“The Pope plans to reform the papacy and this will benefit relations with the Orthodox,” says the Prior of the monastic community of Bose, Enzo Bianchi. Pope Francis has appointed Bianchi as one of the new consultors of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Vatican dicastery led by Cardinal Kurt Koch who is in charge of ecumenical matters.
While Israel ramped up its offensive in Gaza on Sunday, with appalling loss of life and injuries, 1,200km to the north-west in Iraq a different, but hardly lesser, tragedy was under way as the Christian community of Mosul poured out of the city where they have lived for 1,600 years in search of refuge.
"Chaldean website ankawa.com says a university professor was killed after speaking out against anti-Christian persecution. Meanwhile, the Islamic State has set the jizyah at $450"
The situation Christians are facing in Iraq is becoming increasingly dramatic.The Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) extremists have burned down the Syro-Catholic bishopric in Mosul, the Patriarch of the Syro-Catholic Church, Ignace Joseph III Younan told Vatican Radio in a statement condemning the act. Pope Francis is following the developments in Iraq closely and with great concern as Christians are struggling to survive. After almost 2,000 years, there are now no Christians left in Mosul.
The great enthusiasm through which Jordanian Muslims are expressing their welcome to Pope Francis is indicative of a basic fact, that he is different from the other Popes who have visited Amman since 1964.
This Pontiff has a Third World background, like many Jordanians. He had worked as a chemistry technician in a pharmaceutical company before joining the seminary. He shares with many Jordanians the trauma of the poor working class communities; he worked as a janitor in a multi-storey office complex.
“No more war, war destroys everything. Let us not be overcome by evil or allow violence and hatred to prevail over dialogue and reconciliation.” The Pope’s meeting of prayer for peace in the Holy Land was not in vain. “The memory of last June 8th meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew and Presidents Peres and Abbas, is still fresh in my mind. Together we invoked the gift of peace and listened to the call to break the spiral of violence and hatred,” the Pope said. For some, this gathering took place in vain.
The nine cardinals assisting the Pope with the reform of the Roman Curia and the government of the universal Church, the “C9” as it is called, will meet again in September following a four-day meeting, the fifth since the start of the pontificate.
Other meetings will also be held in December and February but it is not certain that the February gathering will give birth to the new apostolic constitution that would replace the “Pastor Bonus”, the blueprint for the Vatican’s various congregations, pontifical councils and offices.
When the Pope visited Bethlehem, in the West Bank, last month, he was less than 100 km (60 miles) away from Gaza. But for the 4,000 Christians in this crowded Palestinian territory along the Mediterranean Sea , he might as well have been on the moon. Like nearly all Gazans, they are barred from leaving the Gaza Strip by Israeli restrictions. An Israeli embargo on supplying many essential goods to them has left the impoverished area unable to repair buildings destroyed or damaged by an Israeli offensive.
“Hasn’t Iraq suffered enough, with all the mass assassinations and people being forced to flee their homes?” The Synod of Chaldean Bishops is appealing to the consciences of Iraq’s various components at this horrific moment the country is going through following yet another mass exodus of Christians from the city of Qaraqosh.
The Pope’s health is under the spotlight on principle. Gone are the days when any ailment suffered by a Pope, even if it was serious, was denied or played down because the Vatican’s white-clad resident closed himself away in his apartments; although today, much of the Pope’s daily life is spent under the spotlight, whenever any meeting or event is cancelled, alarm bells start to ring and rumours of all kinds begin to spread. So how is the Pope?