The Garden of Mercy inaugurated: a gift of Pope Francis
AMMAN – On Thursday, May 12, 2016, the “Garden of mercy”, donated by Pope Francis for helping Iraqi refugee families, was officially dedicated in Jordan in the presence of the special Vatican Envoy, Bishop Segundo Tejado Muñoz, under-Secretary of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, and Patriarch Fouad Twal.
The Garden of Mercy is one of many projects of Our Lady of Peace Center in Amman: the establishment of a sustainable farm that will produce various food products. An initiative to help refugees, made possible thanks to Pope Francis, whose objective is to provide jobs for Iraqi refugees in Jordan, to give them some autonomy. Profits from the farm will be used to help not only refugees but also in general for people in need.
A sustainable and collective initiative
The Garden of Mercy is managed by Caritas Jordan. Last December, in announcing the project, Mr. Wael Suleiman, President of Caritas Jordan, at the opening of the Restaurant of Mercy, stated that another project for the Garden of Mercy is in development. To bring the plan to fruition, the local Church offered 10,000 square meters of arable land, as well as 600 olive trees to be used for the production of various products such as jam, olive-based products, all made possible thanks to a kitchen specially built for the project.
The Center of Our Lady of Peace is a nonprofit institution founded by the Latin Patriarchate in 2002, dedicated to helping people with disabilities, irrespective of religion, nationality, or ethnicity. It offers several therapeutic and educational methods for the youngest. Caritas Jordan, which manages the site, is very active in Jordan in the area of social work. The association counts on diplomatic embassies and international organizations in Jordan to promote the project and also find opportunities to sell its products abroad. Other sustainable farms are planned in the country, including the towns of Zarqa and Fuheis. Mr. Suleiman, on Thursday night, spoke of the origins of the Garden of Mercy: “in coordination with the Latin Patriarchate and the Apostolic Nunciature and in partnership with the Center of Our Lady of Peace, we wanted to use this grant for income-generating projects, to support a good number of Jordanian and Iraqi families, and to create jobs within the Center. We will soon begin another project in Madaba, supported by the French government, which will be followed by two similar projects in Zarqa and Fuheis. All of these projects aim to create jobs to help our Iraqi brothers live with dignity during their stay in Jordan.”
Present at the inauguration were the special envoy of the Holy Father and under-Secretary of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Bishop Segundo Tejado Muñoz, H.E Alberto Ortega Martin, Apostolic Nuncio to the Jordan and the Iraq, H.B Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Bishop Maroun Lahham, Patriarchal Vicar for the Jordan, Bishop Elie Haddad, Greek Melkite Archbishop of Sidon and Patriarchal Administrator of the Greek Diocese Melkite Petra and Philadelphia, as well as representatives of the local Churches. The event began with a Mass of Thanksgiving presided over by Patriarchal Twal, also celebrating three years of Pope Francis’ pontificate, and ended with a visit to the sustainable farm infrastructure.
A work of mercy
Addressing the congregation after the Gospel, the Patriarch Twal recalled the profound link between the Year of Mercy and this farm vocation: “We thank God for the Year of Mercy, by which He invites us to adopt the “culture of Mercy” in today’s world, in our region exhausted by violence in the face of blind religious fanaticism and the lack of love and justice. (…) The Garden of Mercy was created to serve the poor and the needy, and to serve the Iraqi refugees who came to us with Jesus, for Jesus, and by Jesus. They can find joy in the Resurrection of Christ, and one day in their return to their homes. (…) We hope this Garden can bear fruit by providing support to families in need, and implore Our Lady of Peace during this blessed month. She is the mother of Mercy, who continues to take care of her children, generation after generation.” The Patriarch also thanked Pope Francis, who generously offered the farm: “We still live the Year of Mercy. The Church asks us to put it into practice by helping others more, serving more, praying for each other, supporting one another spiritually, praising God and working for reconciliation between peoples. Brothers and sisters, we are gathered here tonight to thank the Lord for this message of love and peace that Pope Francis has sown in the vast fields of the world, at a time when he asks the world to participate in spreading Mercy and the practice of solidarity among peoples. (…) We also thank him, especially today, because he gave us this great project to be realized on the grounds of this Center of Our Lady of Peace, a place of healing, love and prayer.”
The project was funded by a donation of the Holy Father through the Pontifical Council Cor Unum for Human and Christian development and the Council for Culture, as well as with the help of contributions from donors to the Holy See Pavilion at the Expo 2015 Universal Exhibition in Milan. Caritas Jordan and the Apostolic Nunciature in Amman hope that similar projects will soon be realized in the suburbs of the capital where many Iraqis have sought refuge.