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John Feister begins his tour of the Middle East in Amman Jordan, visiting with Christian refugees from Iraq.

Special Features
Day 1: Amman, Jordan
After traveling for a day and a half, we got off of a bus the Amman West hotel, in Amman Jordan, at 4 a.m. and were told to be ready to roll by 10. It’s going to be that kind of trip! We went from 10 a.m. today until about 9:30.

If there were a theme for today it would be Iraq. Thousands of Christians escaping the violence of Iraq have landed next door in Jordan. Many of those who had to flee—5,000 by a count we learned today—are Christians, whether Orthodox or Catholic, who have no place now in a society that struggles between Sunni and Shia Muslims. They have fled persecution. Today we heard firsthand accounts.

Dawood Salim Matte and his family, refugees from Iraq, wait in Amman for the chance to move to North America. They've been here for a year, cared for by the Franciscan sisters. (photo by John Feister)
We visited the Franciscan Sisters of Mary convent here in Amman to learn of their presence among the refugees. Actually there was a group of refugee families who had come to the convent to meet us and tell their stories directly. There I met some amazing families who are stuck in Jordan, waiting to see what might happen next. They all seem to want to get to the U.S. or Canada, where some family members are already (though some seek Europe). Nothing is simple, though. Visas are required. They suffer the plight of refugees everywhere: No one really wants them, unless they can prove their case of need beyond a doubt. I interviewed and photographed some families, and recorded by Flip-video some of the conversations. We’ll try to get some of that online to share with you—kind of a sneak preview to what I’ll be writing for St. Anthony Messenger.

After an incredible Jordanian lunch, we piled in our tour bus and headed across town to meet with Father Raymond Massouli, a Chaldean Catholic pastor who started a parish to serve the Iraqi refugees back in 2003. Our group of journalists sat and talked in-depth in his tiny office, then we met more families. Some of the stories were horrifying—the woman whose family was in a terrorist explosion is one I won’t forget. They hope to all move to Detroit—if they can get their visas. They’ve been waiting a year already.

Back at the hotel, now in the early evening, we had a dinner with two bishops, one a Latin-rite (Roman) Catholic, the other a Melkite Catholic. They answered many questions informally over a dinner with our journalist group. One, Bishop Selim, told us about the forthcoming papal synod on the Middle East. It’s not about Christian-Jewish, or Christian-Muslim relations. “Rather,” he said, “it’s about how to build one heart and one mind among Christians.” 



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Anthony Claret: The "spiritual father of Cuba" was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop and refugee. He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and to the First Vatican Council. 
<p>In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, he learned Latin and printing: The future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers. </p><p>He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand. At 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians. </p><p>He was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba. He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for opposing concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves. A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open his face and wrist. Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term. His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar. Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: <i>Reflections on Agriculture</i> and <i>Country Delights</i>. </p><p>He was recalled to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen. He went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace, he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children and he would be exempt from court functions. In the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen’s party to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony. </p><p>All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets. </p><p>At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, "There goes a true saint." At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.</p> American Catholic Blog The greatest tragedy of our world is that men do not know, really know, that God loves them. Some believe it in a shadowy sort of way. If they were to really think about it they would soon realize that their belief in God’s love for them is very remote and abstract. Because of this lack of realization of God’s love for them, men do not know how to love God back. —Catherine de Hueck Doherty


 
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