A Christmas message from Bethlehem University


From Independent Catholic News

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: God is weeping over President Trump’s decision on Jerusalem

December 10th, 2017Jerusalem, Donald Trump, Holy Land, Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Tutu

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has condemned President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In a statement on Friday, he said:

‘Those who claim divine rights for themselves to physical property on earth are false prophets.

God does not discriminate between Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Taos, atheists – or any other people.

When God’s children make mistakes God does not directly intervene because God has pre-programmed us with the precious gifts to love, to reason and to discern right from wrong. It is our responsibility to use these gifts.

God is weeping over President Donald Trump’s inflammatory and discriminatory recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It is our responsibility to tell Mr Trump that he is wrong.’

From Independent Catholic News

Holy Land Church leaders urge President Trump not to change status of Jerusalem

December 6th, 2017Jerusalem, Donald Trump, Holy Land,

Source: LPJ

The Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches in Jerusalem have written an open letter to President Trump today, urging him not to change the present international status of Jerusalem.

They write:

We are fully aware and appreciative of how you are dedicating special attention to the status of Jerusalem in these days. We are following with attentiveness and we see that it is our duty to address this letter to Your Excellency.

On July 17, 2000, we addressed a similar letter to the leaders who met in Camp David to decide the status of Jerusalem. They kindly took our letter into consideration. Today, Mr President, we are confident that you too will take our viewpoint into consideration on the very important status of Jerusalem.

Our land is called to be a land of peace. Jerusalem, the city of God, is a city of peace for us and for the world. Unfortunately, though, our holy land with Jerusalem the Holy city, is today a land of conflict.

Those who love Jerusalem have every will to work and make it a land and a city of peace, life and dignity for all its inhabitants. The prayers of all believers in it – the three religions and two peoples who belong to this city – rise to God and ask for peace, as the Psalmist says: “Return to us, God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see!” (80.14). Inspire our leaders, and fill their minds and hearts with justice and peace.

Mr President, we have been following, with concern, the reports about the possibility of changing how the United States understands and deals with the status of Jerusalem. We are certain that such steps will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, moving us farther from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division. We ask from you Mr President to help us all walk towards more love and a definitive peace, which cannot be reached without Jerusalem being for all.

Our solemn advice and plea is for the United States to continue recognizing the present international status of Jerusalem. Any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm. We are confident that, with strong support from our friends, Israelis and Palestinians can work towards negotiating a sustainable and just peace, benefiting all who long for the Holy City of Jerusalem to fulfil its destiny. The Holy City can be shared and fully enjoyed once a political process helps liberate the hearts of all people, that live within it, from the conditions of conflict and destructiveness that they are experiencing.

Christmas is upon us soon. It is a feast of peace. The Angels have sung in our sky: Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to the people of good will. In this coming Christmas, we plea for Jerusalem not to be deprived from peace, we ask you Mr President to help us listen to the song of the angels. As the Christian leaders of Jerusalem, we invite you to walk with us in hope as we build a just, inclusive peace for all the peoples of this unique and Holy City.

With our best regards, and best wishes for a Merry Christmas.

Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

+Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate

+Patriarch Nourhan Manougian, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate

+Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator, Latin Patriarchate

+Fr Francesco Patton, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land

+Archbishop Anba Antonious, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem

+Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate

+Archbishop Aba Embakob, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate

+Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate

+Archbishop Mosa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate

+Archbishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East

+Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

+Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate

+Msgr Georges Dankaye’, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate

WANTED – VOLUNTEERS FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE OFFICE – a chance to help with the Refugee/Climate/Fairtrade/Palestine subcommittees, or with the nuts and bolts!


INTERESTED? Email the office:  justice@rcdow.org.uk

Attend meetings by arrangement, roughly once a quarter, participate in actions or simply convening and circulating information


INTERESTED?   Email the office:  justice@rcdow.org.uk

Once a fortnight, two hours every fortnight

COMPILING E-BULLETIN ONCE A MONTH                                   

INTERESTED?  Email the office:  justice@rcdow.org.uk

Once a month for about 3 hours in the office, about 3 or 4 days before the end of the month


INTERESTED?    Email the office:  justice@rcdow.org.uk

Only 8 parishes to go. How can we get them on board, and find out what we need to do to become a fairtrade diocese? One day a week or fortnight, in the office.

From Pope urges Myanmar’s religions to build peace and unity November 28th, 2017Myanmar, Burma, Pope Francis Source: Vatican Radio/VIS Pope Francis met 17 leaders of Myanmar’s religious communities this morning, exhorting them that peace consists in unity in diversity, not in uniformity. The Pope met leaders of Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Catholic and other Christian communities at the Archbishop’s House in Yangon, at the start of his first full day of his November 27-30 apostolic visit to Myanmar. Holy See’s spokesman, Greg Burke said that the during his 40-meeting with them, the Pope urged them to work together to rebuild the country and that if they argue, they should argue like brothers, who reconcile afterwards. After various leaders spoke, Pope Francis spoke off-hand in Spanish helped by an interpreter. Alluding to the Psalms, he said: ” How beautiful it is to see brothers united!” He explained that being united does not mean being equal. “Unity is not uniformity, even within a religious community. Each one has his values, his riches as also shortcomings,” the Pope said, adding, “we are all different.” Each confession has its riches and traditions to give and share. And this can happen only if all live in peace. “Peace,” the Pope stressed, “consists in a chorus of differences.” “Unity comes about in differences.” “Peace is harmony,” the Pope said, noting that there is a trend in the world towards uniformity to make everybody equal. But he denounced this as a “cultural colonization” that “kills humanity.” He said religious leaders should understand the richness of our differences – ethnic, religious or popular – and what results from these differences is dialogue. “As brothers, we can learn from these differences,” the Pope stressed, exhorting the religious leaders to “build the country, which is so rich and diverse even geographically.” Nature in Myanmar is very rich in differences, the Pope said, urging them not be afraid of differences. “Since we have one Father and we are all brothers, let us be brothers,” the Pope urged. And if they have to debate among themselves, let it be as brothers, which will soon bring about reconciliation and peace. “Build peace without making allowing yourselves be uniformed by the colonization of cultures,” the Pope appealed. “One builds true divine harmony through differences. Differences are a richness for peace,” the Pope added. Share this storytelling

From ICN

Pax Christi will hold its Annual Advent Peace Service on Monday 4 December at 7.00pm at St Aolysius Church, Phoenix Road, Euston, London.

This popular event, with its focus on Advent and the call to peace, will relate stories of women peacemakers, those seeking asylum and the plight of Palestinians. Music will be led by Julie McCann. Following the service there will be an alternative Christmas Market with goods from the Philippines, Palestine, Congo as well as fair traded goods and a selection of Christmas cards.

All welcome.

More here


Pat Gaffney

General Secretary

Pax Christi

St Joseph’s

Watford Way

London , NW4 4TY

0208 203 4884



Support our work http://paxchristi.org.uk/about-us/support-us/donation/

From Independent Catholic News

Clare Dixon honoured in El Salvador

November 28th, 2017El Salvador, CAFOD, Clare Dixon, Jon Sobrino,

Clare Dixon at the ceremony with Jon Sobrino SJ and Columban Fr Eamonn O’Brien

During the Romero Trust pilgrimage to El Salvador, Clare Dixon was awarded the José Simeón Cañas Medal for Extraordinary Merit in recognition of her commitment and work in support of the people, the Church and the Society of Jesus in El Salvador and Central America. The award was made during a special ceremony at the the Jesuit University in El Salvador in recognition of Clare’s commitment and work in support of the people, the Church and the Society of Jesus in El Salvador and Central America. She has been Head of CAFOD’s Latin America programmes for nearly 40 years – and since 2005 she has been Secretary of the Archbishop Romero Trust.

The pilgrimage was organised by Anthony Coles and led by Clare Dixon, Bishop Rawsthorne and Julian Filochowski.

The medal which is a very special distinction was instituted in 1980; and this is only the 21st such medal to be awarded over these years The medal citation states that Clare Dixon was awarded the medal for her:

• Generosity and dedication to the poor throughout Latin America, especially in the countries of Central America, supporting their struggles in defence of human rights and dignity for forty years;

• The solidarity she has shown through the support to numerous initiatives and works of the Society of Jesus in Central America;

• The continued accompaniment to the UCA for more than 30 years and her contribution in favour of the social outreach work of the University, especially in defence of the cause of the martyrs;

• The exemplary faith, hope and love which she has always shown in her work, especially in support of Monseñor Romero throughout his time as Archbishop and latterly in the foundation of the Romero Trust in Great Britain, to make known his life, his work and his legacy.

Article from ICN/Independent Catholic News

Calais: November update from Seeking Sanctuary

November 27th, 2017Calais, refugees, Secours Catholique, Dunkirk, Dubs, Catholic Worker, Seeking Sanctuary

By: Phil Kerton, Ben Bano

Phil delivered goods to Calais on 8 November and Ben on 23 November, reflecting a somewhat renewed flow of donated goods needing transport. Phil noted that it was troubling to see the people living in the wood alongside an industrial estate who emerged to receive food distributed from vans parked on waste ground alongside stockpiles of road-fill aggregate, dominated by a huge pylon. Following the issue of a government report confirming that the repeated accounts of their regular violence are plausible, the riot police are now less openly aggressive in the daylight. They concentrate efforts upon patrols during the hours of darkness, when they confiscate and destroy bedding and tarpaulins, leaving the typical length of uninterrupted sleep at around two hours and keeping the average life of a sleeping bag at below a week. When Ben went over – thanks to Dover and Deal Labour Party for a full load of goods – he found himself in the middle of a stand off between a group of migrants and the CRS police in the middle of the car park of a wine superstore. An unnerving experience!

More troubling still for Phil, queuing to board the ferry at the end of his day in Calais, was to see the distress of a family removed from a lorry by port security staff after being detected by sniffer dogs. During the time spent in Calais we took the opportunity find out a little more about the various support groups that operate from the town.

L’Auberge des Migrants has worked in Calais since 2008, delivering food and material aid in the streets. Its activities extend to nearby camps and to Government Welcome Centres, providing concrete support on the form of French lessons, integration support, and cash to support needs, help for transport etc., whilst acting as ‘watchdog’ to ensure that people’s rights are respected

“Help Refugees” aims to fill gaps left by Governments and large NGOs in the refugee crisis by working with local partners. Apart from emergency humanitarian aid they aim for sustainable solutions, often by holding governments to account for their (in)actions through litigation and advocacy.

Together, the above groups operate one of the two major aid warehouses, and a number of other organisations have moved their offices to their site, including:

The Refugee Community Kitchen, which has served 1.5 million meals over the past two years, currently averaging 2500 a day – all involving delicious and healthy food. Facilities have just been updated to take account the demands of hygiene and planning regulations, with the new equipment having come into use this week.

The Refugee Youth Service is starting a mobile youth centre in a vehicle providing a safe space, legal support, information on asylum in France and other European countries, access to WiFi, phone charging and classes. They employ a team with a full-time French social worker and a legal case-worker, providing a consistent and professional service for displaced young people in Northern France.

Utopia 56 helps volunteers to make some social outreach to refugees in the streets, day and night, to provide assistance such as the distribution of meals, bedding and clothes. It also protects unaccompanied foreign minors by accompanying them through their administrative procedures, working on the recovery of identity documents from relatives remaining at home and protecting them while waiting for decisions. Young refugees are also provided with occasional nights of hotel accommodation, when funds permit.

The Refugee Info Bus provides a mobile office and WiFi hotspot for refugees in northern France, allowing them to access information that is already freely available. This helps them to better understand their situation and aids individuals making informed decisions about their own future. They also help other groups to collect testimonies from refugees and volunteers concerning the daily action of police tearing down makeshift shelters and taking away sleeping bags and blankets., along with the use of tear gas and force to disperse people sleeping rough who have nowhere to go.

The Dunkirk Women’s Centre was based in the Dunkirk camp before it burned down in April, and now operates an outreach project in and around Dunkirk and Calais from a van. The Dunkirk population is predominantly Kurdish and includes a greater proportion of families and women than the typical Calais exiles. They encourage people to keep safe and in shelter and run children’s activities. They also cater for the needs of the women, supplementing twice-weekly deliveries from the Emmaus charity which can often amount to only one sanitary towel per woman and one nappy per baby per day.

The number of people sleeping rough in and near Calais and towns and villages along the coast and near major roads has again increased a little. Exiles remain determined to come to the the area and to remain there.

Care4Calais runs the other important Calais aid warehouse and delivers aid directly to those living in the worst conditions across northern France: people who do not have access to winter clothing, adequate food or other daily essentials. They help those living on the streets in Calais, Dunkirk, Paris and Brussels, and those in other small camps wherever they spring up. The local team from the Muslim group, Salam, which used to distribute food at the Jules Ferry Centre (alongside the former “Jungle”), apparently now concentrates upon collecting and distributing aid alongside the volunteers from the warehouses.

We have previously described the activity of the Catholic Worker house of hospitality, which shelters and accompanies those who are physically or mentally the most damaged and vulnerable: they need volunteers and funds.

Secours Catholique, staffed largely by local volunteers, has just lost the premises made available by the town council for use as a Day Centre, and has been clearing space in its “migrants’ locker room” near the port with a view to shifting the Day Centre activity to that site. Additionally, a number of local people welcome the rough sleepers into their homes for a little respite, getting warm, charging their phones and taking a shower: one Belgian lady regularly takes home all the very dirty socks from Dunkirk to launder and return them.

We are repeatedly asked what is needed. The answer is still: volunteers, money, warm bedding and warm clothes suitable for thin young men, and supplies of food in catering quantities.


It’s over five weeks since out last update, at a time when a Parliamentary debate was expected, calling for full implementation of both both the ‘Dubs Amendment’ which produced Section 67of the 2016 Immigration Act (allowing vulnerable minors to come to the UK) and the EU’s Dublin III Regulation (allowing children to join family in UK). We both attended a parliamentary reception in October, where several helpful members of the House of Lords were in attendance, among others. In fact that we suspect that without their persistent pressure on the Home Office, the arrival of the 10-20 children described elsewhere in this newsletter would not have happened.

In practice the debates in the House of Commons and House of Lords took place on on 2 November. A High Court ruling handed down earlier that day confirmed that the Government’s approach to implementing Section 67 of the Immigration Act (and finding remarkably few local authority places able to accept them) was lawful: an appeal is planned.

To update those of you who have not been able to follow the details of these debates, some facts to emerge included that:

On the previous day, the government had published a (five months’ delayed) strategy for unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children in recognition of their increasing numbers, vulnerability and specific needs; this includes commitments to increasing the number of foster places by 1000; reviewing the funding available to local authorities; improving the information and advice available to children and families; preventing children going missing; updating Parliament and the Children’s Commissioner regularly on the number of children transferred improving how the Dublin III protocol is actually administered on the ground, with an emphasis on improving family tracing and speeding up asylum application processing.

Some children – we suspect about 10 to 20 – had arrived in recent weeks from France and transfers were ongoing.

The Home Office had on that day published the “Dublin III Regulation guidance”, covering decisions relating to the state responsible for examining an asylum claim and transfers between the UK and other European states in respect of adults and children.

Additional centres for shelter and welcome had been opened for people already in France, including four a little distance away from the Channel ports, where those wishing to claim asylum can be supported through the process – apparently with involvement of British officials. Regular transportation is provided to these centres for those who contact patrols organised by the government. Capacity is supposed to rise to around 300 places.

The above developments come in response to the various campaigns about which we have sent on information, and the organisers are immensely grateful to those who have responded by writing to MPs and Ministers..

Parliamentarians, often citing the various reports that had been brought to their attention by ourselves and others, pointed out that

The Government must listen to the evidence from wonderful organisations such as Human Rights Watch, Refugee Rights Data Project, Safe Passage UK, the Human Trafficking Foundation and Help Refugees, who have listed hundreds of asylum seekers sleeping rough in forests and parks around northern France in the most appalling conditions.

Traffickers run rings around the police.

93.6% of unaccompanied children spoken to by the Refugee Rights Data Project, had experienced police violence.

Some of those moved from Calais to welcome centres in central France and beyond found that they had no heating and the food was bad. When asylum claims were rejected by the Home Office they were not told why and they were not told how to appeal. When centres closed after a few months, they were told to leave and have since been wandering around France in Paris, Calais, Dunkirk-then to Belgium-Bordeaux and round again. They suffer at the hands of the police, who beat them up, tear-gas them and pepper spray their sleeping bags., as an official French government enquiry has finally agreed – stating that these practices result from a lack of appropriate training!

Getting to Lille, where there is a registration office, is hazardous because migrants are forbidden to use public transport and are arrested. But even if they make it there, nothing happens for months, if ever.

The UK Government has spent £81 million on security measures in Calais, yet just one member of staff has been seconded to France to try to progress family reunion claims even though we know that one in six of the people in the new Jungle are trying to reconnect with their family.We must reduce the number of people coming to Britian through illegal, irregular and very dangerous routes and instead make sure that there are legal and safe routes to sanctuary such as the Dubs and Dublin scheme – and ensure that these legal channels are not affected by departure from the European Union.

In short, at the time of the Calais ‘Jungle’ clearance in 2016, 750 child refugees were successfully transferred to Britain. The procedures that were then applied appear to have since become clogged with bureaucratic red tape, and hundreds of unaccompanied child refugees are in woods around Calais, with minimal provisions and sanitation, and in constant fear of police violence and traffickers. As we write, just the first child is about to be brought from Greece after waiting for most of 2017 for paperwork for the journey to be sorted out!

21 November was World Children’s Day, marking the date in 1959 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. 30 years later the Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, yet Governments around the world, including our own, continue fail to respect the principles of these resolutions. There are still over 30 million child refugees across the world that need our help, alongside those n NW France. We must keep working together to make sure governments do not fail these children, and every child the chance to flourish reach their full potential.


‘Seeking Sanctuary’ is to receive an award in December from an internet radio station in recognition of our contribution to charitable work! The organisers want to give a boost to organisations struggling to get the profile and funding that they need to move forward, offering a leg-up to Christian groups that are delivering practical solutions to present-day problems.

We are both intrigued and delighted by this recognition and will tell you more about it in out next update.


Reading reports such as this, it is very easy to give up hope before carrying on with our lives and focusing on less depressing subjects. That is an understandable reaction, but we can do better. Anyone can volunteer in Calais. Anyone can donate old clothes or money. The charities present there need all the support they can get. Even if you only spread the word, it is still a positive contribution!

Thank you for all that you do.

Ben + Phil.

Columbans share Gospel Joy at start of their Centenary Year

From ICN news:

The Columban Superior General, Fr Kevin O’Neill, joined Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham and Fr Peter Hughes, head of the Columbans in Britain, to celebrate the opening of the Columbans’ Centenary Year in Britain on Saturday. The Church of St Catherine of Siena, where the Columbans ministered for eight years, was packed on 25 November with Columban priests, sisters, lay missionaries and co-workers, alongside hundreds of partners and supporters. A joyful Mass on the theme of ‘Sharing Gospel Joy’ heard Fr Kevin, an Australian who is based in Hong Kong, say that “as Pope Francis says in his encyclical Laudato Si we seek to “listen to and heed the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”. Standing in front of an altar cloth comprised of 16 sections, prepared in the 16 countries were Columbans work, he prayed that, “people will continue to respond to the Holy Spirit’s invitation to join us on mission as Columban priests, lay missionaries, sisters, benefactors and volunteers.” A smiling Archbishop Longley expressed heartfelt thanks for the Columban presence in Birmingham Diocese, where they have headquarters in Solihull. “We remember Fr Jim Fleming and Fr Ray Collier who were based here at St Catherines” he said, “and are grateful for the presence of all Columban priests and lay missionaries who have enriched the life of our diocese.” He mentioned projects with refugees and asylum seekers in the diocese which have had Columban Support, including St Chad’s Sanctuary, Restore and Fatima House. Most Columbans sat amongst the people for the first part of the Mass as “a sign of the integration of all the people of God” said Fr Peter Hughes. Around 30 priests moved to the altar for the consecration and these included Fr Tony Chantry, the director of Missio in England and Wales, who commented afterwards that the Mass was an “inspiring tribute to the wonderful work of the Columbans and celebrating the wonderful diversity of the Christian faith.” He referred to bidding prayers said in languages the Columbans use on overseas mission. Fr Jim Fleming, who worked for two decades in Pakistan, said a bidding prayer in Urdu. Fr Kevin O’Neill said another in Chinese. Much of the liturgy planning was organised by Columban lay missionaries from Chile – Mauricio Silva and Nathalie Marytsch – who have been based in Birmingham Archdiocese for 16 years. The Offertory procession included a lantern, representing the Columban response to God’s invitation to bring God’s light into the world; a red plant representing Columban martyrs who were killed on mission; a green plant representing Columban Care of Creation; and a Lampedusa Cross, representing solidarity with refugees forced to flee their homelands. Many religious orders and organisations were represented at the Mass, including Mill Hill Missionaries, Presentation Sisters, St Louis Sisters and Pax Christi. Lay people included John Blowick, a nephew of Columban co-founder Fr John Blowick, and the Tierney family, whose relative Columban Fr Cornelius Tierney died at the hands of communist bandits in China in 1931. He was one of 24 Columbans – one a Columban sister – who were killed on mission and are regarded as Columban martyrs. Their photos were displayed at St Catherine’s during the Mass, along with special Columban centenary banners highlighting Columban priorities such as Justice, Peace and Ecology and Inter-Religious Dialogue. A new booklet providing the history of Columban mission in Britain was handed out, along with a prayer card from the Columban Prayer Trust. Read more about the Columbans here: http://www.columbans.co.uk

Three events coming up

Here are three events coming up for you to be aware of. Take a look at the links below to see how you can get involved.

Red Wednesday – 22nd November

From Aid to the Church in Need: “This autumn we are asking you, once again, to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians and all who suffer for their peacefully held beliefs. We will be holding a week of events from 19 – 26 November with #RedWednesday as the highlight on Wednesday 22 November.

Lobby of Parliament for Palestine 2017 – Wednesday 22nd November

Find out more, including how to contact your MP, from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Syrian Kitchen Launch – Thursday 30th November

The artsdepot, at 5 Nether Street, Tally Ho Corner, North Finchley, London N12 0GA, will be hosting the Syrian Kitchen Launch. More details and how to book can be found on their website. “Join us for a wonderful evening of food, film, music and talks curated by the Syrian community. Experience authentic Syrian cuisine prepared and served by the Syrian Kitchen, a project run by refugee women living in Barnet.”