"Templeton: A message of brotherhood from Jordan to the entire world"

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"Templeton: A message of brotherhood from Jordan to the entire world"

By Fr. Dr. Rif'at Bader

Following is the Catholic Center for Studies and Media's review of the religious panorama of 2018:

As has been the case every year, the Catholic Center for Studies and Media (CCSM) in Jordan is pleased to make a review of the religious situation locally and internationally in 2018. The CCSM is also pleased to announce this year's title: "Templeton: From Jordan, a Message of Peace and Brotherhood to the Entire World" since His Majesty King Abdullah II Ben Al-Hussein has been awarded this prize in his honor and in honor of his initiatives, as well as in honor of the extended Jordanian family that demonstrates love and solidarity. The CCSM wishes a happy year for the extended Jordanian family and humanity as a whole.

The year 2018 started with the central issue, namely noble Jerusalem and the repercussions of the announcement relevant to the transfer of the US embassy to the city. There have been several initiatives in Jordan and abroad urging the abolition of the unilateral decision and calling for the elimination of injustice inflicted on the Holy City. An emphasis was made on the historic Hashemite custodianship on the holy sites and that East Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Palestine whereby its Arab character should be preserved. The United Nations unanimously confirmed rejection of the US plan. The Holy See called for respecting the charters of the UN and for maintaining the status quo in Jerusalem.

''Al Azhar Conference in Support of Jerusalem" was held Cairo under the patronage of President Abdul Fattah Sisi. The conference held under the chairmanship of Grand Imam of al-Azhar Ahmed Tayeb and with the participation of delegations from 86 countries. The conference aimed at examining practical mechanisms and new methods that would support the dignity of the Palestinians, protect their land, and preserve the identity of religious shrines.

In Jordan, an announcement was made regarding the establishment of a CCSM consultation council under the chairmanship of His Excellency Dr. Rajai Muasher, and the participation of a number of parliamentary and media personalities.

In February 2018, the doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher were closed for the first time in history protesting the Israeli intention to impose property taxes on church property. At the time, Church leaders issued a statement which says in part, "We follow with concern the systematic campaign conducted against the churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land which constitutes a flagrant violation of the status quo.''

In February, the participants in “The Dialogue for Peace” Conference, which convened in Vienna by King Abdullah Ben Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), agreed to launch the "Platform for Dialogue and Cooperation among Religious Leaders and Institutions in the Arab World" which serves as a framework of social cohesion, common living, as well as entrenching the culture of citizenship and respect for plurality.

In March 2018, after having been observed in Lebanon for 10 years, a national ceremony was held for the first time in Jordan marking the Feast of the Annunciation titled, "Together Around Virgin Mary". The ceremony was organized by the CCSM and held under the patronage of Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Jamal Sarayra in the presence of Christians and Muslims.

In May, Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako was named cardinal in the Catholic Church. This naming represents a great support for the Church of Iraq and an expression of the closeness of His Holiness Pope Francis to the territory stained with innocent blood, where many Christians have often been subjected to violence. It is also a sign of the Pope's and the Vatican's closeness to Iraq with all its components. Furthermore, it serves as a glimmer of hope for a better future.

In July, Pope Francis invited patriarchs and heads of Middle East Churches to the Italian city of Bari which included a day of reflections and ecumenical prayers on the tragic situation in the Middle East and the suffering of "many brethren in faith." Pope Francis also denounced the world's indifference and silence towards the endless tragedy in the Middle East, which he described as "crying, suffering and silence, while others trample on those lands in search of power or wealth."

In September, Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes Monsignor Nicolas Brouwet visited the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, where he met with a number of officials and heads of churches in the Kingdom. He also presided at three major religious ceremonies. Furthermore, the "Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in Na'our" was officially recognized as a new religious touristic site.

In October, the 15th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church titled, "Youth, Faith and Religious Vocations" convened on October 3 -28. The Synod provided an opportunity to talk with young people (rather than to talk about them), to affirm that the Church stands by them as well as listens to their sufferings and hopes. During the meetings, Pope Paul VI was canonized, knowing that he visited the Holy Land starting from Jordan in 1964, on a first visit by a Holy See outside Italy.

In November, the Chaldean Patriarchate hosted the Conference of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East titled, "The Youths are a Sign of Hope in Countries of the Middle East.'' The meeting was held for the first time in Baghdad, as "an expression of the patriarch's solidarity with this country, as well as of maintaining contacts with its Christians, and encouraging the forcibly displaced to return to their villages and towns." It also indicated that the conference is "a message against intolerance and extremism, in addition to a consolidation of the values of common living."

In the same month, His Majesty King Abdullah II was awarded the 2018 Templeton Prize at Washington National Cathedral in recognition of his efforts to achieve interfaith harmony, to safeguard Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem in the framework of the historic Hashemite custodianship of holy places, to protect religious freedoms, in addition to the Kingdom's efforts to host millions of refugees.

Their Majesties King Abdullah and Queen Rania are scheduled to be awarded the prize, the "Lamp of Peace" in 2019, as has been reported by Italian press, by the Franciscan Order in the city of Assisi owing to their interest in promoting human rights and brotherhood. Custos of the Sacred Convent in Umbria Father Mauro Gambetti noted that "these two individuals are distinguished in the Middle East and in the world by their efforts to welcome refugees and administer the refugee crisis, as well as their relentless efforts to promote human rights."

In December, Algeria celebrated in the open air and for the first time in Oran, the beatification (which precedes the canonization) of 19 Christian "martyrs" who died in Algeria in the 1990s during the civil war that claimed many innocent lives from various shades of the society. Cardinal Giovanni Bacciu presided at the ceremony.

With Christmas celebrations, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin paid a solidarity visit to Iraq. He celebrated Christmas in Baghdad and visited Erbil where he met with the forcibly displaced urging them to further manifest their faith. Prior to the visit, Christmas became a statutory holiday.

In Jordan, His Majesty King Abdullah II patronized a Christmas and the New Year celebration which was held by the Council of the Heads of Churches in Jordan. The celebration was attended by HRH Crown Prince Hussein, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The event included Christmas carols by the Fountain of Love Choir as well as performances by a number of Arab and foreign singers.

The Christmas celebrations were held anew in many areas of Syria, as well as several interfaith seminars and conferences were held in Jordan and around the world. Caritas Jordanian also continued its humanitarian assistance to needy Jordanian families as well as to Syrian and Iraqi families living in Jordan. Last year also marked Islamic-Christian solidarity worldwide that denounces heinous terrorism especially that targeted buses or places of worship in Egypt.

On the threshold of the New Year 2019, and as the message of Pope Francis this year is titled, "Peace for this House," the Vatican announced that His Holiness will visit Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, in February 2019 to participate in an interfaith dialogue on human brotherhood. The visit is "historic" as it is the first ever by a Pontiff to the Arabian Gulf region. The Mass, to be celebrated in one of the gymnasiums, is the first ever in history in the Arabian Gulf region. A second papal visit to the Arab region has been announced which will be specifically to the cities of Rabat and Casablanca in Morocco in March. This will be a new opportunity to promote dialogue between the Catholic Church and Islam, as well as to encourage the modest Christian presence in Morocco.

The CCSM conveys well wishes to all countries and peoples for a new year filled with love and sincere initiatives, that bring people together, in addition to sublime religious plurality.

abouna.org@gmail.com

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