Monday, January 23, 2012

German-Israeli Reconciliation... in Yad Vashem and Auschwitz

Recently I covered for Travelujah in collaboration with Catholics for Israel the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, organized by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.  Following the moving wreath-laying ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, I interviewed a unique pair of friends just outside the Hall of Remembrance.

Maren Steege is a young Christian woman from Stuttgart in Germany, and Eliel Fos is a young Israeli Messianic believer from Haifa. As leaders of the "Yad b’Yad" program, they regularly take teams of German and Israeli youth on reconciliation missions to Auschwitz.

"Yad b’Yad," which means "Hand in Hand" in Hebrew, expresses the organization’s goal to lead Israeli, German and Polish youth to walk hand in hand through Auschwitz, overcoming their pain and shame with the love of God. By guiding young people on a cultural, social, spiritual and historical journey to God’s grace, forgiveness, and power of reconciliation, Yad b’Yad teaches them to overcome the dark history of the past and create hope for future generations.

In the midst of the sober ceremony remembering Wannsee’s “Final Solution,” the smiling faces of Maren and Eliel in the brisk January wind were in themselves a living testimony that their commitment for reconciliation is working.

Maren, what brings you here today?

Maren: I came here from Germany with a delegation of 70 people representing Christian organizations. We have a heart not just for Israel in general but also for the individual persons here.

Eliel, how does it feel to see all these German and Austrian pastors here?

Eliel: It's very special to be with this group because they represent such a major part of Germany. They are making a strong statement in saying: "we will stand with Israel." This is something that is really encouraging to see as an Israeli and as a Jew. It’s also very special to be here together with Maren because we went to Auschwitz together as part of the “Yad b’Yad” program.

How did it feel to go and lay a wreath together, as a German and an Israeli?

Maren: For me, it was a real honor. In my heart, there are two sides beating together: on the one hand, even though I don't look like it, I have Jewish blood in my ancestry line. On the other hand, I also have a great-grandmother who had quite a high position in the Nazi regime. It took us a long time - many years - for us as a family to overcome that.

I just met her once, when I was 1 1/2 year old. When she saw that my brother and I were the only ones in the family who were blonde with blue eyes, somehow we had the feeling that she wanted to pick us out in a sort of idolatrous furthering of the ancestry line. Somehow I was a "chosen one" for her. But I decided to do the opposite in my own life, and to really stand with Israel. And so I'm very honored to stand here… it's something that words cannot express.

It’s also a privilege to be able to organize these youth exchanges, because it's not just with words but also with deeds that we can really change something.

What do you think is the most important thing for young people in the future, and how is all of this connected to your faith?

Eliel: I think there’s an important lesson to be learned in this place – and the young people really have to learn it. It’s our history, our past, but these kinds of things can also happen today. The problem is that people don't learn... they forget. And it's hard for young people to relate to what happened because your mind cannot contain it.

For Israel, the Holocaust is a national wound, and it’s a wound for every Israeli. I think there is no way out of it apart from the cross and Jesus. He is the one who can take this burden from us and bring healing into our heart, with true reconciliation based on true love between our two nations.

Can you tell us more about the trips you lead to Auschwitz?

Eliel: We first took the Israeli kids – all believers in Yeshua – to Maren's church in Stuttgart.  Then we went together to Auschwitz, and it was a very deep time.

Maren: When we go there, every Jewish teenager has a German partner. So the Israelis don't go there saying in a general way "these are the Germans who did this" because you cannot deal with such a large mass of people. But at that moment you have your German partner with you, one person who is an individual. In the first week of the program, they already build good friendships, and then finally they come to Auschwitz.

When we talk with the youth and ask them: "what is your biggest fear, what are you most afraid of?" they often answer: "that the experience in Auschwitz changes our friendship, that it breaks something."  And the Germans kids say: "maybe my Israeli friend will not be able to look at me anymore."

I remember a situation last time, when we were standing there in the gas chamber. There was a boy - he was about 16 years old… at that very moment, he took a picture out of his pocket. It was a picture of his grandmother, and he said: "it was here where she took her last breath."

Then we had a ceremony, and I must admit that seeing the young teenagers, my mind could not really grasp what happened there. But I know that it's really worth it to invest in friendships with Israel – not just superficial friendships but deep ones, because friendships will be like a bridge between us.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

70 Years Later: German Christian Leaders Remember the Wannsee Conference

On January 19 and 20, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem hosted a delegation of German and Austrian Christian leaders to mark the seventieth anniversary of the Wannsee Conference.  I was sent by Travelujah to cover the event.

On that fateful day of January 20, 1942, 15 high-ranking Nazi officials, convened by Reinhard Heydrich, assistant to deputy Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler, met at a lakeside villa outside Berlin to decide on the implementation of the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question,” setting in motion their systematic plan to annihilate all Jews in Europe.

Seventy years later, on the evening of Thursday, January 19, the ICEJ (in partnership with Helping Hands Coalition) invited the Christian representatives together with leaders of various Holocaust survivor communities in Israel to a special reception at the Konrad Adenauer Center in Jerusalem in honor of the victims and survivors.

Jewish and Christian Visitors at the Konrad Adenauer Center

Dr. Susanna Kokkonen, Director of the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, commented on the event:

“The fact that German Christian leaders of all denominations have come here to commemorate and acknowledge this event and express their solidarity with the State of Israel sends a strong message to Israelis.”

Kokkonen wished that Christians take stronger action by coming to Israel and to Yad Vashem for solidarity missions in order to learn how to prevent such an event from happening again.  Asked about how to stem the tide of modern anti-Semitism, she underlined the importance of education: “It’s important to study and learn more about what is anti-Semitism. You can’t heal something if you don’t even understand the mechanism behind it.”

Shaya Ben Yehuda, Managing Director of Yad Vashem’s International Relations Division, contrasted the situation today with that of seventy years ago:

“I think that this event is very meaningful and symbolic: seventy years ago, we were on different sides of the war: we were in the ghettos, tortured, trapped, and those on the other side persecuted us, tortured us and tried to murder us.  This event symbolizes the change that has happened along the years.  It shows that when you come back to the fundamental story of the Bible, you realize that we come from the same origins and we have a common destiny.”

“It’s the proof that we as human beings can build something together,” he added.  “I think our German friends have come to Yad Vashem not only for atonement or repentance, but also to say: ‘we have come to build something together for the future’ – and the future is not just for the Jews but also for all of humanity.”

As to the foundation for building a common future together, Ben Yehuda stressed the importance of biblical formation: “the most important thing is to educate the youth of today about the dignity and right to exist for every human being.  As it is written in the Bible, we were all created in the image of God.”

Dr. Jürgen Bühler
Dr. Jürgen Bühler, the Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, reminded his guests of the dire consequences of forgetting the biblical view of the equal dignity of every human being, even for an educated and cultivated nation such as Germany:

“The Nazi officials who deliberated at Villa Wannsee over their ghastly plans for exterminating European Jewry were all well-educated, with at least half of them holding doctorate degrees.  Some were also the sons of Protestant ministers, yet not one of them raised any moral objections to this heinous plot.”

Five German Christian leaders then gave speeches revolving around several common themes: one of them was that Christians today must not only remember the past, but also pass on this memory to the next generation.  Some told the story of how they had personally passed from having a detached knowledge of the facts of the Holocaust to a heartfelt personal repentance.  They underlined how Christian leaders bear a special responsibility in continuing to express this ongoing repentance in words and deeds:

"We came here to continue the repentance of our nation for the enormous crime of mass murder of Jews committed in the name of a wicked ideology," said Bühler. "The Church in Germany still has so much more to do to amend for our deafening silence in those dark days."

The speeches were followed by a moving concert performed by a string and oboe ensemble from the German Christian Music Academy of Stuttgart.

The next day, a wreath laying ceremony was held at 11:30 at the Warsaw Ghetto Square in Yad Vashem.  Ingolf Ellssel, Chairman of the Pentecostal European Fellowship, said that even today, 70 years after Wannsee, the call for Christians to repent and reorient themselves remains as needed as ever, and he underlined the power of faith in bringing healing, reconciliation, and new life.

Ellssel recalled how his own father had joined Hitler’s army, and after having spent 5 years in Russia as a prisoner of war, he returned to Germany a broken man.  Someone then shared his Christian faith with him, and in Christ, he found forgiveness, hope, and the strength to begin a new life.  Ellssel concluded: “God blesses those who change their lives.”

The German and Austrian Christian leaders, representing 5 million Protestant and Evangelical Christians, then silently laid their wreaths in front of the bronze statue of “The Last March” depicting the deportation of the Jews to the death camps.

Wreaths at the Warsaw Ghetto Square at Yad Vashem

The leaders were then invited into the Hall of Remembrance, where the eternal flame was rekindled, another wreath was laid, and a cantor poignantly sang the Hebrew funeral prayer “El Maleh Rachamim” (God full of mercy) in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

In the Hall of Remembrance

"Wannsee was one of the darkest days in the history of the German people," said Gottfried Bühler, National Director of ICEJ-Germany and the initiator of the event. "Seventy years after, we bow down in deep sorrow. And we also promise to keep this remembrance alive.”

Bühler added that this was the reason why many of the Christian leaders brought their children along, so the next generation could witness these ceremonies. “Yet remembrance alone is not enough; it must go hand-in-hand with responsible deeds of goodness."

Dan Diker, Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress, then addressed the delegation.  While expressing his gratitude to the Christian representatives for their support for the Jewish people, he also warned of how the Wannsee Conference was not an isolated event but rather tended to repeat itself throughout history. He recalled how, long ago, in Persia, a man called Haman plotted to annihilate the Jewish people, and how in our own day, a new Haman is rising in modern Persia - calling again for the destruction of the Jewish people.

The call to vigilance and action was clear:  "Today's ceremonies at Yad Vashem are the answer to Wannsee," Diker stated. "The lesson is to be vigilant. This is about preventing the next Wannsee, which is already here in the Iranian threat to eradicate Israel."

At a time where conflict is increasing in the world, where mutual blame and accusation are the order of the day between opposing individuals, factions and nations, it was refreshing to witness leaders following the example of both humility and courage that they learned from their own Jewish Messiah: the humility to take responsibility for the sins committed in the past by their forefathers, and the courage to act so that they don’t happen again.  Two virtues which, along with mutual forgiveness, seem to be the pillars upholding the warm friendship between Jews and Christians at the event.

It is to be hoped that the same virtues will continue to be expressed and promoted at the upcoming International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.  May our Christian leaders take the opportunity to bring the same message back home - and share it with the nations of the world.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Celebrating the Baptism of Jesus with the Franciscans of the Holy Land

On January 8, Travelujah arranged for me to to accompany the Franciscans of the Holy Land on their annual pilgrimage to the Jordan River. This “annual” trip was rather unique, because the same event was celebrated at the same place… less than three months ago.  The reason: Until recently, the Baptismal Site known as “Qasr al Yahud” was a closed military zone, and pilgrims were allowed to go there only once a year, on the last Thursday of October.  But last summer the Israeli authorities opened the site all year-round.  With the site now much more accessible, the Franciscans decided to move the date of their annual pilgrimage to the most appropriate liturgical time for it, on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, celebrated on the first Sunday after Epiphany (January 6).

On the way to the Jordan River
The busload of friars left Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem shortly after 8 AM, with a festive atmosphere on board.  The attempts of Fr. Artemio Vitores, the Custodial Vicar, to announce the order of the day on the microphone were periodically interrupted by various jokes and songs.  After only a half-hour ride, we made a brief first stop at the Parish of the Good Shepherd in Jericho, where the friars and faithful were welcomed by the local civil authorities.  Fifteen minutes later, we were back on the bus and heading for the Jordan River.

At the Jordan River

As soon as we arrived, the Franciscans lined up for their ceremonial procession, starting from an abandoned monastery next to the parking lot.  The friars led the procession towards the river, walking through the rocky ground in two orderly rows while singing Latin hymns such as “Lauda Ierusalem Dominum” and “Christus vincit”.  They were followed by the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, accompanied by religious, civil and military dignitaries, and with the faithful closing ranks just behind them.

The Franciscan Procession to the Jordan River

Once arrived at the shore of the Jordan, the Mass began promptly, celebrated by the Custos. The setting was ideal as we sat in balmy weather under the palm trees, just a few feet away from the water in which Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.  The reading from the Gospel of Matthew reminded us that this is the place where Jesus’ calling and mission were revealed by the Father, when after coming out of the water the heavens were opened, the Spirit of God descended like a dove upon Him, and a voice from heaven said "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Mat 3:17).

Holy Mass Celebrated at the Jordan River

When the Custos walked around the crowd, sprinkling the people as a reminder of our baptismal promises, it felt like a unique privilege to be blessed with a few drops of water from the Jordan on this Feast of the Baptism of Jesus.  As Fr. Ibrahim, the parish priest of Jericho, reminded us in the homily, our baptism signifies a dying with Christ and rising to new life with Him.  The moment was surely especially moving for the parents of the five children who were then baptized by Fr. Ibrahim.

In contrast to the deserted Jordanian shore of the river facing us, just a stone’s throw away, the large joyful crowd on our side left no doubt that a festive event was being celebrated.

“It’s great to be here, a real privilege” said Brother Maurizius, a Benedictine seminarian who joined the Franciscans for the day.  “It was a very nice celebration at the Jordan River, on the day of Jesus’ baptism at the place of his baptism.”

Fr. Paul, a young Indian priest studying in Jerusalem, echoed him: “I really enjoyed this day, it was really wonderful to see five children being baptized at the same place where Jesus was baptized.”

The Mount of Temptation

On the way up to the Mount of Temptation
After Mass, we got back on the bus and headed for the Mount of Temptation, traditionally believed to be the place where Jesus went into the desert after His baptism to be tempted by Satan for 40 days.  The hike up to the Greek Monastery, protruding from the rock high above Jericho, was not as daunting as it looked from below – a mere 20 minute walk from the parking lot.  At the entrance of the monastery, a Franciscan deacon read the account of Jesus’ temptation before we entered for a short visit. We walked through the narrow passageway that connects the entire monastery, and were treated to some refreshments and snacks, courtesy of the Orthodox Monks who take care of the monastery.  We then had a quick peek at the few modest chapels and caves carved into the rock in this masterpiece of monastic architecture, before heading back down to the bus towards our last top of the day.

Lunch at the Jericho Parish

Lunch in Jericho
We ended where we began, on the lawn of the parish church of Jericho.  Friars and guests were treated by the local Palestinian Christian community to a fantastic lunch of grilled meats, Arabic salads (including the obligatory hummus and eggplant spread), and various baked goods.  It was a light time of casual conversation, old and new encounters with much good humor and laughter, and the sharing of experiences in many languages:  in addition to the lingue franche of the day, Italian and Arabic, one also heard plenty of Spanish, French, English, Hebrew, and other tongues.

In a time of conflict and turmoil in the Middle East, it was a mini-reversal of the Tower of Babel and actualization of the unity and fraternity of Pentecost.  This was most visible at the end of the day, when some of the Franciscans got together to sing songs in their various languages. The improvised talent show crowned a day well spent celebrating the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and our own participation in the mystery of His life, death and resurrection.

Franciscan Talent Show in Jericho

View the complete photo album of the Franciscan Pilgrimage to the Jordan River

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Patriarch's New Year Message: Elephants Still in the Room

On the morning of January 1st, also traditionally known as the World Day of Peace, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Msgr. Foual Twal presided over the Mass of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God in the concathedral of the Latin Patriarchate in the Holy City.

In his homily, the Patriarch shared his wishes of hope and peace for all. Echoing recent statements made by the Holy Father, Msgr. Twal expressed the need of "educating young people in justice and peace."  He mentioned the recent interreligious dialogue in Assisi, the "Arab Spring," the situation in the Holy Land, as well as some upcoming Church events, congresses and synods that will take place in 2012.

Despite its generally positive, irenic and friendly tone, the substance of the Patriarch's message was disappointing and disturbing. A few months ago, Catholics for Israel published an open letter to the leaders of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land entitled Elephants in the Room? The Hidden Roots of the Crisis of the Church in the Holy Land. As the title indicates, the piece pointed out some issues of serious concern which, despite having a debilitating effect on the work of the Church in the Holy Land, remain virtually ignored and unaddressed by its  leaders.

Sadly, the Patriarch's New Year message is an indication that these "Elephants" are still roaming about freely in the Church in the Holy Land - still ignored and unadressed by the leadership.  Evidence for each one of the ten "elephants" was manifest in the homily. Obviously, it would not be fair to expect that the Patriarch should have addressed each one of these issues in one homily.  But that fact all of them were ignored is a characteristic illustration of the theological malaise that continues to afflict the local Church.

1. Neo-Marcionism, Replacement Theology and the “Great Disconnect” between Israel and the Church

The homily was characterized by the usual silence regarding the Jewish origins and roots of the Gospel. Despite the occasion of the Solemnity of the Mother of God, there was no mention that Mary was and remains forever a Jewish woman, daughter of Israel and daughter of Zion. No word was said about the vital connection and bond between Israel and the Church, about the role of Jesus and Mary as bridges between Judaism and Christianity, about the debt of gratitude that the Church owes to Judaism, or even about the first reading of the Mass, from the Book of Numbers, on the Aaronic blessing.

2. Anti-Zionism and Anti-Israel Bias

The Patriarch also said that "a generation of young Israelis and Palestinians were born and grew up under occupation and in an atmosphere of violence. They experience the checkpoints and the walls that separate people." As usual, the only problem mentioned by name is the Israeli "occupation," as if it were the only culprit behind the "atmosphere of violence."  No word was said about the ongoing Palestinian refusal to negotiate with Israel, let alone accept the existence of the Jewish State. As usual, "checkpoints," "barbed wires" and "towering concrete walls" just exist for no other reason than to "separate people," with no word said about the constant threat of terrorist and rocket attacks that has made these checkpoints and walls necessary for the sake of saving both Israeli and Palestinian lives.

Moreover, no word of gratitude or appreciation was said about the freedom of religion and worship, and the full security that Christians enjoy in Israel, a privilege that is rather rare in the Middle East.

Of course, there was also no mention of the biblical and theological bond and attachment of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel - and this, despite the increasingly aggressive and strident delegitimization and hatred of Israel, not only from hostile neighboring countries but also from the world at large. The name "Israel" was barely mentioned in the message, as usual replaced by the more politically correct expressions "Holy Land" or "Land of Jesus."

3. Palestinian Liberation Theology

The theme of the homily was justice, reconciliation and peace. While this is indeed an important topic, it has become almost a mantra in the Church of the Holy Land, ceaselessly repeated with a marked accent on socio-political aims rather than on solid biblical and doctrinal catechesis. There was the usual call for the creation of a Palestinian State, and the usual silence about the culture of anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish hatred and incitement in Palestinian society (including, for example the recent praise of Hitler in a PLO youth magazine because he murdered Jews), the Palestinian Authority's rapprochement with Hamas despite the latter's continued avowed goal to work towards the total destruction of Israel, or the PA's praise and glorification of terrorists (illustrated, for example, by  President  Mahmoud Abbas openly meeting with convicted terrorists and appointing them as advisors in his government).

4. Dhimmitude: the Surrender to Islam

The Patriarch called the so-called "Arab Spring" a "reawakening of consciences for democracy, peace and social justice" where "Muslims and Christians took to the street side by side," generating "real enthusiasm and great expectation." His only caviat was a strikingly weak reservation that "doubts arise on the form of government that will be implemented."  It is hard to grasp how an educated spiritual leader can arrive as such delusional conclusions about the violent revolutions that have already claimed thousands of lives (and counting) in numerous countries, causing the rapid rise of radical islamist forces and a widespread increase in Muslim persecution of Christians throughout the Middle East.

Despite his complete silence on the problems generated by the "Arab Spring,"  the Patriarch recalled that "the Pope asked the young and old to stay away from extreme nationalism or exacerbated fundamentalism" - as if the violence and killings in the Middle East were but the fruit of random and generic "fundamentalism" to which everyone is prone - certainly not related to any particular religion at all.

Why the silence on these persecutions? Why, if mentioned at all by Christian clergy, are the persecutions always carried out by nameless perpetrators? And why continue to use the ludicrous term "Arab Spring" when the reality on the ground does not even remotely resemble a "spring" but rather an "Islamic Winter"?

Surely such a combination of misguided statements and conspicuous silence cannot be the result of ignorance or malice. So what is left? Wishful thinking? Or perhaps a fear of openly saying the truth, lest this make things worse? Here we have again the spirit of dhimmitude, the fear of saying anything against Islam lest this causes yet greater violent anti-Christian backlashes on the part of Muslims.

5. Dialogomania and Practical Relativism

Another ever-recurring catch word, supported by the ever-popular "Spirit of Assisi," is "dialogue." The Patriarch invited the faithful to follow St. Francis in engaging in "peaceful dialogue between believers" and creating "bonds of friendship and solidarity."  Although this is a good and noble ideal, almost nothing was said about the Church's mission of evangelization and about the urgent need that Christians pray and work for the conversion of sinners and those who do not know Christ.

Msgr. Twal did say that "peace has its basis in the heart of man, in his conversion and reconciliation with God and family," but there was no word on how to practically arrive at this conversion and reconciliation. He gave the impression that anyone, from any religious tradition, can reach this conversion and reconciliation, with no need at all to believe in Christ or be baptized.

The result is that Christians, once again, are inoculated against giving a clear witness of their faith in words and deeds to non-Christians. They are given the impression that being a Christian essentially consists in being a "nice person" who gets along with everyone - including the Muslims who are persecuting them and driving them out of their homes and countries.  And so, with this underlying practical relativism, the Lord's commission and the Church's mission of making disciples of all nations is given a crippling blow and effectively neutralized.

6. Blurring the Doctrine: The Catechetical Crisis

In his homily, the Patriarch did not talk - even briefly - about the readings from the Word of God that were read during the Liturgy of the Word - not from the first reading, not from the Psalm, not from the second reading, nor from the Gospel. The homily was largely devoid of catechetical or doctrinal content, apart a few sentences exhorting the faithful to look to Mary who in her humility was "peaceful, pure and gentle" and at the same time "strong, vigorous, and full of hope."

Moreover, Jesus was almost entirely absent from the homily.  He was mentioned only three times, and two of these were indirect, passing mentions of the "land of Jesus" and "mother of Jesus." Only in his very last sentence did Msgr. Twal wish that Mary's son, "Jesus, the Prince of Peace give us His peace."

7. Battling Evil: Spiritual Warfare and Dormant Soldiers

With the homily focused on peace, dialogue, and social justice, and with no call or encouragement to share the Gospel with others for the purpose of their conversion and salvation, all appeals to prayer were calls to a generic and amorphous "prayer for peace." The element of prayer as spiritual battle and warfare for the salvation of souls was wholly absent from the message.

8. Lack of Prophetic and Eschatological Vision

The homily was also uninspiring in its complete lack of prophetic and eschatological perspective. Its stated aims and goals were mostly horizontal and humanistic - calling for peace and co-existence here on earth, now in this life. Nothing was said about the risks and dangers of a humanly orchestrated peace that is not based on Jesus Christ. Nothing was said about the eschatological vision of the Scriptures (confirmed by recent prophetic locutions) speaking of the rise of evil in the world, manifested by an increasing hostility of the nations against Israel.

9. The Eery Silence of Political Correctness

All of the above issues demonstrate once again that political correctness reigns supreme in the Church in the Holy Land: silence on the Church's theological and biblical roots and foundations in Israel and Judaism; silence on the anti-Israel bias of the clergy; silence on the Palestinian culture of incitement and shared Palestinian responsibility in the perpetuation of the conflict; silence on the growing Islamic oppression and persecution of Christians; silence on the Lord's commandment and Church's mission to lead all people to Christ; silence on the Church's biblical and doctrinal catechesis; silence on the need to pray for the salvation of the world and against spiritual forces of evil; and silence on the prophetic and eschatological vision of the Bible and of the Church.

10. Ignoring the Messianic and Evangelical Communities

Finally, there was also no mention in the Patriarch's New Year message of the growing impact of the Messianic Jewish communities in Israel - a prophetic movement that deserves not only the attention but also the support, help and encouragement of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.


For 2012, let us pray that the Lord may grant our leaders and all Christians in the Holy Land the grace, strength and courage to be more faithful to the Lord's calling as expressed in the Sacred Scriptures and in the Church's teachings!  As we pointed out in Elephants in the Room, we suggest that this should include the following:
  1. decisively rejecting neo-Marcionism, replacement theology, and rediscovering the Jewish roots of Catholicism and of the Christian faith;
  2. decisively rejecting anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and fostering among Catholics a true appreciation and love for Israel;
  3. decisively rejecting anti-Israel Palestinian Liberation Theology, and supporting the Palestinian people in a way that is more respectful of Israel’s prophetic calling;
  4. decisively rejecting the dhimmi mentality and stop being silent or in denial about the increasingly aggressive threat of radical Islam;
  5. decisively rejecting religious relativism, and returning the role of dialogue to its proper place as a subset of the Church’s mission of evangelization;
  6. establishing vigorous programs of catechesis and doctrinal formation for the faithful;
  7. raising the awareness of the need for spiritual warfare, and train and equip the clergy to pass on this awareness to the faithful;
  8. restoring the prophetic and eschatological vision in the Church, and translating this vision into action;
  9. decisively rejecting political correctness and describing the reality in the Holy Land as it truly is.
  10. restoring a genuine ecumenical openness in the Church, with a welcoming outreach to Messianic and Evangelical believers.