“Let us work together to replace despair with HOPE, fear with human SECURITY and humiliation with DIGNITY”

Patriarch Patient as he Prays for Peace

A lifetime in the Middle East has taught Patriarch Michel Sabbah that embracing peace may entail suffering for one’s faith.

A lifetime in the Middle East has taught Patriarch Michel Sabbah that embracing peace may entail suffering for one’s faith.

He believes peace will come – in God’s time – in the Mideast if leaders apply courage and inspiration to regional politics.

In an era when many Christians have left the Holy Land for political and professional reasons, Sabbah has remained.
“The church is always there, waiting,” Sabbah said.

Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church in that famous city, visited Houston this week on a four-city American tour.  He also stopped in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C.

He leads what is known as the “mother church of Christianity,” since the faith began in his church region.

“I believe that this (peace) will come because I have seen that Jesus being crucified in Jerusalem, Christian remain very near to the cross.
“But in Jerusalem, there was also the Resurrection after that.   After all sufferings, Resurrection will come.   Therefore I believe that peace will come.”

In Houston, in conversations and a sermon, he urged American Christians to have diligence and patience in their efforts to support their sisters and brothers in the Mideast.

Sabbah said that Christians number about 300,000 out of the 14 million people in Israel, Palestine and Jordan.  They have their own problems and also share the difficulties experienced by all people living in the region “because of the situation of conflict between two peoples: Palestinians and Israelis.”

Christians’ plight may seem more acute because Christianity is a minority faith, he said.

“Both of them (Palestinian and Israelis) today are in quest of justice and peace,” said Sabbah, 67, a Palestinian who was born in Nazareth and grew up in Bethlehem.  He is the first Palestinian in modern times to be named Latin Patriarch.

Finding justice and peace “is not an easy job” because it means ensuring the rights “for both peoples at the same time.”

Instability in the troubled region covers political, economic and social aspects of life.  When a “definitive peace” rooted in justice for all comes, “conditions will become easier, of course, for all,” he said.

While in Houston, Sabbah met with Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, spiritual leader of the Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston and president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.  He also spoke at a luncheon sponsored by the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, a Catholic group that raises money for the church in the Holy Land.

He also met with other Christians with strong ties to the Mideast, including representatives of First Presbyterian Church, where he preached during an interfaith worship service.  The congregation is a mission partner of the Patriarchate, Sabbah’s church region and has hosted national conferences for Christians concerned about the fate of fellow believers in the Mideast.

“Under ‘siege’ is a good word to describe the climate for Christians over there,” said the Rev. Victor Pentz, First Presbyterian’s pastor.  “When you hear them say, ‘Our goal is to maintain a Christian presence ‘ against a lot of social and political pressures, you get a sense of how alarming the situation is.

“What was so powerful for us was when he said, ‘All Christians must suffer in our life with Jesus.  We are people of the cross.’

“Then afterward, the buzz among our people was, ‘Where have I suffered?’ “ Pentz said “One fellow said, ‘The only suffering I can think of is I’m infested with mosquitoes in my back yard.’  We felt convicted about how sheltered our lives are in contrast to those Christians who every day are on the line for what they believe.”

Marilyn Borst, First Presbyterian’s director of missions and long-time advocate of assisting Christian in the Mideast, was moved when Sabbah talked about ecumenical work.

“He said, ‘Who know how long it will be before Christians will be able to come together over doctrines and confessions?’” But Sabbah added that there is “no need to wait to create a union of the heart,” she said.

“One of the ways we live that out is through the hands-on ministry we’ve done with Christians in that part of the world.”

Sabbah hopes a just peace will be realized more quickly under the leadership of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, a moderate elected in May.

“At least under Barak the doors again for talks.  The have begun the talks.  There have been limited implementation of some of the formal agreements.

“There are hesitation and fear s. We have not seen so far what he will be and what is exactly the features of the personality of Barak,” said  Sabbah, who is formally addressed as His Beatitude.

“Will he be able to be courageous to seek peace with the required sacrifices or not? We have to wait.  Until now, it is not clear.’

2016-10-24T07:36:12+00:00 October 9th, 1999|Categories: Uncategorized|