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Several of our AmericanCatholic.org editors recently traveled to Middle East. Here you will find their reports and resources from the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, Synod news from Catholic News Service, photos, videos, interviews and coverage from St. Anthony Messenger magazine. The feature will grow in the coming months, in the wake of the Synod for the Middle East.

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Christians in the Middle East

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(CNS/Paul Haring)
Christianity in the Middle East, the Holy Land, once thriving, is diminishing rapidly. The land of Jews, Muslims and Christians is changing, at least due to the Israel/Palestine impasse, along with the growth of Islam. Pope Benedict XVI called a Special Synod on the Middle East not only for the Catholic Church, but also for all Christian Churches to understand the problem of declining Catholics, Christians in the land of Jesus and the Apostles, and how to address it.

Several of our AmericanCatholic.org editors recently traveled to Middle East. Here you will find their reports and resources from the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, Synod news from Catholic News Service, photos, videos, interviews and coverage from St. Anthony Messenger magazine. The feature will grow in the coming months, in the wake of the Synod for the Middle East.

The map below shows the stops on the first of the two-part tour of the Middle East, sponsored by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Click on each balloon for a brief summary of the people and places visited at each location.


View ACO in the Middle East in a larger map

Here is the map from Jennifer Scroggins' trip to Lebanon in November 2011


View ACO in Lebanon in a larger map

Click on each blue marker on the map to see the location and description.

On Location Reports

John Feister, AmericanCatholic.org editor, provided daily reports from his 10-day trip to Jordan, Palestine and Israel.




Video Features

We have a wide variety of video reports from the Middle East, including both candid conversations and interviews. Below is a clip from a dinner discussion with Bishop Salim Sayegh on the expectations his people have for the Bishops' Synod on the Middle East.

Click here for our Video Gallery




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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.


 
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