Saturday, November 25, 2023

Archbishop Farrell: “we are all made in the image and likeness of God”

Statement of Archbishop Dermot Farrell on the riots in Dublin city centre 

The shocking events on the streets of our city on Thursday afternoon and evening have dismayed us all. 

We have seen with our own eyes, how violence puts everyone – especially the vulnerable and the innocent – in mortal danger. 

In places we know first-hand, we have seen its power to draw people in and consume them in a spiral of hatred and wanton destruction. 

That such violence – something we associate with other countries and other situations – would happen on our streets can have an effect in our lives. 

It can quietly, but very markedly, erode the ethos of peace and safety that usually characterises our lives together. 
As we gather this weekend to celebrate our Eucharist some of us may feel bewildered and anxious. 

Let us keep our Lord before our eyes. He, who lived in a world marked by violence, and whose very death was the epitome of violence and terror – He is our peace. 
The Bread of Life is the food of our hope, and the one who guides our feet on the way of peace, justice, and dignity (see Luke 1:79). 
As people of hope we are not helpless in the face of what we have witnessed. 
In solidarity, we pray for the victims of the horrific assault on Parnell Square, for their families, for the school staff, and the children in Scoil Mhuire Primary School. 

We give thanks for the courage and decisiveness of those who acted so promptly with such selflessness, for the skill of the emergency services and Gardaí, and for all who helped restore order. 
As well as people of prayer, we are also people of action. 

This weekend’s Gospel tells us that our actions – especially with regard to the weak and vulnerable – are a key measure of who we truly are. 
Let us, therefore, not be passive in the face of what we have witnessed. 
In the first place, let us refuse to allow ourselves to be cowed or intimidated by those who seek to coerce us. 
We can challenge the misinformation that seeks to sow doubt, suspicion, resentment, and fear. 
We can challenge the casual remarks that spread cynicism and prejudice. 

Above all, we can reach out in solidarity and friendship to those who have made their homes among us, but who are being targeted with words of hate and gestures that are filled with hostility and derision. 
Let us not forget the invaluable contribution so many make to our economy and society. 
Let us not take for granted the vibrant gifts of faith and witness which they bring to our parish communities. 
Our Gospel for the Celebration of Christ the King (Matt 25:31–46) tells us that the Lord identifies himself with the stranger. It is the Lord himself we welcome when we welcome the stranger in our midst. 

This is the Living Christ, our Risen Lord, Emmanuel – as Saint Matthew calls him – God – with us (Matt 1:23). 

Our most telling rejection of the darkness we have seen on our streets will therefore be the words and gestures of support we offer to those who have been targeted by mobs enflamed in a cynical attempt to sow division and hatred. 

This is a moment of truth for our city and for Irish society more broadly. 

As a community of faith we are called to give clear and consistent witness to what our faith proclaims: that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, that we are all children of the one God, the God who looks for the lost and brings back the stray, who bandages the wounded and strengthens the weak. 
May we not be found wanting. May Christ and His way take flesh in our lives, in how we live.

Imam advises Muslim community to avoid Dublin city after unrest

Chairperson of the Irish Muslim Council Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri has said he has advised his community to avoid travelling into Dublin city this weekend in the aftermath of Thursday night's unrest.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Saturday with Colm Ó Mongáin, he said he "never could have imagined" that he would have to give this advice in a country where the migrant experience over the last 20 years has been, for the most part, amazing and welcoming.

"That is now, slowly, unfortunately, changing," he said.

He described how after the violence erupted on Thursday night, he received many messages from Muslims in Ireland who were concerned about videos circulating with anti-migrant rhetoric and calling for violence.

He said the feeling among the Muslim community is if members of the gardaí are not safe, "how will we be safe?"

"We advised our community to be very vigilant. The mosques usually have weekend schools where children go but we asked them to suspend it this weekend. We asked people not to travel to Dublin city, to stay indoors. We asked if they had to travel, not to travel on public transport and don't travel alone."

He said he was shocked by the attack on Thursday outside the school and his thoughts are with the injured children and care worker, adding that the unrest that followed was also shocking.

On Friday morning, the numbers attending Friday prayer in mosques were low and he said many children did not travel to school, particularly those who had to take public transport.

He said this had prompted a meeting online with members of the Muslim community to discuss concerns around safety.

He said the Muslim community understands people in Ireland are upset and angry over certain issues but said "we are all affected by the migrant crisis".

"Unfortunately, anger is being exploited and directed at migrants," he said, adding that people are being wrongly blamed for the crisis or challenges the country is facing.

He said that ideology is dividing the community and it is "very dangerous".

He said more engagement and interaction is needed and more participation in civic life, starting by having the 12% of migrants here represented in the Dáil and Irish life.

He said the events of this week have motivated all of them to think seriously about this.

Speaking on the same programme, Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik said it is "really sad" to hear the Muslim community are being advised to stay away from Dublin city centre for their own safety.

"It is appalling to hear that about our own capital city, that people feel so unsafe. And I think the government's approach and that response of 'nothing to see here, we have enough resources’, that simply has a very hollow ring to it for anyone who watched or experienced the horrors of Thursday night."

She said there needs to be a greater urgency in seeing sufficient numbers of gardaí on the streets, adding that she wrote to the Garda Commissioner months ago to highlight a lack of resourcing of community policing.

Minister of State Kieran O’Donnell said he regrets that members of the Muslim community feel they are unsafe.

"We want to provide that level of security so they can go about their daily lives."

He said the message is loud and clear that the Government is strong on law and order to ensure anyone who lives here regardless of where they come from or creed, is safe.

He also said there is very strong support for the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner.

He said they want all political parties to unite together on this issue to deal with the "thuggery" that happened on Thursday night.

He said it is "incumbent" on all parties to unite on this matter and work with government.

He also said in the aftermath of the riots, gardaí will have four public order units in Dublin throughout the weekend which will bring "great security" to people.

"They are very much on top of this," he said.

Pope Francis has hospital check-up after coming down with flu

Pope Francis went to hospital on Saturday for tests after he came down with flu, but the results ruled out any respiratory problems, the Vatican said.

Francis, who had part of one lung removed as a young man, underwent a CAT scan, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said.

The test at Rome’s Gemelli hospital, where Francis was treated for a respiratory infection earlier this year, was done to rule out any possible respiratory problems and came back negative, Mr Bruni said in a statement.

Mr Bruni provided no information about any change in his plans and in fact the Vatican on Saturday gave new details about his itinerary, suggesting the trip was still on.

Francis will turn 87 next month. 

When asked about his health in a recent interview – after setbacks that included abdominal surgery just a few months ago to repair a hernia and remove intestinal scarring – Francis quipped in reply what has become his standard line: “Still alive, you know.”

Friday, November 24, 2023

Cabinet approval to be sought for €15m bailout of Peter McVerry Trust

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien is expected to seek Cabinet approval for a €15 million bailout of the Peter McVerry Trust, in order to ensure the homelessness charity can continue to provide services over the coming months.

It is expected a memo will be brought to Cabinet early next week to approve the plan to provide significant emergency funding to the charity, which is in the midst of a major financial crisis.

The charity, one of the largest providers of homeless services in the country, is believed to require State funding by the first week of December to keep running its services.

The trust has been on the brink of collapse since the middle of the year, due to significant debts and a shortfall in income.

Department of Housing officials have been considering a request from the charity for a bailout for more than a month.

A memo is currently being finalised, which Mr O’Brien is preparing to bring to Cabinet on Tuesday, sources said.

Under the proposal, the department would provide a bailout €15 million to the charity, with funding to be released on a phased basis between now and March 2024.

The charity will have to prepare a detailed plan by the end of February setting out “how it will put itself back on a sustainable footing”, one department source said.

The funding will also be tied to commitments that the charity improves basic budgetary and financial practices, which had been found to be subpar, the source said.

Initially it was expected the level of funding needed might be in the region of €8 million. That estimate was later revised upwards significantly.

Earlier this month, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), which funds homeless services, released some interim emergency funding to the organisation, following warnings it would need €2 million to continue to stay afloat in the short-term.

The charity reported €60 million in income last year, some €43 million of which came from public funding, with the majority of the remainder made up from donations.

The trust owes trade creditors around €7 million and recently said it has had to review its plans to deliver 500 homes over the next three years, due to current financial troubles.

Several creditors owed money by the charity have issued solicitors’ letters seeking payments, while some suppliers previously threatened to stop providing services unless unpaid bills were settled.

It has also been exploring selling several properties currently used for homeless accommodation to raise several million euros, as well as examining if it could secure a bank loan.

The trust is facing two parallel statutory investigations, by the Charities Regulator and the Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority, into financial and governance concerns.

Francis Doherty, who took over as chief executive at the start of June, resigned in early October, claiming tensions with the board made his position untenable.

In a resignation letter, Mr Doherty said he had identified a “substantial amount of concerning information” about practices that predated his appointment.

He claimed this included the “potential mismanagement” of donations, “huge” spending on a homeless hostel in Co Kildare, potential conflicts of interests and how the charity’s accounts “overstated” the value of its assets.

Daniel McLoughlin, the former head of South Dublin County Council, was brought in last month as an effective interim chief executive.

A Prayer For Dublin - Archbishop Michael Jackson


Thursday, November 23, 2023

Statement from Archbishop Michael Jackson:

On behalf of the people of Dublin and Glendalough I wish to extend our concern and compassion to all those affected by the horrific incident which occurred on Parnell Square in Dublin this afternoon (Thursday November 23).

We hold the children and adults injured in the incident in our thoughts and prayers together with their families and all the families connected with the school and the people of the area.

We give thanks for the members of the public who had the courage to intervene to protect the children and for the emergency services who responded so dutifully and courageously.

Following violence in the city this evening, we pray for the safety of those involved in keeping the peace and those who live there.


It was with utter disbelief that I heard the news of the horrific attack on Parnell Square here in Dublin. 

An attack like this outside a school, involving innocent victims including children, is particularly distressing.

There is no way to escape the pain and suffering it has brought to so many people. We do not expect events like this to happen so close to home. 

I am praying for the injured and their families and all those affected today. 

I invite the people of Dublin to join me in praying especially for the recovery of those who have been injured. 

Grant them strength to endure this awful attack, and grant each of us the grace to live our lives in holiness, free from all violence. 

I commend the emergency services and An Garda Síochána for their diligence in responding to this terrible event today.

Statement of tribute to Bishop Tony Farquhar RIP by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, on behalf of Pope Francis


Bishop Donal McKeown, Apostolic Administrator of Down and Connor.  

His Holiness Pope Francis was saddened to be informed of the death of Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Anthony Farquhar, and he extends his condolences to you and the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the diocese. 

Entrusting his soul to the loving mercy of Christ the Good Shepherd, His Holiness joins you in giving thanks to Almighty God for the late Bishop’s many years of priestly and episcopal ministry to the Church in Down and Connor, especially his involvement in education, commitment to ecumenism and fidelity in fostering the values of dialogue and peace. 

To all who mourn the passing of this devoted pastor, particularly his family, the Holy Father readily imparts his blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the risen Lord.

Words of Bishop Donal McKeown at the funeral Mass for Bishop Anthony J Farquhar (1940-2023)


In October of 1958, the long reign of Pope Pius XII came to an end – and it was a surprise to many that the conclave elected the 76-year-old Pope John XXIII.  

It was this cheerful pontiff who unexpectedly called the Second Vatican Council.  

That huge gathering of bishops and others was concluded in 1965 by Pope Paul VI.  

At that period of seven years almost overlapped exactly with the seminary life of a young man called Anthony Farquhar. He entered formation in autumn 1958 and was ordained in spring 1965.  

He had no idea what lay ahead of him as he sought to be faithful to Christ’s call.

Firstly, he lived through the turbulent years in church as people sought to do what Pope John XXIII is supposed to have said – throw open the windows of the church and let the fresh air of the Holy Spirit blow.

Then he had to minister in Nothern Ireland as the awful years of the Troubles blighted the life of so many people.  

And for his last 30+ years in ministry, he was in leadership position as an Auxiliary Bishop when the credibility of church was damaged by reports and scandals.  

As Saint John Henry Newman said, to live is to have changed often. He was a wise pastor who knew that, even in the midst of abundant difficulties and changes, God is working for our good.  

In the words of Newman, he could say ‘I do not need to see the distant scene or one step is enough for me’.  

We are called to do our best and to leave the rest to God who can knit together whatever we do in love.

Secondly, he was true to himself. Through his father, he had a life-long interest in football.  

And through his grandfather, he had a deep connection with the Scottish Presbyterian tradition.  

Grace builds on nature.  

He used those natural gifts and openings to build bridges of friendship and understanding in a context where sectarianism was a resource used by many to build walls and justify division.  

His ministry in both Queen’s University and Ulster University meant that he both touched many young lives and was able to influence the direction of university education in changing and often turbulent times.

Thirdly, while he was a great raconteur and very witty, he was also a remarkably understated pastor. His stories were always used as tools for teaching, not merely for entertainment – and young people knew that he loved being with them.  

He could read people and situations with great insight. So much of his work was done in the background for he did not seek high office. He knew that leadership would have been hugely stressful for him.  

So, he was a great team player who generously gave of his profound wisdom in pastoral planning and in inter-church dialogue at the highest level.  

Those who worked with him knew that he could listen quietly to a conversation – and then cut right to the heart of an issue with a wise and gentle comment.  

Real strength knows how to be gentle.

We thank Christ who called a young man in the 1950s and graced him to be a blessing on so many over 58 years of ministry.

I had the privilege of knowing him from his arrival as my A-level Latin teacher in Garron Tower in 1966 until I sat beside him last Friday night, praying the prayer of Simeon -  'Now let your servant go in peace according to your promise.'

Today Bishop Tony would want us to commend him to God’s mercy – and to love one another as he has loved so many people.

May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

UK court orders Vatican to turn over messages between Parolin, Peña Parra

Pope Francis' top two advisors test positive for Covid-19 | America Magazine

According to a report by the Telegraph, a UK court has ordered the Vatican to turn over confidential texts and emails between Italian , the top two officials in the Secretariat of State, despite claims from a Vatican official that doing so would constitute a “grave sin.”

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed in the UK by Italian-born financier Raffaele Mincione, one of ten defendants charged with various forms of embezzlement, fraud and misrepresentation in the Vatican’s long-running “trial of the century,” currently set for a verdict in mid-December.

Mincione, who does much of his business in the UK, originally filed suit against the Vatican’s Secretariat of State before the Court of Appeal for England and Wales in June 2020, alleging damage to his reputation as a result of the Vatican prosecution. 

The UK court originally held that the case should be delayed until the Vatican trial was over, but reversed that ruling in July 2022.

As part of the filings in the case, attorneys for Mincione and his Athena Capital Fund requested access to a series of emails and messages on platforms such as WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram between Parolin and Peña Parra related to the controversial purchase of a former Harrod’s warehouse in London which is at the heart of the Vatican prosecution.

In response, attorneys representing the Vatican submitted a witness statement from Father Carlos Fernando Diaz Paniagua, a former Costa Rican diplomat who later entered the priesthood and currently serves in the Secretariat of State.

In the statement, Diaz Paniagua said that the communications between Parolin and Peña Parra are covered by the “pontifical secret,” and said violation of that secrecy would constitute a “grave sin.”

“Public officials of the Holy See and the Vatican City make a solemn oath not to reveal matters under the pontifical secret regardless of any grave or urgent considerations or the need to protect the common good,” Diaz Paniagua said.

While states are generally protected from being compelled to turn over confidential materials by foreign courts under the legal concept of sovereign immunity, most nations, including the UK, make exceptions to the shield of immunity for commercial activity carried out by a foreign state on its territory.

In his statement, Diaz Paniagua also argued that it was neither reasonable nor proportionate to ask Parolin to surrender confidential documents, given his “peripheral role” in the London deal. 

That claim, however, stood in contrast with revelations that Parolin actually played an important role in the disputed transaction, including requesting a $165 million loan from the Vatican bank for the Secretariat of State to buy its way out of a high-interest mortgage on the London purchase.

Mincione told the Telegraph he welcomed the ruling.

“I am pleased that the Vatican’s attempts to keep these communications under wraps have failed. Once again, its legal position has immediately dissolved on contact with the laws of man,” the financier was quoted as saying.

“I have always maintained I did absolutely nothing wrong in relation to this transaction, and the Vatican has not been able to submit any evidence to prove otherwise. I hope that in due course, the full facts of this bizarre case can be shown to the wider world, and the true situation will become clear.”

It was not immediately clear whether attorneys representing the Vatican in the UK case plan to appeal the ruling to produce the communications between Parolin and Peña Parra.

In the meantime, Mincione’s lawyers in the Vatican prosecution are scheduled to present their closing arguments Dec. 4 and 5. 

Beginning Wednesday, the three-judge panel overseeing the case will hear from attorneys representing Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu, Peña Parra’s predecessor as the number two official in the Secretariat of State, who’s charged not only in the London affair but also with two other unrelated forms of financial misconduct.

This is not the first time a court in the UK has been asked to examine the Vatican’s prosecution of the ten defendants in the London deal.

In March 2021, Judge Tony Baumgartner of Southwark Crown Court revered an order for seizure of assets belong to another Italian financier and defendant, Gianluigi Torzi, concluding that the Vatican’s filings in the case were full of “non-disclosures and misrepresentations” which Baumgartner called “appalling,” ruling that the Vatican had failed to demonstrate a reasonable basis to believe Torzi was guilty of criminal conduct.

Former president Mary McAleese criticises Catholic bishops for ‘not listening’ to lay people

Mary Aleese. Photo: David Conachy

Former president Mary McAleese has criticised the report published after the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican, saying many Catholic faithful are “disappointed and wounded”.

The retired professor of law is one of a number of academics and campaigners who have written to the Vatican criticising Catholic bishops for “not listening”, accusing them of a failure to “let go of their privileges” and urging them to bring laity into the decision-making process.

Prof McAleese and the letter’s co-signatories say the synod synthesis – which was published at the end of last month after discussions between Pope Francis, cardinals, bishops, priests and some representatives of the laity – shows that no significant concessions were won by prophetic voices in the church from “the powerful and wealthy forces of conservatism”.

The former head of state, who specialised in canon law, says the Synthesis Report of the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops provides “a lucid insight into the thinking of our current bishops”.

The letter warns that claiming that “this flawed process validates the bishops’ conservative conclusions” is “unhelpful”.

This was the first synod in the church’s history involving women, with 54 taking part as voting members. The move is part of Pope Francis’s effort to renew global Catholicism.

The 42-page synthesis published on October 29 covers 20 topics and contains 80 proposals approved by the synod participants. It calls for synodality, or collaboration, throughout the church’s governance, theology and mission. 

But it made no definitive recommendations on issues such as women’s ordination or same-sex blessings and this has disappointed liberal Catholics.

In their letter, the critics say the synthesis of the deliberations is “not the first document of a new synodal age”. 

They say that instead it “will disappoint and wound the many faithful, from all quarters of the Catholic world, who had called in their submissions for progress” on issues such as women’s ordination, teaching on LGBTQ+ issues, celibate priesthood, reproductive rights or measures to end the many forms of clerical abuse.

The letter says it is clear the bishops are not yet ready to let go either “of clericalism or of control” and notes that during the assembly, Pope Francis denounced the “scourge” and the “scandal” of clericalism in the church, which, he said inflicts “scorn, mistreatment and marginalisation” on the laity.

Prof McAleese, who is chancellor of Trinity College Dublin, and those who signed the letter, say the Synthesis Report shows that progress in the church does not lie with “these men”. Rather it lies with the “faithful people of God” and the priests ready to join in faithful partnership with the laity on a common path to renewal.

While the synthesis claims that all Christians should be listened to carefully, the experience of many millions of faithful parishioners throughout the world has been that, in the months leading up to this assembly, “their bishops did not listen to them carefully. Indeed, many did not listen to them at all,” the letter says.

Catholic church damaged in arson attack in Co Antrim

A Catholic church in Co Antrim has been damaged in an arson attack.

Police are appealing for information and witnesses following the report of criminal damage at the side door of Our Lady and St Patrick’s Catholic Church in the Castle Street area of Ballymoney. 

A PSNI spokesperson said: “Police received a report shortly after 9.45pm that the side door of a church in the Castle Street area of the town had been set alight. The fire was extinguished before the arrival of officers and thankfully no injuries were reported. Some damage was caused to the door as a result of the fire and we are investigating what happened as a deliberate arson attack. Our enquiries are ongoing and I would appeal to anyone who may be able to assist with our investigation to contact us on 101, quoting reference 1540 19/11/23.”

In a Facebook post, the church said the fire had been started deliberately.

The post said it had been quickly picked up by the alarms and Father Damian McCaughan was able to extinguish the flames.

The statement said: “As you may have seen online there was an attempted arson at Our Lady and St Patrick’s on Sunday night.

“A fire was started deliberately outside the doors of the old entrance at the back of the church.

“Luckily our Guardian Angel looked after us and the fire was quickly picked up by the alarms.

“Fr Damian was able to extinguish the flames before they did too much damage.

“Special thanks to PSNI Causeway Coast & Glens who attended promptly.”

Mary McAleese among signatories of open letter to Rome about Synod

The Synthesis Report of the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is “not the first document of a new synodal age” according to the signatories to an international open letter to the Vatican, which include Professor Mary McAleese.

Welcoming the Synod Assembly’s Synthesis Report, the letter says it offers “a lucid insight into the thinking of our current bishops” and they also welcome recognition by bishops that the laity have an important part to play in discernment.

However, the letter describes the synthesis as “the record of an Episcopal Conference in which prophetic voices won no significant concessions from the powerful and wealthy forces of conservatism”.

“This document will disappoint and wound the many faithful, from all quarters of the Catholic world, who had called in their submissions for progress, among many other pressing issues, on women’s ordination, on teaching on LGBTIQ issues, on the celibate priesthood, on reproductive rights or on measures to end the many forms of clerical abuse,” the letter states.

For the Church to be synodal the bishops need to accept a new model of authentic co-responsibility with the laity, the letter states. The signatories highlight that no co-responsible institutions have been established by the report.

The bishops, the letter continues, “are not yet ready to let go, either of clericalism or of control”.

However, Archbishop Dermot Farrell of Dublin has expressed support for the Synod saying the way the synodal assembly unfolded, “was a surprise both to the participants and to those observing”.

He said the synodal way “gives me hope” despite the many challenges ahead.

“While its process has rightly emphasised the importance of listening to the voices of those not often heard in, or even repelled by Church, this is not the totality of the synodal process”. The church leader said ways need to be found to listen to the voices of all whose faith commitment is deeper – both ordained and lay, especially women.

Separately, a symposium on the Synod hosted by We Are Church Ireland heard Professor Tom O’Loughlin respond to the synthesis which he described as a “very neutral document” but “useful”.

Bethlehem cancels Christmas events – Christian presence ‘not sustainable’

Israel blocks Gaza's Christians from celebrating Christmas in Bethlehem -  Al-Monitor: Independent, trusted coverage of the Middle East

The main churches in Bethlehem have agreed to cancel all non-religious Christmas celebrations this year in protest at the violence in Gaza, where deaths have reportedly passed 11,000.

The town, which lies six miles from Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank, will only host religious ceremonies, with the annual nativity scene and Christmas tree deemed “inappropriate”.

The Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem called upon the faithful to forgo any “unnecessarily festive activities” during the Christmas season this year and to “stand strong” with those facing the afflictions of war.

On 15 November, to mark the end of the olive harvest, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, presided over a traditional Mass with the faithful at Christ the Redeemer Church, in Taybeh (Ramallah), and blessed the olives.

“Despite the difficulties that the country is going through from persecution and war, we all gather to thank Jesus for the fruits of the land, which he has given us,” said the patriarch.

This year’s olive harvest has seen several Palestinians killed by Israeli settlers and many more harassed amid mounting settler violence.

Last Sunday Pope Francis again appealed for peace and prayers for those suffering in Palestine and Israel. Representatives from the World Health Organisation were describing Dar al-Shifa, the Gaza Strip’s largest hospital, as a “death zone”, with a mass grave at the entrance and only 25 staff left to care for 291 seriously ill patients after orders from the Israeli army to evacuate the complex.

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) raised concerns about the sustainability of the Christian community in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza in the face of military and settler violence. Before 7 October, the Christian community in Gaza numbered less than 1,000 people from various denominations, including Orthodox, Latin Catholic, Episcopalian, and Protestant traditions.

Israel's continued ground invasion of Gaza and relentless bombing campaign threatens to completely eradicate the Christian community in Gaza, says CMEP. The bombing of St Porphyrius Orthodox Church compound killed 18 Christians and left many more injured.

Hundreds of Christians are sheltering in the Holy Family Catholic Church in Gaza City but are quickly running out of food and other necessities. No place is safe from the ongoing Israeli military offensive, said CMEP.

The Al Ahli Anglican Hospital, one of the last functional hospitals in Gaza City, was surrounded by Israeli tanks on 16 November.

The Orthodox Cultural Centre, a newly-built facility bringing together Gazans from across religious communities, has been destroyed. The World Council of Churches (WCC) voiced support to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem following the destruction.

The CMEP warned that Christians are not only under threat in Gaza but in other parts of the occupied Palestinian territories as well. Israeli settlers have threatened to take large parts of the Armenian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem said it had complained on 18 November about damage to their property but police responded that all members of the Armenian community must leave.

The patriarchate said: “We plead with the entirety of the Christian communities of Jerusalem to stand with the Armenian Patriarchate in these unprecedented times as this is another clear step taken towards the endangerment of the Christian presence in Jerusalem and the Holy Land.”

The CMEP suggested the US government has “a critical role to play in ensuring Christianity does not disappear in the land where it began”.

In Syria, Archbishop Julian Yacoub Mourad of Homs reiterated last week his view that the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine is the only way toward a just and sustainable peace in the entire region.

In Germany, several German bishops have distanced themselves from Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future initiative, after she wore Palestinian scarf to a climate conference in Amsterdam and chanted “No climate justice on occupied land”.

The Diocese of Hildesheim, whose bishop Heiner Wilmer visited Israel last week, issued a statement saying it “regards Ms Thunberg’s words on the escalation of violence in the Near East absolutely critically as they are one-sided and do not do justice to a complex situation and because they do not quite clearly distance themselves from anti-Semitism”.

The Archdiocese of Berlin told that it was “firmly on the side of our Jewish neighbours”, emphasising that Archbishop Heiner Koch was against all forms of anti-Semitism.  Koch has praised Thunberg in the past but faced criticism on social media after she became associated with the Palestinian cause.

Iraqi leader meets pope after court rejects cardinal’s lawsuit

Pope Francis receives Iraqi President - Vatican News

Iraq’s President Abdul Latif Rashid met with Pope Francis Saturday, days after a cardinal lost an Iraqi legal challenge over the withdrawal of a presidential decree.

The Vatican said that during Nov. 18 talks between Rashid, the pope, and senior curial officials, “the need was reiterated for the Catholic Church in Iraq to be able to continue to carry out its valued mission and for all Iraqi Christians to be a vibrant and active part of society and the territory.”

The Vatican meeting followed a Nov. 14 ruling by Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court upholding Rashid’s July decision to withdraw a 2013 civil decree recognizing Cardinal Louis Raphaël Sako as the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church and the holder of its endowments.

The Chaldean Catholic Church is one of the 23 autonomous Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the pope. It has over half a million members in more than a dozen countries.

After Rashid withdrew the decree, Sako left his residence in Baghdad in protest and relocated to Iraqi Kurdistan. The cardinal also filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of the procedures for the decree’s withdrawal. 

In a statement issued on the day of the Federal Supreme Court ruling, which coincided with the 20th anniversary of Sako’s episcopal ordination, the Chaldean Patriarchate said that the cardinal “still deems the revocation of the decree from him as an unjust decision without justification and will not remain silent in demanding his rights.”

“When the President was in Italy, he assured certain individuals that the court would rule in his favor regarding the withdrawal decision,” the statement said. “Can we then consider the judiciary in this case an emblem of justice and equality?”

When Rashid — Iraq’s president since October 2022 — revoked the decree, he said that he did so because it had no “constitutional or legal basis.”

“Withdrawing the republican decree does not prejudice the religious or legal status of Cardinal Louis Sako, as he is appointed by the Apostolic See as Patriarch of the Chaldean Church in Iraq and the world,” the president commented.

Rashid rescinded the decree issued by the late President Jalal Talabani amid a war of words between Sako and Rayan al-Kildani, the leader of the Babylon Brigades’ militia and its political wing, the Babylon Movement. 

Al-Kildani, who claims to represent the interests of the country’s Chaldean minority, accused Sako of “establishing parties, engaging in electoral battles, and jeopardizing the security and future of Christians in Iraq.”

The cardinal, in turn, said that al-Kildani was “self-aggrandizing and wants to become a leader.”

The cardinal, who has led the Chaldean Catholic Church since 2013, first announced in a July 15 open letter that he would “withdraw” from the Patriarchal Headquarters in Baghdad and settle in a monastery in the Kurdistan Region.

Sako explained that he was taking the step following a “deliberate and humiliating campaign” against him by the Babylon Brigades.

The cardinal described the decree’s revocation — which reportedly came days after a meeting between Rashid and al-Kildani — as “unprecedented in Iraqi history.”

Sako suggested that his decision to leave the capital would allow for what he called the completion of the “game” played by al-Kildani to seize control of the Church’s assets and install his relatives in management positions. Al-Kildani and his associates reject the cardinal’s claims.

Despite clashing with Sako, Al-Kildani met briefly with Pope Francis at a Sept. 6 general audience. A source close to the Vatican Secretariat of State told The Pillar that the encounter was arranged outside of the usual diplomatic channels.

The Vatican has not commented publicly on Sako’s departure from Baghdad but may be working behind the scenes to resolve the impasse. In September, the cardinal expressed disappointment at a perceived lack of support from Rome.

Sako has received messages of solidarity from many Western Catholic leaders. Mar Awa III, the Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, and Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II, the head of the Syriac Orthodox Church, have also expressed their support.

But sources close to Chaldean Catholic Church have told The Pillar that some Iraqi churchmen believe that Sako’s approach has been too confrontational and brought unnecessary complications to an already embattled community.

The number of Iraqi Christians is believed to have fallen from 1.5 million before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to perhaps as low as 150,000.

Sako has said repeatedly that he would tender his resignation as head of the Chaldean Catholic Church upon reaching the age of 75.

According to his official Vatican biography, he was born in 1948. But in a July interview, Sako clarified: “I was born in 1949. But I had an older brother of the same name who died. My parents gave me his birth certificate. So I won’t be 75 until next year on July 4.” 

He has indicated that he will not return to Baghdad until the presidential decree is restored.

Pope Francis Hosts Transgender Women for Vatican Luncheon


Pope Francis welcomed a group of transgender women, with whom he has formed an ongoing relationship, to a luncheon at the Vatican last week marking the church’s World Day of the Poor.

Some 1,200 people who live in poverty or are unhoused joined Francis for a meal inside the papal audience hall, at tables reminiscent of the Synod assembly held in that same space last month. 

The Associated Press reported on one notable group of luncheon guests: trans women from just outside Rome, many of whom are sex workers and migrants from Latin America:

“Thanks to the local parish priest [in the Italian town of Torvaianica], these women now make monthly visits to Francis’ Wednesday general audiences, where they are given VIP seats. On any given day, they receive handouts of medicine, cash and shampoo. When COVID-19 struck, the Vatican bussed them into its health facility so they could be vaccinated ahead of most Italians. . .

“‘Before, the church was closed to us. They didn’t see us as normal people, they saw us as the devil,’ said Andrea Paola Torres Lopez, a Colombian transgender woman known as Consuelo, whose kitchen is decorated with pictures of Jesus. ‘Then Pope Francis arrived and the doors of the church opened for us.’

Part of what Pope Francis to open those doors was a recent guidance from the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith which said trans people, including those who medically transition, could be accepted for baptism and serve as godparents. 

The guidance, known formally as a responsum ad dubia, was praised by LGBTQ+ advocates. The trans women of Torvaianica were likewise grateful:

“Carla Segovia, a 46-year-old Argentine sex worker, said for transgender women like herself, being a godparent is the closest thing she will ever get to having a child of her own. She said that the new norms made her feel more comfortable about maybe one day returning fully to the faith that she was baptized in but fell away from after coming out as trans.

“‘This norm from Pope Francis brings me closer to finding that absolute serenity,’ she said, which she feels is necessary to be fully reconciled with the faith.

“Claudia Vittoria Salas, a 55-year-old transgender tailor and house cleaner, said she had already served as a godparent to three of her nieces and nephews back home in Jujuy, in northern Argentina. She choked up as she recalled that her earnings from her former work as a prostitute put her godchildren through school.”

The relationship between Pope Francis and this group of trans women dates to 2020, when they sought help from Fr. Andrea Conocchia because they could not work due to the pandemic. 

As Bondings 2.0 reported previously, Conocchia and the women asked the pope for assistance which the town’s small parish could not fully provide. Per AP:

“‘The pages of the letters of the first four were bathed in tears,’ he recalled. ‘Why? Because they told me ‘Father, I’m ashamed, I can’t tell the pope what I have done, how I have lived.’’

“But they did, and the first assistance arrived from the pope’s chief almsgiver, who then accompanied the women for their COVID-19 vaccines a year later. At the time of the pandemic, many of the women weren’t legally allowed to live in Italy and had no access to the vaccine.”

Reuters posted a video interview with several of the women, who talk movingly about Pope Francis’ impact on their lives, which is available here.

In related news, the pope commented on how LGBTQ+ issues arose at the Synod assembly last month. An interviewer with Italian broadcaster RAI asked Francis if he was satisfied how gay people were discussed, to which the pontiff replied:

“‘When I say “everyone, everyone, everyone,” it’s the people. The church receives people, everyone, and does not ask what you are. Then, within the church, everyone grows and matures in their Christian belonging. It’s true that today it’s a bit fashionable to talk about this. The church receives everyone.'”

Last week’s luncheon for the World Day of the Poor shows how Pope Francis’ desire for a welcoming church goes beyond words. And his actions to include everyone do have a meaningful impact, as the testimonies of the trans women in Torvaianica show. As one of the women, Andrea Paola Torres Lopez, said:

“‘At least they remember us, that we’re on Earth and we haven’t been abandoned and left to the mercy of the wind.'”

36 men attend priesthood information weekend in the national seminary

36 men from dioceses across Ireland enrolled in this year’s weekend gathering on 18 and 19 November, in the national seminary of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, to help discern if God is calling them to the priesthood.
According to Father Willie Purcell, director of the National Vocations Office of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, “The weekend offers those discerning a vocation to the diocesan priesthood an opportunity – not only to meet with the formation team and college community to experience life in the seminary – but also to meet with likeminded young men who are on the path of discernment to the priesthood.  Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, provides a safe and conducive environment for participants to ask questions of the formation team, while also enabling them to reflect on following the example of the life of Jesus. Those attending pray together and join the seminary community in the celebration of Mass, hear accounts of contemporary priestly ministry and meet with students who have begun formation towards priesthood.
“Bishops are currently hosting a Year for Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood. In this regard, any man who is  contemplating a vocation to the priesthood and wishes to further explore their calling, should make contact today with the National Vocations Office, on, where they can obtain resources and contact details for their local vocations director.  Our feedback indicates that seminarians, and newly ordained priests, are grateful for the witness, encouragement and accompaniment of another priest during their own discernment process.”
This is the third year that the national seminary, in collaboration with the Bishops’ Vocations Office, hosted this gathering. Our theme this year, ‘Come and See’, was drawn from the invitation of Jesus in John 1:39 – 41, when disciples ask Jesus where He was staying. and wanted to know Him and hoped for an opportunity to do just that.  Rather than being too busy or important for these eager young men, Jesus invited them by saying, ‘Come and you will see.’
Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan is chair of the Bishops’ Council for Vocations and is leading the 2023 – 2024 Year for Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood, on the theme: ‘Take the Risk for Christ’ (‘You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you’ John 15:16 ). The Year for Vocation involves organised prayer and awareness initiatives and will conclude on Good Shepherd Sunday, 21 April 2024. In a particular way during this dedicated year, prayers to encourage vocations to the priesthood are being prayed during daily and weekend Mass in dioceses and parishes across Ireland.

The Vatican State Launches “Ecological Conversion 2030” Program

Vatican aims to have a net-zero-emissions vehicle fleet by 2030 - NZ  Catholic Newspaper

The Vatican City State has announced the launch of a series of energy saving initiatives and environmental safeguarding strategies derived from Laudato si’ and Laudate Deum

The measure is part of the objectives of the United Nations Agenda 2030.

The Vatican City State claims to have been committed for many years to promoting sustainable development through ecological policies aimed at safeguarding the environment and providing energy saving strategies.

By applying the principles of Laudato si’ and Laudate Deum, it is one of the first states in the world to pursue sustainability projects by seeking solutions that help change the way of working in the protection of the Common Home.

Vatican City has adopted projects which, through the use of environmentally friendly technologies, make it possible to concretely reduce the impact of human activity.

The ratification of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreements constitute the bridge between environmental policies and the recommendations of the Holy Father. The Governorate of Vatican City is committed to achieving climate neutrality.

The means will be the responsible use of natural resources, the implementation of projects aimed at energy efficiency, and the modernization of technological assets, sustainable transport, diversification and the supply of cleaner or alternative energy products for transport, the elimination of waste, and the development of future concrete reforestation projects.

Electric Vehicles in the Vatican fleet

To achieve neutrality, it will be necessary to invest in technological structures using renewable energies, to offset the emissions produced in one sector and reduce them in another, but above all to promote electric and hybrid transport.

This is why the government launched a sustainable transport development program entitled “Ecological Conversion 2030,” which aims to reduce the CO2 impact of the vehicle fleet. It aims to gradually replace State vehicles with electric vehicles, with the aim of making its vehicle fleet impact-free by 2030.

It also aims to set up its own charging network on the State territory and in offshore areas and to extend its use to its employees; and finally to ensure that its energy needs come exclusively from renewable energy sources.

Ultimately, it is nothing other than the implementation of the program of the new world order imposed through the United Nations Agenda 2030.

A Strategic Partner for Sustainable Mobility

The Volkswagen Group – which aims to become a zero-carbon company by 2050 and reduce the carbon footprint of its vehicles by 30% by 2030 – is the first strategic partner of the vehicle fleet renewal project of the Vatican through medium and long term rentals. 

A partnership agreement was signed on November 16 with the Volkswagen group as part of the sustainable transport development program, which is one of the measures taken by the government to concretely reduce the impact of human activity on the environment.