"The Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth it is this, and Protestantism has ever felt it so; to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant." (-John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine).

"Where the bishop is, there let the people gather; just as where ever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church". -St. Ignatius of Antioch (ca 110 AD)a martyr later thrown to the lions, wrote to a church in Asia Minor. Antioch was also where the term "Christian" was first used.

“But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15

"This is the sole Church of Christ, which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic." -CCC 811

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Young people touched by hope in Palestine thanks to Catholic charity

Bethlehem, West Bank, Sep 7, 2009 / 01:38 am (Catholic News Agency).- Although Bethlehem is partitioned from East Jerusalem by a 25-foot high Israeli wall, behind the massive concrete barrier there are places where charity heals the lives of the poor and disabled. On a recent trip to the area, I discovered that the Pontifical Mission-Jerusalem, is at work in these hardscrabble confines.

Gabi, a project manager for the Pontifical Mission in Palestine, met me in Manger Square just outside of the Church of the Nativity, where Jesus was born some 2,000 years ago. Soon we were joined by Rodolf Saadeh, who also helps coordinate and fund the mission’s numerous charitable efforts in both Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

These two men endeavored to explain both the great work being done and the needs of the children in the area by taking me on a tour of the places benefiting from the Pontifical Mission, an agency of the Holy See established by Pope Pius XII in 1949 "to make available to every exiled or needy Palestinian the charity of the Pope and of all Catholics of the world," Rodolf explained.

The first stop on our visit was a government-run K-8 school that had clearly seen better days. The teachers and maintenance staff walked us through a classroom that had paint peeling from the walls, desks that were falling apart and water damage due to a bad roof. The school also suffered problems from a sewage system that would periodically back up.

Gabi noted that the Pontifical Mission is helping to provide funding to fix the problems which the school could not, despite being a publicly funded school. The goal, he said, is to provide a good learning environment for the children.

We jumped back into the car and headed toward the Welfare Home for Girls. Rodolf asked me if I noticed how recklessly the Palestinians drove as they sped up and down Bethlehem's hilly streets. "It's because they have nowhere to go. They feel trapped," he offered.

Arriving at the Home for Girls a short time later, I found it to be a house that serves as a refuge and a place for healing. The girls who live there are strangers to a normal life, having been abused or neglected, sometimes by their own families. But away from the torment of their former lives, these teenage girls are able to recover from the trauma they've undergone and build anew.

An architect who volunteers his time and expertise, explained to me that soon the girls will have a new gym in which to exercise, a welcome change to the dilapidated concrete annex they currently have.

By far the most moving encounter during my brief trip to Bethlehem was a stop we made at the Al-Ala'iya School for the Blind. One could sense the love that the school's teachers poured out on their students as they cared for these otherwise neglected blind boys.

Al-Ala'iya has a unique teaching model, with the blind boys being taught by teachers who themselves are blind. After learning how to make brooms, brushes and even weave a rug, these students will have a way to make a living, in spite of their blindness.

One particular young Palestinian, Abadeh Rashed Mutawe, comes from a large family that cannot give him the education he needs. As a shepherd, his father is not home often enough to help raise him, while his illiterate mother is struggling to provide for his three sisters and five brothers, ranging in age from 8 to 30. Blindness also affects Abadeh's three sisters and one of his brothers.

Abadeh attends Al-Ala'iya and receives an education through support from the Pontifical Mission.

As I toured the school, Rodolf explained that the generosity of numerous Catholics has helped to create a place where blind children are treated with dignity and taken beyond the confines of poverty.

The generosity of these boys and their teachers was confirmed as they announced to the class that they would like to give me a gift. "Take anything you want," they said.

The Pontifical Mission operates in conjunction with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Its website can be found at www.cnewa.org.

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