Current Issue
Spring, 2016
Volume 42, Number 1
15 March 2016
Greg Kandra

Flora Sargsyan, project manager for Caritas Armenia, works to assist Armenia’s elderly.
(photo: Nazik Armenakyan)

CNEWA has long had a concern for the poor and marginalized people throughout Eastern Europe, and works with religious and lay agencies to provide support where it is most needed.

We’ve partnered with Caritas Armenia to serve Armenia’s elderly — “the new orphans” of that part of the world — and one person who has been at the forefront of that effort is Flora Sargsyan, who runs a senior day care center in Gyumri. In the summer of 2015, she wrote about her work in the pages of ONE:

Despite years of work experience, Armenia’s elderly find themselves in hard socioeconomic situations in this post-Soviet period — deprived of jobs and a steady income while trying to live on miserable, inadequate pensions. Unfortunately, their situation has worsened with the massive migration of young people seeking jobs outside the country, leaving their aged parents alone and helpless.

The elderly encounter a lot of hardships; some can’t take care of their health needs, or even handle the routines of daily life. It is a challenge for them just to survive in their late age. They need support — physical, material, psychological and spiritual.

The initiatives we implement are intended to improve their quality of life. We work to help those who are physically and mentally frail to be integrated into society and to be treated with respect and care. We provide an array of supportive services conducted by social workers, medical nurses, caregivers and volunteers.

Each time I visit the people we serve, I feel I need to offer them encouragement. Most are alone and have lost hope. They are anxious for our visits; they long to engage with others, to speak and to be heard. The elderly need proper hygiene, clean homes, hot meals; they also need medical care and attention. This is what our programs help provide. A caregiver or nurse might help bathe the patient or offer to cook or clean — even dress their hair.

Our caregivers are vital to the elderly because they soothe their pain — both physical and emotional. They help ease the sufferings of their souls.

Read more about Flora’s heroic mission here.

15 March 2016
Greg Kandra

Pharmacist Falah Ahmad distributes medicine to displaced Iraqis from the back of the mobile clinic. The clinic, supported in part by CNEWA, is a lifeline for thousands of refugees. Read more about it in Health on Wheels in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE, now available online.
(photo: Raed Rafei)

15 March 2016
Greg Kandra

A Russian fighter bomber prepares to leave the Hmeymim air base for its permanent base in Russia. On 14 March 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an order to start the withdrawal of the main part of Russian forces from Syria. (Photo: TASS via Getty Images)

New round of peace talks as Russia withdraws troops from Syria (Vatican Radio) President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian military to withdraw most of its forces from Syria, timing his move to coincide with the launch of Syria peace talks. But Mr Putin made it clear that Russia will maintain its air base and a naval facility in Syria and keep some troops there...

Holy See: Syria experiencing crimes against humanity (Vatican Radio) The Vatican on Tuesday said it is “urgent” to begin immediately the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the population of Syria. Monsignor Richard Gyhra, the Chargé d’affaires of the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, was speaking at the United Nations Human Rights Council...

Russian Orthodox center nears completion in Paris (TASS) The construction of a Russian Orthodox cathedral is nearing completion in Paris with its domes to be mounted on Saturday, 19 March. The cathedral will be part of the Cultural and Spiritual Russian Orthodox Center located on Quai Branly near the Eiffel Tower. It will incorporate a French-Russian primary school for 150 school students, a library, exhibition halls, premises of an Orthodox parish and a seminary...

Iraq’s last Christian soldiers (The Daily Beast) Martin Banni is the last of his family in Iraq. The 25-year-old Christian fled his village of Keremles when the so-called Islamic State invaded the Nineveh Plains in the summer of 2014. Today he lives in a camp in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, while the rest of his family lives in San Diego. The thought of one day working to preserve his ancient community is what keeps him here. “Abroad we might have safety,” he says. “But we will disappear...”

Mother Teresa to be canonized 4 September (Vatican Radio) At a public Consistory held on Tuesday, Pope Francis gave his approval for the canonization of five new saints...

14 March 2016
Greg Kandra

Parishioners sing Armenian hymns during the Divine Liturgy at Sts. Peter and Paul Church, which they share with the local Roman Catholic community. To learn more about Catholics in Armenia, read A Firm Faith from the Spring 2014 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)

14 March 2016
Greg Kandra

The video above, posted online by the ISIS news agency Amaq, reportedly shows ISIS soldiers burning Christian books in Mosul. (video: YouTube)

Video: ISIS burning Christian books in Mosul (AINA) ISIS has released a video purporting to show members of its religious police burning hundreds of Christian books which it considers blasphemous towards Allah. The footage shows a militant tossing pamphlets and manuscripts bearing crucifixes on the front cover onto a bonfire in the terror group’s stronghold of Mosul in northern Iraq. It is the latest incident in which the jihadists have sought to purge society of anything that doesn’t conform to their violent interpretation of Islam. The video was posted online yesterday by its news agency Amaq...

Turkey carries out airstrikes after deadly bombing in Ankara (AP) Turkey’s air force hit Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq on Monday, hours after a suicide car bombing in the capital killed 37 people and heightened tensions with the militants...

Indian bishops: Church must leave it’s “comfort zone”> (Fides) “As citizens of the country, we put our trust in democratic values and in the Indian Constitution. Trusting in the grace, love and mercy of God, we walk to accomplish the mission that God has entrusted us. We appeal to all people of good will in India to cooperate with us for a better church and a better society.” This is how the Indian bishops expressed themselves in the final document of their 32nd Plenary Assembly, held from 2 to 9 March in Bangalore...

Gaza’s new generation of children only knows war, aggression ( If you keep depriving children from Gaza of everything, eventually some of them will join armed conflict and Israel will have no one to blame but themselves, Belal Dabour, a Palestinian doctor from Gaza, told RT...

Pope marks third anniversary of election with talk on mercy (CNS) Pope Francis celebrated the third anniversary of his election with a simple Tweet — “Pray for me” — and the usual Sunday recitation of the Angelus prayer with tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square. In his talk 13 March, the pope did not mention the anniversary, but focused on God’s forgiveness and mercy as he did in his first Angelus address in 2013...

11 March 2016
CNEWA staff

In this image from 2012, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar visits St. Anthony’s Dayssadan in India, a home for children with physical disabilities run by the Preshitharam Sisters.
(photo: CNEWA)

It was 90 years ago today — 11 March 1926 —that what we now know as Catholic Near East Welfare Association was born:

Some background:

On 11 March 1926, Pope Pius XI decided to unite permanently into one organization and under one administration all the American Catholic associations working for assistance to Russia and other areas of the Near East and in general working for the same goals as the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Church and the Pontifical Commission for Russia. This new pontifical organization was to be called the “Catholic Near East Welfare Association” (CNEWA). It was placed under the immediate direction of the archbishop of New York, and he was invited to form a governing body selected from the American hierarchy. The funds raised by the new association were to be placed directly at the disposition of the Holy Father, who would disburse them in response to the requests for assistance coming to him from all over the world or recommended to him by CNEWA itself.

It has been a remarkable 90 years, and a time worth remembering with humble gratitude and joy. Over the next several months, in our magazine and here on the blog, we'll be taking note of this milestone in a variety of ways. Beginning today, we launch a special series, “90 Years / 90 Heroes,” saluting just a few of the ordinary people who have done extraordinary work on behalf of CNEWA — and, as a result, on behalf of the poor and suffering throughout our world. During this Year of Mercy, we feel especially privileged to have been messengers of mercy to the poor, the hungry, the persecuted and the marginalized. And we owe a profound debt of gratitude to countless donors and benefactors who have helped us carry out our mission.

Two years ago, our president Msgr. John E. Kozar articulated that mission eloquently in this video below. Embarking on our 10th decade of service on behalf of the Holy Father, we are forever thankful to those who have joined us on this journey. As our mission statement declares: “Together, we build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue — and inspire hope.”

A blessed and happy anniversary to all who are part of our CNEWA family — and be assured of our continued prayers!

11 March 2016
Greg Kandra

Rev. Paul Wattson, S.A. (1863-1940). (photo: Graymoor Archives)

Over the next several months, as CNEWA marks its 90th anniversary, we’ll be spotlighting 90 people who made a profound difference in our world over these last 90 years — and it’s only fitting that we begin at the beginning.

The first of our “90 Years, 90 Heroes” profiles features CNEWA’s co-founder, the Rev. Paul Wattson, who also founded the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement. Father Paul died in 1940; this past fall, the Archdiocese of New York formally opened his cause for canonization.

As the Rev. Elias D. Mallon, himself a Friar of the Atonement, wrote at the time:

Father Paul regarded other churches not as heretics and enemies, competitors or targets for proselytization, but as friends and fellow travelers on the road to the unity Christ wished for his church. He saw it as his task to be the Lamp that helped them on this journey.

His attitude toward other churches and his concern for the poor brought Father Paul in increasing contact with the Christians of the Middle East and India. After World War I, the situation of Christians in the Middle East was dire. Genocide was the order of the day for Christians in the lands of the Middle East. Millions of Armenians and hundreds of thousands of Christians from other Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches were either slaughtered or driven out of their homes as refugees.

Father Paul and the Rev. George Calvassy (later a bishop) of the Greek Byzantine Catholic Church sought a way to alleviate the sufferings of all Christians in the Middle East. Their attempts took many different routes, some of them dead ends, but their efforts along with others resulted ultimately in the founding of Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) in 1926. Pope Pius XI formally recognized CNEWA as a pontifical organization and placed it under the direction of the archbishop of New York.

The Eastern churches — Catholic and Orthodox — were dear to the heart of Father Paul. Many bishops from these churches visited Father Paul at Graymoor to ask his help and express their gratitude for any assistance they received.

Father Paul died on 8 February 1940. His pioneering work for Christian unity today might be considered ahead of its time, and even prophetic. He did not live to see the Second Vatican Council and its decree on Christian Unity; he did not see the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity become a world-wide event promulgated by both the Vatican and the World Council of Churches. But his prayers, vision and passion laid the groundwork for vastly improved relations between Catholics and Orthodox Christians, and helped CNEWA become a significant force for humanitarian and pastoral aid in a Middle East — a troubled land that is once again in our own day a place of genocide and exile.

Read more about Father Paul here. And for the full history of CNEWA, check out this link.

11 March 2016
Greg Kandra

As we mark CNEWA’s 90th anniversary today, we are continually uplifted by the faith and joy of those we have met from around the world, especially the young people. Here are a few small glimmers of hope: young Syrian refugees at the Zahle camp in Lebanon in January of 2016.
(photo: John E. Kozar)

11 March 2016
Greg Kandra

A Syrian man reacts as rescue workers try to pull a victim out from under the rubble of a building following a reported air strike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of Salhin in the northern city of Aleppo on 11 March 2016. (photo: Thaer Mohammed/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian opposition says it will rejoin peace talks (AP) The main, Western-backed Syrian opposition groups say they’ll attend U.N.-sponsored peace talks with the Damascus government in Geneva starting on Monday. The groups, assembled under an umbrella known as the High Negotiations Committee, said in a statement Friday that their participation comes in response to “sincere” international efforts to end Syria’s five-year civil war. An ongoing, tentative but more-successful-than-expected cease-fire has seen a significant drop in violence across the country for almost two weeks...

Syriac Orthodox Patriarch calls on Eastern Christians who emigrate to preserve identity (Fides) The culture that the Christians in the Orient were raised into, “is undoubtedly different from the one they find in the West. This difference is observed in the difficulty which the refugees find in integrating in the western societies.” These are some eloquent thoughts contained in the Encyclical Letter addressed to the faithful by Patriarch Mar Ignatius Aprhrem II, Primate of the Syrian Orthodox Church, on the occasion of the beginning of Lent...

Suicides on rise in Gaza ( There is a strong taboo against suicide in the Gaza Strip, where Islam is the predominant religion. But on 9 February, Rezeq Abu Setta, 38 and a father of seven, joined a growing trend in the blockaded Palestinian territory. He attempted suicide. Abu Setta was one of the estimated 80 Gazans a month who tried to or succeeded in taking their lives in January and February — an alarming increase of 35-40 percent over previous years. And some sources suggest the total may be even higher...

Dalit Christians, Muslims demand quotas in India (Vatican Radio) Dalit Christians and Muslims in India are demanding that the government ensure them quotas in jobs and educational institutions, a right enjoyed by their Hindu counterparts...

Comboni Sisters mark 50 years in Bethany (Fides) The Comboni Missionary Sisters, the only missionary institute founded in 1872 by St. Daniele Comboni, have recently celebrated 50 years of presence in Bethany, the town of Judea currently in the territory of the Palestinian State, and separated by the nearby Jerusalem because of the wall of division...

10 March 2016
Antin Sloboda

St. George Cathedral in Lviv was the site of the 1946 meeting that forced the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church underground for over 40 years. (photo: John E. Kozar)

Today marks a significant and tragic anniversary for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

Seventy years ago today, 10 March 1946, the church was brutally liquidated by Stalin’s regime, when the territories of western Ukraine fell under Soviet rule.

The liquidation campaign was orchestrated by the Communist regime as a process of reunification of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church with the Russian Orthodox Church. A special “synod” was held at St. George’s Cathedral in Lviv; about 200 local Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests were coerced to participate. The synod did not have any ecclesiastical legal validity since none of the Ukrainian Catholic hierarchs took part in it; by then, most of them were either under arrest or already in concentration camps. But at this meeting, it was decided that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church would break its ties with the Holy See and that it would be absorbed by the Russian Orthodox Church.

From that point, all clergy and religious who refused were subject to persecution by state authorities. All Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops, along with most of the priests and religious, suffered harsh oppression by the authorities for not giving up their Catholic identity and for staying loyal to their faith and the pope. As a result, from 1946 till 1989, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church — numbering about 2,000 clergy and several million members — was forced underground.

Among the priests who stood up to the regime and refused to acknowledge the validity of the synod’s decisions was my late grandfather, Adam M. Morawski. Despite numerous threats to his life from the communist regime, he continued to minister to his flock as a Catholic priest. In 1949, he and his family were arrested and deported to a labor camp in Krasnoyarsk region in Siberia. After nine years in labor camps, they were allowed to leave Siberia. Father Adam continued to minister secretly as an underground Catholic priest in Soviet Ukraine for the rest of his life. He died in 1982, several years before the church was legalized with the collapse of the Soviet Union. I admire him for his principles, strong faith and his loyalty to the church.

This sad anniversary is a strong reminder that throughout history Catholic Eastern churches have paid a very high price for their Catholic identity — and that they are a great gift to the universal church.

To learn more about how Ukraine’s church is being revived today, read Out from Underground in the Autumn 2015 edition of ONE. And to support Catholics in Ukraine as they work to rebuild their church, visit this giving page.

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