16 May 2014
A medic treats a boy who was injured after what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad at a hospital in Idlib, Syria on 15 May.
(photo: CNS /Rasem Ghareeb, Reuters)
Rocket attack kills 13 in Aleppo (AP) A rebel rocket attack killed 13 people Friday in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo, the latest shelling to strike the country’s largest city, Syria’s state news agency reported. State news agency SANA said the rocket attack in Aleppo also wounded 17 people in the city’s northern neighborhood of Achrafieh. The agency said the attack was carried out by “terrorists,” the term the government uses to refer to rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad. It said the shells also damaged two houses in the area...
U.N. cites rising human rights violations in Ukraine (The New York Times) Armed groups are increasingly undermining the rights and basic freedoms of people in eastern Ukraine, the United Nations said Friday, expressing concern at the rising number of killings, abductions, beatings and detentions of journalists, politicians and local activists. “Primarily as a result of the actions of organized armed groups, the continuation of the rhetoric of hatred and propaganda fuels the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, with a potential of spiraling out of control,” the United Nations said in its second report on the issue in a month, which was released simultaneously in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and in Geneva...
Rabbi and Muslim leaders to accompany pope to Holy Land (Religion News Service) Pope Francis will be accompanied on his first visit to the Middle East by Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim leader Omar Abboud — two friends from Buenos Aires. It is the first time a pope has made an official visit accompanied by members of other faiths, and it underscores the interfaith focus of Francis’ trip to the Holy Land, the Vatican said on 15 May. “This dimension of interreligious dialogue has great significance,” the Vatican’s official spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, told the media...
Christian group in India calls for limits to extremist groups after election (Fides) While the official outcome of the Indian elections marked the victory of the nationalist “Bharatiya Janata Party,” its leader Narendra Modi—likely to become the next Prime Minister—announced “a new era for India, free from corruption and a strong economic recovery”. Modi has urged unity for the entire Indian population: “We put the people above politics,” he said, “hope over despair, healing over evil, inclusion over exclusion, development over divisions”. In a note sent to Fides Agency, the Christians of the “Global Council of Indian Chrsitians,” an organization that includes believers of different faiths, said that this will be possible if the government limits the violent action of Hindu extremist groups”...
15 May 2014
Tags: Syria India Ukraine United Nations Pope
On a visit to Mount Nebo, Cardinal Dolan points out a landmark in the distance to Msgr. John Kozar, president of the CNEWA. (photo: CNEWA)
Catholic New York, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of New York, has just published a comprehensive wrap-up of Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s pastoral visit to Jordan last week.
An excerpt, from editor John Woods:
On his pastoral visit to Jordan last week, Cardinal Dolan witnessed firsthand the work and presence of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), which supports projects assisting refugees from other countries in the Middle East as well as the small, native Christian community and others in that part of the land of the Bible.
The three-day itinerary, packed with stops at a number of health clinics and refugee support programs operated by a total of five congregations of women religious, gave Cardinal Dolan a greater appreciation of CNEWA’s approach of assisting projects already providing good service.
Work such as the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, operated by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, an Iraqi congregation serving a refugee population including Palestinians, Iraqis and Syrians. The clinic-on the property of a Latin Rite parish, St. Pius X, built in the 1950s with support from CNEWA benefactors-also is subsidized by the agency.
The same day, the visitors also toured the Italian Hospital in Amman, known as the Hospital of the Poor, administered by another Iraqi community, the Dominican Sister of the Presentation. CNEWA subsidizes a daily clinic for the poorest of the poor, mainly Iraqi and Syrian refugees, along with poverty-stricken Jordanians, who travel from the entire country for the quality care it offers.
The next day, they visited with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, who provide support to hundreds of Iraqi and Syrian refugees, especially young women, with the help of CNEWA, right in their convent, the House of Mary. They celebrated Mass in the convent chapel, and then had dinner with the sisters and refugee families.
“It’s not that we come in from above. We help them from below,” said the cardinal, speaking of CNEWA’s approach in an interview at its offices in the New York Catholic Center on 9 May. He had come that day to greet CNEWA’s staff the morning after his return to the archdiocese.
“I was so edified at the great work CNEWA does there.”
The cardinal traveled to Jordan as part of his responsibilities as chairman of the board of CNEWA, a papal agency that provides humanitarian and pastoral support by working with and through Eastern Catholic churches in the Middle East and elsewhere across the globe. He was joined by Bishop William Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, another CNEWA board member, and Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA’s president. Also taking part were Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s regional director for Jordan and Iraq, and Father James Cruz, the cardinal’s priest secretary.
The 4-8 May trip, which took place following the canonization ceremonies in Rome for SS. John Paul II and John XXIII, actually felt like “a dry run” for the visit that Pope Francis will make to the Holy Land later this month, Msgr. Kozar said.
“There is a tremendous excitement about the pope’s coming,” he said, adding that the positive feelings generated by the papal visit translated to warm greetings everywhere the group went. The pope’s visit to the Holy Land is schedule to begin in Amman, Jordan’s capital, on 24 May.
The visit to Jordan was Cardinal Dolan’s first. Three years ago he visited CNEWA’s projects in Syria and Lebanon, a trip that would be impossible today because of the continued unrest in Syria, he noted.
Read the whole report and see more pictures here.
Check out our archive of the “Journey to Jordan,” too, with more photographs by CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar.
Meantime, Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre has also written his own reflections of the trip. Read more at his blog.
15 May 2014
A priest blesses Serbian and Greek-American students from Socrates-St. Sava Academy.
(photo: Hryhoriy Prystay)
In 2004, we profiled immigrants from the Balkans discovering a new sense of cooperation and collaboration in Chicago:
A hopeful sign of Christian cooperation in Chicago is Socrates-St. Sava Academy, where Serbian and Greek-American children study together in an Orthodox environment. Socrates Greek American School was founded in 1908, making it “the oldest such school still in existence,” says Voula Sellountos, principal of the academy.
In 2001, it started admitting children of Serbian descent, changed its name and moved to the complex of Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral.
There are now 110 students: 27 are of Serbian descent and 83 Greek. The students have English classes together before separately studying in Serbian or Greek.
The school has two chaplains: one Serbian, one Greek. In addition to tuition paid by parents, the respective churches provide financial support according to the number of enrolled students.
“The values the parents try to instill in the home are the same ones instilled at school,” says Ms. Sellountos. “At public schools parents have almost no control over violence, bad language and bad attitudes. We have created a family environment, with love and care for the children.”
The challenges of modern times have forced Chicago’s Christians from the Balkans to adapt and work together with other ethnic groups. None have been able to survive on their own.
Read more about Sharing Space in an Adopted Home from the May-June 2004 edition of ONE.
15 May 2014
U.S. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, and Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Denis. J. Madden meet with Seyyed Mahmoud, left, at the Ayatollah Marashi Najafi Library in Qom, Iran, in March. At right is Stephen Colecchi, director of the U.S. bishops’ office of International Justice and Peace. The meeting was part of a dialogue between the bishops and Iranian Muslim leaders on nuclear weapons.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Stephen M. Colecchi)
U.S. bishops, Iranian ayatollahs hold dialogue on nuclear weapons (CNS) Quietly, a small group of U.S. Catholic bishops and Iranian ayatollahs began in March what they intend to be an ongoing dialogue on nuclear weapons and the role of faith leaders in influencing political moves on the issue of Iran's nuclear program. The meetings in Iran, hosted by the Supreme Council of Seminary Teachers of Qom, began with basic discussions of areas of philosophical and theological commonality between Catholicism and Islam and concluded with a commitment to issue a joint statement, said the U.S. bishop who led the delegation...
Holy Land events are prelude to pope’s visit (CNS) As Pope Francis’s visit to the Holy Land approaches, the trip is being marked with special events, government sessions, online videos and a photography exhibition both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The activities look at the history of the relationship between the Vatican and the Holy Land and serve to urge Pope Francis to look at the current political situation in the region during his brief stay...
Vatican investigating Indian Jesuit’s work (CNS) A leading Indian Jesuit theologian specializing in mission, dialogue and inculturation, has been engaged in a dialogue with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but has not been censured or silenced by the Vatican. Jesuit Father Michael Amaladoss, 77, is director of the Institute for Dialogue with Cultures and Religions at the Jesuit-run Loyola College in Chennai, India. Jesuit Father Joe Antony, acting provincial of the Madurai province to which Father Amaladoss belongs, told Catholic News Service on 14 May: “There has been no condemnation or censure, but for nearly two years there has been a dialogue between Father Amaladoss and the doctrinal congregation...”
Syrian diplomat denies allegations of forced starvation, chemical attacks (CNN) Chemical attacks with chlorine gas. Barrel bombs dropped from regime helicopters. Syrians starved into submission in opposition-controlled areas. The alleged assaults by the Syrian government against its own people are atrocious. But in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen, the country’s deputy foreign minister says such claims are rubbish. “I assure you 100% that chlorine gas has never been used by the government,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad said...
Ukrainian archbishop decries actions by Russia (Byzcath.org) The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the largest Eastern Catholic church in full communion with the Holy See, condemned recent Russian actions during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “There was no tension between Ukrainians and Russians in Ukraine until the Russian government annexed Crimea,” Major Archbishop Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk told the Canadian leader during a recent meeting...
Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue marks anniversary (VIS) The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue celebrates the 50th anniversary of its foundation on Monday 19 May. The dicastery was instituted with the name “Secretariat for non-Christians” on 19 May 1964 by Pope Paul VI, with the Apostolic Letter “Progrediente Concilio”, with the aim of paying attention to those who were without the Christian religion and to whom the words of the Lord would seem to refer: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also”...
14 May 2014
A new generation takes root in the Armenian Catholic congregation. (photo: Molly Corso)
Writer and photographer Molly Corso explores the faith of Armenian Catholics in the current edition of ONE magazine, and offers some additional reflections here.
One of the first things that struck me as I started to work on this story was that Armenian Catholics are a minority, within a minority. Ethnically, they are a minority — albeit Georgia’s largest minority — in the country. And, religiously, they are a minority within their ethnicity, as well as within the predominately Orthodox Christian country.
Despite being prejudged, first as Armenians and then as non-Orthodox, many of those living in Georgian urban communities outside of the tightly knit Armenian villages of Samtskhe Javakheti have only a tenuous tie to their Armenian roots. They speak Russian and Georgian, most of the youth go to Georgian schools, and by far not all have traveled to Armenia.
They are, in a word, similar to Italian-Americans or Irish-Americans in the United States: culturally, symbolically somehow tied to the old country by their last names, a different faith, or a penchant for a certain type offood. But otherwise fairly integrated in the country they call home.
But while being an Italian-American or an Irish-American is now something to be proud of in the states, in Georgia — after two difficult decades of conflict, poverty, and ethnic strife — it can be very difficult to show one’s pride for non-Georgian roots.
Georgia and Armenia share an ancient history and Tbilisi, the country’s capital, has boasted more Armenian citizens than even Yerevan.
But the 1990s were overshadowed by battles over territory as Georgia lost control of large chunks of the small country; attempts, however feeble, by Armenian nationals to cut off Samtskhe Javakheti, a southern region of the country that borders Armenia and has the largest concentration of Georgian-Armenians, were not encouraged.
To this day, some of the more national-leaning television stations are still prone to refer to ethnic Armenians living in the country in that context when there is any conflict in the region: would-be separatists looking for a way to break away.
Even among their own kind, Armenian Catholics are viewed as ‘others,’ as Armenians who have strayed from their apostolic flock. The pitched fight over church property seized by the Communists after Georgia became part of the Soviet Union in 1921 is largely played out between the Georgian Orthodox Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church, with little effort to include smaller faiths.
During the Armenian Catholic Center’s Saturday school in Tbilisi, however, Georgian-Armenians are given the opportunity to explore their cultural heritage without concern that they will be deemed less Georgian-or less Armenian- for doing so. In a delectable mix of Armenian, Georgian and Russian, children struggle over Armenian vocabulary, learn Armenian Catholic hymns, and dance Armenian folkdances.
I was struck by how seamlessly the children were able to go from one language to another, discussing art projects, language assignments, and dance moves in all of those languages without a break for translation — proof that, especially among the minority of a minority, there is a synergy between the traditions of their ancestors and their identity as modern Georgians.
Read more about the Armenian Catholics in A Firm Faith in the spring 2014 edition of ONE.
14 May 2014
Father Elias Koucos celebrates the Exaltation of the Holy Cross at Prophet Elias Church in Holladay, Utah. To learn more about the thriving community of Greek Orthodox in Utah, check out “Greek Orthodoxy in Mormon Zion” from the June 2010 issue of ONE. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
14 May 2014
People mourn on 14 May for their relatives and friends after a mine explosion a day earlier in Soma, Turkey. More than 225 people died in the explosion. Pope Francis said during his weekly general audience that his prayers were with those killed in the disaster.
(photo: CNS /Togla Bozoglu, EPA)
Pope prays for victims of Turkish mining disaster (Vatican Radio) At his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis made an appeal for prayer for the miners who lost their lives in a mining disaster in Turkey: “Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to pray for the miners who died in the mine yesterday in Soma, Turkey, and for those who are still trapped in the tunnels. May the Lord receive the deceased in His house and give comfort to their families...”
UN mediator on Syria quits, peace prospects dim (The New York Times) International efforts to end the war in Syria faltered further on Tuesday as the United Nations mediator quit, citing frustrations over the moribund political negotiations, and France’s top diplomat said there was evidence the Syrian government used chemical weapons more than a dozen times after it signed the treaty banning them. Taken together, the two events pointed to the failings of the West’s signature efforts on Syria, finding a diplomatic way out of a civil war in its fourth year — and a pact that was proudly touted as stopping the Syrian government from using chemical weapons...
Pope appeals to stop “shameful carnage” of migrant deaths (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is calling on Europe to unite forces and to put human rights in the forefront as the death toll of migrants trying to reach Europe continues to rise...
Talks to end crisis in Ukraine set to begin in Kiev (BBC) Talks to end the crisis in Ukraine are due to begin in Kiev, brokered by international monitors, but pro-Russian rebels look unlikely to attend. The round table was organised as part of a roadmap drawn up by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation and Europe (OSCE). Government and regional figures are to attend but the idea was for the talks to be as inclusive as possible...
Grand Mufti proposes “pact” between Muslims and Christians in Middle East (Fides) Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, the Grand Mufti of the Lebanese Republic and the highest authority of Sunni Islam in the Country of the cedars, proposed a Christian-Muslim pact as a contribution to the promotion of peaceful coexistence in the nation. He submitted the content to the Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Bechara Boutros Rai, during the meeting between Cardinal Rai and a delegation of the Islamic Sharia Council, which took place on 13 May at the Maronite patriarchal See in Bkerké...
Pope Tawadros says charter secures equality for all Egyptians (Gulfnews) New Egypt’s charter enshrines the rights of citizenship and equality for every Egyptian, Muslims and Copts, said Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark yesterday. Dismissing persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, Pope Tawadros II told a news conference held in Abu Dhabi, as neighbours at home, partners at work, friends in schools and colleges, Muslims and Christians have been living in harmony for more than 14 centuries. “But some problems between Copts and Muslims pop up from time to time. The new constitution will help solve these problems, so that justice and peace prevail,” the Coptic Pope said, winding up a several days visit to the UAE...
Resort rises on site where Jesus may have taught (The New York Times) For the Rev. Juan M. Solana, it was the spiritual equivalent of striking oil. When he set out to develop a resort for Christian pilgrims in Galilee, he unearthed a holy site: the presumed hometown of Mary Magdalene and an ancient synagogue where experts say Jesus may well have taught. The project, which Father Solana, a Roman Catholic priest, describes as “providential,” will be blessed by Pope Francis during his visit to the Holy Land this month...
13 May 2014
In Homs, the Syriac Orthodox Oum-al-Zennar Church last week hosted a liturgy of thanksgiving for the return of security to the city. (photo: CNEWA)
After three years, the Old City of Homs is gradually being brought back to life with an increasing number of residents returning to the homes they fled when terrorists took over the city.
Last week, with that portion of the city declared secure after the gunmen were evacuated, the Syriac Orthodox Oum al-Zennar Church hosted a liturgy of thanksgiving.
Syriac Orthodox Archishop of Homs and Hama, Mar Selwanos Boutros al-Neemeh, said that this liturgy expressed thanks to God for the restoration of stability to the city. He said that although terrorists vandalized places of worship—along with teaching and services facilities and homes, all in an attempt to sow discord among the people —the terrorists failed. The people, he said, remain strong.
As the locals continue returning to their homes, repair teams are working to restore life to downtown Homs—opening roads, removing rubble and roadblocks, and repairing the power grid.
To support the people of Homs as they work to rebuild their way of life, visit our emergency giving page.
13 May 2014
A Southist woman in Kerala, India, prays the rosary during Holy Week observances.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2002, we profiled a distinct group of Christians in southern India known as “Southists”:
It is Good Friday in Kottayam, a city in the southern Indian state of Kerala. A family of Christians gathers to bless a plate of fresh, unleavened rice bread. The head of the household reads from a prayer book written in Malayalam, the vernacular of Kerala. On the cover the Hebrew word for Passover is embossed in gold. By tradition, the youngest member of the family asks the eldest the significance of unleavened bread. He is told how their ancestors, the Jews, fled Egypt in haste and how they had only enough time to prepare unleavened bread.
Before sharing their Passover bread, these Christians greet each other, exclaiming, “Happy Pessaha!”
This Indian Christian family traces its origins to those Jewish Christians who immigrated to India from Mesopotamia in the fourth century. Rooted in the past by cherished traditions, they belong to a dynamic community — the Southists, or Knanaya — a group vital to the mosaic of modern India.
Among the Christians of southern India, explains Father Jacob Kollaparambil, a Southist scholar and Vicar General of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Kottayam, there are two ethnically distinct communities, the Northists and the Southists:
“The Northists are the descendants of those families who were first evangelized by the Apostle Thomas as well as those who have since embraced Christianity. The Southists trace their origins to 72 Mesopotamian Christian families who settled in Cranganore in 345 A.D.”
Southists now number about 200,000 people, a minority within the whole Thomas Christian community of some 4.5 million people (Thomas Christians describe the descendants of those Christians — now members of several Eastern churches — evangelized by Thomas the Apostle). A Semitic people who have maintained their identity by avoiding intermarriage, the Southists are nevertheless divided into two distinct ecclesial jurisdictions. About two-thirds belong to the Eparchy of Kottayam, a diocese of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. The remaining third are in communion with the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, who established a Southist eparchy in Chingavanam in 1910.
Read more in Ancient Christians, Modern Mission from the July-August 2002 issue of the magazine.
13 May 2014
Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem pauses during an 11 May news conference in the northern city of Haifa, called because of recent attacks dubbed “price tagging.” Archbishop Twal said a spate of attacks he described as acts of terror against the church were poisoning the atmosphere ahead of this month’s visit by Pope Francis, and urged Israel to arrest more perpetrators. (photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)
Patriarch wants Israelis to crack down on vandalism at religious sites (CNS) The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem called a continuing wave of vandalism against Christian, Muslim and Druze properties a “blight on Israeli democracy” and urged authorities to step up prosecution against the perpetrators. Patriarch Fouad Twal said during a news conference on 11 May in the northern city of Haifa that the attacks, which involve scrawling and spray painting racist and anti-Christian and anti-Muslim messages on buildings and holy sites, was particularly troublesome in light of Pope Francis’ planned visit to the Holy Land on 24-26 May...
Cardinal challenges interfaith leaders to promote peace (Vatican Radio) Do the choices we make as individuals or collectively lead to increasing peace or increasing violence? That’s the question posed by Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran to participants at a seminar Monday at Petra University in Amman, Jordan exploring the theme “religion and violence.” In his discourse entitled, “Religion, society and violence: causes and results. The role of religious leaders for peace and social cohesion,” the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue challenged religious leaders to be at the forefront of efforts to promote peace in their societies...
Group claims Syria used chemical weapons last month (AP) An international human rights group said Tuesday it has strong evidence that the Syrian army used chlorine gas on three rebel-held towns last month. The statement by the New-York based Human Rights Watch adds to concerns that chemical weapons are still being used in Syria, months after a chemical attack killed hundreds of civilians last August. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which monitors implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, said in April that it would investigate the chlorine claims but hasn’t commented further...
Metropolitan Hilarion says he was refused entry to Ukraine (Reuters) A top cleric from the Russian Orthodox Church said he was refused entry to Ukraine this week amid an escalating stand-off between Moscow and Kiev over separatist unrest in Ukraine’s east. The church’s Department of External Relations said its head, Metropolitan Hilarion, was turned back on Friday at the airport in the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk where he came to award a prize to a local cleric. “I was given no explanation,” Hilarion told Russian state news channel Rossiya 24. “Apparently my name, and possibly the names of other Church hierarchs, are on a list of people who are banned from entering Ukraine.” The Ukrainian border guard declined to comment...