Syrian refugees in Mafraq: “the true face of the Church is not afraid of anything.”

JORDAN – After seven years as chaplain of the parish of Mafraq, north of Jordan, Father Francis tells us of his apostolate to Syrian refugees. Five years ago, and thanks to the Latin Patriarchate and its generous partners, he launched a school support program and various activities for this particularly disadvantaged population.

Interview follows.

 Can you tell us about the town of Mafraq and the context of your former parish?

The town of Mafraq is located 15 kilometers from the Zaatari camp in northern Jordan. It is heavily marked by immigration, following the Syrian conflict. Today, 90,000 Syrians live in Mafraq and more than 81,000 are living in Zaatari. It’s no longer possible to go to Zaatari as I have done several times, the Church has an apostolate to this Syrian population living in Mafraq, often it’s refugees with special permits to live in the city.

What mission does the Church have for this population?

Five years ago, however, we launched an apostolate to this population with the help of Caritas, a social arm of the Church. This was first achieved through providing school support for Syrian children, in the afternoon. Some thirty students from the parish have joined the project, offering Math, Arabic and Science courses. Each year, from October to June, we received an average of 300 children aged 6 to 14, in the afternoon, all Muslims. Various activities were added to this: sport, visits in the families … To carry this project, our support was the Blessed Sacrament. Every week we organized adoration.

What do you remember about the apostolate?

You cannot imagine how much good the young the students have received from their volunteering. It is a real concrete experience that speaks of the universality of the Church. The relations between Christians and Muslims in Mafraq are, on the whole, very good and one can say that relations of friendships have been established. For example, some Muslims warned me when they noticed an unusual movement in the church. It happened regularly that some also came to visit me. Voluntarily, I kept the door of the church open all the time. I believe that the true face of the Church is not afraid of anything. The apostolate of the Church is not just for Christians. That is our strength.

Interview conducted by Claire Guigou

Summer camp at Ader: “As the father has sent me, I send you” (John 20:21)

JORDAN/ADER – From July 17 – 30, the parish of Saint Joseph, Ader, organized a camp for children aged 5 to 14 under the direction of the YCS (Young Christian Students) Jordan. A project encouraged by the Latin Patriarchate and supported by Belgian donors.

In the center of Jordan, in the heart of Ader, one of the villages that borders the desert route, connecting the country from north to south, 90 young children and adolescents aged 5 to 14 met at the parish of Saint Joseph for a week of summer camp every day from 16.00 – 20.00 hours. This year, the camp was centered around the theme of sending, thus relying on a well-known verse of the Gospel of St. John: “As the father has sent me, I send you” (John 20:21). To make the experience both fun and informative, the parish presented a balanced program: the young children began to study the Gospel through a biblical account and then continued in the afternoon with various rotating workshops: karaoke, handicrafts, sports … In the middle of the camp, they also donned their walking shoes for a day of hiking, despite the summer’s heat: “a way to understand that, despite the small or great hardships of life, Jesus is still there and it gives us the strength to move forward”, said Abouna Bassam Al Deir, former parish priest of Saint Joseph, who helped to organize the camp. Finally, the children ended the week with a night under the stars, very close to the Church.

This type of event is of critical importance for the Christian families of this region, who remain a minority. It is a unique moment of sociability in the year when all meet for a lively and joyful catechesis. “The purpose of this camp was simply to let them love the Church and Christ,” concluded Abouna Bassam.

Claire Guigou

Inauguration of new kindergarten class in Naour school

NAOUR – On September 12, the double inauguration of the kindergarten, 9th and 10th grade classrooms, took place in the school of the Sacred Heart parish in Naour, twenty kilometers south of Amman.  It was a festive gathering, attended by families of the school children, local clergy, civil authorities and a delegation of Knights of the Holy Sepulcher.  This project was fully funded by the Grand Magisterium of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher.

Present for this celebration were Bishop William Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan, Patriarch Emeritus Fouad Twal; Governor of Naour, Jamaz Al-Fayez; the former Mayor of Naour, Zayed Al-Ajarmah; and Father Ashraf al-Nimri, director of the Latin Patriarchate Schools in Jordan.  The special guest was Ambassador Leonardo Visconti di Modrone, Governor General of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher, who was accompanied by a delegation of the Holy Land Commission of the Grand Magisterium.  The premises inaugurated were the additional section for the kindergarten and the newly added third floor for the 9th and 10th grade classes.

Mrs. Arwa Makhamra, principal of the school welcomed everybody on behalf of the education team. Father Rifat Bader, parish priest of the Sacred Heart of Naour, highlighted the importance of this building expansion, the objective of which is to is to give more young Jordanian schoolchildren the opportunity for quality education for their future. He also briefly recalled the history of his parish, whose church was built in 1924 and the school in 1954, followed by the kindergarten, built in 1971, and referred to the passage of generations of schoolchildren who studied there.

Father Rifat Bader’s speech was followed by traditional dances performed by the school children and then by the blessing of the new structures by Bishop William Shomali. At the end of the visit, the participants gathered around a buffet, which was a time of exchange between the families and the visitors.

Remy Brun

Bordeaux: a charity evening to support the opening of a reception center in Jerusalem

BORDEAUX – The Vicariate of Saint James of the Latin Patriarchate will open a home for migrant children in Jerusalem in January 2018. To raise funds to support this project, a significant charity evening has been organized for Saturday, September 30 at the Palais de la Bourse in Bordeaux. It is an event organized in partnership with the l’Oeuvre d’Orient and the Order of the Holy Sepulcher in France, in the presence of Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo and Father David Neuhaus.

The project: “Guardian Angel Home” for children of migrants in Jerusalem

To meet the needs of many children of migrants  in Jerusalem, the St. James Vicariate of the Latin Patriarchate is establishing the “Guardian Angel Home” for children of migrants who are in situations of serious family distress. This place will provide them a family life with structure, stability, regularity and order that is necessary for them, in a loving and caring atmosphere and spiritual environment. A house mother and father will administer the Guardian Angel Home, which will accommodate a dozen children, boys and girls from 6 to 16 years old. Their stay will vary according to their needs. Some will be in the Home during the week and return to their parents on weekends. For others, the Home will be a place of reception at a time of family crisis.

Immediate opening and work to be carried out

The Vicariate of St. James would like to partially open this facility by January 2018 and make it fully operational before the end of the year. This project is developed with the support of NGO partners. The Guardian Angel Home will be installed in a part of the hospital building in the compound of the Capuchin Friars, just below the playground of St. Rachel Center. This building is being renovated by the Vicariate under a contract similar to the one developed with the Capuchin Friars for the Center. € 230,000 will be needed to complete the work of renovation of the existing structure, electrical installations, water and sewage system, and to furnish the residence. The monthly operating cost for the home is estimated at about € 6,500, of which 20% will be obtained from local fees and donations.

During the first two years, the home will welcome children from families already integrated into other structures of the Vicariate, a trial period before considering an opening to other children in need.

Charity evening:

DATE: Saturday, September 30, 2017, 8:00 pm

LOCATION: Palace of the Bourse of Bordeaux, 17 place de la Bourse, 33000 Bordeaux

Note: It is possible to donate to this project without attending the dinner – see reply coupon or donate online by specifying the project in the box “for a particular project”, or by writing a check payable to ” L’Oeuvre d’Orient “code 70363 to be indicated on the back of the check and send to: L’Oeuvre d’Orient – 20 rue du regard – 75006 Paris.

Work on the Jaffa of Nazareth Patriarchate School inaugurated by the new Governor of the Order

HOLY LAND – The newly appointed Governor General of the Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, Ambassador Leonardo Visconti, made his first visit to the Holy Land with a delegation of the Order. On this occasion, they visited, on Wednesday, September 11, 2017, the Latin Patriarchate School in Jaffa of Nazareth, Israel. At the school, the Governor General inaugurated the beginning of construction of the rectory and kindergarten.


Jerusalem was the starting point for this delegation led by Ambassador Leonardo Visconti Modrone, Governor General of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher. After the visit of the Co-Cathedral of the Patriarchate, he received the Pilgrim shell from Bishop Giacinto Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem and Palestine, an insignia granted by the Latin Patriarchate to the Knights of the Order during their pilgrimage Holy Land. Accompanied by Mr. Sami El-Yousef, the new General Director of the Latin Patriarchate, the Ambassador then went to the Patriarchate school of Jaffa of Nazareth where he was awaited and welcomed by Father Iyad Twal, General Director of the Patriarchate Schools, Father Hanna Kildani, Patriarchal Vicar in Nazareth, Father Ibrahim Shomali, Chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate, and a group of students responsible for organizing the reception. They then visited the church school.

Proceeding to the future construction sites of the rectory and kindergarten, located about fifty meters from the school, the Governor General inaugurated the beginning of the construction and the Patriarchal Vicar conducted the blessing of the premises. On site, the first stone of the building was decorated with a plaque with the name of the Order, a testimony to its constant generosity. Indeed, the Order has supported many projects of the Latin Patriarchate for years.

As a result of the steady increase in the number of students enrolled annually, the school of the Latin Patriarchate of Jaffa of Nazareth needs new classrooms. Room must be found. Additionally, the rectory, the religious sisters’ house and the kindergarten, which were until now within the walls of the school, will be moved. This will permit reorganizing the school’s four floors to accommodate the number of additional students. The school now has 24 classrooms, dedicated computer rooms, labs and an internal gym. The work began in 2014, funded in part by the Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher.

The visit of the honorable Delegation of the Order continues through Jordan, the Vicariate of the Latin Patriarchate in which many projects are emerging thanks to the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher.

Vivien Laguette