23 September 2015
A doctor treats a young refugee at a dispensary in Zakho, Iraq, supported by CNEWA.
By any measure, it’s been a difficult year in the Middle East, with hundreds of thousands of people facing extraordinary challenges. War, persecution, displacement and poverty have all taken a toll. But CNEWA has accompanied our brothers and sisters on this difficult journey, as they have fought to maintain their dignity, their hope, and their faith.
We’ve been closely involved in many projects which have provided both humanitarian and spiritual support. Our regional directors have just sent us updates that help paint a clearer picture of what that has entailed in the last year.
In Iraq, thousands of displaced Christians have remained resilient even as they live in containers and makeshift housing. CNEWA has stepped forward to provide housing, healthcare — and hope. Read more.
In Lebanon, the Lebanese people have absorbed refugees from Iraq and Syria, many fleeing for their lives and looking for a safe haven. CNEWA has been there with counseling, emergency services and support for church institutions and schools. Read more.
And in Syria, with half the population driven from their homes and the economy in ruins, CNEWA has provided aid to support displaced families, provide health care and uplift Christians through church and catechetical work. Read more.
To learn more about CNEWA’s world and how you can support our work in the Middle East and elsewhere, visit this link.
All these projects and more help fulfill CNEWA’s mission to “build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue — and inspire hope.”
23 September 2015
A priest blesses his congregation in the Church of the Virgin Mary in Nazla, Egypt, one of the many churches burned in August 2013. Read more about Egypt’s efforts to recover in “Out of the Ashes” in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. And join Pope Francis in bringing hope to Egypt’s Christians. Visit this link to learn how. (photo: David Degner)
23 September 2015
On his flight from Cuba to the United States Tuesday, Pope Francis defended his teaching
on social issues. (video: Rome Reports)
Is Russia planning to move more troops into Syria? (CNN) Russia may be preparing to station troops at two new sites in Syria as it continues its rapid military buildup in the conflict-ravaged nation, a research firm says. IHS Jane’s said Tuesday that it had spotted two previously unreported sites in satellite imagery of western Syria where steps appear to be being taken to receive Russian forces...
Pope defends teaching on social issues (CNS) Pope Francis defended his position on the economy, the environment and other social issues as faithful repetitions of the basic Catholic social doctrine. Speaking to reporters flying with him from Cuba to Washington on 22 September, the Pope was asked about comments, mainly from the United States, claiming the Pope is a communist and about the Newsweek headline, “Is the Pope Catholic?” “I am certain I have never said anything more than what is in the social doctrine of the church,” he responded. “I follow the church and in this, I do not think I am wrong”...
EU pushes through deal to share refugees (The Guardian) European governments have forced through a deal to impose refugee quotas, sharing 120,000 people between them in a watershed decision that several states bitterly opposed. The decision to overrule opponents in the newer states of central Europe was highly unusual and perceived as an assault on their sovereignty by the four countries that voted against. While applauded by NGOs and immigration professionals as a belated attempt by the EU to get to grips with its biggest ever migration crisis, the decision was highly divisive and sets the scene for a tense summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Wednesday dedicated to the refugee emergency...
Jerusalem mayor takes tough stand against Al-Aqsa rock throwers (RNS) he Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem cannot be used to harbour violent agitators, the city’s mayor said after Muslims stockpiled rocks and pipe bombs inside the mosque just before and after the start of the Jewish New Year and violently clashed with Israeli police. “People can’t think they can use religious sites as a safe haven for violence,” said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on 17 September. “We will increase measures ... to ensure terrorists do not gain what they seek to gain.”...
Putin opens Moscow’s most elaborate mosque (The New York Times) The most elaborate mosque ever built in Moscow, a city that is home to one of the largest concentrations of Muslims in Europe, was opened on Wednesday by President Vladimir V. Putin. Mr. Putin, in brief remarks, called the new, modern mosque the biggest in Europe and said that it was a worthy addition to a capital and a country built on the idea of uniting different nationalities and faiths. The mosque is a central part of Russia’s efforts to develop its own system of Muslim religious education and training to counteract extremists seeking recruits, the president said. “Terrorists from the so-called Islamic State actually cast a shadow on the great global religion of Islam,” he said. “Their ideology is built on hate”...
22 September 2015
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Jerusalem Russia Muslim
Iraqi, Syrian and Ukrainian Catholics join Athens’ small Byzantine Catholic community for the Divine Liturgy at the neo-Byzantine Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. (photo: Marilyn Raschka)
At least one legacy remains in modern Greece of the Crusaders’ sack of the city of Constantinople in 1204 and their subsequent occupation of Greece: Most Catholics in Greece — some 50,000 people — are Greek-speakers who worship following the Latin rite of the Catholic communion of churches. However, as many as 6,000 people share the Byzantine rites of the dominant Orthodox Church and are in full communion with the pope.
Overwhelmed by the needs of refugees flooding Constantinople in the early 1920’s, Greek Catholic Bishop George Calavassy appealed to his friend, Father Paul Wattson, S.A., to raise awareness and funds in the United States on their behalf. Together, they helped found CNEWA. (photo: CNEWA)
No larger than a typical North American suburban parish, this church is sui juris, or autonomous, within the Catholic communion and is led by two apostolic exarchs, based in Athens and Istanbul, respectively.
If not for the humanitarian and pastoral works of one of its leaders, Bishop George Calavassy (1920-57), this church would barely merit a footnote in the annals of church history. For after the horrors in Asia Minor after World War I, this church and its bishop figured prominently in the care of Armenian, Assyro-Chaldean, Greek and Russian refugees then flooding the Turkish capital of Istanbul, prompting the foundation of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.
Read a full account of this fascinating history here.
22 September 2015
A young student at the Latin Patriarchate School in Huson, Jordan, takes a break from his schoolwork. (photo: Barbara B. Daly)
Editor’s Note: Barbara B. Daly is the Pastoral Associate at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Parish in Ambler, Pennsylvania, where she has served for over 20 years. When we learned about her parish’s extraordinary relationship with a parish in Jordan — and their joint involvement in this week’s World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia — we asked her to share some of her story.
St. Anthony Parish, Ambler, Pa., made a commitment in 2009 to lead a biennial pilgrimage to the Holy Lands of Israel and Jordan. This commitment grew from two realities: the incalculable impact of an experience of the Holy Land on the faith life of the pilgrims and the desire to express solidarity with the Christians in the Holy Land.
As preparation for their first trip, the parish sought a way to involve everyone in the experience. The ability to travel is limited to those who have the time, stamina and financial resources to do so; however all parishioners could come to know more about the Holy Land and the Christians there. The parish sought the aid of Catholic Near East Association (CNEWA) to help them find a project in the Holy Land that the parish could support. CNEWA brokered a relationship in the same way so many relationships are born today: online.
St. Anthony Parish was introduced to the Parish of the Immaculate Conception in Huson, Jordan. Both parishes were founded about the same time, 1886 and 1885 respectively. Both are located in small suburban towns with working and middle class families. Both sought to find ways to keep their families close and to support them in trying to live the faith. What separated them was 5,755 miles.
An online correspondence began and soon after followed financial support from St. Anthony’s for various projects at the Immaculate Conception Parish and the Latin Patriarchate School in Huson — including technology upgrades, funding the summer camp for the children, purchasing school supplies, the purchase of a telescope. St. Anthony’s was able to help with the equipment for the Latin School’s Lego Robotics team which went on to win the Jordanian National Lego Mindstorms Championship, earning them a spot at the World Championship in Atlanta, Georgia.
Members of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Huson offer their American guests some warm Bedouin hospitality during a recent visit. (photo: Barbara B. Daly)
Since the initial visit and each visit thereafter, the Immaculate Conception Parish
has offered warm hospitality, Bedouin style. The high school and college students of the youth group have been our hosts — feeding us, singing, dancing and playing the bag pipes. They have witnessed for us what faith lived in a hostile world looks like. They are truly an amazing group, organizing programs for Iraqi refugee children after their own school day is done. They support each other in remaining faithful to the Gospel with a depth that any parish in America would love to emulate.
The relationship between the two parishes has grown over the years by the grace of God, personal commitment and modern technology. Besides the biennial visits, the parishes stay in touch using Facebook, Instant Messenger, and email. There is a joint prayer service using Skype at the beginning of each Advent and Lent. True friendships have formed over the years — and it’s about to become even deeper.
St. Anthony’s will be hosting eight families from Jordan for the World Meeting of Families and the papal events which take place in Philadelphia 22-27 September The Sweidan family from Huson has been chosen to address the Holy Father, Pope Francis during the Festival of Families on 26 September — a tremendous honor for both parishes.
The situation for the Christians in the Middle East has deteriorated markedly since the beginning of the relationship between the two parishes. Huson is located only 25 miles from the Syrian border; they are on the front lines of the refugee crisis and the threats posed by ISIS. What began as a simple exchange of faith and culture now manifests a deeper reality. “For our parishioners, witness could mean the giving of their lives,” said Rev. Firas Nasrawin, pastor of Immaculate Conception. It’s quite a different reality from the witness taking place in St. Anthony’s or most American suburban parishes.
Members of St. Anthony’s Parish, from Pennsylvania, pose for a photo with parishioners from Immaculate Conception Parish in Jordan. (photo: Barbara B. Daly)
St. Anthony’s is eagerly awaiting the arrival of their visitors from the Jordan. Besides the papal events, there are many plans for their stay, visits to Washington, D.C., New York, even a day at the Jersey shore.
Most importantly, the bonds between the people of the parishes will grow even stronger as they have the opportunity to spend time, share stories, break bread and worship together.
Stay tuned. Barbara Daly will have an update for ONE-TO-ONE next week, after the World Meeting of Families.
22 September 2015
Palestinian Christian Nadim Khoury, master brewer and co-founder of the Taybeh Brewery Company, pours a beer at the Taybeh Oktoberfest in the West Bank village of Taybeh
on 19 September. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
In 2011, we visited the town of Taybeh, “the only entirely Christian village in Palestine,” and we turned a spotlight on its annual Oktoberfest:
The family — owned Taybeh Brewery began modestly, when brothers Nadim and Daoud Khoury returned to their hometown to help rebuild the local economy. Over the next decade, the brothers worked tirelessly to improve their product and expand the business.
The Khoury family has lived in Taybeh for at least 600 years. The brothers’ grandfather served as the pastor of the local Orthodox parish. As children, they attended school in nearby Ramallah. But as young adults, conflict and the resulting dearth of educational and economic opportunities drove the brothers to set out for the United States, where they completed their studies and lived for several years.
“We came back after the Oslo Agreement. First, my brother Nadim came in 1994 and I myself followed in 1999,” says Daoud Khoury, who since 2005 has served as Taybeh’s mayor.
“I wanted to do something for my small village. It is important to me to keep Taybeh a Christian village in Palestine. I mean no prejudice, but we are surrounded by 16 Muslim villages and live with them peacefully,” explains Mayor Khoury.
“But, I and my fellow citizens feel it is a treasure that we inherited this land from our great–grandfathers. They passed down the land from generation to generation and did not sell it, even though they were probably in need back then. We feel it is our duty to preserve the land and keep Taybeh Christian.”
Since opening its doors, Taybeh Brewery has steadily earned a local and international reputation for its high quality, all–natural selection of beers, which includes a popular golden stout and nonalcoholic alternative.
Now, this year’s Oktoberfest is in full swing, and CNS dropped by:
As Palestinians and Israelis in Jerusalem once again became embroiled in violence, locals and guests in Taybeh were enjoying ice-cold beers, grilled meats, frosted doughnuts and throbbing music as the all-Christian Palestinian village celebrated its 11th Oktoberfest.
“This gathering is good,” said a beaming Nadim Khoury, who together with his brother, David, opened the village’s now-famous Taybeh microbrewery, which hosts the festival. That was in 1995, two years after Nadim Khoury returned from an extended sojourn in the United States.
“It brings unity to all the people here; they share, sell local products, drink beer, eat,” Nadim Khoury said. “We show the world we can have a normal life, we celebrate life. The Middle East always has problems; this is our peaceful resistance.”
Over the pulsating rap of a local Palestinian band, David Khoury, a former village mayor, remarked: “We brought democracy to Palestine by selling beer,” he said. “And someday we will toast peace over beer.”
22 September 2015
A young Syrian refugee covered with dust arrives with her family in the town of Ruwaished, where they are welcomed by Jordanian authorities. While many refugees are trying to make their way to Europe, the vast majority are remaining in the region.
(photo: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images)
Most refugees remaining in Syria (The New York Times) As the West grapples with a new flood of asylum seekers bursting across Europe’s borders, the vast majority of Syrian refugees remain in the region: 1.9 million in Turkey, 1.2 million in Lebanon and 630,000 registered here in Jordan. Underfunded aid agencies and overburdened host countries have been struggling for years to support them...
Russia expands fleet in Syria (The New York Times) Russia has sharply increased the number of combat aircraft at an air base near Latakia, Syria, giving its forces a new ability to strike targets on the ground in the war-stricken country. Over the weekend, Russia deployed a dozen Su-24 Fencer and a dozen Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack planes, bringing to 28 the number of warplanes at the base, a senior United States official said on Monday. Until the weekend, the only combat planes there had been four Flanker air-to-air fighters...
Compensation announced for the burning of church in Tabgha (Fides) On Monday 21 September, Israel’s Attorney General announced that the State of Israel will offer compensation to the Sanctuary of the Miracle of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes, in Tabgha, which on 18 June was burnt by terrorists of the extreme radical right wing. This was reported by official sources of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem...
Report: Egypt demolishing homes in Gaza (The Times of Israel) The Egyptian military’s campaign against Islamic insurgents in northern Sinai is harming thousands of civilians and risks turning more people against the government, Human Rights Watch said in a report Tuesday. The government has evicted 3,200 families over the past two years, and razed hundreds of acres of farmland and thousands of homes in its bid to destroy illegal smuggling tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip with Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula, the rights group said....
The “other” refugees, from Eritrea (America) The mounting refugee problem in Europe — often seen as a result of the Syrian war — has attracted the attention of the world’s media. But there is another, often forgotten, dimension to the crisis which has been on going for a number of years: the political instability in North Africa, Eritrea specifically...
Why haven’t Jews responded to Vatican II after 50 years? (The Forward) The arrival of Pope Francis in America and the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s landmark declaration, Nostra Aetate, have allowed us, as Jews, to marvel at the revolutionary developments in our relations with the Catholic Church in the past half-century. But while the church has taken great strides in re-examining the way it considers and interacts with Judaism and the Jewish people, Jews have done little in response...
21 September 2015
Arab-Israeli fourth graders pray in Aramaic in 2012 at a Catholic elementary school in Jish. Israel’s Christian schools have been on strike since 1 September. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
On 1 September 2015, 45 Christian schools in Israel went on strike. Consisting of 3,000 teachers and 33,000 students, the schools are considered “unofficial but recognized” by the Israeli government. Many of the schools date to the time of the Ottoman Empire and so are considerably older than the State of Israel.
The crisis and strike have been precipitated by two decisions of the Israeli government. The first decision was to cut the government funding that the Christian schools receive. Originally the state paid 70 percent of these schools’ budgets. This has now been progressively reduced — recently to 45 percent, and now to 29 percent. (The Israeli newspaper Haaretz also notes that the similarly semi-public ultra-Orthodox schools with 220,000 students are almost totally funded by the government.)
Full funding for the schools has been estimated at $52 million a year. These schools, which accept also Muslim and Druze students, are among the most effective in Israel and it is estimated that “Christian Arabs have the highest rate of success in Israel’s Bagrut (matriculation) exams, which largely determine who is admitted to a state university.” This, despite the fact that the Israeli government spends an average of 24 percent less on each high school student who is an Israeli citizen of Palestinian descent.
The second government decision was to limit the percentage of the operating costs that the schools could charge parents as tuition. Tuition was the means by which the schools attempted to fill the gaps caused by the progressive reduction of state support. Nevertheless, the Israeli government has now limited the amount parents can pay. One Christian school administrator states that the tuition cap set by the Israeli government is 2,500 Shekels ($645) per year, half of what would be needed to make up for government cuts. Thus, the Israeli government is seen as putting a double squeeze on the Christian schools by reducing their subsidies and their abilities to cover the deficits.
Negotiations have been going on between the Office of Christian Schools and the Israeli Government since May. The government has offered full funding if the schools agree to become “official and recognized.” However, this is perceived by Christian educators as an attack on their independence and a requirement not demanded of other private schools in Israel. Msgr. Giacinto-Boulos Marcusso, the patriarchal vicar of Jerusalem, sees these actions as attempts to progressively deprive young people of their identity through “ignorance, emigration or integration into national structures, the first of which is the army.”
During the third week of September the Israeli government offered the schools a subsidy of 67 million shekels (about $17.3 million). Since the costs that need to be covered amount to about to about $52 million dollars, the Board of Christian Schools refused the offer and the strike continues.
21 September 2015
Tags: Children Israel Education Catholic education Youth
CNEWA paid a visit to Geneseo, IL last weekend. (photo: CNEWA)
We had a whirlwind visit to western Illinois over the weekend, but it was a great opportunity to connect with old friends, meet new ones and speak about the challenges facing Christians in the Middle East. It was also a chance to introduce CNEWA to a new audience and talk about how our papal agency is working to support those most in need today.
My colleague Chris Kennedy and I arrived in Moline, IL Saturday morning, and drove across the Mississippi River to Davenport, Iowa, where we had lunch with a longtime donor, the Rev. Tom Stratman, 89 years young, and a lifelong Iowan. Father Tom purchased a CNEWA annuity some years back and has supported our work ever since. He lives in a residence for retired priests in Davenport. It was great to connect with him, hear stories about his family and his priesthood and get to know a kindred spirit.
CNEWA’s Chris Kennedy, longtime donor Father Tom Stratman, and Deacon Greg Kandra break bread in Davenport, IA. (photo: CNEWA)
After lunch, we headed back across the river to Geneseo, IL, driving past acres of cornfields and small Victorian homes, until we came upon our destination, St. Malachy’s Catholic Church.
St. Malachy’s Catholic Church in Geneso, IL, hosted CNEWA this past weekend. (photo: CNEWA)
There, we were met by the parish’s one priest, the Rev. Michael Pakula, who has served as pastor for 20 years and somehow handles three weekend Masses on his own (with the help, I should add, of five deacons.) Father Mike invited CNEWA to serve as his parish’s “mission outreach” this year.
CNEWA Development Associate Chris Kennedy, ready for action at St. Malachy’s. (photo: CNEWA)
Our information table provided brochures, donor information and reading material, including copies of our award-winning magazine, ONE. (photo: CNEWA)
I preached at all the Masses, while Chris manned our information table in the vestibule. The parish also took up a second collection at all the Masses for CNEWA.
Deacon Greg Kandra preached at all the Masses at St. Malachy’s last weekend. (photo: CNEWA)
During my homily, I spoke about the sisters helping the displaced Christians of Iraq in Erbil — notably Sister Maria Hanna — and spotlighted the remarkable, selfless mission of love they have undertaken. (You can read more about it in our current issue of ONE.) The fervor and faith of the people of Iraq are both humbling and inspiring. And the generous response of the good people in Geneseo was a real blessing. We left uplifted and enriched.
We’re grateful to Father Mike for inviting us to visit — and especially thankful to his parish community for its warmth, hospitality and generous spirit. (A special shout-out has to go to Pat and Kellee Drewlow, active parishioners who made sure we were well fed and well supported during our stay.) St. Malachy’s is a vibrant parish, with a lot of young families, and their commitment to helping others and reaching out to the wider world is an inspiration.
Chris Kennedy, St. Malachy pastor Father Mike Pakula, and Deacon Greg Kandra. (photo: CNEWA)
If you’d like CNEWA to come to your parish, just drop us a line. Our development director, Norma Intriago, will be happy to coordinate a visit.
21 September 2015
Pope Francis speaks to journalists aboard his flight from Rome to Havana on 19 September.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope speaks of “emotional” meeting with refugee family (Vatican Radio) During his flight from Rome to Cuba, Pope Francis spoke about his meeting with a refugee family being housed by the Vatican’s Sant’Anna parish. The Holy Father met with the family of Melkite Greek-Catholics from Damascus on Saturday before heading to the airport for his flight to Cuba. He described the encounter as an “emotional” meeting...
Pope sends message to new patriarch (VIS) The Holy Father has sent a message to His Holiness Mar Gewargis, on the occasion of his election as Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, in which he extends his “good wishes and prayerful solidarity” to the Patriarch and his faithful. He adds that it is his prayer that His Holiness may be an inspirational pastor for the flock entrusted to his care and “an untiring builder of peace and harmony, serving the common good and the good of the entire Middle East...”
Egypt reportedly flooding Gaza tunnels (BBC) The Egyptian military has begun flooding tunnels used by Palestinian militants and smugglers under the border with Gaza, reports say. It is the latest move by Egypt to destroy the tunnels, part of an offensive against insurgents...
Horn of Africa facing worst drought in 60 years (Catholic Register) At the end of June the Famine Early Warning Systems Network of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization issued a warning about dry conditions in Ethiopia, Somalia and the rest of the Horn of Africa. On 5 July the UN called it “the worst drought in 60 years” in the Horn of Africa, with Ethiopia and Somalia worst hit. Travelling through the affected Somali province of Ethiopia in August, everywhere I went people spoke of the failure of this year’s rains. “This year we have a big fear because of a shortage of rain,” said Father Teklebirhan Yemataye in Jijiga. “We don’t know what will happen...”
Tomb of Middle East bishop found in Kerala (GulfNews) What could be a significant historic link to Kerala’s connection with the Persian church for centuries has been unearthed at Angamaly, near Kochi. Angamaly was the location of the first archdiocese of the Syrian Christians in Kerala, and authorities have found a tomb that is believed to be of a Persian bishop, Mar Abraham, at a church here.He was the last Middle East bishop of Angamaly, and the tomb is believed to be 418 years old...
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank Kerala