6 May 2014
Krak des Chevaliers, pictured here in 2010, has stood for nearly a millennium near the Syrian city of Homs. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Krak des Chevaliers: Priceless castle battered by Syria’s civil war (Christian Science Monitor) The Krak des Chevaliers once held off a siege by the Muslim warrior Saladin some 900 years ago, but today bears the wounds of modern warfare — heavy artillery damaged its walls, an airstrike punctured its roof, and shrapnel tore through its religious artifacts. From its towering hilltop perch in western Syria, the world’s best preserved medieval Crusader castle has fallen victim to the chaos of Syria’s civil war as rebels fight to topple President Bashar al Assad. The damage done to the majestic stone structure, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, shows that the warring sides will stop at nothing, including the destruction of the country’s rich heritage, to hold on to power or territory.
Syrian government says Maaloula’s sites sacked by rebels (Al Monitor) An official report issued by the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums for the Rif Damascus governorate revealed the destruction inflicted upon the city of Maaloula and its historical Christian sites, weeks after the army regained control of the city. This report was issued after a visit made by a specialized mission of the Directorate to probe the level of losses incurred by the city. The “armed opposition” has damaged historical Christian sites in the city, destroyed sites and altars, painted over traditional icons and paintings, removed and burned crosses, searched for treasures under altars and in tombs, and searched among the remains of monks and nuns…
In Syria, activists in Raqqa try to confront militant Islamist group (Los Angeles Times) In the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, the main commercial street was busy. Shops were open, with customers strolling the aisles, and cars filled the streets. Only a few dozen stores were closed. It wasn’t what activists had hoped for when they called for a citywide strike among business owners on Saturday to protest a tax imposed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. ISIS has demanded payment in exchange for electricity, water, street cleaning and protection. Though shop owners chafed at the imposition of a “protection tax,” they feared retribution from the Al Qaeda offshoot group for any act of defiance…
Whose water is it anyways? Resentment pools on Israel-Lebanon border (Christian Science Monitor) The Israeli-Lebanese border has enjoyed a rare, eight-year spell of calm, but worsening water shortages threaten to spark tensions once again. A sealed well used for more than a century by residents of Blida, a small village in southern Lebanon, has found itself on the wrong side of the border as water shortages entice local farmers to tap it. A few miles east along the border, another territorial dispute looms at a Lebanese tourist site beside the Hasbani river, which flows into Israel…
Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Karekin II to visit Rome (VIS) His Holiness Karekin II, head of the of the Catholicate of Etchmiadzin of the Armenian Apostolic Church will visit Rome from 7 to 9 May to meet with Pope Francis. The Armenian Church consists of two catholicates and two patriarchates, and around six million faithful. The two catholicates — the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin in Armenia and the Great House Cilicia, in Antelias, Lebanon — are in full communion, but they are independent from an administrative point of view…
Mayor of Baghdad: No discrimination against Christians in housing initiative (Fides) The mayor of Baghdad, Abub Naim al Kaabi, has made known his intention to make available public land and housing for low-income Christians in the city. The initiative, according to sources close to the Chaldean Patriarchate, is politically sponsored by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who said: “We will give the keys of prefabricated houses to the citizens without any discrimination…”
5 May 2014
Tags: Iraq Lebanon Syrian Civil War Israel Armenian Apostolic Church
Some high-profile visitors this week are getting a first-hand look at the work CNEWA is helping support in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
The chairman of CNEWA’s board, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and board member Bishop William Murphy are making a pastoral visit to Jordan with CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar.
The team stopped by Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa this morning, where they were welcomed by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena.
After seeing some of the remarkable work being done by the sisters, they headed on to the Italian Hospital in Amman, where they received a tour of the facility operated by the Dominican Sisters of the Presentation and stopped by the ward caring for Jordan’s tiniest patients, newborn infants.
Both these facilities are dealing with some extraordinary challenges right now, as the tidal wave of refugees from the Syrian civil war threatens to overwhelm the country.
Last summer, writer Nicholas Seeley described the serious situation in Jordan in the pages of ONE magazine, in an article entitled Overwhelming Mercy:
Jordan is on the brink of a health care crisis. The tiny kingdom’s aging health infrastructure has long been in need of an overhaul, but recent events in the region have exacerbated an already-difficult situation. The economic boom that Jordan experienced after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 has come to a grinding halt. Capital and investment have fled, and jobs are scarce. Economic stress tends to cause people to fall back on public health care services, but the government has been facing a budget crisis of massive proportions. Rounds of austerity measures have increased the price of fuel and basic goods, pounding hard an already weary population. Exacerbating matters, in the past decade Jordan has absorbed massive waves of new refugees — first from Iraq and now Syria.
Since early 2011, more than half a million Syrians have found refuge in a country with a population of barely more than six million. Hundreds of people arrive every day, many of whom come with severe injuries, long-term health issues or both. Many women arrive pregnant — some of whom, married at a young age, are barely more than children themselves.
And many find their way to institutions like the Mother of Mercy Clinic and Italian Hospital, supported by the generous benefactors and donors of CNEWA.
We’ll be hearing more from this Journey to Jordan over the next few days. Meantime, please keep these travelers — and the many good people they will be visiting — in your prayers!
5 May 2014
Fiorentina’s coach Vincenzo Montella, third from left, presents a gift to Pope Francis during a special audience with soccer teams Fiorentina and Napoli at the Vatican on 2 May.
(photo: CNS /L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
5 May 2014
Orthodox Metropolitan Emmanuel of France is the coordinator of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the meetings with Pope Francis on 25 May.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Hopes rise that Pope, patriarch meeting renews efforts at unity (CNS) The Orthodox bishop who is co-ordinating the upcoming pilgrimage to Jerusalem by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople said he hopes the patriarch’s 25 May meeting with Pope Francis will give new impetus to efforts for Christian unity. But he also said the two leaders are likely to discuss a range of common concerns, including the predicament of Christians in the Middle East, conservation of the natural environment and defense of the traditional family. “We hope that this will not just be a meeting like others, but we hope that this will give a new horizon for the relations between our two sister Churches,” Orthodox Metropolitan Emmanuel of France told Catholic News Service in Rome. “In a divided world, we need unity...”
Pope issues appeal for Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed for peace in Ukraine on Sunday. Speaking to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the middayRegina coeli prayer (which replaces the Angelus at Eastertide), The Holy Father said, “I would like to invite you to entrust to Our Lady the situation in Ukraine, where tensions continue unabated.” The Holy Father went on to say, “I pray with you for the victims of recent days, asking that the Lord instill sentiments of peacemaking and brotherhood in the hearts of everyone...”
Report: tens of thousands flee Syrian province (Aljazeera) At least 60,000 people have fled towns in the Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria which has been the scene of fierce clashes between rival rebel groups, opposition activists say. The al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front have been battling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) for four days despite an order from al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri to stop fighting, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday. “Residents of the towns of Busayra, home to 35,000 people, Abriha, home to 12,000 people, and al-Zir, home to 15,000 people, have nearly all been displaced by the fighting in the area,” the Observatory said...
Coptic patriarch: church does not take sides in elections (Fides) Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II has explicitly excluded any choice of the Coptic Orthodox Church in favor of one of the two candidates in the Egyptian presidential elections to be held next 26 to 27 May. “I ask every citizen, Christian or Muslim”, said Pope Tawadros in an interview published on Sunday, 4 May in the Egyptian Catholic weekly Hamel el-Resale “to read the electoral program of each candidate and choose who you want as President”. In the same interview, the Coptic Orthodox patriarch wanted to reaffirm the “institutional” nature and not political of the explicit support expressed by the Coptic Church regarding the transition program that led to the removal of President Mohamed Morsi, the promulgation of the new constitution and presidential elections...
Vatican statistics report church growth steady (CNS) The number of Catholics in the world and the number of priests, permanent deacons and religious men all increased in 2012, while the number of women in religious orders continued to decline, according to Vatican statistics. The number of candidates for the priesthood also showed its first global downturn in recent years. The statistics come from a recently published Statistical Yearbook of the Church, which reported worldwide Church figures as of 31 December 2012...
2 May 2014
Alaa, a 7-year-old from Homs, Syria, holds up a drawing depicting events in his hometown. To read about efforts to help these children, check out Syria, Shepherds and Sheep in the Spring edition of ONE. Click on the image to read the story in the full magazine layout. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
2 May 2014
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Children Sisters
In this image from last September, a man walks along a battered street in the besieged area of Homs, Syria. (photo: CNS/Yazan Homsy, Reuters)
Ceasefire in Homs to allow rebel withdrawal (Reuters) Syrian authorities and rebel fighters agreed to a 24-hour cease-fire in the Old City district of Homs on Friday to allow besieged rebels to pull out of their last stronghold in the central Syrian city, a monitoring group and television stations said. A final rebel withdrawal from the city once dubbed the “capital of the revolution” would mark a significant and symbolic military advance by forces loyal to Bashar al Assad, one month before his likely reelection as president…
Russia calls urgent meeting on Ukraine (Voice of Russia) Russia called an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday to discuss the “serious escalation of violence in Ukraine,” where security forces have clashed with pro-Moscow separatists…
Two helicopters shot down over Ukraine (CNN) Two helicopters were brought down in the flashpoint city of Slavyansk on Friday, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said, as Ukrainian security forces launched their most intensive effort yet to try to dislodge pro-Russian separatists. Residents of Slavyansk were warned to stay home and avoid windows as the latest phase of the authorities’ “anti-terrorist operation” began…
Pope calls for attitude of ‘evangelical service’ at Vatican (CNS) Pope Francis told his new economic oversight council that it must be “courageous and determined” in its critical role of helping the church not waver from its real mission of bringing the Gospel to the world and helping those most in need. The church has a duty to use its assets and manpower responsibly in promoting its spiritual mandate, and “a new mentality of evangelical service” must take hold throughout the Vatican, the pope said on 2 May…
1 May 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Ukraine Syrian Civil War Russia
You may remember that I received a kind note in March from Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus. He sent me his Easter letter a few days ago, which noted the particular tragedy that struck Damascus during Holy Week, when a shell fell on school children:
Everyone ran to carry these little ones to St. Louis hospital, the nearest place where the struggling Daughters of Charity and the medical staff treat the wounded to save the lives of these angels caught up in senseless violence that strikes Syria in this fourth year. The emergency room was crammed; some students were transferred to other hospitals. Some of these children will become disabled for life bearing the signs of hatred on their bodies.
Tertullian in the second century said: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.”
And he concluded with a handwritten personal message, which touched me deeply:
Thank you, dear monsignor, for all that CNEWA did for our poor refugees...
We continue to lift up in prayer all those who are struggling through this nightmare, especially the very young. Please join me in praying for their safety and their healing. And, if you can, please support them with a gift. Any amount you can offer will give hope in a place of despair and bring consolation to those facing sorrow and fear. You can find out how you can help at this link.
On this Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, I pray in a special way that the saint who worked so diligently to bring shelter and protection to the Holy Family will also shelter and protect the most vulnerable and needy in our suffering world.
St. Joseph, pray for us!
1 May 2014
Nirmala Dasi Sisters visit with women and children in a poor neighborhood of Kokkalai, a district of Trichur. You can read about the remarkable work they’re undertaking in the spring edition of ONE, as they live out the legacy of India’s “Father of the Poor.” (photo: Jose Jacob)
1 May 2014
Patriarch Louis Raphael of the Chaldean Church blesses with a crucifix as he concludes a liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in this February 2013 file photo. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Chaldean patriarch: “We are a ruined church” (Catholic World News) Eleven years after the US invasion of Iraq, the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church declared that “we are a ruined church” and said that “1,400 years of Islam could not uproot us from our land and our churches, while the policies of the West [have] scattered us and distributed us all around the world.” “Democracy and change come through upbringing and education rather than through conflict,” said Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako, who has governed the Eastern Catholic church since February 2013. “Intervention by the West in the region did not solve the problems ... but on the contrary, produced more chaos and conflict...” (Read his full statement here).
Activists claim children killed in elementary school bombing in Syria (CNN) Dozens of children are among the latest victims of the Syrian civil war after barrel bombs fell on an elementary school Wednesday, dissidents said. Syrian forces dropped the bombs on an opposition-held area of Aleppo, the country’s largest city, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said. The LCC said 25 children died...
Jordan opens another refugee camp for 130,000 (Associated Press) Jordan opened a new, sprawling tent city on Wednesday to accommodate tens of thousands more Syrian refugees who are expected to flee their country’s fighting — another grim indicator for a deadly war now in its fourth year. The new Azraq refugee camp is built to host 130,000 people, said Brig. Gen. Waddah Lihmoud, director of Syrian refugee affairs in Jordan. It cost $63.5 million dollars to build, the UN said...
Clashes in Egypt leave two Christians dead (Fides) Two Egyptian Coptic Christians were killed on 29 April, due to sectarian clashes which broke out in villages in the area of the city of Assiut, Upper Egypt. The clashes involved disputes between a Coptic Orthodox family and a Sunni family clan with regards to the ownership of land...
Patriarch Kirill: church’s role is reconciliation, not politics (Interfax) The Orthodox Church’s role in the civil conflict in Ukraine is to reconcile people, not to serve anyone’s political interests, said Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. “The position our church has assumed — and this position has remained unchanged for the past 25 years — is that our church never yields to any political temptations and never serves anyone’s political interests. It is our position of principle that the church must remain above fighting. It must preserve its peacekeeping potential even when everyone thinks no peacekeeping potential exists any more,” Patriarch Kirill told the Supreme Church Council in Moscow on Wednesday...
30 April 2014
Cardinal John O’Connor prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem during a goodwill journey in December 1986 and January 1987. (photo: Chris Sheridan/Catholic New York)
Some fascinating news was revealed today in the pages of Catholic New York, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of New York:
Cardinal John O’Connor, who as Archbishop of New York cultivated and cherished his strong ties to the Jewish community, was born of a mother who was born Jewish.
It is not known whether he knew that his mother, Dorothy Gumple O’Connor, was born Jewish. She converted to Catholicism before she met and married Thomas O’Connor, the late cardinal’s father. Mary O’Connor Ward, the cardinal’s sister, told CNY in an exclusive interview that her mother never spoke about having belonged to another faith.
The fact that Mrs. O’Connor was Jewish by birth came to light during a genealogical search undertaken by Mrs. Ward at the prompting of one of her daughters, Eileen Ward Christian, who had begun digging into the family’s history. Mrs. Ward said in an interview that when she was growing up she surmised that her mother was a convert, but that the family never discussed the matter.
Asked whether Cardinal O’Connor was aware of his Jewish lineage, she said, “I have no way of knowing that.” But she added, “I just don’t understand, if he knew, why something wouldn’t have come up before. He was so close to the Jewish community.”
Musing about his probable reaction to the news, she said, “I think he would have been very proud of it.” She said that she was very proud when she discovered her Jewish ancestry, and she noted that Cardinal O’Connor often spoke of the Jewish people as “our elder brothers” in faith.
“I don’t think you can be a Catholic and not feel that connection,” Mrs. Ward said.
Cardinal O’Connor apparently felt that connection in ways that, in retrospect, seem prophetic. On May 3, 1987, he watched thousands march down Fifth Avenue protesting the oppression of Soviet Jews. Later he joined the protesters at a rally near the United Nations and told them, “As I stood on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral this morning and watched you stream by, I could only be proud of those who streamed out of Egypt several thousand years ago, winning freedom for themselves and for all of us. They are your ancestors, and they are mine.”
He added, “I am proud to be this day, with you, a Jew.”
In an accompanying essay, Cardinal O’Connor’s sister writes:
My brother revered the Jewish people for their sublime dignity as God’s chosen race. It was the Jewish people who taught mankind what it means to know and trust God, and to be His beloved. He would have considered it the greatest honor to be united with ties of blood to the race that bore our Savior Jesus Christ and His Holy Mother. I see now that my brother’s entire life was shaped by the faith of Jewish people. Whenever he spoke of the Holocaust he did so with tears in his heart. As a priest, during a trip to the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, he was pierced to the core. He vowed that he would do whatever he could, until his dying breath, to promote the sacredness of every human life.
He said that the men and women who died at Dachau shaped his adult life. His childhood was shaped by a woman who did not die at Dachau, but could have, had the circumstances of her birth been different. She shaped his heart and warmed his love. She taught him the faith and how to pray to God. He wrote to her before his ordination to the priesthood, “To my Mother, in appreciation of the fact that if her son ever becomes (a) good priest … the credit and the reward will be hers.”
I marvel at God’s mysterious ways.
Read more in the current issue of Catholic New York.
Tags: Catholic Catholic-Jewish relations Christian-Jewish relations Jewish Cardinal John O’Connor