15 June 2016
Bishop Ruben Tierrablanca Gonzalez sits in the “cathedra,” or bishop’s chair, alongside Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, during his 11 June ordination Mass at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul. You can read more about the new bishop’s life and background from the Vatican announcement of his appointment here.
(photo: CNS/Nathalie Ritzmann)
15 June 2016
In the video above, Pope Francis during his weekly General Audience on Wednesday denounces indifference and hostility toward refugees. (video: Rome Reports)
Pope: “Recognize the Lord in refugees, the poor, the disabled” (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis encouraged believers on Wednesday to open their eyes and hearts to God’s love for the poor and to the gift of healing that he offers to all who turn to him in faith...
Sunni Islam university condemns Orlando attack (Fides) Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the highest seat for Sunni Islamic learning, condemned Sunday’s deadly mass shooting in Orlando, in a gay nightclub, but also expressed concerns about utilizing the incident to intensify anti-“Muslim rhetoric” campaigns...
Advocacy group accuses U.N. of not being neutral in Syria (The New York Times) An international advocacy group accused the United Nations on Wednesday of not being neutral in the Syrian conflict, claiming that the world body is prioritizing its relationship with the Damascus government over delivering aid to civilians. The Beirut-based Syria Campaign said in a scathing report that the U.N. has “allowed the Syrian government to direct aid from Damascus almost exclusively into its territories,” at the expense of establishing regular aid access to hundreds of thousands of Syrians besieged by government forces...
Jordan’s queen visits Caritas’ Restaurant of Mercy (Fides) In the holy month of Ramadan, Caritas volunteers who since December have been offering meals to those in need at the Restaurant of Mercy in Amman, in the Jabal al Weibdeh area, have modified their work plan: to adapt to the needs of their customers, mostly Muslims. They do not serve meals at lunch but they are opened in the evening, to offer, to those who observe the fast of Ramadan, the only meal eaten after sunset. On Tuesday, 14 June the restaurant and the other realities run by Caritas Jordan at the center of Jabal al Weibdeh received a welcome visit of Queen Rania of Jordan, wife of King Abdullah II...
Chaldean patriarch responds to criticism over call to fast during Ramadan (Fides) The request made by the Chaldean Patriarchate to all Iraqi Christians to unite for a day of fasting practiced by Muslims during Ramadan has provoked some criticism, also expressed “with inappropriate words” through social network. To clarify the true extent of the initiative and unravel possible misunderstanding, the Chaldean Patriarchate, through its official channels, has called the practice of fasting, prayer and penance as ordinary tools with which, from apostolic times, the Churches of the East and all Christian communities over the world express their supplications to the Lord, even before the situations of suffering and war, such as those currently experienced by all the Iraqi people, to ask for the gift of peace...
Religious in India urged to “answer the call” to mercy (Vatican Radio) “The Year of Mercy is something real, it is not simply something where we say a prayer or attend a conference. We can answer the call of Pope Francis by generously launching concrete action plans, in favor of the poor and the suffering”: says Salesian Father Joe Mannath, to Agenzia Fides. “The need is urgent, the possibilities are big, and we religious are in a better position than most people: our contribution can make a difference,” explains Father Mannath who is the National Secretary of the “Conference of Religious Indians” (CRI), which unites the congregations and religious orders in India...
14 June 2016
Ukrainian Greek Catholic Bishop Borys Gudziak is prominent educator, spokesperson and spiritual leader in Ukraine. (photo: Ivan Chernichkin)
In 1993, when CNEWA started supporting institutions of the newly resurrected Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine, very few people had heard of Borys Gudziak. However today Bishop Borys Gudziak is known as a leading spokesperson of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and is well-recognized for making extraordinary contributions to Ukrainian society and the entire Catholic Church.
At CNEWA, we have decided to feature Bishop Borys among our 90 heroes because of his exemplary leadership and wise stewardship of resources entrusted to his team by our agency over the last 20 years.
Bishop Borys was born 1960 in Syracuse, New York. After completing his undergraduate studies in philosophy and biology at Syracuse University, he continued his education in theology at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome. While living in Italy his spiritual formation was nurtured by the late Cardinal Joseph Slipyj. From 1983 to 1992 Borys Gudziak was working on his doctoral thesis at Harvard University, focusing on the analysis of the Union of Brest of 1596.
In 1992 he moved to Ukraine, where he played an instrumental role in the development of a number of research and educational projects, the most prominent of which is the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in Lviv. (You can read his full biography here.)
Borys Gudziak was ordained a priest in 1998 and became a bishop in 2012.
After half a century of being suppressed by communist regime, the Lviv Theological Academy reopened its programs in 1994 with several dozen students. At the time, they were based in a modest building of a former kindergarten. As a result of Bishop Borys’s charisma and vision, this educational institution has grown into a major center of learning and evangelization in Ukraine. As of today, it remains the only Catholic university on territories of the entire former Soviet Union. Current programs offered by the Ukrainian Catholic University range from undergraduate and graduate degrees in theology and humanities to the highly-sophisticated training opportunities in business, computers sciences, journalism and other areas. (There is more about this extraordinary school in the recent edition of ONE magazine.)
Bishop Borys also offered spiritual and moral support to his people during the uprisings in Kiev in 2013. He wrote about his experience on the front lines of that conflict in ONE, noting, “I trust in the Lord’s presence and work amid these long-suffering people and in their witness to the world.”
Since the beginning of CNEWA’s involvement in Ukraine, the Lviv Theological Academy that later transformed into the Ukrainian Catholic University has been agency’s main Ukrainian support recipient. CNEWA is proud to be able to make such a wise investment and is grateful to Bishop Borys for his wise stewardship. CNEWA’s team wishes Bishop Borys many of God’s blessings as he continues to serve the Catholic Church as an Eparch of the Paris Eparchy of St. Volodymyr the Great, as President of The Ukrainian Catholic University and as a visionary leader who wears many other heavy hats.
14 June 2016
Guests listen to a presentation about Middle East Christians during the reception organized by 17-year-old Christopher O’Hara at Gallagher’s Steakhouse in New York City. (photo: CNEWA)
Editors note: Earlier this month, CNEWA hosted a special fundraising reception at Gallagher’s Steakhouse in New York City, to raise awareness about CNEWA’s work in the Middle East. What may be most surprising, though, is that this event was the brainchild of a 17-year-old young man from Long Island, Christopher O’Hara. Here, he shares his story.
I am a junior in high school, and I came to be involved in CNEWA in a rather unusual way. I spent a month last summer in rural Tibet studying Chinese and living with a local family. When I returned home, I was looking forward to spending the rest of my summer reading at the beach. But on one of those first quiet days, I ended up having a long and detailed conversation with a good friend of my parents, who wanted to tell me about an incredible organization she had been involved with, CNEWA. Her enthusiasm was contagious. The more I listened, the more I thought this was something I needed to look into. I did some research on CNEWA, and I could not have been more impressed. My parents’ friend put me in contact with Lauren Lozano, a development associate at CNEWA.
In my conversations with Lauren and her colleagues Norma Intriago and Philip Eubanks, we discussed how someone in my position could raise awareness and funds for CNEWA. At the same time we were having these conversations, the refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq was exploding, and I thought the subsequent lack of international response was appalling. The professionals at CNEWA informed me of the real threat facing Christians in the Middle East, and I decided that my focus would be on their charitable operations in that region. I reached out to faculty and administration at my school, Chaminade High School, but I wanted to do more. It became clear that I should organize — with the help of my family and friends — a fundraising event. I told the people at CNEWA my idea, and we were off and running.
The Rev. Elias D. Mallon, Chris O’Hara (Christopher’s father), Christopher O’Hara and Norma Intriago meet during the reception. (photo: CNEWA)
The staff at CNEWA is exceptional. They spent hours and hours helping me plan and organize a reception for roughly 100 people in New York City. I was astounded by the level of effort and detail required to pull off an event like this. Thankfully, Norma and Philip were there for me every step of the way, and the event was a tremendous success.
Looking back at that night, I realize how truly blessed I am. The night opened on a high note when the owner of our venue, Dean Poll, came over to tell me he was so impressed with what he had learned about CNEWA that he decided to donate the room, the food and the refreshments. It was an unimaginably generous act, and set a great tone for the evening. The steady stream of family, friends, and supporters of CNEWA that followed made an already great night even better.
The Rev. Elias D. Mallon explains the severity of the crisis in the Middle East. (photo: CNEWA)
The Rev. Elias D. Mallon had the full attention of those gathered as he explained the magnitude and severity of the crisis and the importance of maintaining a Christian presence in the Middle East. I was fortunate enough to be able to introduce Father Elias and to address the audience after his remarks.
Christopher O’Hara speaks at the conclusion of the fundraiser. (photo: CNEWA)
It is an experience that I will never forget, but I hope that it is just the beginning a long and lasting relationship with the work of CNEWA.
The event at Gallagher’s was just the beginning. We’ve established a CrowdRise page to help Christopher O’Hara continue raising funds for CNEWA. Visit this link to contribute.
If you would like CNEWA to visit your parish or organize a presentation about our work, please contact our development director Norma Intriago at email@example.com.
14 June 2016
Tourists and Christian pilgrims visit the tomb where it is believed Christ was buried inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on 17 April. For the first time in 200 years, experts have begun a restoration of the Edicule of the Tomb. (photo: CNS/Jim Hollander, EPA)
For the first time in 200 years, experts have begun a restoration of the Edicule of the Tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was laid to rest after his crucifixion.
The project, which began in early June, is expected to take up to one year to complete and will include sorely needed damage repair and reinforcement of the structure.
The work is being carried out by experts from the National Technical University of Athens.
The project came together when the three principal churches overseeing the tomb under the 19th-century Status Quo agreement overcame enduring differences in a place where rights over every section of the church has been jealously guarded for centuries.
The Status Quo agreement was put in place by the Ottoman rulers in 1852 and preserved the division of ownership and responsibilities of the various Christian holy sites. At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, it governs the responsibilities of the principal churches — Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic — as well as the Ethiopian, Syriac and Coptic churches.
“There wasn’t any friction on this issue,” said Franciscan Father Athanasius Macora, who is responsible for supervising the agreement on the part of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. “There was good chemistry between the three heads of the churches and they agreed to it right away.”
However, the term “right away” is relative as the heads of the principal churches first brought up the issue of a very conservative “consolidation” of the edicule in 2000.
The current Edicule of the Tomb was built by the Greek Orthodox community in 1810, two years after a devastating fire. It has been encased in metal scaffolding since the
British Mandate period in the mid-20th century because of concern for its stability.
Though many church-connected professionals have expressed concern over the structure since 2000, it took the shutting down of the tomb for four hours by the Israeli Police in February 2015 because of safety concerns — a blatant violation of the Status Quo agreement — to get the churches to act on their earlier discussions. An agreement to carry out the work on the tomb was signed in March.
“The idea is to strengthen the structure and try to bring to get it back to its pristine state,” Father Macora said. “It is important that the work goes well. If all goes well, it will enhance the relationship (among the churches). If it doesn’t go well, it will not help their relationship.”
The tomb today is surrounded by a white perimeter wall, but the work on its exterior walls is taking place in the evening so pilgrims can continue to visit the interior of the tomb, he said.
All three churches are contributing to pay the $3.4 million price tag for the project. Jordanian King Abdullah also made a personal contribution for the restoration. Until 1967, the Old City of Jerusalem, where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located, was under Jordanian control and the king continues to play a role in the safe guarding of Christian and Muslim holy sites.
“The tomb is the heart of the shrine. It is the most important reason why people are coming to visit the church and ... everyone knew the (the restoration) needed to be done,” Father Macora said. “There is no reason it could not be done. It is important that the work be done in a way which respects the rights of other communities.”
He noted that despite the often-cited disputes among the churches, relations have improved since the 1960’s and though they have reached a plateau since then, fewer conflicts emerge today.
“There have been sporadic outbreaks and there will be outbreaks in the future, but they are significantly less than in the past,” Father Macora said.
Cleaning work has also been undertaken on some of the mosaics in the church and work remains to be done on the floor around the tomb, which cannot begin until the restoration of the tomb is complete, he said.
This is not the first time the three denominations came together for a restoration project. In 1997, they cooperated to restore and decorate the great dome above the tomb with the financial support of the late Catholic philanthropists George and Marie Doty, seemingly ushering in a new era of cooperation.
Three years ago in Bethlehem, restoration and renovation work also began at the Church of the Nativity with the Palestinian Authority given the role of intermediary between the churches. The wooden roof of the church has been repaired and work is underway on wall mosaics.
14 June 2016
In this picture from 10 June, a Syrian woman carries her child on the outskirts of the northern Syrian town of Manbij, held by ISIS. (photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S.-backed forces in Syria appeal for aid (Reuters) U.S.-backed forces waging an offensive against the ISIS-held city of Manbij in northern Syria appealed for international assistance for those fleeing the fighting on Tuesday as the forces tightened their encirclement of the city...
Russian Orthodox Church won’t attend historic synod on Crete (Associated Press) The Russian Orthodox Church said Monday that it will not go to a historic meeting of all of the world’s Orthodox churches because churches have walked out. The meeting on the Greek island of Crete due to start Sunday would be the first in more than a millennium. Orthodox Church leaders have not held such a meeting since the year 787, when the last of the seven councils recognized by Orthodox and Catholics, was held...
Will Egypt’s Copts get to build more churches? (Al Monitor) Minister of State for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Magdi al-Agati told Al-Monitor that the ministry is finalizing a draft law — known in the media as the “unified houses of worship law” — governing the construction of churches, which will be referred to the parliament for approval in its first legislative four-month term ending at the end of September. According to Article 235 of the Egyptian Constitution, “In its first legislative term following the effective date of this constitution, the parliament will issue a law to regulate the construction and renovation of churches, in a manner that guarantees the freedom to practice religious rituals for Christians...”
Pope Francis sets up committee to help war victims in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has decided to set up a committee to oversee the distribution of money to Ukrainians who are affected by the conflict in the east of the nation. The money was collected by Catholic churches across Europe on Sunday 24th April in response to a personal appeal by the Pope...
Vatican UN observer speaks out on migrant rights (Vatican Radio) The Vatican’s representative to the UN in Geneva has spoken at the Human Rights Council about the need for consistent policies to protect migrants, especially the most vulnerable children, women and elderly people...
Orthodox Metropolitan issues statement on Orlando shootings (OCA.org) On Monday, 13 June 2016, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon issued an Archpastoral Letter to the hierarchs, clergy, monastics and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America and a Public Statement in the wake of the tragic shootings that occurred in Orlando, FL on Sunday, 12 June...
Gaza: Resistance through poetry (Middle East Monitor) The spirit of Gaza is the spirit of Mu’in Bseiso: beautiful, poetic, tortured, strong, undying, and loving and although confined by ever-shrinking spaces, always resisting. I am writing this, not only as a nod of gratitude to Gaza’s great poet for the way he influenced me and several generations of Palestinian and Arab intellectuals in Gaza and elsewhere, but to denote a fact that seems to escape many of us: Gaza is also an abode of poetry...
13 June 2016
Tamás Fekete tends to in his paprika field in Homokmégy, Hungary. Read more about the role of this staple of Hungarian cuisine in the pages of the September 2005 edition of ONE. (photo: Jacqueline Ruyak)
13 June 2016
Tags: Cultural Identity Farming/Agriculture Hungary Cuisine
Pope Francis greets people as he visits the headquarters of the World Food Program in Rome on 13 June. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Patriarch Bartholomew to W.F.P.: hunger a spiritual challenge (Vatican Radio) The World Food Program’s leadership and executive board took 12 and 13 June to reflect on the organization’s past, present and hoped-for partnerships on hunger with religious and spiritual leaders and communities of different traditions from all around the world — including Pope Francis, who addressed the W.F.P. leadership on Monday morning at the organization’s headquarters in Rome. Among the leaders asked to contribute was Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople…
Patriarchs issue statement on two-year anniversary of ISIS occupation (AINA) A joint statement on the ISIS occupation of Assyrian villages in north Iraq has been issued by Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II and Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III. The statement calls the actions of ISIS a “criminal act which amounts to an ethno-religious genocide…”
‘Bricks of hope’ to defeat the scourge of child labor (Fides) Although the Indian government and institutions provide free and compulsory education to all children in the age group between 6 and 14 and prohibits their involvement in the working world, the phenomenon of child exploitation continues to be one of the worst plagues in the country. Recent investigations have revealed that in India there are about 60 million hidden boy and girl workers…
Pope Francis decries Orlando massacre and prays for victims (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is shaken and saddened by the “homicidal folly and senseless hatred” that has left at least 50 people dead in an attack on a nightclub in Orlando, Florida…
Egypt government upholds anti-blasphemy law against campaign (Fides) The Egyptian government has no intention to cancel or modify the law that punishes blasphemy. The counselor and representative of the Egyptian Ministry of Justice, Ayman al Rafah, responding to questions from the parliamentary committee on the presentation of a bill to abolish the controversial criminal article, says that the so-called anti-blasphemy law protects aspects of the life of the various religious communities that are not taken into account by other articles of the criminal code, does not undermine the freedom of thought and still represents a guarantee with respect to the phenomena and acts capable of unleashing sectarian hatred…
Georgian Orthodox Church will not participate in Pan-Orthodox Council (OCP Media Network) The Georgian Orthodox Church has decided not to participate in the Pan-Orthodox Council, because there are certain issues which it finds unacceptable, announced the Georgian Patriarch Ilia II, reports RIA-Novosti. Earlier the Georgian Orthodox Church made public the eleven point agenda of the meeting of the Holy Synod, clarifying the reasons why it is not participating in the council, including “the failure to restore eucharistic communion between the Antiochian and Jerusalem churches,” and “that the recommendations of the Georgian Church on the necessity of amending a number of documents were not taken into account…”
9 June 2016
Tags: India ISIS Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Georgian Orthodox Church Syriac Christians
Sister Najma greets visitors at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Some of the most dedicated heroes in CNEWA’s world are religious sisters — and some of our closest collaborators over the years have been the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, who serve the people of the Middle East.
One particularly dedicated woman is Sister Najma, the administrator of the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. The sheer volume of people they serve is astonishing:
Run by the sisters and funded by CNEWA, the clinic offers a range of services to Jordan’s needy. While the staff treats injuries and common ailments, it focuses on prenatal and maternity care — a major demand in a country with a young and growing population. With only two doctors, two laboratory technicians and a handful of nurses and staff, Mother of Mercy manages to see between 100 and 130 patients a day. Patients of all creeds and ethnicities come from Zerqa — a sprawling, poverty-ridden city populated mainly by Jordanians of Palestinian ancestry — and from the impoverished industrial areas that surround it. They also travel from more distant northern cities, such as Mafraq, Jerash and Irbid. They are drawn by the clinic’s reputation for treating patients with respect, and by the affordable cost of its care.
“Some groups or families, they come here and they don’t pay, because they’re poor. Sometimes we just charge them small amounts of money,” says Sister Najma. “There are a lot of poor people in Zerqa. There are poor immigrants, some of whom are from Bangladesh, and some from Egypt. Egyptian workers come as well,” she adds.
And Sister Najma never seems to tire of helping those in need:
Even in the face of immense public health challenges, the Mother of Mercy Clinic forges ahead with its mission, which is as much spiritual as charitable.
“We cannot talk about spirituality in our work,” says Sister Najma. “What we do and how we do it shows our spirituality. We are sisters. We’ve devoted our whole lives to helping people. This is our work, this is our message.”
And the message has gotten through. Though the clinic serves people of all faiths, the vast majority of its patients are Muslims... People come up to the sisters in the street and hug them.
“Sometimes, when we are in the supermarket, or about town, a woman wearing the hijab, or the niqab, she will say, ‘Oh, hi, sister,’” says Sister Nahla, who assists in the clinic. “Even if we can’t see her face, she knows us, and she hugs us. They are kind people.
“Our mission here is for everyone,” she adds. “If you go to a hospital, sometimes they will include ‘religion’ in your file. We don’t have that kind of stuff here. Just the name and the age is what we need to know.”
If you’d like to help Sister Najma and others like her in their mission in Jordan, check out this giving page.
9 June 2016
Anna Valavanal (left) and her sister, Irin, visit the Deivadan sisters and residents in Thankamany, India. Read about the Fearless Grace of the Deivadan Sisters in the July 2010 edition of ONE.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)