30 December 2013
In this 2007 image, 26-year-old Hanna Mouhamma, a beneficiary of CNEWA’s microcredit program, walks with a young calf on his farm in northeastern Lebanon. To learn more about how this program helps people develop lasting, sustainable livelihoods, read Putting the Future in Their Hands, from the September 2011 issue of ONE. To join us in our efforts to support the churches and people of the Middle East — and other regions — click here. (photo: Sarah Hunter)
30 December 2013
Tags: Lebanon CNEWA Farming/Agriculture Micro Credit Program
Metropolitan Pavel, recently elected to serve as head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church, has previously led his church in the United States and Canada, as well as Vienna and Budapest. (photo: Belarusian Orthodox Church)
Belarusian Orthodox Church elects new leader (BelTA) Metropolitan Pavel of Ryazan and Mikhailov has been appointed Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk — the highest office in the Belarusian Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk, patriarchal exarch of All Belarus, retired upon reaching the age of 75…
What the pope can do about anti-Christian persecution (National Catholic Reporter) Pope Francis addressed anti-Christian persecution recently, following attacks on two Christian churches in Baghdad that left at least 38 dead. In the abstract, it’s tempting to ask what any pope can do to affect anti-Christian persecution beyond issuing a cri de coeur. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI raised the issue, and their rhetoric didn’t seem to put a dent in a scourge that claims somewhere between 9,000 and 100,000 lives every year. On the other hand, it was also once fashionable to ask what any pope could do about Communist persecution of Christians, until John Paul II played a key role in the collapse of the Soviet system across Eastern Europe. “For Christians this isn’t a surprise, because Jesus already announced [persecution] as a moment for offering witness,” Pope Francis said. “Nonetheless, on the civil plane, injustice ought to be denounced and eliminated.” Herewith are four things he could do to translate those words into action…
Russian Orthodox Church releases statement on events in Ukraine (Russian Orthodox Church) “We are aware that Ukrainian citizens have different views of the future of their country and we respect the right of the Ukrainian people to choose their own way. But it is very important that it should be precisely people’s choice, free and based on the awareness of all the pros and cons, not dictated by any external will. Let adherents to different versions of this choice speak with the people through peaceful and legitimate public processes and through a calm and responsible dialogue with each other. The church is ready to assist different social groups in this dialogue and in a search for right decisions…”
Second blast in two days hits Russia (New York Times) President Vladimir Putin ordered security to be tightened across Russia after a suicide bombing on a trolley bus in Volgograd killed at least 15 people and wounded dozens on Monday, the second bombing in the city in two days. The twin bombings appeared to be part of a deadly campaign of terror ahead of the Winter Olympics, which are scheduled to begin in six weeks in Sochi, a resort on the Black Sea only 400 miles away…
Palestinian Christians keep Christmas traditions alive (Haaretz) A Palestinian college student is one of the last keepers of a fading tradition — ringing the bells of Bethlehem. Twice a week, Khadir Jaraiseh climbs to the roof of the Church of the Nativity, built over the grotto where tradition says Jesus was born. He pulls the ropes of four bells in a rooftop tower for a total of 33 times to symbolize the number of years Jesus was believed to have lived. Jaraiseh rings the bells for prayer services of the Armenian Apostolic Church, one of three denominations that administer the basilica, one of Christianity’s holiest shrines. The Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox denominations at the Nativity church — each of which has its own set of bells — have switched to automatic bell ringing systems. But there’s something special about the traditional approach, said Jaraiseh, who uses both hands and a floor pedal to pull the ropes…
Egyptian bishop: Violence will not stop referendum on new constitution (CNS) A 26 December attack in Cairo and other violence will not keep Egypt from going ahead with its planned referendum on a new constitution, said Coptic Catholic Bishop Antonios Aziz Mina of Giza, Egypt. “These explosions will not prevent the mass mobilization for the referendum on the constitution. On the contrary, they increase our determination … to follow through with advancing the nation,” Bishop Mina told the Egyptian online newspaper, Al Youm al Sabea, after an explosion hit a Cairo bus, wounding five people…
Al Jazeera journalists arrested in Egypt (Al Jazeera) Egypt’s security forces have arrested four Al Jazeera journalists in Cairo. Correspondent Peter Greste, producers Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed as well as cameraman Mohamed Fawzy are being held in custody after arrested by security forces on Sunday evening. Human rights groups say conditions for journalists in Egypt have become difficult since former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was removed in a coup on July 3, 2013…
23 December 2013
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Violence against Christians Russia Belarus
The Christmas tree is seen as Pope Francis leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 22 December. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
All of us at CNEWA send prayerful good wishes to the members of our extended family this Christmas season. Peace be with you!
Our offices will be closed from Christmas Eve until next Monday, 30 December. In the meantime, have a blessed and happy holiday!
23 December 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Christianity
Msgr. John E. Kozar, CNEWA’s president, celebrates Mass in our New York offices for the intentions of our donors. (photo: CNEWA)
Tomorrow, you’ll find me in the land of Jesus. There, it’ll be my great privilege to celebrate Christmas Midnight Mass in the very place where he was born — Bethlehem. The beauty and wonder of that sacred place, on that holiest of nights, fills me with joy.
This Christmas will be especially joyful because I’m bringing with me your special intentions. Thank you for entrusting them to me — and as a special gift, I want to share with you the photo below. Today, I celebrated a Mass at CNEWA’s New York office along with my colleagues here. Your intentions were placed on the table that served as our altar, and we lifted up your prayer petitions to the Lord.
Before I begin my journey to Bethlehem, I want to thank you for your abundant generosity. You make it possible for the Church to witness to the Gospel in some of the most troubled places on earth. Your prayerful support makes a difference every single day. Please know that you and your loved ones will be remembered in my prayers at Christmas Midnight Mass — and in so many prayers from those whose lives you’ve touched.
If you haven’t yet shared your special intentions with me, there’s still time before Christmas Midnight Mass. Click here to send your intentions to me now.
May Almighty God bless you and your family! Merry Christmas!
23 December 2013
Tags: CNEWA Msgr. John E. Kozar Donors Bethlehem
Sister Adele Brambilla, C.M.S., directs the Italian Hospital in Kerak, Jordan, which provides affordable treatment to those most in need — including refugees from Syria and Iraq. To read more about this institution, read Overwhelming Mercy, from the Autumn issue of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Comboni sister sees hope in the eyes of Syrian refugees (AsiaNews) From the Italian Hospital in Kerak, Jordan, Comboni Missionary Sister Adele Brambilla describes the daily life of Syrian refugees. Thousands of families camp with nothing to keep them warm in the cold winter; treatable diseases are killing children. “Despite everything, hope is not dead,” Sister Adele says. “It is the refugees who are telling us that it is still alive. And those called to work together regardless of race, religion and beliefs are also holding it high so that human solidarity may still have a human face…”
Bulgaria, unready, is poor host to Syrians (New York Times) As the poorest member of the 28-nation European Union, Bulgaria has struggled to provide even rudimentary shelter to Syrian refugees, who began surging into the country from Turkey last summer after neighboring Greece, previously a popular entry point to Europe, built a fence along its border and beefed up controls…
L’Arche workshop uses Bethlehem commodity to provide work for members (CNS) The workshop Ma’an lil-Hayat is part of the international L’Arche network founded in 1964 by Canadian Catholic philosopher and theologian Jean Vanier for people with intellectual disabilities. This institution takes a local resource closely associated with the Christmas story but normally squandered — sheeps’ wool — and uses it to bring dignity and recognition to a population often overlooked and hidden in Palestinian society…
Brotherhood prisoners launch hunger strike in Egypt (Daily Star Lebanon) More than 450 imprisoned Muslim Brotherhood members launched a hunger strike Monday over their “inhuman treatment” after being jailed following the military’s overthrow of Egyptian president Mohammad Morsi, the group said…
Ukraine opposition forms political bloc, urges more protests (Al Jazeera) Seeking to consolidate their protest movement, leaders of major Ukrainian opposition parties demonstrating against the government of President Viktor Yanukovich said Sunday that they are establishing a nationwide political movement called Maidan (“Independence”), a reference to the square in Kiev that has been a major rallying area for the protests…
Still defiant, members of Russia’s Pussy Riot band go free (Los Angeles Times) Two members of the feminist punk-rock band Pussy Riot were freed from prison Monday after serving most of their two-year sentences for hooliganism, a charge that stemmed from the “punk prayer” they performed denouncing President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main Russian Orthodox cathedral in February 2012. The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church expressed satisfaction with the amnesty and offered a gesture of conciliation. “We are happy they were released and although we denounced their blasphemous act, we never insisted that they should have been put in prison to begin with, but it is the way the law is,” Vladimir Vigilyansky, spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, said in an interview…
20 December 2013
Tags: Ukraine Refugees Bulgaria Italian Hospital Comboni Sisters
In this image from 2004, snow drapes the church in Kosmach, a village in the Carpathian Mountains, during the Christmas Day liturgy. To learn more about the rich history and traditions of the the people of that region, read Faith and Tradition in the November 2004 issue of ONE. (photo: Petro Didula)
20 December 2013
Tags: Ukraine Cultural Identity Village life Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Ukrainian Orthodox Church
In this 2007 photo, a man sits in a hospital in Dahouk, Iraq, beside a victim of a suicide bombing targeting the ancient Yazidi religious sect in northwestern Iraq. (photo: CNS/Azad Lashkari, Reuters)
The Syrian refugees who know they can’t go home (Al Jazeera) Across the Middle East, Syrian refugees dream of returning to the homes they were forced from by war — but not 38-year-old Suleiman Rasho. Rasho is a Yazidi, a member of a small, ancient sect with roots in Iraq that has long been persecuted for a belief system far removed from other religions in the region. “It is impossible for Yazidis in the Middle East,” he said. “I do not think I will be able to go back to Syria.” In the Middle East, the Yazidis’ small numbers mean they have little command over their destiny and have to rely on others for protection. As extremist groups increase their hold on parts of war-torn Syria, and Iraq edges closer to a civil war of its own, many Yazidis find themselves in a familiar spot: trying to flee or waiting in fear…
Bishop Audo: Our Christmas under the bombs (Fides) For days, the rebel-controlled suburbs of Aleppo have endured bombing by the government air force. According to various sources, the military offensive has already caused more than 200 deaths. “In the meantime,” says Chaldean Jesuit Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, “in the central areas of the city, mortar fire coming from the outlying areas in the hands of the rebels continue, and continue to cause casualties. Sometimes we hear from afar the thunder of the bombing of the army, but we do not have reliable information with regards to the effects of that offensive. The power shortages do not allow you to connect to the internet or watch television. And of course there are no newspapers…”
Patriarch: Amid crises, Christmas is the Middle East’s real hope (AsiaNews) On his first Christmas as patriarch, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael will address the Christians of Iraq and the Middle East, discussing the situation in Iraq, on the suffering of the Christian community as well as the whole population. The message will call upon the faithful to welcome others through solidarity, unity and hope. An advance copy of the message is included below…
Homs bishop makes an appeal for release of Maaloula nuns (AsiaNews) Negotiations for the release of the Greek Orthodox nuns from Maaloula continue, following their abduction by Islamic extremists from the Ahrar al Qalamoun Brigade on 2 December. “Some contacts have been established with the kidnappers,” said Archbishop Mario Zenari, papal nuncio to Damascus, “but there are no reports at present about their possible release.” Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh of Homs and Hama, made an appeal on 11 December for their release, slamming the serious crime. “We’ve now reached the point where even nuns are being abducted. What have they done wrong?” the prelate asked. In his view, “the abductors want to demonstrate that they show no mercy…”
Cardinal Koch: Reconciling churches in Ukraine calls for mutual recognition (RISU) The conflict between Greek Catholics and Orthodox in western Ukraine has to be resolved from both sides, said Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. “Only by recognizing this can we move together into the future,” he said on December 17, responding to journalists’ questions at a press conference in Moscow. “I agree with Metropolitan Hilarion: The situation in Ukraine is very serious. But from my point of view, it has two sides, and Metropolitan Hilarion willingly speaks only of one. I have visited many parishes in Western Ukraine and saw the suffering on both sides…”
19 December 2013
Tags: Refugees Syrian Civil War Sisters Dialogue Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I
A girl in St. Peter’s Square holds baby Jesus figurines for Pope Francis to bless during his Angelus at the Vatican on 15 December. Children observed an annual tradition by bringing their Nativity figurines for the pope to bless. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
19 December 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Children Vatican
This 13 December photo depicts one of the flooded neighborhoods of Gaza. (photo: CNS/Mohammed Salem, Reuters)
Floods, rain threaten to make Christmas even more difficult in Gaza (CNS) The snowstorms and torrential rain that battered the Middle East in mid-December threatened to make this Christmas season an especially difficult one for Christians in Gaza. While the northern part of the Gaza Strip saw floods that left thousands of families homeless, 10,000 people evacuated from their homes and essential hospital personnel traveling to work by boat, most of the Gaza Strip’s tiny Christian community and its institutions are located in Gaza City itself and were saved from the worst of the storm, said Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel…
Interactive: Syria’s refugee children (Al Jazeera) More than 1.1 million Syrian children struggle to build a new life away from all they’ve ever known, confronting pain, isolation, separation and more…
Radical Islamist group gaining prominence in Syria (Der Spiegel) Once a branch of Al Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) broke away from the successors of Osama bin Laden and now stands as a terrifying force in its own right. Infamous for its brutal tactics, ISIS is responsible for hundreds of kidnappings, with victims including activists, the chair of the city council of Raqqa, the heads of the civilian opposition, an Italian Jesuit and six European journalists. Anyone who opposes the ISIS fighters, or who is simply viewed as an infidel, disappears…
Ukrainian Orthodox Moscow Patriarchate disagrees with sister churches on protests (Pravoslavie.ru) A representative of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Patriarchate of Moscow has called upon the protesters in Maidan Square in Kiev to disperse. “Those who are now standing on Maidan are just ‘scoring points,’ ” said Metropolitan Paul of Vyshgorod and Chernobyl, abbot of the Kiev Caves Lavra. “Neither Europe nor Russia will help us, until we change ourselves. Moreover, talks on European integration are needed not by the people, but by those who are thirsting to rule over the people…”
Maronite patriarch reaches out to Middle East youth via Twitter (Fides) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter posted his first tweet on Wednesday via his new account, @bkerkejeune. “Dear youth,” he said in his message, delivered in Arabic, “I see in you the hope and future of the church. I believe you have the power to rejuvenate the church and your communities.” This dispatch came as part of an evening meeting attended by Maronite youth…
Russian Orthodox patriarch voices solidarity with Catholic Church (Interfax) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has expressed support for many of Pope Francis’ views. “In the positions of the bishop of Rome and the patriarch of Moscow, there is a lot in common regarding issues that are sources of concern for many people,” he said. As examples of such concurrence, he cited the two churches’ positions on persecutions of Christians in the Middle East and family affairs. He said dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic churches is essential today…
Iraq’s sectarian militias assume larger role (Al Monitor) Sunni and Shiite militias across Iraq maintain an iron fist over the daily affairs of Iraqi citizens. Militiamen in Iraq do not only carry weapons, they also wield religious, moral and economic power over their social environment. They play the role of neighborhood governors in times of peace and assassins in times of war. In the absence of the rule of law, residents are increasingly relying on such figures to provide security…
18 December 2013
Tags: Ukraine Refugees Syrian Civil War Gaza Strip/West Bank Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter
Worshipers pray in front of an image of Mary and the Christ child in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. (photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)
Next week I leave for Bethlehem.
I’m going to celebrate Christmas Midnight Mass in the Church of the Nativity, the ancient church built over the very place where Jesus was born.
This Mass is my Christmas gift to you.
Please send me your prayer petitions before I go, so I can lift them up to Jesus on that holy night and in that holy place.
I’m thrilled to do this for you!
And in your goodness, can you please share some gold, frankincense and myrrh?
I’ll give your Christmas gift to Jesus, and see that it’s used for the mission of CNEWA — to heal the wounds and warm the hearts of the poor.
Remember, I leave for Bethlehem on December 23rd.
Send your special intentions with your gift right now, so I safely receive them before Christmas Midnight Mass.
Meantime, Merry Christmas!