23 June 2016
Elderly Armenians such as Hamaspyur Nazaretian — shown here in her shelter in Gyumri in 2014 — move donor Thomas Straczynski to support CNEWA. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
Thomas Straczynski knows the meaning of working to enrich people’s lives. For 37 years, he taught social studies and American history at a New York area Catholic school.
Today, he’s retired from the classroom. But his commitment to helping others remains strong — which is why he’s a devoted CNEWA donor — and, a CNEWA hero.
“I was born in Greenpoint, Brooklyn,” he explains. “A very close-knit ethnic Polish community. Every Sunday, I’d see the local diocesan newspaper called the Tablet. I was about ten, and read an article about a town called Taybeh.”
It’s a town in Lebanon, where local Christians — needing funds to build a church — asked potential contributors to “buy” a brick. “It hit me that, gee, I can contribute to building a church halfway around the world,” Thomas recalls. “So I sent in my little contribution, and got a letter back from a local bishop. I still have the letter. I’ve never been to Lebanon, but if I ever go I’d love to check on my brick.”
Not long afterward, he read an informational mailing from CNEWA. “It was during the 1950’s, and I was hooked,” he remembers. “I became very interested in the Eastern churches. I’ve always had a love for the liturgy, the iconography, the music.”
Once he became a donor, CNEWA’s magazine — today’s ONE — began arriving in his mailbox regularly. “I loved the stories,” he says. “When I was teaching, I had CNEWA send me thirty or forty copies, which I would give to my students. I got many of the kids interested. Hopefully, I made a difference.”
Several years ago, Thomas extended his support of CNEWA’s work into his estate planning. He’s now a CNEWA Legacy Donor, a decision that came naturally.
“When it came time to update my will, one of the first organizations that came to mind was CNEWA,” Thomas explains. “When I read an article in CNEWA’s magazine about the elderly, I realized how important it is to help people like me. You have pensioners in Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine. They’re really suffering. And the reason they’re suffering is because they’re my age.”
Thomas knows his life is comparatively blessed. “I live in circumstances they couldn’t possibly imagine,” he says. “It hit me like a ton of boulders that these people are cast aside. Pope Francis refers to the ‘throwaway culture.’ They deserve so much more. To not go hungry. To not freeze in winter, or be lonely because their children and grandchildren have gone off to make their fortunes.”
He agrees it’s important to support churches and Christian medical clinics. Both are major facets of CNEWA’s mission. “But we need to remember the old and marginalized, who no one else remembers. Abandonment is not a pretty thing. And that’s why, in my will, I specified that whatever goes to CNEWA should be primarily for the elderly.”
Does he encourage others to remember CNEWA when developing their estate plan?
“Absolutely,” Thomas Straczynski says. “It’s a no-brainer. It gives me a good feeling to know it will be used well. There’s so much hope for Christianity. We have to spread that hope to places where we can make a difference.”
Interested in learning more about wills and bequests? Visit this link.
23 June 2016
The icon known as “Our Lady Who Brings Down Walls” appears on the separation wall in Jerusalem. (photo: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)
The website for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem last week told the story of a powerful image of the Virgin Mary that has profound meaning for the people of a divided land:
Graffiti painted along the Separation wall, charged with political and social messages, have always been a form of protest against Israel’s unjust measures. Near the Emmanuel Monastery in Bethlehem, an icon of the Mother of God emerges on the 8-meter high concrete wall, revealing with its beauty the failure of communities to love one another.
Made at the request of the local faithful and some internationals, the icon of Our Lady who brings down walls was written on the Separation wall between Bethlehem and Jerusalem in 2010. The purpose of their request was clear; an icon that could bring along hope that the wall would come down some day.
According to Ian Knowles, the iconographer who wrote the icon, the inspiration behind Our Lady originated from a speech that Pope Benedict XVI had given at a special assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops in 2010. During the assembly, His Holiness referred to chapter 12 of the book of Revelation and talked about a woman who is clothed with the sun and gives birth with a cry of pain. He linked how this chapter in the Bible is a prophecy about the suffering of Christians in the Middle East. “That gave me an image of Mary, who is pregnant, clothed with the sun chased by the beast that wants to devour her child,” Ian pointed out.
Before the visit of Pope Francis to the Holy Land in 2014, graffiti of a giant serpent, that is eating babies, was painted along the wall that leads to the icon of Mother of God. “It is quite prophetic to see this serpent near the icon of Our Lady. In the book of revelation, the woman is chased by the beast, which wants to eat her child” Ian said. “Once the image was complete, it was as though it called out the hideousness of the wall.”
Read more about the icon. And if the name Ian Knowles sounds familiar, he was profiled not long ago in the pages of ONE:
Mr. Knowles waxes rhapsodic when describing how icons continue to fascinate Christians after so many centuries. “It’s a profoundly spiritual art. It’s not a secular art about a spiritual theme; this is actually in some ways an embodiment of Christian culture. ... It’s a bit like a relic: You actually touch God, in a way — not because of what it looks like, but because of the thing itself. The whole process by which it’s created and made and fashioned and worked is within a profoundly religious context, so it sort of incarnates it.”
You can also learn more about the meaning and importance of icons here.
23 June 2016
A child naps in a home between Saesa and Idaga Hamus in Ethiopia. To read about the recent visit of CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar to Ethiopia, and see more dramatic pictures, check out his photo essay in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
23 June 2016
In the video above, Pope Francis expresses his solidarity with the people of Armenia and says he will be visiting them this weekend as a pilgrim and a brother. (video: Rome Reports)
Pope Francis sends video message to Armenia (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a video message to the people of Armenia, ahead of his visit to the country this weekend. In the message — delivered in Italian — the Holy Father says, “[It is] as a servant of the Gospel and a messenger of peace [that] I desire to come among you, to support [your] every effort towards peace — and I would share our steps on the pathway of reconciliation, which generates hope...”
Palestinians praying in demolished Gaza mosques (Middle East Monitor) Two years after Israel’s demolition of mosques in Gaza in its latest offensive against the Strip in 2014, Palestinians today continue to pray in what remains of the damaged structures. Gaza’s religious property incurred $50 million in damages during Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge,” the committee in charge of assessing the damage incurred by the Ministry of Endowments said. It noted that 73 mosques were completely destroyed and 197 were partially damaged during the aggression, adding that 10 of its staff members were also killed...
Ethiopian government reports on food aid during drought (AllAfrica.com) The Government of Ethiopia has supplied 627,000 metric tons (MT) of food aid to affected areas since the outbreak of the current drought and 222,000 MT of food aid in the second phase of relief response. People in Oromia, Amhara, Southern Nations and Nationalities, Afar, Beshangul Gumuz and Gambella regions have benefited from the food aid, according to official sources...
Melkite synod cancelled (CNS) The Melkite Catholic Synod of Bishops was cancelled after 10 bishops boycotted, resulting in a lack of quorum. Only 12 of 22 bishops traveled to Ain Traz, summer seat of the patriarchate. Those who did not attend called for the resignation of Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham, who has held his post since 2000. They are protesting the duration of his time as patriarch and some landholdings of the Melkite Church...
Holy and Great Council concludes third day (OrthodoxCouncil.org) On the third day of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated by His Beatitude Patriarch Irinej of Serbia at the Sacred Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery of Gonia. Afterward, the hierarchs continued their work in the sixth, seventh, and eighth sessions of the Council...
22 June 2016
Monday marked the first day of Summer — and our Summer 2016 edition of ONE is here, too.
You can check out the online version at this link.
This latest edition of our award-winning quarterly focuses on being a “Witness to Hope” in the world CNEWA serves. Features include a look at new efforts to foster vocations in India; a sobering but hope-filled glimpse at the fatherless children of Armenia; and a stirring photo essay by Msgr. John E. Kozar, on his recent travels to Ethiopia.
Take a look! We think you’ll like what we have to offer.
Meantime, Msgr. Kozar has more about the Summer edition of the magazine in the video preview below.
22 June 2016
In Armenia, Tatyana Dilbaryan rears her three children alone. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
The Summer 2016 edition of ONE features a poignant glimpse at children in Armenia who are growing up without fathers:
Many men in the northern Armenian town of Tashir leave the country to work abroad; unemployment tops 50 percent in the region. Many who work in Russia provide the minimum means of subsistence for their families back home, but some never return. As a result, women are left behind to shoulder the burden of running households and rearing children on their own.
David’s 49-year-old mother, Tatyana Dilbaryan, wears a smile, but the lines on her brow mask the difficulties she endures. The question lingers: Why has it come to this?
“I don’t know the answer. Perhaps he saw that I managed to do everything myself,” she says of her husband. “I raised livestock, worked in the fields, did everything for my children,” says Tatyana, still smiling despite a welling of tears in her kind eyes.
“We are good. We’ll get through this, my children will grow up and everything will be alright.”
The church is working to help these families. Read on to learn how.
22 June 2016
Pope Francis walks with refugees during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 22 June. The pope invited more than a dozen refugees to sit near him on stage during his catechesis. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope on refugees: Christians don’t exclude, they welcome (CNS) Flanked by a group of refugees, Pope Francis appealed to Christians to care for and welcome those whom society often excludes. “Today I’m accompanied by these young men. Many people think they would have been better off if they had stayed in their homelands, but they were suffering so much there. They are our refugees, but many people consider them excluded. Please, they are our brothers,” the pope said 22 June during his weekly general audience. The group, holding a banner that stated “Refugees for a better future together,” caught the pope’s attention as he was making his way to the stage in St. Peter’s Square. He signaled them to come forward and instructed aides to allow them to sit in the shade on the stage...
Report: Air strikes in Syria kill 18 civilians (BBC) Activists say at least 18 civilians have been killed in air strikes in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the headquarters of so-called Islamic State (IS). Dozens more people were injured in the raids on Tuesday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It said it was not able to determine who carried out the strikes, though another group blamed Russian warplanes...
Jordan closes border to Syrian refugees after suicide car bomb (The New York Times) Jordan sealed its last entry points for Syrian refugees on Tuesday after a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb in a no-man’s land on the border, killing four Jordanian soldiers, a police officer and a civil defense officer. The attack took place about 5:30 a.m. on the sand berm marking the frontier between the countries, near a refugee camp where an estimated 60,000 people have been living in harsh conditions...
Eritrea accuse Ethiopia of planning a full-scale war (Voice of America) The government of Eritrea told the U.N. Human Rights Council that its neighbor Ethiopia is planning to launch a full scale war against its territory...
Official texts of Orthodox council available online (OrthodoxCouncil.org) The official texts of the opening speeches and addresses for the Holy and Great Council are available at https://www.holycouncil.org/documents in their original languages. Translations will be posted as they become available. More than 320 journalists, representing 138 media outlets and 25 countries, have received credentials for the Council. Daily media briefings are broadcast live at approximately 15.30 GMT +3 (8:30 am EDT) at https://www.holycouncil.org/live, and available as video on demand. The Council continues meeting through 25 June, concluding with the Divine Liturgy on 26 June...
Kerala divorce rate highest in India (IndiaLiveToday.com) Family courts in the prosperous, southern state of Kerala ruled on just over five divorces every hour in 2014 — 130 every day — more than any of the 12 Indian states that compile such data, according to government data. Although India does not appear on the world divorce statistics records, a global divorce repository (compiled by the University of Illinois, USA), because it lacks nationwide data, the volume of divorces handled by courts in Kerala and the other 11 states indicates that couples are more willing than ever to separate than stay — as tradition still demands — in bad marriages...
Work begins to try to save Christianity’s holiest shrine (The Washington Post) Work has begun to save the holiest shrine in Christendom. It won’t be a simple patch-and-paint job. This is the alpha and omega of restoration projects. They are going to repair Jesus’ tomb — with titanium bolts. Over the next nine months, a team of Greek conservationists will restore the collapsing chapel built above and around the burial cave where the faithful believe that Jesus was buried and rose from the dead after the Crucifixion...
21 June 2016
In this photo from 1972, Pope Paul VI greets the crowd as he visits a parish in Rome.
(photo: CNS/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)
It was 53 years ago today — 21 June 1963 — that Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini was elected pope and took the name Paul VI. He was the first pontiff to take the name “Paul” since 1605, and quickly set about becoming, like his namesake, a man with an evangelizing mission. He re-convened the Second Vatican Council (closed on the death of John XXIII) and became at the time the most traveled pope in history, visiting six continents.
He had a deep commitment to the work of CNEWA and the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, which was reflected during a historic trip to the Holy Land:
In December 1963, during the council, Paul VI announced his intention to begin his pontificate with a “pilgrimage of prayer and penance” to the Holy Land:
“We will bring to the Holy Sepulchre and to the Grotto of the Nativity the desires of individuals, of families, of nations; above all, the aspirations, the anxieties, the sufferings of the sick, the poor, the disinherited, the afflicted, of refugees, of those who suffer, those who weep, those who hunger and thirst for justice.”
He made the trip in January 1964:
Fired with the Gospel message of hope, the Pope met with heads of state and religious leaders in the Holy Land. These visits culminated with his embrace in Jerusalem of Orthodoxys spiritual leader, Patriarch Athenagoras I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
Before departing the Holy Land, Pope Paul VI assured [CNEWA’s Secretary and President of the Pontifical Mission] Msgr. Joseph Ryan, who accompanied the Pontiff, of the Holy See’s commitment to the refugees and encouraged Ryan to further the Pontifical Mission's efforts with Palestinians.
Paul VI’s pilgrimage resulted in social rehabilitation and development projects that, with support from the Pontifical Mission, changed the lives of many: Bethlehem University; Ephpheta Institute for hearing-impaired children; Tantur Ecumenical Institute; and Notre Dame of Jerusalem Pilgrimage Center. These diverse initiatives testified to the Popes belief in the church as an instrument of reconciliation and hope.
The following year, Pope Paul VI issued the groundbreaking document, Nostra Aetate, a declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions, which noted not only Christianity’s historic connection to Jews, but also its respect for Muslims:
“The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.
The document also took pains to deplore any and all discrimination:
We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God. Man’s relation to God the Father and his relation to men his brothers are so linked together that Scripture says: “He who does not love does not know God” (1 John 4:8).
Pope Paul VI was in many ways a visionary and a prophet, whose heroic ecumenical and interfaith outreach continues to this day in the work of his successors — and in the work of CNEWA.
21 June 2016
Maronite Archbishop Moussa El-Hage of Haifa and the Holy Land, center, prays with other prelates during the 13th Extraordinary Prayer of all Churches for Reconciliation, Unity and Peace at the Maronite patriarchal exarchate church 19 June in Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Miriam Alster)
Jesus is asking spiritual and civilian Christian leaders to be messengers of the word of God, especially in these difficult times in the Middle East, said Maronite Archbishop Moussa El-Hage of Haifa and the Holy Land.
“Do we witness to Christ in our lives, we who received the teaching of Christ?” the archbishop asked participants in the 13th Extraordinary Prayer of all Churches for Reconciliation, Unity and Peace. “Is Jesus with us and in us? Do we always remember the presence of Jesus in us? And how we live this presence?”
Speaking 19 June, Pentecost on the Julian calendar followed by most Eastern traditions, Archbishop El-Hage said, “We came today to hear the word of God and celebrate the Eucharist, from all the Christian churches, and to open our hearts and minds to the work of the Holy Spirit and to listen to his inspiration.”
Archbishop El-Hage said that, at a time when Middle Eastern Christians are facing grave trials, it is imperative that they not be forgotten and remain in everyone’s prayers. He also prayed for participants in the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church in Crete.
Since 2010 Jerusalem churches have called on Christians around the world to join in a special intercessory prayer calling for reconciliation and unity among the churches and peace in the world. Emanating from Jerusalem and in recent years also broadcast abroad by Christian channels, the special prayer is hosted by a different faith community each time it is held. This year the service was at the Maronite patriarchal exarchate church.
During the a service, filled with traditional music led by a small choir and a musician playing a stringed instrument called the qanun, celebrants walked up to the roof terrace to complete the prayers. All the religious leaders turned to face the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, whose gray domes could be seen in the near horizon, and knelt together.
At one point the Syriac Orthodox bishop recited part of the liturgy, which was in the same language used in Syrian Orthodox prayer.
“It was a glimpse given to the church members, to show them that they are not so different from one another. It was so beautiful. There was a feeling of happiness,” said Veronique Nebel, a Swiss volunteer who initiated the idea of the joint prayer.
“The prayer is always a challenge for each one of us to believe what God has said to each of us: to live every day of our lives as human beings, each one wanting peace and unity. To believe in unity, not waging wars, using (weapons) or violence,” said Sister Lucia Corradin, a member of the Franciscan Elizabethan Sisters of Padua. “We have to go back to what the message of Jerusalem is, the city of peace. Peace is a value present in each human being; it is here even in this simple prayer to show that even in situations of contradictions, where there is violence and suffering, we don’t want that to be the last word. We want to remember that we believe in our values and our beliefs ... to love each other.”
Juliet Alama said Christians in the Holy Land want to be united as one and forget about ancient disputes that make them look "silly around the world." Using her family as an example, she noted that though she is Maronite Catholic, her husband is Latin Catholic, and they send their youngest son to the Armenian Orthodox School, even taking him to celebrate liturgies there with his classmates.
“We all believe in the same God, in Jesus,” she said. “This is a beginning. We don’t want any more fighting.”
21 June 2016
Pope Francis is preparing for a difficult trip to Armenia later this week to promote reconciliation with Turkey and Azerbaijan. (video: Rome Reports)
Holy and Great Council convenes (OrthodoxCouncil.org) After more than 60 years of planning, the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church convened its opening session on the island of Crete on Monday, 20 June, on the Feast of the Holy Spirit. After the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the nearby Monastery of Gonia, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew formally opened the proceedings of the Council. With one voice and one heart, the Hierarchs of the Council chanted the hymn of Pentecost, invoking the descent of the Holy Spirit to transform their work for the benefit of the Church and the entire world...
Could Orthodoxy be having its Vatican II moment? (ReligionDispatches.org) Hierarchs from most of the world’s individual Orthodox Christian Churches will convene for a Holy and Great Pan-Orthodox Council on the island of Crete, an event that many have been calling Orthodoxy’s Vatican II. This council has been making headlines in the Western press and has been covered by First Things and the Catholic press. Nevertheless, many American readers — due to a lack of familiarity with Orthodox Christianity — may not grasp the full significance of the event, which has implications for both geopolitics and Christian ecumenism. For that reason, I reached out to Father John Chryssavgis, Archdeacon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and theological adviser to the Ecumenical Patriarch, and asked him to shed some light on the issues surrounding the council...
More than 600 journalists apply to cover pope’s trip to Armenia (Asbarez.com) More than 600 media representatives have applied to be accredited to cover the visit of the Pope to Armenia, Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on its Twitter page. Pope Francis’ visit to Armenia will commence on 24 June with an official welcoming ceremony at the Zvartnots International Airport in Yerevan before the Pope’s travel to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, where a welcoming service will be offered in the Mother Cathedral...
Maronite bishops call for maintaining Christian presence in Middle East (CNS) Maronite Catholic bishops from around the world warned against plans to partition the Middle East and urged Christians to stand firm and to preserve co-existence with Muslims. In a statement at the conclusion of their 13-17 June synod, the bishops stressed the importance of continuing the presence of Maronite Catholics in Lebanon and the region...
Jordanian troops killed in car bomb at Syria border (BBC) Six Jordanian security personnel have been killed and 14 hurt in a car bomb attack near a makeshift refugee camp on the Syria-Jordan border, officials say...
What Egypt under Sissi is really like for Coptic Christians (Brookings.edu) The status of Coptic Christians in Egypt has for the most part remained unchanged since Anwar Sadat came to power in 1970. Today, there is little Christian representation in government, and sectarian violence is all but commonplace. But many have suggested that President Sissi is more respectful of minority rights than his predecessors, and many Christians supported Sissi’s rise to power...