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Volume 39, Number 4
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In this 1996 image, children attend a festival in New York celebrating Greek heritage. (photo: Karen Lagerquist)
  
15 April 2014
Greg Kandra




In Ethiopia, cows and oxen are used to stomp on the harvested teff. To learn more about the country’s agricultural industry — and how it’s moving into the modern era — check out Farming a Brighter Future from the January 2010 issue of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)



Tags: Ethiopia
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15 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Debris chokes a badly damaged church in the Monastery of Mar Sarkis in Maaloula after the Syrian government reclaimed it from rebel fighters on 14 April. (photo: CNS/Khaled al Hariri, Reuters)

Syrian army seizes ancient Christian town near Lebanon border (Reuters) Syrian soldiers backed by Hezbollah fighters recaptured the town of Maaloula, north of Damascus, on Monday, military sources and state television said, further squeezing rebels’ supply routes through the Qalamoun mountains into Lebanon. Islamist fighters, some from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, had taken over part of the ancient Christian town in December and held several nuns captive until releasing them in March in a prisoner-exchange deal. Government forces have recaptured several rebel-held areas and border towns in recent months, closing off supply routes from Lebanon and securing the main highway leading north from Damascus toward central Syria, Homs and the Mediterranean…

Missile strikes an Armenian Catholic school (Fides) A child died and 61 people were injured when a missile hit an Armenian Catholic school in Damascus, in the district of Bab Tuma. “Rescuers arrived immediately and the injured were taken to three hospitals in the area,” said the Rev. George Bahi, a priest of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate of Damascus. “We are all shocked by what happened…”

Syria’s graffiti revolution (Al Monitor) Syrian graffiti artists seek to reclaim the spirit of the revolution by taking on both the Assad government and radical Islamists. “This [graffiti] is an opportunity to gain back the public space that was stolen from us by the militias, formerly occupied by the regime with the pictures of Bashar and Hafez al Assad, and now taken by Quranic verses [of ISIS],” says Syrian activist Amer Mattar. Amer is a member of Shera’ (Arabic for “the street”), a group of young activists in the northern Syrian town of Kafr Nabl who are using graffiti as a way to reclaim a revolution they feel has gone horribly astray…

Ecumenical patriarch calls for peace in Ukraine (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople) “We believe that the good will of the Ukrainian people will succeed in bringing healing and ultimate reconciliation. … It is our wholehearted hope and prayer that, by that time, all divisions may be healed for the sake of the unity of the Ukrainian people,” Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I said…

Ukraine says it has begun military operation in east (New York Times) After days of failing to enforce its own ultimatums, the Ukrainian government on Tuesday began what the president called a military operation to confront pro-Russian militants in the east of the country. The first indication that the operation represented more than just words this time was a modest Ukrainian military checkpoint established on a highway north of the town of Slovyansk, which has been controlled by militants since Saturday…

Russia warns of encroaching Ukrainian civil war (Al Jazeera) Ukraine’s government said Tuesday that an “anti-terrorist operation” to oust pro-Russian rebels from occupied buildings in the east had begun, but attempts to wrest back control appeared sluggish amid warnings from Russia over the risk of civil war. “Blood has once again been spilt in Ukraine. The country is on the brink of civil war,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday, referring to at least two deaths on Sunday when Kyiv unsuccessfully tried to regain control in Slovyansk, one of about ten towns and cities where the rebels have seized buildings…



Tags: Syria Ukraine Violence against Christians Russia Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
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14 April 2014
Greg Kandra




With Passover beginning tonight, we offer once again the video below, first produced in 2013, in which CNEWA’s external affairs officer, Rev. Elias Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., discusses the significance of these two holidays and their proximity to one another:



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14 April 2014
Greg Kandra




A Palestinian boy carries palm branches to sell to Christian pilgrims before the annual Palm Sunday procession on the Mount of Olives overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem 13 April. Christian pilgrims walked the path that Jesus took when he rode a donkey into Jerusalem.
(photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)




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14 April 2014
Greg Kandra




In this image from Passover in 2009, Jewish worshipers are wrapped in prayer shawls as they take part in the Jewish priestly blessing at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest prayer site, in the Old City of Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Darren Whiteside, Reuters)

Drought could complicate food crisis in Syria (NPR) In March, the United Nations World Food Programme reported that a potential drought in the area could significantly hurt food production in Syria: “Large rainfall deficits in the 2013-2014 season will have a major impact on Syria’s next cereal harvest. With three quarters of the rainfall season gone, it is unlikely that there will be a significant recovery in this agricultural season.” That could also make a disastrous situation much worse. Dina El-Kassaby, a public information officer for the World Food Programme based in Amman, Jordan, says getting food to areas stuck in the middle of combat is already very difficult...

Israel prepares for Passover (Associated Press) Smoke wafted through the air in Jerusalem on Monday morning as Jews burned scraps of bread and added the final touches to weeks of meticulous preparations for Passover, the holiday in which the biblical story of the Exodus of the Jewish people from ancient Egypt is retold. This year, the holiday comes amid uncertainty over the future of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, with the sides facing an end-of-April deadline to reach a preliminary deal or agree to an extension of negotiations...

Pope sends Passover greetings (CNS) Offering Passover greetings to Rome’s Jewish community, Pope Francis also asked for prayers for his upcoming trip to the Holy Land. With the approaching of the start of Passover at sundown on 14 April, the Pope said he wanted to offer his “best wishes for peace” to Rome’s chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni and the city’s Jewish community...

Catholics in Crimea isolated (ByzCath.org) Catholics living in the Crimea have been cut off from their co-religionists in Ukraine since Russia seized the province, a bishop serving in Crimea has reported to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Bishop Jacek Pyl, an auxiliary of the Odessa-Simferopol diocese, told ACN: “We only communicate by phone or email; even the aid packages are kept back at the border...”

Parishes prepare for annual Good Friday collection for Holy Land (Vatican Radio) Parishes around the world this week will be taking up the traditional annual Good Friday Collection for the Church in the Holy Land.The proceeds from the Good Friday Collection go to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. The Franciscans have been caring for the holy sites there since 1209. They also assist the poor, run schools, provide scholarships, and conduct pastoral ministries to keep Christianity alive in the land where it originated. In his appeal to Catholics to donate generously this Good Friday, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, said “The Collection is still today the principal source which sustains the life and works of the region’s Christians...”

Catholic priest from Kerala appearing in major film (Deccan Chronicle) A Catholic priest in Kerala is all set to play a prominent role in a feature film. Father Thomas Chakkalamattath, who belongs to the Catholic order Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI), is enacting the role of a priest in the movie titled ‘Christmas Cake’, which narrates the story of a bond between a clergyman and a visually impaired boy abandoned by parents. The film, shot in Kerala and Malaysia, will hit screens on 25 April after Easter. It is directed by Sajan Kurien, who has made several parallel films screened in festivals...



Tags: India Pope Francis Ukraine Israel Kerala
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11 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Studite Hieromonk Nykanor preaches from the iconostasis of the 17th-century Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Lviv. Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from 1901 to 1944, founded the Studite order along the lines of the monastic traditions of the Christian East to facilitate the reunion of the Catholic and Orthodox churches. To learn more, read If You Pray, They Will Come, from the September-October 2003 issue of the magazine. (photo: Ivan Babichuk)



Tags: Ecumenism Eastern Christianity Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Monasticism Eastern Catholics
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11 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




A man shouts during a pro-Russia rally near the regional government building in Donetsk, Ukraine, on 6 April. (photo: CNS/Mikhail Maslovsky, Reuters)

Russian reboot of Crimea brings rubles and confusion (Al Jazeera) Just weeks after its blitzkrieg annexation of this Black Sea peninsula, the Kremlin is trying to do shock therapy with the region’s economy, moving swiftly to remake everything from the banking system and the legal system to the prices being set at open-air farmers’ markets and regular grocery markets…

Ukrainian Catholic clergy instructed on behavior during elections (RISU) The Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church approved on 4 April a set of instructions for how the clergy should behave during elections. The authors were prompted to issue the document in response to the behavior of clergy during the parliamentary electoral campaign of 2012. The document states that a priest is strictly prohibited from being part of a political party, from distributing campaign materials in church, from campaigning for someone and from openly expressing their political views in private conversations with believers…

From Cairo to Suez, Egypt workers defy government with labor strikes (Washington Post) Thousands of Egyptian workers have staged strikes for higher wages and better working conditions in recent weeks, raising the possibility of a confrontation between impoverished laborers and a new president set to be elected this spring…

Warily, Jordan assists rebels in Syrian war (New York Times) During more than three years of civil war in Syria, Jordan has come to the world’s attention largely because it has struggled to shelter hundreds of thousands of refugees. But, quietly, the desert nation has also provided a staging ground for rebels and their foreign backers on Syria’s southern front…

Lebanese army launches Bekaa Valley security plan (Daily Star Lebanon) On Thursday, the Lebanese army began implementing a security plan in the Bekaa Valley, raiding locations in the eastern town of Brital, notorious for being off-limits to authorities, in search for wanted individuals, including abduction gangs and drug dealers…



Tags: Egypt Ukraine Jordan Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Crimea
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10 April 2014
Greg Kandra




Berthe Maalouly, at left, leads Holy Apostles College in Jounieh, north of Beirut.
(photo: Sarah Hunter)


Several years ago, we profiled Catholic schools that were making a difference in Lebanon:

Catholic schools can be found throughout Lebanon, in areas where there is little religious diversity or towns where Christians and Muslims live in segregated areas. In such places, the boundaries separating public school districts frequently coincide with community boundaries — thus reinforcing sectarianism.

Catholic schools, meanwhile, enroll students from all communities, whether adjacent, distant, Christian or Muslim. In many parts of Lebanon, they represent the last forum where Christian and Muslim youth meet and grow up knowing one another.

“Catholic schools are natural places where children can come together, sit next to each other and get to know the other person slowly but surely,” said Maronite Father Marwan Tabet, who heads Lebanon’s General Secretariat of Catholic Schools.

“It’s not like you have to shove it down the throats of people — and the kids grow to know each other, to love each other, to accept each other. That’s very important.”

Father Marwan believes the student body’s religious diversity ranks among the greatest strengths of the nation’s Catholic school system. These schools, he said, are a “place where there is no proselytism, where children are not converted to Christianity. On the contrary, they are open to the other culture. They are accepted and they are cared for with the best of means and possibilities.

“When our institutions are accepted in areas that are solely non-Christian,” he concluded, “that fortifies the Catholic school because it is still accepted by the others.”

Read more about the Pillars of Lebanon in the June 2008 issue of ONE.



Tags: Lebanon Education
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10 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly, pictured in a 2012 photo, served as Chaldean patriarch from 2003 to 2013. Pope Benedict XVI made him a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church in 2007. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly, retired Chaldean patriarch, dies at 86 (The Catholic Register) Pope Francis praised the dedication of the retired patriarch of the Chaldean Church, Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly, 86, who died April 8 in a hospital in San Diego, according to the California-based Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle. In a telegram of condolence to Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad, Pope Francis recalled “with deep gratitude the late patriarch’s dedication to his people and to the promotion of respectful, just and peaceful relations with followers of other religious traditions…”

Caritas president: International community must open refugee camps in Syria (Fides) “The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has reached an unsustainable threshold for Lebanon, equal to 25-30 percent of the population present on the national territory. The global and regional powers, instead of providing weapons to those who kill, should focus their interventions on this emergency,” said the Rev. Paul Karam, Maronite priest and president of Caritas Lebanon…

‘Risky’ operation brings aid to besieged Syrians in eastern Aleppo (U.N. News Center) The United Nations refugee agency and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent said today it managed to bring humanitarian aid to a besieged neighborhood in eastern Aleppo, an area that had been cut off from assistance since last June. The “rare and risky” operation to deliver aid to Boustan al Qaser was carried out following agreement with the Syrian Government and the opposition, according to a news release issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees…

Catholic convent, Maronite village latest targets of vandals in Israel (CNS) A Catholic convent near Jerusalem and a largely Maronite village in Galilee were damaged in recent weeks as a two-year wave of vandalism directed at Christians and Muslims in Israel and the West Bank continued…

Catholic bishops condemn separatism and sectarianism (RISU) The Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops in Ukraine released a statement supporting Ukrainian unity and condemning the incitement of hatred on religious grounds…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Middle East Chaldean Church United Nations Maronite Church
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9 April 2014
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2010, police limit access to the courtyard of the Holy Sepulchre, where thousands typically greet the procession. (photo: CNEWA, Jerusalem)

Some significant news out of Jerusalem today, from the Associated Press:

Palestinian Christians are awaiting a High Court of Justice ruling on a petition asking the state and the Israel Police to drop the heavy movement and security restrictions that have prevented worshipers from accessing holy sites in East Jerusalem on Holy Saturday during the past several years. Holy Saturday, which is the day before Easter, falls this year on 19 April.

The petition, filed in February by several East Jerusalem residents, argues that police roadblocks and barricades in and around the Old City on that day deter worshipers from even attempting to access the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other sites for Holy Saturday celebrations. The petitioners have also asked that armed security personnel not be allowed to enter the church. The heads of the five Eastern Orthodox churches and the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land also joined the petition.

Holy Saturday, also called the Saturday of Light by some of the eastern churches, is marked in East Jerusalem with a fire ceremony that symbolizes the resurrection of Christ. The custom for the past several hundred years is that the Greek Orthodox patriarch enters the holy sepulcher with an extinguished torch and prays. The tradition is that at 2 P.M., the torch lights up on its own, and its fire is passed on to the torches of other denominations and to the candles carried by thousands of believers waiting in the church and outside it.

According to the petitioners, between 1967 and 2005 Israel respected the Holy Saturday tradition and its character as a mass event. But in 2006, in a step that was never explained, the police started to erect barriers and screen worshipers before allowing them to enter. The petitioners’ attorney, Assad Masawi, said that in 2010, Palestinian Christian leaders began a dialogue with the authorities that resulted in somewhat improved access in 2011 and 2012. But in 2013 the situation deteriorated again, with reports of police roughing up worshipers and clergymen en route to the celebrations and refusing to allow access to various delegations whose visits had been coordinated in advance.

This is an issue CNEWA has been following for some time. In 2010, CNEWA’s Regional Director for Palestine and Israel, Sami el-Yousef, described the bittersweet atmosphere in Jerusalem during Holy Week:

For the past few years, Israeli authorities have closed the Old City and the area around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during Holy Week, preventing local Christian and pilgrims from attending the Holy Fire celebration.

My 88-year-old father remembers when Jordan controlled East Jerusalem. During Holy Week, fleets of buses packed with pilgrims from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Iraq would park along the road to Jericho. The crowds of pilgrims would walk to the celebration in the Old City. Their numbers far exceeded today’s turnout at Easter time, yet the Old City never closed its gates and the streets inside were never blocked. Access was open to all. A couple of years ago, Israeli authorities attempted to impose a permit system limiting the number of people who could attend the Holy Fire celebration. Incensed, local Christians demanded the government respect the church’s centuries-old Status Quo, which prohibits any restrictions on the faithful visiting the church. After all, pilgrims naturally want to get as close as possible to Christianity’s birthplace, especially during Holy Week.

This year, despite outcry from church leaders, members of civil society and the Christian community at large, Israeli authorities made it next to impossible to enter the Old City on Holy Saturday. In the early morning hours, police set up roadblocks at all the Old City’s gates and dozens of manned checkpoints along the streets and alleyways leading to the church. Authorities cooperated with church leaders only to the extent of allowing a limited number of local Christians access to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, provided that police escort them. Israeli authorities also detained a small group of locals at Saint Jacob’s Orthodox Church from early morning until just 15 minutes before the Holy Fire celebration began.

Since I live in the Old City, it was very strange to be escorted by Israeli police officers to my church. I felt ashamed to have capitulated to such treatment, but regretfully that was the only way to get to my destination. It was even stranger to witness St. Jacob’s Church — my parish — transformed into a holding cell, a detention center if you will, for hours.

Read more about Christian High Holy Days in the May 2010 issue of ONE.



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