize the day, a panel of representatives from the different organizations involved – the Chaldean Community of Detroit (Bishop Francis Kalabat), CAMECT (Bishop Gregory Mansour), IDC (Kirsten Evans, Executive Director), and Tele Lumiere/Noursat (Raymond Nader, General Manager, Noursat) – gave short presentations and answered questions and concerns raised by the audience.
Ecumenical prayer services, lectures, discussions, and questions and answers periods, allowed participants to come away with a new found enthusiasm to reach out to other Christians, build bridges to Muslim leaders, advocate with government agencies, promote in the media the story of Christians in the Middle East, to build a grassroots effort to address the suffering of Syrian and Iraqi citizens, and to support all humanitarian and political solutions to the violence inflicted on them.
It was the common consensus that Christians of the Middle East find in terrorist groups a common cause, and need to continue to unite in one front to resist their dangerous expansion. Thanks be to God, the spirit of communion and ecumenism of the different Middle Eastern Churches manifests itself today by regularly scheduled meetings, joint resources, and ecumenical prayers. All participants agreed that the war being waged in the Middle East at the present time is a spiritual war against the forces of evil and that through continuous prayer, fasting, and common resolve, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ will provide the ultimate triumph of love.”
For more information please contact:
Chorbishop Sharbel Maroun of Tele Lumiere/Noursat- USA at email@example.com
Bishop Gregory Mansour of CAMECT at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ninar Keyrouz of IDC at email@example.com
Bishop Francis Kalabat of the Chaldean Church at firstname.lastname@example.org
Allow me to express sadness for our Archdiocese, whose buildings got struck once again, this very morning, suffering damage from a rebel-launched bomb that pierced the roof. No one was inside, thank God!
Allow me to stand by numerous families in Aleppo who are in mourning and to suffer with them! Because of this ugly and barbarous war they have lost so many loved ones, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and cherished children.
Allow me to worry about the faithful of this city. Insecurity is wearing them down, depressing them, adding more each day to their anxiety and sadness.
Allow me to be distressed by the homes that are destroyed, churches rendered unusable, shuttered businesses and destroyed shops, an ancient city crushed by the destruction of a priceless architectural patrimony.
Allow me to be bitter when comforting countless parents mortified by the deprivation that robs their children of the basic necessities needed to promote dignity and the ability to grow up healthy.
Allow me to be concerned about the survival of a growing number of elderly, to focus on getting them the minimum amount of aid needed for their serenity, which is already sorely tested by suffering and constant danger.
Allow me to raise my voice to call on all men and women of goodwill to hear our plea. ISIS, which has already killed thousands in the region, is terrifying the faithful of Aleppo. After Maloula, Mossul, Idleb and Palmyra-what is the West waiting for before it intervenes? What are the great nations waiting for before they put a halt to these monstrosities?
Allow me to cry out in anger and to revolt against a global system inclined toward barbarism, hungry for power and drunk with insatiable corruption. Let me cry with my people, violated and murdered. Hundreds of thousands of victims, sacrificed for the promise of a better society that I don’t know, and the promise and hope of an Arab spring they will never see!
May all those who believe in the Good and Merciful God, and all those with compassion for the innocent, raise their voice with us and call on civilized countries to take action to bring about Peace-before it is too late and more innocent victims add to this gruesome spectacle.
+ Jean-Clement Jeanbart
Archbishop of Aleppo
May 27, 2015
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Please feel the sorrow and the joy of service of our brother, the newly elected Bishop of Latakia Syria, Bishop Antoine Chbeir. Let’s work to assist him.
“Thank God, he puts you on my way ever since I was elected for serving the beloved diocese of Latquieh. I hope you’re doing well, as well as yours.
The situation in our diocese is quite well. We have to deal with the outflow of Christian and Muslim refugees both from Damascus, Alep and all over the country. But all is not gloom and doom, what is economically and existentially disastrous God turns it in a true spiritual richness. The Cathedral is almost full during the days of the week and packed on Sundays, where everybody is invited to coffee after mass. The daily mass is anticipated by the office prayer and followed by the rosary and “ya oum allah.” People spent almost two hours in a row in the church.
I undertook visits to the parishes of the diocese beginning with the distant ones especially those who were hard hit by the war, because my diocese is five times as big as Lebanon (55000Km2) and includes four departments: Tartus, Latquieh, Hama and Homs.
It is also the biggest Maronite diocese with fifty thousand people who outnumbers those of Damascus and Alep, less than three thousand and one thousand respectively.
Last Sunday I visited Rable near Homs on Lebanese border and the Sunday before Homs; on my way to these parishes there are many barricades of the Syrian army along the road to counterbalance the danger of the snipers in a part of it. In the neighborhood of rable the war wreaked havoc. In Homs, many quarters are completely destroyed, others partly, still others unharmed. St. Maroun Church was hit by three friendly rockets because it was taken by “Daesh,” wherever there is a cross in the church or elsewhere was shot, but there is a strong will to fix the damage and to give back hope to the population especially letting the church’s bell echoing again.
When the war started in Lebanon, I was thirteen years old and ever since I get used to live with uncertainty. Uncertainty of the economic situation, uncertainty of the car bombs, uncertainty of shelling, uncertainty of snipers, uncertainty of the political situation where every time you have to form a new government or elect a new president you have to wait for months to have the password from abroad to get the job done.
Now it seems God wants me to live the outcome of another war, thank goodness. Ever since I was elected I feel a huge peace deep down as if another one is in charge of the diocese.
Some of our churches lack the simplest equipment for pastoral activities: chalice, cross, infrastructure and the priests are horrified when they are assigned to such a task but they accepted it with a lot of love and devotion.
My first and foremost preoccupation is the priests of the diocese and the refugees. I am fully committed to provide them spiritual, pastoral, cultural and financial support. There is a French saying: “starving stomach has no ears”.
Our budget is exhausted by the salary of the priests. The single salary is 160 dollars. I pegged it to the dollar because the slump of Syrian currency is huge. It may lose twenty or thirty percent of its value in one single day.
We have thirty-two priests, twenty six of them are active, not all the rest, inactive because of old age or sickness; they’re still ours, which means we need more than five thousand dollars a month to only cover the priests salary. We need as much as this sum to provide refugees shelter and food.
We have to add $11,200 per year for the medical care of 32 priests, and $13,500 tuition for two seminarians at Ghazir Seminary.
Our revenues are very slim, the starting salary in Syria is about 60 dollars, which means a Syrian citizen has to do with two dollars each single day. Could you provide us dear Mgr. stipends for the priests, mobile clinics serving refugees and poor?
As I told you on the phone, I had biblical studies in the Gregoriana in Rome. My thesis was on the book of Job. I graduated in 1993. I can give lectures both in New and Old Testament if you need a hand in this domain. May God bless you, thank you for the consideration of all these matters and remain in sentiment with you in the Lord.”
+Mgr. Antoine Chbeir
|Eparchy of Saint Maron
109 Remsen Street
Brooklyn NY 1201