27 May 2014
Pope Francis embraces Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud, Muslim leader from Argentina, after praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on 26 May. The pope's message left at the Wall contained the text of the Our Father and of the 122nd Psalm, traditionally prayed by Jewish pilgrims who travel to Jerusalem.(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Among the many memorable moments from the pope’s trip, a standout was the one shown above. CNS’s Cindy Wooden took note:
In a Holy Land pilgrimage filled with emotion, the embrace of Pope Francis, Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud this morning was powerful.
Even at a distance of more than 1,400 miles, (thanks to the Vatican Television Center and Vatican Radio) viewers could read in that embrace a sense of “we are actually here; it really happened.”
The embrace, complete with tears, came after Pope Francis visited Jerusalem’s grand mufti and other Muslim leaders near the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque and then prayed at the Western Wall.
The two holy sites make up what is probably the most contested piece of real estate in the world because of its deep religious significance.
Muslims believe Muhammad was taken to the site in his famous “Night Journey” and from there transported to heaven and then back to Mecca.
The Esplanade of the Mosques sits above the sacred Jewish prayer space facing the Western Wall, which is all that remains of the wall that surrounded the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans in the year 70.
An interreligious pilgrimage to the site isn’t a daily occurrence, but Pope Francis wanted to go with his friends.
Read more about that emotional embrace at CNS’s blog.
And you can check out more stories, pictures and video from the trip at our special page, Apostles of Unity in the Holy Land.
27 May 2014
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A rose is thrown towards the popemobile as Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass at Manger Square in Bethlehem, West Bank, on 25 May. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis sparks ecumenical and interfaith hope in the Holy Land (Vatican Radio) As Pope Francis’ three-day journey to the Holy Land — with stops in Jordan, Palestine and Israel — comes to an end. Philippa Hitchen brings us an overall picture of this visit in which she focuses on ecumenical and interfaith hope…
Ukraine and pro-Russian forces fight air battle in Donetsk (Christian Science Monitor) Ukrainian government warplanes carried out airstrikes against pro-Russian rebels who seized Donetsk international airport on Monday as both sides mounted an aggressive show of force following the election of a new Ukrainian president…
Egypt declares national holiday to encourage voter turnout (The Guardian) Egypt has declared a national holiday, in an apparent effort to encourage a higher turnout in the second and final day of its ongoing presidential election. Ex-army chief Abdel Fatah al Sisi is expected to easily win Tuesday’s election but he and his supporters are seeking a respectable turnout to prove he has the country’s overwhelming support…
Indian Church calls on Modi aid the poor and marginalized (AsiaNews) “The church in India is hopeful that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will collaborate with the mission of the Catholic Church to promote and work for social and economic justice as well as individual liberty and fundamental rights,” said Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India…
Syria: U.N. condemns attack on warehouse during aid distribution (U.N. News Center) The United Nations humanitarian chief today expressed outrage at a deliberate attack on a humanitarian warehouse in the Damascus province of Syria, which occurred as aid workers were preparing to distribute urgently needed supplies to hundreds of families in the besieged city…
Cave presumably containing tomb of Queen Tamar found (Pravoslavie) Following a landslide, road workers in Ingushetia have discovered an ancient cave that may contain the tomb of the Georgian Queen Tamar, reported Umalat Gadiev, deputy director of Krupnov Archaeological Center. Holy Queen Tamar of Georgia’s late 12th-century reign was considered a “golden age” of Georgian culture, and she is considered one of the most venerated rulers of Georgia…
23 May 2014
Tags: Egypt India Pope Francis Ukraine United Nations
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In this image from last year, Pope Francis burns incense before the icon of Mary “Salus Populi Romani” (health of the Roman people) after praying the rosary during a service at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
In what has become a custom before beginning an important trip, Pope Francis stopped by the Basilica of St. Mary Major this morning to offer a private prayer before an icon of Mary. The pontiff leaves for his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land Saturday.
CNS has details:
Pope Francis entrusted his upcoming apostolic journey to the Holy Land to Our Lady when he visited a Marian icon at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome this morning.
He brought roses and prayed in silence before the icon for about 15 minutes, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told us today.
The unannounced morning visit marks what has become a Pope Francis tradition: visiting the “Salus Populi Romani” (health of the Roman people) to pray for Mary’s protection and care before a major trip.
He did the same thing before heading to Brazil last year when he prayed that Mary protect and care for everyone attending World Youth Day and for all young people around the world.
He also visited the day after his election, at the start of his new journey as supreme pontiff.
The icon has special significance for the pope and he has visited it often on different occasions to pray. He has said that the Basilica of St. Mary Major was the first Marian shrine in the West where the image of the Mother of God — the “Theotokos” — was venerated.
According to tradition, this image of Mary embracing Jesus as a young boy was the work of the evangelist St. Luke, who painted it on a tabletop made by Jesus himself in St. Joseph’s carpentry shop. Many centuries later, Jesuit missionaries distributed reproductions of the image to promote Marian devotion around the world.
23 May 2014
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The Church of Nativity in Bethlehem — traditionally considered to be built on the site of Jesus Christ’s birth — is getting its first restoration in centuries. Master craftsmen are replacing the basilica’s ancient wood with slightly less ancient wood from other buildings. (video: Washington Post)
Pope Francis to lunch with poor Christian families in Bethlehem (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will have lunch with local Christian families after celebrating holy Mass at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity this Sunday. The pope will visit the town of Jesus’ birth on the second day of his May 24-26 journey to the Holy Land. In an interview published on the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem’s website, Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali says the pope wanted to share his lunchtime meal with poor families…
Pope to hear from Syria’s refugees in Jordan (Deccan Chronicle) Pope Francis will hear first-hand accounts of the horrors of Syria’s war when he meets refugees in Jordan Saturday as he begins a three-day visit to the Holy Land. The pope will meet Christians and Muslims forced to leave their homes and flee to the neighboring desert kingdom, now home to more than 600,000 refugees and the first stop on Francis’ trip ahead of Israel and the Palestinian territories…
Lebanese patriarch joins Pope Francis in Israel, stirring controversy (Christian Science Monitor) When Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter heads to Israel tomorrow to participate in a papal visit to the Holy Land, he will become the first patriarch of the Maronite Church to visit the Jewish state — a move that has stirred intense controversy. Lebanon technically is in a state of war with Israel and it is against the law for Lebanese citizens to visit its neighbor or even have contact with its citizens. Patriarch Bechara Peter, who is also a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, says he has a duty to accompany Pope Francis in the Holy Land and that his visit is pastoral and will emphasize the Arab character of Jerusalem…
Struggle for rights at Cenacle shows issues with Jerusalem’s holy sites (CNS) The attention drawn to the Cenacle by extremist Jewish groups has put a damper on the hopes for negotiations over the site, said Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custos of the Holy Land. “After all this commotion we have to calm down a little and to start now clarifying [our position],” Father Pizzaballa told journalists before the opening of a 20 May conference. “The point is we have the right to pray without infringing upon the rights of others…”
Syria can reform, says Melkite patriarch (Church Times) The crisis in Syria is the result of “murderous mercenaries” who are intent on destroying a peaceful nation on the road to reform, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III said, speaking in London on Tuesday. The patriarch described the centuries-long peaceful co-existence of Christians and Muslims, including his own personal experience of growing up in Syria: his mother breastfed him together with a Muslim “milk-brother…”
22 May 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Holy Land Jerusalem Israeli-Palestinian conflict Bethlehem
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The answer: right here.
CNEWA has just launched a new web page, “Apostles of Unity in the Holy Land,” with news, photos, videos and updated information about the trip of Pope Francis this weekend.
Visit this link for details.
The pope leaves for his visit to Jordan, Palestine and Israel this Saturday and returns to the Vatican on Monday. It’s a short trip, but one that promises to be both memorable and historic, as the itinerary makes clear.
Our new web page is designed to be a living resource. We’re going to continue updating the site as we get more information. So be sure to check back often!
22 May 2014
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With their parents in pews, children take in the liturgy from the floor of the church.
(photo: Tugela Ridley)
In 2006, we explored how Orthodox Christianity spread through Africa, and uncovered some fascinating history:
Orthodox Christianity is not new to Africa. According to tradition, the Evangelist Mark arrived on the continent around A.D. 43, and founded the Church of Alexandria and, by extension, all Africa. But “all Africa,” for most of the church’s history, effectively ended at the Sahara. Orthodox missionaries sat out the 19th century’s “scramble for Africa,” when European Catholics and Protestants fanned out across the continent to save souls and build colonies. The story of how the Alexandrian Church came to have an affiliate in faraway Uganda, a country with no previous connection to the Orthodox world, is therefore not a tale of white men bearing the message of God to a dark continent. Rather, the Ugandan church traces its roots to two Africans who, rebelling against colonial rule, fled to a religion they felt was pure and politically uncompromised. This makes Uganda’s small community of 60,000 Orthodox Christians nearly unique within their home country. They found their faith on their own.
Read more about Orthodox Africa in the March 2006 issue of ONE.
22 May 2014
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A Muslim family, currently headed by Adeeb Jawad Joudeh, has been entrusted with the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem for almost 1,000 years. (video: Al Jazeera)
The 1,000-year-old schism Pope Francis seeks to heal (NPR) Pope Francis travels this weekend to the Middle East, the cradle of the three monotheistic religions, and will meet with Catholic, Jewish and Muslim leaders. But the official purpose of the visit is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic rapprochement between Catholics and Orthodox and to try to restore Christian unity after nearly 1,000 years of estrangement. Meeting in Jerusalem in 1964, Pope Paul VI and Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras set a milestone: They started the process of healing the schism between Eastern and Western Christianity of the year 1054…
Seeking balance on Middle East visit, pope pleases few (New York Times) Pope Francis plans to give a strong show of support for a sovereign Palestinian state when he makes his first visit to the Holy Land this weekend, becoming the first pontiff to travel directly into the occupied West Bank rather than passing through Israel. The pope’s decision to fly straight to Bethlehem from Jordan would be a symbolic lift to the Palestinians at any time. But its resonance is even greater given his tremendous popularity, his focus on the downtrodden, and his timing amid the recent collapse of peace talks and the Palestine Liberation Organization’s unity pact with the militant group Hamas. But in this region, any gesture can be viewed through different lenses. “We’re not very happy about it, but it’s a fact,” Oded Ben Hur, a former Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, said of the pope’s direct flight to Bethlehem from Amman, Jordan. “We wanted them to play it down, but we can understand the complaints…”
Legacy of Hamas-Fatah killings complicates Palestinian unity efforts (New York Times) The bloody six-day battle for control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 left 260 Fatah activists and 176 from Hamas dead. Following the signing of a 23 April pact, a committee is now charged with persuading their families to accept compensation — and raise the funds to pay it — rather than pursue the death penalty as outlined in Islamic law. This so-called social reconciliation is one of the complicated issues yet to be addressed, as President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority prepares to announce the promised new government as early as this week…
Ukraine crisis: Donetsk sees deadliest attack on troops (BBC) A dawn attack on a checkpoint in eastern Ukraine has left at least 14 soldiers dead, in the worst loss of life for government forces to date. Heavily armed militants attacked the checkpoint in the Volnovakha area, in one of four attacks reported overnight in eastern Ukraine…
U.N. official cites ‘worsening’ human rights situation in southern, eastern Ukraine (U.N. News Center) The southern and eastern regions of crisis-racked Ukraine are now awash in weapons and the scene of numerous cases of illegal detentions and abductions, a senior United Nations human rights official warned today, noting that he had discussed with the parties some rights-based and humanitarian de-escalation measures…
Solving the problem of avoidable blindness afflicting many Ethiopians (Fides) Trachoma is one of the most common visual disorders in Africa and, if not treated timely, leads to permanent blindness. Ethiopia is one of the African countries with the highest incidence of people with eye diseases. Out of a population of 75 million people, nearly 1 million Ethiopians are affected by blindness and 4 million are visually impaired…
During Syrian siege, siblings improvised survival (Los Angeles Times) Tales of survival are beginning to rise from Homs’ rubble in the aftermath of a deal that allowed about 2,000 remaining rebels to evacuate the Old City this month, and also opened the way for civilians to return. Longtime residents who fled have been streaming back, stunned by the scope of destruction and anguished by the damage to their homes, but relieved that they are no longer shut out…
21 May 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Ukraine Holy Land United Nations Christian Unity
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A man holds a cardboard cutout of Pope Francis’ face as the pope leads his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 21 May. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
At his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke about his upcoming trip to the Holy Land:
Asking prayers for his 24-26 May trip to the Holy Land, Pope Francis said his visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories would be “strictly religious.”
At the end of his weekly general audience 21 May, Pope Francis told an estimated 50,000 people in St. Peter’s Square that he was about to make the trip.
The first reason for going, he said, “is to meet my brother, Bartholomew,” the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, to mark the 50th anniversary of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. The meeting launched a new era of ecumenical cooperation and dialogue.
“Peter and Andrew will meet once again, and this is very beautiful,” the pope said. Pope Francis is considered the successor of the apostle Peter and Patriarch Bartholomew the successor of his brother, the apostle Andrew.
The pope said the second reason for his trip is “to pray for peace in that land that suffers so much.”
He asked the people in the square to pray for the success of the trip.
21 May 2014
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As the Holy Land prepares for the visit of Pope Francis, hate crimes leave Christians feeling vulnerable. (video: Al Jazeera)
Pope picks one of dueling baptism sites in visit to Holy Land (Washington Post) Christians believe that Jesus was immersed in the waters of the Jordan River by John the Baptist, who wore a cloak of camel’s hair and lived on locusts and honey in the desert wilderness. But the Gospels are not precise about which side of the river the baptism took place on — the east bank or the west. Although it might not matter much to a half-million annual visitors who come to the river for sightseeing or a renewal of faith, it matters very much to tourism officials in Israel and Jordan, who maintain dueling baptism sites, one smack-dab across from the other, with the shallow, narrow, muddy stream serving as international boundary. On Saturday, on his first papal trip to the Holy Land, Pope Francis will visit the baptism site at Bethany Beyond the Jordan — on the eastern, or Jordanian, side of the river…
Pope Francis prays for flood victims in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia (VIS) At the end of today’s general audience, the pope launched an appeal on behalf of those citizens who have lost their lives, for the many still missing and for those affected by the great damage caused by the serious floods which have occurred during recent days in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia. “Unfortunately the situation has worsened, and I therefore invite you all to join me in prayer for the victims and for all those afflicted by this disaster. May the solidarity and concrete support of the international community be forthcoming…”
Syrians return to rebuild lives in Homs’ war-ravaged Old City (Los Angeles Times) Wary of looters and anxious to get back home, the displaced residents of the war-battered Old City have been filing back into their bombed-out neighborhoods. They push baby strollers and drag suitcases to be used in an ongoing salvage operation. At times, it is hard to distinguish between ex-residents gathering what little is left of their belongings and those picking the ruins clean of others’ possessions…
Syrian refugees in Lebanon face health care crisis (BBC) Amnesty International says a shortfall in international support has left many Syrian refugees in Lebanon unable to access crucial medical care. A new report says some refugees have resorted to returning to Syria to receive the treatment they need. The U.N. says there are now 2.7 million registered Syrian refugees and the number is still rising…
20 May 2014
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Refugees Holy Land Christians Serbia
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Archbishop Kundukulam greets the children at St. Christina’s Home in Trichur.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
Writer Jose Kavi reports on the legacy of India’s “Father of the Poor” in the spring edition of ONE magazine. But he notes here that he approached the assignment with skepticism.
Each writing assignment for CNEWA makes me think about the many blessings God has given me and my family. The assignment to study the legacy of a Catholic archbishop in Kerala was no exception. However, this time Jose Jacob, the photojournalist who takes pictures for the articles, also said the experience was profound—and I had my own epiphany, as well.
I knew the late Archbishop Joseph Kundukulam had done lots of philanthropic works in Trichur, his archdiocese in southern India. Several of his priests and former seminarians often told of incidents where the genial prelate went out of his way to help the poor and marginalized. I had also heard that he was a great orator who spoke for hours without boring his listeners. However, let me admit I was not a fan. I could not support a protest he led in 1986 against a drama that allegedly ridiculed Christ and his teachings; the drama was eventually banned, but I believed the artists have the right to freedom of expression. Also, the archbishop’s reported association with some political leaders of Kerala also did not go down well with me.
So, it was with a critical mind I went to see various institutions the archbishop had established during his 27 years in Trichur. I didn’t expect that the three days I spent observing the institutions and people working there would make me a die hard admirer of Archbishop Kundukulam. The first eye-opener was the visitor’s room of the Society of Nirmala Dasi Sisters, a congregation the archbishop set up to manage his institution. The small room doubled as the office of the superior general and included a dining table for visitors. Simplicity was writ large on every corner of the place.
Sister Kochumary Kuttikatt accompanied us on our tour. The first place we visited, Pope John Paul Peace Home, bowled us over. Jose and Bineesh, our driver, later shared the same insight: we never expected some 150 people there suffering various types of handicaps to be so content. Some have been there for more than a quarter century and still had no complaints. With all our limbs in proper order, we felt like cripples because we complain about little inconveniences in life. Bineesh, a Hindu, said he had run out crying from the hall where he was talking to a youth, who could not move his limbs. The young man was more interested in Bineesh’s welfare than his problems. Jose said he had a tough time holding the camera steady because he was so overwhelmed by emotions.
The place was spotlessly clean, no smell and no dirt, something remarkable for such a place in India where filth and squalor are common in institutions like this.
Adding to my surprise was the behavior of the nuns and their coworkers attending to the patients. They knew the names and histories of all residents and responded with love and kindness. “We come to them after Mass in the morning and we never know how the time passes,” said one of the sisters.
We concluded our visit in a slum near the Trichur railway station where two of the sisters are spending their lives serving the poorest of the poor. The stench was overwhelming; the huts there have no septic tanks or running water. But the smell and dirt hardly bothered Sister Elsy and Vimala who were all smiles as they served tea for us seated on a cement platform inside their one-room convent. The platform, we learned, also served as their sleeping place at night. The sisters joked about how they had spent several damp nights there in the last rainy season, water seeping down the walls and filling their “cots.” “We walked around carrying our sleeping mats,” they said.
After leaving the slum, we could breathe normally only after we reached the main road, where the belching smoke from the vehicles smelled much better than the air the nuns and their companions breathed round the clock.
What makes those nuns continue to stay there? Love for Christ and the poor can help you overcome any difficulties in life. That is what Archbishop Kundukulam taught and what the sisters now experience.
And I have had my epiphany in Trichur.
Read more about Remembering India’s “Father of the Poor” in ONE magazine. And if you’d like to learn more about supporting Archbishop Kundukulam’s legacy among the poorest of the poor, visit this page.
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