Homily of His Eminence Cardinal O’Malley at the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

The Homily of His Eminence Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley at the Vigil Mass for March for Life, Washington. D.C., January 21, 2015.  http://www.thebostonpilot.com/opinion/article.asp?ID=172948

Posted in Religious Education

Homily by His Eminence Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, on Sunday, January 4, 2015

Please see the homily of His Eminence Cardinal Wuerl.  It says it all

Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle
Washington, D.C.
Sunday, January 4, 2015
 
Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the lord 
 HOMILY by  His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington

 Recently I reviewed some startling photos. I was struck by the pictures of the small Christian community made up of a number of families including elders and infants all huddled in relative darkness and in imposed silence as they tried to celebrate Christmas – Nativity – the birth of our Lord.

What struck me was the fear that was necessarily a part of this clandestine Liturgy and what inspired me was the defiance of those who while frightened of the consequences were determined to hold on to and even celebrate their faith.

The photos were of a small persecuted Christian community in Syria but it could just as well have been almost anywhere else in the Middle East.

What a contrast to our celebration today in this magnificent cathedral full of light, heat, joy and freedom.

The liturgy speaks of light, a light that is come among us, the glory of the Lord that shines upon us. Just as the star of Bethlehem led the wise men, symbols of the Gentiles, to Christ so we are reminded every Epiphany that we are also to be a light to those around us, a light reflecting Christ by reflecting our discipleship – our commitment to him.

 

Today I would like to reflect with you not just on our challenge and obligation to be a reflection of Christ’s light in the world, but also our obligation to pray for those who are struggling to keep that light of Christian faith alive, even as attempts are made to see that it is extinguished in their lives.

We take for granted not only the great gift of faith that enables us to profess our discipleship in Jesus Christ, our acceptance of him, his Gospel and           his way, but also the great gift of freedom that allows us to profess our faith, to live our faith, to practice our faith openly and freely, and to have recourse to the courts when we feel that our freedom is being compromised.

Today I ask you to reflect with me and pray for those who see the light of their Christian faith being challenged and in some instances violently extinguished.

In the fall of last year, September 2014, an ecumenical summit of Christian leaders, representatives of Churches and faith communities from all over the Middle East, the Holy Land, Iraq and Syria      met here in Washington. Organized by an association of scholars and dignitaries called “In Defense of Christians,” this Inaugural Summit was to call attention to the gradual eradication of Christianity in the very land where it all began.

Representatives from the Holy See, the Maronite, Melkite and Syriac Catholic patriarchs, as well as representatives of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Chaldean Church and the Patriarchates of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and many others gathered to point out the plight of the ancient Christian communities in the Middle East.

Here it was noted that institutional oppression from governments and the violence of organizations such as ISIS, the self-proclaimed “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” have dramatically reduced the number of Christians in all of these lands, made them second class citizens, obliged them to forced conversion,      and exhibited a violence manifested in beheadings and mass executions.

If it were not for the immediacy of the presence of these atrocities one would be tempted to think that reference was being made to something of a thousand years ago, when in various parts of the world some religious faiths were spread by the sword. But my brothers and sisters, we are speaking about today.

We must pray for and speak up on behalf of those whose light that began to shine at Epiphany is being forcefully but really and truly extinguished.

But in other parts of the world, the light of faith is also challenged as the ever present darkness that the light of Christ came to dispel threatens to encroach. In Nigeria we hear of Christian children being kidnapped by the classroom full and forced to reject their faith and accept Islam.

A recent report from the Diocese of Maiduguri in troubled Borno State in northeastern Nigeria pointed out how Catholic Nigerians displaced by violence and the threat of suicide bomb attacks by Islamist insurgents celebrated Christmas not knowing when they might return home. A veil of darkness descends over whole communities that once were alive in the light of Christian faith.

In Sudan, in West Africa, in parts of India regularly are Christian Churches and homes burned in the hope of putting out the light of faith.

The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India recently criticized the forced conversions of Christians to Hinduism. Some Hindu leaders have said that India is a Hindu nation and thus forced conversion of Christians is justified.

In ancient Christian communities that have for centuries lived side by side with their neighbors who come from a variety of faith commitments the darkness of violence intrudes.

Pope Francis, in his Message for the World Day of Peace, which we observed last Thursday, speaks also of the “Many people [who] are kidnapped in order to be sold, enlisted as combatants, or sexually exploited, while others are forced to emigrate, leaving everything behind: their country, home, property, and even members of their family.”

For all of these we need to offer our prayers, our support and on behalf of whom we need our voices.

Brothers and sisters, Epiphany is the great celebration of light, Christ the light come into the world. We are called to be children of the light, to walk in the light, to live in the brightness of that light and to make every effort to reflect it and even share it.

Would that we could simply rejoice today in the great blessing of Epiphany, but as our Holy Father, Pope Francis, reminds us, to ignore the suffering and evil around us, to turn away from the efforts to envelope our brothers and sisters in darkness – to extinguish the light of faith is to act in a way not worthy of our calling.

This year when we rejoice in the light of faith, let us also remember that our brothers and sisters in various parts of the world are paying an extremely high price to keep that candle of faith lit. And let us simply remind ourselves of the words from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah that were part of the first reading today: “darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the people,” “upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory” so that nations might “walk by your light.”

As children of the light, let us never forget our brothers and sisters who attempt to walk in the light and who suffer so grievously for their faith. In this festival of the manifestation of our Lord, let us do our part, remembering our brothers and sisters, praying for them and standing in solidarity with them by speaking out whenever we can, reminding ourselves, our friends, our neighbors – everyone – that what they are suffering is simply wrong and that what they are enduring is an unjust violence.

Perhaps our faith, our prayers, and our words might help to lift a little of the darkness that covers these atrocities “so that nations might ‘walk by the light.’”

Posted in General

Bishop Stephen Hector Doueihi’s Passing

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am sorry to inform you that Bishop Stephen Hector Doueihi, Bishop Emeritus of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, passed away this morning, December 17, 2014.

Bishop Doueihi was born to Youssef and Hassiba Zakhia Doueihi on June 25, 1927 in Zgharta, Lebanon. He attended the Patriarchal Seminary of Saint Maron in Ghazir, Lebanon from, 1941 to 1945;  the Major Seminary at the University of Saint Joseph in Beirut, from 1946 to 1949;  and the Pontifical College of Propaganda Fide in Rome, from 1952 to 1956.

He was ordained a priest for the Patriarchal Eparchy in Lebanon, on August 14, 1955, at the Chapel of the Patriarchal Summer Residence in Dimane, by His Beatitude, Paul Peter Cardinal Meouchi, the late Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East.

After ordination, Father Doueihi returned to Rome to earn a Doctorate in Sacred Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, which he received in 1959.  His Doctoral dissertation was entitled:  Ibn Al-Qala’i, moine Franciscain et évêque Maronite +1516.

 Upon his return to Lebanon, he was appointed Pastor of the Parish of Zgharta which he served from 1959 to 1969, simultaneously serving as Administrator of the Waqfs of Zgharta from 1967-1969.  In October of 1969, he was assigned as Pastor of the Maronite Parish of Our Lady of Bethlehem in Puebla, Mexico.  In 1972, Fr. Doueihi was received into the Maronite Diocese of the United States by Archbishop Francis M. Zayek.  In August of 1973, he was appointed Pastor to the Maronite faithful in Peoria, Illinois, and later, he was assigned as Administrator of Saint George Church in Wilkes-Barre, PA.  In 1977, Fr. Doueihi was appointed Vice Rector of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Seminary in Washington, D.C. and Assistant Pastor at the Parish of Our Lady of Lebanon in the same city.  In 1978, he was appointed as the Director of the Office of Liturgy for the Diocese.  During his tenure in that position, he provided vital leadership in the implementation of reforms to the Maronite Liturgy in the United States, and he was responsible for the many English texts of the liturgical reforms of the Maronite Divine Liturgy and Mysteries published by Saint Maron’s Publications.  In 1979 he was appointed Pastor of Our Lady of Lebanon Parish in Washington, D.C.

In 1983, Father Doueihi was elevated to the rank of Periodeut with the title of Monsignor.  In 1987, Monsignor Doueihi was appointed Pastor of Saint George Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he served until 1989.  He was then named Rector of Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral in Brooklyn, NY.  That same year, he was ordained a Chorbishop, and he was appointed by Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir as a member of the Patriarchal Liturgical Commission.  Chorbishop Doueihi has also served the Diocese as a Protopresbyter, a member of the Presbyteral Council and of the College of Consultors.

On November 23, 1996, Pope John Paul II appointed Monsignor Doueihi as the second Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, and he was enthroned on February 5, 1997 at Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral in Brooklyn, NY.

Bishop Doueihi is well-known as a teacher.  In addition to his teaching at the Seminary of Our Lady of Lebanon in Washington, D.C., he was a professor of Theology at the University of Saint Joseph in Beirut;  at the Seminary of Karmsaddeh in the Diocese of Tripoli in Lebanon;  at the University of the Holy Spirit at Kaslik in Lebanon;  and at the Seminary of the Diocese of Puebla in Mexico where he also served as a professor of French Language.  He was fluent in seven languages:  Arabic, French, English, Italian, Spanish, Syriac and Latin.

His scholarly publications include:  Notre Église en question (Beirut, 1969);  A Priest Among Us (in Arabic);  Un Théologien Maronite, Gebra’il Ibn Qala’i, évêque et moine Franciscain, 1450-1516 (Kaslik, Lebanon, 1993);  an Arabic Translation of Priêres by Father Michel Quoist;  The Church of Stone and the Church of People (in Arabic, Almawakif, N.15, 1969, Lebanon);  and The Maronite Pontifical (1995).

Bishop Stephen Hector Doueihi will be waked at Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral, (109 Remsen Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201) on Saturday, December 20th, from 4:00 – 8:00 PM, and on Sunday, December 21st, from 2:00 – 8:00 PM.  On both days, the Ginnaz will be celebrated at 5:00 PM.  The Funeral Divine Liturgy will be celebrated at the Cathedral on Monday at 12:00 PM.  A Mercy Meal will follow in the Cathedral Parish Hall.  I will accompany Bishop Doueihi’s body to Lebanon for burial.

There are some rooms available at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott (on a first-come-first-serve basis) for Sunday and Monday nights at $199.00 per night.  If interested, please call the hotel directly at:  (718) 222-6536 (8:00 AM – 5:00 PM) or 1 (800) 228-9290 (outside of those hours).

On behalf of the clergy, religious, and laity of the Eparchy, our sincere expressions of sympathy are extended to Bishop Doueihi’s family and friends. May he rest in peace.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+ Gregory John Mansour

Posted in General

Christians Demand Equality

Christians Demand Equality:  An interview with Bishop Gregory Mansour on Currents TV, New York

Posted in Religious Education

Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral

Parishioners of Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral in Brooklyn, New York, pray for peace. Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral

Posted in Religious Education

Interview with Fr. Boniface about Current Situation in the Middle East

Bishop Gregroy talks with Fr. Boniface about the Homily given by Pope Francis and about the current situations in the Middle East. http://www.stmaron.org/multimedia.html

Posted in General

Matthew Chapters Five Through Seven

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

By reflecting on the Word of God we come to know, even more personally, the One who is the “Word of God made flesh,” Jesus Christ. The Scriptures give us a unique window through which to encounter Jesus, and in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters five through seven, we find an awesome glimpse into the mind and heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

His Gospel is called the teaching Gospel because Matthew arranged the words of Jesus in an orderly manner. To all catechists, and to all who love the Word, this Gospel is for you! In chapters five through seven, the most challenging of Our Lord’s teaching shines through: the Beatitudes; Our Lord’s teaching on marriage; and His teaching against revenge.

The eight Beatitudes compel the followers of Jesus not to model their lives only on the Ten Commandments, but to go beyond the law, to be peacemakers, merciful, poor in spirit, to thirst for justice and righteousness, etc. These moral imperatives are made possible because Jesus himself lived this way, even to the cross.
In Our Lord’s teaching on marriage, which Saint Pope John Paul II developed into a profound reflection on human love and relationships, nicknamed the “Theology of the Body,” Jesus challenged the men of his time, to whom Moses gave permission for a man to divorce his wife. Jesus, the new law giver, does not give this permission; rather he referred back to Adam and Eve and told men that they may not divorce.

Notice he was speaking to men – because women at that time had no right to divorce. Notice also how Jesus addressed the men, telling them that wives were not possessions, but spouses, not their property, but their equal. Jesus’ strong teaching on marriage reveals His interior conviction that the marriage of a man and woman is from God Himself, and no man may tamper with it! This teaching has been the teaching of the Church until this very day, and continues to inspire us to believe that marriage is a life-long and sacred union, which ought to be respected as much as humanly possible. The extraordinary synod of bishops held this month in Rome will affirm this powerful teaching on the sanctity and noble character of marriage.

The third window into Jesus’ very personal desire for us is His teaching against retaliation. The words and stories he uses 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.” Jesus commands us to be like him, to love like him, even our enemies, and to wish good, even to those who do evil.

His three examples are quite clear: “Turn the other check;” “go the extra mile;” and “give the shirt off your back.” I have paraphrased these expressions based on popular parlance, 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 one is superior and the other inferior.

Jesus asked us to be defiant in the face of such cruelty, and not accept an inferior status, but rather demand that the oppressor strike as an equal!

Likewise, Jesus did not say “Go the extra mile” as if to mean we must give more. Rather, Our Lord knew the unjust law that allowed Roman soldiers to force a Jew to carry his bag, but not for more than one mile. Jesus thus told his countrymen to go the “extra mile,” so as to buy back a man’s internal freedom from his oppressor, to embarrass him, and to honor the innate dignity of one unjustly treated.

Lastly, Jesus did not say, “Give the shirt off your back.” Rather he said, “If someone sues for your jacket, offer him your shirt as well.” Thus, instead of being a victim of another’s injustice, if one turns and gives him one’s shirt as

well, one shows him a fearless love with the hope that it will
awaken justice in his oppressor.

By means of these three examples, Our Lord is clear: no retaliation, no inferior status, be defiant in face of oppression, have a non-violent attitude, refuse to accept unjust treatment,
and never return evil for evil. How appropriate is Our Lord’s imperatives today in the face of ISIS and other hateful ideologies.

By peering into the window of the Word of God, we see clearly the Word made Flesh, Jesus Christ, in all the splendor of truth. In Matthew five through seven, we hear Our Lord’s commands to go beyond the Ten Commandments to the Beatitudes so as to be truly happy; we are asked to give marriage the proper sacred place Our Lord wanted it to have in our world; and never to retaliate, but we are commanded to face every injustice with a loving defiance.

The Word of God gives us this very personal glimpse into the heart and mind of Our Lord Jesus Christ and, in fact, we see the very way He lives His own life. This inspires us to follow Him even more closely, even to the cross!

Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Gregory John Mansour
Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn

Posted in Religious Education

Weakened and Impoverished

Weakened and Impoverished, We Entered the Fourth Week of Displacement

Yet, there is nothing promising at all. The Iraqi government has not done anything to   regain the Christian towns back from the IS. Likewise, the Kurdish government, apart from allowing us to enter their province, has not offered any aid, financial or material, leaving us in the streets, and making the church take full responsibility of us all. Thanks to the Church of Iraq in Kurdistan, who opened their halls and centres to provide shelters. Yet, the number of refugees was so large that the Kurdish government had to face the stark reality and open their schools to provide additional shelter for refugees.

We hear a lot about world governments and organizations sending financial aid to Iraq, but the refugee gets the least –we do not know or understand why. People lost almost everything; they cannot even afford to buy milk or formula for their children. What saddens us most is that, only one month ago, these people were the most educated in the country and among those most likely to build a life for themselves and their family, and now they do not have enough money in their pockets to survive the day. Christians became accustomed to investing their money in businesses, shops, fields, buildings…etc, to build their communities. Leaving their towns meant leaving everything they had been working for all their lives. Yet, amidst losing everything, accepting their lost dignity, is the most difficult loss they may experience. Some have found shelter in tents, others in schools, still others in church halls and gardens. They wait to be fed, or given food to cook; elderly are not being taken care of properly; children are living in unhealthy conditions; families have lost their privacy; women are exposed in these places; men have no jobs in a culture where a man is expected to support his families. Refusing to live without dignity, more and more people think of immigrating. Whoever owns a car or gold, sells them to buy a plane ticket out of the country. Needless to say, the buyers in Kurdistan are taking advantage and do not take into consideration the devastation these refugees face.

Christians in Iraq are known for their faithfulness and peaceful way of living among others. They do not believe in violence or in war as a way to solve problems. Now, they feel that they are victims because other religions and political parties are dividing the country on the account of the innocent.

Of course, none of us is a political analyst, but it is obvious that Kurdistan is the only beneficiary: economically, militarily, and provincially, while they were obliged to protect the Nineveh Plain. The Peshmerga pulled out of the plain of Nineveh in no time, without a clear reason, and without warning the civilians; we knew we were living in a war zone, when we trusted that at the very least, in a time of danger, they will warn us but, did not –so how can we trust them now (government and people)?

We still wonder why the world cannot petition the UN to take serious action toward the IS, and save the people from their misery, knowing that the IS is the most dangerous group in the world. Is the world deaf and blind? People are almost convinced that the only way out of this crisis is to immigrate and leave the country, if it is even possible. It is certain, many have reached their breaking point and despair is setting in. Maybe immigrating is the only way to stop living in such a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. People cannot endure this persecution, marginalization, contempt, and rejection anymore. If there is any other way, besides immigration, please let us know. Otherwise, please help people get out of the country, by seeking asylum, according to the UN law.

Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena –Iraq.

Posted in General

Cardinal Wuerl Remarks about the persecution of Christians

His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C.,  spoke out about the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq at the Catholic University Mass of the Holy Spirit on August 28, 2014.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kujTZbwOMcc&feature=youtu.be

 

 

Posted in Religious Education

Iraq’s Christians, A Double Catastrophe

To The Conscience of the World: Iraq’s Christians, A Double Catastrophe

An Urgent Appeal by Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako

I has become obvious that Iraqi Christians along with other minorities have received a fatal blow at the core of their lives and their existence whether through displacing more than a hundred thousand Christians by force, or looting their possessions, money, and documents, or occupying their houses for just being Christian! I visited the camps of the displaced persons in the provinces of Erbil and Dohok and what I saw and what I heard is beyond any imagination!

Since the 6th of August until now there is not yet an immediate concrete solution for the crisis we are facing. On the other hand the flow of funds, arms and fighters continues to the Islamic State. Despite the fact that we are living an organized campaign of elimination from Iraq, the world conscience is not fully awake to gravity of the situation. Now, the second phase of the calamity has already began, which is the migration of these families to the different parts of the world, thus dissolving the history, heritage, and identity of these people into void.

Displacement and migration have their great impact on us, both on Christians and Muslims. Iraq is losing an irreplaceable component of its society, the Christian one; hence begins the vanishing of a genuine tradition!

The international community, principally the United States and European Union due to their moral and historic responsibility towards Iraq, cannot be indifferent. While acknowledging all that is being done to solve this crisis, it seems that the decisions and actions undertaken until now have made no real change in the course of events and the fate of the these affected people is still at stake, as if these people are not part of the human race!

The same is true with regard to the Muslim community, whose statements about the barbaric acts in the name of their religion practiced against the life, dignity and freedom of Christians were not according to our expectation, knowing that Christians have contributed and fought for this country, living in partnership with their Muslim brothers alongside the Islamic civilization.

Religious fundamentalism is still growing in its power and force, creating tragedies, and making us wonder when the Islamic religious scholars and the Muslim intellectuals will critically examine this dangerous phenomenon and eradicate it by educating a true religious consciousness and spreading a genuine culture of accepting the other as brother and as an equal citizen with full rights.

What has happened is terrible and horrific, therefore, we need an urgent and effective international support from all the people of good will to save the Christians and Yezidis, genuine components of the Iraqi society from extinction, knowing that silence and passivity will encourage ISIS fundamentalists to commit more tragedies! The question is who will be the next

Many of these displaced persons wish to return to their towns and houses in the Nineveh Plain, and hope to see it safe under international protection. But the full safety of this zone cannot be achieved without the cooperation of the International Community along with the joint action of the Central Government and the Regional Government of Kurdistan. These innocent people deserve to live in peace and dignity after the terror afflicted on them by the ISIS and after being looted by their own neighbors.

The Church: Certainly we are proud of the faith of our sons and daughters and their steadfastness and courage in the face of this calamity for the sake of their belief. We invite them to live this crisis in a real communion with all the people around them without any distinction. What we need is not exhausting statements but real communion with others which we experienced during the visit of the delegation of French bishop’s conference, Personal Envoy of Pope Francis and Patriarchs. This crisis is empowering us for a spiritual, moral and material reconstruction of our communities. We do respect the decision of those who wish to migrate, but for those who wish to remain, we underline our long history and deeply rooted heritage in this land. God has his own plan for our presence in this land and invites us to carry the message of love, brotherhood, dignity, and harmonious co-existence.

Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako,
President of the Assembly of the Catholic Bishops in Iraq

Posted in Religious Education