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Brazil

 

ACN Success Story – Mass Offerings for priests in Brazil

03.04.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN PROJECTS, Brazil, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Pastoral aid, Pastoral care, SUBSISTENCE

 Mass Offerings for 19 priests of the Shalom Community

The Catholic Shalom Community was founded in 1982 in Brazil. Its members include young people, families, married couples and priests, who live in so-called “life communities“ and are dedicated to the work of evangelization and Christian instruction, mainly for young people. Central to the life of the community and its 3,000 or so members in 20 different countries is the daily celebration of Holy Mass, along with personal prayer, meditation on the Sacred Scriptures and a radical decision to follow Jesus Christ.

Last year ACN gave Mass Offerings for a total value of 13,800 for the 19 priests in the community living in Brazil. The Mass Offerings are given on an individual basis by our benefactors, in the form of money or other small gifts, in return for which the priest agrees to celebrate Holy Mass for the benefactor’s intentions. There is no suggestion here of “paying” for the Holy Mass, but rather of a fraternal Christian gesture of gratitude and support for our priests, who do not shrink from difficulties or sacrifice in proclaiming Christ and offering Him in the Eucharist for our sakes.

One of these priests is 46-year-old Father Jairo Barbosa Leite. He has been a member of the Shalom community for 25 years. However, in October 2015, while inspecting the renovation work being done on his parish church, he fell nearly 20 feet and has been paralyzed ever since. Yet he refuses to speak of the accident as a “disaster” or a “act of fate“, but instead chooses to declare ‘”Naturally it was a shock, when I realized that I would be permanently paralyzed from now on. Then I understood that this was no burden, but rather a grace. Many people think that you can only be happy if everything is going well. But I am happy, and I feel I have been given a special grace – precisely because I now find myself totally dependent on others. And I can even reach out to people who are far from faith, for they inevitably ask themselves how it is that I can still be happy. But I see it as God‘s Providence. Even while sitting paralyzed in a wheelchair, I can recognize what value my service still has, through my life of prayer, the night vigils, the celebration of the Eucharist, hearing Confessions and the educational courses I am still able to offer. I am happy to know that God can use my priesthood in this way. How good it is, despite my weaknesses, to be able to entrust my sins to God and witness to his intervention!”

shalom-Fr-Jairo
On behalf of all his fellow priests, Father Jairo thanks us for the Mass Offerings from our benefactors. “I want to thank all the benefactors of your charity and to assure them that their donations are helping to save souls, through the Church and the men of the Church whose ministry continues throughout the world.”

Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

Brazil – ACN Project of the week – Catechetical Material for Marginalized People

27.02.2019 in ACN, ACN Canada, ACN PROJECTS, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Brazil, Brazil, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, South America

Brazil

Catechetical materials for pastoral work

The “Bethlehem Mission” (Missao Belem) is a lay spiritual community of people who devote themselves above all to caring for the homeless, the addicts, the lonely and all those facing a crisis or some other difficult situation. The members of the community, who describe themselves as “missionaries,” share their lives full-time with these homeless victims, often even living on the streets with them. In doing so they are endeavouring to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to these people on the margins of society and make His teachings living and tangible for them.

The community is still very young, having been founded only in 2005 in Brazil, yet it already has 160 mission houses and another 7 intermediate centres in 70 different cities of Brazil, Haiti and Italy.

Right now some 2000 or so homeless people are being cared for by members of the community in Brazil, which includes 70 consecrated members and 200 full-time voluntary members. They all live together in the various communities, like one big family. People who have until now been living on the streets slowly become accustomed to living an orderly life in the community and are able to begin to discover the potential for themselves. The community also offers them the opportunity to have therapy where necessary. And they can also take advantage of the chance to gain practical and professional qualifications or become re-accustomed to the world of work. Wherever possible, the street children are encouraged to return to or at least make contact with their families. Where this is not possible, they are helped to find loving homes with foster parents or adoptive families, in collaboration with the relevant authorities.

So far around 50,000 people have been taken in and helped by these communities. Roughly half of them have since been able to return to normal life. Many have found their way to faith and sought baptism. It is a particularly moving sight to see grown men, some advanced in age and after years of homelessness and addiction, dressed in a white baptismal robe, standing there with a baptismal candle in their hand, or going forward like little children to receive their First Holy Communion. In such cases it is quite evident that baptism has been the start of a new life for them as children of God.

Also very popular and very successful are the evangelizing courses run by members of the community. More than 1400 people have so far taken part in these courses, which are aimed at training them for the mission of reaching out to people who still far from the Church, and especially to the marginalized in society, and proclaiming the Gospel to them. At the same time the participants are equipped with appropriate catechetical material, which they can distribute to those who are interested.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is happy to help this wonderful initiative, and we have promised 69 150 dollars to help provide the necessary teaching materials for the coming four years.

Brazil Support for 12 elderly and infirm religious sisters

17.01.2019 in Brazil, By Mario Bard

Brazil
Support for 12 elderly and infirm religious sisters

Despite her 88 years, Sister Halina does not just sit around twiddling her thumbs. She has surely earned the right to do so, after a long life of daily service on behalf of the poor. And yet she continues to this day, tirelessly visiting the sick and sewing quilts and pillowcases for newborn babies. And her equally elderly fellow sisters also still want to make themselves useful – listening to and counselling those who come to them for advice, helping children with their homework and comforting the sick and needy. Some of them even continue to instruct and give talks.

The sisters are delighted to see that there are many young women who also wish to join their congregation. At the same time, however, seven of their elderly sisters are already in need of constant care, while another five are very advanced in age. Since the congregation has very limited sources of income, we help every year for the most elderly and infirm, with a contribution to the cost of their care and support. This year we are giving 6900 dollars.

 

 

ACN News: Brazil – No to “hatred, anger or irresponsibility”

05.11.2018 in ACN International, Brazil, By Paolo Aldo

This interview was conducted a few days prior to the Brazilian elections handing power over to the new president, Jais Bolsonaro

 

Brazil

No to “hatred, anger or irresponsibility”

ACN Project of subsistence aid for 109 consecrated missionaries of the Alliance of Mercy, 2016

Just a few days ahead of the presidential elections in Brazil, with the country sharply polarised between its two candidates, Fernando Haddad and Jair Bolsonaro, the Archbishop of São Paulo, Cardinal Odilo Scherer has warned in a pastoral message of the grave responsibility that this electoral process imposes on the electorate. “Voting should never be marked by hatred, anger or irresponsibility in regard to the common good. Voting is a matter of conscience, and the time has come for each one of us to play his part, so that Brazil may become a better nation following the elections. Ultimately, this is the one thing that matters.”

The Archbishop’s words were of particular relevance, given the fact that Brazil is numerically one of the most Catholic countries in the world (with 172 million Catholics), yet at the same time one of the most violent, with over 60,000 homicides a year – a figure that represents approximately 12.5% of all the homicides in the world.

ACN Project :Construction of the catechetical center at the community our lady of Fatima, belonging to the parish of Saint Anthony in Tefé

The elections held last Sunday have created barriers, fostering a climate of discord that is dividing the population, setting family members, friends and even the federal states against one another. It is a time of uncertainty and fear. Yet at the same time, the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference has reminded Catholics of the importance of this electoral process. Already back in April this year, the bishops published a document, “Involvement and Hope” (Compromisso e Esperança), in which they reflect on the 2018 presidential elections.

In one of the central messages of the document, the bishops urge “the Brazilian people to transform this difficult moment into an opportunity for growth, abandoning the paths of intolerance, apathy and cynicism.” To this end, the bishops call on “the ecclesial communities to embrace, in the light of the Gospel, the political dimension of the faith, in the service of the Kingdom of God.” In their message, the Brazilian Bishops emphasize that hope must always prevail, despite the day-to-day difficulties. “While keeping our feet firmly on the solid ground of reality, we are moved by the hope which commits us to transcending all the ills that afflict our people.”

Father Werenfried during his 1977 visit to Brazil to follow up on ACN Project for 300 trucks for the Amazon region

ACN: Active in Brazil since the sixties

ACN Brazil is very much involved in promoting the pastoral and social outreach of the Church and is making an effort to overcome the difficulties referred to by the bishops in their document Compromisso e Esperança. It is a task that dates back to the decade of the 1960s when ACN founder, Father Werenfried van Straaten, sent copies of his famous book, They Call Me the Bacon Priest to various bishops around the world.

In the diocese of Juína, the bishop Nero Tondello started an alternative funeral home to support the poor of his region.

A copy of this book found its way into the hands of Cardinal Jaime Câmara, the then Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro. The Cardinal read the book and in thanking Father Werenfried he urged him to include Brazil in his pastoral mission. He wrote: “In Latin America we are not yet a persecuted Church, but this could well happen to us also. If one day we were persecuted, you would help us, because that is your mission. But if you help us now, it will work out cheaper.”

Because of his appeal – and in response to a request from Pope Saint John XXIII – ACN’s work in Brazil began, almost as a response to a challenge. Father Werenfried himself travelled to Brazil, visiting the vast favelas where he was deeply moved at the sight of so many hungry people living in such inhuman conditions. In his famous “Letter to Christ” – a kind of prayer written at the feet of the great statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro – he writes of the impossibility of remaining indifferent to all that he has seen. “What I have seen in this part of the world is a scandal. Your Church here is more vulnerable than anywhere else in the world.”

ACN Project: Purchase of a car for the Rorainópolis mission of the Frades Menores Capuchinhos

Since that time, ACN has funded over 6,000 pastoral projects in Brazil, many of which have brought direct social benefits. For example, the construction of churches and enclosed convents in some of the remotest and most disadvantaged regions, which are often the trigger for infrastructure projects supplying drinking water and electric power, or the provision of vehicles for priests and religious, who bring with them education and medical care into places where no one is otherwise keen to invest. Or through providing modern riverboats to navigate the immense river network of the Amazon basin. Before ACN stepped in to help, many priests were forced to travel in old and dangerous boats, in some cases having to make voyages of up to 100 hours duration in order to reach the many scattered riverside communities.

To this day – and thanks to the prophetic vision of Father Werenfried, who understood from his first journey to the country that it was essential to help this important big nation – Brazil is still one of the major priority countries for ACN and among those receiving most aid from the foundation, which thereby remains faithful to its founder’s commitment.

 

Project of the Week – Amazon Region

30.08.2017 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Brazil, Project of the Week, South America

 

Brazil

Training of  seminarians urgently needed in the Amazon region

 

The diocese of Rio Branco covers a vast area of over 104,000 km² in the west of Brazil. Large areas of the diocese lie in the rainforest; it is an impenetrable region, with vast distances and many places accessible only by riverboat. Of the approximately 602,000 inhabitants of the region around 450,000 are Catholics.

There is a grave shortage of priests here, with just 26 diocesan priests and 28 priests from the religious orders to minister to so many people. Fundamentalists groups are spreading rapidly, even into the jungle regions, led by preachers with the little to no training and plentiful of financial resources, promising the people miracles.

Perhaps the best-known  Catholic figure in this region was until recently the Italian missionary Father Paolino Baldassarri, who worked for almost 70 years in Brazil, most of this time in the Amazon region. He died on 8 April 2016 at the age of 90, already acclaimed as a saint by the people he served. Even at the age of almost 90 he continued to travel long journeys deep into the rainforest in his simple boat, in order to minister to the people. He always wore a life jacket and motorcycle helmet on these journeys, because he could not even swim. Even at this advanced age, he continued to practise as a doctor, treating and helping innumerable people.

When he first arrived almost half a century ago, malaria almost took him in his very first week. Miraculously he survived and soon began visiting the riverside settlements in the rainforest in a simple wooden canoe. Owing to the shortage of priests, many families had more or less abandoned their Catholic faith, and Father Paolino brought them back to it. By the time he died, the people in his parish were 100% Catholics. In one of his letters he wrote that in these isolated jungle communities “the seed of the Kingdom of God is real, which in the towns is concealed by our notions of enlightenment and progress and our dominant and all-powerful television.”

His example shows just how vital is the presence of priests among the people and what good fruits their ministry can produce. Yet, it is becoming more and more difficult to find missionaries from abroad. For one thing, most religious communities in Western nations are gaining fewer vocations, but on the other hand, Dom Joaquín Pertíñez Fernández, the Bishop of Rio Branco is also very aware that what is needed is native Brazilian priests, who are accustomed to the challenging conditions of the rainforest regions.

Now, 16 young men from his diocese are training for the priesthood. The diocese is poor. Bishop Joaquín has turned to ACN for help. We have promised him $9,940.

 

 

 


ACN Project of the Week – Success Story in Brazil

26.04.2017 in Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Brazil, Journey with ACN, MOTORIZATION, South America

Success Story in Brazil

A boat for pastoral work in the Amazon region

 

In the north of Brazil, a Catholic community with the name “Mar a Dentro” (Out Into The Deep) runs a pastoral centre in the city of Belem. Prayer meetings and Eucharistic adoration are held here and young people are prepared for confirmation while young couples for the sacrament of matrimony.

 

The community  also cares for around 60 children and provides psychological support and counselling confining themselves not only to the city, but for the last nine years have been ministering to the people living in the jungle on the riverside and the river islands in the Amazon region of northern Brazil. Villages that are only reachable by boat. Faithful to the words of Jesus to Peter: “Duc in Altum”,  (Put out into the deep) (Lk 5:4) – as the name of their community suggests.

Thanks to the boat, these young boys will continue to receive catechism.

By means of their apostolate the community is able to guarantee a continuing presence of the Catholic Church in this inaccessible region. The people living in these villages are in need in every respect – in need of pastoral care, of spiritual and material support, of counselling and assistance in many different needs. In order to try and meet some of these needs, the community is helping around 400 families to grow in their faith, to get to know the Gospel message in greater depth and play an active part in the life of the Church. At the same time providing support for the people’s social and other needs and along with the vital basic necessities of life. There are roughly a hundred volunteers, working in rotations in this apostolate on the margins of society. Many from Mar a Dentro are able to bring their daily professional experience to bear for the benefit of the needy in these communities.

Until now the community has only had an old wooden boat available to take them on the river, but it is  in a very poor state of repair. The community urgently needs a new boat made of more durable materials able to withstand the difficult conditions and enable them to carry out this work of service quicker and in more safety – and also visit the riverside settlements more frequently.

To bring the Gospel even in the villages of the Amazonian Rivers. A mission we want to help in.

We are planning
to give $49,010,
for the purchase
of a new aluminium hulled boat.
Thank you to help us
to help them!


 

Project of the Week – Formation of Seminarians in Brazil

16.11.2016 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Brazil, TRAINING

Brazil

Formation for 28 seminarians in the diocese of Marília

Brazil still holds onto its place as the most populous Catholic nation on earth. Yet, the percentage of Catholics in the country continues to fall.

Today, only around 72% of over 190 million Brazilians still declare themselves as Catholic, though the exact figures quoted are very general. What is however clear is that this number is declining drastically. A myriad of other sectarian churches have sprung up and continue to proliferate. People tend to be seduced by unrealistic promises of rapid wealth, health or the fulfillment of their dreams.

Over 35,000 of these “free churches” exist now. Many people fall easy prey to their promises, especially the disillusioned and uprooted impoverished people in the shantytowns on the edges of the big cities. Many who have come here from areas in the Northeast of the country afflicted by sometimes years of drought, unable to feed their families in their home areas. Their hopes and dreams for a better life in the big city – are bitterly disappointed.   After spending the last of their money travelling to the much hoped-for “Promised Land,” they can count themselves lucky if they find work. Most end-up unemployed, leading them into a vicious spiral downwards of family breakups, addictions and violence.

 

Priests available for all! 

Hence the Catholic Church is faced with massive challenges, above all since – in relation to the size of the country and the still very large number of the Catholic faithful – there are far too few priests. The parishes are often huge, with many having up to 100,000 parishioners. And so one of the biggest challenges for the local Church is the promotion of vocations. For where there are no priests, the people are easily drawn away by  sectarian groups, churches or religious associations who offer dreams, but very little in terms of concrete ways to rise out of their situation with a sense of dignity.

In the diocese of Marìlia in the state of São Paulo there are 28 young men currently preparing for ordination to the priesthood. The diocese is huge, covering an area of almost 11,980 km², and is divided into 61 parishes. 729,000 Catholic faithful live here, so that on average each parish has close on 12,000 parishioners. And yet there are just 57 diocesan priests working here. So every new vocation is greatly needed. The young men training at the seminary must be more than priests – they must become good priests. What they require is over and above a  solid academic formation.  They need to be intensively prepared and accompanied on the spiritual and human plane, while at the same time gaining real and practical insight into pastoral work by visiting the parishes,  the Catholic social care centres and institutions and making themselves useful while  acquiring real hands-on experience.

 

brazil-1We are supporting the diocese with $10,150 towards the cost of their formation.  Would you like to support seminarians like this?  In Brazil or elsewhere?  Give us call! or click the ‘donate’ button below!

donate

 

 

 

 


 

Our Project of the Week in Brazil

29.06.2016 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adaptation Mario Bard, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aide à l’Église en détresse., Brazil, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Voyager avec l’AED

Brazil

New books for a seminary in Diamantina

It was not by chance that the city of Diamantina got its name – for in the 17th century this was the first place where diamonds were found outside of Asia. But, as happens everywhere in the world, those who got rich were only a few lucky ones. There are many men who are still trying to support their families by digging for diamonds here. They are not slaves as their forefathers were, but they earn very little from this backbreaking work. What profit there is goes into others pockets, and anyway, diamonds have become quite rare in the region now.

 

Au Séminaire du Sacré-Coeur de Jésus, à Diamantina au Brésil, les livres vont servir à nourrir l'instruction des jeunes séminaristes. Grâce à vous!

These men spend months in mountain camps trying to pull these precious stones from the rocks, often leaving their wives and in most cases their numerous children behind to struggle in poverty. Because of these difficult conditions, many of  families break apart, and many children are left neglected. But there are few other opportunities for work. Only a handful of people benefit from tourism, while others, who endeavour to live from making handcrafted items do not find many buyers. The land is rocky and ill-suited to agriculture and until now no industry worth mentioning has been established in the region.

 

Hope for the future

The city of Diamantina is also the seat of the diocese of the same name. The Archbishop knows that good priests are needed to help the people, to provide guidance for lives to be led with dignity, for as Our Lord tells us in the Gospels, “man does not live by bread alone.” The archdiocese is vast, covering an area of over 18,000 square miles (47,000 km²) – half the size of Portugal, in fact – yet there are only about 60 priests for a population of half a million people.

 

There is hope, however, for the future in the form of new vocations to the priesthood. In fact there are more than 40 young men currently training for the priesthood in the local diocesan seminary. However, this diocesan seminary is as poor as all the people in the region. The seminarians themselves cannot afford to pay for their own training. They do their best to make themselves useful in the seminary, by cleaning, serving one another at table and performing other menial household tasks. They do so gladly, and with joy, yet this is only a small contribution to the cost of running the seminary. At the moment, the greatest need for the seminary is to upgrade and update the stock of books in its library. For a well furnished library is one of the bases for the sound formation of future priests.

 

 

donateAid to the Church in Need and its benefactors are providing the seminary with $4,553  for the purchase of  the books necessary for their training.

Would you like to help support a similar project?

 

 


 

Project of the Week – Building in the Amazonas of Brazil

17.02.2016 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Brazil

Brazil

Building a catechetical centre in the Amazonas

In the federal state of Amazonas in Brazil, stands Tefé’s parish of Saint Anthony established in 2007. This parish encompasses three smaller communities who have chapels in the town itself and an additional three communities in the surrounding rural area. The parish is under the care of the Franciscan Fathers and it is faced with significant challenges.

In the Amazonas, there is a great shortage of priests. It also is home to numerous sects scattered throughout who attempt to woo the Catholic faithful and it is an area which experiences high social tensions.

La présence de compassion du père Jailton Raimundo sont essentielles. Lui assurer un lieu d'apostolat l'est tout autant.

The presence and compassion of Father Jailton Raimundo is essential. Ensuring he has a place to practice his apostolate is just as essential.

The members of the sub-parish of Our Lady of Fatima are particularly active, and this is positive for it gives the local priests strong support in their social and pastoral work.  Above all, this support is most important when it come to working with youth, for many young people easily fall easy prey to negative influences, to drug dealers and human traffickers or ‘pimps’.

To counter this problem, the parish really wants to build a pastoral which will serve to attract and spiritually nourish children and young people who are caught in the vicious cycle of poverty and abuse on the streets like so many other communities throughout the country.

The parish is already very active in this work and in addition to the catechesis and other religious activities; the community also offers music lessons in keyboard and guitar, so to provide young people with a meaningful and productive alternative. It also allows them to bring their personal contribution to the liturgy, making it more beautiful with their music.

Other areas of work the parish committed to, are helping disabled people find work, and supporting families

Des jeunes célèbrent la messe à l'extérieur.

Celebrating Mass outside with the children!

in need. They also have a psychologist available to see people once a week, another important form of support for some.

This pastoral centre is important.  Why?  Because it provides a central point for the organization of all these important social services, for there is a real danger that without this resource, many young people in particular might turn their backs on the Church and end up on the difficult life of the streets, or get caught in the clutches of the local sects or criminal gangs.

donate

ACN is supporting the work on this catechetical centre with a contribution of $24,650.

 


 

ACN Feature – Catholics in the Arab World

27.12.2015 in ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Brazil, By Oliver Maksan, egypt, Feature Story, Gaza, Lebanon, Middle East

Catholics in the Arab World

“We will pray for Daesh [the Islamic State] ”

The Holy Year of Mercy is hailed with joy from Iraq to Morocco – Catholic voices are heard throughout the Arab world 

The Holy Year of Mercy that was solemnly inaugurated by Pope Francis on December 8 in Rome is being hailed with joy by Catholics throughout the Arab world – from Morocco all the way to Iraq and Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has gathered these impressions from across the Middle East.

Father Dankha Issa is a monk of the Alqosh Chaldean order. Last summer, hundreds of Christian refugees found refuge in the city after their villages were seized by jihadists. The ancient, exclusively Christian city is situated in the northern part of Iraq. As the crow flies, only about 15 kilometers separate the monastery of the Virgin in the Corn Field from the front line of the Islamic State. At night you can see the lights of the Islamic State from the mountains of Alqosh.

Au centre, le père Issa, qui a dû fuir la violence de l'ÉI en 2014. « Ce jubilé nous redonne espoir. Espérons donc que cette année éteindra le feu de la haine et apportera la paix. »

At the centre, Father Issa who fled the violence of IS in 2014 with an ACN delegation from several world offices.

“We are very thankful to Our Holy Father that he has proclaimed a Holy Year of Mercy. It is a time of grace for us,” the priest told ACN. He himself had been forced to flee IS from Mosul last June. “This Jubilee gives us new hope. Let us hope that this year will extinguish the fires of hate and bring peace.”

It is important for Father Dankha that the Christians of Alqosh experience the goodness of God that delivers us from sin. “In this year our attention is particularly drawn to how merciful God is with us sinners. God forgives us. But this also means that we have to forgive each other. Even the people of Daesh (IS), who have done so many evil things to us. After all, as a Christian you also have to love your enemies.” Father Dankha knows that this is anything but easy. “This is almost humanly impossible. But it is easier through faith. God is capable of everything.” Father Dankha’s particular wish is that the jihadists will change their ways. “Of course we hope that God will open and soften the hearts of the people of Daesh so that they cease their murderous doings. Let us pray that he will dispel the hate and violence in their hearts and let love take hold.”

His monastery wants to make it possible for the refugees to experience the mercy of God over the course of the year. “We will continue to support them with food and the like. However, we especially want to pray together, above all the rosary. This is what makes it possible for us suffering limbs of the Body of Christ to become one with the universal church and the Pope.”

To love as Jesus did

In Lebanon, Father Raymond Abdo wants to use the Holy Year as an opportunity to give a Christian response to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. “The people who persecute Christians have to come into contact with Jesus Christ. Mercy thus means not allowing ourselves to hate these people,” the Carmelite from the northern city of Tripoli said. “We need the courage to pray for them and to love them. Because when they persecute Christians, they do not know what they are doing. This is what Jesus did on the cross.”

Le père Raymond Abdo, supérieur des carmes du Liban, en compagnie d'une religieuse. « La Miséricorde signifie donc de ne pas accepter de haïr ces gens »

Order of the discalced Carmelites in the Semi-Province of Lebanon: Rev. Fr. Raymond Abdo OCD (superior of the Carmelites in Lebanon)  in the company  of  a Sister

According to Father Raymond, what is decisive in this Year of Mercy is to love, as Jesus loved, people of other religions as well. “The church in the Middle East plays a role in many institutions that are visited by non-Christians. We have to love these people and show the mercy of the Gospels to them by example. Jesus did this with the Gentiles.” In the school in which he teaches, 65 per cent of the students are Muslim. “Respecting the Muslim students the same as the Christian ones: this is what mercy means to me.”

The Year of Mercy is also receiving attention in Gaza. Over the past years, the narrow Palestinian strip along the Mediterranean has experienced several Israeli-Palestinian wars leaving hundreds dead, thousands injured and tens of thousands homeless. Nowhere else is the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians as brutal as it is here.

More than 1.8 million people live in the densely populated area. There are only about 1,300 Christians. The number of Catholics is hardly higher than 160. Father Mario da Silva is the priest of the Catholic parish of the Holy Family, who are said to have passed through today’s Gaza Strip on their way to Egypt.

Bringing his assistance to the conversion of hearts

The Brazilian from the Argentine Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE) has been living in Gaza City for several years. During this time he has witnessed several wars. “This Holy Year is a big chance,” he told the charity. “TWe Christians can re-learn what the mercy of God means. This includes re-thinking the reality of sin. We are dependent upon the forgiveness of God. This is an opportunity to find out something new about the sacrament of penance.” his is why Father Mario wants to offer retreats in the summer that will address the mercy of God. The Sunday Sermons this year will also repeatedly focus on the subject of forgiveness.

Le père Mario da Silva. Cette photo fût prise durant un cessez-le-feu dans la Bande da Gaza, en août 2014. « Cette Année sainte représente une grande chance ».

Gaza City, during the ceasefire that lasted between August 5h and 8th: Father Mario da Silva. The Brazilian cleric works in the Catholic “Holy Family” parish in Gaza City. He belongs to the order “Institute of the Word Incarnate IVE”, which originated in Argentina.

Father Mario believes that interpersonal forgiveness grows out of God’s mercy for humans. “From the first moment I arrived in Gaza, of course I felt the hatred that the people harbour because of Israeli politics. This hatred is rooted in the injustice the people here experience every day. It may be less pronounced among the Christians because forgiveness belongs to our faith. But of course they also know this feeling. That is only human,” Father Mario said. “The wars, the destruction, the high unemployment rate that also affects the Christians: all this eats away at the people. However, as a priest I do not feel it is my first priority to change the political situation. That is not in our hands, even though the church of course draws attention to injustice as such. However, what we can do is to help convert our hearts.”

Reintroducing a culture of forgiveness

In Egypt as well, which borders on the Gaza Strip, the focus is on the conversion of hearts. For several months now, Father Beshoi has been the priest in Azareia, a Christian town in Upper Egypt near Asyut. The Coptic Catholic cleric wants to make the sacrament of penance more accessible to his parishioners again. “We need the forgiveness of God. Here, there are a lot of cases of revenge because of insults to family honour. These are often caused by something trivial. But the situations escalate until there are casualties. And that, even though only Christians live in our town. But they have assimilated to the Islamic culture that surrounds us. In Islam, God is only seen as a lawmaker who metes out punishment when His commandments are not heeded. However, I want to change this mentality. I want to show God to my brothers and sisters as a merciful Father who forgives us. However, this is also why we have to forgive each other. Thus, the Year of Mercy has come at just the right moment for me.”

There are many problems especially among the adolescents in the town. “Many take drugs because they feel unloved or misunderstood. I want to show them that God loves them and is waiting for them with open arms. I know that God can work miracles in the souls. Just recently, an almost 60-year-old man came to me for confession: for the first time in his life! I hope that I will see many such small miracles over the course of this year!”

The Holy Year is also being celebrated at the outermost Western edge of the Arab world. Admittedly, there are hardly any Catholics living in Morocco and the vast majority of these are foreigners. However, the few Catholics who are there take an active role in the life of the world Church. Such as the Sisters of the Carmelite convent of Tanger. “We embrace the Holy Year with pleasure and gratitude. It is a great grace that we want to experience together with the entire church. With all of our poverty and weakness and in recognising our sinfulness, we are on our way to the Father, whose embrace we have need of,” Sister Maria Virtudes said to ACN.

The Spaniard is the prioress of the community of Sisters who began the Jubilee with a prayer vigil. “We prayed to the Lord who is present in the Eucharist. In doing so, we took turns in singing the hymn that was composed for the Holy Year and held long moments of silent worship. As we did this, we were, together with the Immaculate Virgin, in communion with the entire Church.”

Des religieuses au Couvent des Carmélites de Tanger, au Maroc.

Carmelite Sisters of Tanger in Morocco.

By Oliver Maksan: ACN International
Adapted by : Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada