13 March 2014
Today, I was touched to receive the brief handwritten note pictured above. It comes from Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus.
Dear Msgr. Kozar,
The 4th year of war looks much more violent — it is too difficult for the church life. Thank you for your support and prayer to Our Lady of Peace.
He enclosed with the note a list of names: religious who have been kidnapped or killed during the civil war in Syria. With all the hardship his people are experiencing, this good man still took the time to write me a brief note of gratitude — an expression of solidarity and spiritual hope, and a humble request for prayer.
In 2012, the archbishop said: “One lives an apocalypse in Damascus, and we hope with all our heart, mind and strength, that resurrection may soon arrive.”
As we prepare for Easter during this holy season of Lent, we pray continually that the people of Syria will indeed know a resurrection of their own. We here at CNEWA join our prayers with the archbishop, and those of the whole world, seeking a peaceful end to this tragedy.
Won’t you help? Please pray for the archbishop and his people. Ask the intercession of Our Lady of Peace during this prayerful time. And to support our suffering brothers and sisters in Syria, please visit our giving page.
13 March 2014
Tags: Syria Syrian Civil War Maronite Church Damascus Eastern Catholic Churches
Father Mykhailo Dymyd stands in downtown Kiev at the site of the demonstrations on the Maidan.
(photo: Yaryna Pochtarenko)
Priests and sisters have shown extraordinary courage throughout the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. With their bodies, they are protecting people from violence. With their voices, they are speaking out for unity, harmony and the common good. In these new and uncertain days, courageous priests and sisters are needed more than ever.
A Kiev-based journalist, Liubov Eremicheva, had a chance to interview some of these special men who were present on the Maidan when the protests were taking place. One of them is Father Mykhailo Dymyd from Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. Here’s part of what he had to say:
“The main mission of a priest is prayer. Prayer can be manifested in many different ways. For me as a priest, the most important prayer is the Divine Liturgy. Millions of people bring their own sacrifice. A hundred people died on the Maidan during demonstrations and we need to value their sacrifice. Prayer and liturgy are important because they bring our sacrifices in front of God, who is capable of transforming them into something lasting and deeply rooted in our hearts. Prayer helps people return home to their towns and villages with a new spirit: the spirit of love and respect, which we all felt when were here on the Maidan in Kiev. When a priest prays, then others around him pray with him as well, regardless of their religious affiliation or even regardless of whether they believe in God at all. A priest is a symbol of a spiritual support. We listen to people’s needs and hear what they have to say; we comfort and hear confessions. … Some of the boys who died here on the square had come to me and said: ’I want to confess because I want to die sinless.‘ They felt that these might be the last moments of their life.
“A priest has to be with his people always, not only at the parish or when the life is good. He has to care about his people and accompany them on their journeys. Right now, our people have shown tremendous efforts in protesting for their dignity on the Maidan Square. However, right now, many are asking themselves: ‘What’s next?’ When people started to fight for their rights, they forgot for a moment about their daily problems. Now that some victory has been achieved, people are returning again to their daily problems. When we were thirsty for freedom, we were all together. Now we are returning to our corners and we might feel lonely there again. And in these moments, people have to help one another; this is not something that only priests can do.”
Through Catholic Near East Welfare Association, you can assist priests like Father Mykhailo Dymyd to stand with the Ukrainian people and their aspirations for a better future. You can help the church to reach out to the marginalized, the sick and the poor.
Please click here to make a generous gift for Ukraine today!
13 March 2014
Tags: Ukraine CNEWA Eastern Churches Church Ukrainian Catholic Church
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the election of Pope Francis. In this image from 13 March 2013, a woman holding holy cards reacts after the election of a new pope outside the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina became the first man from Latin America to be elected pope and the first to take the name of Francis.
(photo: CNS/Agustin Marcarian, Reuters)
13 March 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Pope
A man runs while carrying a child who survived what activists say was an airstrike by government forces in Aleppo on 21 January. (photo: CNS/Ammar Abdullah, Reuters)
Aleppo TV provides lifeline in wartime (Al Jazeera) On TV, a group of boys play soccer in a street littered with broken concrete, amid apartment buildings scarred by bullet and shell holes. One of the boys accidentally kicks the ball down an alley, where it comes to rest near a hidden mine. As the boy is just inches from stepping on the detonator, a Syrian opposition fighter scoops him up. An announcer’s voice warns children to beware of mines and unexploded ordnance. This is one of the messages that the Syrian satellite TV station Aleppo Today airs daily that, along with its news programs and a breaking-news ticker, have made it the most popular network for current residents of Aleppo, refugees who have fled the war-torn city and opposition fighters in Syria’s north. The 24-hour, opposition-aligned news channel started a few months after the uprising began in Syria in March 2011, in order to cover protests and broadcast news about the uprising against President Bashar al Assad, back when it was hard to find any independent, non-government-controlled news out of Syria’s largest city…
Syrian women refugees humiliated, exploited in Turkey (Al Monitor) Women refugees from Syria are being sexually harassed by employers, landlords and even aid distributors in Lebanon, reported Human Rights Watch late in November. The organization “interviewed a dozen women who described being groped, harassed and pressured to have sex.” According to refugees, young Syrian women are facing the same difficulties in Turkey, including early marriages, abuse and even prostitution. Although Turkey is arguably one of the countries most hospitable toward Syrian refugees, these problems are reportedly on the rise…
Despite politics, Israeli doctors treat Syrians (Christian Science Monitor) The West Galilee Hospital in Nahariya is no stranger to war. Located only six miles south of the Lebanese border, it took a direct missile hit during the 2006 conflict with Hezbollah. But the Syrian war has pervaded these halls and wards in a much more personal way: through wounded Syrians, who are picked up at the border and brought here by the Israeli military for free treatment. Israel has a tradition of offering humanitarian assistance in war zones and natural disasters around the world, even where it is not particularly welcome. But treating Syrians, whose country is still officially at war with Israel, is not only a logistical miracle but also an extraordinary exercise in humanity trumping hate…
Gaza ceasefire agreed after two-day flareup (Reuters) Egypt brokered a ceasefire on Thursday aimed at ending a flare-up of rocket attacks from Gaza on Israeli towns and Israeli air strikes in the Palestinian enclave, the Islamic Jihad militant group said. There was no immediate word from Israel, but a senior Defense Ministry official said earlier in the day he expected the fighting to die down soon. “Following intensive Egyptian contacts and efforts, the agreement for calm has been restored in accordance with understandings reached in 2012 in Cairo,” Khaled al Batsh, an Islamic Jihad leader, wrote on Facebook, referring to a truce that ended an eight-day Gaza war two years ago…
Egypt may have to wait for presidential vote (Los Angeles Times) Egypt’s presidential election, previously set for this spring, could be pushed back to midsummer, state media reported, shifting the deadline from mid-april to 17 July. Political parties have been arguing over a contentious new election law that rules out legal challenges to the results as determined by the country’s main electoral body. Critics call the measure unconstitutional, and the only declared candidate in the presidential race so far, leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, says it casts doubt on the integrity of any vote…
Ukrainian Catholics fear ‘new oppression’ after Russian takeover (National Catholic Reporter) A Ukrainian Catholic priest in Crimea said church members are alarmed and frightened by the Russian military occupation and fear their communities might be outlawed again if Russian rule becomes permanent. The Rev. Mykhailo Milchakovskyi, a pastor in Kerch, Ukraine, described the atmosphere as tense because many residents of the town located in the eastern part of Crimea were unsure of their future. “No one knows what will happen. Many people are trying to sell their homes and move to other parts of Ukraine,” Father Milchakovskyi told Catholic News Service on Wednesday…
12 March 2014
Tags: Syria Egypt Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Israeli-Palestinian conflict
A family caravan transports hay on Highway 4 near Meki, south of Ethiopia’s capital.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)
In 2010, we reported on the plight of farmers in Ethiopia:
For Lema Waka and his family, life in their hamlet in Ethiopia’s Rift Valley carries on much as it has for generations. On this blazing hot day, the family is wrapping up the season’s teff harvest. With the help of laborers, they have cut, threshed and sacked the grain that Ethiopians use for the baking of their bread, injera. Together, they load and strap the sacks onto donkey-drawn carts. Harnessed up, the Lemas’ caravan is ready for the market in Meki, the nearest town some eight miles away.
Mr. Lema cracks the whip on the donkeys and the caravan pulls onto the paved and freshly painted Trans-African Highway 4, the only visible sign of contemporary life for miles. Once completed, Highway 4 will traverse the entire continent, linking Cairo to Cape Town. Intended to stimulate trade, investment and growth across the continent, it has done just that for some Ethiopians, proving to be a vital lifeline between urban centers within the country.
But the benefits of Highway 4 have not been reaped by most of Ethiopia’s rural population, even those along its route. Most of Ethiopia’s farmers use age-old agricultural methods to plant traditional crops, such as teff, onions and tomatoes, which sell cheaply in local markets. Most rely on the fickle goodwill of Mother Nature. Most expect their children, especially their daughters, to help maintain the family farm and manage the household at the expense of continuing their education. And most consider the donkey-drawn cart the industry standard. For these peasant farmers and their families, survival is a hand-to-mouth equation for which there is no margin for error.
The Lema family is no different. Lema Waka depends on the rains and his five-acre plot of land to support his wife and nine children. He grows corn, white beans, sorghum and tomatoes, but mainly teff — the most labor-intensive crop of the bunch. Though the grain covers the greatest amount of cultivated land in Ethiopia, it delivers the lowest crop yield per acre. Mr. Lema’s 1.5 tons of teff might bring in a little more than $1,000 on the market. But much of it never reaches the market at all. With it, he must first pay the day laborers, who helped with the harvest, and neighbors, who lend him cattle, and he must purchase seeds for next season. The Lemas will be lucky to clear $500, barely enough to feed the family until the next harvest.
Read about some solutions aimed at helping these farmers in Farming a Brighter Future from the January 2010 issue of ONE.
And to learn how you can help them today, visit our Ethiopia giving page.
12 March 2014
Rafat Abdurmanov indicates a list of people from the village of Hromivka, Crimea, who were killed by German forces in the 1940’s. For more on the ethnic composition of Crimea, read An Ethnic & Religious Patchwork, in the March 2009 issue of ONE. (photo: Petro Didula)
An uncertain quiet for Crimean Tatars (New York Times) More than 20 years after her family returned from decades of exile to their Crimean roots, Emine Ziyatdinova wonders if the upheaval in Crimea will again force Tatars from their homeland…
Ukraine crisis in maps (New York Times) The Times shares a visual guide to the ongoing conflict over Crimea…
Papal trip to Israel encounters mounting difficulties (AsiaNews) An ongoing strike by employees of the Israeli diplomatic service could bring the activity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to a grinding halt. British Prime Minister David Cameron was due to visit this week but his trip has already been canceled, as has a planned speech to the U.N. Future engagements are also at risk, such as President Shimon Peres’s trip to Austria, scheduled for the end of this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Colombia and Mexico in April and Pope Francis’ visit in May…
Syria’s unknown victims: the thousands missing or dead in regime custody (The Guardian) Among the more than 100,000 counted as dead in the three years since the Syrian civil war began are at least 11,000 who have disappeared into the Assad regime’s custody. But the true number may be much higher, the Guardian finds in interviews with released prisoners and relatives of those missing persons…
Vandals attack Catholic church in Gaza (Al Monitor) “The assailants entered from the west side of the church and detonated a very small explosive. It did not inflict any damage. They also wrote phrases on the walls,” police spokesman Ayoub Abu Shaar said in a phone interview. Mr. Abu Shaar denied media reports that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant had claimed responsibility for the attack, stressing that said organization has no presence in the Gaza Strip. “What happened was not an organized attack, but rather the work of individuals. As soon as we find the perpetrators they will be referred to trial,” he added…
Chaldean patriarchate and Caritas Iraq aid Muslim families fleeing violence (AsiaNews) A delegation led by Chaldean Patriarch Raphael Louis visited the Sunni mosque of Umm al Qura, west of Baghdad, and distributed food and medicine. The patriarch expressed solidarity with the displaced from Fallujah and Ramadi, who have fled from Islamist militias…
11 March 2014
Tags: Iraq Ukraine Syrian Civil War Gaza Strip/West Bank Crimea
In this image from 2011, Father Shnork Kasparian, right, is honored on the 50th anniversary of his ordination by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian in St. Louis, Missouri.
(photo: The Armenian Reporter)
Robert Pape serves as major gifts officer in CNEWA’s New York offices.
On 3 March, the CNEWA family lost a most loyal friend and steadfast supporter. Very Rev. Father Shnork Kasparian, a member of the Armenian Apostolic Church, passed peacefully into eternal life.
Father Kasparian was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in May 1929. He graduated with the London Chamber of Commerce diploma from the British School. In 1959, he graduated from St. James Seminary in Jerusalem, and was ordained a deacon.
Father Kasparian spoke nine languages. In 1961, he was ordained a celibate priest in Cairo by Archbishop Mampre Siroonian, primate of Egypt. In 1962, he was assigned pastoral duties in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and was elevated to the rank of Vartabed by Archbishop Papken Abadian. In 1963, he was appointed Vicar General of Brazil and Uruguay.
In 1969, he was invited by his Holiness Vazken I, Catholicos of all Armenians, and was assigned as dean of the seminary in Etchmiadzin. In 1979, he was invited by the patriarch of Constantinople, Archbishop Shnork Kaloostian, as his personal assistant and representative in foreign and ecumenical activities. In 1974, he was elevated to Dzayrakooyn Vartabed.
Father Kasparian served as pastor in Milwaukee, Worcester and Belleville, IL; and Providence, RI. He has also served in Canada.
On 15 December 2010, Father Kasparian was assigned as the visiting pastor of Holy Virgin Mary and Shoghagat Church of Belleville. It was in Belleville where I first met Father Shnork. CNEWA was partnering with the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops and Caritas Armenia for the building of a civic center to care for children with special needs in Gyumri, Armenia. Father and I spent a cold February day at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. We walked the entire grounds of the shrine. We stopped to talk. We stopped to pray. We stopped to laugh. I wanted to stop and go someplace warm!
I came away from that first meeting knowing that I had met a man of true faith. Although I wasn’t particularly familiar with Armenian Apostolic traditions, I realized the message of East and West is the same. We must look out and care for our sisters and brothers in need.
Father Kasparian’s support of that civic center was vital in getting the project started. In the years to come, countless children with special needs will be cared for and caregivers who have been properly trained because of the prayers and support of this good man.
That initial meeting led to numerous phone calls; we had each other’s cell phone numbers on speed dial. Inspirational emails were exchanged—mostly from him to me. I did have the chance to go back to Belleville and attend Sunday services. I truly enjoyed the opportunity to hear Father Shnork preach. It is an experience I shall always remember.
I will miss my friend. I know he is with our Lord. I pray he keeps an eye out for me until we meet again.
11 March 2014
Last Sunday was Sunday of Orthodoxy for the Orthodox Church of America. Clergy and faithful gathered at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Minneapolis, MN for Pan-Orthodox Vespers. Read more about the history and spiritualty behind this feast at this link. (photo: OCA/Facebook)
11 March 2014
Mother Plagia Sayyaf of Mar Thecla monastery in Maaloula, Syria, left, who along with at least 11 other nuns was freed after three months, attends a prayer service at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross in Damascus on 10 March. Islamist rebels claim ed responsibility for the abduction of the nuns in December from Syria's ancient town of Maaloula.
(photo: CNS/Khaled al-Hariri, Reuters)
Syria claims it freed 25 prisoners in exchange for nuns ( Al Jazeera) Syria freed only 25 prisoners, not 150 as had been reported, in exchange for a group of kidnapped nuns, the country’s information minister Omran al-Zoubi has said. The statement came despite mediators and the opposition saying 150 female detainees had been freed in exchange for the nuns, who were kidnapped from the town of Maalula by rebels fighters last year. “The number of people released in exchange for the Maalula nuns is not more than 25 people, whose hands had not been stained by the blood of the Syrian people,” state news agency SANA quoted Zoubi as saying. “Everything that has been said on this issue is not accurate and has been exaggerated...”
Catholic officials call release of nuns an answer to prayers (CNS) The release of at least 12 Greek Orthodox nuns who were abducted in Syria in December was an answer to prayers, said regional Catholic officials. Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham said 10 March that he felt “a wave of joy” along with “thousands and thousands” of other people when he heard the nuns had been freed a day earlier. Islamist rebels claimed responsibility for the abduction of the nuns in December from Syria’s ancient town of Maaloula, where Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still spoken. Two Orthodox bishops and three priests, including an Armenian Catholic and Italian Jesuit, also have been abducted in Syria and remain missing...
Ukraine’s ousted leader urges resistance to new government (The New York Times) As Russia tightened its grip on Crimea, Ukraine’s ousted president appealed on Tuesday to the country’s military units to refuse to follow the orders of the new interim authorities, declaring that he remained commander in chief and would return to the country as soon as conditions permitted. Appearing in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don for the first time since the scale of Russia’s intervention in Crimea became evident, the ousted leader, Viktor F. Yanukovych, denounced the West for rushing to recognize and to provide financial assistance to a government he said was a junta...
Orthodox to hold a pan-Orthodox synod in 2016 (Catholic World News) The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople will preside over a pan-Orthodox council in 2016, according to a statement from the patriarchate. The decision to hold a pan-Orthodox council — officially called the “Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church” — was announced at the conclusion of a meeting of all the heads of the Eastern Orthodox churches. During the meeting, the leaders also discussed the situation in Syria and Ukraine...
Communists and Catholics forge alliance in India (UCANews.com) The Communist party in Kerala has thrown its support behind five Christian candidates in the southern Indian state, a traditionally Christian stronghold, in the country’s forthcoming national elections. The move highlights a bridging of the divide between communists and Christians in the state, as well as a growing disaffection between Christians and the ruling Congress party, particularly over the issue of the government’s plans to protect the Western Ghats, a hilly region that runs through Kerala. Christians, who comprise less than 20 percent of the state’s 30 million population, have been politically decisive in some pockets of the state’s electorate and are traditionally strong backers of the Congress party...
10 March 2014
Pope Francis arrives for a weeklong Lenten retreat with senior members of the Roman Curia in Ariccia, near Rome, on 9 March (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Pope Francis is taking a break as Lent begins. Vatican Radio reports:
Pope Francis is in the hillside town of Ariccia just south of Rome for a week-long Lenten retreat with members of the Curia. The Pope left the Vatican Sunday afternoon by bus — just a few hours after reciting the Angelus prayer with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square.
Breaking from a long-held tradition of holding them in the Vatican, Pope Francis decided to organize this year’s annual retreat from 9-14 March at the Pauline Fathers’ retreat and conference center in Ariccia. The small medieval town is not far from the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo. And, in choosing to get away from the Vatican and the daily pressures of curia work and duties, Pope Francis is telling us silence and prayer can have a transforming power in one’s life and relationships with others.
In an interview last week in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis said annual retreats should be given more importance and “everyone has a right to spend five days in silence and meditation.” And, speaking to a group of spiritual directors in audience in the Vatican, the Pope said those who go on an “authentic” retreat “experience the attraction and fascination of God and return renewed and transfigured in their daily lives, their ministry and their relationships.”
Msgr. Angelo De Donatis, pastor of a parish in the center of Rome, is preaching for the Pope and curia officials this week. A respected spiritual director of priests and seminarians, Msgr. De Donatis is reflecting on the theme of “the purification of the heart” in his mediations throughout the week.
Read more about the retreat at the Vatican Radio website.