Age: 60 years old
City: Madaba, Jordan
Denomination: Latin Catholic
"If our priests become examples, people will follow them"
How would you describe your relationship with the Church?
I was born in this parish, in Madaba, and I remember that even as a child I went to mass with my mother and grandmother every Sunday. This habit has been imprinted on my soul: I cannot miss Sunday Mass. This faith, thanks to God, does not depend on a priest. It is attached to a rock. It does not move. I was able to pass it on to my children. I also worked for a long time as a teacher of catechesis for young people, a subject I studied in Rome, and as the general secretary of the office of schools and catechesis. I worked as a tourist guide. I wanted to give a testimony as a Catholic Christian to groups. I wanted to show them that you can't separate Palestine from Jordan. There are many stories that connect the two: from Moses to Jesus Christ. I explained to them that these churches are still alive, even 2,000 years later and even though we are few in number. Today I am a volunteer, I help our priests and the parish life.
According to you, what are the major problems faced by the Church today?
There are several levels of problems. There is a gap between the priests and the laity. Some priests want to be close to the people. Some priests want to be close to the people, others... So, of course, we are all human, with our weaknesses. But if someone chooses the path of the priesthood, he must accept this great sacrifice, like Jesus who sacrificed himself for others. Sometimes priests do not take our requests into consideration. In the end, they always have the last word and make the decisions. I can say from my experience that few are experts in the field of catechism. When I left the direction of catechesis in 2010, everything fell apart. We had organized contests between schools, plays, youth gatherings, choirs... Nobody took over. When people leave, there is no continuity. No one has ever asked my advice or my opinion. The catechism is very important, but it needs attention, a vision. The Patriarch Michel Sabbah had a vision. He was the one who sent us to Rome. He did not want us to come back as professors, but as thinkers. I respect him very much. Sometimes our religious leaders just don't want to listen. It's the same everywhere. It's always been like that.
As a Jordanian, do you feel represented by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem?
I think so. The problems that our brothers in Palestine face are definitely different from ours. Probably worse. Whoever the patriarch is, he must be like a father with his two children. One has a heavier cross than the other. So I understand that he gives more attention to the one of the two brothers who has the heavier cross. Bishop Pizzaballa has come to Jordan often since his appointment, to put things in order. He is a wise man, who does not react on the spot. He looks, studies, filters and takes decisions only for 1 or 2 years. I hope he will be able to change the situation. He should focus on the seminar. That's where our priests are made, if you can call them that. Why not bring in monks or people from religious orders? That would bring great spiritual richness.
What do you dream of for the Church?
I would like our priests to become examples. If they become simple, like Jesus, who knows how to speak with the poor, the sick, the children, the learned, then people will see them as models, and will follow them in the service of Jesus. When I was little, there was this priest, Father Thomas, from the contemplative congregation of Don Dossetti, at the monastery of Ma’in . People would come from Irbid to Aqaba to meet him. He spoke slowly in Arabic. His mass lasted an hour and a half, but people remained attentive. Here, if the mass lasts more than an hour, people get impatient. People went to the monastery to ask for a prayer. This priest had no internet, no telephone. It was the Holy Spirit who spread his reputation. My dream is that we have more than one Father Thomas.
Interview by Cécile Lemoine