21 August 2014
Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter, who headed a delegation of Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs to Iraq on 20 August, blesses a baby in Erbil. (photo: CNS/Courtesy Maronite Patriarchate)
Catholic, Orthodox patriarchs visit Erbil to support displaced Iraqis (CNS) A delegation of Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs visited Erbil, Iraq, to show their support and solidarity with the more than 100,000 Christians and minorities displaced in the country by the advance of Islamist militants. Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter said the 20 August trip was “a first step in the implementation of the statement issued by the patriarchs,” referring to a special summit on 7 August to address the crisis facing Christians in Iraq and Syria…
Jerusalem patriarch calls for justice, international peace force for Gaza (Vatican Radio) As the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues to wreak destruction and death in Gaza, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem has expressed dismay over the collapse of truce talks in Egypt. In an interview with Vatican Radio’s Italian service, the leader of the Latin Catholic Church in the Holy Land said despite hopes that the talks would succeed, “for years, there was this inner fear that things would not go well because there is no political good will to arrive at a final solution that is right for everyone…”
A Gaza family destroyed by Israeli bombs (Der Spiegel) Beit Hanoun’s 50,000 residents have long been accustomed to Israeli tanks driving through their town. But now it has become one of the worst battlefields of this war. Some 91 people have died here, including 23 children and 22 women. And eight members of the Wahdan family. The case of the Wahdan family is only a footnote in this war, in which more than 2,000 people have died. But it also exemplifies how innocent civilians became victims of the conflict. The fate of the Wahdan family helps provide answers to the question many are talking about, over whether this war was commensurate…
Greek Catholics warn of martyrdom in eastern Ukraine (AsiaNews) Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych warned yesterday that the Greek Catholic Church is experiencing a time of martyrdom in eastern Ukraine. A few days ago, Bishop Borys Gudziak, rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University, also talked about “persecution” of the Greek Catholic Church in the regions torn by war between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian troops…
21 August 2014
Tags: Iraq Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Eastern Churches Patriarchs
As we announced earlier in the week, the new edition focuses on the needs of the marginalized, with some inspiring stories from the world CNEWA serves.
Check out our virtual print edition and discover the rich reporting and beautiful photography that have become hallmarks of our award-winning magazine.
Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA’s president, offers a preview below.
20 August 2014
This image, “Rejoice, Mother Church,” is taken from “The Illuminated Easter Proclamation.” It is one of several original works going on sale this week to support the ongoing mission
of CNEWA in Iraq. (photo: courtesy Deacon Charles Rohrbacher)
A couple days ago, I got an email from Deacon Charles Rohrbacher in the Diocese of Juneau (Alaska), who wanted me to know about a fundraiser they are undertaking to help Christians in Iraq — and, specifically, to support the work of CNEWA.
Charles is a gifted artist who has created some magnificent icons (such as the one above). Now many of his most beautiful works are about to be sold, with all money going to benefit persecuted minorities in the Middle East. I was curious to know more, so he answered a few questions by email yesterday.
Q: Tell us about this unusual fundraising idea.
A:This coming Friday at the parish hall of the cathedral in Juneau, Alaska, we are having a fundraiser we are calling “Icons for Iraq” to support the relief work of CNEWA and CRS on behalf of Christians and other persecuted minorities in northern Iraq.
We are having an exhibit for the community this coming Friday from 4:30-7:00pm (AST) at the parish hall, displaying the original art from two books that I recently illustrated for Liturgical Press, “The Illuminated Easter Proclamation (Exsultet)” and the “The Passions of Holy Week” (which in June was honored by the Catholic Press Association.)
Parishioners and community members are invited to come by to see the artwork and have something to eat and drink. Everyone is encouraged to make a donation to CRS and/or CNEWA. In addition, all of the art on exhibit will be available for a donation — we have set a minimum donation for each of the matted and framed icon illustrations (although we’d be delighted if donors wished to contribute more.)
Q: Where did the idea come from?
A: I got the idea as I was praying last week for Iraqi Christians. I was pondering what I might have to offer that could be of help to the Christians in Iraq who are in such dire need and it occurred to me that donating this artwork might be a way to help out.
I continued to pray about doing this, talked it over with some of my colleagues in ministry and then asked for the blessing of my bishop, Edward J. Burns, which he enthusiastically gave, along with the sponsorship of the Diocese of Juneau for the event.
Q: Have you or the diocese ever done anything like this before?
A: Our diocese is small here but our people are quite generous and creative raising funds for the work of the Church here and abroad. But I think this is the first time that I can recall that we’ve done something like this with icons.
Q: Tell us a little about your own background as an icon writer and deacon.
A: I just marked my seventh anniversary as a deacon and I regard creating icons as a part of my diaconal ministry. I’ve been doing this for the past 34 years. I’m grateful that I was able to study first with a Russian Orthodox iconographer and then with Fr. Egon Sendler SJ, a Byzantine Catholic iconographer in France. In Alaska and in other parts of the country, I’ve been fortunate to have painted (or written) icons for Orthodox, Eastern andRoman Catholic parishes. I’ve also done painted illustrations for Liturgical Press and Oregon Catholic Press.
What attracted me to the icon so many years ago was my discovery that the icon was, in the tradition of the undivided Church, a participation in the proclamation of the Word of God. The defense of the icon at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 was the last place of formal agreement between the Eastern and Western Churches. This suggested to me that the icon might be an occasion for unity between Christians, reaching across the various divisions and misunderstandings that separate us.
Q: How can people bid on this art?
A: The main event is on Friday, 22 August here in Juneau. But anyone interested in making an early donation to obtain a specific icon should contact me by noon Thursday, via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The work being made available can be seen at the Facebook page of my studio, The New Jerusalem Workshop.
All requests from outside of Juneau will need to pay via credit card. All items that need to be shipped will have an additional 15% charge to cover postage and shipping.
To learn more, visit the “Icons for Iraq” page at the Diocese of Juneau website.
20 August 2014
Villagers gather for a candlelit satsang outside a house in a small village in Bhikkawala.
(photo: John Mathew)
The Summer edition of ONE is now online, and one of the stories focuses on the plight of the Dalits — or so-called “untouchables” in India — who, despite obstacles and difficulties, convert to Christianity:
A Sanskrit term, Dalit denotes the former “untouchable” groups in India’s multilayered caste system that segregates people on the basis of their birth. According to the 2011 national census, one in six Indians belong to this caste; in Uttar Pradesh, now home to Mahinder Singh, some 20 percent of the state’s nearly 200 million people belong to this group. And though Mahatma Gandhi called the Dalits “harijan” (children of God) and the Indian constitution bans caste discrimination, those once identified as such continue to lag behind, socially and economically.
The Indian government recognizes and protects Dalits, but Mr. Singh cannot claim any benefits; his community, Rai Sikh, is not listed as a scheduled caste in Uttar Pradesh. Nor may Mr. Singh appeal this status, as the special concessions for those of low-caste origin are restricted only to Dalits who identify as Hindus, Buddhists or Sikhs.
Mr. Singh accepted baptism as a Christian 12 years ago.
“I have wandered all my life for happiness and finally found peace in the Lord,” he says, standing tall and wiry despite a slight stoop.
Dalit Christians and Muslims are excluded from any concessions under the pretext that Christianity and Islam do not recognize the caste system. For the past 65 years, churches have been fighting to redress this injustice, saying it violates the Indian constitution’s prohibition of discrimination based on religion, caste or gender.
But Mr. Singh is not alone. He belongs to a community of hundreds of Syro-Malabar Dalits united within the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Bijnor, which includes Uttarakhand state and the Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh.
He and his wife, Preetam Kaur, live in a small village in an area known as Gangapar, a few miles from the eparchy’s newest parish, St. Alphonsa, founded in July 2013. Theirs is a story of both purpose and perseverance. Despite tremendous obstacles, the parish community has managed to thrive, buoyed by a fervent and unshakable faith.
Read more about the Dalits in the Summer edition of ONE.
20 August 2014
An elderly Iraqi woman fleeing violence gestures at the Al Waleed refugee camp in Iraq
on 19 August. (photo: CNS/Morris Bernard, UNHCR handout via EPA)
U.S. Dominicans praying for Iraqi Dominicans, villagers (CNS) Dominican Sister Attracta Kelly in Adrian, Michigan, has been able to speak a few times with the superior of a group of Iraqi Dominicans and knows how desperate their situation is since they escaped Islamicists in northern Iraq. Sister Maria Hanna, the superior, and 51 other Dominican sisters, along with their family members and other villagers were driven from the Ninevah Plain by Islamic State fighters. “The problem is they have nothing,” Sister Kelly said of the group, which fled to the northern Kurdish city of Irbil. “They are sleeping in the streets, sleeping under trees. There is a church (where) they have been sleeping on pews, on the floor, outside in the yard, and they have no shelter. They are having a time getting food, and they want to leave the country...”
Pope thanks people for prayers (CNS) Pope Francis, in mourning for the deaths of his nephew’s wife and two small children, thanked people at his weekly general audience 20 August for their prayers. After each of the priests who translate the pope’s words offered him condolences for the tragedy that struck his family, Pope Francis explained to the people: “The pope has a family, too. We were five siblings, and I have 16 nieces and nephews. One of these nephews was in an accident. His wife died along with his two small children — one who was 2 years old and the other several months...”
Strike in Gaza hits family of Hamas military commander (The New York Times) Israeli airstrikes killed a wife and baby son of the top military commander of Hamas, the Islamist movement that dominates the Gaza Strip, hours after rocket fire from Gaza broke a temporary cease-fire Tuesday and halted talks aimed at ending the six-week conflict collapsed in Cairo. The fate of the commander, Mohammed Deif, the target of several previous Israeli assassination attempts, remained unclear, though Palestinian officials and witnesses said his was not one of three bodies pulled Wednesday from the rubble of the bombed Gaza City home...
Maronite patriarch prepared to meet with leader of Hezbollah to discuss ISIS (Fides) The Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites Bechara Boutros Rai said he was ready to meet soon the leader of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, in order to address together growing concerns about the threat posed by jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) that proclaimed the Caliphate in the regions which have fallen under their control in Syria and Iraq...
In Kerala, church decides not to bury bishops in sanctuaries (New India Express) In what could be called a revolutionary decision, the Syro-Malabar Church, one of the three Catholic denominations in India, has decided not to bury bishops in the sanctuary (madbaha) of churches. The decision was taken at the Synod of the church that began at Mount St. Thomas, Kakkanad, the headquarters of the Church, on Tuesday. “From now onwards, deceased bishops and metropolitans will be laid to rest in the crypt (an underground burial place in churches) if such a facility is available, or at the chapel attached to the cemetery,” said Syro-Malabar Church spokesperson Fr. Paul Thelakkatu...
19 August 2014
Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Lebanon Kerala Maronite
The summer edition of CNEWA’s award-winning magazine, ONE, is now online! In this latest edition, we focus on the needs of the marginalized — the new orphans of Armenia and Georgia, refugees in Ethiopia, Untouchable Christians in India — and how the church accompanies them, responding to their basic needs.
Scroll through our virtual print edition, with its glorious images and colorful layouts enhanced with links to web only exclusives and links, including Pope Francis’ homilies and speeches from his recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
And finally, take a trip to Jordan with our own Msgr. Kozar, Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Murphy, who spend time with contemporary heroes and witnesses of the church: Middle East Christians.
19 August 2014
Tags: CNEWA Armenia Georgia ONE magazine Caring for the Elderly
Palestinians in Gaza walk next to the ruins of houses destroyed during attacks, on the fifth day of cease-fire in Gaza on 18 August. Reports indicate talks broke down after rockets and airstrikes resumed Tuesday. (photo: CNS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, Reuters)
19 August 2014
A TV still image shows a firefighter standing next to the car in which three relatives of Pope Francis were killed on a highway between Rosario and Cordoba, Argentina, on 19 August.
(photo: CNS /DyN-www.noticraik.com handout via Reuters)
Relatives of Pope Francis killed in car crash (CNS) Pope Francis asked people to join him in prayer 19 August after he learned that two of his little great nephews and their mother had died in a car crash in Argentina and his nephew was in critical condition. The dead were identified as the wife and two young sons of Pope Francis’ nephew, Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio: Valeria Carmona, 39, Antonio Bergoglio, 8 months, and Joseph Bergoglio, 2 years. According to Argentine news reports, the 35-year-old son of the pope’s late brother Alberto Bergoglio underwent emergency surgery and was on a respirator...
Iraqi army advances toward Tikrit (Al Jazeera) Iraqi forces have launched an operation to retake Tikrit, the hometown of toppled President Saddam Hussein, from Islamic State fighters. Al Jazeera sources reported that the troops were advancing from the south and southwest and heavy clashes with the armed group were taking place 10km from the the city, capital of Salahidin province and located about 200km north of Baghdad. According to Reuters news agency, clashes are confined to the suburbs of the city as Iraqi forces have halted their advance into Tikrit in the face of heavy fighting...
Moscow-linked church calls for Crimea’s return to Kiev (Asia News) The Ukrainian Orthodox Church faithful to the Moscow Patriarchate has spoken out in favor of the territorial integrity of the former Soviet republic and against the annexation of the Crimea to Russia, which took place in March after a controversial referendum...
Israeli mob attacks Eritrean refugee (International Business Times) An angry Israeli mob has reportedly beaten a 23-year-old Eritrean refugee in Tel Aviv’s new Central Bus Station, leaving him unconscious and on the verge of dying. The young man’s life was saved by Yosef Ganem, a police sergeant and medic who found the body of the Eritrean on the fourth floor of the station and tried to revive him. “When I got there I saw the man sprawled out on the floor. He didn’t have a pulse and he was unconscious,” Ganem told Ynet news. The six suspects, two of them minors, claimed that the refugee had tried to rob one of them but an ongoing investigation showed that they had attacked the Eritrean first with punches and kicks...
Escaping the Islamic State (Der Spiegel) On the eighth day up on the mountain, Bagisa gave birth to her first child, a girl. She named her Khudaida.Bagisa and her husband Hadi had fled from the village of Sumari. The couple was lucky; they had left alone, allowing them to avoid the groups that came under fire from attackers. But being alone also meant that when they finally stopped running, in the shade of a cliff wall, they knew none of the others who likewise found shelter there. There was no one willing to share their valuable water with Bagisa. The couple now had a daughter, but they didn’t have anything to drink...
Jewish-Catholic dialogue pledges to build peace, understanding (USCCB) Violent acts against Christians and Christian sites across the world are a mounting concern to leaders of Catholic and Jewish communities in the United States, according to a joint statement issued 14 August by the Jewish-Catholic Dialogue sponsored by the National Council of Synagogues and the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “We deplore all acts of religious persecution no matter their target,” the joint statement said. “Church communities have been subject to persecution, attack, expulsion and even murder. As a result, these same communities have often seen their numbers decrease, especially as their populations are dislocated from centuries old homes...”
Canadians prepare for visit from Coptic pope (Edmonton Journal) Pierre Farage remembers tangles of people at the airport but can’t remember if he caught a glimpse of the guest of honour. Farage was just eight when Pope Shenouda III graced Mill Woods with a three-day visit in October 1989. The Egyptian pontiff shook hands, ate with congregants at St. Mary and St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, and consecrated the altar of the young church. Twenty-five years later, Farage is helping prepare for the visit of Shenouda’s successor, Pope Tawadros II, who arrives in Edmonton on 17 September during his first visit to Canada...
18 August 2014
Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Ukraine Eritrea Coptic Christians
CNEWA has been a consistent source of support for the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, here shown helping a patient in the Al Jamh-Al Zahrawi hospital in Mosul, Iraq, in 2004.
To alleviate the suffering of some 100,000 homeless Iraqi Christians, Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of CNEWA, is rushing $75,000 to partners in northern Iraq for urgently needed supplies for infants and children, as well as sanitary facilities for displaced families seeking shelter in U.N.-sponsored camps.
“The response of our donor public to the needs of their brothers and sisters in Iraq has been overwhelming,” Msgr. Kozar said of the CNEWA campaign launched in North America. “These funds represent that generosity, and are an initial installment to help the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena and the Chaldean and Syriac Catholic archbishops meet the most basic needs of their homeless flock.”
Ordered by fighters of the extremist group ISIS to convert, pay protection money or die, about 20,000 Christian families fled their villages in the Nineveh Plain for refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan earlier this summer. They arrived in Dohuk and Erbil with little more than a change of clothes, leaving behind their homes, belongings, jobs and businesses. Some found shelter in churches, convents, monasteries and schools, but most have found space in schoolyards, open to the searing summer heat and the blazing sun.
Msgr. Kozar said the emergency approach of Catholic Near East Welfare Association will encompass several phases, and will incorporate, as appropriate, CNEWA’s ongoing commitment to the churches of Iraq. This includes, among other activities, support for Catholic hospitals in Baghdad and care for endangered children.
“Diapers and milk for infants and children are not included in the food packages distributed by the United Nations and other relief organizations,” said Msgr. Kozar. “Also, our partners on the ground tell us portable sanitary facilities — toilets and showers — that can accommodate those with special needs are desperately needed. These funds will help secure these basic needs.
“In addition to providing assistance to those hunkered down in northern Iraq, our staff in Amman and Beirut is already working with the local churches in Jordan and Lebanon, respectively, where hundreds of Iraqi Christian families have just arrived, to assess and prioritize needs.
“CNEWA takes seriously its mission to accompany the church — even in flight — and to respond to the needs of all people, especially the poor and marginalized,” Msgr. Kozar said. “And thanks to our generous friends and benefactors, we can build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue and instill hope.”
An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA works throughout the Middle East, with offices in Amman, Beirut and Jerusalem. On behalf of the pope, CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern churches, rushing aid to refugee families; providing maternity and health care for the poorest of the poor; assisting initiatives for the marginalized, especially the children, elderly and disabled; and offering formation and supporting the education of seminarians, religious novices and lay leaders.
Click here to join us in this important work.
18 August 2014
Tags: Iraq CNEWA Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees Relief
Msgr. John Kozar chats with the Rev. Volodymyr Malchyn, Deacon Greg Kandra and Father Volodymyr’s wife Olena in the CNEWA offices in New York (photo: CNEWA).
This morning, a couple of visitors from Ukraine stopped by our New York offices: the Rev. Volodymyr Malchyn of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and his wife, Olena. Father Volodymyr — vice chancellor of the curia of the major archbishop of Kiev-Halych, Sviatoslav Shevchuk — hosted Msgr. John Kozar when CNEWA’s president visited Ukraine last year for the dedication of the new cathedral.
Our conversation this morning was an opportunity to get fresh news on what is happening in Ukraine. We reported extensively on the uprisings in Kiev last winter, and the world has been watching with some anxiety as the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has only intensified.
Father Volodymyr told us that the Maidan in downtown Kiev is a very different place today from what it was last winter. The square has been cleaned out and has returned to being a busy crossroads, not a place of protest. But it’s also become a tourist destination. Visitors to Kiev are eager to see the spot that was the epicenter of last winter’s uprisings.
He described to us a country that is undergoing something of a renaissance — and a conversion of spirit.
”We stood shoulder to shoulder and all who loved their country have come together. Ukrainians are coming together more and more,” he said. “The country is undergoing a cleansing. There’s a cancer of corruption that developed over time, and this [the protests] is like a surgery that is needed to cleanse the country.”
Father Volodymyr was in the United States on 11 September 2001, and he told us he saw parallels between the atmosphere in the United States then and in Ukraine last winter. “There was a similar spirit of unity and compassion,” he said, and he described Ukraine today as undergoing a “spiritual revolution.”
Women gather inside a chapel on 18 August at a temporary tent camp set up for Ukrainian refugees near the Russian-Ukrainian border. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated on 15 August that 155,800 Ukrainians had been displaced by fighting, more than 2,000 people had been killed since mid-April and another 5,000 had been injured. (photo: CNS/Alexander Demianchuk)
“The heart of the Ukrainian people is faith,” he said, “and the heart of our faith is our liturgical tradition.” It is a tradition he and many others are working to keep alive not only in his own country, but throughout the world.
Despite the difficulties his homeland is facing now, Father Volodymyr sees a future of possibility and hope. More people, he said, are rediscovering their faith, drawing closer to Christ, and realizing their innate dignity.
“What happened in the Maidan,” he said, “was a pilgrimage from fear to dignity. We call it a ‘Revolution of Dignity.’ ”
Tags: Ukraine CNEWA Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church