Tag Archives: Fr. Ibrahim Shomali

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 …”

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.

a plan defied

17 Feb

A court in Israel has heard the final arguments on the construction of a separation wall in the Cremisan valley of Beit Jala (West Bank).

I found a link to this video, entitled “Israel plan to wall off West Bank land defied,” on the Facebook page of the Society of St. Yves Catholic Center for Human Rights, which is representing the landowners and the religious community of sisters of the Cremisan valley.

In the video at 1:12 and 1:33 you saw Father Ibrahim, the pastor of the Catholic parish of Beit Jala. Father Ibrahim will be my guest at my parish in Milford in September-October, insha’Allah (God willing/hopefully).

At 1:14 you saw the chalice that a group of pilgrim-teachers left with Father Ibrahim as a gift from us to his parish. We used  the chalice when we celebrated Mass in Cremisan valley. Father Ibrahim has used it every Friday since then, as he has celebated Mass in the same olive grove.

ended with no decision by the court

15 Feb

St. Yves Society bannerOn Tuesday, 12th of February 2013, the final hearing for the case of the Cremisan Valley against the Separation Wall was held in front of the Special Appeals Committee in the Magistrate Court in Tel Aviv.

Our friend, Father Ibrahim Shomali, the Parish Priest of Beit Jala, was in the crowded courtroom to observe the proceedings. The Catholic auxiliary bishop of Jerusalem was also present.

A summary of the testimony  of both sides is provided by the Society of St. Yves Catholic Center for Human Rights. Obviously, the summary is of a tone that favors the case as presented by the side opposing the building of the wall.

The session ended with no decision by the court. It will be issued after the committee reviews the documents of the case that has gone on for seven years.St. Yves Society hearing photo

8:30 am Milford – and – 3:30 pm Beit Jala

8 Feb

Mass has been celebrated in Cremisan valley every Friday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in a prayer-protest of a proposed new section of what is called a separation wall by the Palestinians and a security fence by the Israelis. Whether it is for separation or security, it is definitely a wall, and not a fence, in this section of the structure that divides Beit Jala and Jerusalem.

Earlier in January Father Ibrahim Shomali, the pastor of Annunciation Catholic Church in Beit Jala, celebrated the Mass in the cold and snow, after an unusual snowfall a couple days before.fr_ibraheem 2

We see on the altar a blue-green pottery chalice. Father Shomali has used this chalice for the weekly Mass ever since June.

We brought it from Cincinnati as a gift to him and the parish. So, after we used it when we celebrated Mass in that olive grove in Cremisan valley on the edge of the town of Beit Jala in the Bethlehem-area, we left it behind, so that they might remember us in prayer as we remember them in prayer. ibrahin snow bend over 7

Today – Friday, February 8 – will be the last day that Father Shomali will celebrate Mass in that olive grove before the final decision of the Israeli government.  A final decision of the Israeli Court will be handed down on February 12. Will Israel take control of the Cremisan valley? Or will the Cremisan valley remain in the hands of the Palestinians?

PRAY. At 8:30 a.m.(Milford time) pray in solidarity with Father Ibrahim and the people of Beit Jala as they celebrate Mass at 3:30 p.m. (Beit Jala time).

ACT. As urged by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, sign the petition that will be taken to Israeli authorities in protest of the proposed building of this section of the wall.

not on Friday, but on Tuesday

15 Nov

Every Friday afternoon at 3:00 p.m., with obvious connections to the time of suffering that Jesus endured on the Friday that we call Good, Father Ibrahim Shomali, the parish priest of Beit Jala (Bethlehem) celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with his people in an olive grove in Cremisan Valley on the outskirts of the town.

This place is chosen by the parish of Beit Jala for Mass to protest in a prayerful and nonviolent way the proposed path that the Israeli government plans to follow in building another section of the separation wall through this very valley. What the Palestinians (and I) and many Israeli citizens call a separation wall, some proponents prefer to call a security fence, claiming that only 3% of it is actually a wall, and that the rest is a low lying, barbed wire structure. There is no doubt that this section will not be a fence; it will be a wall. And it will separate: 58 families  from their olive groves, 450 children from their school at the convent of the Silesian sisters, and all the people of Beit Jala from the only recreational park, green space that is left for them. And it is hard to imagine how this particular re-routing of the wall to take more land and water for Israel is necessary for security.

The schedule for our pilgrim-teachers from schools of our Archdiocese of Cincinnati did not allow us to join him/them on Friday, so Father Ibrahim arranged for Deacon Suleiman to accompany us to the place for Mass on a Tuesday morning.

When we arrived, we found the ground turned up and over. Someone had obviously plowed the ground.

It was alleged by some of the locals that the Israeli government had done that to make it difficult to pray there. No matter who did it or why it was done, the turned up ground did make it quite complicated to walk and difficult to stand, the slightest shift of our weight causing our feet to slip from underneath us. The situation made us more determined in our prayer. We stood our ground as best as we could.

Deacon Suleiman called us to worship with a reminder that Jesus prayed on the night before his crucifixion in another grove of olive trees: at the base of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. These olives trees are a Gethsemane of another kind. Here the agony of the garden continues.

We prayed that the agony of our friends from Beit Jala will be eased.

As we left, some of us picked up stones and olive branches, not knowing whether or not we will ever be able to return with them to this place.

“Based on our years as parish priests in Palestine”

23 Apr

Good Friday Procession in Jerusalem (Photo: Travelujah)

Father Faysal Hijazeen is the parish priest of the Ramallah’s Holy Family Church and head of Latin Patriarchate Schools in Palestine. Father Ibrahim Shomali is parish priest of the Annunciation Church in Beit Jala.

Together they wrote an op-ed piece that is published in the online Jerusalem Post on 04/16/2012: “The plight of Palestinian Christians.”

Fathers Hijazeen and Ibrahim began by saying that they “were appalled by the false allegations regarding Palestinian Christians made in recent weeks by Israeli spokespeople, such as (Israeli) Ambassador (to the U.S.) Michael Oren.”

They make it quite clear that they think that “the end of the Israeli occupation would allow all our people, Christians and Muslims, to develop all our potential living side by side.”

It is not persecution by the Muslims but the (Israeli) occupation itself that is at the root of the problem of the dwindling numbers of Christians in the Holy Land. “The Israeli occupation and settlement activities are the main reason for Christian emigration.” 

“We are not killing, fighting, just praying”

27 Feb

One day I will celebrate Mass on a Friday afternoon in an olive grove in Beit Jala with Father Ibrahim Shomali in prayerful protest of the land confiscation and the building of the separation wall at the Cremisan monastery, ensha’allah (God willing). 

Father Shomali is the parish priest of the Catholic Church of the Annunciation, in which I have celebrated Mass on several occasions. I have enjoyed the hospitality of the Latin Patriarchate seminary, which is connected to the parish church in Beit Jala, and at which I have been honored to speak to the new seminarians under the care of Father Faysal Hijazeen shortly after their arrival for the new school year. I have visited the children and teachers at the Latin Patriarchate School on numerous occasions, and in 2008 I was humbled and delighted with an invitation to address the high school graduates and their families at the graduation ceremony on the outdoor plaza overlooking Bethlehem. I have walked from the Beit Jala parish to the Cremisan monastery to buy wine to bring home with me. I know Beit Jala. I know the people of Beit Jala and I know Father Ibrahim, and am blessed to be able to call them my friends.

They need my prayers – and yours! They deserve my attention – and yours! 

At the Friday afternoon Mass they are not killing, fighting – just praying.

In the Olive Garden with Ibrahim

10 Nov

Below is an article about Father Ibrahim Shomali and the Christians of Beit Jala. It appears on the website of the Latin Patriarchate Jerusalem (the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Jerusalem).

Father Ibrahim is the parish priest of Annunciation Church in Beit Jala. St. Andrew parish is in a twinning relationship with his parish, and our SASEAS school is in a twinning relationship with his parish school. Father Ibrahim will be visiting us in Milford in December, and will be with us for Sunday Mass, ensha’allah. Next June I will visit him in Beit Jala, and will celebrate Mass with him in the olive field of Beit Jala, God willing.

Beit Jala Christians pray to stop wall

Christians of Beit Jala attended an open-air Mass on Friday, November 4th to pray together against the Israeli decision to confiscate a part of their land. The Israeli government intends to extend the separation wall at the entrance of the Cremisan valley.

To protest against this decision, faithful gathered with the Pastor of Beit Jala, Father Ibrahim Shomali and Father Mario Corniole for an open-air Mass. An Israeli committee approved a plan to build 1,100 new houses on the south slopes of Gilo last September. To do this, the route of the wall “will confiscate land belonging to Christian people and Christian church,” reports a statement of the Latin parish. The idea is simple: protesting not by violence but by prayer. In the same statement, the parish priest and Christians of Beit Jala denounce “the  confiscation [by Israel] of the last green area in Beit Jala (Bethlehem district)”, considering “the annexation of the most beautiful lands in the Bethlehem area as a direct attack against the Palestinian people and especially  against Palestinian Christians.”

Soliciting members of the Quartet for the Middle East – including the United Nations, the Russian Federation, the United States and the European Union – and also calling upon the rest of the international community, the parish of Beit Jala called President Mahmoud Abbas’ government, the Latin Patriarchate and the civil society to do “everything possible to keep the land in the hands of its rightful owners.”

In the light of the message from Synod for the Middle East last year regarding the Christian presence in the Holy Land: “It is Church’s duty to support our presence. Therefore, we call the Holy See and Pope Benedict XVI to act  immediately, using all possible means to help protect our people.”

The Mass was celebrated in a field of olive trees which will probably be cut and uprooted. As recalled by Father Mario Corniole, olives were silent witnesses of Jesus’ suffering and agony in Gethsemane. Thus, Beit Jala parishioners attached to their land and their olive trees will meet every Friday on this “Gethésménai” where they still live in fear, but also with the hope that their land will always be respected.