correspondents

Ghana

Visit to the Diocese of Ho

The cover of the May edition of New Directions showed a photograph taken by me, of three priests from the Diocese of Ho in Ghana reading copies of this magazine. I have been asked by a number of people whether the pose was set up. The answer is no. The Bishop of Ho, the Rt Revd Matthias K. Medadues-Badohu, is no stranger to Forward in Faith. He passionately wants the Catholic faith to be taught and practised in his diocese and orders a copy of New Directions for each of his priests every month. The photograph was taken in a lunch break during a workshop on the Eucharist which I was leading in the diocese in March this year.

About eighteen months ago, Bishop Matthias asked the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament whether they could sponsor and help organize a workshop for his clergy and some of his lay leaders to deepen their understanding of the Eucharist. As it was known I had some experience of life in Africa, albeit in another country on the other side of the continent (having spent six years in Malawi from 1985 to 1991), I was invited to take up the invitation. Generously, CBS agreed to sponsor another priest to accompany me and

share the work. So it was that Fr Robert Page, Vicar of St Margarets Leytonstone, and I flew to Ghana at the end of February this year for a two-week trip.

Eucharistic workshop

Our time in Ghana was divided unequally between the Diocese of Ho and the Diocese of Accra. The Bishop of Accra, who is also the Archbishop of the Province of West Africa, having heard about our proposed trip to Ghana, asked Bishop Matthias whether we could also run a similar workshop on the Eucharist in his diocese. In Ho we ran a workshop for the clergy and then one which included the laity, followed by a days retreat. All these took place in the beautiful setting of an outdoor Marian shrine near Kpadu in the Volta Region. In Accra, we also ran a workshop based at the cathedral and a retreat in the diocesan retreat centre outside of Accra, but both of these events only involved the clergy.

The contrast between these two dioceses was interesting. The diocese of Accra is much older and many readers will know of it. One of its bishops was Mowbray Stephen O'Rorke (1913-24), who was often brought out for great Anglo-Catholic celebrations in the Twenties and Thirties and whose memorial is next to the Annunciation altar in the Shrine Church at Walsingham. This diocese is quite well developed. There are about ninety priests, some of whom are non-stipendiary Many of the churches are substantial buildings and well maintained. The diocese obviously has good structures. The retreat centre has an ambitious building programme, which will equip the diocese for training needs and also supply an important source of revenue for the future.

Very new diocese

The Diocese of Ho is very different, having only been founded in 2003 with Bishop Matthias Medadues-Badohu consecrated its first bishop. Previously the area was part of the diocese of Koforidua and covers the whole of the Volta region on the east side of Ghana; mostly a fertile area of farmland. The diocese has only nine priests to cover an enormous area and several of these are non-stipendiary There are just three church buildings; two of these are unfinished and in need of funds to complete them. There is no proper bishops house or diocesan office. The only other member of staff is a part-time typist. There is barely enough money in the diocesan funds to pay the clergy their meagre stipend at the end of the month. Nevertheless, there is a vibrant Christian life, the depth of faith of many of the folk is moving and there is great potential for growth and development.

Bishop Matthias is battling against great odds but is determined to form his clergy and help them see what it means to be Catholic priests. The Provincial Synod has voted in favour of the ordination of women to the priesthood but as yet none have been ordained in Ghana. However, it cannot be long before it happens, but Bishop Matthias is committed to remain faithful to the apostolic tradition. He deserves our support. If any parish or individual is looking for a project to support where they can be assured that money will be spent on teaching and promoting the Catholic faith, then the Diocese of Ho would be ideal. I hope to find some way of organizing support for the diocese, but in the meantime I can always forward funds to Ghana.

+Keith Bishop of Richborough

Jerusalem

St John Eye Hospital

St John

This year the St John Eye Hospital, in the Sheikh Jarrah district of East Jerusalem, celebrates its 125th anniversary. It is a Foundation of the renowned Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. This is a Christian Order of Chivalry with the motto: Pro fide: pro utilitate hominum ['For the faith: in the service of mankind'], of which the Queen is the Sovereign Head. The Order stems from the Crusader Hospitallers of the eleventh and twelfth centuries who founded a hospital in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, in order to give succour not only to the crusaders, but also the pilgrims that followed them.

When, in 1540, Henry VIII confiscated the lands belonging to the monasteries, the Order of St John was one of the main losers, for they owned considerable estates in England. Notwithstanding this, the Order was never formally disbanded in England and continued its charitable work in continental Europe as the Protestant Johannitan Orders of St John and the Roman Catholic Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

The hospital's history

In the late nineteenth century, Queen Victoria reformed the Order in England under its current title and instructed the Prince of Wales to visit the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire - who then controlled Jerusalem - to ask if a piece of land could be found in the Holy City to construct an ophthalmic hospital. The decision to specialize in ophthalmology was based on the high incidence of blindness, a problem that persists to this day.

The re-formed Venerable Orders first

hospital was constructed in 1882 on what is today the Mount Zion Hotel in Jerusalem. Despite being badly damaged by enemy action as General Allenby re-took Jerusalem in 1917, it was repaired and its work continued. However, in 1948, it found itself within the part of the Old City captured by the newly formed State of Israel and thus it moved to temporary premises outside the Green Line before finally moving, in 1960, to its present site in East Jerusalem, as a modern purpose-built hospital, then with 75 beds.

The cardinal objective of the hospital has always been to serve everyone who calls upon its services, regardless of nationality, religious beliefs or ability to pay. With the formation of the State of Israel and the later construction of their Hadassah Hospital, the St John Eye Hospital began to focus on serving the poorest of the region - in keeping with Pro utilitate hominum - those being the Palestinian and Bedouin populations.

Today the hospital has 180 staff, fewer beds because surgical techniques have changed, state-of-the-art equipment and an ISO accreditation. It is served by both foreign and locally trained doctors. There is a busy outpatients department providing specialist retinal, corneal and paediatric services. Some of the original bed space is now used for research into diseases found in the region, often with technical help from Moorfields Eye Hospital or St Thomas' Hospital in London.

Developments and activities

The Hospital opened a static clinic in Gaza in 1992 to serve the population that the State of Israel wishes to prevent from travelling to Jerusalem and the West Bank. Further static clinics were opened in Hebron at the south of the West Bank in 2005 and in Anabta in the north of the West Bank in 2007, as Israeli travel restrictions for the Palestinian and Bedouin populations have increased. In addition, the hospital began its outreach programme in 1982, providing mobile clinics that visit the West Bank with the objective of identifying eye disorders. The cost of operating the hospital amounted to circa 4-5 million each year, with much of this being raised overseas.

The incidence of blindness in the indigenous Palestinian and Bedouin peoples is ten times that in western Europe; stems not only from consanguinity and diabetes, but also from a variety of other causes in a population of which about 30% are under the age of 10, particularly in Gaza, where 1.5 million people live in an area approximately 5 miles wide by 30 miles long. Common conditions affecting children are squint, infantile glaucoma, cataract and trauma. Tragically, up to 80% of the blindness is preventable. In the year 2006, the hospital, as a whole, undertook a total of 70,077 procedures, including 3,102 major operations.

Modern challenges

Israel's travel restrictions could have had seriously potential implications for the hospital's patients, had the hospital not had the foresight to open static clinics. Israel's security wall that now virtually surrounds Jerusalem has divided many families, farms and businesses and creating increased unemployment. Thus the patients find access to the hospital difficult -patients who have travelled from the northern towns of the West Bank have been turned back, sometimes within sight of the hospital, for 'security reasons'. With Gaza completely cut off from the West Bank, the medical aid that the hospital's static clinic is able to provide, particularly to its large paediatric patient base, is often limited, with only occasional access by the senior hospital staff for administrative matters or training resident staff.

What may happen to the hospital and its patients when the security wall is finally complete? The high level of security provided by the State of Israel has made life difficult indeed for the non-Jewish population, with constant roadblocks and the requirement for non-Jews to obtain passes to travel from one area to another. From a political viewpoint, many feel that international Islamic terrorism stems directly from a perceived view of Palestinian oppression by the State of Israel. Whether or not this is a fair statement, the continued lack of a political settlement does little to diminish tensions and create a community where the blind can have their sight restored.

Jack Smith is an English supporter of this work

 

Australia

Sell off

For those wanting to set up their own continuing church, a grand opportunity has arisen down under.

Five churches in the country town of Young in New South Wales will go under the hammer due to rising costs of living and falling attendance. The Anglican churches, which have a combined 428 years as centres of worship, were to be auctioned at the end of August and are expected to sell for between 20, and 100,000 Australian dollars each.

Belt-tightening

The Diocese of Canberra's Assistant Bishop, Allan Ewing, said they simply could not afford to keep the churches operating. 'We're having to deal with reality. They became a real financial burden and while we made the decision relatively recently we've been talking about it for a long time.'

'We merged three parishes a couple of years ago and were left with one clergy person looking after thirteen different churches, from an earlier period when there were lots of small farms and communication wasn't so extensive. Over a period of about ten years families sold their farms to their neighbours and retired to the regional centre because it became harder to make a living off the land, leaving less people going to our remote churches.'

Massive interest

Estate agents in Young, in the western part of the state, have only managed to sell a third of the properties that have come up for auction in recent months, but the agent John Patterson said that in this case there had been unprecedented interest in the five properties, with people who were baptized, married or with links to the churches returning home from across Australia hoping to snap up a piece of their family history.

At the top end of the market at 40,000 is St Marks Church, with the delightful address T Jerrybang Lane' in Monteagle, a village ten miles from Young, a granite and stone church built in 1898 and set in mature landscaped grounds. The cheapest of the five churches, estimated at just over 8,000, is St Thomas Church, dedicated in 1944 and set in a hectare of land.

'We're hoping to get a fair price for the churches, with some of the proceeds going to the repair and maintenance of other buildings and the rest into investments,' Bishop Ewing said. The sales will still leave eight Anglican churches to service parishioners of the Young district.

From material from Justin Vallejo on TitusOneNine Estate agent details: http://www. realestate. com. aul realestate/agent/barton+first+national+ real+estate+young/jqyyou/page2

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