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October 10, 2014

In this issue

Year’s events to help laity learn more about religious
Collection assists world’s newest mission
Pope Francis opens family synod
Court declines to review rulings on same-sex marriage

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Year’s events to help laity learn more about religious PDF Print E-mail
Written by Catholic News Service   
Friday, 10 October 2014 08:47

Washington — In an effort to help lay Catholics gain a deeper understanding of religious life, priests, brothers and women religious intend to open their convents, monasteries, abbeys and religious houses to the public one day next February.

“If you’ve ever wondered what a brother or religious sister does all day, you will find out,” said Dominican Sister Marie Bernadette Thompson in announcing the open house scheduled for Feb. 8, 2015.

The open house is just one of the events for the upcoming Year of Consecrated Life, which begins the weekend of Nov. 29-30 — the first Sunday of Advent is Nov. 30. It will end Feb. 2, 2016, the World Day of Consecrated life.

The special year dedicated to consecrated life was announced by Pope Francis and is similar to previous themed years announced by popes such as Year of the Priest (2009-10) or Year of St. Paul. (2008-09).

The year also marks the 50th anniversary of Perfectae Caritatis, a decree on religious life, and Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. The purpose of the yearlong celebration, according to a Vatican statement, is to “make a grateful remembrance of the recent past” while embracing “the future with hope.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh, N.C., chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, announced the Year of Consecrated Life events at an Oct. 1 news conference at the USCCB headquarters in Washington.

He said the scheduled events will provide an opportunity, especially for young people, to see how men and women religious live. He also urged heads of religious orders to let his committee know of activities they are planning so they can be publicized.

Sister Marie Bernadette, council coordinator of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, said the purpose of the open house gatherings will be to provide people with an encounter with men and women religious and also an encounter with Christ.

Sister Marcia Allen, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia and president-elect of Leadership Conference of Women Religious, said another initiative for the upcoming year is called “Days with Religious,” during which laypeople will have opportunities to join men and women religious in works of service throughout the summer of 2015.

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Collection assists world’s newest mission PDF Print E-mail
Written by The Register   
Friday, 10 October 2014 08:44

World Mission Sunday, organized by the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, is a day set aside for Catholics worldwide to recommit themselves to the Church’s missionary activity through prayer and sacrifice.

This year, World Mission Sunday is celebrated Oct. 19 and focuses on the words from St. Matthew’s Gospel, “I will build my Church.” It highlights the outreach of local churches through priests, religious and laity among the poor and marginalized half a world away.

One example is the recently organized Church in Mongolia, its first prelate, Bishop Wenceslao Padilla, and his fellow missionary priests from the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Oblate Father Andrew Small, U.S. director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, said the Church in Mongolia is quite young.

“It was just a little more than 20 years ago, after decades before that of Communist rule, that the people of Mongolia once again heard the ‘Good News’ of Jesus proclaimed to them,” he said.

Then-Father Padilla made the journey with two other missionary priests.

“He recalls finding a country struggling — with issues like alcoholism and domestic abuse, with minimal government social services, and with extreme poverty. He found a people searching — ‘for God and for holiness.’ ” Father Small said.

There were no Catholics in Mongolia when the priests arrived. Today, there are about 850 Catholics in the Church in Mongolia, and as many as 50 are welcomed each year.

“Through the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, you make that journey with Bishop Wens and missionaries in Mongolia, helping your mission family here build their Church, the world’s youngest Catholic Church, as you help also to build local churches across our world,” Father Small said.

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Religious freedom goes beyond right to worship PDF Print E-mail
Written by Doug Weller   
Friday, 10 October 2014 08:40

Leading up to the November elections, the four bishops in Kansas are reaching out to voters with videos highlighting a key moral issue for them to consider.

• Bishop Edward Weisenburger of the Diocese of Salina talks about usury and payday loans. The topic was featured in the Sept. 12 Register.

• Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., addresses marriage.

• Bishop John Brungardt of the Diocese of Dodge City speaks on life. It was featured in the Sept. 26 Register.

• Bishop Carl Kemme of the Diocese of Wichita discusses religious freedom.

The Catholic Church in the United States does not tell people which candidate or political party to vote for but has the responsibility to attempt to form the consciences of Catholics as they prepare to make well-informed decisions.

The YouTube videos can be found at salinadiocese.org and at the Kansas Catholic Conference’s website at www.kscathconf.org and its Facebook page. People are encouraged to spread the messages by sharing the videos and “liking” them on Facebook.

• • •

Wichita — Bishop Carl Kemme of the Diocese of Wichita says Catholics should not have to apologize for their beliefs nor be punished for them.

But that’s what is happening in today’s political and legal environments, he maintains.

In one of four election-year videos created by the Catholic Bishops of Kansas, Bishop Kemme talks about religious freedom and the right of believers to practice their faith not only privately but in the public square.

The debate over religious freedom “has made clear a very disturbing development: Our country has lost much of its appreciation for — and even an understanding of — religious freedom,” Bishop Kemme says in the video.

“We are so fortunate to live in this country. All one needs to do is turn on the news to see the violence and extreme poverty that so many of our brothers and sisters across the globe must endure. When one sees the persecution Christians are suffering in some parts of the world, it is easy and understandable for Americans to think that all is well here. But friends, all is not well,” he said.

The First Amendment’s guarantee of the “free exercise of religion” never meant merely the right to go to church without being attacked or arrested for one’s faith, he said.

“No, the reason America has been a shining city on a hill is because the First Amendment has guaranteed for all Americans the right to live their faith in their daily life. For Catholics, this has meant the right to live our Catholic faith in every aspect of our lives: at home and at work; in private and in public,” the bishop said.

That extends far beyond a private setting, he maintains.

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Deadline extended for March for Life bus trip PDF Print E-mail
Written by Doug Weller   
Monday, 06 October 2014 14:52

The Salina Diocese Office of Respect Life has extended the deadline to register for a bus trip to attend the March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20-24.

Jaclyn Brown, who is coordinator of the office with her husband, Eric, said three buses are full and the deadline has been extended until Nov. 1 in an effort to fill a fourth bus.

The cost, however, will increase to $400 per person.

Brown said she would need reservations for at least half of the seats in the fourth bus to justify the extra expenses. If there are not enough reservations received by Nov. 1, then the fourth bus would be canceled, she explained.

To reserve a seat, go online at salinadiocese.org/respect-life or call the Browns at (785) 650-2474 or email them at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it before Nov. 1.

 
Compassion for ‘the least of these’ inspires Respect Life Month activities PDF Print E-mail
Written by Doug Weller   
Thursday, 25 September 2014 15:19

October is set aside by the U.S. bishops as a time for showing support for the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.

This year’s theme, “Each of Us is a Masterpiece of God’s Creation,” is inspired by Pope Francis, who urges humility, warmth and passion for “the least of these” — the elderly, the imprisoned, those with disfiguring disabilities, the unborn and many more, explained Boston Cardinal Sean

O’Malley, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

In his 2013 Day for Life Greeting, Pope Francis conveyed that “even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect,” Cardinal O’Malley noted.

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Bishop’s fund accepting applications PDF Print E-mail
Written by Doug Weller   
Thursday, 25 September 2014 15:17

The Catholic Community Foundation is currently accepting grant applications for the Bishop’s Fund.

Applications for the Bishop’s Fund are sought once a year from Catholic parishes, parish schools and Catholic entities in the Salina Diocese.

This fund was established in 2008 as an unrestricted fund that would have a specific focus each year as determined by the bishop and the foundation’s board of directors.

The 2014 grants will be awarded for innovative ideas for a Catholic entity within the diocese. The amount of funding will range from $1,000 to $5,000 and will be determined at the Catholic Community Foundation’s December board meeting.

Grant guidelines and applications have been sent to pastors and also are available on the diocesan website under the development tab.

“This is a great way for parishes to get funding for a project that they have been wanting to accomplish and just do not have room in their budget to do it,” said Syndi Larez, executive director of the foundation.

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Protection of human life is paramount, bishop says PDF Print E-mail
Written by David Myers, Southwest Kansas Register   
Thursday, 25 September 2014 15:12

Kansas bishops launch video project

Leading up to the November elections, the four bishops in Kansas are reaching out to voters with videos highlighting a key moral issue for them to consider.

• Bishop Edward Weisenburger of the Diocese of Salina talks about usury and payday loans. The topic was featured in the Sept. 12 Register.

• Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., addresses marriage.

• Bishop John Brungardt of the Diocese of Dodge City speaks on life.

• Bishop Carl Kemme of the Diocese of Wichita discusses religious freedom.

The Catholic Church in the United States does not tell people which candidate or political party to vote for but has the responsibility to attempt to form the consciences of Catholics as they prepare to make well-informed decisions.

The YouTube videos can be found at salinadiocese.org and at the Kansas Catholic Conference’s website at www.kscathconf.org and its Facebook page. People are encouraged to spread the messages by sharing the videos and “liking” them on Facebook.

• • •

Dodge City — Bishop John Brungardt wants it known that as Kansans go to the voting booth this fall, that “the Lord and our Catholic faith” speak clearly when it comes to life issues.

In one of four election-year videos created by the Catholic Bishops of Kan­sas, Bishop Brungardt said that the protection of innocent human life is “of such importance, of such great moral weight, that (it) must occupy a special place in the thinking of the Catholic voter.”

“All human life is precious,” he said, “whether born or unborn.” However, because abortion has become such a partisan political issue, “it has become easy for people to forget what’s at stake.”

Every year in the United States, more than one million unborn children are destroyed by abortion. Since Roe v. Wade in 1973, more than 55 million “innocent, defenseless human lives have been intentionally, and legally, extinguished,” he said.

“Brothers and sisters, it is difficult to accept that evil of this magnitude could be happening in our very midst, but it is,” Bishop Brungardt said. “We cannot just go on about our lives, treating this as just another political issue to be argued about by politicians.

“Imagine any other scenario where one million innocent human beings would be killed in a year, and then consider what our reaction would be.”

Bishop Brungardt makes it clear that faith and science do not differ when it comes to matters of the unborn.

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U.S. bishops affirm power of prayer for Israeli-Palestinian peace PDF Print E-mail
Written by USCCB   
Tuesday, 23 September 2014 08:14

Washington — U.S. bishops affirmed that prayer is powerful, peace is possible and that support for a two-state solution is an essential dimension of pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace in a Sept. 22 communique, following a Prayer Pilgrimage for Peace in the Holy Land. Eighteen U.S. bishops made the Sept. 11-18 journey to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

“There is no military solution to the conflict, but tragically violence on both sides undermines the trust needed to achieve peace. Violence always sows seeds of further violence and fear,” the bishops wrote in their communiqué.

Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, led the delegation.

The bishops celebrated Mass at Holy Sites and with Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem and local Christian communities in Jiffna, Nablus and Gaza. They met with religious and government leaders. Religious leaders included representatives of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions, including Orthodox, Armenian, and Protestant leaders. Government leaders included former President Shimon Peres of Israel, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah of Palestine, and Hanan Ashrawi of the Palestinian National Council.

The bishops expressed concerns about the rights of religious minorities, especially the dwindling Christian population of the region, as well as the challenges to the peace process posed by factors like the barrier wall, expanding settlements and other legal and socioeconomic restrictions.

Full text of the communiqué follows:

Bishops’ Prayer Pilgrimage for Peace in the Holy Land

We went to the Holy Land as men of faith on a Prayer Pilgrimage for Peace.  Motivated by the love of Christ and deep concern for both Israelis and Palestinians, we went to pray for peace, and to work for a two-state solution and an open and shared Jerusalem.  Arriving in the wake of the recent Gaza war, though, we encountered pain, intransigence and cynicism.  Even the young people are discouraged. But we also saw signs of inspiration and hope.

Prayer was the central element of our pilgrimage. Through daily liturgies at holy sites and local parishes, we experienced our communion in Christ with local Christian communities. We are grateful to those at home who supported our pilgrimage with prayers and interest. We also prayed alongside Jews, Muslims and other Christians. Prayer is powerful. We know peace is possible because God is our hope.

We met with people of goodwill, Palestinian and Israeli alike, who yearn for peace. We were inspired by the commitment of the staff and partners of Catholic Relief Services, The Pontifical Mission, and the local Christian community, who are providing relief to the people of Gaza; by the efforts of Christians, Muslims, and Jews who are building bridges of understanding; and by the mission of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre. We were moved profoundly by our visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, and were encouraged by Bethlehem University, a Catholic institution that is building bridges between Christians and Muslims as they study together to create the future of Palestine, and by the Church’s schools that are open to all.

We are compelled by the Gospel of Peace to share the fruits of our prayers and encounters with Israelis and Palestinians. Two peoples and three faiths have ancient ties to this Land. Sadly, Jerusalem, the City of Peace, is a sign of contradiction. We were told more than once that the city could erupt in violence as it has on far too many occasions.

The towering wall that divides Israelis and Palestinians is another sign of contradiction. For Israelis, it is a sign of security; for Palestinians, a sign of occupation and exclusion. The contrast between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is also a sign of contradiction. In crossing the border one moves from freedom and prosperity to the intimidation of military checkpoints, humiliation, and deeper poverty.

The situation of Christian Palestinians is an added sign of contradiction.  The Christian community is emigrating at alarming rates.  As we learned from Patriarch Fouad Twal, the unresolved conflict and occupation undermine human dignity and the ability of Christians to raise their families. Israeli policies in East Jerusalem prohibit Christians who marry someone from outside the City to remain there with their spouse, and security policies restrict movement and confiscate lands, undermining the ability of many Christian families to survive economically. The harsh realities of occupation force them to leave. Muslims also suffer similarly, but have fewer opportunities to emigrate.

As U.S. bishops, we humbly acknowledge that we do not understand all the complexities of the situation, but in faith we do understand some things clearly. We reaffirm the longstanding position of the U.S. bishops and the Holy See and support a two-state solution: a secure and recognized Israel living in peace with a viable and independent Palestinian state. The broad outlines of this solution are well known; but there has not been, nor does there appear to be, the determined political will to achieve it.

There is no military solution to the conflict, but tragically violence on both sides undermines the trust needed to achieve peace. Violence always sows seeds of further violence and fear.  We witnessed the horrific devastation of whole neighborhoods in Gaza and heard about tragic deaths on both sides, especially a disproportionate number of Palestinian noncombatants, women, and children. The local Christian community in Gaza described the nightly terror they suffered during the war. Israelis in Sderot and elsewhere described their dread of Hamas rocket fire.

The route of the barrier wall, the confiscation of Palestinian lands in the West Bank, especially now in the Bethlehem area and the Cremisan Valley, and any expansion of settlements threaten to undermine the two-state solution. Many reported that the window of opportunity for peace was narrowing dangerously. If it closes, the futures of both Palestinians and Israelis will be harmed.

Many persons with whom we met joined us in commending the recent initiative of Secretary of State John Kerry, but said renewed U.S. leadership is required for peace. For the sake of both Israelis and Palestinians, the United States must mobilize the international community to support both parties by adopting parameters for a lasting solution, including borders, an open and shared Jerusalem, and a timeline.

Pope Francis, in word and gesture, inspired hope on his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May. After another Gaza war, hope is now in short supply. One person on our journey told us that the Holy Land is the land of miracles. The miracle we need is the transformation of human hearts so each side is less deaf to the concerns of the other.  In solidarity with our brother bishops and all people in the region, we urge alternatives to the cycle of hatred and violence. Peace is possible.

Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace
Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, Chair-Elect, Committee on International Justice and Peace
Bishop Richard J. Malone, Diocese of Buffalo, Board of Catholic Relief Services
Bishop John O. Barres, Diocese of Allentown
Archbishop Eusebius J. Beltran, Archdiocese of Oklahoma City
Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, Diocese of Stockton
Bishop J. Kevin Boland, Diocese of Savannah
Bishop Paul J. Bradley, Diocese of Kalamazoo
Bishop Tod D. Brown, Diocese of Orange  
Bishop Robert J. Coyle, Archdiocese for the Military Services
Bishop Bernard J. Harrington, Diocese of Winona
Bishop Richard Higgins, Archdiocese for the Military Services
Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, Diocese of Albany
Bishop William F. Medley, Diocese of Owensboro
Bishop Dale J. Melczek, Diocese of Gary
Bishop William F. Murphy, Diocese of Rockville Centre
Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer, Diocese of San Angelo
Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger, Diocese of Salina

 
Bethlehem and Marie Doty Park PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bishop Edward Weisenburger   
Thursday, 18 September 2014 13:17

We began our final day together in the Holy Land with Mass at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. While Mass and prayer have been the focal points of our days, it was nevertheless wonderful to walk the streets of Bethlehem after Mass and then head to Marie Doty Park to see the location, as well as to take part in an ecumenical gathering of local leaders, including leaders of the local Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities.

How does one summarize Bethlehem? It’s impossible. But it’s likewise impossible not to write home about such a place.

The ancient city of Jesus’ birth is located about six miles southwest of Jerusalem. Again, visitors to the Holy Land are oftentimes startled by the proximity of the sacred sites, which gives an entirely different perspective to Jesus’ journeys, which were always by foot. The topography of the place is mountainous, and Bethlehem sits 2,600 feet above the Mediterranean Sea. When we consider that the Dead Sea is 1,400 feet below sea level, it gives new meaning to those biblical passages where we read of Jesus going up to one location and going down to another!

In its earliest origins, Bethlehem was situated along an ancient caravan route, and for this reason it was a melding of many peoples and cultures. The name Bethlehem means “house of bread.” It was also the famed “City of David,” the place where the prophet Samuel anointed David to be Israel’s boy-king. We also have the prophecy from the Old Testament Book of Micah, Chapter 5, where it is prophesied that the Messiah one day would come from the small and seemingly insignificant community of Bethlehem.

By the time of Jesus’ birth, the town had actually decreased in population to the point of becoming a truly insignificant village. You might recall that at the time of Jesus’ birth, Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken. Everyone in the Roman world had to travel to the place of the pater familia’s ancestral town to register. As Joseph was of the Davidic line, he was required to go to Bethlehem to register, and thus it was there that Mary gave birth to Jesus. The town was probably overflowing with others who were likewise registering in compliance with the census, which explains the biblical “no room at the inn.”

Today, with a population of about 60,000, Bethlehem is more similar in size to Salina than Kansas City! The population for many decades was 80 percent Christian and 20 percent Muslim, but those numbers today are reversed. For many and complex reasons, Christians are fleeing Israel and Palestine. In 1995, the city came under the control of the Palestinian National Authority, and the city has experienced not only irregular growth but a constant flow of tourists and pilgrims.

Of course, the city is home to one of the great churches of Christendom. The Church of the Nativity was built by Constantine the Great (some authorities attribute it to his mother) and is actually one of the oldest surviving churches in Christendom. The church stands over a cave that is thought to be the very spot where Jesus was born. The entrance is not especially impressive, but there is a massive courtyard that is filled not only with visitors but with a superabundance of vendors! A 14-point silver star marks the place where the manger is thought to have stood. The original church was partly destroyed by the Samaritans in 529 A.D. and then rebuilt by Emperor Justinian. A fascinating tidbit of history I found is that the church was spared destruction from the Persians in 614 largely because the invaders saw the depictions of the Magi on the walls! It is also significant to note that the historically good will between the Muslims and Christians of Bethlehem is a reason the church was not destroyed during al-Hakim’s rule in 1009.

As noted above, after Mass we visited Marie Doty Park  in Bethlehem. Members of the New York City Archdiocese, George and Marie Doty (now deceased) visited the Holy Land years ago. While visiting they noticed that Palestinian children had no outdoor spaces to play except in the very narrow and over-crowded streets. They observed this in Bethlehem, Gaza and Ramallah. Working with the Patriarch of Jerusalem, they provided the finances to construct three beautiful outdoor parks. Visiting Marie Doty Park in Bethlehem was very moving — it had the feel of an oasis of charity for a portion of the world’s children who have known too much suffering in their young lives. As noted, the Dotys likewise made possible Family Park in Ramallah, one of Palestine’s most crowded communities, as well as Brotherhood Park in Gaza. The Dotys were equally committed to their local parish and archdiocese in the U.S. In March, Cardinal Timothy Dolan blessed a new parish gymnasium dedicated to the memory of the Dotys, who were members of his archdiocese. In his homiletic remarks, the cardinal commented: “I knew them a long time before I became archbishop of New York, because every priest and every bishop in the world knew George and Marie Doty. … The Doty family name is synonymous with Catholic values, synonymous with Catholic ideals, synonymous with generosity.”

That was the morning. The afternoon began with lunch and a visit of Bethlehem University. The university is thoroughly Catholic in identity but warmly welcomes persons of all faiths into the student body. The casual ease with which the students study together and share in one another’s lives was immensely refreshing. What an incredible treasure for the Holy Land. I sat at a table with two students, and they were a delight. I must note, however, that they all have grave worries about their future. What is happening in the Holy Land has shaken them no less than anyone else, but perhaps the optimism of youth was the refresher we bishops needed to see.

From Bethlehem we headed to Hebron, a city famed in recent years for violence, spreading Jewish settlements in a Muslim territory and human rights issues. We met with representatives from B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights, and it was an eye-opening experience. From there we finished the day at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, which is sponsored by Notre Dame University. We again enjoyed not only a generous meal but a healthy dialogue between the bishops and local religious leaders, including members of Rabbis for Peace.

The dream and hope of all is nothing less than a true and equitable justice that becomes the foundation for a true and lasting peace.

 
Church of the Visitation in Jerusalem PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bishop Edward Weisenburger   
Wednesday, 17 September 2014 12:38

A place of veneration for most all pilgrims to the Holy Land is the Church of the Visitation in the Ein Karem region of Jerusalem. This church marks the place were Mary, the Mother of Jesus, met her cousin Elizabeth after the angel Gabriel revealed himself to Mary and told her she was pregnant with the son of God. The angel also revealed to Mary that her elderly cousin Elizabeth was likewise expecting a baby, who would be known as John the Baptist.

Still in awe and wonder at the experience and the news, Mary rushes to be with her dear cousin who resided in Ein Karem, located southwest of Jerusalem and also known as “the city of Judah” in the New Testament. Upon hearing Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth felt that the infant within her womb (John) “bowed” to the Christ child within Mary’s womb. In response, Mary gives voice to a prayer of great thanksgiving that has become a part of Christian liturgy prayed every evening by priests, religious and a great many devout members of the faithful. The words of this prayer are known as the Magnificat:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.” (ICET translation)

It is worth noting that there are two famous churches in Ein Karem. The Church of the Visitation was considered the “summer home” of Elizabeth and her husband Zacharias. It is on the slope of a hill just south of Ein Karem and thought to be where many of the inhabitants would head for the summer in order to escape the heat. The other site is the Church of St. John the Baptist, identified as the other home of Elizabeth and Zacharias and the location of the baptist’s birth. At the entrance of the Church of the Visitation is a magnificent sculpture depicting the very slim figures of Mary and Elizabeth at the moment of their greeting. This is one of the many churches of the Holy Land which has an upper (main) level and a lower (or crypt) level. The present church, designed by Antonio Barluzzi and completed in 1955, is built upon the remains of Byzantine as well as later Crusader churches. Its richly decorated artistic interior is considered by many as one of the most beautiful of all the Holy Land sites.

Immediately after Mass today we had a meeting with an Israeli government representative, Akiva Tor, who is the head of the Israeli Bureau of World Religions. Following that meeting we gathered together with members of the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land. To see intelligent, committed and thoughtful representatives of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish community enjoying one another’s company was redemptive. These are men with a long history of working together, and the groundwork they are laying for a better future is a blessing for all the peoples of the Holy Land.

The afternoon was spent at the National Holocaust Museum. If I recall correctly, it was opened in 2005 and is quite different from the site I visited when I was here in the Holy Land as a seminarian (30 years ago!) The architecture is masterful. One enters in an area flooded with natural light but then descends into a stark, concrete space — symbolizing the descent into madness of the Nazi era. Through various rooms that use multiple media to bring the experience to life, one slowly enters into the experience of the Jews in their worst moment of persecution. The effort is to reveal that these were individual human beings, not just numbers. Faces, names, artifacts and suffering come together to help the visitor grasp the horror of such persecution. Eventually one begins to ascend back into a region of natural light, having “come through to the other side.” Adjacent to the museum is the Garden of the Just, where trees are planted in memory of those non-Jews who helped Jews during the persecution. There is a walkway next to the garden made from cut white limestone that radiates the light of the midday sun. I noticed the tree in memory of Oscar Schindler as I walked by.

 
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