5 December 2013
Protesters receive medical assistance in St. Michael’s Orthodox Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, on 1 December. The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has condemned police violence against “peaceful demonstrations” after President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision not to seek closer ties with the European Union. (photo: CNS/Stoyan Nenov, Reuters)
Kiev protesters see potent ally under a spire (New York Times) After riot police officers stormed Independence Square here early Saturday, spraying tear gas, throwing stun grenades and swinging truncheons, dozens of young protesters ran, terrified, scattering up the streets. It was after 4:30 a.m., the air cold, the sky black. As they got their bearings, the half-lit bell tower of St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery beckoned. Inside, the fleeing demonstrators found more than warmth and safety. They had arrived in a bastion of the Kievan Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, where they were welcomed not only on a humanitarian basis but because the church, driven by its own historical tensions with Moscow, is actively supporting their uprising. It strongly favors European integration to enable Ukraine to break free from Russia’s grip, and has joined the calls to oust the Ukrainian government…
Torched Syrian camp in Lebanon illustrates tension between refugees, residents (Washington Post) The wood-framed tents on this muddy field in the Bekaa Valley have burned to ground, leaving only remnants of the lives of the Syrian refugees and migrant workers who occupied them: shoes, scattered tomatoes, a pink plastic comb and metal latrines provided by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. Local villagers torched the tents amid allegations that the some residents of the camp had sexually molested a mentally disabled young man. The ousted Syrians say that claim was fabricated at the behest of a new landowner who wanted to evict them from the site. Because of political and sectarian sensitivities, Lebanon did not establish its first official refugee transit camp until last month. That camp has 70 tents. The vast majority of those fleeing the violence have found themselves dependent on private landowners for shelter…
Conflicting statements on the issue of the Maalula sisters (Fides) After the occupation of Maaloula by rebel militias, government sources have written that rebels had kidnapped nuns and orphans present in the monastery. On Wednesday, the pro-government daily newspaper Al Watan claimed that the kidnappers were planning to use the abducted nuns as human shields. On the opposite side, rebel sources widely mentioned by Al Arabiya television channel released the version that snipers loyal to the regime had tried to block attempts to evacuate the nuns to ensure their safety…
Egypt’s Coptic pope: Participation in referendum ‘a duty’ (World Bulletin) Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II has urged Egyptians to vote in an upcoming referendum on Egypt’s amended constitution, describing it as a duty. “Participation in the referendum is a must,” Pope Tawadros said during his weekly sermon at Cairo’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of St. Mark on Wednesday. The referendum represents a central pillar of an army-imposed roadmap for political transition, unveiled by the military in the wake of Muhammad Morsi’s 3 July ouster…
Pope seeks meeting with man who murdered a nun (Times of India) Pope Francis has expressed his desire to meet Samundar Singh, a man who brutally murdered Sister Rani Maria, a Catholic nun, in broad daylight while travelling on a bus in Madhya Pradesh 18 years ago. She was stabbed 54 times before being dragged out of the bus and left to die on the roadside in front for several passengers. The pope was moved after viewing “The Heart of a Murderer,” a documentary film about the event and how forgiveness has changed Mr. Singh…
4 December 2013
Tags: Egypt Lebanon Refugees Ukraine Ukrainian Orthodox Church
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In this image from 2004, a man displays a three-bar cross — commonly used by Greek Catholic and Orthodox Christians in the Slavic churches — before police during a protest in Kiev. (photo: Petro Didula)
The dramatic news out of Ukraine these days reminds us of events we chronicalled in the magazine nearly a decade ago, following the so-called “orange revolution.”
We reported in 2005 on the intersection of religion and politics in the public square during that historic standoff and the complicated history behind the protests in Ukraine, all growing out of the election that pitted reformer Viktor Yuschenko against Prime Minister Viktor Yankyovych:
Though both Mr. Yuschenko and Mr. Yanukovych are Orthodox, they drew their support from different confessional groups. Ukraine’s Catholic community, which accounts for about 13 percent of the country’s 48 million people (5 million Greek Catholics and 1 million Latin, or Roman, Catholics), supported Mr. Yuschenko and his pro-Western tilt. Meanwhile, the largest Orthodox community — the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), which accounts for about 25 percent of the population — supported Mr. Yanukovych, an advocate for close ties to Russia. The two Orthodox communities independent of Moscow — the larger Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and the smaller Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church — supported Mr. Yuschenko’s presidential bid.
“The ecclesiastical authorities are not supposed to take a stand in this crisis,” Father Oleksandre Hoursky told the International Herald Tribune. But then, like many clergy involved, he went on to ignore his own advice. “The church supports good against evil, the protection of human rights and the end of any injustices, and the state abuse of power,” the Roman Catholic priest continued.
Even Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, who heads the country’s Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, weighed in on the crisis. “At the root of the crisis remains an immoral regime,” he said, “that has deprived Ukrainian people of their legitimate rights and dignity.”
Read more about Forging Ukraine, and the history that led up to the orange revolution, in the May 2005 issue of ONE.
4 December 2013
Tags: Ukraine Russia Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Ukrainian Orthodox Church
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In this September photo, Syrian refugee Fatima Said poses for a photo in her room in Kilis, Turkey. Said shares the room in the Turkish border town with her daughter and grandsons. (photo: CNS/Michael Swan, The Catholic Register)
Syrian refugees in Istanbul sent from pillar to post (Al Monitor) In mid-September, a Turkish human rights organization issued a report estimating the number of Syrian refugees in Istanbul at 100,000, though it is claimed to be “well over 200,000” today. Now, as winter sets in, these displaced families struggle to find work and shelter…
Chaldean Church urges political participation among Iraqi Christians (Fides) The Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans has issued an invitation to its faithful to register to vote in the upcoming legislative elections, scheduled for 30 April. “Participation in the parliamentary elections,” reads the statement, “is a national and moral responsibility.” The patriarchate also encouraged Christians to consider candidacy…
Pope calls for prayer for nuns kidnapped in Syria (Vatican Radio) At the end of his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis called on everyone to pray for a group of nuns taken by force from the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint Tekla in the ancient Christian town of Maaloula in Syria. “Let us pray for these sisters, and for all those who have been kidnapped on account of the ongoing conflict. Let us continue to pray and to work for peace…”
Greek Orthodox patriarch urges release of Maaloula sisters (International Business Times) Syria’s Greek Orthodox patriarch has urged Syrian rebels to release a group of nuns who taken hostage from a convent in the predominantly Christian town of Maaloula. “We appeal to the seed of conscience that God planted in all humans, including the kidnappers, to release our sisters safely,” Patriarch Youhanna X said. The church leader reported that orphans who were in the foster care of the sisters had also been taken hostage…
Ukraine protests persist as bid to oust government fails (New York Times) Refusing to grant a central demand of protesters who have laid siege to public buildings and occupied a landmark plaza in this rattled capital, the Ukrainian Parliament on Tuesday defeated a measure calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his government. The failure of the no-confidence vote pushed the battle for the future of Ukraine back onto the streets, where demonstrators and allied political opposition leaders say they would not relent until they succeeded in removing the government, including President Viktor F. Yanukovich…
Senior Hezbollah leader killed in Beirut (Al Jazeera) A senior commander of Shiite Lebanese armed group Hezbollah was killed outside his house in Beirut late Tuesday night. An Israeli official denied Hezbollah’s accusations of being behind the assasination. Lebanese security officials told the Associated Press that assailants opened fire on Hassan al Laqis with an assault rifle while he was in his car, parked at the residential building where he lived, some two miles southwest of the capital…
3 December 2013
Tags: Syria Refugees Violence against Christians Turkey Chaldean Church
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Sister Bincy Joseph assists the girls with their homework. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2008, we profiled an orphanage in India offering refuge and hope:
Mother Mary Home for Girls lies in the remote and beautiful valley of Wayanad, nestled between hills covered in dense tropical vegetation. To Arya, Athira and the other girls, all of whom were born to poor, broken families, the orphanage must have first appeared as an oasis. Coconut and fruit trees abound. Milk cows and chickens wander the home’s four acres, donated by a local parish of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.
Mother Mary Home opened its doors on 30 May 2004, initially welcoming just seven girls, including Arya and Athira. It has since grown rapidly. Three Missionary Sisters of Mary Immaculate, a religious community of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, run the home. Founded in 1962 by Father C.J. Varkey to share “the redeeming love of Jesus irrespective of caste, race and religion,” the community includes more than 700 professed sisters in more than a 100 communities throughout India, Italy, Germany and the United States.
The sisters administer not only orphanages and schools, but run and staff health care facilities, homes for the elderly, a rehabilitation center for people with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) and function in a number of pastoral and social apostolates, including family counseling and prison ministry. …
In most cases, said assistant director Sister Jean Mary Koottuemkal, the girls are from the most dysfunctional of families, families with a history of domestic abuse, murders and suicides. She recalled one situation where two sisters saved their mother from being murdered by the father. Both parents are unstable and unable to rear their children. Some girls, she continued, cannot return to their village. In one such case, a girl was born out of wedlock. Another girl’s mother committed suicide. In India — especially its traditional south — many ostracize families with circumstances such as these.
Sister Jean Mary emphasized that Kerala, while largely rural, is densely populated, as much as three times the rest of India. And up to a third of the state’s population live below the poverty level.
Most of the parents of the girls at Mother Mary Home work as day laborers at local quarries, brick factories or large rubber estates. Wages are abysmally low, the work, seasonal and hunger, common. Parents often find it necessary, Sister Jean Mary said, to send their children out to work to supplement their meager incomes. The parents of these girls are so socially and economically marginalized that they never bothered to obtain birth certificates for their children.
Read more on A Place to Call Home in the March 2008 issue of ONE.
And visit this page to learn how you can make a difference in the lives of India’s young people.
3 December 2013
Tags: India Children Education Sisters Orphans/Orphanages
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A Greek Orthodox nun in Maaloula’s Monastery of St. Tekla prays beside an icon of the site’s patron saint. It was recently reported that an Islamist group has taken 12 sisters from this monastery hostage. As you keep them in your prayers, click here to read more about this imperiled religious community. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
Patriarch Gregory III prays for the ‘true martyrs in Maaloula’ (Fides) “We are determined to remain in this blessed land even at the cost of martyrdom and martyrdom of blood. This has already happened to some of our faithful, such as the three men from Maaloula,” said Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III, referring to those killed in recent sectarian violence. “They are true martyrs killed for refusing to renounce their faith.” The patriarch expressed strong concern regarding the new invasion of the Christian village of Maalula by armed Islamist groups, who terrorized the population and took hostage 12 Orthodox nuns in the Monastery of St. Tekla…
Syrian aircraft kill 50 in northern rebel town (Washington Post) Syrian government helicopters dropped barrels full of explosives on a rebel-held town near the northern city of Aleppo, killing at least 50 people in two separate attacks over the weekend, activists said Sunday. The shelling Sunday hit near a bakery in the town of Al Bab, located east of Aleppo, killing at least 24 people, said Rami Abdurrahman of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Akram al Halabi, a rebel spokesman based in nearby in Aleppo…
Survey: Corruption worsens in world’s conflict areas (Los Angeles Times) Some of the world’s most tumultuous countries suffered setbacks this year in the fight against corruption, with civil war-torn Syria among the pack of nations increasingly at the mercy of bribe-takers and influence-peddlers, Transparency International reported Tuesday in its annual corruption survey. The assessments of public-sector corruption for each country are based on review of independent experts from 112 institutions, Transparency International explained in its report on methodology…
Caritas to launch global wave of prayer to end hunger (Caritas) The Caritas confederation will launch a global “wave of prayer” to promote an end to world hunger on 10 December, to mark the beginning of a new anti-hunger campaign. Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis, says the problem is not one of production. “There is enough food to feed the planet," he says, adding that with enough support, it could be possible to end hunger as soon as 2025. Pope Francis also offers his blessing and support to the campaign in a five-minute video message to be released on the day of the launch…
Egypt constitution amendments enshrine military power (Al Jazeera) Extensive amendments to the constitution adopted under Egypt’s ousted president give the military more privileges, enshrining its place as the nation’s most powerful institution and source of real power while removing parts that liberals feared set the stage for the creation of an Islamic state. One key clause states that for the next two presidential terms the armed forces will enjoy the exclusive right of naming the defense minister, an arrangement that gives the military autonomy above any civilian oversight and leaves the power of the president uncertain. The charter does not say how the post will be filled following that eight-year transitional period…
2 December 2013
Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Pope Francis Violence against Christians Hunger
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Pope Francis embraces Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, at the Vatican in late March. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
On Saturday, Pope Francis sent a message to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to mark the feast of the Patron of the Church at Constantinople, St. Andrew the Apostle. As part of the message, Pope Francis underscored the difficulties many Christians are facing in the Middle East:
Our joy in celebrating the feast of the Apostle Andrew must not make us turn our gaze from the dramatic situation of the many people who are suffering due to violence and war, hunger, poverty and grave natural disasters. I am aware that you are deeply concerned for the situation of Christians in the Middle East and for their right to remain in their homelands. Dialogue, pardon and reconciliation are the only possible means to achieve the resolution of conflict. Let us be unceasing in our prayer to the all-powerful and merciful God for peace in this region, and let us continue to work for reconciliation and the just recognition of peoples’ rights.
Your Holiness, the memory of the martyrdom of the apostle Saint Andrew also makes us think of the many Christians of all the churches and ecclesial communities who in many parts of the world experience discrimination and at times pay with their own blood the price of their profession of faith. We are presently marking the 1700th anniversary of Constantine’s Edict, which put an end to religious persecution in the Roman Empire in both East and West, and opened new channels for the dissemination of the Gospel. Today, as then, Christians of East and West must give common witness so that, strengthened by the spirit of the risen Christ, they may disseminate the message of salvation to the entire world. There is likewise an urgent need for effective and committed cooperation among Christians in order to safeguard everywhere the right to express publicly one’s faith and to be treated fairly when promoting the contribution which Christianity continues to offer to contemporary society and culture.
You can read the full text here.
2 December 2013
Tags: Middle East Christians Pope Francis Ecumenism Middle East Peace Process Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
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In this late-October photo, a Palestinian migrant from Syria whose daughter drowned throws flowers into the sea during a commemorative service at Valletta’s Grand Harbor in Malta. (photo: CNS/Darrin Zammit Lupi, Reuters)
Out of Syria, into a European maze (New York Times) The Syrian exodus has become one of the gravest global refugee crises of recent decades. More than two million people have fled Syria’s civil war, most resettling in neighboring Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. But since this summer, refugees have also started pouring into Europe in what became for many weeks a humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean. Over five months, Italy’s Coast Guard rescued thousands of Syrians, even as hundreds of other migrants, including many Syrians, died in two major shipwrecks in October. For many, reaching Europe was merely the beginning of another difficult journey. Having risked their lives in hopes of settling in prospering Northern Europe, many Syrians found themselves trapped in the south, living illegally in Italy, hiding from the police, as they tried to sneak past border guards and travel north to apply for asylum…
Pope Francis welcomes Melkite Greek Catholic pilgrims (Vatican Radio) On Saturday, Pope Francis received a group of Melkite Greek Catholics visiting Rome on a pilgrimage. The pope told the pilgrims that his thoughts are with the suffering in Syria, and that his prayers are with those who have lost their lives and their loved ones. “We firmly believe in the strength of prayer and reconciliation”, he said, “and we renew our heartfelt appeal to those responsible” to bring an end to the violence. “Through dialogue let them find just and lasting solutions to a conflict that has already wrought too much destruction…”
Netanyahu holds first meeting with Pope Francis (Jerusalem Post) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Pope Francis in a 25-minute closed-door meeting Monday, with a host of political and religious issues on the agenda as well as a formal invitation for the pontiff to visit the Holy Land next year. It was the first time the two leaders met face to face, and they discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Iran’s nuclear program, the Syrian civil war, the welfare of Christians in Israel, as well as the pope’s expected visit to Israel…
West Bank violence jumps, but this time it’s more personal (Washington Post) A retired Israeli military officer was beaten to death with a pickax in his front yard. A Palestinian man was fatally shot after ramming his tractor into an Israeli army gate. These and other enigmatic, seemingly unrelated killings, all originating in the West Bank, have left four Israelis and at least 24 Palestinians dead this year — a notable increase from last year. The jump in violence follows the relative calm of 2012, which was one of the least-deadly years in decades for Israelis. It comes as stalled peace talks give rise to concerns about more killings to come…
20 arrested in Minya after deadly violence (Daily News Egypt) Security forces have arrested 20 people in the governorate of Minya after deadly violence in several villages left five people dead and dozens injured. The Security Directorate of Minya announced arrests in two neighboring villages, the predominantly Coptic Nazlet Ebeid and the predominantly Muslim Al Hawarta. A feud over a piece of land between residents turned violent last week and left four people dead…
Patriarch Kirill concerned about exodus of Christians from Iraq (Voice of Russia) Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill expressed his concern for the Christian population of Iraq during a meeting with the Iraqi ambassador to Russia. “We are deeply convinced that Iraq should remain a unified state, civil accord should be restored and there should be no outside influence,” he said…
Ukrainian protesters find refuge from police in Kiev monastery (Reuters) Around 100 Ukrainian pro-European Union protesters took refuge from police batons and biting cold on Saturday inside the walls of a central Kiev monastery. With a barricade of benches pushed up against a gate to keep police out, protesters — who had rallied against President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision to reject a pact with the European Union — checked their wounds in the pre-dawn light. “They gave us tea to warm us up, told us to keep our spirits strong and told us not to fight evil with evil,” said Roman Tsado, 25, a native of Kiev, who said police beat him on his legs as they cleared the pro-E.U. rally. “I don’t go to church much, only to escape from the powers of evil,” said Tsado, laughing. According to RISU, Ukrainian church leaders — including Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s Kievan Patriarchate — have condemned the brutal police response to protesters…
Cardinal Gracias celebrates the start of Advent among Dharavi’s poor (AsiaNews) Together with Caritas India, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, has launched a Christmas campaign to raise awareness of the city’s poor. The initiative was launched with a visit to the largest slum in India and Asia, home to hundreds of thousands of inhabitants. The cardinal recalled Pope Francis, who “praised the courage of the poor, urging society to welcome them with love and compassion…”
27 November 2013
Tags: Egypt India Refugees Ukraine Israeli-Palestinian conflict
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The Alslivi family enjoys Sunday brunch. Refugees from Iraq, the family faced years of separation before finally reuniting in Sweden in 2008. “Everyone in the household still vividly remembers the hard times and radiates joy about their current circumstances,” wrote Anna Jonasson in the May 2011 issue of ONE. To learn more about the challenges facing Iraqi refugees in Sweden, check out A Nordic Refuge No More. (photo: Magnus Aronson)
27 November 2013
Tags: Refugees Unity Iraq Iraqi Refugees Sweden
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In this photo from late September, Syrian refugees stand outside in Beirut with papers to present to officials with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees for registration. (photo: CNS/Jamal Saidi, Reuters)
Pontifical conference focuses on Syrian refugee children in Lebanon (VIS) This morning, in the Holy See Press Office, a press conference was held to present the Healthcare Mission for Syrian Child Refugees in Lebanon, promoted by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital and Caritas Lebanon. “Helping the Syrian population, regardless of ethnic origin or religious belief, is the most direct way of contributing to peace-building and the edification of a society open to all its different members,” said Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. Cardinal Sarah explained that Pope Francis’ words inspired this project, in the hope that “these tragedies may never be repeated…”
Pax Christi International: Europe must not close its doors to Syrian refugees (Fides) In an urgent appeal to the leaders of both sides of the conflict, Pax Christi International asks that the borders remain open, that humanitarian relief may reach the besieged population unhindered. Pax Christi International calls on the urgent need for a ceasefire to ensure humanitarian access to the besieged areas before the negotiations begin…
Syrian women increasingly targeted by violence (Al Jazeera) Syrian women are increasingly targeted with violence and sexual assault by armed groups in the civil war between rebel groups and the government of President Bashar al Assad, according to a new report. The Euro Mediterranean Human Rights Network, a network of more than 80 human rights organizations in more than 30 countries in Europe and the Mediterranean, released a report on Monday detailing the violence experienced by Syrian women in 2012 and 2013, based on firsthand testimonies or accounts from their families or aid workers…
Polio spreads to Damascus and Aleppo (Al Jazeera) The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that additional polio cases had been confirmed in two new areas of Syria, including near Damascus and in the northern city of Aleppo near Turkey. “In addition to 15 polio cases in Deir Ezzor province, Syria, two additional cases have been confirmed, one each in rural Damascus and Aleppo,” the organization said on its Twitter account…
Pope invites Ukrainian Greek Catholic faithful to brotherly communion (VIS) At the end of the catechesis at today’s general audience, the Holy Father greeted Ukrainian pilgrims, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk and the bishops and faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The Eastern Catholic pilgrims came to Rome to venerate the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul at the end of the Year of Faith, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the translation of the relics of St. Josaphat to St. Peter’s Basilica. For this reason, the reading preceding the catechesis was given in Ukrainian. “The example of St. Josaphat, who gave his life for the Lord Jesus and for the unity of the Church, represents for all of us an invitation to commit ourselves every day to communion with our brothers,” said Pope Francis…
26 November 2013
Tags: Syria Syrian Civil War Refugees Pope Francis Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
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In Egypt, a young girl does her schoolwork. Catholic institutions in Upper Egypt, such as this Jesuit-run school in Minya, are largely responsible for the growth of the Coptic Catholic Church. Read more about it in our profile from the September 2007 issue of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Tags: Egypt Children Education Catholic education
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