Were aware of the problems outside the Holy Land, says Father Zoomot in an unwavering voice. Thank God we havent had any such problems, and until now we have never heard anything amiss about our clergy. If we have any doubts about a student, for whatever reason, he is asked to leave or leaves of his own accord. Seminarians are free to leave at any time.
The rector attributes the absence of abuse among the patriarchates priests to Arab societys traditional values — which are linked closely to family pride — as well as the seminarys stringent screening process.
We know that if we do something wrong, it will reflect on our entire family, explains the priest. It should also be said that Arabs are a very expressive people. We embrace each other. Now we pay more attention to ensure we do nothing that could be misinterpreted.
Priests are not perfect, Father Zoomot admits. We continue to work on ourselves, always.
Minor seminarians typically board at the school for up to five years. For the most part, they follow the Palestinian secondary school curriculum, which is similar to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordans curriculum, though both differ significantly from the program in Israel.
Major seminarians study at the institution for up to eight years, beginning with a preparatory year of discernment, followed by two years of philosophy and four years of theology. In the preparatory year, students study the French language, which serves alongside Arabic as the programs languages of instruction. In subsequent years, they also study English, Hebrew, Italian and Latin.
They need Hebrew to read the holy Scriptures, and afterward, as priests, to communicate with Israelis, Father Zoomot explains.
Throughout their tenure at the seminary in Beit Jala, the young men work with the local community on a regular basis — usually on weekends at local parishes.
This way, they learn the mentalities of different people, which changes from one village or town to the next, says Jifnas Father Aridah about the seminarys community service component.
Sleiman Hassan is working with the young people, 15 to 18 years old, and also with university students, continues the priest. They can relate to him because he is young and acts as a role model. It is good to have good witnesses who can influence the young.
During the seventh year, students weekly community service takes center stage. Each seminarian is placed in a local parish where he lives, assists the pastor and experiences life as a priest over an extended period. When the students return to the seminary, they study theology intensively for a final year before graduating and, ultimately, ordination.
As did many of his fellow seminarians, Sleiman Hassan first felt the call to the priesthood as a child, largely due to priests who served his family parish in Jordan.
My late uncle, Father Rafiq, was a priest and I idolized him, Mr. Hassan recalls. He died in 1999 from cancer, and I was touched by the way he lived — and the way he died.
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