Images Of My Thoughts . com
20120328 On the Hebrew-speaking Christian community in Israel - Jerusalem
Born in South Africa into a Jewish family and brought up in what might be called a traditional Jewish upbringing, Reverend David M. Neuhaus was brought up by Jewish parents who are refugees from Nazi Germany. At the age of 15 on a visit to Israel he met Mother Barbara, the mother abbess of a convent. She was already 89 years old, paralyzed, unable to move from her bed, but shinning with the joy. Neuhaus was provoked to ask her: "Why are you so joyful? You're 89 years old, you can't walk, you can't move, you are living in a tiny little dingy room. What makes you so happy?" And that provoked her in turn to give witness to her faith. “That simply trapped me. Caught me”, he testifies. Negotiations with shocked parents led him to promise not to act upon his revelation for ten years. "I will wait until I'm 25. If this is still true when I'm 25 you will accept," and they immediately agreed. He thinks they must have thought: "He is going to grow up and grow out of this." Neuhaus was baptized at the age of 26. His parents indeed accepted and he has a very close relationship with them.
Excerpts from an interview with Reverend David M. Neuhaus, Latin Patriarchal Vicar of the Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel:
The Christian community is very diverse. The Roman Catholics, although they are institutionally the most evident of the Christian communities, they’re not the biggest. In fact, in Israel the biggest community is our full communion brothers and sisters of the Greek Catholic Church. They are the most numerous of the Christians inside the State of Israel. We are number three after the Greek Catholics and the Greek Orthodox.
The Latin Patriarchate, which is linked to the Latin tradition, meaning the tradition of most of the western world when it comes to the Catholic Church, was reestablished in Jerusalem in the middle of the 19th century. It was reestablished at a time that western Christians suddenly became interested once again in the Holy Land. The title of Patriarch, which goes back to the first centuries of the church, was reestablished within the Latin Church, as a Patriarch resident in Jerusalem, in the middle of the 19th century after there had been no patriarchs since the time of the crusades. It was a real new beginning. For the first time in 1987 The Holy Father chose a local man to be the Pope Patriarch. The first patriarchs were all Italians – they walked into the Patriarchate in the morning and said “buongiorno”. In 1987 for the first time a man from Nazareth was chosen to be Patriarch. Now our new Patriarch is Jordanian. And here I’ll explain how did that happen – a Jordanian of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land is not a foreigner because this Patriarchate covers four different jurisdictions geographically and a fifth jurisdiction, which I’ll explain afterwards. The four geographic jurisdictions are of course the State of Israel, the territories also known as the Palestinian Autonomy, The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as well as, and this might sound a little strange but goes back to a logic of the Middle Ages, Cyprus. This is the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Since 1990, in a formal and official way, the Church recognizes the complexity of the Christian community in Israel and named a fifth Patriarchal Vicar for Hebrew speakers. As you well know, the most important numerical group within the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy land is the Roman Catholics who speak Arabic. They are the biggest number of Roman Catholics who are permanently here.
Since 1948, a very important date for everyone who lives in this country, for some it’s a great cause of celebrations and for others not so much, the face of the church started to change, when, and this is not a much known fact, when millions of Jews immigrated to the new State of Israel. What is not so known is that within those millions were also quite a large number of Catholics. What were they doing within the group of Jews that came? Well a lot of them were married to Jews. There were a lot of Jews who came and had non-Jewish wives. We’re talking of thousands of families particularly from Eastern, Central and Western Europe. And so in 1955, formally, the Roman Catholic Church founded an apostolic work that would promote the use of Hebrew for it’s day-to-day life. Because these Catholics who came, like their Jewish spouses who were generally absolutely secular, quickly integrated into Israeli Jewish Hebrew speaking society. Their children, sometimes because of the piety of their mothers, were baptized, went to Jewish Israeli Hebrew language schools. This situation has continued although the church has to be re-founded in every generation because we suffer from a problem that is very, very well known to Jews in the Diaspora – that problem is called assimilation. Our young people assimilate fully into Jewish Hebrew speaking society. The church is re-founded every generation because every generation sees a new wave of migration of Catholics to the Holy Land. For example from 1990 to 2005 one million new Israeli citizens come who speak predominantly Russian, among them Catholics. Another wave that begins in the middle of the 1990’s is a new wave of migrant workers – 40,000 Filipinos. In recent years living in Israel, having children in Israel, having their children educated in Israeli Jewish schools – again a new generation of Hebrew-speaking Catholics. And finally in the middle of the 2000’s, 2005 - the Eritreans. This is a population that stands, according to the NGOs, at 53,000 people, predominantly Christians, most of them Orthodox, not Catholic, but again their children become very quickly Hebrew-speaking Christians. So this is a big, big challenge, a new challenge, for the Church that is already challenged by so many other challenges, so that we may provide the religious services for those who live within Israeli society and are integrated there.
I will mention something that is a little complex and which we are in the process of discussing and that is not all Christians in the Holy Land celebrate the feasts at the same time. This year there will be one week difference. It happens that sometimes the feasts coincide but there can be as many as five weeks difference. The Church has taken upon itself as a challenge trying to find a solution to this. We are aware it is not ideal. It shows too often that the Church is not united. There are divisions at the heart of the Church. We try to put on a positive face by saying that this also shows that there’s a certain diversity within the Christian traditions and Christian history but we are hoping that next year the Church will be a little bit more united. There are certain things that are difficult to touch because they are connected to the status quo, but for our Christian communities, where often in the same family we have Orthodox and Eastern Christians as well as Western Catholics and Protestant Christians, it’s important that we can all celebrate together. So we are working on that.
Of course our Hebrew speaking community is an integral part of the Catholic Church. What divides us is language but what brings us together is faith and the liturgical celebrations that we celebrate together.
Next week, in our parishes, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. In our Hebrew-speaking communities, in some of them, we are very aware of how intensely this is connected to the feast of Pessach. Here the Mass looks very different this day than it does on other days. The Mass is celebrated seated in our Jerusalem parish – just as it would be around the family table commemorating the exodus. There’s a heightened awareness of how the Old Testament and the New Testament come together. Here the history of Israel is also the history of the Church.
CatholicChristChristianChristianityChurchFather David NeuhausFatherDavidNeuhausHebrew speaking CatholicsHebrewspeakingCatholicsIsraelJerusalemJesusJewJewishLatin Patriarchal VicarLatin PatriarchateLatinPatriarchalVicarMiddle EastMiddleEastReverend David M. Neuhaus SJReverend David NeuhausReverendDavidNeuhausRoman CatholicRoman Catholic ChurchRomanCatholicRomanCatholicChurchVicarVicariatebeliefconvertfaithholy landreligionreligious201203280334PreEasterEaster