22 June 2015
Retired Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem speaks to parishioners and visitors about religious co-existence and forgiveness during a prayer service at the Benedictine Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha, Israel on 21 June. (CNS photo/Mary Knight)
Following last week’s attack on a holy site in Galilee — which authorities suspect was carried out by Jewish extremists — people of many faiths gathered Sunday to pray and protest:
Thousands of Christians held a protest rally in the Galilee on Sunday, near the Christian church that suffered serious damage following a suspected arson attack last week.
The event was held in the compound of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, in Tabgha, near Tiberias. Although it had been planned as a quiet prayer rally, the mood quickly became more aggressive.
Hundreds of youths carrying crosses of various sizes and waving Vatican flags blocked the access road to the church and chanted in honor of Jesus and Mary. Inside the church, a mass was led by former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah and Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo.
U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission William Grant attended the mass, telling Haaretz he wanted to express his condemnation and disgust with the alleged attack, which he described as a hate crime like last week’s attack on the church in Charleston, South Carolina, that left nine African Americans dead.
22 June 2015
In the video above, analysts note that every minute another 30 people in the world flee their homes because of war or persecution. This, as the UN reports that the most dangerous country in the world is, for the second year in a row, Iraq — where war and persecution are having a devastating effect on Christians and other minorities. (video: Rome Reports)
Church reopens after arson attack attributed to Jewish extremists (Fides) Thousands of Christians in Galilee gathered on Sunday, 21 June at the Church of the Miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes in Tabgha. Arsonists, believed to be Jewish extremists, attacked the church Thursday. Sunday’s gathering marked the reopening of the church for Sunday Mass. Hundreds of young people protested, blocked the roads carrying crosses and white and yellow flags of the Vatican, and the singers sang in honor of Jesus and Mary...
UN report on Gaza finds evidence of war crimes (The New York Times) A United Nations investigation found “serious violations of international humanitarian law” that “may amount to war crimes” by both Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip during their bloody battle last summer, according to a report released on Monday in Geneva. The report by a commission of the United Nations Human Rights Council said that “impunity prevails across the board” regarding the actions of Israeli forces in Gaza, and it called on Israel to “break with its recent lamentable track record in holding wrongdoers accountable”...
Holy See to UN: victims’ needs are a priority for humanitarian efforts (Vatican Radio) “The priority of any humanitarian response are the needs of the victims,” according to the Holy See’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi was speaking at the 2015 Humanitarian Segment of the Economic and Social Council on Friday. The theme of the segment was “The future of humanitarian affairs: towards greater inclusiveness, coordination, interoperability, and effectiveness.” In his address, Archbishop Tomasi focused on the need to make the best use of available resources in responding to greater and more protracted humanitarian crises...
Report: Iraq most dangerous place in the world to live (RT) Iraq is the most dangerous place in the world for civilians to live, according to new figures from the UK based monitoring group Action on Armed Violence (AOAV). Syria, Gaza, Nigeria and Pakistan round out the top five.
Unenviably occupying the top spot for most civilian fatalities and injuries, Iraq has seen a renewed surge in violence since the rise of ISIS. More than 10,000 civilians have been killed or injured by explosive devices, including car bombs, roadside bombs and other IED’s, making Iraq the most dangerous nation on the planet for the second year running...
EU extends sanctions against Russia (CNN) European Union foreign ministers meeting Monday in Luxembourg extended sanctions against Russia imposed because of the country’s actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, an EU spokeswoman has told CNN. The sanctions were imposed a year ago to punish Russia for its annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and its military support for separatists in the eastern regions of Ukraine, which border Russia. The sanctions consist of asset freezes on some Russian companies and people as well as travel bans against certain officials...
Nun sexually assaulted in India (Voice of America) A 47-year-old nun working as a nurse at a medical center run by Christian missionaries in the central Indian city of Raipur was sexually assaulted by unidentified men Saturday. After a medical investigation, police in Raipur’s Chhattisgarh state said the nun from Kerala had not actually been raped, with police calling it a case of “attempt to rape.” Police say some suspects have been detained for questioning...
19 June 2015
Tags: India Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Israel Russia
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch John X Yazigi (L), Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai (C) and Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Aphrem II (R) light candles during a meeting of spiritual leaders at the Greek Patriarchate of Damascus on 8 June 2015.
(photo: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)
This morning, we received an unofficial translation of the final statement for the spiritual summit held at the Mariamite Church in Damascus on 8 June. The patriarchs sent a call to the world and to the people of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine to hold on in their homelands and to preserve good relations with their compatriots the Muslims.
The full text of the document is below.
Statement of the Spiritual Christian Summit
At the invitation of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X Yazigi, the Patriarchs of Antioch attended a spiritual summit held at the Mariamite Church in Damascus on 8 June 2015. Present were: Patriarch Bechara Rai, the Maronite patriarch of Antioch and head of the Maronite Church in Lebanon, Ignatius Ephrem II, patriarch of Antioch and all the East of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Gregory III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, Alexandria and Jerusalem Melkite, Ignace Joseph III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East for the Syriac Catholic Church, Msgr. Mario Zenari, the Apostolic Nuncio in Damascus, in addition to the heads of the different Christian communities in Damascus.
As a result of the summit, the following statement was released:
To our dear children in the Lord in the Antioch Churches
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, for who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Galatians 1:3-5)
We, first of all, thank the Lord who allowed us to come together, we the Patriarchs to whom was entrusted the care of the Christian people in the widespread Antioch, in Damascus, this blessed city that has embraced Paul the Apostle of all nations. We, from this Patriarchate which has long defended the righteous humanitarian causes over time, raise our voice and pray for you, so that in these calamities, “you live a life worthy of the Gospel,” not ashamed to bear witness of Jesus Christ who “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light.” We pray that you endure the
hardships, relying on “God’s power”, fortified “with strength, love and insight”. There is no need, dear beloved, to remind you to pray for us, so that God helps us “cut in a straight line the word of truth” and glorify His Holy name in our works, while we accompany the Church in these crucial historical circumstances.
We wish to tell you that: by our encounter, our joy is renewed, by our consultations it is deepened, by our cooperation it is increasing, to be testimonies of the Christian Antioch unity in the extent in which “the disciples were called Christians first” (Acts 11:16), and where God wanted us to be witnesses. For this reason, based on your full loyalty to your Churches, its beliefs and teachings, we invite you to come together and serve the poor with dedication, acquaint yourselves with the valuable thought of our Churches, discover its holiness, deepen your knowledge of the Antiochian heritage, pray for the “unity of Christians” and work to achieve this desired unity commanded by the Lord, with the hope that it will be attained in our world today, starting from Antioch.
We also invite you to bear your countries in your thoughts and prayers, and to pray with persistence for peace to prevail, so that everyone could experience the true sense of happiness and live in dignity “as children of God.” Do not forget to work hard for the unity of your country, for its progress and the establishment of a civil state. Preserve the pluralism in all its richness without losing your distinctions. Strengthen your faith and bear witness of the “hope in you.” Don’t let your faith be the reason for divisions or from banning others.
We invite you, dear beloved, to preserve the best relations with our Muslim brothers, our national partners, with whom we share this land and the trials and ordeals of violence and terrorism, consequences of takfiris who are trying to distort Islam. These same partners feel your pain. They are working with their religious authorities to eradicate the takfiri thought, the cause of the loss of thousands of lives. We, together with our partners, raise our voice and declare that it is time to confront the takfiri thought through a religious education calling for openness, peace, and freedom of belief.
In these times of adversity, terrorists are exerting their hideous acts in the name of God. In times of fear, violence, kidnapping, murder, displacement, people are being forced to change their religion by individuals who do know neither God nor His mercy. By killing you, your murderers do not realize that they have brought eternal misery to themselves and defectiveness to their countries. In the midst of all this, do not forget what the Lord has promised “Fear not, little flock, for your Father desires to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32). Yes, dear beloved, in these times of adversity, where “desolation” prevails, where people are being “driven as sheep to slaughter,” remain strong, do not despair. Be strong and hold on to the Grace which complements each deficiency. Commit to “refinement of your soul” based on purification, forgiveness and love. Impersonate the Gospel’s mores. Trust in the Lord who conquered evil and death, as He will not “turn his face away from you.” He is your companion along the paths of displacement and migration. He is your support in poverty and hunger. He is your consolation in times of tribulation when grievance prevails and qualms in God’s care for his loved ones overwhelm you. He is your peace in your ordeal; He is the Light who leads you in darkness of this world. He is your Resurrection from every despair and death. He is your victory against the evil and his malice.
In these times of adversity, rally around the Church, the extension of Jesus Christ in the world. Accompany your Churches, as we are all bound by the spirit of pastoral responsibility and committed to double our efforts in solidarity with the people of good will, to take further and necessary initiatives to maintain our presence in our homelands and look after the needs of your families and your well being and secure the future of our youth who are our vital and promising strength. We express our thanks and appreciation to all the volunteers who are dedicated to serve with love in our institutions. Gather around the Church and pray its martyrs who have fallen in defense of their faith to intercede for you. Pray for all those persecuted and abducted, especially for Mgr Boulos Yazigi and Youhanna Ibrahim from Aleppo, and all the abducted priests, especially Fr. Jack Mourad, who was the last one to be kidnapped. Sustain each other and carry the burdens of one another. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Look after the poor in their torment, as they are God’s beloved. Care for the widows and the orphans. Share your bread with the hungry. Ease the pain of the displaced and refugees. Assist your Churches in its relief and social work. Generously dedicate your time and effort for the “young brothers of Jesus.”
And to our children in Syria, who fell in the grip of terrorism, manipulated by the forces of this world to fragment their country, displace them and expel them from their land, we confirm our commitment to the unity of this country and to the right of its people to live safely, freely and with dignity. We call on the world to work seriously to find a political solution to this senseless war that has ravaged Syria, to reach a solution that guarantees peace and the return of the abductees, the refugees and the displaced and the right of the Syrian people to decide their fate, away from any external interference.
For Iraq, suffering from the scourge of successive wars which uprooted generations and generations from their ancestors’ land, as it happened last year in Mosul and the towns and villages of the Nineveh Plain who have been witnesses to the horrors that reminded the world of the brutality of past centuries’ wars and which continues to destroy ancient civilizations.
As for Lebanon, the country, the message, we ask for faithfulness to this country alone, to a sense of dedication to work for its unity, serve the best interest of its people and elect a President for the Republic who restores the Constitutional Institutions’ role, building a nation in which its people can rejoice.
For our beloved ones in Palestine, the heads of the Church promise that they will remain the focus of their attention and will not back from defending them and their righteous cause, no matter how much the world tries to weaken it through wars and conflicts.
We ask the international community to assume its responsibility and stop the wars on our lands, find peaceful and political solutions to the existing conflicts and work seriously on repatriating the displaced and refugees to their homes and properties, protecting their rights as citizens.
We are the people of this land, deep-rooted in its earth, watered by the sweat of our fathers and ancestors. We declare that we are here to stay in our land, to build it with our partners in citizenship. This land has been entrusted to us; we have shed our blood to defend it, sanctifying it by the blood of our martyrs.
We invite all those who pretend to care about our destiny to help us stay rooted in our land, to take care of it, preserve it and benefit from its resources and not facilitate the looting of our heritage and resources, the destruction of our civilization and the expatriation of our people, by forcing them to migrate. We raise our voice and demand the end of war on our land and the support of the foundations of stability in the entire region.
Dear beloved, at a time when man is being killed in the name of God, we are required, more than ever, to learn that “Love is stronger than death.” Killing in the name of God is stabbing God in His essence. Our faithfulness to Jesus who said “Blessed are the peacemakers, they are called the sons of God,” makes it imperative to be messengers of peace in this East. Our role is to face every thought or ideology that sanctifies violence, killing and revenge. Our faith in God cannot but be translated in love and peace to all, in defense of our land and churches, respecting the freedom of God’s children, while maintaining diversity and differences.
From this Mariamite Church, we pray the Mother of God, the mother of us all, our trusted advocate, to save us and our homelands from all adversities surrounding us, and help us be at her image, as people who bear witness to Christ in our darkest moments. May God bless you and may you remain bearers of His witnesses in this land. Your vocation is to remain “the salt of the Earth” and the “small yeast that permeates the dough.” Do not underestimate this call for the salvation of the world. Trust that with you and through you the Gospel of Jesus Christ will remain vital in our Church of Antioch.
Unofficial translation from the original Arabic text by Lara Cordahi, CRS, Lebanon.
19 June 2015
Men attend the first Friday prayers of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan at the East London Mosque on 19 June in London. In a message for Ramadan, a cardinal at the Vatican has called on Christians and Muslims to pray for those who have “deviated from the true path of life.”
(photo: Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
In his annual message to Muslims, the cardinal who heads the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue is condemning violence in the name of religion, according to CNS:
Christians and Muslims should pray for those who have “deviated from the true path of life” and kill in the name of religion, said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.
“Our prayer is much needed: for justice, for peace and security in the world,” as well as for those who “commit violence in the name of religion, so as to return to God and change (their) life,” said the cardinal, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Cardinal Tauran’s annual message to Muslims for Eid al-Fitr, the feast marking the end of the month long Ramadan fast, was published by the Vatican on 19 June. Ramadan will end on or around 17 July this year.
The message was titled, “Christians and Muslims: Together to counter violence perpetrated in the name of religion,” and it called for renewed efforts, especially in education and law enforcement, to foster respect for human life and protect people’s rights.
Unfortunately, many ethnic and religious communities around the world, he said, have had to face killings, rapes, enslavement, forced emigration and trafficking, even of human organs and cadavers.
“We are all aware of the gravity of these crimes in themselves,” he said. But what “makes them even more heinous” is the attempt to justify such barbarity in the name of religion. “It is a clear manifestation of instrumentalizing religion for gaining power and richness,” he said.
Nations and communities have a duty to protect their residents and their property “from the blind violence of terrorists,” he said.
Read more at the CNS link.
19 June 2015
In this image from last year, Mor Ignatius Aphram II, Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church (right), arrives to vote at a polling station in Damascus. He visited the Vatican today to meet
with Pope Francis. (photo: Louai Beshara/Getty Images)
Pope Francis welcomes Syrian Orthodox Patriarch to Vatican (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis welcomed the Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Mor Ignatius Aphram II, to the Vatican on Friday. In his address to the Patriarch, Pope Francis spoke about the “bonds of unity and fraternity” that unite the Church of Rome to the Church of Antioch, recalling the meetings between Patriarch Mor Ignatius Jacob II and Pope Paul VI in Rome, and between Pope Saint John Paul II and Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka Iwas in Rome and Damascus...
Pontifical Council sends greetings for Ramadan (Vatican Radio) For the Islamic Month of Ramadan and the feast of Eid al-Fitr, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has published a Message to Muslims entitled “Christians and Muslims: Together to counter violence perpetrated in the name of religion.” In the Message, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the President of the Council, offers best wishes to Muslims “for a peaceful and joyful celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan...
Gaza flotilla to set sail (Al Jazeera) At least three boats carrying pro-Palestine activists are preparing to set sail to Gaza in the latest attempt to break Israel’s blockade against the territory. Members of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition in Palermo, Sicily, have told Al Jazeera that final preparations are under way, with the boats aiming to reach Gaza before the end of June. Activist Kalle Ohlsson said the flotilla’s main objective was not to bring aid, but to open Gaza’s port to allow freedom of movement and trade...
Evangelicals and Orthodox grow closer in Ethiopia (Christianity Today) Roughly two-thirds of Ethiopians are Christians. The majority of these belong to the ancient Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church; the rest primarily to Protestant denominations such as the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Makane Yesus (which recently broke ties with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America over theological concerns). The Orthodox and Protestants have long had in common the search for a better life. Increasingly, they share even more. Veteran SIM missionary Howard Brant celebrates that “the two groups are coming closer and closer together” in Ethiopia, which he calls “one of the great success stories of evangelical Christianity...”
Kerala church to observe Yoga Day Sunday (Business Standard) Observing that yoga practice was not against Christian faith, a Malankara Marthoma church in Kerala today said it will be observing the International Yoga Day on 21 June after the Holy Communion...Bishops Conference of India, apex body of the Catholic priests in the country, had earlier expressed displeasure over government’s decision to organise Yoga day on 21 June, saying Sundays are “sacred day” for Christians in the country. CBCI President and Syro-Malankara Major Archbishop Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, had made it clear that the Church was not against yoga, which was described as “anti-Islam” by certain Muslim bodies, including All India Muslim Personal Law Board...
18 June 2015
In this image from November, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople greet a small crowd after delivering a blessing in Istanbul.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I — dubbed “The Green Patriarch” — has written an eloquent and impassioned response to the new encyclical by Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ in an exclusive essay for TIME magazine:
In a series of seminars organized between 1994 and 1998 on the island of Halki off the coast of Istanbul in Turkey, we drew attention to the close connection between ecology and economy. Both terms share the Greek root oikos, which signifies “home.” It therefore came as no surprise to us that our beloved brother Francis of Rome opens his encyclical, which is being released today in the New Synod Hall of the Vatican, with a reference to God’s creation as “our common home.”
Nor again did it come as a surprise to us that Pope Francis underlined the ecumenical dimension of creation care — the term “ecumenism” also shares the same etymological origin as the words “ecology” and “economy.” The truth is that, above any doctrinal differences that may characterize the various Christian confessions and beyond any religious disagreements that may separate the various faith communities, the earth unites us in a unique and extraordinary manner. All of us ultimately share the earth beneath our feet and breathe the same air of our planet’s atmosphere. Even if we do not do enjoy the world’s resources fairly or justly, nevertheless all of us are responsible for its protection and preservation. This is precisely why today’s papal encyclical speaks of the need for “a new dialogue,” “a process of education” and “urgent action.”
...In the third year of our brother Pope Francis’s blessed ministry, we count it as a true blessing that we are able to share a common concern and a common vision for God’s creation.
18 June 2015
Fire damaged the historic Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish in northern Israel.
(photo: Israel Fire and Rescue Services/Haaretz)
A fire overnight did serious damage to a church built at the site where tradition holds that Jesus fed 5,000 in the miracle of the loaves and fish:
A fire broke out late Wednesday night at the historic Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish at Tabgha, located on the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel. Sixteen yeshiva students were arrested Thursday morning over suspected involvement in the arson.
The detained youths reportedly are residents of the West Bank and are being represented by the right-wing Honenu legal rights organization.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, Yoram Cohen, to conduct an accelerated investigation into the incident, his office announced.
“The shocking torching of a church is an attack on all of us,” Netanyahu said. “Freedom of worship in Israel is one of the foundation stones of our values and is protected by law. We will exercise the full weight of the law with those responsible for this criminal act. Hate and intolerance have no place in our society.”
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan denounced the attack as an “act of lowly cowardice which I fiercely condemn.” He ordered the northern district police to make investigation of this incident a top priority, adding: “We will not let anyone disrupt the coexistence between religions and ethnicities in Israel. Harming the principle of tolerance between religions is a blow to the most crucial values in Israel, and we will show zero tolerance for act like these.”
The Catholic Church in Israel told Haaretz that they saw this attack as a continuation of the aggression against holy Christian sites over the last few years, which it said the Israeli government and authorities have failed to deal with accordingly. A report on the matter has been given to the Vatican, the sources said.
Read the rest.
18 June 2015
The English edition of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment is pictured during a news conference at the Vatican on 18 June. The encyclical is titled, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.” At left is Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council
for Justice and Peace. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope’s encyclical connects care of world with justice for the poor (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ first encyclical is focused on the idea of ‘integral ecology,’ connecting care of the natural world with justice for the poorest and most vulnerable people. Only by radically reshaping our relationships with God, with our neighbors and with the natural world, he says, can we hope to tackle the threats facing our planet today. Science, he insists, is the best tool by which we can listen to the cry of the earth, while dialogue and education are the two keys that can “help us to escape the spiral of self-destruction which currently engulfs us”...
Overview of encyclical “Laudato si” (VIS) The following text offers an overview of the 191 pages of the Encyclical Laudato si’ and its key points, along with a summary of each of its six chapters (“What is happening to our common home”, “The Gospel of Creation”, “The human roots of the ecological crisis”, “Integral ecology”, “Lines of approach and action” and “Ecological education and spirituality”). The Encyclical concludes with an interreligious prayer for our earth and a Christian prayer for Creation... (Full text of encyclical)
Worldwide displacement hits all time high (UNHCR press release) Wars, conflict and persecution have forced more people than at any other time since records began to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere, according to a new report from the UN refugee agency. UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report: World at War, released on Thursday (18 June), said that worldwide displacement was at the highest level ever recorded. It said the number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 had risen to a staggering 59.5 million compared to 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago...
Final UN shelter in Gaza closes (AFP) The U.N. has closed the last remaining shelter for Palestinians displaced in last summer’s war in Gaza, a spokesman said Thursday, with families seeking temporary accommodation elsewhere. The July-August conflict between Israel and Islamist movement Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, left 100,000 Gazans homeless and forced many to seek refuge in schools belonging to the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA...
Suspected arson attack on historic church in Galilee (Fides) A suspected arson attack carried out between Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 June, by unidentified extremists devastated the church in Tabgha, the village located near Capernaum, on the northwestern shore of Lake Tiberias, considered one of the most important holy places of Galilee. It is built in the area where, according to tradition, Jesus performed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes. The criminal fire — according to official sources of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem — was extinguished by firefighters around 3:30 am, after having caused serious damage in the courtyard entrance. It also caused the poisoning of an elderly Benedictine monk and a young volunteer, who were taken to a hospital...
Canadian charity challenging groups to support Syrians (Toronto Star) The challenge is on: Canadians need to reach out and help Syrian refugees, say Mayor John Tory and Ratna Omidvar, founding executive director of the Global Diversity Exchange at Ryerson University and chairwoman of Lifeline Syria. Canadians should reach out and help Syrian refugees just as they helped sponsor Vietnamese refugees in the late 1970’s, Omidvar says...
17 June 2015
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank Vatican
Seminarians pose for a picture at the Capuchin seminary in Eritrea. (photo: CNEWA)
This week, representatives from ROACO — aid agencies (including CNEWA) working with the Congregation of the Eastern Churches — are gathering in Rome. Today, those at ROACO welcomed Archbishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam, metropolitan archbishop of the newly created Eritrea Catholic church joining 23 Eastern churches in full communion with Rome.
CNEWA Canada’s National Director Carl Hétu notes:
Archbishop Tesfamariam gave us a general overview of his new church challanges. His church has four eparchies with a population of 164,480 parishoners in this small country of five million just north of Ethiopia, in the Horn of Africa.
The church works in difficult condition,s since most of its population lives poor rural areas. They have developed many pastoral programs to attend to their needs, in particular helping women who are left to raise the children alone.
The archbishop implored the aid agencies not to forget about them and to help the church grow and keep its seminary program alive. There are now 45 seminarians in formation for the priesthood, and the novitiate has consecrated over 350 women religious, who are playing an important pastoral role all over the country.
Also speaking to ROACO today were representatives from the Ethiopian Catholic Church: the newly named Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel and the Bishop Conference Secretary General, the Reverand Hagos Hayish.
Ethiopia’s Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel speaks to the ROACO. (photo: CNEWA)
As with its neighbor, Eritrea, Ethiopia is predominantly rural and poor. This small church, which represents less than 2 percent of the Ethiopian population, is certainly among the most dynamic. It is renowned for its pastoral and humanitarian programs that, through Catholic schools, form young Ethiopians into a workforce based on Christian values. There are also efforts underway to improve the agriculture system, so farmers can improve their way of life.
Also the Ethiopian Catholic Church has responded with an impressive program for refugees, welcoming more than 600,000 refugees from Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. Ethiopia has the most refugees of any African country-posing social and economic challenges.
Much needs to be done. The church is appealing to aid agencies to continue their support, particularly in lay formation, university chaplaincy and education.
To learn more about the churches in the Horn of Africa, read our profiles of the The Eritrean Catholic Church and The Ethiopian Catholic Church. CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar wrote about his own journey to the region in 2012. You can read those reports here.
Finally, to support CNEWA’s efforts on that part of the world, please visit this giving page.
17 June 2015
Pope Francis meets with Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, director of foreign relations for the Moscow patriarchate, during a private meeting at the Vatican
on 15 June. (photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)