19 June 2015
In this image from last year, Mor Ignatius Aphram II, Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church (right), arrives to vote at a polling station in Damascus. He visited the Vatican today to meet
with Pope Francis. (photo: Louai Beshara/Getty Images)
Pope Francis welcomes Syrian Orthodox Patriarch to Vatican (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis welcomed the Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Mor Ignatius Aphram II, to the Vatican on Friday. In his address to the Patriarch, Pope Francis spoke about the “bonds of unity and fraternity” that unite the Church of Rome to the Church of Antioch, recalling the meetings between Patriarch Mor Ignatius Jacob II and Pope Paul VI in Rome, and between Pope Saint John Paul II and Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka Iwas in Rome and Damascus...
Pontifical Council sends greetings for Ramadan (Vatican Radio) For the Islamic Month of Ramadan and the feast of Eid al-Fitr, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has published a Message to Muslims entitled “Christians and Muslims: Together to counter violence perpetrated in the name of religion.” In the Message, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the President of the Council, offers best wishes to Muslims “for a peaceful and joyful celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan...
Gaza flotilla to set sail (Al Jazeera) At least three boats carrying pro-Palestine activists are preparing to set sail to Gaza in the latest attempt to break Israel’s blockade against the territory. Members of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition in Palermo, Sicily, have told Al Jazeera that final preparations are under way, with the boats aiming to reach Gaza before the end of June. Activist Kalle Ohlsson said the flotilla’s main objective was not to bring aid, but to open Gaza’s port to allow freedom of movement and trade...
Evangelicals and Orthodox grow closer in Ethiopia (Christianity Today) Roughly two-thirds of Ethiopians are Christians. The majority of these belong to the ancient Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church; the rest primarily to Protestant denominations such as the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Makane Yesus (which recently broke ties with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America over theological concerns). The Orthodox and Protestants have long had in common the search for a better life. Increasingly, they share even more. Veteran SIM missionary Howard Brant celebrates that “the two groups are coming closer and closer together” in Ethiopia, which he calls “one of the great success stories of evangelical Christianity...”
Kerala church to observe Yoga Day Sunday (Business Standard) Observing that yoga practice was not against Christian faith, a Malankara Marthoma church in Kerala today said it will be observing the International Yoga Day on 21 June after the Holy Communion...Bishops Conference of India, apex body of the Catholic priests in the country, had earlier expressed displeasure over government’s decision to organise Yoga day on 21 June, saying Sundays are “sacred day” for Christians in the country. CBCI President and Syro-Malankara Major Archbishop Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, had made it clear that the Church was not against yoga, which was described as “anti-Islam” by certain Muslim bodies, including All India Muslim Personal Law Board...
18 June 2015
In this image from November, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople greet a small crowd after delivering a blessing in Istanbul.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I — dubbed “The Green Patriarch” — has written an eloquent and impassioned response to the new encyclical by Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ in an exclusive essay for TIME magazine:
In a series of seminars organized between 1994 and 1998 on the island of Halki off the coast of Istanbul in Turkey, we drew attention to the close connection between ecology and economy. Both terms share the Greek root oikos, which signifies “home.” It therefore came as no surprise to us that our beloved brother Francis of Rome opens his encyclical, which is being released today in the New Synod Hall of the Vatican, with a reference to God’s creation as “our common home.”
Nor again did it come as a surprise to us that Pope Francis underlined the ecumenical dimension of creation care — the term “ecumenism” also shares the same etymological origin as the words “ecology” and “economy.” The truth is that, above any doctrinal differences that may characterize the various Christian confessions and beyond any religious disagreements that may separate the various faith communities, the earth unites us in a unique and extraordinary manner. All of us ultimately share the earth beneath our feet and breathe the same air of our planet’s atmosphere. Even if we do not do enjoy the world’s resources fairly or justly, nevertheless all of us are responsible for its protection and preservation. This is precisely why today’s papal encyclical speaks of the need for “a new dialogue,” “a process of education” and “urgent action.”
...In the third year of our brother Pope Francis’s blessed ministry, we count it as a true blessing that we are able to share a common concern and a common vision for God’s creation.
18 June 2015
Fire damaged the historic Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish in northern Israel.
(photo: Israel Fire and Rescue Services/Haaretz)
A fire overnight did serious damage to a church built at the site where tradition holds that Jesus fed 5,000 in the miracle of the loaves and fish:
A fire broke out late Wednesday night at the historic Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish at Tabgha, located on the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel. Sixteen yeshiva students were arrested Thursday morning over suspected involvement in the arson.
The detained youths reportedly are residents of the West Bank and are being represented by the right-wing Honenu legal rights organization.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, Yoram Cohen, to conduct an accelerated investigation into the incident, his office announced.
“The shocking torching of a church is an attack on all of us,” Netanyahu said. “Freedom of worship in Israel is one of the foundation stones of our values and is protected by law. We will exercise the full weight of the law with those responsible for this criminal act. Hate and intolerance have no place in our society.”
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan denounced the attack as an “act of lowly cowardice which I fiercely condemn.” He ordered the northern district police to make investigation of this incident a top priority, adding: “We will not let anyone disrupt the coexistence between religions and ethnicities in Israel. Harming the principle of tolerance between religions is a blow to the most crucial values in Israel, and we will show zero tolerance for act like these.”
The Catholic Church in Israel told Haaretz that they saw this attack as a continuation of the aggression against holy Christian sites over the last few years, which it said the Israeli government and authorities have failed to deal with accordingly. A report on the matter has been given to the Vatican, the sources said.
Read the rest.
18 June 2015
The English edition of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment is pictured during a news conference at the Vatican on 18 June. The encyclical is titled, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.” At left is Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council
for Justice and Peace. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope’s encyclical connects care of world with justice for the poor (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ first encyclical is focused on the idea of ‘integral ecology,’ connecting care of the natural world with justice for the poorest and most vulnerable people. Only by radically reshaping our relationships with God, with our neighbors and with the natural world, he says, can we hope to tackle the threats facing our planet today. Science, he insists, is the best tool by which we can listen to the cry of the earth, while dialogue and education are the two keys that can “help us to escape the spiral of self-destruction which currently engulfs us”...
Overview of encyclical “Laudato si” (VIS) The following text offers an overview of the 191 pages of the Encyclical Laudato si’ and its key points, along with a summary of each of its six chapters (“What is happening to our common home”, “The Gospel of Creation”, “The human roots of the ecological crisis”, “Integral ecology”, “Lines of approach and action” and “Ecological education and spirituality”). The Encyclical concludes with an interreligious prayer for our earth and a Christian prayer for Creation... (Full text of encyclical)
Worldwide displacement hits all time high (UNHCR press release) Wars, conflict and persecution have forced more people than at any other time since records began to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere, according to a new report from the UN refugee agency. UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report: World at War, released on Thursday (18 June), said that worldwide displacement was at the highest level ever recorded. It said the number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 had risen to a staggering 59.5 million compared to 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago...
Final UN shelter in Gaza closes (AFP) The U.N. has closed the last remaining shelter for Palestinians displaced in last summer’s war in Gaza, a spokesman said Thursday, with families seeking temporary accommodation elsewhere. The July-August conflict between Israel and Islamist movement Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, left 100,000 Gazans homeless and forced many to seek refuge in schools belonging to the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA...
Suspected arson attack on historic church in Galilee (Fides) A suspected arson attack carried out between Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 June, by unidentified extremists devastated the church in Tabgha, the village located near Capernaum, on the northwestern shore of Lake Tiberias, considered one of the most important holy places of Galilee. It is built in the area where, according to tradition, Jesus performed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes. The criminal fire — according to official sources of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem — was extinguished by firefighters around 3:30 am, after having caused serious damage in the courtyard entrance. It also caused the poisoning of an elderly Benedictine monk and a young volunteer, who were taken to a hospital...
Canadian charity challenging groups to support Syrians (Toronto Star) The challenge is on: Canadians need to reach out and help Syrian refugees, say Mayor John Tory and Ratna Omidvar, founding executive director of the Global Diversity Exchange at Ryerson University and chairwoman of Lifeline Syria. Canadians should reach out and help Syrian refugees just as they helped sponsor Vietnamese refugees in the late 1970’s, Omidvar says...
17 June 2015
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank Vatican
Seminarians pose for a picture at the Capuchin seminary in Eritrea. (photo: CNEWA)
This week, representatives from ROACO — aid agencies (including CNEWA) working with the Congregation of the Eastern Churches — are gathering in Rome. Today, those at ROACO welcomed Archbishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam, metropolitan archbishop of the newly created Eritrea Catholic church joining 23 Eastern churches in full communion with Rome.
CNEWA Canada’s National Director Carl Hétu notes:
Archbishop Tesfamariam gave us a general overview of his new church challanges. His church has four eparchies with a population of 164,480 parishoners in this small country of five million just north of Ethiopia, in the Horn of Africa.
The church works in difficult condition,s since most of its population lives poor rural areas. They have developed many pastoral programs to attend to their needs, in particular helping women who are left to raise the children alone.
The archbishop implored the aid agencies not to forget about them and to help the church grow and keep its seminary program alive. There are now 45 seminarians in formation for the priesthood, and the novitiate has consecrated over 350 women religious, who are playing an important pastoral role all over the country.
Also speaking to ROACO today were representatives from the Ethiopian Catholic Church: the newly named Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel and the Bishop Conference Secretary General, the Reverand Hagos Hayish.
Ethiopia’s Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel speaks to the ROACO. (photo: CNEWA)
As with its neighbor, Eritrea, Ethiopia is predominantly rural and poor. This small church, which represents less than 2 percent of the Ethiopian population, is certainly among the most dynamic. It is renowned for its pastoral and humanitarian programs that, through Catholic schools, form young Ethiopians into a workforce based on Christian values. There are also efforts underway to improve the agriculture system, so farmers can improve their way of life.
Also the Ethiopian Catholic Church has responded with an impressive program for refugees, welcoming more than 600,000 refugees from Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. Ethiopia has the most refugees of any African country-posing social and economic challenges.
Much needs to be done. The church is appealing to aid agencies to continue their support, particularly in lay formation, university chaplaincy and education.
To learn more about the churches in the Horn of Africa, read our profiles of the The Eritrean Catholic Church and The Ethiopian Catholic Church. CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar wrote about his own journey to the region in 2012. You can read those reports here.
Finally, to support CNEWA’s efforts on that part of the world, please visit this giving page.
17 June 2015
Pope Francis meets with Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, director of foreign relations for the Moscow patriarchate, during a private meeting at the Vatican
on 15 June. (photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
17 June 2015
Cardinal Telesphore Toppo talks with sisters at the Vatican in this October 2003 file photo. New Delhi police arrested a man in connection with an early June death threat against the cardinal, who has criticized the Indian government’s inaction over anti-Christian violence. (photo: CNS/Danilo Schiavella, EPA)
Kerala: Hindu extremists arrested for attacking a Christian gathering (AsiaNews) Police in Kerala arrested five people in connection with an attack against a Christian prayer group in Attingal. According to law enforcement sources, the five could be members of a Hindu radical paramilitary group…
Appeal for aid to refugees (VIS) Following today’s catechesis the pope mentioned that tomorrow the encyclical on the care of creation, our “common home,” will be published. “Our home is being ruined and this damages everyone, especially the poorest. I therefore make an appeal for responsibility, on the basis of the task that God assigned to the human being in creation: ’to tend and to keep’ the ’garden’ in which he placed him. I invite everyone to welcome with an open heart this document which is in line with the social doctrine of the church.” He also drew attention to World Refugee Day, to be held next Saturday…
Syria conflict: Rebels launch Quneitra offensive (BBC) A rebel alliance in southern Syria has begun an offensive against government forces in Quneitra province, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The area around the town of Quneitra came under heavy bombardment on Wednesday morning, Reuters reported…
Palestinian unity government to dissolve itself in coming days, Abbas says (Haaretz) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced Tuesday that the Palestinian unity government led by Prime Minister Rami al Hamdallah was expected to tenders its resignation over the next few days, with the goal of assembling a new cabinet in its wake…
Palestinian refugee crisis a ‘time bomb’ for Middle East region (U.N. News Center) The stark conditions afflicting millions of displaced Palestinians across the Middle East risk destabilizing the region and plunging it into a deeper crisis, the head of the United Nations agency assisting Palestinian refugees has warned…
16 June 2015
Tags: Syria India Refugees Middle East Palestine
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, center, celebrates Mass for the ROACO participants. Others joining him include, from the left, Archbishop Cyril Vasil, Congregation Secretary; Menghisteab Tesfamariam, Metropolitan Archbishop of Asmara, Eritrea; and on the far right, Cardinal Berhaneysus Souraphiel, Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Ababa. (photo: CNEWA)
The annual meeting of the ROACO opened this morning with a Mass celebrated at the St. Stefano Degli Abissini Church in the Vatican Gardens. CNEWA Canada’s national director Carl Hétu notes that the main celebrant was Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect for the Congregation of Eastern Churches:
In his homily, he reminded the ROACO participants that “we are gathered here this week following the instructions of Pope Francis that we need to listen and to serve the Eastern Catholic churches which are too often victims of modern marthyrdom, and thus witness a sign of hope as they persevere in practicing their faith despite extreme violence done against and around them.”
16 June 2015
Syrians mourn outside Al Razzi hospital after a Syrian rebel rocket reportedly struck a government-held part of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on 15 June. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels had fired some 250 rockets at several districts in western Aleppo city in just four hours, causing massive damage including the collapse of an entire building. (photo: AFP/George Oufalian)
Intense rebel shelling of Aleppo kills more than 30 (Reuters) More than 30 people have been killed in the most lethal rebel bombardment of the city of Aleppo since Syria’s conflict started four years ago, a group monitoring the war said on Tuesday, an attack condemned by a U.N. envoy visiting Damascus…
Pope Francis to receive Syriac Orthodox Patriarch (Vatican Radio) From 17-20 June, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of Antioch and All the East will be in Rome to meet with Pope Francis. The Syriac Orthodox Church traces its history to the first Christian communities established in Antioch…
Families of ISIS captives block north Lebanon highway (Daily Star Lebanon) Families of the nine Lebanese servicemen held hostage by ISIS blocked both sides of a north Lebanon highway Tuesday demanding to know if their loved ones were still alive. “We are standing here today to ask whether the servicemen are still there or if they were executed like some rumors said,” the brother of Army Sgt. Maj. Ibrahim Mgheit told reporters…
Patriarch Gregory: Most Lebanese think of emigrating (Fides) “According to a recent survey, 60 percent of the Lebanese are considering the idea of emigrating, and 35 percent of them are actually waiting for a visa,” said Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch in his opening remarks at the yearly synod. The meeting of the Melkite Greek Catholic bishops, underway at the patriarchal summer residence in Ain Trez, will discuss the theme of family and emergency situations experienced by communities in Syria…
Mohammed Morsi death sentence upheld by Egypt court (BBC) An Egyptian court has upheld the death sentence imposed on ousted ex-President Mohammed Morsi over a mass jailbreak. The sentence was initially passed in May, but was confirmed after consultation with Egypt’s highest religious figure, the grand mufti. The death sentences of five other leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood and 101 others were also upheld. Morsi’s supporters have described the sentence as “farcical.” The verdict is subject to appeal…
Ecumenical patriarch hosts Halki Summit II (Huffington Post) Just days before Pope Francis is due to release his long-awaited and much-anticipated encyclical letter on climate change, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I organized the second Halki Summit in Istanbul, from 8 to 10 June. Entitled “Ecology, Theology, and the Arts,” this summer’s conference aimed to incorporate the artistic senses and spiritual dimension of environmental stewardship into the broader conversation on climate change…
15 June 2015
Tags: Egypt Lebanon Christian Unity Aleppo Climate change
Pope Francis speaks to the annual gathering of Catholic aid agencies in the Vatican on
Monday, 15 June. (photo: CNEWA)
This week CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar and Carl Hétu, national director of CNEWA Canada, are participating in the annual gathering of the ROACO, a meeting called by the Holy See’s Congregation of the Eastern Churches. Over 24 Catholic agencies are in Rome for his meeting, which is being chaired this year by Msgr. Kozar. Our first day started with an audience with Pope Francis, who blessed our upcoming deliberations and made some important remarks on the many crises affecting the Middle East.
“The lands of the Middle East,” he said, “marred by years of conflict, are also marked by the footprints of those who seek refuge and soaked with the blood of many men and women, including numerous Christians persecuted for their faith.”
Recalling the recent trip to Iraq by a delegation of the ROACO (including Msgr. Kozar) last May — during which they met with displaced persons from the Nineveh Plain and with small groups from Syria — the pope affirmed, “in those eyes that asked for help and pleaded for peace and to return home there was Jesus himself who looked at you, asking for that charity that makes us Christians. Every form of assistance, so as not to fall into the trap of uncompromising efficiency or mere aid that does not promote persons or peoples, must always be reborn from this blessing of the Lord who reaches us when we have the courage to look at the situations and the brothers before us.”
Nevertheless, “the world seems to have become aware of the tragedy of recent months, and has opened its eyes, taking account of the millennial presence of Christians in the Middle East. Initiatives for raising awareness and offering aid to them to to others unjustly affected by violence have flourished. However, further efforts must be made to eliminate what would appear to be tacit agreements by which the lives of thousands and thousands of families — women, men, children, elderly — in the balance of interests appear to weigh less than petroleum and weapons, and while peace and justice is proclaimed, it is accepted that the traffickers of death act in those lands. I therefore encourage you, as you carry out your service of Christian charity, to condemn all that tramples human dignity.”
He concluded by thanking all the agencies for their good work in the region.
You can read more about the pope’s remarks here. And to learn how you can contribute to our work supporting Middle East Christians, visit this page.