Monthly Archives: July 2014

CAFOD supports the people of Gaza

CAFOD (Catholic Association For Overseas Development) have committed £50,000 to partners in Gaza so that they can scale up their response to the spiralling humanitarian crisis. Matthew McGarry, who works with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), describes the deteriorating situation: “There are entire neighbourhoods that have been basically destroyed. There are more than 240,000 people displaced with many more currently on the move. There are many others who are taking shelter either out in the open, or with relatives or in damaged buildings.”
CAFOD partners CRS and Caritas Jerusalem are working around the clock to reach vulnerable families, but the ongoing intensive airstrikes make it extremely difficult and dangerous to deliver aid. Despite the risks, they are on the ground with Gazan communities doing what they can.
CRS have mobilised their teams across Gaza city and Rafah – where homes have been totally destroyed – providing basic household items. Caritas Jerusalem’s medical centre and mobile clinic in Gaza city and Al Shatti refugee camp have been operating for the last few days, but are in urgent need of medical supplies and medicines.
Father Raed Abusahlia, director of Caritas Jerusalem said: “Most of the victims are children, women and old people.
“The needs of Gazans in this conflict are increasing day by day; we see that damage and destruction are everywhere in the Gaza Strip. Our urgent intervention is needed in this humanitarian crisis.”
The ferocious and relentless bombardment by the Israeli military on Gaza has left more than 1,200 people dead and over 6,000 injured, among them many women and children. More than 250,000 people have now been forced from their homes, fleeing in search of safety in one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

Mary Lucas, CAFOD’s Country Representative for the Middle East, said: “The loss of every human being in this terrible conflict is tragic. We call on the UK government and the international community to push hard for an immediate ceasefire.
“It is clear that the status quo is no longer sustainable. The only way out of the cycle of violence is to address the root causes of the conflict: there needs to be an end to the occupation of Palestinian territory, to the building of settlements and to the closure of Gaza.”

An Appeal from the Holy Family Parish Gaza and Update

From Independent Catholic News

The Holy Family Catholic Church in Gaza has just (afternoon of Tuesday 29th July) received an evacuation order warning them that Israeli forces are planning to bomb their neighbourhood tonight. In a message, a priest writes:

” The church of Gaza has received an order to evacuate.. they will bomb the Zeitun area and the people are already fleeing. The problem is that the priest Fr George and the three nuns of Mother Teresa have 29 handicapped children and nine old ladies who can’t move.

“How will they manage to leave?? If anyone can intercede with someone in power, and pray, please do it. We are trying.. may our impotence be taken up by his Omnipotence!!”
The House of Christ in Gaza, is a care home dedicated to looking after disabled children. The disabled children were removed from the care home into the Holy Family Church recently because Israel was targeting the area.

UPDATE – Thursday 31st July:

A bombing carried out by the Israeli army on Wednesday (30th July) morning near the Holy Family Catholic Church in Gaza, has partially destroyed the adjacent parish school, the priest’s office and some rooms used by the parish. The main target of the bombing was a home that is situated a few metres from the parish and was completely destroyed by the raid.
Parish priest Fr George Hernandez said that yesterday afternoon (Wednesday), the Israeli army had begun to send SMS messages to residents of al-Zeitun – the eastern area of Gaza City which houses the Catholic and Orthodox parishes – and ordered them to leave the homes that were to be bombed. Many people ran away, but the evacuation was not possible for those who currently live in the church. Argentinian Fr George said there were three nuns of Mother Teresa along with 29 disabled children and nine elderly women in their care at the parish of the Holy Family.
“We had a tough night, but we are here. This war is absurd”, said Fr Hernandez. “After destroying the neighbourhood of Shujayeh, now Zeitun is being targeted. Everything happens around us. The Hamas militants continue to fire rockets and then hide in the alleys. And we cannot do anything. We cannot evacuate, it is impossible with children. Their families live here. It is more dangerous to go out than stay here. We try to stay in safer places, always on the ground floor. “

Bishop William Shomali, auxiliary bishop of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem (the name of the Roman Catholic Diocese) gave this interview a few days ago:
How do you view the situation today as the conflict rages in Gaza?
I view the violent situation today as an immediate result of the failure of the peace process started by U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry. He had nine months to write a political frame for future negotiations. The deadline came at the end of April without success. This failure caused a lot of frustration among Palestinians, tension and exasperation. The killings of the 3 Jewish young people, the detention of Palestinians which followed, the killing of the Palestinian young man in Jerusalem and the launching of rockets from Gaza were the triggering factors that caused the present violence.
Where are the voices for peace? Are there any on the Israeli side? Are there any on the Palestinian side?
There are voices of peace of course on both sides. I consider that Mahmoud Abbas is one of them. He’s against a third intifada and against escalation. He offered his condolences for the three Israeli teenagers, and he’s working for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, along with Mr. Sisi, the President of Egypt. On the Israeli side, there are also voices for peace: the religious leaders of Jerusalem (Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze) met at the Grand Rabbinate some days ago. They made an appeal for peace, in which they said that Jewish blood and Palestinian blood are equal, that life is precious because man was created in the image of God. But unfortunately such voices, as also the voices of the (political) left who demonstrated for peace in Tel Aviv and Haifa, are not heard in the midst of the shelling and killing. There are always people who seek peace and pray for peace.
Why do the hawks always win when problems arise?
When the hawks are in power they are the decision makers—so they win. This is the case in Israel now with the rightist party, and this is the case in Gaza with Hamas now.
What do you hope for here?
I pray for an immediate ceasefire but also to negotiate more seriously according to the international resolutions [of the United Nations] and the requirements of the two-state solution.
What is happening to the small Catholic community in Gaza? I see the Pope sent them a message of encouragement on July 17.
They are only 200 people. The Argentinean parish priest, Father George, is a courageous man. He is helping people as best he can. He opened his school to the homeless whose houses were bombed in these last days. The Argentinean sisters in Gaza left, but the sisters of Mother Teresa remained and continue to take care of the handicapped children. The email of the pope to Father George was to tell him that he is close to him and that he prays for him and for his community. And I believe that it is a very nice encouraging message that the pope remembers the parish priest of Gaza and the community.
What is the feeling among the Christians in the Holy Land?
The feeling among the Christians in the Holy Land is one of fear and frustration. They can’t understand that after the visit of the Pope to the Holy Land things didn’t improve but on the contrary they deteriorated. They can’t understand that. The same feeling was noted after the visit of John Paul II in the year 2000. Six months later the second bloody Intifada (uprising) started. But let us agree that it was a logical consequence of the failure at Camp David that same year.
Pope Francis phoned the presidents of Israel and Palestine on July 18. How significant was that?
It’s a nice gesture of the pope who considers them as his friends and men of peace. We expected that he would do such a gesture especially after the prayer encounter at the Vatican Gardens on June 8.
I believe in the effect of prayer even though in the immediate moment we don’t feel any result. We have to continue tirelessly to pray for peace. Prayers alone are not enough, there must also be a serious effort to reach a peace accord. We bishops of the Holy Land repeated many times that we want an immediate cease fire and the restart of peace negotiations.

Mass at Holy Family Church Gaza:


Youth Group breaks up for the summer.

St Robert’s Youth Group broke up for the summer this evening (17th July). Fr Lawrence and Fr Jim will have very boring Thursday evenings for the next six weeks. We are very blest to have Andrew O’Neill, our Youth Worker, and his little team of slightly older parishioners working with our small but very committed group of young people. This is not a “Youth Club”, it is not about just giving young people an opportunity to meet together. It’s sole aim is to pass on the faith to our young parishioners. We do a lot of holy things together but we also have a lot of fun.  Here we are having our last two celebrations together:

BBQ Night:

Panoramic church 001Panoramic church 003Panoramic church 006Panoramic church 007Panoramic church 008Panoramic church 012Tonight, our trip to the beach and a stop on the way back home for some much needed nourishment after the football and Ninja:


Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto



It was on this day in 1982 that the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes was blest and dedicated. The 16th July (Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel) was in fact the date of the last apparition of Our Lady to St Bernadette.

Jacob Conroy now tells the story of the origins of the statue and grotto:

” A number of parishioners in the early 1980′s desired to have a grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes in the church grounds. Various parishioners donated, especially Barbara Jackson, former teacher at  St Robert’s and a member of the ‘Hospitality’ of Our Lady of Lourdes. Various fundraising activities took place to raise the total needed – £500. It was ordered one year during the diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes and collected the following year. At the end of the pilgrimage the manufacturer delivered it to Lourdes railway station to be transported home on the diocesan pilgrimage train. The statue was solid concrete and very heavy, encased in a timber box, 7ft long by 3ft square. The travel agent, and myself could not lift it onto the train. As there were some Italian brancardiers working on the station, the dioescan travel agent asked them in Italian to give assistance in lifting it on to the train. Six strong men, three on each side, reverently and  in unison, lifted the box into the goods carriage. Asking the travel agent why these men were so reverent he said that he told them that  it was a dead body that he had asked them to assist with. When we got back home, anticipating the likelihood that we would have to pay tax we put the statue amongst the tea urns on a railway baggage trolley and no questions were asked by customs. The statue was picked up from Newcastle Central Station and Fr Tom Cunningham allowed it to stand on the altar until a grotto was built. Several men from the parish got to work to build the grotto and the dedication service took place on 16th July 1982. The picture above was taken on that occasion. In the meantime Barbara Jackson, who had brought home a conker from the grotto in Lourdes, nurtured it at home until it was big enough to be planted next to our grotto. She did not want a plaque to recognise all her hard work but she desired that parishioners would remember her in prayer at the grotto. The grotto is still very much a focus of prayer today for parishioners and school children”

Now that the flood defenses are completed the statue of Our Lady in the grotto has been repainted. The original plaque commemorating the dedication in 1982 has deteriorate to the extent that the words are illegible. A new plaque was been made and actually arrived today. It will soon be put in place and the grotto will be rededicated when the landscaping work is complete.

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Our Lady of Mount Carmel (16th July)

On this Feast of Our Lady, “beauty of Mount Carmel”, in the heart of the Holy Land, please pray for peace between Israel and Palestine.

Pax Christi International (the Roman Catholic Movement for Peace) cries out for an end to this new cycle of violence, believing that its roots are firmly planted in the persistent structural violence of occupation. In a statement Pax Christi International says:

Tragically, a new escalation of violence has engulfed the daily lives of Israelis and Palestinian civilians. Last month’s abduction and murder of three young Israelis in Hebron and the kidnapping and murder of a 16 year old Palestinian have fueled this new cycle of violence.

Once again, Gaza is under relentless, daily attack from the Israeli military system, one of the most sophisticated in the world. Gaza is suffering the death and injury of large numbers of civilian men, women and children and in some cases, whole families. The high number of injuries, the destruction of homes, schools and hospitals means that there is a severe humanitarian crisis in the country, which already has a fragile infrastructure. Armed militants in Gaza are firing rockets as far as they can into Israel but to date there have been no fatalities. All those involved in indiscriminate acts of violence against civilians should be brought to account.

Pax Christi cries out for an end to this new cycle of violence, believing that its roots are firmly planted in the persistent structural violence of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Both Palestinians and Israelis have a fundamental right to live in security and without fear, but true security will not be guaranteed for either until the occupation ends and each recognizes the human dignity of the other.

At the invocation for peace in Israel and Palestine, held in the Vatican on 8 June 2014, Pope Francis said: “Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare. It calls for the courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict: yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiations and no to hostilities; yes to respect for agreements and no to acts of provocation; yes to sincerity and no to duplicity. All of this takes courage, it takes strength and tenacity”. Such courage, strength and tenacity were shown by the families of the dead Israeli and Palestinian teenagers who have called for calm and reconciliation.

Pax Christi International members around the world offer our sincere condolences to all those in mourning and pray that those who have been killed recently will be the last to die violent deaths in this escalation of hatred and vengeance. We stand in solidarity with our Member Organisations in Palestine and with peace and human rights activists in Israel and Palestine. We are convinced that voices for a just peace in the region will not be silent.

January 2014:


Feast of St Benedict (11th July)

St Benedict is a very important saint for our parish. St Robert and the Cistercian Order to which he belonged adhered strictly to the Rule of St Benedict. For 400 years this rule was kept by the monks of Newminster Abbey. The life of the monks came to an end in 1537 when the monastery was dissolved on the orders of Henry VIII. During the Protestant Reformation the Catholic faith was outlawed. It was not until 1777 or 1778 when Mass began to be celebrated again in a house on Bullers Green. It was served by the Jesuit priest at Longhorsley. The first priest to actually live in Morpeth since 1537 was the Benedictine, Fr Charles Thomas Turner, who established a Chapel in St Bede’s Place, Oldgate. The Benedictines were to serve the Catholic faithful in Morpeth until 1969. A total of 187 years. When we include the 400 years of the Cistercians at Newminster we are talking of about 587 years of the rule of St Benedict being lived out here in Morpeth. So, you see how important St Benedict is to our parish. Today let us remember especially the Benedictines of Douai Abbey and Ampleforth Abbey who served this parish so faithfully for 187 years.
Here are some modern Benedictines: