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2013 Christmas Message from Father Rob Waller

27 Dec

At all six Masses on Christmas at St. Andrew we presented to each person a booklet with all the prayers and music for the celebration. The first thing people saw was a welcome message and an explanantion of the preace dove.

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(click on image of program to see it enlarged)

By yourself or with family,

grateful or hurting, disappointed or satisfied,

successful or stressed, sick or healed, elated or deflated,

feeling the loss of health, home, loved one and employment,

or with everyone and in good relationship

with everyone whom you love and who loves you,

we come to Mass on this holy day

and approach the altar

with grateful and humble hearts.

 

Jesus is on the altar at every Mass

as truly as he was in the manger on the first Christmas.

As he was in the wood of feeding trough

and on the wood of the cross,

he is truly present on our altar-table

for our nourishment and our salvation.

 

At every Mass

we are in Bethlehem on Christmas,

at Calvary on Good Friday

and at the empty tomb in Jerusalem on Easter morning.

 

May you experience always

the spirit of Christmas which is peace,

the joy of Christmas which is hope,

and the heart of Christmas which is love.

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A “peace dove” with lighted candle will remain on the ledge at the tabernacle in our church throughout the Christmas season. Our friends in our partner parish and school in the Beit Jala area of Bethlehem will light a candle for us on Christmas Eve at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. They will remember us in Bethlehem, as we will remember them here. The Christians who live in Bethlehem still do not enjoy the peace the angels sang about on the first Christmas. As we sing the opening words of the Gloria – “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will” – we will pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Bethlehem, throughout the Holy Land and all throughout the Middle East.

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Christmas peace be with you!

25 Dec

At Midnight Mass we prayed this prayer:

“That our Holy Land partnership with Annunciation Church and School in Beit Jala will help replace their despair with hope, their fear with security, and their humiliation with human dignity. We pray to the Lord …”

send your children to school with these conditions?

2 May

Cremisan Salesian Sisters three sides

nuns and children to be walled in on three sides of their school?

Cremisan wine label

nuns and monks separated by concrete wall and hindered from praying together?

“Israeli court OKs construction of barrier through Salesians’ property”

By Judith Sudilovsky
Catholic News Service

May 1, 2013

JERUSALEM (CNS) — An Israeli court has approved the construction of the Israeli separation barrier along a route that will nearly surround a convent and its primary school and confiscate most of their land on the outskirts of Beit Jala, West Bank.

After more than six years of legal proceedings, the decision was handed down by the Israeli Special Appeals Committee for Land Seizure under emergency law in late April.

“This solution is still unacceptable for us because the school will be encircled on three sides by the wall,” said Anica Heinlein, advocacy officer at the Society of St. Yves, which has been representing the Salesian Sisters of Cremisan, who operate the school and an after-school program for 400 children. “The street leading to the school will go along the wall and will have a heavy military presence. Whenever the gate is open or there is some security concern, there will also be a military presence. Also you wouldn’t want to send your children to school with those conditions.”

The Israeli separation barrier is a series of cement slabs, barbed-wire fences and security roads that would effectively separate Beit Jalla from two Israeli settlements, creating a strip of land that could be used for expansion and the eventual joining of the settlements.

The plan, which leaves the convent and school on the Palestinian side of the wall, will also cut off the Salesian sisters’ convent from the neighboring Salesian male community, which will be on the Israeli side of the wall. Though a gate is to be placed in the wall to ease movement between the two communities, Heinlein said that this is a violation of religious freedom.

The Salesian men “come on a daily basis to the nuns to celebrate the holy Mass; this is not freedom of religion,” she said.

The wall will also put limitations on two religious processions traditionally celebrated every year by the residents of the neighboring village of Beit Jala, she added.

The gate is designed to also allow farmers and landowners access to their lands on opposite sides of the wall, though they will need permits to reach them.

Heinlein said the Society of St. Yves is considering taking the case to the Israeli High Court.
 

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more might be taken away

2 May

This photo is a glimpse of the situation in which our friends in Beit Jala at Annunciation Catholic Church live out their daily lives.

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There is a Mass every Friday afternoon in the olive grove of Cremisan Valley to ask God to intercede on behalf on the people of Beit Jala. Note the chalice. That is a gift from us to them. They use it weekly, as they pray.

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Father Ibrahim, the pastor of the Catholic parish in Beit Jala, prays at Holy Mass, with the Israeli settlement of Gilo across the valley, built on land once owned by the people of Beit Jala.

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If a new section of the Israeli concrete wall is built through the valley, as proposed by the State of Israel and resisted by the Palestinian Christians, that settlement will spread done the hill, through the valley, and be joined with another settlement on the opposite side of the valley. Thus more land, more access, more livelihood, more recreational enjoyment, more freedom of movement and more freedom of the practice of religion will be taken away from the people of Beit Jala. 

See: “Palestinians’ prayerful protest awaits verdict.”

change the route of the wall

30 Apr

JERUSALEM – The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land issued a press release following the verdict last week favoring the construction of the wall of separation in the Cremisan Valley. The appeal called for a change in the course of the wall according to the route of the ‘green line’.

Holy Land Bishops Ordinaries

Communiqué:

A few days ago, an Israeli court in Tel Aviv issued its verdict on the Cremisan Valley issue, endorsing the previously decided path of the wall separating the convent of the Salesian Sisters who run a thriving school and at the same time includes the lands of 58 Palestinian families from Beit Jala to the area of the Israeli settlement of Gilo.

We are frustrated by this unjust decision that invokes the need for security of Israel but also the difficulty of changing the route of the already built portion of the wall, which makes us a fait accompli. Note that fait accompli cannot become the source of a new law. 

This is why we join all those who work for peace and justice. We ask to change the route of the wall along the “Green Line”. We hope that this will take place in the Supreme Court.

We remind Israeli decision-makers that the expropriation of lands does not serve the cause of peace and does not strengthen the position of the moderates.

With our prayers for peace in the Holy Land, on the basis of mutual respect and international legitimacy,

His Beatitude Fouad Twal
Latin Patriarch of Jérusalem
Président of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land

with a feeling of despair and urgency

30 Apr

Father Ibrahim Shomali, pastor of Annunciation Catholic Church in Beit Jala (Bethlehem) emailed to me this scanned copy of a two-page letter written to Pope Francis by the Mayor of Beit Jala.

“All the Christian community, Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran, we cry to your Holiness with a feeling of despair and urgency in order to keep alive our hope that justice and peace is still possible.”

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“Your holiness, we have been left alone facing Israeli aggressions against our defenseless people.”

“Your holiness, your election brought us hope that things would change. We are still hopeful.”

We are a community of faithful, the mother church that still refuses to die and keeps bringing a message of hope when there is no hope.”

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May this letter find its way to the eyes and the heart of our beloved Pope Francis.

Click on letter to enlarge and read.

hoping Francis will help

28 Apr

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Last Wednesday, April 24, the people of Beit Jala (Bethlehem) – and the few people in the rest of the world who are paying attention – heard the decision of an Israeli Appeal’s Committee that “the Wall” can be built right through another section of Palestinian land: their Cremisan Valley.

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Today, April 28, is Palm Sunday in Beit Jala. They begin Holy Week, and will celebrate Easter with the Orthodox Christians on May 5. 

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This coming week Pope Francis will meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres, who was invited by the Holy Father for a visit to the Vatican, among the first of the world leaders who will meet with the new Pope.

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This all comes together in these photos, taken today in Beit Jala. The people of Annunciation Catholic parish gathered today, on Palm Sunday, outside their church after Sunday Mass to sign letters to Pope Francis, pleading with him to keep Cremisan high on his agenda when he meets with the Israeli president.

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You might find this April 24 article  in the Washington Post, “Palestinian Christians hope new pope will help in battle against Israel’s barrier route,” helpful for understanding the present state of the situation.

How can this be?

8 Apr

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Our sister parish of the Annunciation, located in Beit Jala (Bethlehem), West Bank, Palestine, celebrates her feast day today: the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.

Here in Milford at St. Andrew we will pray in our evening Mass that, through the intercession and care of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and woman of Palestine, God will make good on His every promise to His people in Beit Jala and full their every hope in Him.

On Easter Sunday morning one of our teenagers asked me, “Father, which is the more important day for Christians: Christmas or Easter?” How would you have answered her? She picked Christmas.

On this day, I ask myself, “Which is the more important feast: Christmas or the Annunciation?” I pick the Annunciation. Here is my reasoning. When did God become one of us and one with us? Not when He was born. When He was conceived! The English translation of the Nicene Creed used to be: he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. Now we say: he was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. The word incarnate replaces born. To be born describes the moment of birth. To be incarnate describes the moment of conception. The Word became incarnate – became flesh – in Mary’s womb. All of us – you and I and Jesus – were born. But God took on human flesh; God became human; God was incarnate. And the “incarnation” took place at the moment of conception in the womb of Mary, at the moment when Mary accepted God’s will and desire to become human. On Christmas we celebrate His birth among us. On Annunciation we celebrate His incarnation.

For me, the Annunciation feels like Christmas. It takes me back to Beit jala, and seeing that painting over the altar in their Catholic parish church, dedicated to the Annunciation. It takes me back to meeting Deacon Sleiman (Solomon) Hassan in that very church. It will be his ordination to the priesthood in June that will take me back to my next visit to Beit Jala.

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Christ is risen. You too shall rise.

7 Apr

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Father Firas, now the parish priest of Jifna, formerly the parish priest of Aboud, sent this Easter greeting.

The Christian Palestinians of Aboud and Jifna – and throughout the entire West Bank – have a strong faith and an enduring hope, in spite of the trials and struggles that they have in their lives, due to “the situation,” that is, the military occupation of their land by the Israeli government.

They have much of which to be afraid, much at which to be alarmed, much by which to be troubled and much in which to weep. But they have Easter faith.

They know that Jesus is risen and that they too will rise.

respectfully, Mr. President

21 Mar

obama israel visit 2013 statement

Below is the letter from the Justice and Peace Commission of the Assembly Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land to the US President Obama for his first visit in Israel, West Bank and Jordan. Barack Obama arrived in Israel on Wednesday, his first visit as US president. He will visit Bethlehem tomorrow, Friday, March 22, 2013.

The President of the United States

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
USA

Dear Mr. President,

We, the heads of the Catholic/Christian Churches in Jerusalem, welcome you wholeheartedly on your forthcoming visit to Israel and Palestine. On this occasion we would like to draw your attention to some major problems that deeply affect the Christian presence in these countries.

In this year, the Palestinian people are living for 46 years under Israeli military occupation. The plight of the Palestinian Christians is the same as that of the Palestinian People as a whole, and as a consequence everything that affects the Palestinian people also affects the Christians.

In the occupied Palestinian territories, among the numerous violations of international law by the Israeli authorities we mention only a few: illegal Israeli settlements, a permit regime which restricts severely access to the Holy places for Muslims and Christians alike, expropriation of privately owned Palestinian land for settlement expansion and the construction of the separation barrier (like in the present case of the valley Cremisan), etc.

Statelessness, endless family unification procedures and the rejection of the registration of children as well as the limited possibilities to expand due to few granted building permits in East Jerusalem violate basic human rights of the Palestinians and force them into displacement, migration and exile.

The majority of the local Christian population being part of the Arab population in Israel, they are as such subjected to an ongoing, hidden policy of discrimination and are treated as second class citizens in the fields of education, job opportunities, property ownership, local municipal services, etc.

Though the Christian Palestinian presence plays an important role in this Holy Land: it gives a large contribution in the fields of education, healthcare and social services, their absence will have catastrophic consequences especially with the rise of the fundamentalists on both sides. Thus every effort should be made to preserve the Christian presence in the Holy Land, and to have it flourish in the future so that hope is not lost. The oppressive and discriminatory policies by the Israeli government constitute a violation of the protection of a religious minority which is specifically underlined by international law.

We urge you, in your position as President of the United States of America, to require from the State of Israel to respect international law and to stop all illegal policies targeting the Palestinian population of the Holy Land; this would be the best way of contributing to preserve and protect the Christian presence in the Holy Land.

Most Respectfully,

Justice and Peace Commission, Assembly Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land

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As previously posted, I sent an email to President Obama and signed an online petition against the building of the Wall in the Cremisan Valley.