Fr. Pol took me to the airport this morning early for the flight home. He celebrated Mass the evening before at Tel Aviv for about 700 Filipinos and other Catholics who work in that area as care-givers and domestics. There are over 80,000 Filipinos alone in Israel.
In the Gulf area there are about 2 million Catholics, many from the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka and Africa.
Pol was enthusiastic about the lively, ingenious faith of these immigrants, who send much of their earnings home, yet contribute so much to the efforts of their church here in Israel. They meet regularly at St. Peter’s Church in Joppa and are planning another Christian center between Tel Aviv and Haifa. Some vital new movements are inspiring them.
The Israeli who hire them appreciate these workers for their ability to care for the sick and the elderly, and their honest values. Often they will arrange for them to get to Church on Sunday. Fr. Pol wonders if they will bring some of them to the faith.
Relations of immigrants to the government can be difficult, however. As in America, some are here illegally. Their children often are schooled in Hebrew and they want a more permanent relationship to the country but the political situation is not favorable now. Some are thinking that these immigrants may be the beginning of a new Christian presence, not just a pilgrim presence, in the Holy Land. One priest who is a Jewish convert is speaking of a Church of the Hebrews.
Fr. Pol and Fr. Marito and the Camboni Sisters next to them minister to this immigrant community regularly, driving all over Israel to wherever they can meet them.
Today is the Feast of Christ the King. Usually great things are done, according to Christian thinking, not by political or military or economic power, but by the power of the weak and the small. Weren’t lowly immigrants largely responsible for the original growth of the church?
Yesterday I missed an opportunity for going with Fr. Pol to Tel Aviv because I wanted to get to Lazarus’ tomb and the Comboni Sisters offered to take me because they were going shopping. 17 Kilometers later we landed at the tomb and the sister said, “Look across the wall, that’s where we live, just a few yards away.”
The ugly security wall.
It didn’t stop a group of Russians from descending into the tomb. For about 15 minutes they sang glorious Russian chants and then came up into the sunlight. The tomb became radiant with their faith.