On May 24, Pope Francis will be in Jordan. Among the scheduled official visits, the Pope will meet representatives of the Syrian and Iraqi refugees, disabled, orphans and impoverished families. The meeting has been organized with the help of Caritas Jordan. We have met its executive director, Mr Wael Suleiman.
(Amman) – “When the Pope comes to Jordan, we Christians dream of having at least half an hour to talk to him, to tell him how we are living. We are only 3 percent of the population in a country full of problems. We want to tell the Pope that we are without hope, without trust. There is no more hope for the future. It's all gone...”. Wael Suleiman is the young executive director of Caritas Jordan and those words that slip from his mouth, in a brief moment of release, are unexpected.
On May 24, Pope Francis will be in Jordan. Among the scheduled official visits, the Pope will meet representatives of the Syrian and Iraqi refugees, disabled, orphans and impoverished families at the place where it is believed that Jesus was baptized, Bethany Beyond the Jordan. So many of those suffering in the country. The meeting has been organized with the help of Caritas Jordan.
Caritas is the indefatigable operating arm of the Catholic Church in Jordan. It is spread widely throughout the country, from Irbid in the north, to Aqaba in the south, with dozens of towns and hundreds of operators tending to the needs of the people. In 2013, it carried out over 300,000 aid missions, including at least 155,000 for Syrian refugees. All this gives Caritas a unique vantage point on the problems of the country, and a powerful voice about the unbearable burden that the war in Syria is bringing to Jordan.
"Caritas has been working in Jordan for more than 46 years,” explains Suleiman, “and it has always worked with refugees: we started with the Palestinians in 1967, in 1982 the Lebanese, Iraqis in 1991, and in 2011 Syrians. The fact is that all of these problems over time have not been solved, they have increased. The country is full of refugees: we are talking about 2.5 million Palestinians, Iraqis 500,000, 900,000 Egyptians came before and after the revolution in Egypt, and more than 1.3 million Syrians: 600,000 entered at the beginning of the war and another 750,000 came here before 2011 simply as immigrants or persecuted by the regime. In total, more than 5 million foreigners in difficulty have been added to the Jordanian population of 6 million people... the country is becoming more tired by the day.”
"Speaking of Caritas and our mission,” adds the director, “we are here to serve and to open the door at all. But we have gotten to the point that we can’t keep up. There are so many refugees who come every day to ask for help. It is too much for us, I think...They say that there is no war in Jordan, but I feel like it is worse because we're inundated by people who are suffering. Many Syrians today no longer believe in God. Many have asked us: ‘Does God still exist?’. A six year old boy told me: ‘Sorry, but my father was killed in front of my eyes and my sister abducted. My mother took me and we ran away by foot for 30 miles to get to Jordan... I no longer believe that God exists’. When he spoke to me I was with an Italian clergyman who began to cry. I pleaded with him: ‘Father, please say something...? But he could not, he could only cry...”
“These are people who are destroyed inside, who have no future. Their values, the precious things that were nurtured in their hearts are no more, everything is gone. All around us is war, death. The Jordanians, who speak with them and listen to their stories, can’t take it anymore”.
“We are brothers, the children of the same Father: only if we recognize this, can peace come.” The pilgrimage of Pope Francis in the Holy Land came to a conclusion in the Vatican on Sunday, 8th June, the feast of Pentecost, with these words which are like a universal legacy for believers of all times. On 25th May, the Pope had invited “to his home” the Palestinian and Israeli Presidents, Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres, to pray together for peace.
In one of Judaism’s most sacred places, the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Pope Francis chose the words from the book of Genesis. Words spoken by God, words of mercy uttered by a grief-wracked creator no longer able to recognize the being he made in his own image. A creature lost because of sin.
On his arrival to Bethlehem Sunday morning, Pope Francis greeted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with a plea for bravery in seeking peace. On his short car ride to one of Christianity’s most revered spots, Francis stopped and stepped out of his open-air vehicle at the massive concrete separation barrier built by Israeli government and surrounding three sides of Bethlehem.
In a poignant and pinnacle gesture that evokes the image of the Apostles Peter and Andrew, Pope Francis and Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, prayed together Sunday inside the Jerusalem Church of the Holy Sepulcher, also known the Church of the Resurrection (Anastasis) for Eastern Christians.
After nine months of meticulous work, the restoration of the Holy Sepulcher has reached its final stages. The scaffoldings that were mounted around the edicule, have already been removed.
The Iraqi capital, completely overwhelmed by war and terrorism, is now fragmented by many walls that surround neighbourhoods, churches and public buildings… Barriers of defence which now become large canvases.
The Israeli Farher David Neuhaus writes to the Minister of the Interior in defence of 14 Filipino teenagers about to be deported. And he reminds him of the debt of gratitude of the Jews towards the Philippines.
“Syria has always been a mosaic of cultures and we will not allow war to destroy that," affirmed the Franciscans of the Custody in Damascus who help the poorest people any way that they can.