19 May 2014
Yesterday, Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej visited Obrenovac, southwest of Belgrade, Serbia, and met with those providing aid to flood victims. (photo: Serbian Orthodox Church)
Worst deluge in a century inundates Serbia, Bosnia (Christian Science Monitor) Soldiers, police, and villagers battled to protect power plants in Serbia from rising floodwaters on Sunday as the death toll from the Balkan region’s worst rainfall in more than a century reached 37…
Caritas Serbia: situation still ‘chaotic’ (Vatican Radio) As large parts of the Balkan region remain under water, the coordinator for Caritas Serbia said people have begun to suffer from waterborne diseases. The situation is “still very chaotic” and it is “extremely difficult still to coordinate” aid, Darko Tot told Vatican Radio on Monday…
Unity is a difficult mission for Christians in Israel (NPR) Pope Francis visits the Middle East next week, including Israel, where Christians make up just 2 percent of the population. But since the last papal visit to the Holy Land five years ago, the number of Christians in Israel has increased, and the makeup of the Christian population has continued to shift…
Putin orders troops near Ukraine to return home (Al Jazeera) Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered troops deployed in regions near Ukraine to return to their home bases, the Kremlin said on Monday. The move appears to indicate Putin’s intention to de-escalate the crisis over Ukraine, the worst in Russia’s relations with the West since the end of the Cold War, although previous pledges to withdraw troops have gone unmet…
Russian church the absent player at pope-patriarch summit (Reuters) When Pope Francis meets the spiritual head of the world’s Orthodox Christians next week, the speeches and symbolism will focus on how these ancient wings of Christianity want to come closer together. After almost a millennium apart, however, the key to the elusive unity they seek does not lie in Jerusalem, where the Catholic pope and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will embrace on 25 May. If anywhere, that key lies in Moscow. The Russian Orthodox Church, by far the largest church in the Orthodox world and increasingly influential at home and abroad, has long been wary of these closer ties…
16 May 2014
Tags: Ukraine Middle East Christians Christian Unity Holy Land Christians Serbia
This weekend, the Canadian Catholic TV station Salt + Light will air a documentary about the Middle East, focusing explicitly on the work of CNEWA. The documentary, “Living Stones: Walking Humbling in the Land We Call Holy,” draws from material gathered during a special pilgrimage to the Holy Land for journalists that CNEWA helped sponsor four years ago.
As the station notes:
We often forget the Holy Land is more than just a place of shrines and pilgrimages. This is a land where people live, and millions of them are Christian. In 2010, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) sponsored several trips to the Holy Land for journalists. It was a different kind of pilgrimage, one where they visited people, the living stones of this land we call holy. Join Deacon Pedro Guevara-Mann as he travels through Jordan, Palestine and Israel meeting Christians, learning about the work they do and sharing their stories.
Check out the trailer for the program above. It can be seen on Salt + Light Sunday 18 May at 9 pm ET / 6 pm PT. You can view it online at this link.
16 May 2014
At the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Ader, Jordan, girls celebrate receiving their
First Communion. (photo: John E. Kozar)
CNS recently paid a visit to the site where Jesus was baptized—and where Pope Francis will visit later this month—and looked at efforts to preserve Christian identity in Jordan:
During a recent visit to Jordan Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said strengthening support of the Christian community is one way to stop Christians from fleeing the region. He pointed to the work of organizations such as the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, for which he serves as chairman of the board, as vital to ensuring that the presence of Christians remains in the region.
“CNEWA can give a booster shot to the effort it has been doing for decades to support the Christian community in the Middle East,” he said during a break from observing CNEWA’s efforts.
“When you look at what the tiny Christian community is doing in terms of health care, education, feeding the poor, and keeping people together, you can see why Jesus said, ‘By their fruits, you shall know them,‘” he told CNS.
“Muslims have come to respect the magnificent and charitable work of the sisters and other Christians. So religious respect, friendship and dialogue is a result of that,” the cardinal said.
Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA president, who accompanied Cardinal Dolan, agreed.
“Whenever we can work with the local church, that’s what CNEWA does, accompany the local church to be stronger, to cultivate people’s roots, to make them deeper and join in solidarity of prayer, that’s where we need to be,” he told CNS.
16 May 2014
Tags: CNEWA Jordan Melkite
A medic treats a boy who was injured after what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad at a hospital in Idlib, Syria on 15 May.
(photo: CNS /Rasem Ghareeb, Reuters)
Rocket attack kills 13 in Aleppo (AP) A rebel rocket attack killed 13 people Friday in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo, the latest shelling to strike the country’s largest city, Syria’s state news agency reported. State news agency SANA said the rocket attack in Aleppo also wounded 17 people in the city’s northern neighborhood of Achrafieh. The agency said the attack was carried out by “terrorists,” the term the government uses to refer to rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad. It said the shells also damaged two houses in the area...
U.N. cites rising human rights violations in Ukraine (The New York Times) Armed groups are increasingly undermining the rights and basic freedoms of people in eastern Ukraine, the United Nations said Friday, expressing concern at the rising number of killings, abductions, beatings and detentions of journalists, politicians and local activists. “Primarily as a result of the actions of organized armed groups, the continuation of the rhetoric of hatred and propaganda fuels the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, with a potential of spiraling out of control,” the United Nations said in its second report on the issue in a month, which was released simultaneously in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and in Geneva...
Rabbi and Muslim leaders to accompany pope to Holy Land (Religion News Service) Pope Francis will be accompanied on his first visit to the Middle East by Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim leader Omar Abboud — two friends from Buenos Aires. It is the first time a pope has made an official visit accompanied by members of other faiths, and it underscores the interfaith focus of Francis’ trip to the Holy Land, the Vatican said on 15 May. “This dimension of interreligious dialogue has great significance,” the Vatican’s official spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, told the media...
Christian group in India calls for limits to extremist groups after election (Fides) While the official outcome of the Indian elections marked the victory of the nationalist “Bharatiya Janata Party,” its leader Narendra Modi—likely to become the next Prime Minister—announced “a new era for India, free from corruption and a strong economic recovery”. Modi has urged unity for the entire Indian population: “We put the people above politics,” he said, “hope over despair, healing over evil, inclusion over exclusion, development over divisions”. In a note sent to Fides Agency, the Christians of the “Global Council of Indian Chrsitians,” an organization that includes believers of different faiths, said that this will be possible if the government limits the violent action of Hindu extremist groups”...
15 May 2014
Tags: Syria India Ukraine United Nations Pope
On a visit to Mount Nebo, Cardinal Dolan points out a landmark in the distance to Msgr. John Kozar, president of the CNEWA. (photo: CNEWA)
Catholic New York, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of New York, has just published a comprehensive wrap-up of Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s pastoral visit to Jordan last week.
An excerpt, from editor John Woods:
On his pastoral visit to Jordan last week, Cardinal Dolan witnessed firsthand the work and presence of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), which supports projects assisting refugees from other countries in the Middle East as well as the small, native Christian community and others in that part of the land of the Bible.
The three-day itinerary, packed with stops at a number of health clinics and refugee support programs operated by a total of five congregations of women religious, gave Cardinal Dolan a greater appreciation of CNEWA’s approach of assisting projects already providing good service.
Work such as the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, operated by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, an Iraqi congregation serving a refugee population including Palestinians, Iraqis and Syrians. The clinic-on the property of a Latin Rite parish, St. Pius X, built in the 1950s with support from CNEWA benefactors-also is subsidized by the agency.
The same day, the visitors also toured the Italian Hospital in Amman, known as the Hospital of the Poor, administered by another Iraqi community, the Dominican Sister of the Presentation. CNEWA subsidizes a daily clinic for the poorest of the poor, mainly Iraqi and Syrian refugees, along with poverty-stricken Jordanians, who travel from the entire country for the quality care it offers.
The next day, they visited with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, who provide support to hundreds of Iraqi and Syrian refugees, especially young women, with the help of CNEWA, right in their convent, the House of Mary. They celebrated Mass in the convent chapel, and then had dinner with the sisters and refugee families.
“It’s not that we come in from above. We help them from below,” said the cardinal, speaking of CNEWA’s approach in an interview at its offices in the New York Catholic Center on 9 May. He had come that day to greet CNEWA’s staff the morning after his return to the archdiocese.
“I was so edified at the great work CNEWA does there.”
The cardinal traveled to Jordan as part of his responsibilities as chairman of the board of CNEWA, a papal agency that provides humanitarian and pastoral support by working with and through Eastern Catholic churches in the Middle East and elsewhere across the globe. He was joined by Bishop William Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, another CNEWA board member, and Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA’s president. Also taking part were Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s regional director for Jordan and Iraq, and Father James Cruz, the cardinal’s priest secretary.
The 4-8 May trip, which took place following the canonization ceremonies in Rome for SS. John Paul II and John XXIII, actually felt like “a dry run” for the visit that Pope Francis will make to the Holy Land later this month, Msgr. Kozar said.
“There is a tremendous excitement about the pope’s coming,” he said, adding that the positive feelings generated by the papal visit translated to warm greetings everywhere the group went. The pope’s visit to the Holy Land is schedule to begin in Amman, Jordan’s capital, on 24 May.
The visit to Jordan was Cardinal Dolan’s first. Three years ago he visited CNEWA’s projects in Syria and Lebanon, a trip that would be impossible today because of the continued unrest in Syria, he noted.
Read the whole report and see more pictures here.
Check out our archive of the “Journey to Jordan,” too, with more photographs by CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar.
Meantime, Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre has also written his own reflections of the trip. Read more at his blog.
15 May 2014
A priest blesses Serbian and Greek-American students from Socrates-St. Sava Academy.
(photo: Hryhoriy Prystay)
In 2004, we profiled immigrants from the Balkans discovering a new sense of cooperation and collaboration in Chicago:
A hopeful sign of Christian cooperation in Chicago is Socrates-St. Sava Academy, where Serbian and Greek-American children study together in an Orthodox environment. Socrates Greek American School was founded in 1908, making it “the oldest such school still in existence,” says Voula Sellountos, principal of the academy.
In 2001, it started admitting children of Serbian descent, changed its name and moved to the complex of Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral.
There are now 110 students: 27 are of Serbian descent and 83 Greek. The students have English classes together before separately studying in Serbian or Greek.
The school has two chaplains: one Serbian, one Greek. In addition to tuition paid by parents, the respective churches provide financial support according to the number of enrolled students.
“The values the parents try to instill in the home are the same ones instilled at school,” says Ms. Sellountos. “At public schools parents have almost no control over violence, bad language and bad attitudes. We have created a family environment, with love and care for the children.”
The challenges of modern times have forced Chicago’s Christians from the Balkans to adapt and work together with other ethnic groups. None have been able to survive on their own.
Read more about Sharing Space in an Adopted Home from the May-June 2004 edition of ONE.
15 May 2014
U.S. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, and Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Denis. J. Madden meet with Seyyed Mahmoud, left, at the Ayatollah Marashi Najafi Library in Qom, Iran, in March. At right is Stephen Colecchi, director of the U.S. bishops’ office of International Justice and Peace. The meeting was part of a dialogue between the bishops and Iranian Muslim leaders on nuclear weapons.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Stephen M. Colecchi)
U.S. bishops, Iranian ayatollahs hold dialogue on nuclear weapons (CNS) Quietly, a small group of U.S. Catholic bishops and Iranian ayatollahs began in March what they intend to be an ongoing dialogue on nuclear weapons and the role of faith leaders in influencing political moves on the issue of Iran's nuclear program. The meetings in Iran, hosted by the Supreme Council of Seminary Teachers of Qom, began with basic discussions of areas of philosophical and theological commonality between Catholicism and Islam and concluded with a commitment to issue a joint statement, said the U.S. bishop who led the delegation...
Holy Land events are prelude to pope’s visit (CNS) As Pope Francis’s visit to the Holy Land approaches, the trip is being marked with special events, government sessions, online videos and a photography exhibition both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The activities look at the history of the relationship between the Vatican and the Holy Land and serve to urge Pope Francis to look at the current political situation in the region during his brief stay...
Vatican investigating Indian Jesuit’s work (CNS) A leading Indian Jesuit theologian specializing in mission, dialogue and inculturation, has been engaged in a dialogue with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but has not been censured or silenced by the Vatican. Jesuit Father Michael Amaladoss, 77, is director of the Institute for Dialogue with Cultures and Religions at the Jesuit-run Loyola College in Chennai, India. Jesuit Father Joe Antony, acting provincial of the Madurai province to which Father Amaladoss belongs, told Catholic News Service on 14 May: “There has been no condemnation or censure, but for nearly two years there has been a dialogue between Father Amaladoss and the doctrinal congregation...”
Syrian diplomat denies allegations of forced starvation, chemical attacks (CNN) Chemical attacks with chlorine gas. Barrel bombs dropped from regime helicopters. Syrians starved into submission in opposition-controlled areas. The alleged assaults by the Syrian government against its own people are atrocious. But in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen, the country’s deputy foreign minister says such claims are rubbish. “I assure you 100% that chlorine gas has never been used by the government,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad said...
Ukrainian archbishop decries actions by Russia (Byzcath.org) The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the largest Eastern Catholic church in full communion with the Holy See, condemned recent Russian actions during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “There was no tension between Ukrainians and Russians in Ukraine until the Russian government annexed Crimea,” Major Archbishop Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk told the Canadian leader during a recent meeting...
Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue marks anniversary (VIS) The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue celebrates the 50th anniversary of its foundation on Monday 19 May. The dicastery was instituted with the name “Secretariat for non-Christians” on 19 May 1964 by Pope Paul VI, with the Apostolic Letter “Progrediente Concilio”, with the aim of paying attention to those who were without the Christian religion and to whom the words of the Lord would seem to refer: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also”...
14 May 2014
A new generation takes root in the Armenian Catholic congregation. (photo: Molly Corso)
Writer and photographer Molly Corso explores the faith of Armenian Catholics in the current edition of ONE magazine, and offers some additional reflections here.
One of the first things that struck me as I started to work on this story was that Armenian Catholics are a minority, within a minority. Ethnically, they are a minority — albeit Georgia’s largest minority — in the country. And, religiously, they are a minority within their ethnicity, as well as within the predominately Orthodox Christian country.
Despite being prejudged, first as Armenians and then as non-Orthodox, many of those living in Georgian urban communities outside of the tightly knit Armenian villages of Samtskhe Javakheti have only a tenuous tie to their Armenian roots. They speak Russian and Georgian, most of the youth go to Georgian schools, and by far not all have traveled to Armenia.
They are, in a word, similar to Italian-Americans or Irish-Americans in the United States: culturally, symbolically somehow tied to the old country by their last names, a different faith, or a penchant for a certain type offood. But otherwise fairly integrated in the country they call home.
But while being an Italian-American or an Irish-American is now something to be proud of in the states, in Georgia — after two difficult decades of conflict, poverty, and ethnic strife — it can be very difficult to show one’s pride for non-Georgian roots.
Georgia and Armenia share an ancient history and Tbilisi, the country’s capital, has boasted more Armenian citizens than even Yerevan.
But the 1990s were overshadowed by battles over territory as Georgia lost control of large chunks of the small country; attempts, however feeble, by Armenian nationals to cut off Samtskhe Javakheti, a southern region of the country that borders Armenia and has the largest concentration of Georgian-Armenians, were not encouraged.
To this day, some of the more national-leaning television stations are still prone to refer to ethnic Armenians living in the country in that context when there is any conflict in the region: would-be separatists looking for a way to break away.
Even among their own kind, Armenian Catholics are viewed as ‘others,’ as Armenians who have strayed from their apostolic flock. The pitched fight over church property seized by the Communists after Georgia became part of the Soviet Union in 1921 is largely played out between the Georgian Orthodox Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church, with little effort to include smaller faiths.
During the Armenian Catholic Center’s Saturday school in Tbilisi, however, Georgian-Armenians are given the opportunity to explore their cultural heritage without concern that they will be deemed less Georgian-or less Armenian- for doing so. In a delectable mix of Armenian, Georgian and Russian, children struggle over Armenian vocabulary, learn Armenian Catholic hymns, and dance Armenian folkdances.
I was struck by how seamlessly the children were able to go from one language to another, discussing art projects, language assignments, and dance moves in all of those languages without a break for translation — proof that, especially among the minority of a minority, there is a synergy between the traditions of their ancestors and their identity as modern Georgians.
Read more about the Armenian Catholics in A Firm Faith in the spring 2014 edition of ONE.
14 May 2014
Father Elias Koucos celebrates the Exaltation of the Holy Cross at Prophet Elias Church in Holladay, Utah. To learn more about the thriving community of Greek Orthodox in Utah, check out “Greek Orthodoxy in Mormon Zion” from the June 2010 issue of ONE. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
14 May 2014
People mourn on 14 May for their relatives and friends after a mine explosion a day earlier in Soma, Turkey. More than 225 people died in the explosion. Pope Francis said during his weekly general audience that his prayers were with those killed in the disaster.
(photo: CNS /Togla Bozoglu, EPA)
Pope prays for victims of Turkish mining disaster (Vatican Radio) At his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis made an appeal for prayer for the miners who lost their lives in a mining disaster in Turkey: “Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to pray for the miners who died in the mine yesterday in Soma, Turkey, and for those who are still trapped in the tunnels. May the Lord receive the deceased in His house and give comfort to their families...”
UN mediator on Syria quits, peace prospects dim (The New York Times) International efforts to end the war in Syria faltered further on Tuesday as the United Nations mediator quit, citing frustrations over the moribund political negotiations, and France’s top diplomat said there was evidence the Syrian government used chemical weapons more than a dozen times after it signed the treaty banning them. Taken together, the two events pointed to the failings of the West’s signature efforts on Syria, finding a diplomatic way out of a civil war in its fourth year — and a pact that was proudly touted as stopping the Syrian government from using chemical weapons...
Pope appeals to stop “shameful carnage” of migrant deaths (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is calling on Europe to unite forces and to put human rights in the forefront as the death toll of migrants trying to reach Europe continues to rise...
Talks to end crisis in Ukraine set to begin in Kiev (BBC) Talks to end the crisis in Ukraine are due to begin in Kiev, brokered by international monitors, but pro-Russian rebels look unlikely to attend. The round table was organised as part of a roadmap drawn up by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation and Europe (OSCE). Government and regional figures are to attend but the idea was for the talks to be as inclusive as possible...
Grand Mufti proposes “pact” between Muslims and Christians in Middle East (Fides) Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, the Grand Mufti of the Lebanese Republic and the highest authority of Sunni Islam in the Country of the cedars, proposed a Christian-Muslim pact as a contribution to the promotion of peaceful coexistence in the nation. He submitted the content to the Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Bechara Boutros Rai, during the meeting between Cardinal Rai and a delegation of the Islamic Sharia Council, which took place on 13 May at the Maronite patriarchal See in Bkerké...
Pope Tawadros says charter secures equality for all Egyptians (Gulfnews) New Egypt’s charter enshrines the rights of citizenship and equality for every Egyptian, Muslims and Copts, said Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark yesterday. Dismissing persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, Pope Tawadros II told a news conference held in Abu Dhabi, as neighbours at home, partners at work, friends in schools and colleges, Muslims and Christians have been living in harmony for more than 14 centuries. “But some problems between Copts and Muslims pop up from time to time. The new constitution will help solve these problems, so that justice and peace prevail,” the Coptic Pope said, winding up a several days visit to the UAE...
Resort rises on site where Jesus may have taught (The New York Times) For the Rev. Juan M. Solana, it was the spiritual equivalent of striking oil. When he set out to develop a resort for Christian pilgrims in Galilee, he unearthed a holy site: the presumed hometown of Mary Magdalene and an ancient synagogue where experts say Jesus may well have taught. The project, which Father Solana, a Roman Catholic priest, describes as “providential,” will be blessed by Pope Francis during his visit to the Holy Land this month...