Monday, February 29, 2016

The NCW In The Middle East

Father Orazio Patrone has been a priest of the Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt for three years.  He is originally from Italy and was formed in the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Lebanon.  Below is his interview of his experience in Egypt.

A Priest in Egypt
Father Orazio Patrone Gives an Outsider’s View of Christian Life

By Salvatore Cernuzio

ROME, MARCH 13, 2012 ( Father Orazio Patrone, 33, originally from Salerno, Italy, has for three years been a priest of the Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt.

He talks to ZENIT in this interview about his experience and the situation of Christians in that country.

ZENIT: Father Orazio, what is the situation of the Catholic Church in Egypt?

Father Patrone: The Catholic Church in Egypt is quite a complex reality: as in the whole of the Middle East region, it has always lived in a religiously pluralistic situation. In Egypt, in addition to the Latin Church, there are several rites (Coptic, Armenian, Syriac, Greek). The largest church is the Orthodox Coptic, with about 10% of the total population. The Catholic faithful are close to 400,000 or 0.3%.

There are also many Copts overseas, and after the latest events of the revolution, and above all the political situation that has been unfolding, migration has increased, after being already high in the last decades.

ZENIT: How do Christians live their faith?

Father Patrone: Christians have difficulties living in a country where Muslim fundamentalism is gaining ever more ground and they are strongly attracted by the idea of being able to live more tranquilly in other countries, especially Canada and Australia, but also Europe. Although persecutions are only sporadic, one experiences a strong discrimination of a social more than an ideological nature. It’s not a generalized situation yet and there are places with a peaceful relationship between Muslims and Christians.

ZENIT: How is it that a young Italian priest is called to carry out his service precisely in such a place? Can you tell us about your personal experience?

Father Patrone: I came following my involvement with the Neo-Catechumenal Way through which I felt the call to rediscover the richness of my baptism by means of a journey of faith in a community. During this period I discovered my vocation to the priesthood and I entered the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon. The inter-ritual diocesan seminary forms priests for the New Evangelization with vocations to serve in the Eastern Churches. After the course of formation of close to nine years, during which I was able to have, in addition to my studies, pastoral experience in Tunisia, Sudan, and the Holy Land, I was incardinated by the Coptic Church of Egypt. And now, for three years, I have been in a parish in Cairo.

ZENIT: Have you had difficulties?

Father Patrone: Difficulties have certainly not been lacking, and are still not lacking: cultural differences, difficulties with the language, countries that suffer profound conflicts; but I have been able to face them thanks to the fact of having seen the Lord’s fidelity in the past. A bit like Abraham who started out without knowing where he was going, led by the Word and a promise, learning day by day to trust God and experiencing his presence in history.

ZENIT: Returning to the situation of Christians in Egypt. What is their relationship with the other religions, in particular, with Muslims?

Father Patrone: The relationship between Christians and Muslims is increasingly undermined by fundamentalism, even if the Coptic Church has an age-old experience of coexistence with the Muslim tradition, which has had highs and lows in history.

ZENIT: How are intense times, such as Lent and Easter, lived?

Father Patrone: The season of Lent is lived very intensely, with strict fasting, lived devotionally more than as an occasion of preparation for Easter. Perhaps this is dictated also by the strong influence of the Muslim month of Ramadan. As well, the sacrificial aspect of Good Friday is stressed more than the fundamental importance of the Easter Resurrection.

In fact, the funeral of the Lord is celebrated with a very long liturgy as was the custom of the pre-conciliar Latin Churches. Its importance is seen in the fact that participation in worship on Good Friday is almost double that of what it is on Easter Sunday.

ZENIT: What do you intend to do for the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization?

Father Patrone: The Church in Egypt is very tied to her traditions, especially those in the liturgy, and has difficulty in entering the dynamism of the New Evangelization desired by Vatican II. On the other hand, there are attempts and openings especially by the Catholic side, which is attentive to and relatively involved in what happens in the West. This is demonstrated, among other things, by the opening, though slow, to charisms that emerged after the Council. In parishes there are now groups such as the Focolares and the Neo-Catechumenal Way, and other movements born in Egypt with the intention of a renewal in the sense of a New Evangelization.

ZENIT: What are the prospects, therefore?

Father Patrone: There seems to be a time of trial and purification for the Churches, as is happening almost everywhere, because of the processes of secularization and globalization, challenges that call the Christian community to seek its own identity and to deepen its faith. We are going towards a form of Christianity that is certainly different from that lived in the modern period in Europe, towards a Christianity in which the Church is perhaps called to accustom herself to live as a small flock, to journey with other religious realities and, from this point of view, the experience of the Eastern communities is very relevant.


  1. "I came following my involvement with the Neo-Catechumenal Way through which I felt the call to rediscover the richness of my baptism by means of a journey of faith in a community. During this period I discovered my vocation to the priesthood and I entered the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon."

    Rediscover the richness of baptism? What does this mean? This is quite enigmatic, could mean anything and the diametrical opposite of the same thing, as well. One thing for sure: your baptism is worth nothing unless you have faith in the saving power of the blood of Jesus.

    "The Church in Egypt is very tied to her traditions, especially those in the liturgy, and has difficulty in entering the dynamism of the New Evangelization desired by Vatican II."

    Oh yeah, we see this happening everywhere. Christians are attending churches with its beautiful internal art and veneration of the saints, rather than the bare and ugly social halls where the neo invites them to "celebrate". Lol. Vatican II requires you to adore God in His bright and shining house, in the same church that was built for Him, not in the next shabby building, dark and dirty that is not worthy of God's purifying presence.

    1. Yes, you can have exceptional papal masses everywhere where the Pope is going, because you need to accommodate thousands and thousands who are gathering. What is you point, Diana?

      The neo steals the parishioners not from exceptional masses but from regular masses of the Catholic churches around the globe! Neo forces its followers to attend mass in shabby, worn-out buildings where the light is dim and the presence of God is not felt.

      Just an example. Whatever happened to the little eternal flame light that calls the attention of the faithful to the purifying presence of our Creator in every Catholic Church? It is highly regarded and revered in Eastern Churches as sacred tradition and people cannot imagine any valid Catholic mass without it! Had the neo completely ignored and thrown this little light out of all religious celebrations for good!? Based on what? Read:

      "The sanctuary lamp, also called a chancel lamp, is placed before the tabernacle or aumbry in Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, and Anglican churches as a sign that the Blessed Sacrament is reserved or stored. It is also found in the chancel of Lutheran and Methodist churches to indicate the presence of Christ in the sanctuary, as well as a belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

      The sanctuary lamp may also be seen in Eastern Orthodox Churches. Other Christian denominations burn the lamp to show that the light of Christ always burns in a sin-darkened world."

    2. Dear Anonymous at 10:54 am,

      I guess you did not read my comment on Pope Francis celebrating the Mass on the beach, on a hill, etc. I guess you have forgotten that many Catholics in the Middle East do not have a place to worship because radical Muslims have burned their churches, but nevertheless celebrate in a shabby place knowing that God always have His eye on His beloved children rather than on a place. How unfortunate that your baptism did not teach you that God cares more for people than temples made of concrete and glass.

      I sense jealousy in you. A Catholic Church has finally been built in Qatar so Christians can have a place to worship......thanks be to God who made all that happen. The NCW has made headway with the Jewish people so we can dialogue with them and even pray with them. We hope to make the same headway with Muslims. Christianity is making a headway into Muslim land. As Muslim governments start to allow religious freedom in their countries, it could bring peace and eliminate the radicals that has been killing both Christians and Muslims who oppose them.

    3. What are you doing, Diana? Are you manipulating the time stamps of the comments? My answer to your comment shows before your comment that I was answering to. Lol! Are you playing a game here?

    4. Dear Anonymous at 11:46 am,

      On the contrary, we are not stealing anyone. They came of their own free will. Those who came are being taught to live out their baptism so they do not become like the Catholics who supported same sex marriage, who allowed their children to live with their boyfriend/girlfriends, who are living with their common law partners outside the sacrament of marriage, who cares more about where the altar is located than for their brother Catholic, etc.

      Christ said to leave the altar and first reconcile with your brother, and then come back to the altar. It seems to me that God cared more about the person than the altar. After all, what good is coming to God at the altar with hate in your heart for your brother?

    5. Dear Anonymous at 11:57 am,

      I edited my first comment while you already put in a comment. When I edit, the time changes; therefore, your comment came first because you made the comment before I finished editing my comment.

  2. I don't care if you are black white brown straight bisexual gay lesbian rich or poor. If you are nice to me . I'll be nice to you. Simple as that Diana.

    1. Dear Anonymous at 8:20 pm,

      That is not what Christianity is about. Christianity means to love our enemies and to forgive those who hurt us. It means to be nice to ALL.