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Pope Francis greets a migrant family during an ecumenical prayer event  in Nicosia, Cyprus. Pope Francis greets a migrant family during an ecumenical prayer event in Nicosia, Cyprus. 

Pope’s ecumenical prayer with migrants in Cyprus a “genius combination"

Father Nikodemus Schnabel, the Patriarchal Vicar of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem for Migrants and Asylum Seekers comments on the Pope’s ecumenical prayer meeting in Cyprus.

Vatican News

A Holy Land Church official regards as a “genius combination” Pope Francis bringing together ecumenism and the care of migrants in a prayer event in Cyprus on Friday.  When the whole world is so engrossed with the pandemic, the Pope’s prophetic voice is drawing attention to other “hidden wounds” of the world and the Church, said Father Nikodemus Schnabel, the Patriarchal Vicar of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem for Migrants And Asylum Seekers. 

Healing the wounds

One such wound is that we are a divided Christianity, where ecumenism is very important, the German Benedictine priest told Vatican News. He said the Pope is in the eastern Mediterranean region to build “ecumenical bridges” and focus on the cause of migrants.   The Patriarchal Vicar said there are 80 million migrants and refugees who are really in difficult situations, and Pope Francis is emphasizing that we are sisters and brothers.  Hence, Friday’s ecumenical prayer meeting with migrants at the Holy Cross of Nicosia is a “genius combination”.       

Father Schnabel spoke of 3 steps to healing the wounds of the world and the Church. Firstly, we need to recognize and show that we have these wounds.  We then need to tear down walls and build bridges. This should be followed by taking steps to reconciliation.

Listen to Fr. Schnabel

Church with many faces

The jurisdiction of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem extends over Latin-rite Catholics in 4 countries - Cyprus, Palestine, Israel and Jordan.  This is why Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa of Jerusalem as well as heads of other Catholic Churches are with Pope Francis in his visit to Cyprus.   

For each of the countries, the Patriarchate has a Patriarchal Vicariate, including a special vicariate for Hebrew-speaking Catholics.  Recently, a special Vicariate for Migrants and Asylum Seekers (VMAS) has been added. The work of the Patriarchate for migrants and asylum seekers in Israel was organized in 2011. In April that year, the Coordination for the Pastoral among Migrants (CPAM) was established to focus the Church’s efforts in serving, organizing and catechizing the extensive population of Roman Catholic migrants in Israel, particularly those who are not taken care of by other Church bodies. 

In April 2018, Patriarch Pizzaballa, then Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, transformed the CPAM into a Vicariate for Migrants and Asylum Seekers (VMAS) under the responsibility of a Patriarchal Vicar.   Until 2013, there were 4 chaplaincies for Filipinos, Indians, Sri Lankans and the Ge’ez rite faithful.   In addition, there are now chaplains for the Rumanian, Polish, Latin American, English speaking African, French-speaking African, Korean and other communities. The Vicariate is also in touch with priests who accompany the Lebanese-Maronite and the Ukrainian-Byzantine communities.

Father Schnabel said this shows that the Church of Jerusalem has many faces. The setting up of the VMAS by Patriarch Pizzaballa is a response of the Latin Patriarchate to Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli tutti, for which Father Schnabel is grateful.

03 December 2021, 16:12