29 April 2014
An Iraqi woman living in Jordan casts her ballot at a polling station in a government school in Amman on 27 April. Iraqi Catholic refugees, along with their exiled countrymen, are voting in the first parliamentary polls since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops from their nation. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)
Sectarian strife casts a shadow over Iraqi elections (Al Jazeera) As Iraq heads toward its first national elections since the U.S. military withdrew its forces at the end of 2011, deep-rooted sectarian divisions and bloody violence spilling over from neighboring Syria threaten to upend any fragile gains made over the years since Saddam was routed…
Chaldean patriarch fears for Iraqi Christian presence (AsiaNews) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I says he is seriously concerned over the continuing decline of Christian presence in the country: “If measures are not taken soon, in 10 years’ time there will only be a few thousand Christians left in Iraq…”
Syria’s Assyrians threatened by extremists (AINA) The heated situation in the Middle East is burdening Christians in general, and Assyrian Christians in particular — chiefly belonging to the Chaldean Church and the Church of the East — amid growing talk about the danger of yet another wave of displacement. The number of Assyrians in Syria is estimated at 400,000, and they are distributed mainly between Hassake, Qamishli, Malikiyah and Aleppo. Assyrians are less present in Damascus and Sednaya, and 350,000 Assyrians live abroad…
Breathing new life into Lebanon’s ancient art of glassblowing (Christian Science Monitor) Glassblowing, a 2,000-year-old tradition that dates back to the Phoenicians and got its early start in Lebanon, was on the brink of extinction here just six months ago. But thanks to an innovative new recycling project, the country’s last glassblowing family has gotten more work in the past five months than the past five years combined. The craft’s revival is a triumph of cooperation in a country increasingly buffeted by the Syrian war and internal political tensions…
‘A Good Start’: Analyzing Erdogan’s genocide comments (Der Spiegel) Nearly a hundred years after the mass murder of Armenians by Ottoman soldiers, Turkey’s prime minister spoke last week for the first time of the “suffering” of the victims. In an interview, Hayko Bagdat, a 38-year-old Turkish-Armenian journalist, discusses the significance of Erdogan’s statement…
28 April 2014
Tags: Iraq Lebanon Iraqi Christians Assyrian Church Democracy
A large crowd is seen as Pope Francis celebrates the canonization Mass for Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 27 April. (photo: CNS/Evandro Inetti)
News networks last weekend were filled with stories about the canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. A commonly recurring theme was the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who had come to witness this historic event in St. Peter’s Square. It seemed as if people from all over the world had converged on Rome.
But were they pilgrims or tourists? Anyone who has gone to Rome during the tourist season knows how crowded it can get with souvenir-hunting, camera-toting tourists, even in places like St. Peter’s Basilica.
However, that was not the case last weekend All of the many people interviewed were clear why they had come to Rome: the canonization of two popes. Tourism, if it played any role at all, was clearly secondary to the desire to witness and take part in a ceremony believers found holy. Rome was packed with pilgrims.
In a world of high speed transportation and tourism as a “mega-industry,” pilgrims and pilgrimages may seem quaint and a bit outmoded. Nevertheless, the draw of holy places is strong and ancient, going back thousands of years.
I wrote more about this phenomenon in a web-exclusive essay for the online edition of ONE:
Pilgrimage is deeply rooted in the religious imagination.
The desire to visit places — especially distant ones — that are seen as endowed with transcendence and spiritual power is evidenced in many of the world’s great religions. Since many faiths employ words denoting a journey — “road,” “walking,” “path” — to describe their religious practice, perhaps it is natural for the pilgrimage to provide a metaphor of that greater pilgrimage: the life of the believer. In fact, the notion of pilgrimage is deeply rooted in the three great monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — but in very different ways.
To discover more about the importance of pilgrimage to these three religions, read Pilgrim People in the current online edition of ONE.
28 April 2014
Tags: Vatican Pilgrimage/pilgrims Pope Pope John Paul II Saints
Retired Pope Benedict XVI embraces Pope Francis before the canonization Mass for Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 27 April. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
28 April 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Pope Benedict XVI Vatican Pope John Paul II Saints
In this 20 April photo, Catholic Suheir Saliba, left, prays beside her Greek Orthodox sister-in-law, Maha Kamal, during the Easter Divine Liturgy in the St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Jifna, West Bank. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Christian Palestinians reject calls to join Israeli army (Pravmir) Representatives of Orthodox national institutions in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories have rejected the recruitment of Christians in the Israeli army yesterday. At a meeting in Jerusalem the foundations emphasized that the churches, Christian institutions and members of Christian denominations strongly reject service in the Israeli army on the basis of ethical, humanitarian and national considerations…
Christians who fled Syria marking Easter in Chicago area (Chicago Tribune) Easter is bittersweet for refugees. They fear for their loved ones overseas. They worry their mass exodus will diffuse their culture and identity. And they note the paradox in fleeing Syria, a cradle of ancient Christendom, in order to worship freely…
Mayor in eastern Ukraine shot as pro-Russian militants gain ground (Washington Post) The mayor of Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, was shot in the back Monday while taking a morning swim and is now in surgery “fighting for his life,” according reports from city council members and Ukrainian media. Kharkiv Mayor Gennady Kernes is known through social media as a flamboyant character who was a staunch supporter and beneficiary of ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych…
Vow of freedom of religion goes unkept in Egypt (New York Times) The architects of the military takeover in Egypt promised a new era of tolerance and pluralism when they deposed President Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood last summer. Nine months later, though, Egypt’s freethinkers and religious minorities are still waiting for the new leadership to deliver on that promise. Having suppressed Mr. Morsi’s Islamist supporters, the new military-backed government has fallen back into patterns of sectarianism that have prevailed here for decades. Prosecutors continue to jail Coptic Christians, Shiite Muslims and atheists on charges of contempt of religion…
Egyptian court sentences 683 people to death (Al Jazeera) An Egyptian judge has sentenced 683 alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death, including the group’s supreme guide, Muhammad Badie, and confirmed the death sentences of 37 of 529 alleged supporters previously condemned. Outside the courtroom on Monday, when news of the sentences broke, families of the accused began to scream and several women fainted, falling to the ground. Muhammad Elmessiry, an Amnesty International researcher monitoring the cases, said they “lacked basic fair trial guarantees…”
Ankara sends condolences to Armenians for massacres (AsiaNews) For the first time, the Turkish government has presented its “condolences” to the descendants of the Armenians for the “suffering” of the “difficult period” of the last years of the Ottoman Empire. The message — despite its significance — never uses the term “genocide,” which Turkey absolutely denies…
25 April 2014
Tags: Egypt Ukraine Middle East Christians Turkey Palestinians
Nuns from Brazil take photos in front of a large banner of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II in Rome on 25 April. Pilgrims have begun streaming into Rome for the 27 April canonization of Blesseds John and John Paul at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
25 April 2014
Tags: Pope John Paul II Saints
In this video, Sam Dagher of the Wall Street Journal describes his experiences visiting the regime-controlled side of Aleppo, Syria's largest city. Though some areas showed signs of normalcy, in others the wreckage from the civil war was ever present. (video: Sam Dagher/WSJ)
Syria civil war forces brutal split in Aleppo (Wall Street Journal) Once a vibrant mercantile and cultural center, Aleppo today is a city physically partitioned and traumatized by war. It stands as exhibit A in what Syria’s civil war has become: A ghastly, grinding stalemate in which noncombatants are paying the highest price…
Photos: Syrian refugees’ treacherous hike to safety in Lebanon (Al Jazeera) As the late-day sun slipped behind the mountains in front of them, a ragtag group of around a dozen Syrians desperate to flee their country’s bloody civil war set off on their treacherous nighttime trek across the rugged frontier into neighboring Lebanon. Ahead of them: at least a nine-hour climb in darkness up — and down — the 9,232-foot Mount Hermon. Once in Lebanon, they will join the more than 2.5 million other Syrians across the region who have escaped the civil war in their homeland to begin the life of a refugee…
Tensions rising in East-West as Russian troops gather at Ukraine’s border (Vatican Radio) Tensions are rising in the most serious East-West confrontation since the collapse of the Soviet Union with Russia moving tens of thousands of troops near its border with Ukraine, while the NATO military alliance is boosting its presence in several nearby Eastern European countries…
Gaza quiet after Palestinian reconciliation deal (Al Monitor) Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of Gaza’s government, declared the end of the seven-year Palestinian split between Fatah and Hamas and agreed to form a unity government in five weeks to prepare for elections at the end of 2014. In contrast to the applause that rose in the conference room attached to Mr. Haniyeh’s home, Gaza’s streets were quiet. Unlike with previous agreements, no celebratory atmosphere erupted in the Gaza Strip. Activist Samah Ahmed, who held a Palestinian flag and went to Jundi Square with others, explains: “We expected big celebrations, but we only found ourselves there. People have lost confidence in these agreements because they previously failed…”
24 April 2014
Tags: Ukraine Refugees Syrian Civil War Palestine Aleppo
The spring edition of ONE is now available online.
You can check out the stories at our spring 2014 link. Or, even better, visit this link to view the magazine in its full format, with layouts, graphics and interactive features.
Our cover story focuses on the remarkable efforts of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Lebanon to help refugees from Syria, especially children.
All that, plus an eyewitness account of the conflict in Ukraine; a visit to a country with only five Catholic priests; and an inspiring look at the legacy of India’s “Father of the Poor.”
Stop by and have a look. Spring is finally here!
24 April 2014
At Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Tbilisi, parishioners greet one another during the
Kiss of Peace. (photo: Molly Corso)
The spring edition of our magazine has just been posted online, and one of the stories focuses on the firm faith of Armenian Catholics, persevering and creating a sense of community in a country with only five priests:
The lack of priests on the ground means Armenian Catholics living in cities such as Borjomi, Ozurgeti and Chiatura attend Latin parishes, a phenomenon that impacts all Eastern Catholics where clergy and parishes are nonexistent. This means that a way of life, as well as a faith tradition, is imperiled. More Armenian Catholics are finding themselves disconnected from centuries of tradition without access to the sacraments and rites that have been a part of their faith and, in fact, their identity.
Yet, defying the odds, they stand firm. To spend time with Georgia’s Armenian Catholics is to rediscover the deep reservoirs of piety and purpose — and a remarkable strength of character — that have defined them for generations.
It is also to realize, above all, that the story of Georgia’s Armenian Catholics is one of unwavering faith.
“The Soviet period was a time of oppression for Armenian Catholic families,” says Tbilisi’s Rev. Mikael Khachkalian, the only Armenian Catholic priest in the city, of the challenges facing his flock in Georgia.
“The Soviet Communist regime’s deliberate policy gave birth to another problem — the Armenians of Tbilisi in particular don’t have a good command of the Armenian language, knowledge about their national Christian tradition and their rich, centuries-old history.”
Father Khachkalian estimates that around 80 percent of those worshiping in Tbilisi’s two Catholic parishes are in fact ethnic Armenians. The same problem exists around the country, outside the predominantly Armenian Catholic villages in southwestern Georgia, where the Armenian language and culture dominate. Yet even in these villages, the heart of Armenian Catholicism in the Caucasus, challenges exist. Priests must travel travel hundreds of miles in wretched conditions to provide the sacraments to far-flung congregations in shrinking communities largely empty of its men, most of whom have abandoned their families for work in Russia.
Solakat Davolian, 75, attends liturgy every morning in the small makeshift chapel in the Armenian Catholic center in Tbilisi, yet she prefers to attend Mass every Sunday afternoon at the Latin parish of Sts. Peter and Paul downtown.
Before Armenian Catholic priests arrived in Tbilisi, Armenian Catholics were served by Polish-speaking missionaries. This, Mrs. Davolian says, made participation in the life of the community a challenge. “Now that there is an Armenian priest, I come every day,” she explains. “It was hard before; we could not understand the language. Now, thank God, it is much easier.”
Read more about A Firm Faith in the Spring 2014 issue of ONE.
24 April 2014
In this August 2013 image, a Syrian Armenian refugee sits on a bed in her apartment in Bourj Hammoud, a densely populated Armenian enclave on the eastern suburbs of Beirut. (photo: Dalia Khamissy)
Following the global Armenian diaspora (New York Times) While Armenians had long settled in other parts of the world, the violence of the Armenian genocide in Turkey — begun 99 years ago — set in motion a global exodus that has established communities in many corners of the world. Through her own travels and curiosity, Scout Tufankjian has come to appreciate that diaspora’s diversity, which she saw as a much-needed addition to the traditional historical view of her people…
In Syria, war is woven into childhood (Los Angeles Times) Child soldiers hold rifles in a land where cemeteries fill with tiny graves and kids pretend to dodge sniper bullets for fun. Syrians talk about a “lost generation” of their children, an innocence stolen in the three-year conflict between opposition forces and the government of Bashar al Assad…
Clashes in eastern Ukraine intensify (Washington Post) Ukrainian security forces killed “up to five” pro-Russian activists Thursday in the restive eastern part of the country, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said, as Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned any use of the Ukrainian military against its own citizens. The Russian military launched “tactical drills” Thursday in the regions bordering Ukraine in response to events across the border, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting in Moscow…
In besieged Gaza, Palestinian unity deal sparks hope, caution (Al Jazeera) Shock, disbelief, elation and a surge of giddy optimism were among the reactions of Gazans to Wednesday’s news that Fatah and Hamas had agreed to form a unity government that, if implemented, would end the seven-year schism that separated Gaza from the West Bank. An Israeli airstrike on the besieged enclave the same day, however, served as a reminder of the scale of the challenges that lie ahead…
Why Israel may need to rethink its assumptions on Palestinian unity (Christian Science Monitor) “[Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] must decide if he wants to make peace, and if so, with whom. It is impossible to make peace with Israel as well as with Hamas, a terrorist organization advocating for Israel’s destruction,” said Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. “Signing an agreement of a Fatah-Hamas unity government is tantamount to [calling off] negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.” Israel’s approach rests on two assumptions: that Mr. Abbas, who is also leader of Fatah, could enforce a peace deal without reconciling with Hamas; and that Hamas would never give up its stated intention to destroy Israel. Both may need rethinking…
23 April 2014
Tags: Ukraine Syrian Civil War Children Israeli-Palestinian conflict Armenia
A restorer displays fragments of a recovered mosaic near the Jordan River (left) and a reproduction of a finished product. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Several years ago, we visited the area around the Jordan where tradition holds that John baptized Jesus, and uncovered some remarkable archeological work:
Archeologist Dr. Muhammad Waheeb is the excavator of the most recently investigated major site associated with the life of Jesus. The two Gospel passages state that John the Baptist was baptizing at Bethany beyond the Jordan River, i.e., on the east side of the river, as seen from Jerusalem. This Bethany should not be confused with the home village of Mary, Martha and Lazarus on the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem.
For many centuries pilgrims have identified the location of the baptism of Jesus with a spot on the western bank of the Jordan River near Jericho. But over the past five years Dr. Waheeb has shown that for most Christians of the Byzantine period — the fourth through the seventh centuries — the activity of the Baptist was located at a site on the eastern bank known today in Arabic as Wadi el-Kharrar, about four and a half miles northeast of where the river empties into the Dead Sea.
The evidence of some pottery shards and other remains from the time of Jesus himself — what historians and archeologists call the Roman period in this region — is not yet sufficient to make an absolute identification of the site with the Gospel’s Bethany. And indeed it is difficult to “prove” archeologically the exact location of many, if not most, events of both the Old and New Testaments.
The earliest shrine-building efforts of newly free Christians, however, following the Romans’ issuing of an edict of religious tolerance in 311, as well as monastic settlements, bear witness to the attraction of particular sites to the faithful by at least the second quarter of the fourth century.
Read more about Bethany Beyond the Jordan in the January-February 2002 issue of our magazine.