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Spring, 2017
Volume 43, Number 1
  
10 March 2014
Greg Kandra




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.



10 March 2014
Greg Kandra




A boy cries as he stands amid rubble of collapsed buildings at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in Aleppo on 6 March.
(photo: CNS/Hosam Katan, Reuters)


Kidnapped Syrian nuns freed (The New York Times) Syrian insurgents released 13 nuns and three attendants who disappeared three months ago from their monastery in the ancient Christian town of Maaloula, Lebanese and Syrian officials said early Monday, ending a drama in which rebels said they were protecting the women from government shelling and Syrian officials said they were abducted in an act of intimidation against Christians. The handoff was infused with suspense until the last moment. Officials said Sunday afternoon that the nuns had crossed the mountainous border to Arsal, a pro-rebel town in Lebanon, to be handed off to Lebanese officials and driven to Syria...

Russia condemns “lawlessness” in Ukraine (CNN) Russia accused far-right groups Monday of “conniving” with the new authorities in Ukraine, as pro-Moscow forces consolidated their hold on their neighbor’s Black Sea peninsula. In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned “lawlessness” in eastern Ukraine and accused the West of being silent over violence and detentions taking place against Russian citizens, such as one incident last week when it said masked gunmen fired on and injured peaceful protesters...

Bishop of Aleppo writes: “We Christians live in fear” (The Telegraph) Today, the first Sunday of Lent, will see churches crowded across the globe. But here in Syria, where St Paul found his faith, many churches stand empty, targets for bombardment and desecration. Aleppo, where I have been bishop for 25 years, is devastated. We have become accustomed to the daily dose of death and destruction, but living in such uncertainty and fear exhausts the body and the mind...

Catholicism growing in heart of Muslim world (The Boston Globe) Many Americans have heard or read reports about an exodus of Christians out of the Middle East, and in terms of the indigenous Arab Christian population that’s all too real. Christians now make up only 5 percent of the region’s population, down from 20 percent a century ago. In places like Iraq, whole Christian communities are on the brink of extinction. Yet the Arabian Peninsula today is also, improbably, seeing one of the most dramatic Catholic growth rates anywhere in the world. The expansion is being driven not by Arab converts, but by foreign ex-pats whom the region increasingly relies on for manual labor and domestic service...

Pope and World Council of Churches discuss opportunities for Christian Unity (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev Olav Fykse Tveit, have discussed “new opportunities for Christian unity today”, focused on working together for peace, justice and environmental protection. At a meeting in the Vatican on Friday, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the path of “full and visible communion” among Christians of different denominations. They also talked about peace in the Middle East and on the Korean peninsula, about economic justice and about an upcoming summit of religious leaders to press for urgent action on climate change...

A visit to Kerala: they don’t call it “God’s own country” for nothing (The Washington Post) As grandiose slogans go, Kerala has one of the best: “God’s Own Country,” they call it, an assertion of divine provenance that’s loudly proclaimed on countless signposts and bumper stickers across the state. In most corners of the planet, such a boast would sound unbearably self-satisfied, tourist-oriented branding at its tritest. But here in this prosperous state on the southwest coast of India, it doesn’t sound smug so much as sincere, precise even. “Rest your eyes on our natural splendor,” it seems to say, “and believe...”



7 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2011 photo, a girl prays in Santa Maria Church in the Christian village of Deir Azra in the Minya region of Egypt. Coptic women in Egypt are subject to discrimination and legal restrictions on personal and religious freedom. To learn more, read Spotlight: Coptic Women, from the September 2011 issue of ONE. (photo: Holly Pickett)



Tags: Egypt Copts Women (rights/issues) Egypt's Christians Coptic

7 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this October photograph, stuffed animals sit atop the coffins of children, lined up alongside coffins of other African migrants who drowned trying to reach Italian shores in Lampedusa, Italy. (photo: CNS/Antonio Parrinello, Reuters)

Eritrea: A humanitarian emergency (Vatican Radio) Vatican Radio held a conference on Thursday, sponsored by the International Organization for Migration, on the plight of Eritreans forced to flee their country. Since 2004 over 200,000 Eritreans — more than 3 percent of the 5.6 million people in the nation — have fled to border camps in Eastern Sudan and also Israel. Thousands have also tried to escape to Europe by crossing the Mediterranean on low-quality or improvised boats, many dying on the journey…

Georgian Orthodox Church committed to securing Georgian E.U. membership (Eurasia Review) Patriarch Ilia II, head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, said during a meeting with visiting European Union official that the church “will do everything” to help Georgia become a member state. The patriarch remarked that “incorrect information is disseminated in some countries,” suggesting the church seeks to hinder this process, but dismissed such claims as perhaps being financially motivated…

Iraqi atheists demand recognition, guarantee of their rights (Al Monitor) Atheism might seem a surprising phenomenon in a country such as Iraq, where the degree of interest in religion is very high. Yet there are many in the nation who identify themselves as atheists and who demand that their rights be safeguarded in accordance with U.N. resolutions that guarantee freedom of belief. Surveys have indicated the existence of a growing agnostic movement in the country, which continues to expand at a remarkable pace. Atheism has deep historical roots in Iraq, typically as an elitist phenomenon restricted to intellectuals and scholars, but has in recent times expanded in scope to cross many social boundaries…

The role of the churches in the Ukrainian revolution (ABC News) The churches are playing a decisive role in the Ukrainian revolution. This is apparent from the prominence in Maidan Square of dozens of priests and pastors from different religious confessions who have been there every day for three months, offering to gather ecumenically with the faithful in prayer…



Tags: Iraq Ukraine Eastern Churches Eritrea Georgian Orthodox Church

6 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Gaza City woman works a sewing machine in a dressmaking class hosted by the the Near East Council of Churches with support from CNEWA. To learn more about the kinds of vocational training the N.E.C.C. promotes and conducts in Gaza, read Behind the Blockade, from the March 2012 issue of ONE. (photo: Eman Mohammed)



Tags: CNEWA Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine Education Church

6 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this photo from 2009, two years before Syria’s civil war, youth in Aleppo participate in a basketball competition hosted by an organization that uses sports to bridge sectarian lines. (photo: Spencer Osberg)

Syrian army to impose blockade in Aleppo (Al Monitor) The Syrian army is launching attacks on Aleppo and its surroundings to try to isolate armed militants, in light of a visit by a Baath delegation to the city. The army has recently intensified its raids on the city’s eastern neighborhoods that are under the grip of the militants, thus leading to the displacement of most citizens to the northern suburbs…

Ukraine: Crimean parliament moves to secede (Al Jazeera) The parliament of Crimea, a, majority-Russian peninsula in Ukraine currently under Russian occupation, has unanimously voted in favor of joining the Russia federation and moved a public referendum on the matter up to 16 March, decisions which the new government in Kiev called illegitimate and illegal…

Ukrainian Orthodox bishop urges Putin to withdraw from Ukraine (RISU) The head of the Lviv Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, Bishop Filaret, sent Vladimir Putin a request to withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine. “My message may seem rude, but today we can no longer speak streamlined phrases, it’s time to act in accordance with the Gospel: ‘But let your “yes” be “yes,” and your “no” be “no.” Anything more than this is from the evil one.’ … There are no grounds for Russian soldiers to control the socio-political or any other situations in our country. Peace and a sustainable solution to Ukraine’s crisis are most important for us today,” he said…

One goal in hand, Kiev’s demonstrators vow to stay ‘until the end’ (New York Times) Those who stood up to Ukraine’s ousted authorities trust neither their interim government nor Russia, and many intend to remain in place at least through elections in late spring. Only then will they decide if they are satisfied enough to leave their fighting positions in the capital’s central square…

U.N. envoy cuts short visit to Crimea under threat of armed men (Christian Science Monitor) A special U.N. envoy cut short his mission in Crimea on Wednesday after being threatened by 10-15 armed men and ordered to leave the region, where Ukraine and Russia are locked in a tense standoff, U.N. officials said…

Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kievan Patriarchate creates commission for dialogue (RISU) The Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kievan Patriarchate welcomed the decision of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate to enter into dialogue. In this regard, the former expressed its readiness, “on a canonical basis,” to “restore the unity and establish a national status for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine…”

Trial of Al Jazeera reporters resumes in Egypt (BBC) The trial of Al Jazeera journalists accused of joining or aiding a terrorist group has resumed in Egypt. One asked the judge to free him on bail so he could receive medical treatment. In all, 20 people — including former BBC correspondent Peter Greste — are on trial, 12 of them in absentia. Al Jazeera says only nine of the defendants are among its employees…



Tags: Egypt Ukraine Syrian Civil War Russia Crimea

5 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




After fleeing the war in Syria, the Azar family now lives in the village of Al Qaa in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, sharing a one-bedroom home with two other families. To learn more about Syrian refugees in Lebanon, read Crossing the Border, from the Spring 2013 issue of ONE. To view the article with full magazine graphics, click the image. (photo: Tamara Hadi)



Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War War

5 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




People attend a prayer service at a church in Kiev, Ukraine, on 23 February. (photo: CNS/David Mdzinarishvili, Reuters)

Hoping to shore up Ukraine government, European Union offers billions in aid (New York Times) The European Union added a significant financial underpinning to the struggling Ukraine government on Wednesday in the midst of the East-West crisis with Russia over Ukraine’s future, offering aid worth as much as $15 billion over the next two years. The offer comes on top of the $1 billion in American loan guarantees to ease Ukraine’s economic transition, announced here on Tuesday by Secretary of State John Kerry during a visit aimed at reassuring the interim Ukraine authorities and challenging Russia, which escalated the crisis last weekend by seizing control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula…

Pro-Russian crowd recaptures Donetsk building (Daily Star Lebanon) A crowd of pro-Russian activists recaptured the regional administration building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Wednesday, hours after they were ejected by police. Donetsk has seen the most persistent of a wave of pro-Russian demonstrations that broke out in southern and eastern cities on Saturday as President Vladimir Putin was declaring Russia’s right to invade…

With Ukraine under siege, Georgia and Moldova double down on Europe (Al Jazeera) On 22 February, as Ukraine politicians voted to remove their Kremlin-friendly president, a roaring crowd in another nation took on their Russian foe. The Georgian rugby team defeated the Russian Bears, 36-10, before a near sold-out crowd in their home stadium. During the lap of honor, the Georgian players held up a banner: “Sokhumi and Tskhinvali = Georgia.” It referred to the capitals of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which like Transnistria in Moldova and potentially Crimea in Ukraine, are breakaway regions now under de facto Russian control. Russia has long tried to intimidate Georgia and Moldova out of their westward shift; Moldova is currently bleeding from a Kremlin boycott of its wine, and Georgia is still nursing the wounds of its 2008 war. But watching Russian troops move into Ukraine has only steeled the resolve of these two small nations to join Europe as quickly as possible. It has also made Western leaders more committed to making that happen…

Patriarch Twal says pope’s visit will boost the peace process (Fides) The visit Pope Francis will carry out in the Holy Land at the end of May will give a new impetus to the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, wrote Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem in a pastoral letter for Lent. “[The pope] will come to confirm our faith, to intensify ecumenical relations and interreligious dialogue and give a new impetus to the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, strengthening relations between the Vatican and each of the Countries that he will visit: Jordan, Palestine and Israel…”

Creative Gazans develop new crafts to cope with siege (Al Monitor) In times of crises and hopelessness, people search for the smallest things to make life livable. The intensification of the siege has spawned creativity in the most unlikely of places, as citizens seek outlets in an attempt to adapt to the crisis. Mohammed al Zomar, Hassan Saad and Ahmed al Arouqi each took an idea and defeated despair using light, water and colors…

Christians under threat in Syria (U.S. Department of State) Last week in Raqqa, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant announced it will force Syrian Christians to either convert to Islam, remain Christian and pay a tax, or face death. These outrageous conditions violate universal human rights. The Syrian people have a long history of tolerance and coexistence, but both the regime and ISIL are fueling sectarian strife to justify their brutality. We strongly condemn these abuses and urge all parties to protect and respect the rights of all Syrians, regardless of ethnicity, gender or religion…



Tags: Ukraine Middle East Christians Gaza Strip/West Bank Russia Georgia

4 March 2014
Greg Kandra




Marta Borodayko lights a candle following a prayer service to pray for people in Ukraine on
25 February at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Chicago.
(photo: CNS/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)




4 March 2014
Greg Kandra




Military personnel, believed to be Russian servicemen, walk in formation outside a Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye, Ukraine, on 3 March. (photo: CNS/David Mdzinarishvili, Reuters)

Putin calls Ukraine revolt unconstitutional (Associated Press) Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled his forces back from the Ukrainian border on Tuesday yet said Moscow reserves the right to use all means to protect Russians there. He accused the West of encouraging an unconstitutional coup in Ukraine and driving it into anarchy. He also declared that any sanctions the West places on Russia will backfire...

Syria has removed a third of its chemical weapons (Reuters) Syria has shipped out about a third of its chemical weapons stockpile, including mustard gas, for destruction abroad, the global chemical arms watchdog said on Tuesday. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague said Damascus had now handed over six consignments of the toxic agents it declared to the OPCW as part of a Russian-U.S. deal struck last year...

Syria begins season of Lent (Fides) In Syria, the Eastern Rite Churches have already begun Lent, the liturgical season during which the Christian, with a journey of conversion, fully lives the mystery of the resurrection of Christ in his annual memory. For the third consecutive year, the beginning of Lent is lived by Syrian Christians in a country torn apart by civil war. “In our parishes” the Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo Boutros Marayati said “we celebrated the beginning of Lent already on Sunday afternoon. There were many faithful and the participation was intense...”

Cardinal defends religious liberty (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Peter Turkson on Tuesday highlighted the importance of religious freedom saying “It is important to preserve and defend religious freedom because it concerns “each person’s freedom to live according to their own deeper understanding of the truth.” Cardinal Turkson, Pesident of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was speaking at a conference entitled “The Church and Human Rights,” taking place in Bratislava, on the initiative of the Slovakian Bishops’ Conference. In his address, Cardinal Turkson said, “freedom of religion is inseparable from freedom of thought and conscience” and includes “the freedom to change one’s religion or belief” and “the freedom to manifest that religion or belief both in private and communally...”

Spanish missionary priest is the only Catholic presence in one region of Ethiopia (Fides) Father Christopher Hartley Sartorios, a 55-year-old Spanish diocesan missionary from Toledo, is the only Catholic priest who has ever reached the Somali region of Ethiopia called Ogaden, where he has been living alone for 7 years in Gode, a territory which is 100% Muslim...







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