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Shaping a New Future in Egypt View Comments
By Meghan and Jonathan Millea

A Muslim girl chants slogans and holds up a Quran and a cross during a rally to demonstrate unity between Muslims and Christians in Tahrir Square in Cairo, March 11, 2011. The rally took place after sectarian clashes had left 13 people dead.
I hope they have a future,” says Sister Joanna with a smile. Standing inside the small chapel of a Catholic school near Cairo, the petite Egyptian nun gazes outward, thinking. The four walls of Immaculate Heart School offer a refuge from Egypt’s revolutionary chaos, providing a safe place where young women have an opportunity to learn and grow. Eventually, equipped only with their education and faith, Sister Joanna’s students will leave, rushing back into the fog of an uncertain tomorrow. She adds, “What they see now is all black.” (For reasons of safety, this article uses pseudonyms for the school, students, and staff.)

This flourishing city of 18 million has grown tense and, at times, unwelcoming in the violent wake of the Arab Spring. Horrific stories of virginity tests, violent protests, unrestrained mob attacks, brutal religious killings, and kidnappings abound in daily conversation.

“It is rough for the revolution, for those who made the revolution,” Sister Joanna continues. “You can feel others want to destroy this revolution for the young. Young people want many, many things. They want to live their future. You can see their hands are empty. They need to grab something; they can’t grab anything with the situation they have now. Many, many of them have lost their way.”

Egypt’s future remains in doubt. Power struggles abound as the military vies for control, an elected parliament is dissolved, and a formal constitution needs to be written. A small ray of hope emerged in June 2012 with Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Muhammad Morsi. However, Morsi’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood makes many Egyptians nervous, especially Christians. Since its inception in 1928, the Brotherhood has had strained relationships with Christians.

While institutionalized discrimination toward Christians existed throughout Hosni Mubarak’s administration (1981–2011), particularly in terms of hiring and land-use practices, prospects for unity between Christians and the Muslim majority have since deteriorated. Open conflict and bloodshed have replaced security.

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Meghan Millea, a journalist for the Times-Reporter in Dover-New Philadelphia, Ohio, traveled to Egypt after her Middle Eastern studies at Kent State University. Jonathan Millea is an airport development consultant and technical writer.

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Pio of Pietrelcina: In one of the largest such ceremonies in history, Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio of Pietrelcina on June 16, 2002. It was the 45th canonization ceremony in Pope John Paul's pontificate. More than 300,000 people braved blistering heat as they filled St. Peter's Square and nearby streets. They heard the Holy Father praise the new saint for his prayer and charity. "This is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio's teaching," said the pope. He also stressed Padre Pio's witness to the power of suffering. If accepted with love, the Holy Father stressed, such suffering can lead to "a privileged path of sanctity." 
<p>Many people have turned to the Italian Capuchin Franciscan to intercede with God on their behalf; among them was the future Pope John Paul II. In 1962, when he was still an archbishop in Poland, he wrote to Padre Pio and asked him to pray for a Polish woman with throat cancer. Within two weeks, she had been cured of her life-threatening disease. </p><p>Born Francesco Forgione, Padre Pio grew up in a family of farmers in southern Italy. Twice (1898-1903 and 1910-17) his father worked in Jamaica, New York, to provide the family income. </p><p>At the age of 15, Francesco joined the Capuchins and took the name of Pio. He was ordained in 1910 and was drafted during World War I. After he was discovered to have tuberculosis, he was discharged. In 1917 he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, 75 miles from the city of Bari on the Adriatic. </p><p>On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>Life became more complicated after that. Medical doctors, Church authorities and curiosity seekers came to see Padre Pio. In 1924 and again in 1931, the authenticity of the stigmata was questioned; Padre Pio was not permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to hear confessions. He did not complain of these decisions, which were soon reversed. However, he wrote no letters after 1924. His only other writing, a pamphlet on the agony of Jesus, was done before 1924. </p><p>Padre Pio rarely left the friary after he received the stigmata, but busloads of people soon began coming to see him. Each morning after a 5 a.m. Mass in a crowded church, he heard confessions until noon. He took a mid-morning break to bless the sick and all who came to see him. Every afternoon he also heard confessions. In time his confessional ministry would take 10 hours a day; penitents had to take a number so that the situation could be handled. Many of them have said that Padre Pio knew details of their lives that they had never mentioned. </p><p>Padre Pio saw Jesus in all the sick and suffering. At his urging, a fine hospital was built on nearby Mount Gargano. The idea arose in 1940; a committee began to collect money. Ground was broken in 1946. Building the hospital was a technical wonder because of the difficulty of getting water there and of hauling up the building supplies. This "House for the Alleviation of Suffering" has 350 beds. </p><p>A number of people have reported cures they believe were received through the intercession of Padre Pio. Those who assisted at his Masses came away edified; several curiosity seekers were deeply moved. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio sometimes had his habit torn or cut by souvenir hunters. </p><p>One of Padre Pio’s sufferings was that unscrupulous people several times circulated prophecies that they claimed originated from him. He never made prophecies about world events and never gave an opinion on matters that he felt belonged to Church authorities to decide. He died on September 23, 1968, and was beatified in 1999.</p> American Catholic Blog In times of intense loss and grief, we take our place with Mary as she embraces all our grief in her own as she is silently holding in her arms the stark presence of our suffering God in the lifeless body of her Son.

 
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