Current Issue
Autumn, 2015
Volume 41, Number 3
9 October 2015
Greg Kandra

CNEWA will be visiting Altoona, Pennsylvania, this weekend. (photo: Wikipedia Commons)

This weekend, once again CNEWA will be hitting the road.

As we did recently in Illinois, we’ll be visiting a parish in Altoona, Pennsylvania: St. John the Evangelist. I’ll be preaching at all the Masses and members of our development team will be on hand to meet parishioners, pass out information about our work and answer questions about how people can support our mission, particularly on behalf of refugees in the Middle East.

If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by!

And if you’d like CNEWA to visit your parish or church group, please just drop a line to our development director, Norma Intriago.

9 October 2015
Greg Kandra

Alice Zakarian and her husband Apkar, 90, visit the Cathedral of St. James in Jerusalem. The lives of Armenians in Jerusalem are rich and sometimes challenging. Discover more about them in “Living Here is Complicated” in the Winter 2014 edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)

9 October 2015
Greg Kandra

In the video above, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III speaks at the Synod on the Family on families in his homeland facing persecution. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope Francis appeals for peace in Middle East (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis made a prayerful appeal for reconciliation and peace in the Middle East and Africa on Friday, at the opening of the morning session of the Synod assembly in the Vatican. The appeal came as the Holy Father addressed the participants of the XIV Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on Friday morning, at the start of their second round of meetings...

Archbishop of Aleppo welcomes Russia strikes (Al-Arabiya) The Melkite Greek Catholic archbishop of Aleppo welcomed Russia’s massive military escalation in Syria, describing it in an interview Thursday with Swiss television as a source of “hope” for the country’s Christians. Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart said the initiative “serves the Christians’ cause,” adding that he nonetheless recognized that Moscow was ultimately protecting its own interests by launching strikes in Syria…

Copts call for investigation into massacre (Fides) Four years after what some have called the massacre of Maspero, the Copts of Egypt Coalition — an independent organization of the Coptic Orthodox Church, but animated by militant lay Copts — has asked President Abdel Fattah al Sisi and the Egyptian Minister of Justice Ahmed al Zind to reopen the investigation regarding this tragic event, in which 27 Copts were killed by ferocious reprisals unleashed by military units against a protest...

Surprising findings from 4,500-year-old Ethiopian (The Los Angeles Times) DNA from a man who lived in Ethiopia about 4,500 years ago is prompting scientists to rethink the history of human migration in Africa...

Divers begin construction of first underwater Russian Orthodox church (The Moscow Times) Divers in Crimea began construction of an underwater Russian Orthodox church, placing a giant cross at the bottom of the Black Sea, Crimean news service Krym.Realii reported Wednesday. The nine-foot cross, styled as a ship anchor, will become the “initial structure, around which the world’s first underwater temple will be built, which will bear the name of St. Nicholas — sailors’ patron saint,” a spokesperson for the Russian Orthodox Church in Crimea was quoted by Krym.Realii as saying...

‘Agreed Statement on Christology’ between Anglicans, Oriental Orthodox (OCP Media Network) Historic agreements have been signed between Anglican and Oriental Orthodox churches helping to heal the oldest continuing division within Christianity. An Agreed Statement on Christology, published in North Wales this week by the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission, heals the centuries-old split between the Anglican Churches within the family of Chalcedonian churches and the non-Chalcedonian churches over the incarnation of Christ…

8 October 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

Indian Orthodox women bearing candles return home after attending an evening Divine Liturgy in Akkaparambu, Kerala. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Until the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama arrived on the shores of southwest India at the close of the 15th century, India’s Christians flourished in a unified church. Referred to as Thomas Christians, they traced their faith to St. Thomas the Apostle, who evangelized the south of India after his arrival in the year 52.

India’s Thomas Christians were joined by 72 Christian families from Mesopotamia, who according to tradition, arrived in the southwestern Indian port of Cranganore in 345. Led by Thomas Knaniya — a merchant who belonged to the Church of the East, a community in Mesopotamia also founded by St. Thomas — these families brought with them a bishop, Mar (a Syriac honorific for “Lord”) Joseph of Edessa, four priests and several deacons.

While Thomas Knaniya’s Mesopotamian community prohibited intermarriage, thus forming a closed community, their priests strengthened relations between the Church of the East and India’s Thomas Christians. The catholicos-patriarch of the Church of the East — which adhered to the most ancient rites of the church, known as East Syriac — regularly dispatched bishops to India to ordain priests and deacons and regulate ecclesial life for both communities. Common commercial interests also deepened the relationship between the two.

Two Indian Orthodox women greet visitors in front of their church in Akkaparambu, India. (photo: Sean Sprague)

In the eighth century, the Church of the East’s catholicos appointed a Mesopotamian cleric as “metropolitan and Gate of All India.” Though exercising considerable authority within the church in India, he typically did not speak the language of the people. Consequently, real power resided with an “archdeacon of All India,” a dynastic office for native Indian clergy.

For nearly 1,500 years, India’s Thomas Christians were fully integrated into south Indian society. While their traditions and liturgical practices reflected their East Syriac roots, other elements of the spirituality and culture of the Thomas Christians — such as their method of praying for the dead, avoidance rituals associated with the caste system and eating customs — revealed their Hindu cultural heritage.

Portuguese colonization of south India, which also included efforts to bind the Thomas Christians to the Church of Rome, shattered their unity. Today, the spiritual sons and daughters of St. Thomas include more than ten million believers divided among seven jurisdictions — Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. The Indian Orthodox Church is divided into two groups sharing the same Syriac rites and traditions. The largest, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, includes some 2.5 million members. Another 1.2 million Orthodox Indians belong to the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church. Most live on the subcontinent. But recently, thousands of families have settled in North America, Oceania and the Persian Gulf.

To learn more about the Thomas Christians, and the Indian Orthodox Church, click here.

Tags: India Indian Christians Eastern Churches

8 October 2015
Greg Kandra

Syrian refugees from Kobane wait at the Turkish-Syrian border to return to their country on 8 October. (photo: Halil Fidan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Syria launches wide-scale offensive (CNN) The Syrian army, which had appeared earlier this year to be on the ropes, has “launched a wide-scale offensive,” a senior military official said Thursday. The aim is “eliminating the terrorist groups and liberating the areas and towns that have suffered from terrorism and its crime,” said General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, the Syrian army chief of staff…

Jerusalem mayor calls on civilians to carry firearms (NBC News) The mayor of Jerusalem urged gun owners to carry their weapons at all times on Thursday in the wake of a slew of attacks and unrest in Israel and the West Bank. “Given the current escalation [of violence] in the security situation, those with a licensed firearm who know what to do with it must go out with [their weapon] — it’s an imperative,” Mayor Nir Barkat told Army Radio. “In a way, it’s like military reserve duty…”

Germany faces strains in refugee crisis (The Guardian) The realities of shouldering Europe’s refugee crisis are coming home to Germany, amid daily reports of clashes in asylum seeker homes; bureaucrats overwhelmed by a backlog of registration claims and deep divisions within chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative ranks over how to manage the enormity of the challenge. Just weeks after Merkel responded to the refugee crisis with the declaration: “Wir schaffen es” (“We can do it”), the euphoric mood that dominated has been replaced by a more sober response and a creeping sense of realism that the newcomers are here to stay…

One third of military deaths in Ukraine not related to battle (The Moscow Times) Nearly a third of Ukraine’s military losses over the past two years were non-battle casualties, according to the country’s Defense Ministry figures cited by news reports. In total, 2,027 soldier deaths have been recorded in 2014-2015 so far, according to the Defense Ministry report released Wednesday. Among them, 597 were non-battle casualties, the ministry said. The leading causes of non-battle deaths included suicide, with 171 cases, and road accidents, with 112…

Caritas Jerusalem intervenes to fight child malnutrition in Gaza (Fides) Most of the 1.8 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip cannot afford adequate food, partly because of higher food prices following the latest Israeli military action. Children and young people, who represent half the population, suffer most. A study carried out by the Palestinian Medical Relief Society revealed that 52 percent of children in the Gaza Strip suffer from anemia and severe phosphorus, calcium and zinc deficiencies, while a significant number of children suffer from respiratory infections. After the last Israeli military action, Caritas Jerusalem has launched a project aimed at improving food standards for children in the Gaza Strip between the ages of 5 and 12, giving them milk and food products specifically to meet their nutritional deficiencies…

Tags: Syria Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank Jerusalem Germany

7 October 2015
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2007, a young couple is married in Tbilisi, Georgia. To learn more about the resurgent faith of this ancient nation, read “A Georgian Revival” in the March 2007 edition of ONE.
(photo: Molly Corso)

7 October 2015
Greg Kandra

Smoke rises after Russian airstrikes hit ammunition-stores and bases of two opposition groups in the Mansoura region west of Aleppo, Syria, on 6 October, 2015.
(photo: Abdulfetah Huseyin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Russia escalates attacks on Syria (The New York Times) Sharply escalating its role in Syria, the Russian military launched on Wednesday medium-range cruise missiles from nearly 1,000 miles away, bringing to the conflict elements of its Cold War-era military might. The new Russian airstrikes came amid reports of an expanding ground offensive by pro-government forces in Syria, which is taking place in coordination with Russian warplanes operating from an airfield in western Syria. That offensive will include the Syrian Army, Hezbollah forces on the ground and Russia in the air — all coordinated with Iran, according to an official with that alliance...

Ukraine rebels postpone elections (Vatican Radio) Kiev, Moscow, and Washington have welcomed a decision by officials in rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine to postpone local elections, saying it would boost peace efforts. The rebels are sidestepping a contentious issue that had blocked progress toward a resolution for the war in Ukraine that has killed thousands...

Latin Patriarchate calls for restarting negotiations in Holy Land (Fides) The new wave of violence that is rampant in Jerusalem and the Holy Land urgently requires “Israelis and Palestinians to act with courage and return to the negotiating table,” which must be carried out on “solid and equitable basis” represented by resolutions — so far unfulfilled — approved by the UN on the Israeli-Arab conflict. This is the path indicated by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem to stop the spiral of death that again has bloodied the Holy City and the Palestinian territories...

Iraq Ministry of Justice says Christian property will be protected (Fides) The Iraqi government will adopt measures to protect the real estate property of Christians who have left the country, and to prevent their homes and their land illegally changing ownership during their absence. The new rules were announced by Iraqi Ministry of Justice, Haidar al-Zamili, with a statement...

Of African family values and the Synod of Bishops (National Catholic Register) Ethiopia’s metropolitan archbishop, Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel, is promoting the value of marriage and the family through a campaign of prayer, a bilingual newsletter that includes prayers for the synod participants, and workshops for representatives of churches in his jurisdiction. These include pastoral coordinators, lay leaders, married couples, catechists, youth leaders and Catholic professionals. In a recent email interview with the Register, Cardinal Souraphiel discussed the challenges facing the Church in Africa and the synod...

Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Ethiopia Russia

6 October 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

Thomas Christians light votive candles at an outdoor shrine in Valliapally, Kaduthuruthy.
(photo: Sean Sprague)

In the deep south of India, an Eastern Christian community has flourished since ancient times. Originally a distinctive people united in faith, customs and caste, they are named for the Apostle Thomas, who according to tradition brought the Christian faith to the Malabar Coast of southwestern India after the ascension of Jesus. Today these Christians, all of whom belong to the Syriac Christian tradition, are fragmented into seven churches. The largest, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, each year exports priests and religious to northern India, Europe and North America, as it grows and flourishes.

Though Indian Christianity has often been described as rooted in Western colonization, its presence dates almost 2,000 years. According to the “Ramban Song,” an ancient Indian poem, St. Thomas arrived on the shores of the Malabar Coast (present-day Kerala) in A.D. 52. He preached the Gospel, baptized 32 Hindu Brahmin families, founded seven churches and, in the year 72, died a martyr’s death. His tomb, in Mylapore, Madras, remains an important site of veneration today.

Christians and Hindus kept alive the memory of the “holy man,” chronicling the apostle’s deeds and the sites associated with his life and work. Scholars have long debated whether or not Thomas the Apostle founded the church of India. But sufficient historical evidence — including archaeological finds validating the existence of first-century Jewish communities on the Malabar Coast — as well as the existence of contemporary accounts passed from generation to generation by Christians and Hindus indicate the likeliness of Thomas’s travels and deeds.

For more than 1,500 years, the Thomas Christians were fully integrated into South Indian society. While their traditions and liturgical practices reflected their Eastern Syriac roots, other elements of their spirituality and culture, such as the method of praying for the dead, revealed their Hindu cultural heritage.

Retreatants participate in a prayer service in the Archeparchy of Changanacherry. (photo: John E. Kozar)

The arrival of the Portuguese in May 1498 dramatically changed the lives of all on the subcontinent. To support his commercial interests and consolidate his real estate gains, the Portuguese king utilized the missionary zeal of several religious communities of the Latin (Roman) Church, especially the Dominicans, Franciscans and Jesuits. The erection of the Latin Catholic Diocese of Goa in 1533 — which claimed jurisdiction over all of India’s Christians, denying the authentic authority, rights and privileges accorded to the leaders of the Thomas Christians — ushered in an age of turmoil.

In 1599, Latin usages were formally adopted by a diocesan synod held in Diamper. The Thomas Christians reluctantly signed the synod’s directives, though most church historians question the legality of the synod. The impositions of Diamper radically changed the nature of the Syriac church of India. Thomas Christians retained a few elements of their tradition, but authority, customs and law rested with the Portuguese hierarchy.

Diamper polarized the Thomas Christian community, culminating with the historic Coonan Cross Oath in January 1653. There, representatives of prominent Thomas Christian communities formally severed their ties to Rome. Eventually, those Thomas Christians independent of the Portuguese pledged fidelity to the Syriac Orthodox patriarch of Antioch and today make up the two communities which form the Indian Orthodox Church.

Pope Alexander VII sent Carmelite friars to India to restore calm and church unity. And by 1662 most Thomas Christians returned to full communion with the Catholic Church, forming the core of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.

Read a full account of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church from ONE magazine here.

6 October 2015
Greg Kandra

Students play educational games at Good Shepherd Day Care Center in Addis Ababa.
(photo: Sean Sprague)

In 2007, we explored some efforts to improve the lives of women in Ethiopia — including providing day care for their children:

“It helps if we reach the kids early,” said Genet Assefa, principal of the Bethlehem Day Care Center. The center, founded by the Good Shepherd Sisters in 1987, caters to the children of Cherkos, a slum in Addis Ababa that takes its name from the neighborhood church. (The sisters run a second day care facility in Addis Ababa, the Good Shepherd Sisters’ Center.)

On a recent visit to the Bethlehem center, more than 150 children, all under 7, were fully engaged in their classes. Some recited the English alphabet: “C! C is for cat.” Others practiced Amharic, their national language.

“The center serves two purposes,” said Mrs. Assefa. “It gives these children access to an early education that they wouldn’t ordinarily have, which will encourage them to go on to primary school and beyond. And it also frees up the parents, many of whom are single mothers, so that they can try to earn a living and improve their lives.”

Improving the lives of poor young adult women is an important part of CNEWA’s mandate.

Read more about “Breaking Barriers” for women in the March 2007 edition of ONE.

6 October 2015
Greg Kandra

As more refugees flee the Middle East, a priest from Iraq in the video above says more needs to be done to help persecuted Christians remaining behind. (video: Rome Reports)

EU: Millions more refugees could flee Syria, Turkey (BBC) Turkey has warned the EU that millions more refugees could flee Syria as the civil war intensifies, European Council President Donald Tusk has said. He said Russian and Iranian engagement in Syria was making a victory for President Bashar al-Assad more likely. According to Turkish estimates, it could mean another three million refugees from Aleppo and the area...

Fleeing Iraqi Christians find new life in Lourdes (Reuters) For Iraqi Christians fleeing Islamic State militants in their native land reaching Lourdes, the French town long synonymous with miraculous religious visions, feels little short of a modern-day miracle. Arriving in the town where peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous is said to have had visions of the Virgin Mary in 1858, the refugees have also experienced real Christian charity through the efforts of some dedicated, Lourdes-based compatriots, an ex-soldier and the local parish priest...

Unrest flares in West Bank, Jerusalem (CNS) Unrest flared in early October throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem, which has experienced tensions during September, largely over the status of the contested holy site of the Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif. Four Israelis were killed in the Old City of Jerusalem: a couple driving near their West Bank settlement with their four children in the back of their car, and two men, one of whom was on his way to pray at the Western Wall at the end of the Jewish Sabbath; his wife and toddler were injured in the attack. An ultra-Orthodox teenage boy was later stabbed near the same place...

Ukrainian Catholic leader: Time for cautious diplomacy is over (CNS) The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church has urged the Vatican to show greater support for his country, as a senior Vatican diplomat warned the country risked becoming “a kind of Somalia.” “I would have expected a lot more involvement by the Vatican — the time for cautious diplomacy is at an end,” said Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. “The fact that 70 per cent of Ukrainian army regulars fighting against separatists and Russian soldiers have Russian as their mother-tongue shows the unity of our people and our army. What we are seeing is a foreign invasion of Ukrainian territory by Russian troops,” he said...

Israel completes high-tech border fence (The Jewish Press) A new security fence complete with high-tech sensors has been completed along Israel’s southern border with Gaza, the Defense Ministry announced Tuesday. The information may help residents of the Gaza Belt communities feel at least a little bit safer: infiltration by Gaza terrorists will not be nearly as easy since completion of the fence, although the measure will not stop rocket or mortar attacks...

Tycoons donating millions to build churches in Armenia (The Guardian) Some multi-millionaire philanthropists fund universities and hospitals, while others opt to fund charities. But in Armenia, the super-rich seem to prefer building churches. So far, in 2015 alone, some of the country’s most powerful and wealthy public figures have provided significant funds for work on five construction projects across the country...

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