Log-book: September 2006
In support of the Lebanese people Tents causing problems « He touched the leprous » Between the mitre and the crosier in Lourdes
In support of the Lebanese people
In Paris, there was a multiplication of the demonstrations in support of the Lebanese people. The medias kept rather discrete. Each night there was a demonstration at Trocadero at the Human rights' square. Tourists came and went. They were attracted by the Arabic music and songs.
It was on this famous square that I joined the Lebanese who, after work, held banners and large pictures showing the violence of the war against their country and remained available to talk to passers-by I waited my turn to write on large cardboards a message of peace and sign it.
The Lebanese were happy that I spent an hour with them. Facing the terrible tragedy of their people, I found them in a state of shock. They were hurt deeply.
I listened to the sufferings of their wounded heart: a million of their people were displaced, the Cana massacre, the destruction of their country
They appreciated the international mobilization going on almost in every part of the world, including Tel Aviv, against the war in Lebanon.
Disappointed by the international community, they are asking to stop immediately the Israeli aggression and that the Israeli troops withdraw from the Lebanese territory.
Tents causing problems
- " Medecin du Monde " (Doctors of the World) organization has distributed 500 tents to people with no fixed abode in Paris. The recipients did appreciate not to be permanently exposed to the eyes of everybody.
These tents gave them a little intimacy and humaneness. But during the summer when there are many tourists, how is it possible to support all these tents springing up everywhere in the capital, in particular on the banks of the Seine? They gave a high profile to scandal: all these people with no fixed abode who sleep on the streets. Impossible to ignore them.
These tents were disturbing and were becoming objects of suspicions. The residents protested. The mayor's office intervened and then, the politicians.
Everything was being done to make the people with no fixed abode leave theirs tents. A rally was organized in support of these people near the Department of Social Affairs. The people with no fixed abode made speeches. I like to hear them saying what they feel in their own words. Nobody can speak on his or her behalf.
What do they say? No emergency housing. We feel we are unwelcome there. Our belongings are stolen and at the end we are thrown back on the streets. It is better to be on the streets rather than in an emergency housing for the night only.
What do they want? A housing, an accommodation that is a real one. Places to live that are decent.
Everybody applauded to these words that were a breath of dignity.
To them the problem is not the tents that are taken away but the impossibility to have housing and the absence of places to live.
« He touched the leprous »
During the summer holidays of the family, my eight year old niece, Lise, came up to me one morning and asked me seriously: " Can you tell me some of the miracles that Jesus made? ".
I admit being allergic to this type of question because the word miracle can lead people to think that Jesus was a superman and that he made spectacular feats. Talking about the miracles of Jesus, is it not like a beautiful story opening on a wonderful world? But where is the real life? And what is the message Jesus tells us?
Maybe Lise felt my lack of enthusiasm, but it was impossible for me not to answer her question.
" I will tell you Lise what Jesus did one day along the way. A large crowd was following him. Then suddenly a leprous came up to him. He fell to his knees and implored him: " if you want to, you can heal me ".
What did Jesus do? He stretched his hand and touched the leprous.
Lise stopped me: " He touched the leprous? "
" Yes, Jesus ventured to make this gesture that put him in contact with the leprous.
Jesus must have had a lot of love in his heart to touch the leprous. He showed that this leprous was a human being like all others and he was entitled to our respect. "
Lise did not try to know the rest of the story. This gesture of Jesus, which was so human, and to the reach of everyone was enough for her: " He touched the leprous ".
Between the mitre and the crosier in Lourdes
(As a nod to the past, here is the logbook I had written on August 2000. Msgr Bertone mentioned here has become Cardinal Secretary of state i.e. the number 2 in the Catholic church and the Cardinal Ratsinger is now Pope Benoît XVI)
The Bishop of Lourdes invited me to preside in the month of August to the International mass. For the year of the Jubilee, it was a brotherly gesture on his part. I seized this occasion to show that I am in communion with the Church.
In the basement of the basilica, the crowd for the great days was there. Those responsible for the sanctuaries took care to place a few bodyguards by my side to watch over me. Who knew what could happen!
In the sacristy, an Italian bishop, Msgr Bertone, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith, came towards me and smilingly, told me of his surprise to see me there.
- " I am often where I am not expected, I told him
-May I say to Cardinal Ratzinger that I have met you and I have
- celebrated mass with you?
I can tell you that I appreciate what you do ."
The procession started. I have lost the habit of being with the mitre and the crosier among the bishops!
The liturgy spread out beautifully in different languages and with the symbols that everyone could see on the giant screens.
In Lourdes, the sick, the handicapped, the poor of society feel at home. They find their place. They are being recognized. That is the miracle of Lourdes.