24 November 2015
In this image from September, donated shoes await child refugees from Syria arriving in Hungary. Hundreds of faith leaders have called for compassion in addressing the world refugee crisis. Read more here. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
24 November 2015
The civil war in Syria is forcing Christians to leave their country. In the video above, the archbishop of Aleppo explains how violence and hopelessness are driving people out every day.
(video: Rome Reports)
Turkey has “all but closed its borders” to Syrian refugees (Al Jazeera) Turkey has “all but closed its borders” to Syrian refugees, many of whom say they have been beaten, detained and expelled by Turkish border guards while trying to escape the devastating civil war that has sent millions fleeing Syria, nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday. The U.N. refugee agency says Turkey has registered more than 2 million Syrians as refugees since the conflict began nearly five years ago...
Turks down Russian warplane in Syria (Vatican Radio) Russia’s defence ministry said on Tuesday one of its fighter jets was downed in Syria after coming under fire from the ground. The Turkish military said it shot down a plane after it was repeatedly warned about violating Turkish airspace...
Faith leaders say refugees require compassion, acceptance (CNS) A Boston cardinal and the Maryland Catholic Conference were among hundreds of faith leaders who called for compassion in addressing the world refugee crisis and stressed the importance of developing a national immigration policy based on humanitarian need. Acknowledging that the times are “dangerous” and that “enhanced security procedures are needed,” Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley in a statement on 19 November cautioned that in developing an immigration policy, “decisions concerning the specific measure taken require careful deliberation”...
Russia to halt gas supplies to Ukraine (Reuters) Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Moscow would cut gas supplies to Ukraine on Tuesday or Wednesday because Kiev had not paid up front for more gas and might also halt coal supplies to Ukraine in retaliation for a power blackout of Crimea. Alexander Novak, in comments to Vesti FM radio station, was speaking as Russian-annexed Crimea continued to rely on emergency generators to meet its basic power needs after unknown saboteurs blew up electricity pylons supplying the peninsula with electricity over the weekend...
Airlines cancel flights in wake of Egypt plane crash (BBC) Two airlines have cancelled all flights between the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and the UK until January. British Airways has cancelled flights up to and including 14 January while Easyjet has suspended flights until at least 6 January. Easyjet said the move was made to provide some certainty to passengers travelling over the Christmas period. BA said the decision was made following discussions with the government about the situation in Sharm el-Sheikh. Monarch, Thomson and Thomas Cook have cancelled flights until dates in December...
Indian Christians struggle for political relevance (UCANews.com) or a long time, Indian Christian leaders depended on others for their political meal, without bothering to know the recipes. But theories of political cooking are fast changing in India, and they are hurriedly looking for some easy-to-learn recipes. A new recipe was successfully tested in the cardamom-growing hills of southern Kerala in November, when village elections were conducted there. What occurred in this small village of Christians could have great lessons for their people across India in their attempt for political assertion...
23 November 2015
Tags: Syria India Ukraine Russia Turkey
Pope Francis poses with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during a meeting at the Vatican
on 20 November. (photo: CNS/Alessandra Tarantino, pool via Reuters)
On Friday, Pope Francis met with Ukraine’s president. Some details, from CNS:
Although the conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists continues, Pope Francis and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko still share hope that a political solution still can be found, the Vatican said.
Welcoming Poroshenko to the Vatican on November 20, the pope greeted him in Ukrainian. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, explained that at the age of 11, the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio learned a few phrases of Ukrainian when he served as an altar boy for a Ukrainian Catholic priest in Buenos Aires.
Pope Francis and Poroshenko spoke privately for more than 20 minutes. The Vatican said that their conversation was “dedicated principally to matters connected with the situation of conflict in the country.”
“In this respect, the hope was shared that, with the commitment of all the interested parties, political solutions may be favored, starting with the full implementation of the Minsk Accords,” a cease-fire agreement signed in September 2014, the statement said.
Additionally, the two expressed their concerns regarding the difficulties in providing humanitarian relief, healthcare in areas of the country where the fighting continues.
The Ukrainian president gave the pope a glass sculpture of an angel, which represented “a messenger of God who brings peace to every home and reminds us of such principal values of life as God’s blessing, family, labor and peaceful skies overhead.”
Poroshenko told the pope he hoped “that with this you will remember Ukraine.”
23 November 2015
In this image from last May, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, center, celebrates Mass for displaced Iraqis in Erbil, Iraq. In a new interview, the patriarch says Western nations have betrayed Christians in the Middle East. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Syriac Patriarch: the West has betrayed Mideast Christians (CNS) The head of the Syriac Catholic Church has accused Western governments of betraying Christians in the Middle East and said it was “a big lie” to suggest Islamic State could be defeated with airstrikes. In an 18 November interview with Le Messager, an online Catholic magazine in Egypt, Syriac Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said, “all Eastern patriarchs, myself included, have spoken out clearly to the West from the very beginning: Be careful, the situation in Syria is not like that of Egypt, Tunisia or Libya — it’s much more complex, and conflict here will create only chaos and civil war...
Syrian refugees cling to a haven in Michigan (The New York Times) Presidential candidates and elected officials around the country have suggested closing mosques, collecting Syrian refugees already in the country or creating a registry for Muslims. Sentiments like those are especially jarring in Michigan, which has one of the largest and most vibrant Arab-American populations in the country and a vocal group of advocates for bringing more Syrian refugees to the United States. In the Detroit suburbs, refugees have traded a harrowing war in the Middle East for cold winters, strip malls and neatly arranged subdivisions, with houses as uniform as Monopoly pieces...
Cardinal: Public is “very blasé” about horrors Christians are facing in the Holy Land (CNS) When Cardinal Edwin O’Brien was named grandmaster of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre in 2011, he found himself embroiled in a war a world away from the jungles of Vietnam where he ministered to dying troops as a young priest. “The forces that are at work now are intent on eradicating the Christian civilisation, nothing less,” said the 76-year-old US cardinal, who was in Sydney in October to reach out to the order’s 600 Australian members. Christians in the Holy Land face “daily horrors,” while “our public is very blase about the whole thing,” Cardinal O’Brien said...
Pope meets with Ukrainian president (CNS) Although the conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists continues, Pope Francis and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko still share hope that a political solution still can be found, the Vatican said. Welcoming Poroshenko to the Vatican on 20 November, the pope greeted him in Ukrainian. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, explained that at the age of 11, the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio learned a few phrases of Ukrainian when he served as an altar boy for a Ukrainian Catholic priest in Buenos Aires...
Patriarch Gregorios III: Praying on Lebanese Independence Day (ByzCath.org) I offer my congratulations for Independence Day and say to the Lebanese people, I’m going to pray for love, solidarity, harmony, sincerity, honesty, unity and union: this is the salvation of Lebanon!...
Lombardi expresses “utmost confidence” in security ahead of the Jubilee (Vatican Radio) The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, said on Monday he has “utmost confidence” in the Italian authorities to ensure the safety of Rome and St. Peter’s Square during the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy. “On the part of the Vatican, there was not a specific demand to increase security measures during the Jubilee,” Father Lombardi said. “It depends on the Italian authorities, and how they rate the situation...”
20 November 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Ukraine Lebanon
Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, celebrates the Divine Liturgy at the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia on 15 November. At right is Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia. (photo: CNS/Sarah Webb)
In 2009, the Rev. Sviatoslav Shevchuk, a priest of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, was named a bishop and sent to Buenos Aires, Argentina, as an auxiliary bishop and administrator of the Eparchy of Santa Maria.
At that time he was just 38, the youngest Catholic bishop in the world.
Just two years later, despite his youth, his brother bishops meeting for a five-day synod in Lviv elected him major archbishop of Kiev-Halych, the head of the entire Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The election was ratified by Pope Benedict XVI.
During his brief administration in Buenos Aires, his mentor was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, then the archbishop of Buenos Aires, now Pope Francis. The two became friends.
“I think Pope Francis has deep religious spirituality,” Archbishop Shevchuk observed during a 13-15 November visit to Philadelphia. “His special gift is to discern and appreciate each gift from the Holy Spirit, and he was an outstanding father and adviser to me, he introduced me to the council of bishops in Argentina and helped me with my orientation.”
More recently he served on the preparatory commission for the October 2014 extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family and this October’s world Synod of Bishops on the family. He recalls the first time meeting the now-Pope Francis while he was there. He started to talk to the pontiff in Italian.
“He said to me, ‘Did you forget your Spanish?’ so we talked in Spanish,” Archbishop Shevchuk told CatholicPhilly.com, the news site of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
While in Philadelphia, Archbishop Shevchuk celebrated Divine Liturgy at the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on 15 November. He blessed new mosaics honoring Blessed Josaphata Hordashevska, foundress of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate and Major Archbishop Andrey Sheptytsky of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who died in a Soviet prison in 1944. In July, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing his heroic virtues and declaring him venerable.
The primary reason for Archbishop Shevchuk’s visit to the U.S. was to participate in the unveiling in Washington of the Holodomor-Forced Famine Monument, which honors the memory of millions of Ukrainians who starved to death in 1932-33 during forced collectivization instigated by the Stalin regime.
“We call it genocide,” Archbishop Shevchuk said. “In Ukrainian territory alone according to studies at least 5 million were killed.”
On 7 November, he blessed the monument, which was authorized by Congress in 2006.
Ukraine, which was ruled mostly by Russia and other neighboring countries for centuries, regained full independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union but relations between the Russian Federation and Ukraine deteriorated with the annexation of Crimea by Russia and incursions in other nearby Ukrainian territory in 2014.
“The desire of the Ukrainian nation is not to move back to the Soviet Union but forward to democracy to autonomy,” Archbishop Shevchuk said. “Right now there is a fragile cease-fire but we are concerned about re-escalation.”
While in Washington, the Catholic archbishop and other Ukrainian religious leaders representing the Orthodox, Jewish, Lutheran, Muslim and evangelical Christian faiths, among others, held a news conference 9 November calling on President Barack Obama and Congress to greatly increase the level of humanitarian aid for those suffering in the midst of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, especially as winter approaches.
In a nation of 45 million, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic population is about 4.5 million with an additional 2.5 million members abroad. “We are the largest Eastern Catholic Church in the world,” the archbishop said.
Although most other believers are Orthodox Christians along with Protestant, Jewish and Muslim communities, “Our (All-Ukrainian) Council of the Churches and Religious Organizations is our most powerful NGO, representing 85 percent of the people” Archbishop Shevchuk said. “The council enables us not only to listen to each other but to solve our problems. We not only coexist, we cooperate.”
To be part of the Ukrainian nation, one does not have to be ethnically Ukrainian, Archbishop Shevchuk explained, pointing to the large number of Poles, Jews, Russians and other nationalities, with a large part of the army being Russian speakers. “We are a free people, a country with European values and respect for human dignity, which lays the foundation to the nation.”
Just as Ukraine is multi-ethnic, so too is the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which during communist rule was essentially an underground church, according to Archbishop Shevchuk.
“We are a global church,” he said “We are in the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Western Europe, Siberia and even China. We pray in different languages. We are open to sharing our Eastern Catholic traditions, our spirituality, our liturgy with all.”
Although Ukrainian Greek Catholics are a minority both in the country of their origin and around the world, including the United States, the aim is always communion not conformity.
“We always learn to think as a minority, but our authority goes beyond being a small community,” Archbishop Shevchuk said. “We learn how to overcome our limits, to be flexible, to present our treasures in a practical way so that people will appreciate them.”
In his visit to the United States and the various Ukrainian Greek Catholic communities, Archbishop Shevchuk most desired to bring attention to the current situation in Ukraine. “We do need the help of the international community, not only to stop a war but to help those who have been injured by war,” he said. “I especially want to thank all Catholics in America who participate in the collection for Eastern churches. Right now, that is vital.”
20 November 2015
Tags: Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk
Syrian children look out through their tent at the refugee camp in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, on 19 November 2015. Lebanon is being overwhelmed with refugees from Syria. (photo: Ratib al Safadi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Syrian refugees overwhelming Lebanon (USA Today) Syrian refugees fleeing to Lebanon from the civil war next door — like Al Shuqi with her widowed sister and sister-in-law — now outnumber the local population around Ghazze by four to one. Millions fleeing Syria’s 4-year-old civil war have created an international refugee crisis, but no country has borne the brunt of their flight more than little Lebanon, where every fifth person now living in this country of 4.5 million has escaped from the war. That would be comparable to 64 million refugees from Mexico living in the United States...
Cholera outbreak in Iraq threatens region (SciDev.Net) UN agencies have expressed concern about a cholera outbreak in Iraq spreading across the region. Cases of the waterborne disease surged in Iraq late last month, and have been confirmed in nearby including Bahrain and Kuwait. “We expect an increase in the rate of infections [beyond] the officially declared figures as a result of the deteriorating security situation in Iraq,” Rana Sidani, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization’s Eastern Mediterranean office, tells SciDev.Net...
Gaza’s child workers bear brunt of failing economy (Haaretz) On every major street in Gaza City and its surrounding towns and villages, children as young as 6 can be seen hard at work, selling coffee or cigarettes in an attempt to scrape together some money for their families. In fields beyond the urban areas, children grow and harvest fruits and vegetables for sale in one of the busy open-air souks (markets) around the territory. These are the Gaza Strip’s child workers. They are a result of an economy that has largely been crippled by a blockade that has left the Palestinian territory with an unemployment rate of 43 percent — the highest in the world — according to the World Bank...
Christians and Muslims in Kurdistan mark ‘day of tolerance’ (Fides) A “day of tolerance” was celebrated in Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, on Thursday 19 November, at the initiative of local and international organizations, starting from the UN mission in Iraq. The meeting, held in the Abdullah conference room, was marked by speeches and reports focused on the promotion of respect and dialogue between faiths and cultures as an antidote to seizures and sectarian conflicts that are tearing the Middle East apart. Among others, the meeting was also attended by Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, and Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, along with a large group of parliamentarians and leaders of Islamic and Christian communities in the region...
Coptic Church inaugurates a TV channel for children (Fides) The television channel of the Coptic Orthodox Church dedicated to children is called Koogi TV and was inaugurated yesterday, Thursday, 19 November...
19 November 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Lebanon Gaza Strip/West Bank Muslim
Serbian Orthodox worshipers hold candles outside the Cathedral of St. Sava as part of an Easter celebration in Belgrade. (photo: Alexa Stankovic/AFP/Getty Images)
The 20th century in Europe closed the same way it opened — war in the Balkan Peninsula. The world witnessed snipers terrorize Sarajevo, soldiers torch churches and mosques, refugees frozen with fear and bulldozers uncover mass graves. “Balkan” is now synonymous with disintegration and bloodshed.
The Balkans, a complex web of mountains and valleys, plains and streams, lies at the crossroads of Asia and Europe. More than a quarter of those who inhabit the peninsula — Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Croats, Macedonian Slavs, Montenegrins, Serbs and Slovenians — descend from Central European Slavic tribes who migrated south in the seventh century. These tribes have evolved into a number of nationalities, their distinctiveness buttressed by the natural barriers of the peninsula, proximity to more powerful neighbors and a variety of religious expressions. Not unlike the narratives of other Balkan states, Serbia’s saga is one of chronic crisis and conflict. The Orthodox Church of Serbia, which has played a leading role in the development of a distinct Serbian identity, has served as a cultural repository and a bastion of faith when the Serbian nation had appeared imperiled.
Orthodoxy is the predominant faith of the Bulgarians, Greeks, Macedonian Slavs, Montenegrins, Romanians and Serbs. But the individual national Orthodox churches in each of these nations failed to prevent their governments from warring with one another in the first decades of the 20th century. Eager to reclaim what they perceived as their patrimony after centuries of Ottoman Turkish occupation, these nations created rival alliances with more powerful nations, which often had conflicting economic and political agendas. These alliances unsettled the peoples of the peninsula, especially during the world wars.
The Serbian Orthodox Decani Monastery in Kosovo dates to the 14th century. (photo: Armend Nimani/AFP/Getty Images)
The emergence in 1918 of Yugoslavia, a united Southern Slav kingdom of Croats, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Slovenes and Serbs — though the Serbs culturally and politically dominated the state — facilitated the unification of assorted Orthodox eparchies into a cohesive unit, which the Ottomans had dispersed with their suppression of a Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate of Pec in 1766.
The ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, “first among equals” in the Orthodox communion, granted the Serbian Orthodox Church its independence in 1920, raising it to the rank of patriarchate with its seat in the capital of Belgrade.
In 1941, the Nazis dismembered Yugoslavia, dividing the nation among its Albanian, Bulgarian and Hungarian allies. Serbia — the target of the Nazis’ wrath — ceased to exist.
Today, the Orthodox Church of Serbia commemorates the lives, and deaths, of more than 800,000 people, martyrs who died for their identity as Serbs and their loyalty to the Orthodox faith. Many of these “New Martyrs,” which include bishops, priests, monks, nuns and lay people, were murdered in concentration camps.
Click here to read more.
19 November 2015
Tags: Eastern Churches Serbian Orthodox Church Serbia Serbian Orthodox Orthodox Church of Serbia
Nina Moshy, left, and Rosemary Yachouh stand in front of the Ryerson Student Centre in Toronto to spread awareness about the plight of Syrian refugees. (photo: Jean Ko Din/Catholic Register)
Students in Canada are showing solidarity with Syrian refugees — and raising funds for CNEWA.
From The Catholic Register:
Many members of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union (ACSSU) have grown up in Canada watching from a distance as civil wars tear apart their homelands and force their relatives and friends to flee. As tensions rise and more people are displaced, ACSSU members believe they can make a difference.
From 16 to 19 November, ACSSU chapters at Toronto’s Ryerson and York Universities and the University of Toronto; McMaster in Hamilton, Ontario; and Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, set up camp in front of their school’s student centers to raise awareness and money in support of refugees in Iraq and Syria. For three nights and four days, ACCSU members are experiencing the “Life of a Mesopotamian Refugee.”
“We’re here to raise awareness and money for people who are not here,” said Rosemary Yachouh, president of ACSSU Canada. “I’m just hoping to get the word out. … I want to make myself feel what people back home are feeling for the extent that I’m able to.”
About 12 students slept in tents for three nights without electronics and other conveniences. The students only ate food brought to them by others.
During the day, students handed out flyers and talked with passers-by about the plight of displaced peoples in Iraq and Syria. They also visited classrooms to talk to different student groups about donating money to send much needed food, shelter and clothing overseas.
ACSSU hopes to raise at least $25,000 for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA).
Generally, Yachouh said people have been open to being engaged in conversation. Students want to know more about what’s going on?in the world. Many have passed by their tables and tents to share their thoughts and feelings about the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut.
“We’re not just about raising money. We also want to get people’s time. We want to tell them what’s happening,” said Yachouh. “So by having a physical presence and actually giving ourselves that experience of living like refugees, I think it shows the Canadian community that there is a bigger thing happening outside of this country.”
18 November 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Refugees Middle East Iraqi Refugees
French special police forces secure the area in Saint-Denis, France, on 18 November. Shots were exchanged between bombing fugitives and police. Pope Francis this morning bemoaned a “world at war” that was rejecting the “path of peace.” (photo: CNS/Christian Hartmann, Reuters)
Pope: Jesus weeps for a world at war (Vatican Radio) “The whole world is at war,” and the rejection of the “path of peace” means that God himself, that Jesus himself, weeps. This was the message of Pope Francis to the faithful following the readings of the day at Mass on Thursday morning in the Casa Santa Marta…
British Muslims take out ad condemning Paris attacks (Daily Mail) Hundreds of Muslim groups have taken out an advertisement condemning the Paris terror attacks and pledging allegiance to “the values of pluralism and tolerance.” A message placed in the national Press today criticized the “barbaric acts” of the bombers and gunmen who murdered 129 people in the French capital last week. It also praised a security guard who was working at the Stade de France at the time of the assault and is believed to be a Muslim, saying that “brave individuals” like him should be seen as the true representatives of Islam…
Syrian refugees in U.S. fear backlash (The Los Angeles Times) Viewed with sympathy this summer as thousands tried to reach Europe in unseaworthy boats, many of the more than 1,600 Syrian refugees who have won asylum in the United States now worry that the country that had seemed their best hope may not be prepared to welcome them…
Indian Christians fight government rules against priests (UCANews.com) Church leaders in eastern India’s Chhattisgarh state are struggling against a local law that helps Hindu hardliners stop Christian priests from setting foot in certain villages. “The atmosphere in the state is not very conducive for Christians anymore,” said the Rev. Abraham Kannampala, vicar general of Jagdalpur Diocese. “We feel threatened as we are a small minority.” In the latest incident, a Pentecostal gathering in Kohkameta village of Baster district was attacked on 15 November. Assailants dragged worshippers from the church, beat them with sticks and demanded that they reconvert to Hinduism, witnesses reported. Baster district has faced increasing anti-Christian violence for almost a year, after some Hindu groups sought to ban Christian priests from entering villages by passing resolutions in village bodies…
Patriarch Tawadros calls on Egyptians to participate in elections (Fides) Bishops and pastoral voices have to encourage “all citizens, and in particular young people, to participate in the second phase of the electoral process,” said Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II during the meeting with a group of bishops and priests. The patriarch urges Coptic voters to support competent and honest candidates, rather than merely voting based on religious affiliation…
18 November 2015
Tags: India Pope Francis Refugees War France
In this image from September, a laborer works to rebuild the 160-year old Mardin Protestant Church in Mardin, Turkey, one of the oldest Protestant churches in the Middle East. The first religious service in 60 years was held at the church on Sunday. Read more and see a picture of the completed work here. (photo: Don Duncan)