Current Issue
June, 2017
Volume 43, Number 2
16 May 2017
Greg Kandra

An Iraqi Federal Police member walks next to a destroyed house after their clashes with Islamic State fighters in Mosul, Iraq, on 28 April. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

Iraq says battle for Mosul is nearly won (Reuters) Iraqi forces have dislodged Islamic State from all but 12 square km of Mosul, a military spokesman said on Tuesday, after planes dropped leaflets into the city telling civilians the battle was nearly won. Seven months into the U.S.-backed campaign, the militants now control only a few districts in the western half of Mosul including the Old City, where Islamic State is expected to make its last stand...

U.S. says Syria built crematoriums to handle mass prisoner killings (The Washington Post) The Syrian government has constructed and is using a crematorium at its notorious Sednaya military prison near Damascus to clandestinely dispose of the bodies of prisoners it continues to execute inside the facility, the State Department said Monday...

Local Muslims contribute to building of Christian church in Egypt (Fides) It took little more than a year to build the second church in the village of Ismailia, in the Egyptian province of Minya. The Christian place of worship was also built in a short space of time thanks to the financial contribution of the local Muslim population. The inauguration of the new church, dedicated to St. George and the Virgin Mary, took place last week with the festive participation of many villagers, Christians and Muslims...

Catholic bishops seek help from Indian president to protect indigenous people (Vatican Radio) Catholic bishops from India's tribal lands have sought the intervention of President Pranab Mukherjee to ensure the rights of millions of adivasis or indigenous people. The memorandum signed by bishops from six states with large tribal populations said they were “saddened” by the policies of state governments that have trampled over tribal people’s rights...

Letter from patriarch regarding his resignation ( Abandonment of Patriarchal Service is the culmination of my Catholic Christian, monastic and humanitarian life’s work: a period during which the Holy Savior has bestowed his blessings on me...

Russia finances restorations of ‘Star Street’ in Bethlehem (Fides) The Russian government has decided to finance $4 million in restoration and reconstruction work in the historic center of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus...

Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Muslim ISIS

15 May 2017
Philip W. Eubanks

College freshman Christopher O’Hara greets CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar during a fundraiser hosted last week at Gallagher’s Steak House in New York City. Joining him are Christopher’s parents, Kelly and Chris O’Hara. (photo: CNEWA)

A little over a month ago, I was blessed to travel with CNEWA president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, on a pastoral visit to Lebanon. While there, we toured schools, medical clinics, a seminary, and refugee camps to see just how CNEWA accompanies the poor, suffering, and displaced throughout the Middle East. For me, it was a humbling trip — one that made me eager to return home and share with our donor family stories of the real need facing this community, as well as my own first-hand accounts of the tremendous good our donors have made possible.

With thanks to the O’Hara family and, in particular, their son Christopher, we were able to share a little about that trip recently at Gallagher’s Steakhouse in midtown Manhattan. Christopher is a freshmen with Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service who, as a junior at Chaminade High School on Long Island, wanted to reach out to help people in need. (Coincidentally, Father Walsh was CNEWA’s first president). Last year, Christopher organized a special evening to raise awareness and support for the Christian community in the Middle East and the people they serve.

During this year’s gathering, Msgr. Kozar not only shared stories from our trip to Lebanon, but also about his recent trip to Iraq as one of the first Westerners to visit some of the liberated towns on the Nineveh Plain.

Msgr. Kozar also spoke of a convent and a church he toured where extremists had used the buildings as target practice and ransacked every icon and liturgical book. He spoke of the courage of a group of parishioners who came with brooms to clean the church so that they could celebrate Easter Mass — with hardly any parishioners present.

The need has been particularly great across the Middle East lately, and that’s why an evening bringing together some of CNEWA’s friends and supporters in the greater New York City area was a real opportunity to provide an update of what’s happening — and make a difference at the same time. More than that, is exciting for us at CNEWA to know that we count young people among some of our most faithful supporters.

Christopher O’Hara’s efforts to raise awareness was inspiring to another group of youth, a volunteer initiative calling themselves “Relief United,” who recently held a Battle of the Bands concert to help Syrian refugees. (You can read about their efforts here.) Together, the students were able to show that the youth of today can offer powerful and faithful acts of generosity and mercy. All of us here at CNEWA could not be more thankful for their cheerful and enthusiastic service on our behalf.

If you’d like to support Christopher in his efforts to make an impact in the lives of this struggling community of faith in the Middle East, you can make a donation here.

15 May 2017
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

A menorah and its shadow are seen in one part of an exhibition on the menorah at the Vatican on 15 May. The second part of the exhibition is at the Jewish Museum in Rome.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

The Vatican Museums and the Jewish Museum of Rome are exploring together the significance of the menorah, although they also give a nod to the centuries-old legend that the Vatican is hiding the golden menorah from the Temple of Jerusalem.

A two-part exhibition, one at the Vatican and the other at the Jewish Museum of Rome, prominently features a replica of the 1st-century Arch of Titus, showing Roman soldiers carrying the menorah and other treasures into Rome.

From a coin minted in the century before Christ’s birth to a 1987 Israeli comic book featuring a superhero with a menorah on his chest, the exhibit, “The Menorah: Worship, History and Myth,” documents the use of the seven-branched candelabra both as a religious item and a symbol of Jewish identity.

The exhibit is scheduled to be open through 23 July. One ticket includes admission to the main part of the exhibit in the Charlemagne Wing just off St. Peter’s Square and to the Jewish Museum, located about a mile away at Rome’s main synagogue.

Among the pieces displayed at the Jewish Museum stands a towering mosaic inscription describing treasures buried at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. Dating from the 13th century, while the Crusades were raging, the mosaic’s 37-line inventory includes “the golden candelabrum” Titus brought to Rome.

The legend has persisted for centuries that the Vatican is hiding the solid gold menorah — if not at St. John Lateran, then in a cave at the Vatican. Jewish religious and political leaders continue to ask the popes to return the piece.

Arnold Nesselrath, director of the Department of Byzantine, Medieval and Modern Art at the Vatican Museums, said the mosaic from the time of the reign of Pope Nicholas IV is the last the Vatican heard of the famous menorah. Excavations under the altar of St. John Lateran and the surrounding area in the early 20th century turned up no trace of the treasures.

Still, he said, the legend documents just how important the menorah is in Jewish culture.

Francesco Leone, the art historian who prepared the exhibit catalogue, told Catholic News Service the most historically reliable explanation of the Temple menorah’s fate is that it was taken as booty from Rome by the Vandals or Goths before the end of the fifth century and melted down.

The oldest object in the exhibit is the “Magdala stone,” a carved block from a synagogue in the Galilee excavated in 2009. The stone, which has a carved menorah on one side, is from before the time of Jesus.

Alessandra Di Castro, director of the Jewish Museum, said working with the Vatican Museums and with scholars both of them called on to help with the research, “we experienced firsthand how working together brought each of us new understanding.”

Nesselrath agreed, saying, “The collaboration was a process of deepening respect for what is sacred to the other.”

Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, writing in the exhibit catalogue said, “The Jewish link with the menorah is ancient, strong and full of symbolic significance, and the link has never been broken.”

15 May 2017
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis leads the Regina Coeli on Sunday 14 May. After, he entrusted all those suffering from war and conflict to Mary, the Queen of Peace. (photo: CNS/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

Pope entrusts those afflicted by war to Mary, Queen of Peace (Vatican Radio) Following the Regina Coeli on Sunday, Pope Francis entrusted “to Mary, the Queen of Peace, the destiny of the peoples afflicted by wars and conflicts, particularly in the Middle East.” Many innocent people, he said, whether Christians, or Muslims, or members of minority groups such as the Yazidis, are “sorely tried,” suffering “tragic violence and discrimination...”

Activists say airstrikes on ISIS town killed at least 20 (AP) Syrian activists say airstrikes on a town held by the Islamic State group near the Iraqi border have killed at least 20 civilians. It isn’t clear who is behind the raid on Boukamal but various activist groups blame the U.S.-led coalition, which is waging war on IS. The claims could not be independently verified...

Bishop: Copts make up 15 percent of Egyptian population (Egyptian Independent) Copts are not a minority in Egyptian society as they number about 15 million, which is equivalent to more than 15 percent of the total population, said Bishop Daniel, Pope Tawadros’s deputy. In a welcoming ceremony for the African media delegation on behalf of Pope Tawadros II, who is currently on a pastoral tour to Egyptian churches in Europe, Daniel said Africa used to fall under the pastoral range of the Pope of the Coptic Church...

Kuwaiti doctors treating refugees in Jordan (Arab Times) Al-Rahma International, an affiliate of Kuwait’s Social Reforms Society, has sent in a team of medical volunteers of various specialties to treat Syrian refugees in the Kingdom...

Muslim birth rate on the rise in Kerala (Times of India) The Muslim birth rate in the state has been rising steadily, while the birth rate of Hindus and Christians has marked a decline, an analysis of vital statistics report prepared by economics and statistics department reveal...

12 May 2017
Greg Kandra

The sisters of St. Tornike of Athos Monastery in Mtskheta, Georgia begin each day in prayer. Read more about these remarkable women who have chosen Alternative Lifestyles in the September 2007 edition of ONE. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)

12 May 2017
Greg Kandra

In this image from February, a man fills buckets with drinking water in a public filling area in Aleppo, Syria. The U.N. reports that Aleppo is on the road to recovery, but it will be a long journey. (photo: CNS/Youssef Badawi, EPA)

Aleppo progresses along the road to recovery (UNHCR) Six months on from the east Aleppo evacuations — when civilians first saw a glimmer of hope after many months of miserable existence and enormous suffering — life for some is slowly restarting. But the road to recovery will be a long one. There is catastrophic damage to infrastructure, destroyed homes and shops and questions over how those returning to their former lives can earn a living...

Maronite bishops praise establishment of ‘ministry for the fight against corruption’ in Lebanon (Fides) The national emergencies that all Lebanon’s political forces must urgently face are the fight against the “cancer” of corruption and the search for a widest possible consensus around a new electoral law that will allow the country to renew Parliament and safeguard it from the risk of falling into a new institutional paralysis. These are the suggestions addressed to Lebanese political forces by the Maronite Bishop’s Assembly which gathered on Wednesday, 10 May at the patriarchal seat of Bkerkè...

A helping hand for refugees in Jordan (Vatican Radio) With more than 5 million Syrian refugees living in nearby countries, ‘Collateral Repair Project’ is a charitable organization in Jordan that brings desperately-needed assistance to these refugees and other victims of war and conflict, those commonly referred to as “collateral damage...”

Islamic preacher faces religious contempt charges for calling Christians and Jews ‘infidels’ (Fides) Sheikh Salem Abdul Jalil has tried to soften the controversy caused by his recent televised statement in which he defined Christians and Jews “infidels” and their doctrine “corrupt.” But the controversy around the case does not seem to stop: several jurists — including Coptic Naguib Gabriel — denounced the Muslim Sheikh to the judicial authority on charges of religious contempt. And Jalil could appear before the judges on 25 June...

Documentary on Bethlehem turns into a mission for peace (Catholic Register) Finding peace in the birthplace of Christ has been an elusive mission, but one that Leila Sansour has taken on with determined vigour through her documentary film Open Bethlehem.The film, originally released in 2014, follows Sansour in her campaign to stop the building of a wall which Israel considers essential for protection from terrorists and Palestine says is meant to isolate its citizens. Whatever the viewpoint, what Sansour saw was her hometown suffering immensely because of the wall construction...

11 May 2017
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2004, a Melkite Greek Catholic priest from southern Syria sits with his family. Read about the Christian heritage of this troubled country in Deep Roots in a Fertile Land in the May-June 2004 edition of ONE.

11 May 2017
Greg Kandra

In this image from March, a Syrian refugee widow, 25-years-old Hawla Shafi, who fled from the Syrian town of Raqqa, is seen with her children in front of an abandoned electric transformer building in Sanliurfa, Turkey. Raqqa has just been recaptured by the opposition forces.
(photo: Halil Fidan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

U.S.-led coalition lauds capture of ISIS town in Syria (AP) The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group says the Kurdish-led Syrian opposition forces’ capture of a key town and nearby dam in eastern Syria from the militants undermines IS’s ability to defend its de facto capital, Raqqa. Thursday’s coalition statement says the fall of Tabqa and its dam the day before also denies ISIS “a key coordination hub” used by the group’s foreign fighters since 2013 to plan operations and attacks against the West...

Drought surging once again in Ethiopia ( The national, Risk Management Commission reported the number of people who are in need of urgent assistance has reached 7.7 million. The number is 31 percent higher compared to what it was six months ago...

Focolare Movement organizes events in India to strengthen interreligious dialogue (Fides) Promoting unity, peace and solidarity among young people belonging to different religions in India: this is the aim of a series of events that the Focolare Movement in India have organized in May, especially to strengthen the path of interreligious dialogue. The theme of the special week, celebrated by young Focolare people at an international level, was “Change your heart to change the world...”

Metropolitan Tikhon addresses World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians in Washington ( His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, offered welcoming remarks at the opening session of “Martyrs for Christ,” the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians that opened here on 10 May 2017. “This Summit takes place during the season of the resurrection of Christ, in which we celebrate the victory of the Life-giver over death and the destruction of corruption by the Divine Physician,” said Metropolitan Tikhon...

Russian found guilty for inciting religious hatred for playing ‘Pokemon Go’ in church (The Washington Post) A judge in Russia’s fourth-largest city has convicted a blogger who played ‘Pokémon Go” in a renowned Orthodox cathedral of inciting religious hatred and insulting the feelings of believers, the state RIA-Novosti news agency reported Thursday...

10 May 2017
Greg Kandra

A catechism class prays after celebrating the Divine Liturgy in Cairo. To learn more about how Christians are keeping the faith in Egypt, often under difficult circumstances, read Anxiety in Cairo in the current edition of ONE. (photo: David Degner)

10 May 2017
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II attend an ecumenical prayer service at St. Peter’s Church in Cairo on 28 April. The church was the site of a December 2016 bombing. In a letter to Pope Tawadros today, Pope Francis called for “unity in diversity.”
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope calls for unity in diversity in letter to Pope Tawadros II (CNS) In a letter to Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, Pope Francis said he hoped that both their churches can continue along the path of true unity and communion. The bond between the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church is a reminder “to intensify our common efforts to persevere in the search for visible unity in diversity, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” the pope wrote in a letter to the patriarch on 10 May...

Battle for Mosul: 400,000 Iraqis displaced in two months (Al Jazeera) More than 400,000 people have been displaced from western Mosul about two months into the Iraqi army’s battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), according to the UN. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said, citing the Iraqi government, that 434,775 people have fled ISIL’s last stronghold in Iraq since Iraqi forces launched the western Mosul operation on 19 February...

Ethiopian cardinal calls for strengthening of families (Vatican Radio) His Eminence Cardinal Berhaneyesus, C.M., Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Ababa, President of CBCE and AMECEA Chairman has called on parents to be a primary and reliable means of information for their children. He said that this post modern era is a challenging time for the youth to make an informed decision about their life and the path they want to choose. His Eminence said this in the speech he delivered at the national forum on building integral being of adolescents and youth organized by the Ethiopian Ministry of Youth and Sports in Addis Ababa...

Orthodox graffiti comes to Russia ( The Russian Orthodox Church and street art don’t tend to go hand in hand, but a recent collaboration between a provincial street artist and a priest has proven an exception to that rule. Last month, an artist who goes by “Rimrus” from the city of Volgodonsk in southern Russia, noticed that the wall surrounding an Orthodox church in his hometown was covered in graffiti, and he decided to do something about it. In a letter to a local priest, Rimrus suggested the church cover up the graffiti with its own street art and proposed a design. The priest immediately granted permission and even offered to provide paint to the artist...

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