Current Issue
Summer, 2015
Volume 41, Number 2
28 July 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

The world of the Eastern churches is a complex web of history and culture. CNEWA is privileged to work for, through and with these churches, a mandate given to us when Pope Pius XI founded CNEWA in 1926. But navigating this labyrinth of patriarchs and popes, councils and creeds, can be daunting and confusing.

To help clear up this confusion, we’re launching a new series that we hope will provide our readers with a better understanding of the church and its rich history. Each Tuesday and Thursday, our ONE-TO-ONE blog will feature a short overview for each of the Eastern churches.

Each post will conclude with a link to a fuller account of that particular church as featured in CNEWA’s award-winning magazine, ONE.

We hope you’ll find this journey enlightening and enriching, and come away with a deeper appreciation for the diversity of our shared faith. We also think you’ll come to see, in the midst of all this complexity, a clarity and continuity that truly make us one.

Happy reading!

28 July 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

Father Andrawous Bahouth celebrates the Divine Liturgy at the 18th-century Church of St. Andrew in Akko, Israel. (photo: Ilene Perlman)

Scattered throughout the Middle East — and increasingly, the Americas, Europe and Oceania — a Christian community continues to bear a nickname first coined by its adversaries more than 1,500 years ago.

A Melkite (from the Syriac, malkaya, meaning “of the king”) once referred to a Christian who supported an emperor ruling from the city of Constantinople, now modern Istanbul; spoke Greek; lived in an urban center in the eastern Mediterranean region; and accepted the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon, promulgated in the year 451.

Today, most Melkites are Arabic-speaking Christians, or descendants of Arab-speakers, who belong to a church steeped in the traditions of the Christian East yet accept full communion with the pope in Rome. They are increasingly on the move, displaced from their livelihoods in a volatile Middle East, settling in the West, especially South America, where now more than half of all Melkites live. Though Melkite Greek Catholics constitute a small church within the Catholic communion, they boldly assert their rights, privileges, prerogatives and traditions while actively seeking unity with their Orthodox kin, from whom they have been separated since the early 18th century.

In 2004, Father Elias Hanout greeted children in front of St. Elias Melkite Greek Catholic Church in the southern Syrian town of Ezraa. The church, which dates to the sixth century and is among the oldest churches in the world, is in jeopardy as rebel forces close in on the largely Christian town. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

The Melkite Greek Catholic Church shares in the heritage of the ancient Syrian city of Antioch, now in southern Turkey. Founded by the Apostles Peter and Paul, the church of Antioch — where the followers of Jesus first earned the name “Christian” (Acts 11:26) — became the Christian hub of the eastern Mediterranean.

When the leaders of the churches of Constantinople and Rome excommunicated each other in the year 1054 — the definitive rupture separating what we now call the Orthodox and Catholic churches — the Melkite patriarch of Antioch, choosing no side in the dispute, tried to reconcile the two.

Eventually, the church of Antioch sided with Constantinople. When the Crusaders seized Antioch in 1098, they appointed a Latin patriarch and expelled the Melkite incumbent, who fled to Constantinople. It was during this period of exile that the original liturgical rites utilized by the Melkites and identified as “Antiochene” were replaced by the Byzantine rites of the church of Constantinople.

Based in the war-weary Syrian capital of Damascus, the worldwide Melkite Greek Catholic Church is led by the vigorous Patriarch Gregory III and a synod of bishops not fearful of tackling challenging issues. “Christianity survived in the Middle East because of the married priests,” said one, Archbishop George Bakhouny of Akka in Israel. The Eastern tradition, he said, is “to choose someone who has his own work in the particular village, a good man, a faithful man, a Christian man. He will study a little bit, some theology and philosophy, and he will be ordained.” It doesn’t matter, he continued, if it is impractical to send a married man to the seminary for six years.

“We don’t want all of them to be doctors or theologians,” he said, but witnesses. Priests don’t all have to be well-spoken orators; they could even be fishermen.

Read a full account of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church from ONE magazine here.

28 July 2015
Greg Kandra

The Rev. Sharbel Bcheiry stands outside the gate of the factory where he works as a machinist.
(photo: Karen Callaway)

The Summer 2015 edition of ONE features a look at a day in the life of a Chicago man who is a husband, father, factory worker — and priest:

As the city of Chicago prepares for bed, the Rev. Sharbel Iskandar Bcheiry prepares to head to work, not the work of a priest &mash; visiting the sick or administering the sacraments — but that of a laborer in a factory, earning money to feed and shelter his family.

A priest of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Father Bcheiry, says some North American parishes can support their priest and his family. But, the 42-year-old priest says, “We have a small parish. We don’t have enough financial support.”

Having earned a doctorate in church history, he had originally hoped to find work at a local university.

“It’s not a choice to go to work in a factory. I have to do it. If not, there is no survival — not for the community, and not for us,” he adds, gesturing to his family.

So this husband and father of two travels an hour each day to work the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift at one of the world’s largest suppliers of forging die steels, plastic mold steels, die casting tool steels and custom open-die forgings.

He started out as a welder-fabricator working the day shift and is now a machinist. But he has not abandoned his academic pursuits; he continues to study and publish books and articles. Indeed, factory work even provides him with a distinctive view of theology.

“It’s the practical theology,” Father Bcheiry says. “How to deal with the daily life. Punch in. Punch out. You have bosses, this one or the other yell at you. There is no privilege.”

To spend a day with Father Bcheiry is to witness a life that might surprise those who imagine priests divide all their time between praying and preaching.

For Father Bcheiry, that is just the beginning.

Read the rest of the story here.

28 July 2015
Greg Kandra

A Ukrainian serviceman cleans his machine gun on the frontline in the village of Maryinka in the Donetsk region on 21 July 2015. (photo: Anatolii Stepanov /AFP/Getty Images)

Rebels in eastern Ukraine block crucial aid (Vatican Radio) The biggest supplier of aid to rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine says its mission could end by Wednesday, if Russian-backed separatists continue to block its convoys, despite concerns over severe shortages for many destitute people, including many children...

Family of kidnapped priest consoled by Pope’s appeal (Vatican Radio) The family of the Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio, the Italian Jesuit priest kidnapped in Syria nearly two years ago, has thanked Pope Francis for offering them consolation in their moment of trial. At this past Sunday’s Angelus, Pope Francis appealed for the release of Fr. Dall’Oglio and of two Orthodox bishops of Aleppo who were also kidnapped during the raging confict in Syria in 2013...

Syrian refugees in Armenia “stumble from one crisis to another” (Al-Monitor) Armenia is currently mired in a grim economic situation of its own that has sent hundreds of thousands of its citizens abroad in pursuit of work — meaning some remaining locals haven’t always welcomed the increased competition for jobs. With unresolved disputes on its borders with neighboring Turkey, and Azerbaijan draining the budget and stymieing trade, the government has found itself ill-equipped to deal with the needs of its 3 million citizens, let alone a smattering of destitute refugees. Nowhere are these difficulties better illustrated than at Yerevan’s “Aleppo market,” where Syrian shopkeepers scrape to make a living in an unassuming pedestrian underpass with low foot traffic near the capital’s central Republic Square...

Photo essay: Gaza residents living without electricity up to 18 hours a day (International Business Times) The Gaza Strip, home to 1.8 million people, has been experiencing up to 18 hours of power cuts a day. The coastal enclave’s only power plant halted production earlier in July in a dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) over fuel tax. Hamas has been paying the PA for imported fuel but was unable to afford the tax bill. Qatar had donated $10m (£6.42m), effectively exempting Hamas from paying the tax, but this has dried up...

27 July 2015
Greg Kandra

Bishop Gregory Petros XX Ghabroyan — in French, Grégoire Pierre XX Ghabroyan — was elected the new patriarch for the Armenian Catholic Church on 25 July to succeed the deceased Patriarch Bedros Nerses XIX. Read more about his life here. And to learn more about the Armenian Catholic Church, read our profile. (photo: Vatican Radio)

27 July 2015
Greg Kandra

Turkish tanks patrol close to the village of Elbeyli, near the border with Syria in southeastern Turkey on 25 July 2015, as the Turkey raises its security measures along the borderline
with Syria. (photo: Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Turkey and U.S. plan Syria “safe zone” for refugees (The New York Times) Turkey and the United States have agreed in general terms on a plan that envisions American warplanes, Syrian insurgents and Turkish forces working together to sweep Islamic State militants from a 60-mile-long strip of northern Syria along the Turkish border, American and Turkish officials say. The plan would create what officials from both countries are calling an Islamic State-free zone controlled by relatively moderate Syrian insurgents, which the Turks say could also be a “safe zone” for displaced Syrians...

Pope congratulates new Armenian patriarch (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message of congratulations to the new Armenian Catholic Paticarch of Cilicia, his Beatiude Grégoire Pierre XX Ghabroyan. In the message Pope Francis expresses his joy at the Patriarch’s election and the hope that his new ministry will bear many fruits. The Holy Father in the congratulatory note also grants his Beatiude Grégoire Pierre XX Ghabroyan the “Ecclesiastical Communion” which the Patricarch requested in an earlier letter...

Officials refuse to let nun in Kerala take exam because of her veil (International Business Times) A Kerala nun was denied permission to appear for the retest of the All India Pre-Medical/Pre-Dental Entrance Test (AIPMT) after she refused to remove her veil and cross on Saturday, 25 July in Thiruvananthapuram. The incident happened at Jawahar Central School in Kanjiramkulam, when Sister Seba arrived at the exam centre with Mother Superior of her convent on Saturday. The incident, in which the school authorities asked the nun to remove the veil, has sparked outrage in different parts of the state...

Aleppo archbishop aims to help Christians stay in Syria (CNA) With half of Syria’s population displaced due to its ongoing civil war, Church leaders in the country are seeking to send a message of hope and support for the persecuted Christian minority who have chosen to stay. “At the time of this writing, Aleppo is undergoing a massive assault by jihadists, and bombs have been falling for hours. It is as if everything is being done to scare people and push them to leave,” Melkite Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of Aleppo wrote in a 17 July letter. “We want to convey a message of optimism, one that encourages perseverance,” he said...

How Gaza’s businesswomen are beating the blockade (The Week) Nine years under an Israeli economic blockade, which Egypt has intermittently enforced too, makes Gaza an unlikely place to find a thriving start-up sector. Parts of the coastal enclave remain devastated after last summer’s war, the worst in modern times, and the third in six years in this narrow strip on the Mediterranean Sea. Energy shortages mean there are only eight hours of electricity each day here and the lack of 3G service also hinders connectivity. Yet a couple of blocks up from the beachfront, a new generation of entrepreneurs is working to rival the regional start-up hubs of Amman, Cairo and Beirut. “We have some people in Gaza who are incredibly smart and are totally comparable to what you see elsewhere in the region,” says Iliana Montauk, director of the Gaza Sky Geeks start-up accelerator...

Tags: Syria Gaza Strip/West Bank Kerala Armenia Turkey

24 July 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

An Iraqi refugee receives a dental checkup at the Martha Schmouny Clinic in Erbil. Under the guidance of Sister Diana Momeka, the Martha Schmouny Clinic has grown from an overwhelmed, improvised infirmary to a complex of facilities resembling a basic hospital. To learn more about this institution, and other ways sisters are working to help Erbil’s displaced Christians, read Grace — the cover story of our brand-new Summer 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)

Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Sisters Health Care Iraqi Refugees

24 July 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

Erbil’s Ain Kawa is a temporary home for many Christian refugees displaced by ISIS. (video: Rudaw)

Christian refugees languish in camps, looking for hope (Rudaw) Marolin Sabri is angry. The 28-year-old mother of three says she is sick and tired of local officials who have made promises to her community of Assyrian Christian refugees that nestles together in a former church in Kirkuk. “I have to laugh. So many people have come from the government saying they will help us, but we are only surviving on the help from NGOs and the church,” she said. Sabri is one of thousands of Christian refugees who were brutally driven from their homes by the Islamic State, or ISIS, and sought safety in cities and towns across the Kurdistan region. Sabri’s home town of Bartella is still held by ISIS, and she wonders if she’ll ever return…

Ecumenical Institute for the Middle East will train young Christians (World Council of Churches) A new initiative called the Ecumenical Institute for the Middle East is “promising and inspiring” in its attempt to train young Christians in ecumenical thought and history, according to the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (W.C.C.). The W.C.C. general secretary met with organizers, students and faculty of the Ecumenical Institute for the Middle East on 20 July during a visit to Beirut, Lebanon…

Turkey bombs ISIS targets in Syria (BBC) Turkish planes have for the first time carried out air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria. In the early hours of Friday, police launched raids against ISIS and Kurdish militants across the country, arresting 297 people. The arrests come after the Kurdistan Worker’s Party’s military wing said it killed two Turkish police officers on Wednesday. The group claims the men collaborated with ISIS in the bombing of a Kurdish activists’ group on Monday that killed 32 people…

West Bank village anxiously awaits demolition (Al Jazeera) As Palestinians in the West Bank celebrated the Eid ul Fitr holiday, the end of Ramadan was marred for residents of Khirbet Susiya by fears that demolition orders would be carried out on their homes. In May, Israel’s High Court of Justice lifted a freeze on demolition orders issued against homes in the Palestinian village of Khirbet Susiya, located in the south Hebron Hills. Rights group B’Tselem warned that, due to settler pressure, Israeli authorities had decided to undertake the demolition of these homes even before the court hears a petition by residents scheduled for 3 August…

Tags: Syria Iraq Middle East Christians Turkey West Bank

23 July 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

Now available online is the summer edition of CNEWA’s award-winning magazine, ONE.

This edition takes you to the plains of northern Iraq, where one year ago ISIS stormed ancient villages, wiping out 2,000 years of a Christian presence in Mesopotamia. You will meet the heroic women who, a year after their exodus, have cast aside their own needs and fears to care for those men, women and children in need of the graces of hope and healing.

You will hear from a young priest from Lebanon who works in a factory in Chicago to support his parish, his wife and his children. And you will meet his wife, who reveals the origins of her own vocation.

Armenia is rich in culture, long in history, and fueled by faith. Read the story of one woman caring for the country’s new orphans, the elderly.

There is much more — including stories only available online, and features focusing on the activities of religious sisters, women working in harm’s way in India and the Middle East. And walk through the pages of our “virtual print edition,” an interactive feature that looks like our print edition, but includes links to videos and much more.

We are very proud of ONE, which year after year receives acclaim from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada for its first rate reporting, writing and moving photographs.

23 July 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

Syro-Malabar Catholic Sisters speak with neighborhood women outside their convent in east Delhi’s Mandawali area in India. To learn more about the work of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in this and the surrounding areas, read Caste Aside, from the Summer 2014 edition of ONE. (photo: John Mathew)

Tags: India Sisters Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Women

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