One urgent pastoral matter that Pope Francis has been addressing as the Chief Shepherd of his flock is the refugee crisis in Europe, but it also affects us.
A parish is particularly privileged when the Pope comes not only to its city but to the parish itself. Our church has one of the largest capacities in the archdiocese, and we will be hosting a special Holy Hour this Thursday for nearly a thousand young adults. Madison Square Garden will be site of the Pontifical Mass on Friday, for reasons of sheer size and security. On a building on Eighth Avenue, two minutes from our church, is a fine mural that took 100 gallons of paint to show a welcoming figure of Pope Francis, 225 feet high and 93 feet across. This work was the contribution of the Diocese of Brooklyn and will remain in place as a reminder of his visit for six weeks after the pope departs New York for the major part of his U.S. visit in Philadelphia.
One urgent pastoral matter that Pope Francis has been addressing as the Chief Shepherd of his flock is the refugee crisis in Europe, but it also affects us. There are probably as many opinions on how to deal with this as there are people trying to form a cogent response, but especially prudent is the counsel of bishops in places like Hungary and Slovakia who know from long experience the consequences of confusing naïveté with mercy. Ninety per cent of the current refugees are Muslim, and the situation is complicated by the fact that ISIS boasts that there are many of their own people among them. The founder of Nasarean.org, Father Benedict Kiely, has noted: "Emotion, rather than a rational response to a real problem, seems to be the guiding light for the panicked reaction of so many world leaders." To their shame, the very rich Islamic states in the Persian Gulf have not accepted a single refugee.
A bipartisan resolution introduced in Congress calls the persecution of Christians in that sorry part of the world "genocide." This past year, 120,000 Christians were driven from the Nineveh Plain in Iraq with no possessions. During more than four years of civil war, the ancient Christian community in Syria is being destroyed. Christians are not a significant part of the immigrant tide flooding Europe from the UN camps in Syria, Jordan and Turkey because Islamic terrorists have driven them out of those camps for refusing to convert. An Hungarian bishop rightly insisted, and was criticized for it, that to most of the migrants, Christians are second-class citizens. Europe and our own administration in Washington are virtually ignoring their plight, refusing to acknowledge that their Christian faith is the essential fact in the calculus of their suffering. When Coptic Christians were slain in Egypt, our government avoided calling them anything other than "Egyptian citizens." As Father Kiely has said, "Political correctness is not only a new form of totalitarianism, it is dangerous to national security."
Father George W. Rutler. "The refugee crisis and Middle East Christians." From the Pastor (September 20, 2015).
Reprinted with permission of Father George W. Rutler.
Father George W. Rutler is the pastor of St. Michael's church in New York City. He has written many books, including: The Wit and Wisdom of Father George Rutler, The Stories of Hymns, Hints of Heaven: The Parables of Christ and What They Mean for You, Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943, Cloud of Witnesses — Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.Copyright © 2015 Father George W. Rutler
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