Poway bishop led church in Middle East

08/22/2015 - 20:18 PM

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The Most Rev. Samir Kafity’s service can be summed up by the ball of barbed wire he kept on his desk. It helped remind the Palestinian bishop that he was pastor to Christians on both sides of the barbed wire, said the Rev. Mark McKone-Sweet, rector of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Poway, the church home of Kafity and his family for the past 18 years.

“He gave himself relentlessly to bringing peace to all people, regardless of race, nationality, faith or political group, by breaking down differences and collaborating with countless religious leaders around the world,” McKone-Sweet said in a statement Saturday.

Kafity, 12th president-bishop and primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East, died on Friday afternoon at home in Rancho Bernardo after a stroke, the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego said. He was 81 years old.

“Bishop Kafity was passionate for peace,” the Rev. Canon John L. Peterson, Washington National Cathedral’s canon for global justice and reconciliation, said in a statement. “He was the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem during two major political conflicts, the first Intifada and the first Gulf War. He firmly believed that the foundation stone of peace was always justice and his call for peace always centered around a just world for all people. One of Bishop Kafity’s great sayings was, ‘We are all citizens of Jerusalem.’ Today we celebrate Bishop Kafity’s life among us as he becomes a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem.”

Kafity was born Sept. 21, 1933, in Haifa, Palestine, and attended the American University of Beirut. He joined the Anglican priesthood in 1958 and served at churches in Palestine and Lebanon while rising in the diocese.

He was the second Palestinian-Arab to become bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East, a position he held for 14 years.

He retired in 1998 and became bishop-in-residence at St. Bartholomew’s in Poway, where he enthusiastically shared his expertise on the Middle East and helped strengthen relations with Jews and Muslims in the region. He co-founded the San Diego Christian-Muslim Dialogue group.

Kafity became an American citizen in 2002.

He has received immense honors. He was made an honorary life president of the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches; awarded the Star of Bethlehem from the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem; was dubbed a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate; and was awarded the Royal Jordanian Star, second degree, by King Hussein.

Kafity is survived by his wife of 52 years, Najat Abed; their two daughters, Samar Hireish and Rula Kassicieh; and four grandchildren, Beshara, Serene, Michael and Mark.

A wake is set for 6 p.m. Thursday and a funeral at 2 p.m. Friday, both at St. Bartholomew’s.


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