22 January 2016
Christians gather for Evening Prayer outside St. Joseph’s Church in Erbil, Iraq, just one area where CNEWA has worked with local churches and institutions to “bring light into their darkness.”
(photo: Don Duncan)
Five days after Christmas, a man sat down and wrote the following letter to CNEWA, in simple block letters on plain lined paper. We were surprised at the return address: a prison in Florida. But as we read these words, we found the message profoundly moving and humbling — a quiet reminder to us all of how God works in the world, and of the grace that can be found in unexpected ways, in unexpected places.
Dear CNEWA missionaries —
I found a copy of your magazine, “One,” at our chapel last weekend. I had never heard of CNEWA before, but I am very thankful that I now have! I found it to be more edifying than I know how to say, but I will try, anyway.
I am in prison for life for robbery, a result of drug addiction, which in its turn was a result of trying to run from God’s will and his claim on my life. I did not understand that when I was out there; but once I got some separation from that life, I could see it clearly. Since I was a cradle Catholic, who was educated by Dominicans through the eighth grade, I knew exactly what I needed to do to get right with the Lord. So I did those things, and I have been walking in his glorious light these last 25 years. I would not trade all of the “freedom” in the world for the relationship that prison compelled me to develop with the savior.
While that is true, it is also true that it is a struggle to keep my spiritual head above water. I have known for years how blessed I am to live in a country that allows me to have freedom of religion. In prison, no less! I thank God for that every day. Because of that, I have a Mass to attend and a Eucharist to receive every Sunday; I have access to a chapel library that is replete with Christian publications, books, Bible studies, study helps. It even has a section devoted to Christian literature. I can get Christian publications in the mail without fear of persecution. I understand how very fortunate I am to have it like this!
But after reading that one copy of your magazine, I understand much more thoroughly how blessed I am! None of the publications I see address foreign missions and needs, and I had no idea how bad things were for so many. It was greatly edifying to learn of your great efforts to bring light into their darkness and to relieve suffering wherever you can. I had no idea. I thank God for you and your ministry.
Because I have been here for most of the last three decades, I have extremely limited contact with the outside, and it has been many years since I was in a position to aid your efforts. I wish very much that I could. You can be certain that you will now have a staunch prayer partner every day from now on. It broke my heard to learn of the terrible abominations committed against God’s children and others, and I can certainly do that much to help you. It lifts me up to know that you faithfully continue the work.
I wonder if CNEWA has...a ministry to enable an indigent and out-of-touch prisoner to get your great publication? I wish that I could pay for a subscription, but I can’t. I would love to continue to be bolstered by stories of your ministry and our Lord’s worldwide work, if it is possible. There only a handful of Catholic Christians here, or any type of Christians, for that matter. Every one of us will read cover-to-cover any issue of your magazine that you send to me, you can be certain of that.
Please know that whatever you decide, you are now in my prayers, and you will remain so. May our Lord bless you all and prosper in your ministry.
Your brother in Christ,
We are sending a complimentary subscription to “our brother in Christ,” along with our gratitude and our prayers.
We are reminded of Pope Francis’s words to prisoners in Philadelphia last September: “I am here above all as a brother, to share your situation and to make it my own. I have come so that we can pray together and offer our God everything that causes us pain, but also everything that gives us hope, so that we can receive from him the power of the resurrection.”
22 January 2016
These two watercolor paintings are by Egyptian artist Gamal Lamie. His paintings at a Cairo art gallery depict calm mothers with serene children, shining stars, doves, flowers, trees, fish and blue waters, the many attributes of an Egypt that once existed, and, he believes, can again be achieved. (photo: CNS/courtesy Gamal Lamie)
Egypt has suffered terribly over the last few years, but one artist is trying to paint a different vision of what Egypt could be:
Gamal Lamie’s paintings at a Cairo art gallery depict calm mothers with serene children, shining stars, doves, flowers, trees, fish and blue waters — the many attributes of an Egypt that once existed, and, he believes, can again be achieved.
All it takes is hope, said the Egyptian artist, a member of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority that traces its roots back to St. Mark the Apostle.
“I think during the last five years, you can see what happened in Egypt and the Middle East area. So ... as an artist, I send a message to the whole world that we need hope," Lamie told Catholic News Service almost exactly five years after a January 2011 revolution shook the predominantly Muslim North African nation and toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak.
Waves of civil and political unrest across Egypt have killed and wounded thousands of people since then.
“Hope means peace, it means stability. It’s not weapons, it’s not fighting. We need to live in peace, that is why I call it ‘Hope,’” Lamie said of the title he’d chosen for his exhibit of watercolors in a small ground-floor apartment-turned-art gallery in an upscale district of Cairo.
Read the full story. Meantime, to support Egypt’s struggling Christians, visit this page to learn how you can make a difference in so many lives.
22 January 2016
In the video above, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia describes his recent visit to Syria. The U.N. is warning that hundreds of thousands of people across Syria are facing starvation and malnutrition.
(video: Rome Reports)
Pope to World Economic Forum: “Do not forget the poor!” (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed to the economic leaders of the world not to forget the poor. The Pope’s cry for justice and integral development came in a message to the participants of the annual World Economic Forum taking place in Davos, Switzerland...
U.N.: Hundreds of thousands in Syria at risk of starvation (The Washington Post) Hundreds of thousands of people across Syria in areas besieged by government forces and opposition fighters are at risk of starvation and worsening malnutrition, U.N. officials, aid workers and activists warn. The warring parties are cutting off food and medicine to more than a dozen areas, causing civilians to die and complicating renewed peace efforts to end the country’s civil war...
Jihadist leaders fleeing Nineveh (Fides) While US-led air strikes against the positions of the Islamic State intensify in the area of Mosul and Nineveh Plain, a growing number of military jihadist leaders leave the region, aimed at joining the militia linked to Daesh operating in Libya and Yemen...
Pope issues message of mercy for World Communications Day (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ message for the 50th World Day of Social Communications was released on Friday, entitled ‘Communication and Mercy: A Fruitful Encounter’. Quoting from Shakespeare, the Gospels and the Old Testament, the Pope reminds each one of us that our “every word and gesture, ought to express God’s compassion, tenderness and forgiveness for all”...
In India, keeping the lamp of Margamkali burning (The Hindu) Margamkali is one of those traditional art forms that manage to stay afloat owing to arts festivals conducted in the State. The folk art of Syrian Christians involves a group of dancers performing around a traditional lamp in a symbolic representation of the Christ standing among the disciples...
21 January 2016
Tags: Syria Iraq India Pope Francis
Vocations to religious life in Eritrea’s new Catholic Church enable it to educate, heal and care for its people. (photo: CNEWA)
Eritrea’s cultural roots run deep: Some 3,000 years ago, Semitic peoples from the Arabian Peninsula crossed the Red Sea and settled in the Horn of Africa. The successive cultures and empires they created — such as the Aksumite and the Abyssinian — are an inheritance Eritreans share with their symbiotic neighbors to the south, Ethiopians.
Eritreans and Ethiopians share many elements of a common history and culture, including the Christian faith and how it is expressed culturally. The vast majority of Christians in both countries share in the ancient traditions of the church as first developed in Alexandria, Egypt, and nurtured over the centuries in Abyssinia by monks and scribes and emperors. Employing the Ge’ez language, steeped in the traditions of the early church, and faithful to indigenous narratives as bulwarks against the influence of European Christianity, Eritrean and Ethiopian Christians are, for the most part, members of the Oriental Orthodox family of churches, which also includes the Armenian Apostolic, Coptic and Syriac Orthodox churches.
Catholics are few, but they make up a disproportionately influential community in both countries. Until a year ago, they formed one church, centered in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa with jurisdictions in Eritrea and Ethiopia celebrating the sacraments in both the Ge’ez and Latin rites. However, last January, the bishop of Rome, Francis, erected a new Catholic Eastern church centered in the Eritrean capital of Asmara.
The Eritrean Catholic Church is now a sui iuris (meaning “of its own right”) metropolitan church and is subject directly to the Holy See. The seat of the metropolitan archbishop is Asmara and includes the eparchies of Barentu, Keren and Seghenity, all of which utilize the ancient Ge’ez rites and traditions, although a few communities continue to use the Latin rite.
Metropolitan Archbishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam, M.C.C.J., leads an estimated 160,000 Eritrean Catholics, and includes a large number of men and women religious who administrate schools, child care facilities and other social service initiatives.
This concludes CNEWA’s series of summaries of the Eastern churches — which may be accessed always from the icon on the blog homepage titled, “Spotlight on the Eastern Churches.” We hope you found this series, which includes links to the more detailed series written for ONE magazine, useful and enlightening.
21 January 2016
Tags: Eastern Churches Eritrea Eastern Catholic Churches Eritrean Catholic Church
Parishioners of Holy Family Chaldean Mission in Phoenix, Arizona, pray during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. (photo: Nancy Wiechec)
Read more about the settling of Iraqi Christians in the American Southwest in ONE magazine’s winter edition.
21 January 2016
Girls rest after drawing water from a pump built by the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat of the Eparchy of Adigrat near the village of Mawo. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
Caritas warns about threat of famine in Ethiopia (Vatican Radio) The Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, Michel Roy, says the drought in Ethiopia and resulting food shortages means that the nation could slide into a famine situation later this year unless prompt action is taken to tackle this shortfall...
No one is excluded from the mercy of God, pope says at audience (CNS) The pope said that although divisions are often caused by selfishness, the common baptism shared by Christians is an experience of being “called from the merciless and alienating darkness” to an encounter with God who is “full of mercy...”
Lebanon’s Christian foes become friends (Al-Monitor) The meeting 18 January between the leaders of the two largest Christian parties and parliamentary blocs in Lebanon — Gen. Michel Aoun, former leader of the Free Patriotic Movement and the Change and Reform bloc, and Samir Geagea, the head of the Lebanese Forces — can be described as a miracle...
Vocations bloom in the desert: two priests are ordained in United Arab Emirates (CNA) Last week Catholics in Southern Arabia gathered in Abu Dhabi to celebrate the ordination of two Capuchin Franciscan priests by Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic of Southern Arabia...
Armine Sahakyan: The double-edged sword of Russia’s build-up in Armenia (KyivPost) The Russians are rapidly building up their two military bases in Armenia — and cranking up their PR machine to make sure everyone in the region knows take notice...
20 January 2016
Before the advent of ISIS, northern Iraq’s minorities were reasonably secure in celebrating their heritage. Here, circa 2010, Christian faithful gather around a fire during a Christmas celebration in Qaraqosh. In the 1970’s, Iraq’s Baathist government had renamed the Assyro-Chaldean city Hamdaniya. Check out an account of the Nineveh Plain’s Christians from the November 2011 edition of ONE. (photo: STRINGER/IRAQ/Reuters/Corbis)
20 January 2016
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians ISIS
St. Elijah Monastery in Mosul, the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq, dates back to the sixth century. (photo: Wikimedia Commons)
ISIS has destroyed one of Iraq’s oldest Christian sites (New York Times) The Islamic State destroyed one of the oldest Christian sites in Iraq as part of its campaign against ancient sites in the country, according to satellite photographs published by The Associated Press on Wednesday and confirmed by Iraqi officials and historians. The monastery of St. Elijah, or Dair Mar Elia, stood for more than 1,400 years above a riverbed south of the city of Mosul, which the Islamic State seized from Iraqi forces in June 2014. The satellite photographs — taken by DigitalGlobe, a private company with headquarters in Westminster, Colo. — showed that the monastery was razed in late August or September 2014, including the site’s square complex of partly ruined rooms and a largely intact sanctuary that dated from the 11th century…
U.N. agency calls on donors to support Syrian farmers in their hour of need (U.N. News Center) With the war in Syria now approaching its sixth year, agricultural production has plummeted and food supplies are at an all-time low, pushing millions of people into hunger, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization stressed today, calling on governments to boost funding to help farmers keep their lands in production and prevent the situation from deteriorating even further…
Syrian Orthodox patriarch organizes a meeting with diplomats in Damascus (Fides) His Beatitude Mar Ignatius Aphrem II, Syrian Orthodox patriarch of Antioch, organized a reception to mark the start of the new year where all the diplomats accredited to the Arab Republic of Syria were invited. The reception was held yesterday at the patriarchal seat, in the district of Bab Tuma, the area of the Old City of Damascus. During his speech to diplomats accredited to the government of Damascus, Patriarch Mar Ignatius Aphrem reiterated that terrorism and the ongoing war in Syria are fed from the outside, and has renewed his appeal for international support towards the Syrian people…
Pope Francis receives invitation to visit Rome’s mosque (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday received a delegation of Muslims who presented him with an invitation to visit the Mosque of Rome. The delegation included the imam Yahya Pallavicini from COREIS (The Islamic Community of Italy) and Abdellah Redouane, the director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Italy…
Timket colorfully celebrated in Ethiopia (Ethiosports) Timket (Ethiopian Epiphany), which marks the Baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the Jordan River was colorfully celebrated throughout Ethiopia today. Timket is usually observed on 19 January; because this year is a leap year, it is celebrated today. The patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, His holiness Abune Mathias, spoke after a benediction to the crowd gathered at Jal Meda, urging those with wealth to share it with the less fortunate…
19 January 2016
Tags: Syria Iraq Ethiopia Monastery Catholic-Muslim relations
In this image from August 2015, women process into St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Cathedral in El Cajone, California for an ordination. To learn more about the thriving Chaldeans of the American southwest, read Nineveh, U.S.A. in the Winter 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Nancy Wiechec)
19 January 2016
Pope Francis listens as Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, speaks during during the pope’s visit to the main synagogue in Rome on Sunday 17 January. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope visits Rome synagogue (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday became the third pope to visit Rome’s synagogue in a sign of continuing Catholic-Jewish friendship. During the visit that featured welcome speeches by prominent members of Rome’s Jewish community and a speech by the Pope, Francis greeted a number of people including several Holocaust survivors...
Report: Nearly 19,000 civilians killed in Iraq over 21 months (CNN) Nearly 19,000 civilians were killed in Iraq between January 2014 and October 2015 — a toll the United Nations calls “staggering” in a new report. The report, released Tuesday, outlines the horrific impact that Iraq’s ongoing conflict is having on its civilian population...
Vatican official: Dialogue is the only way to counter extremism (Vatican Radio) Father Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, on Sunday said “to counter extremism we have to commit ourselves to a sincere dialogue.” He was speaking at the First Arab Thinkers Forum at the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research in Abu Dhabi...
Pope to migrants: Do not be robbed of hope, joy of living (CNS) Welcoming thousands of migrants and refugees to the Vatican for their own Year of Mercy celebration, Pope Francis urged them to resist everything that would rob them of hope and joy. “Each of you is the bearer of a history, culture and precious values and, unfortunately, also often of experiences of poverty, oppression and fear,” the pope said on 17 January. But gathering in St. Peter’s Square for the Holy Year “is a sign of hope in God. Don’t allow yourselves to be robbed of hope and the joy of living, which spring from the experience of divine mercy, also thanks to the people who welcomed and helped you...”
Report: Hundreds of cases of anti-Christian violence in India (Fides) In 2015 over 200 anti-Christian violence occurred. Seven Protestant pastors and one lay person were killed, while the victims of violence as a whole are about 8,000, including women and children...
Believers celebrate Orthodox Epiphany with icy plunge (AP) Believers in St Petersburg, Russia, celebrate Orthodox Epiphany on Monday by taking a dip in icy cold water. The event started with a procession to the water, which was then blessed by a priest.Swimming in icy water is a traditional way for the Russian faithfuls to celebrate Epiphany...