Current Issue
Autumn, 2015
Volume 41, Number 3
18 September 2015
Carl Hétu

Migrant children look through a fence as they wait permission to cross the border between Greece and Macedonia on 15 September. (photo: CNS/Georgi Licovski, EPA)

The statement below was issued by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) in response to the initiative announced yesterday to aid Syrian refugees:

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has endorsed a joint fundraising campaign aimed at involving all the Church in Canada in order to assist Syrian refugees seeking shelter and protection in the Middle East and parts of Europe. The joint campaign, already being supported by Bishops across the country, involves the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Canada, and CNEWA Canada.

The three Canadian Catholic aid and development agencies will collaborate in their fundraising for Syrian refugees, so as to respond as effectively as possible to the complex and overwhelming Syrian emergency. Donations can be made to any or all three of the organizations. Each will continue working with its respective partners in the Middle East, using its own unique approaches and networks. The Holy See, as well as Bishops in Canada and the Middle East, have expressed appreciation on how the activities of the three agencies are mutually complementary in responding to different but equally important priorities.

Development and Peace will work to expand its ongoing efforts to support Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries in the Middle East, and also expand its reach through the Caritas international family to come to the aid of the thousands of migrants who have fled across the Mediterranean Sea and are now seeking shelter. ACN and CNEWA will continue to support all refugees affected by this war and will also give special attention to Christian refugees and displaced persons, hoping to ensure a continued Christian presence in the Middle East.

The three agencies will later send reports to Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada on the total funds received for Syrian refugees as a result of the new campaign. The Government of Canada announced on September 12 it has established the Syria Emergency Relief Fund. Every eligible dollar donated by individual Canadians to registered Canadian charities in response to the impact of the conflict in Syria will be matched by the government, for up to $100 million, effective immediately and until December 31, 2015.

At a special meeting held during the 2015 Plenary Assembly, the Conference’s Permanent Council stated it rejoices at the news some Canadian dioceses and eparchies have already launched or will soon launch their own projects in aid of Syrian refugees. The Permanent Council, which is the CCCB administrative board, encourages those dioceses and eparchies to support the joint campaign. All other dioceses and eparchies in Canada are invited to organize their own parish collections for the joint campaign from now until Sunday, November 15, 2015, inclusive. Each diocese is free to decide how it will distribute the funds among the three national agencies.While the Government of Canada will match funds raised for Syrian refugees by all registered Canadian charities, only a few of these, including Development and Peace, are designated by the government as eligible to apply for its assistance in their work on behalf of Syrian refugees.

The total funds raised by Development and Peace, or other designated Canadian agencies, will not be a factor in the amount of government funding that can be requested for Syrian refugee projects.

Development and Peace, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, and CNEWA Canada have been actively fundraising for refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries for some years. This spring, Development and Peace, in its earlier 2013 campaign with the Bishops of Canada, had raised more than $13 million for Syrian and Middle Eastern refugees. This also included matching funds from the Government of Canada. Recently, Aid to the Church in Need, a pontifical foundation which fundraises in a number of countries, including Canada, reported its previous efforts had raised $10.3 million in emergency aid for Syrian refugees. CNEWA is a papal agency that fundraises in Canada and the United States and works closely with Eastern Catholic Churches and Orthodox Churches in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. In 2014, CNEWA (Canada and USA) sent US $4,441,665 to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon and displaced persons in Syria.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, the Syrian conflict has resulted in the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. After five years of conflict, some four million Syrians have sought refuge in neighbouring countries in the Middle East as well as in parts of Europe. In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of Syrians displaced and homeless within their own country. Calling again on the world and the Church to help these “millions of people ... in a distressing state of urgent need,” Pope Francis has described the conflicts in Iraq and Syria “one of the most overwhelming human tragedies of recent decades.”

To contribute to this effort, please visit this giving page.

18 September 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

Assyro-Chaldean Christians attend a liturgy at the cathedral of St. John in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, to commemorate the election of a new catholicos-patriarch.
(photo: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)

Today, in the Iraqi Kurdistan capital of Erbil, the synod of the Church of the East elected Mar Gewargis Sliwa as the new catholicos-patriarch. The patriarch-elect has served as metropolitan of Iraq since 1981 and succeeds Mar Dinkha IV, who died in March. One of the oldest churches in Christendom, the Church of the East has been centered between the Tigres and Euphrates rivers since receiving the faith from the Apostle Thomas.

After his consecration in Erbil on 27 September, Mar Gewargis III will return the see of the patriarchate to Iraq after a period of exile in the United States.

18 September 2015
Greg Kandra

Representatives from CNEWA will be visiting a parish in western Illinois this weekend.
(photo: Creative Commons)

This weekend, CNEWA will be visiting Geneseo, Illinois, in the Diocese of Peoria. I’ll be speaking at all the Masses at St. Malachy Parish. Along with my colleague Christopher Kennedy, we’ll be spreading the word about the work CNEWA is doing throughout the Middle East in support of displaced Christians, particularly those who are trying to rebuild their lives in Iraq after being driven into exile by ISIS. CNEWA is making a powerful difference in so many lives today, and we’re eager to share this good news and let others know how they can be a part of it.

If you are in the neighborhood, stop by and say hello!

And if you’d like us to visit your parish — to speak at Masses or to prayer groups — just drop us a line at the address below. Our development director, Norma Intriago, will be happy to coordinate a visit.

We love sharing our message and mission.

18 September 2015
Greg Kandra

Students attend a computer class at the Blessed Gebremichael Catholic School in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Learn more about their lives in “A Letter from Ethiopia” in the
Spring 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

18 September 2015
Greg Kandra

A volunteer from the German Red Cross plays with a migrant girl from Syria in an emergency shelter in Rottenburg on 16 September. The Apostolic Almoner today announced that a Syrian refugee family has been received by a parish in the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Wolfram Kastli, EPA)

Pope’s almoner assists refugees (VIS) According to a press release issued today by the Apostolic Almoner, the parish community of St. Anna in the Vatican has received a family of refugees, consisting of a father, mother and two children. They are Syrian, Christians of Catholic Greek-Melkite rite, and fled from their war-torn home city of Damascus, arriving in the Vatican on Sunday 6 September, when the Pope launched an appeal to each parish, religious community, monastery and shrine to offer shelter to a family...

European bishops call for “appropriate solution” in Cremisan case (Fides) The European Bishops hope that “the sensitive situation in the Cremisan might find an appropriate solution respectful of the rights of families, their properties and the two religious communities, as well as their educational mission.” The hope around the issue of Palestinian lands expropriated in the area of Beit Jala for the construction of the separation wall, is contained in the final message of the Plenary Assembly of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences, which this year was held in the Holy Land from 11 to 16 September...

Stressed Ukraine fighters face alcohol threat (AFP) Some Ukrainian troops play hours of football while others take dips in the sea as they try to adjust to a sudden drop in fighting following a fresh ceasefire deal. Kiev’s war commanders are ready to allow almost anything to save soldiers from the gravest danger facing them during the current tentative truce — booze...

Church in India promotes remembrance of martyrs (National Catholic Register) The Church in the state of Odisha in eastern India has committed to make “Kandhamal Martyrs Day” a regular memorial for the dozens of Christians martyred for their faith, in the anti-Christian violence that engulfed the Kandhamal district seven years ago. The annual meeting of the five bishops of Odisha (known as Orissa until 2011) decided 30 August to observe the day beginning next year...

Report: Ethiopia to become world’s fastest-growing economy (Sudan Tribune) A report released by a research project, said that Ethiopia is on course to become world’s fastest growing economy. The new report “One foot on the ground, one foot in the air” released by the UK-based think tank group Overseas Development Institute (ODI) forecasts for Ethiopia said Ethiopia’s economy would significantly accelerate in the coming three years...

17 September 2015
CNEWA staff

A migrant from Syria cries as she stands with her children on a field after crossing into Hungary from the border with Serbia near the village of Roszke on 5 September.
(photo: CNS/Marko Djurica, Reuters)

The Catholic Church in Canada is mobilizing to respond to the growing refugee crisis that is currently affecting Europe and the Middle East.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) and Aid to the Church in Need are launching for the first time a joint appeal to the generosity of Canadian Catholics and all Canadians, showing the magnitude of this tragic crisis.

The majority of refugees currently attempting to enter Europe are from Syria, where an ongoing civil war that began over four years ago has displaced 7 million Syrians within their own country and has created 4 million refugees.

Funds collected through this appeal will go towards humanitarian aid for Syrians living through the suffering of war and those who have fled to other countries, including Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey who are hosting the vast majority of Syrian refugees.

The Canadian government has announced the Syrian Emergency Relief Fund and will match donations made by Canadians to organizations responding to this crisis, including Development and Peace, CNEWA and Aid to the Church in Need. Donations made before December 31st, 2015 are eligible for matching.

This fund was announced in the wake of a mass influx of refugees from Syria, as well as from Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea and other countries plagued by poverty, war and lack of human rights, that are making treacherous journeys to enter Europe. Pope Francis called on parishes around the world to open their doors to Syrian refugees, and dioceses across Canada have launched sponsorship initiatives.

In his open letter to Canadians earlier this month, the Most Reverend Paul-André Durocher, Archbishop of Gatineau and President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said: “The refugee crisis is an important moment to deepen our faith, extend our charity, and summon up hope. Together we can make a better world for all those in need, and so witness to Christ’s Kingdom.”

Canadians can show their solidarity by contributing to this appeal for humanitarian aid and/or to sponsorship programs in their dioceses. Collections will be taking place in parishes across Canada over the coming weeks, and Canadians can also donate directly to the organizations participating in this joint appeal by visiting their respective websites or contacting the organizations by phone.

To support this effort, visit this giving page. And please remember all our suffering brothers and sisters in your prayers.

17 September 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

An overflow crowd of Ukrainian Orthodox believers gathers for the Christmas liturgy in
Kosmach, Ukraine. (photo: Petro Didula)

Confusion characterizes Orthodox Christianity in Ukraine. Not one but three groups claim legitimacy as the national church of a land that traditionally identifies with Eastern Christianity.

Led by Metropolitan Onophry Berezovsky, the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate” is an autonomous jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church of Russia. Canonically, it is the only Orthodox jurisdiction recognized by the rest of the Orthodox world, maintaining the largest number of parishes in Ukraine (perhaps some 11,300). It prevails, however, in the country’s Russian-speaking areas in the central, southern and eastern portions of Ukraine, where religious identity is weakest. Church Slavonic is the predominant language used in the celebration of the sacraments.

The “Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kiev Patriarchate” is led by Patriarch Filaret. Once a rising star of the Moscow patriarchate, he was excommunicated for advocating a national and independent Orthodox church in Ukraine. According to the 2006 findings of the Razumkov Centre — a Ukrainian think tank — about half of the Ukrainians who claim a religious affiliation belong to this community, which uses both Church Slavonic and modern Ukrainian in the celebration of the sacraments. Since the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine, the Kiev Patriarchate has grown at the expense of the church associated with the Moscow Patriarchate, which is considered pro-Russian.

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, his wife Maryna and son Mykhailo, light candles on 23 August as they attend a service in the mother church of Ukraine, the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Kiev, commemorating Ukrainian Independence Day. (photo: CNS/Mikhail Palinchak, pool via EPA)

The “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” is the smallest of the three Orthodox bodies. It is led by Metropolitan Makariy Maletych, who formerly led an eparchy in the western city of Lviv, which is the epicenter of Ukrainian nationalism and where the church of three million is strongest. This community, which also uses Church Slavonic and modern Ukrainian in the liturgy, is in active dialogue with the Kiev Patriarchate seeking unification.

In its well-regarded survey on religious affiliation in Ukraine, the Razumkov Centre found more than 62 percent of the country’s 44 million people did not declare any membership in any of the churches listed above. The authors report that, while many who did not self-identify with any group were Orthodox Christian, most were unaware either of the issues or of the divisions embroiling Ukrainian Orthodoxy.

Why then this schism among Ukraine’s Orthodox Christians? In short, the polarization of the Ukrainian church reflects questions of Ukrainian identity and of Ukraine’s relationship to its domineering neighbor to the east, Russia, with which it now finds itself at war.

Click here to read more.

17 September 2015
Greg Kandra

A Caritas day care center in Tbilisi, Georgia offers classes in traditional Georgian carpet weaving, teaching new skills to young people. To learn more, read “A Child’s Rights Restored” in the
March 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)

17 September 2015
Greg Kandra

A migrant child wakes up to a more peaceful morning on 17 September after the previous day's friction at the border crossings in Horgos, Serbia. (photo: Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)

Pope: no one can remain oblivious to atrocities in Syria and Iraq (VIS) “One of the most overwhelming human tragedies of recent decades are the terrible consequences that the conflicts in Syria and Iraq have on civilian populations as well as on cultural heritage. Millions of people are in distressing state of urgent need. They are forced to leave their native lands. Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey today carry the weight of millions of refugees, which they have generously received. Faced with such a situation and conflicts that are expanding and disturbing in an alarming way the internal and regional equilibrium, the international community seems unable to find adequate solutions while the arms dealers continue to achieve their interests.” With these words the Pope addressed the participants in the meeting on the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq, organised by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, attended by Catholic charitable bodies and the bishops of the region, among others, and to which more than thirty organisations have lent their support...

Aleppo archbishop: only 50,000 Christians left in the city (Vatican Radio) The Chaldean Archbishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo, warned this week that only 50,000 Christians are now left in the city which has seen some of the fiercest fighting in Syria’s ongoing civil war. He urged the international community to provide help to enable Christians to remain in Syria and carry on bearing witness to their faith...

Syrian refugees flee to Gaza (International Business Times) In a coffee shop in Gaza City, Syrian refugee Anas Katerji bursts into a well-known Palestinian song: “Palestine my homeland, my victory bath, Palestine stays my heart’s passion.” The 28-year-old fled his home in Aleppo in the face of vicious fighting between rebel forces and Bashar al-Assad’s army and after eventually reaching Egypt, he did not receive the welcome he had expected. He and a group of other Syrians made the dangerous trip across the Sinai and into Gaza through smuggling tunnels...

Refugees facing tear gas, water cannons (The Washington Post) Refugees blazed a new pathway through Europe on Wednesday, with hundreds hiking through cornfields to reach welcoming Croatia even as others faced tear gas and water cannons from Hungarian police determined to turn them away. The contrasting scenes along the Serbian border highlighted both the make-or-break resolve of the asylum seekers and the growing friction facing Europe, which has failed to create a coordinated policy for the unprecedented influx of economic migrants and war refugees from the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan. “We hit a stone and we flow around it,” said Arazak Dubal, 28, a computer programmer from Damascus, who had been on the road for 18 days...

16 September 2015
Greg Kandra

Outside the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, a young Arab Israeli Christian boy holds a banner reading in Arabic: ‘Me too.. my school is not for sale’ during a rally against what they said was state discrimination in funding their schools, which prompted them to declare an
open-ended strike. (photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

Christian schools in Israel have been on strike since 1 September, as a result of budget cuts imposed on the schools.

This week, the patriarchs and heads of local churches in Jerusalem released a statement, saying in part:

It hurts to see 33,000 students from all faiths and denominations out of their classrooms, while hundreds of teachers and employees are watching their schools empty. This situation is a grave inconvenience to the parents as their children remain at home, while education is a basic human right that no child should be denied.

The struggle for justice and equality for our schools started almost two years ago, after serious budget cuts imposed upon our schools caused a financial deficit. Negotiations between the Office of Christian Schools in Israel and the Ministry of Education failed and all solutions presented by the Ministry were unrealistic and would cause further financial burden on parents of our students.

...The struggle of our schools is a just cause, in seeking not only equal rights, but also recognition of the outstanding services that are offered.

You can read the full statement here.

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