9 May 2014
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Bishop William Murphy and the CNEWA team wrapped up their journey to Jordan on Wednesday.
In Kerak, they stopped by the Italian Hospital, administered by the Comboni Sisters. CNEWA has supported the hospital’s renovation and expansion, bringing health care to countless families.
We profiled the lives of Christians in the Kerak plateau two years ago in the pages of ONE magazine. Many of the people are descended from Bedouins, and have strong ties to the church:
As do most Jordanians, the Christians of the Kerak area express pride about their tribal past. But nostalgia for the old days is hard to find on the Kerak plateau. For generations, these villagers have struggled to achieve a better life, a fight that often has meant leaving behind tribal customs. Now, young and old have their eyes fixed firmly on the future. They want to talk about the Internet, not about camels and sheep; about college degrees, not tents and traditions.
The only vital thread weaving together their present and past, and one they speak about eagerly, is their Christian faith. According to these villagers, the church — Greek Orthodox and Latin and Melkite Greek Catholic — has held the community together and served as a bridge to modern society.
After visiting Kerak, the team traveled to the Christian Bedouin village of Ader to celebrate a First Communion liturgy at the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of St. Gregory.
After that, it was back to Amman for the trip home.
You can find more about this pastoral visit at Cardinal Dolan’s blog and at the blog for Bishop William Murphy. The complete Journey to Jordan is also archived here.
And if you’d like to be a part of the exciting and meaningful work we’re doing in Amman, Kerak and Ader, check out our giving page.
9 May 2014
Msgr. John Kozar and Cardinal Timothy Dolan meet with the CNEWA staff to discuss their just-completed pastoral visit to Jordan. (photo: CNEWA)
Fresh from his pastoral visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan — he only returned last night — an exuberant Cardinal Timothy Dolan met with the members of the CNEWA team in their New York offices this morning.
“You are making great things happen in Jordan,” the cardinal said, his arm resting on his traveling companion and CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar.
We are very close to the local churches there, the cardinal said of CNEWA. “We do not lord over them, but accompany them, walking with them every step of the way.”
Though Jordan’s Christian community in Jordan is tiny, maybe two percent of the population, he said, it is well respected and faithfully lives the Gospel for all those in need, Christian and Muslim. “They don’t preach the culture of life,” he exclaimed, “they live it!”
“And isn’t the work of the women religious something, Monsignor?”
Follow our special coverage on the pastoral visit to Jordan here. You can also read more from Cardinal Dolan on his blog, The Gospel in the Digital Age, or on the blog of Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, who as a member of CNEWA’s board of trustees, joined the cardinal for the pastoral visit.
9 May 2014
A painting of Pope Francis at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity shows him holding an icon of Sts. Peter and Andrew. The icon was given by Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople to Pope Paul VI in 1964 and how hangs in the council’s
Vatican office. (photo: CNS /Paul Haring)
Later this month, Pope Francis is not just making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land; he is traveling, in effect, to visit a member of the family.
With the bishop of Rome going to meet the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, a family reunion will take place. The successor to Peter will meet the successor to the apostle Andrew, Peter’s brother, who founded the church in Byzantium.
The patriarch recently spoke about the meeting in an interview with the Associated Press:
Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of 250 million Orthodox Christians, says a meeting with Pope Francis in Jerusalem this month will help move the two churches closer to ending their nearly one-thousand-year divide.
In an interview with The Associated Press in his Istanbul office, Bartholomew also praised Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for improving rights for Christians but said pointedly, “it is not enough.”
The meetings between the ecumenical patriarch and the leader of the world’s Roman Catholics on May 25-26 will commemorate the historic visit of their predecessors 50 years ago that launched a dialogue aimed at ending the two churches’ schism in 1054.
“We shall say through our meeting and our prayer that it is the intention of both of us to work further for Christian unity and reconciliation,” Bartholomew said, sitting at his desk piled high with papers in his Patriarchate office. Around him, golden icons from Byzantium on the walls loomed over standing photos of the patriarch greeting world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Erdogan.
Although the Orthodox and Catholic churches remain estranged on key issues, including married clergy and the centralized power of the Vatican, there have been moves toward closer understanding, beginning with the 1964 meeting between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem. It was the first encounter between a pope and Orthodox patriarch in more than 500 years.
Read more at the AP link.
9 May 2014
The Rev. Ziad Hilal, S.J., has been working tirelessly to ease the suffering of those who remain in Homs. To read more about his work, especially with children growing up in the crosshairs of snipers, read his Letter From Syria in the Summer 2013 issue of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Jesuit priest’s work continues in Homs (Vatican Radio) A month after the Jesuit Rev. Frans van der Lugt was murdered in the Syrian city of Homs, his friend and fellow Jesuit, the Rev. Ziad Hilal, is continuing his tireless humanitarian work…
Pope: Church in Ethiopia, Eritrea a witness to unity (Vatican Radio) The church in Ethiopia and Eritrea is a unique example of “witness to the unity of the people of God.” Though from different countries and different rites, “each with its own particular richness” shares the same mission of service of Christ and his church. This was the focus of Pope Francis’ address to the bishops from Ethiopia and Eritrea on their pilgrimage…
Lebanon deports Palestinians back to Syria (Al Jazeera) Lebanon’s General Security department has forcibly deported 41 Palestinian refugees back to Syria, despite the fact that they had entered the country legally. The move on 4 May ran counter to an earlier decision by the Lebanese government to not deport any refugee back to Syria under any circumstances. Lebanese authorities pointed out that the arrests and the following deportation was due to the fact that the detainees held forged visas to Libya. After long hours of interrogation at Beirut International Airport, a decision was made to deport the group…
Evidence mounts: Syrian regime hasn’t abandoned chemical weapons (Der Spiegel) Although Damascus has turned over 92.5 percent of its chemical weapons stockpile, including sarin, as agreed, reports indicate it continues to deploy poison gas against the Syrian people. Given chlorine’s use in everyday products, it isn’t included in the list of weapons the regime has agreed to place under international control. Its deployment against humans is nonetheless prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention, of which Syria is a signatory. At least 10 chlorine gas attacks have been carried out since April 10 in the border areas of the Idlib and Hama provinces…
Egypt’s Sisi tells media not to push for democratic reforms (Al Jazeera) Egyptian presidential candidate Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the country’s former military chief, warned newspaper editors Thursday not to cover freedom-of-speech issues or press for other democratic reforms, as such actions could lead to protests that jeopardize national security…
Ukraine’s political divisions play out among its Orthodox congregations (Christian Science Monitor) As Ukraine’s political divisions play out on the geopolitical stage, the country also faces an unsettling schism among its main churchgoers. And, as with national politics, a tug-of-war between pro- and anti-Moscow factions may be fueling the centrifugal forces that threaten to unravel Ukraine…
8 May 2014
Tags: Ukraine Syrian Civil War Christian Unity Eritrea Ethiopian Christianity
Our CNEWA team — board chair Cardinal Timothy Dolan, board member Bishop William Murphy and president Msgr. John Kozar — continued their pastoral visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and discovered the “keys to the kingdom,” its wonderful and generous people.
An important stop yesterday was the convent of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in Amman.
From their home, the sisters offer Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria counseling, schooling, formal catechesis and emergency assistance to those in dire need. The sisters’ “House of Mary” also offers a safe haven, a refuge from the storm that has enveloped these innocent families.
We described the work of the sisters — which is supported by CNEWA’s generous benefactors — in a story for ONE magazine we called, fittingly, “A Loving Embrace”:
Among the courses the convent school offers is a remedial tutorial for Iraqi children who have fallen behind since the war’s outbreak and fled west. Some of these children have missed several years of school — not until last August did the government permit Iraqi school-age children to enroll in its schools...
In addition to the remedial program for young children, the convent school operates a kindergarten, a second grade and a literacy course offered at no cost to young adults between the ages of 14 and 20.
...For a few short hours, the participants leave behind their worries and gather the strength to move forward despite the seemingly impossible and unending challenges in their lives — at least for one more day.
That’s the warm and supportive atmosphere that greeted the CNEWA team yesterday. The sisters and the families they are privileged to serve welcomed their visitors and made them feel right at home. Later, they celebrated Mass together and had the opportunity to share stories, and even a few laughs.
It was a meaningful and emotional visit for everyone.
To find out what you can do to support the good work of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in Jordan — and extend that “loving embrace” of Christ to others — visit our Jordan giving page.
8 May 2014
A young girl tries on the pectoral cross of Cardinal Timothy Dolan during his pastoral visit to Jordan. Follow his trip this week in the series Journey to Jordan. (photo: John E. Kozar)
8 May 2014
Pope Francis embraces the catholicos-patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Karekin II of Etchmiadzin, during a meeting at the Vatican on 8 May.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Pope Francis to Armenian Catholicos: blood of martyrs is seed of unity (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the Patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin II, on Thursday at the Vatican. The Catholicos is in Rome on a three-day visit that concludes on 9 May. In remarks prepared for the occasion, Pope Francis recalled Pope St. John Paul II’s 2001 visit to Armenia, and the many other visits the Catholicos has made to Rome and to the Popes in the Vatican, especially his 2008 visit to Pope Benedict XVI and his participation in the inauguration of Pope Francis’ own pontificate...
Explosion destroys hotel in Aleppo (BBC) A large explosion in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo has destroyed a hotel and several other buildings, state media and activists report. Rebel fighters are believed to have detonated a bomb placed in a tunnel beneath the Carlton Citadel Hotel, near the city’s medieval citadel and souk. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government troops had been based there and at least 14 died...
Report documents "egregious" violations of religious freedom in Syria (National Catholic Register) The U.S. government should designate Syria as a “country of particular concern” due to “particularly severe violations of religious freedom” in its ongoing conflict, a global religious liberty group said. “The existing humanitarian disaster and egregious human rights and religious freedom violations pose a serious danger to Syria’s religious diversity post-conflict,” the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in its 2014 report...
American Christians pledge solidarity with persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria (Fox News) On behalf of the suffering churches of Egypt, Iraq and Syria, a broad array of American Christians, with a degree of unity rarely seen since the Council of Nicaea in 325, have joined together in a “pledge of solidarity and call to action.” Their action results from deepening concern about the “wave of persecution” in the region of Christianity’s roots. Some 200 Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox leaders have signed on — from Catholic Cardinal Wuerl, to National Association of Evangelicals’ chair Leith Anderson, to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church to Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Oshagan Cholayan...
Special novena organized ahead of pope’s trip to Holy Land (L’Osservatore Romano) Nine days of special prayer have been organized in preparation for Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to the Holy Land from 24 to 26 May. According to the website of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem for Latins, the Jerusalemite Churches and Christian communities from 24-26 May will spiritually prepare and support the Pope’s pilgrimage and his meeting with the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, which will take place in the holy city...
7 May 2014
Continuing their pastoral visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Bishop William Murphy and Msgr. John Kozar visited two key holy sites before spending the rest of the day with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. They visited the site on the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized, touring the archaeological remains associated with the early church.
They also paused to enjoy the view at Mount Nebo, where tradition holds Moses viewed the Promised Land he was never able to enter himself.
In 2011, we reported in ONE magazine on some of the places they’re visiting in the article On Jordan’s Bank:
Jordan is home to a mosaic of biblical places. For example, near the Zerqa River, Jacob wrestled the angel and received the name Israel. At Mount Nebo, Moses looked upon the Promised Land. The Prophet Elijah ascended to heaven on a chariot of fire from the Jordan River’s eastern bank, which also later served as the center of John the Baptist’s ministry.
These holy places, coupled with the country’s arid landscape, drew thousands of early Christians, such as St. Mary of Egypt, who led lives of penitence and prayer. Their monastic cells, caves, chapels and tombs in turn became important venues of pilgrimage for generations of Christians, who traveled along a well–beaten circuit from one site to the next for much of the first millennia of the Christian era.
Today, these sacred areas draw considerable numbers of pilgrims and tourists each year, but less traffic than one might expect. Most of the locations receive scant publicity and are overshadowed by better–known holy sites in Israel and Palestine. And, until recently, some of the most important sites in Jordan have been long lost or neglected.
The CNEWA team next headed to meet with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, who are providing support to Iraqi and Syrian refugee families, especially young women.
More on that part of the visit tomorrow!
Meantime, you can read more about their visit at Cardinal Dolan’s blog and at the blog of Bishop Murphy.
7 May 2014
Children play by the edge of the garbage dump near their refuge in Bechouat. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
Diane Handal visited Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley last fall and wrote about some of the work being done to help refugees there in the spring edition of ONE. Below, she offers some personal details from her visit.
On the drive to Bekaa, church steeples dotted the landscape and gold domes sparkled in the sun with matching minarets. Racy billboards of a scantily dressed woman wearing a hijab and fishnet stockings with high black boots advertised some French beauty product.
Lebanese soldiers stood guard at checkpoints holding AK-47’s every 10 miles or so — not bothering to check anyone, just waving cars on.
Passing the Sunni community, big posters of Rafic Hariri, former prime minister of Lebanon, appeared. Several miles later was a Shiite area. Hassan Nasrullah’s gray bearded face, wire glasses, and black turban boasted of Hezbollah’s presence to everyone passing. One poster had Nasrullah standing with the Syrian president, Bashar al Assad.
Posters of soldiers with machine guns and martyrs who had died in Syria draped the median, with Hezbollah flags on each side of the road.
Men walked with black and white checked keffiyehs (a kind of headdress) around their necks, a symbol of the revolution. Women were dressed from head to toe in black, a show of mourning.
They are getting ready for Ashura this week. It is the Shiite anniversary marking the martyrdom of Hussein, the grandson of the prophet.
The mountains shelter pretty little villages and farms, which extend outward to the roads. The Bekaa Valley is truly beautiful. But all is not as lovely and simple as it seems.
In Bekaa, photographer Tamara Hadi and I were the guests of Sister Giselle, Sister Micheline and Sister Rita at the convent in the vicinity of Deir el Ahmar. The area is filled with farms that grow hashish and the money made from this enterprise is enormous. The cartels come in from as far away as Colombia and a great deal of money changes hands. The mansions in this otherwise modest Christian area are self-explanatory.
I celebrated the Divine Liturgy at a Maronite church near Deir el Ahmar with Sisters Micheline and Rita. The villagers were elderly and dressed in dark grays and black. One woman wore an old-fashioned lace veil on her head. The liturgy was rich with song.
We stopped later — at my request — to find some milk for our tea and cocoa. Sister Micheline drove to the home of a family she knew had fresh cow’s milk. The family’s three children attend the nun’s school. Tobacco leaves hung in the garden, drying next to the clothes.
When we arrived back at the convent, Sister Giselle boiled the milk and it was delicious! The sisters were excited, as they never have real milk for their coffee — only powdered.
Sister Micheline is the founder and director of a fabulous school in the Deir el Ahmar area — and she’s one remarkable woman. At the present, there are over 200 Syrian refugee students attending school in the morning. The afternoon program is for the Lebanese children to do homework and, for some, remedial work. She was inspiring in her energy, her drive, her determination and her faith. She began with nothing and is now a legend in the region. People flock to her door daily and, sadly, she has to turn many away as the resources are limited.
But I had a sobering and very sad three days interviewing the Syrian refugees in Bekaa Valley.
Many had came over the border from Homs, Aleppo and other cities with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Now, they are living in tents, dependent on the kindness of strangers.
One mother with whom I spoke kept smiling as she told me that at night she feared the big rats that entered their two small rooms as the family slept on the floor.
I was truly shaken the first day. I had a hard time doing my job. It was all surreal and I felt nausea creeping over me.
But fortunately, for these refugees, Sister Micheline and CNEWA together are helping them as much as possible with blankets, food, mattresses and jackets for the winter season.
In the two videos below, Diane Handal discusses more of what she saw and experienced in Lebanon. You can read more about how Sister Micheline and others are changing lives in the Bekaa Valley, check out Syria, Shepherds and Sheep in the spring edition of ONE. And to support Syrian refugees in Lebanon, visit our Emergency: Syria page.
7 May 2014
Tags: Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War Sisters ONE magazine
Bishop Boris Gudziak speaks to a crowd braving the December chill on the Maidan.
(photo: Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Department of External Relations)
During a recent visit to Toronto, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukraininian Greek Catholic Church spoke of the Ukraine’s struggle for dignity and said, “We want everyone to know that God is with us.”
That sentiment is echoed in the spring edition of ONE, which features a dramatic personal account of the uprisings last winter. It was written by Bishop Boris Gudziak, of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy in Paris, who describes some of what he experienced in Kiev:
On 20 February, the terrible Thursday of sniper fire, clergy remained on the Maidan despite the mortal danger. They comforted the injured, absolved them of their sins and said prayers over the dying and the dead.
During these months, churches in Ukraine performed the service they had provided in previous ages — protecting people physically and offering refuge from armed attack.
The historic Orthodox Monastery of St. Michael the Archangel welcomed injured students fleeing riot police. Church bells warned of attacks. A small Greek Catholic monastery church and the Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Resurrection, commonly called the sobor, first sheltered as many as 1, 100 protesters at night. Later, the sobor became a hospital for the injured. Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant churches also served as shelters and hospitals.
There have been many conversions on the Maidan and throughout Ukraine. Days on the Maidan continue to begin with an ecumenical prayer service. During the danger of the night, prayers and the singing of the national anthem are held on the hour, every hour. Faith has helped many people endure. Religious sisters distributed thousands of rosaries. Many people learned to pray. Some of those killed were buried with their newly acquired Maidan rosaries in hand.
Read more of his account of Prayer and Protest in the spring edition of ONE.