Current Issue
Autumn, 2015
Volume 41, Number 3
20 November 2015
Greg Kandra

Syrian children look out through their tent at the refugee camp in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, on 19 November 2015. Lebanon is being overwhelmed with refugees from Syria. (photo: Ratib al Safadi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Syrian refugees overwhelming Lebanon (USA Today) Syrian refugees fleeing to Lebanon from the civil war next door — like Al Shuqi with her widowed sister and sister-in-law — now outnumber the local population around Ghazze by four to one. Millions fleeing Syria’s 4-year-old civil war have created an international refugee crisis, but no country has borne the brunt of their flight more than little Lebanon, where every fifth person now living in this country of 4.5 million has escaped from the war. That would be comparable to 64 million refugees from Mexico living in the United States...

Cholera outbreak in Iraq threatens region (SciDev.Net) UN agencies have expressed concern about a cholera outbreak in Iraq spreading across the region. Cases of the waterborne disease surged in Iraq late last month, and have been confirmed in nearby including Bahrain and Kuwait. “We expect an increase in the rate of infections [beyond] the officially declared figures as a result of the deteriorating security situation in Iraq,” Rana Sidani, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization’s Eastern Mediterranean office, tells SciDev.Net...

Gaza’s child workers bear brunt of failing economy (Haaretz) On every major street in Gaza City and its surrounding towns and villages, children as young as 6 can be seen hard at work, selling coffee or cigarettes in an attempt to scrape together some money for their families. In fields beyond the urban areas, children grow and harvest fruits and vegetables for sale in one of the busy open-air souks (markets) around the territory. These are the Gaza Strip’s child workers. They are a result of an economy that has largely been crippled by a blockade that has left the Palestinian territory with an unemployment rate of 43 percent — the highest in the world — according to the World Bank...

Christians and Muslims in Kurdistan mark ‘day of tolerance’ (Fides) A “day of tolerance” was celebrated in Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, on Thursday 19 November, at the initiative of local and international organizations, starting from the UN mission in Iraq. The meeting, held in the Abdullah conference room, was marked by speeches and reports focused on the promotion of respect and dialogue between faiths and cultures as an antidote to seizures and sectarian conflicts that are tearing the Middle East apart. Among others, the meeting was also attended by Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, and Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, along with a large group of parliamentarians and leaders of Islamic and Christian communities in the region...

Coptic Church inaugurates a TV channel for children (Fides) The television channel of the Coptic Orthodox Church dedicated to children is called Koogi TV and was inaugurated yesterday, Thursday, 19 November...

Tags: Syria Iraq Lebanon Gaza Strip/West Bank Muslim

19 November 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

Serbian Orthodox worshipers hold candles outside the Cathedral of St. Sava as part of an Easter celebration in Belgrade. (photo: Alexa Stankovic/AFP/Getty Images)

The 20th century in Europe closed the same way it opened — war in the Balkan Peninsula. The world witnessed snipers terrorize Sarajevo, soldiers torch churches and mosques, refugees frozen with fear and bulldozers uncover mass graves. “Balkan” is now synonymous with disintegration and bloodshed.

The Balkans, a complex web of mountains and valleys, plains and streams, lies at the crossroads of Asia and Europe. More than a quarter of those who inhabit the peninsula — Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Croats, Macedonian Slavs, Montenegrins, Serbs and Slovenians — descend from Central European Slavic tribes who migrated south in the seventh century. These tribes have evolved into a number of nationalities, their distinctiveness buttressed by the natural barriers of the peninsula, proximity to more powerful neighbors and a variety of religious expressions. Not unlike the narratives of other Balkan states, Serbia’s saga is one of chronic crisis and conflict. The Orthodox Church of Serbia, which has played a leading role in the development of a distinct Serbian identity, has served as a cultural repository and a bastion of faith when the Serbian nation had appeared imperiled.

Orthodoxy is the predominant faith of the Bulgarians, Greeks, Macedonian Slavs, Montenegrins, Romanians and Serbs. But the individual national Orthodox churches in each of these nations failed to prevent their governments from warring with one another in the first decades of the 20th century. Eager to reclaim what they perceived as their patrimony after centuries of Ottoman Turkish occupation, these nations created rival alliances with more powerful nations, which often had conflicting economic and political agendas. These alliances unsettled the peoples of the peninsula, especially during the world wars.

The Serbian Orthodox Decani Monastery in Kosovo dates to the 14th century. (photo: Armend Nimani/AFP/Getty Images)

The emergence in 1918 of Yugoslavia, a united Southern Slav kingdom of Croats, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Slovenes and Serbs — though the Serbs culturally and politically dominated the state — facilitated the unification of assorted Orthodox eparchies into a cohesive unit, which the Ottomans had dispersed with their suppression of a Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate of Pec in 1766.

The ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, “first among equals” in the Orthodox communion, granted the Serbian Orthodox Church its independence in 1920, raising it to the rank of patriarchate with its seat in the capital of Belgrade.

In 1941, the Nazis dismembered Yugoslavia, dividing the nation among its Albanian, Bulgarian and Hungarian allies. Serbia — the target of the Nazis’ wrath — ceased to exist.

Today, the Orthodox Church of Serbia commemorates the lives, and deaths, of more than 800,000 people, martyrs who died for their identity as Serbs and their loyalty to the Orthodox faith. Many of these “New Martyrs,” which include bishops, priests, monks, nuns and lay people, were murdered in concentration camps.

Click here to read more.

Tags: Eastern Churches Serbian Orthodox Church Serbia Serbian Orthodox Orthodox Church of Serbia

19 November 2015
Greg Kandra

Nina Moshy, left, and Rosemary Yachouh stand in front of the Ryerson Student Centre in Toronto to spread awareness about the plight of Syrian refugees. (photo: Jean Ko Din/Catholic Register)

Students in Canada are showing solidarity with Syrian refugees — and raising funds for CNEWA.

From The Catholic Register:

Many members of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union (ACSSU) have grown up in Canada watching from a distance as civil wars tear apart their homelands and force their relatives and friends to flee. As tensions rise and more people are displaced, ACSSU members believe they can make a difference.

From 16 to 19 November, ACSSU chapters at Toronto’s Ryerson and York Universities and the University of Toronto; McMaster in Hamilton, Ontario; and Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, set up camp in front of their school’s student centers to raise awareness and money in support of refugees in Iraq and Syria. For three nights and four days, ACCSU members are experiencing the “Life of a Mesopotamian Refugee.”

“We’re here to raise awareness and money for people who are not here,” said Rosemary Yachouh, president of ACSSU Canada. “I’m just hoping to get the word out. … I want to make myself feel what people back home are feeling for the extent that I’m able to.”

About 12 students slept in tents for three nights without electronics and other conveniences. The students only ate food brought to them by others.

During the day, students handed out flyers and talked with passers-by about the plight of displaced peoples in Iraq and Syria. They also visited classrooms to talk to different student groups about donating money to send much needed food, shelter and clothing overseas.

ACSSU hopes to raise at least $25,000 for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA).

Generally, Yachouh said people have been open to being engaged in conversation. Students want to know more about what’s going on?in the world. Many have passed by their tables and tents to share their thoughts and feelings about the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut.

“We’re not just about raising money. We also want to get people’s time. We want to tell them what’s happening,” said Yachouh. “So by having a physical presence and actually giving ourselves that experience of living like refugees, I think it shows the Canadian community that there is a bigger thing happening outside of this country.”

Read more.

Tags: Syria Iraq Refugees Middle East Iraqi Refugees

18 November 2015
Greg Kandra

French special police forces secure the area in Saint-Denis, France, on 18 November. Shots were exchanged between bombing fugitives and police. Pope Francis this morning bemoaned a “world at war” that was rejecting the “path of peace.” (photo: CNS/Christian Hartmann, Reuters)

Pope: Jesus weeps for a world at war (Vatican Radio) “The whole world is at war,” and the rejection of the “path of peace” means that God himself, that Jesus himself, weeps. This was the message of Pope Francis to the faithful following the readings of the day at Mass on Thursday morning in the Casa Santa Marta…

British Muslims take out ad condemning Paris attacks (Daily Mail) Hundreds of Muslim groups have taken out an advertisement condemning the Paris terror attacks and pledging allegiance to “the values of pluralism and tolerance.” A message placed in the national Press today criticized the “barbaric acts” of the bombers and gunmen who murdered 129 people in the French capital last week. It also praised a security guard who was working at the Stade de France at the time of the assault and is believed to be a Muslim, saying that “brave individuals” like him should be seen as the true representatives of Islam…

Syrian refugees in U.S. fear backlash (The Los Angeles Times) Viewed with sympathy this summer as thousands tried to reach Europe in unseaworthy boats, many of the more than 1,600 Syrian refugees who have won asylum in the United States now worry that the country that had seemed their best hope may not be prepared to welcome them…

Indian Christians fight government rules against priests ( Church leaders in eastern India’s Chhattisgarh state are struggling against a local law that helps Hindu hardliners stop Christian priests from setting foot in certain villages. “The atmosphere in the state is not very conducive for Christians anymore,” said the Rev. Abraham Kannampala, vicar general of Jagdalpur Diocese. “We feel threatened as we are a small minority.” In the latest incident, a Pentecostal gathering in Kohkameta village of Baster district was attacked on 15 November. Assailants dragged worshippers from the church, beat them with sticks and demanded that they reconvert to Hinduism, witnesses reported. Baster district has faced increasing anti-Christian violence for almost a year, after some Hindu groups sought to ban Christian priests from entering villages by passing resolutions in village bodies…

Patriarch Tawadros calls on Egyptians to participate in elections (Fides) Bishops and pastoral voices have to encourage “all citizens, and in particular young people, to participate in the second phase of the electoral process,” said Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II during the meeting with a group of bishops and priests. The patriarch urges Coptic voters to support competent and honest candidates, rather than merely voting based on religious affiliation…

Tags: India Pope Francis Refugees War France

18 November 2015
Greg Kandra

In this image from September, a laborer works to rebuild the 160-year old Mardin Protestant Church in Mardin, Turkey, one of the oldest Protestant churches in the Middle East. The first religious service in 60 years was held at the church on Sunday. Read more and see a picture of the completed work here. (photo: Don Duncan)

18 November 2015
Greg Kandra

Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo, chairman of the bishops’ migration committee, prays during the 2015 fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore
on 17 November. (photo: CNS/Bob Roller)

Bishop disturbed by calls to end resettlement of Syrian refugees in U.S. (CNS) The head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration said he was disturbed by calls from federal and state officials for an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. “These refugees are fleeing terror themselves — violence like we have witnessed in Paris,” said Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the migration committee. “They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives. We cannot and should not blame them for the actions of a terrorist organization...”

Jordan’s King warns of “world war,” condemns ISIS as “savage outlaws of religion” (AFP) Jordan’s King Abdullah II warned Tuesday of a “third world war against humanity,” describing the Islamic State group as “savage outlaws of religion” in the wake of the Paris attacks. During an official visit to Kosovo, Abdullah said both Europe and Islam were under attack from the “scourge” of terrorism that could strike anywhere and at any time. “We are facing a third world war against humanity and this is what brings us all together,” he told a press conference. “This is a war, as I’ve said repeatedly, within Islam,” he said, stressing the high number of Muslim victims of the Islamic State (IS) group...

Holy See: Hate crimes against Christians under-reported (Vatican Radio) The Holy See delegation to the OSCE has made a statement at a meeting on Hate Crimes. “The poor attention given to hate crimes committed against majority communities and the fact that hate crimes motivated by religious bias or prejudice are under-reported and under-recorded...imply that the hate crimes against members of religions and, especially against Christians, are certainly more numerous than those indicated [in annual reports],” said Monsignor Janusz Urbańczyk, the Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the OSCE...

Kerala, largest exporter of clergy, feels shortage (Hindustan Times) Kerala was once the largest exporter of clergy, its priests and nuns the most sought after across the world, but insiders contend the church is now facing difficulties in managing its institutions across the country because of a shortage of hands. Informal estimates suggest there has been a 40% drop in the number of men and women joining religious life in Kerala though the northeastern states and Andhra Pradesh have registered a 30% hike in the enrollment of priests and nuns. Though there is no data on the strength of the clergy in India, church insiders say there are about 40,000 priests and 25,000 nuns across the country. At one time, Kerala accounted for more than 60% of the total...

One of Turkey’s oldest Protestant churches reopens (AINA) The 160-year-old Mardin Protestant Church, one of the oldest Protestant churches in the Middle East located in Artuklu, a district in the southeastern province of Mardin, has reopened following extensive restoration work. The first religious service was held on Sunday in the church which was closed 60 years ago and had been in ruins ever since...

Tags: Syria India Refugees Jordan Kerala

17 November 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

Byzantine traditions remain strong among Greek Catholics in the former Yugoslavia. Fresco from the church of St. Clement, Ohrid, Macedonia. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Yugoslavia, the “land of the Southern Slavs,” was the fruit of an intellectual concept born in Europe in the 19th century. Members of the intelligentsia speculated that a union of the Balkans’ Southern Slavs — Catholic Croats and Slovenes, Muslim Bosniaks and Orthodox Macedonians, Montenegrins and Serbs — would free them from the yoke of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, which had competed for control of the Balkan Peninsula for centuries.

In December 1918, after the collapse of the two empires, an uneasy union was achieved, and the king of Serbia proclaimed its head. The Yugoslav experiment proved defective as rival groups jostled one another for supremacy, particularly after the death in 1980 of its longtime strongman, Josip Tito.

The Yugoslav state collapsed in 1991 and its former constituents turned on one another in a bloodletting that did not abate until the new millennium. Bosniaks, Croats, Kosovar Albanians and Serbs were all complicit in mass murder, ethnic cleansing, rape and other acts of wanton violence.

Lost in the confusion were Yugoslav minorities — Greek Catholics, Jews and Protestants. The Greek Catholics of Yugoslavia were particularly vulnerable; perceived by both Croat and Serb extremists as neither Catholic nor Orthodox, they included six distinct groups: Macedonians and Serbs who accepted papal authority and followed the rites of the Orthodox tradition; Greek Catholic Croats from the village of Žumberak; Greek Catholic Rusyns who left the Carpathians in the 18th century; Ukrainian Greek Catholics who left Galicia at the turn of the 20th century; and Romanian Greek Catholics living in the Serbian province of Vojvodina.

After the Yugoslav kingdom was created in 1918, the Holy See extended the jurisdiction of the Eparchy of Križevci, (erected in 1777) to embrace all Yugoslavian Greek Catholics. Since the disintegration of the Southern Slav state, the Holy See has regrouped them into three separate jurisdictions: The Eparchy of Križevci, near the Croatian capital city of Zagreb, includes about 18,260 people living in Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2001, the Holy See established an exarchate for Greek Catholics living in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Led by the Latin bishop of Skopje, it includes some 11,300 faithful. In 2003, the Holy See set up an exarchate for Greek Catholics in Serbia and Montenegro and includes about 22,000 members, most of whom are ethnic Rusyns living in the Serbian region of Vojvodina.

Click here to read more.

17 November 2015
Greg Kandra

Refugees from Afghanistan and Syria arrive in boats on the shores of Lesbos on 5 November 2015 near Skala Sikaminias, Greece. In the wake of last week’s terror attacks in Paris, U.S. bishops have underscored their support for refugees. To show your support for refugees, please visit this giving page. (photo: Etienne De Malglaive/Getty Images)

17 November 2015
Greg Kandra

In the video above, authorities are tightening security in Rome, following last Friday’s terror attacks in Paris. (video: Rome Reports)

Report: Terror suspect was target of airstrikes on ISIS in Syria (The New York Times) The Belgian man suspected of being the plotter of the Paris terrorist attacks was a target of Western airstrikes on the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, as recently as last month, according to a European security official. The man, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, a fighter for the Islamic State, is believed to have escaped to Syria after the authorities in January foiled another terrorist plot, which had targeted the eastern Belgian city of Verviers, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational details...

U.S. Bishops: Paris violence won’t alter church outreach to refugees (CNS) Church resettlement programs in the United States will continue to aid refugees who are fleeing violence and social ills despite calls that the country’s borders should be closed to anyone but Christians. The church’s response is focused on people in need of food, shelter and safety and not their particular faith, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told reporters on 16 November during a midday break at the bishops’ annual fall general assembly. “We at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities, we are always open to helping families who come into the United States in need of help,” he said at a news conference. “We have that tradition of doing it and we’re going to contribute...”

Deal reached to reopen Gaza border (AP) A senior Palestinian official on Monday said the Palestinian Authority has reached an agreement with Egypt to reopen the Gaza Strip’s main border crossing in an arrangement meant to bypass the territory’s Hamas rulers...

Pope to visit Rome synagogue in January (Vatican Radio) The Holy See Press Office today announced that, following an invitation from the Chief Rabbi and Jewish Community of Rome, Pope Francis will pay a visit to the Great Synagogue in the afternoon of Sunday 17 January 2016. It will be the third visit by a Pope to the Great Synagogue of Rome, following John Paul II and Benedict XVI...

Vatican Christmas tree to be unveiled early (Vatican Radio) When the Jubilee Year of Mercy begins on 8 December, all eyes will be looking towards Rome. So the Governorate of the Holy See has decided to take advantage of the attention and unveil the St. Peter’s Square Christmas tree on the same day...

Tags: Syria Pope Francis Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank Jews

16 November 2015
Greg Kandra

The Blue Ridge Mountains near Lynchburg, Virginia. (photo: CNEWA)

Late Sunday night, my colleague Norma Intriago and I returned to New York City after an inspiring trip to Lynchburg, Virginia, where we paid a visit to St. Thomas More Catholic Church.

St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. (photo: CNEWA)

Nestled near the Blue Ridge Mountains, not far from the border with North Carolina, Lynchburg is an overwhelmingly Protestant enclave in the South — among other things, it’s home to Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University — but the parish family at St. Thomas More is vibrant and enthusiastic and proud of their Catholic identity. They also care passionately about what is happening to Christians in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria — which is why they invited us to come and talk about CNEWA.

The pastor, the Rev. Msgr. Michael McCarron, is a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre; he’s made 15 pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and is getting ready to lead his 16th next spring. He’s also a longtime CNEWA supporter and reader of our magazine, ONE. He and his parish team gave us a warm and enthusiastic welcome. They’ve already raised funds for Christians by selling cookbooks and small decorative ceramic tiles for the Year of Mercy, and they’ve made awareness of the plight of Christians a priority.

I preached at all three Masses — drawing some connections between what has happened in Paris and what is continuing to happen to people in Iraq and Syria — and Norma gave an excellent PowerPoint presentation that told more about the work we do and the mission we've undertaken.

Director of Development Norma Intriago speaks to parishioners. (photo: CNEWA)

The response was overwhelmingly positive.

Karen Birkmeyer proudly shows her support for Christians in the Middle East. (photo: CNEWA)

Parishioners gather more information from CNEWA after the Masses. (photo: CNEWA)

We thank the good people at St. Thomas More for their hearty welcome and passionate commitment to CNEWA’s work in the Middle East and around the world — and we need to give a special shoutout to Tom Lucente and Sybil Frey, who were our gracious hosts. And the big-hearted, big-voiced Msgr. McCarron made our visit a joy. Thank you!

We hope to come back soon.

Meantime, if you’d like us to visit your parish, drop us a line. We’d love to meet you and spread the word about how you can make a difference in the lives of the people CNEWA serves. Simply contact Norma Intriago at

Msgr. Michael McCarron, Norma Intriago and Deacon Greg Kandra. (photo: CNEWA)

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