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Winter, 2015
Volume 41, Number 4
  
15 October 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




Dedicated to the Dormition of Mary, this Greek Catholic church in the village of Ieud, in the Maramures district of Transylvania, was returned to the Romanian Greek Catholic Church in 1991.
(photo: George Martin)


The two weeks before Christmas 1989 were more frenzied than usual for Romanians. Fueled by the fall of the Berlin Wall, rallies in the Romanian city of Timisoara, first held to protest the ouster of a popular Protestant pastor, László Tőkés, became anti-Communist marches. Ruthlessly, the Romanian regime’s dreaded secret police, the Securitate, responded by firing on the crowds, killing hundreds. Riots spread to other Romanian cities, including the capital of Bucharest, where civil war soon erupted.

By Christmas morning, the violence had ended as quickly as it had begun: The nation’s dictator, Nicolae Ceauşescu, lay in a pool of blood with his wife, Elena. Both were executed after caught fleeing the capital. A provisional government restored order and began a new chapter in the life of the country, including abrogating orders of the former regime dissolving the Romanian Greek Catholic Church (also called the Romanian Church United With Rome) 41 years earlier.


Greek Catholics prepare to receive the Eucharist in the parish church in Sisesti, a village in the historic Maramures region of Romania. (photo: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images)

Until Ceausescu’s spectacular fall, Romania’s surviving Greek Catholics rarely revealed their faith. Their last known bishops, jailed as “class enemies,” died in prison or under house arrest. Churches, schools and other assets were seized and turned over to the Romanian Orthodox Church, which had absorbed most of the clergy and laity after a government-sponsored synod of Romanian Greek Catholic priests severed ties with Rome in 1948. Now suddenly, in less than a fortnight, the nightmare for Romania’s Greek Catholics had ended, ironically beginning a painful process of regrouping and rebuilding, for which they were ill-prepared.

Who are Romania’s Greek Catholics? And what is the Romanian Church United With Rome? These questions are some of the most controversial in Central Europe. For what motivates this community of faith — who share the Byzantine legacy with their Romanian Orthodox brethren — is their ardor for their nation, which they helped nurture into being, and their union with Rome, itself prompted by their quest for civil rights.

Read a full account of Romania’s Greek Catholics here.



15 October 2015
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis accepts an icon of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt from Coptic Orthodox Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette, Kafr El-Sheikh, and Bararya, all in Egypt, before a session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican on 15 October. CNEWA has launched an urgent appeal to support Egypt's Christians. Visit this web page to learn more. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)



15 October 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




A 7-year-old Syrian girl, nostalgic for home and friends, describes her journey from Syria to the Greek island of Lesbos. Interview courtesy UNICEF. (video: AJ+)

Greek island out of migrant burial space (Vatican Radio) The authorities on the Greek island of Lesbos fear that the island’s main cemetery could be running out of space for the bodies of Middle Eastern migrants who die trying to make the sea crossing from Turkey. So far this year a staggering 450,000 migrants and refugees have crossed from Turkey over to the Greek islands…

ISIS retreating in Syria; Russian jets strike 32 facilities overnight (FARS News) Russian warplanes have destroyed a surface-to-air missile launcher that the ISIS terrorist group previously captured from the Syrian Army, the Russian Defense Ministry reports…

Iraqi forces in major push against ISIS (Daily Star Lebanon) Iraqi forces battled ISIS militants on separate fronts Thursday, ramping up operations to retake Baiji and Ramadi, two of the conflict’s worst flash-points. The Baiji area has seen almost uninterrupted fighting since ISIS swept across Iraq last year, but top officers said Thursday that the Baiji refinery, the country’s largest, was almost secure…

Hindu extremists demand an anti-conversion law in Jharkhand (Fides) Hindu extremist groups have begun a campaign to promote the adoption of a new “anti-conversion law” in the Indian state of Jharkhand, in north central India, after the news of the conversion of 300 tribal people to Christianity in the district of Gumla…

To be Christian in Gaza: Interview with Father Mario da Silva (Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) “Our church is the only place where Christians may get to know their identity and that of the Christian culture. At times,” Father da Silva says, “Christians would attend three Masses — Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant — each Sunday…”

Jerusalem grows more grim and polarized with clampdown (New York Times) Israelis were in little mood for browsing after more than two dozen attacks, most by young Palestinians armed with knives, that have killed seven Israelis this month, five of them in Jerusalem. At least 12 suspects in the attacks have been fatally shot by Israeli security forces and citizens at the scenes. Some Palestinians said they were scared of being mistaken for an assailant. New Israeli security measures introduced Wednesday included roadblocks and checkpoints at entrances of some Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, and the deployment of reserve soldiers to bolster police forces…



Tags: Syria Iraq India Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank

14 October 2015
Chris Kennedy




CNEWA’s Parish Outreach program has been keeping us busy recently, and this past weekend was no different. I had the pleasure of traveling with my colleagues Norma Intriago and Deacon Greg Kandra to St. John the Evangelist Church in Altoona, PA. The pastor, Msgr. Michael Becker, a longtime friend of CNEWA, invited us to visit and share the agency’s work in the Middle East.

After a ride over the George Washington Bridge and into the fall foliage-covered mountains of Pennsylvania, we arrived at St. John’s for the three weekend Masses, at which Deacon Greg served and preached. His homily focused on the work of the incredible sisters CNEWA is blessed to partner with, and he shared the stories of their work with Christians in the Middle East. He also mentioned that every gift we received that weekend — and until All Saints’ Day — would be doubled, thanks to the wonderful matching gift we received a few weeks ago from a generous donor in California.

CNEWA’s Multimedia Editor, Deacon Greg Kandra, served and preached at all Masses at
St. John the Evangelist Church in Altoona, PA. (photo: CNEWA)


The CNEWA table in the vestibule also proved to be quite popular before and after each Mass. Parishioners came by to learn more about our work and sign up for a subscription to ONE Magazine. The parish also graciously put out a collection box for us.


Msgr. Michael Becker, pastor, pauses between Masses with Norma Intriago, CNEWA’s Development Director, Deacon Greg Kandra and Chris Kennedy, Development Associate.
(photos: CNEWA)


We also had the opportunity to speak to the faith formation classes between the Sunday Masses. Norma and I met with the adult faith formation class (and sampled some delicious pumpkin streusel!) while Deacon Greg spoke to the middle and high school students. In addition to answering questions about the current situation in the Middle East, we shared stories about our work in Ethiopia, where Msgr. Becker and Norma had visited on a CNEWA-sponsored trip in 2009.

Parishioners gathered in the parish cafeteria between Masses to learn more about CNEWA’s work in the Middle East. (photo: CNEWA)

It was a wonderful weekend, and a great chance to meet so many generous, caring people. Most notably, it was gratifying to talk to people who had heard of the plight of Christians in the Middle East, and weren’t sure how to help them — until now. Finally, before we got back on the road to New York, we presented Msgr. Becker with a piece of artwork done by a student at the Pontifical Mission Summer Bible Camp in Zerqa, Jordan. Over 350 Iraqi Christian refugees and Jordanians attended the camp, sponsored by CNEWA and staffed by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.

Msgr. Becker shows off his unique piece of artwork, created by a student in Jordan.
(photo: CNEWA)


We’re always looking for new parishes to visit and spread our message. If you and your parish are interested in having us, simply contact Norma Intriago at nintriago@cnewa.org.



14 October 2015
Greg Kandra




An Egyptian boy plays with a toy camera he found in the garbage. Cairo’s “Zabbaleen,” or “garbage people” earn a meager living hauling trash and make up a significant part of the city’s underclass. Read about them in “Salvaging Dignity” from the September 2012 edition of ONE.
(photo: Dana Smillie)




14 October 2015
Greg Kandra




Palestinian university students shout slogans during a rally to express their solidarity with Palestinians clashing with Israeli security forces in the West Bank and Jerusalem,
on 14 October 2015 in Gaza City. (photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)


Israel sends more forces to West Bank (The Jerusalem Post) The IDF has deployed two additional battalions to its Judea and Samria Division, three companies to the Jerusalem-West Bank perimeter area, and two reinforcement battalions to the Gaza border, to deal with disturbances along the security fence there...

Director of Caritas Jerusalem criticizes new checkpoints (Fides) “The imposition of Israeli checkpoints in Palestinian areas of Jerusalem represents a ‘safety measure’ that provides no security, but on the contrary increases anger and frustration, and thus feeds feelings of revenge.” This is how the Rev. Raed Abusahliah, Director General of Caritas Jerusalem evaluates the potential negative effects of the closure of areas of East Jerusalem, where attacks by Palestinian suicide bombers in recent days have caused the deaths of several Israeli citizens. “In my opinion,” said Father Raed, “they can impose all the blocks they want, but this will not ensure safety. The only way to achieve security and stability for all is to restore freedom to the Palestinian people”...

Kidnapped priest freed in Syria (AFP) A Syrian priest who was kidnapped in May in the central province of Homs is free and on Sunday conducted his first Mass since his abduction, a church source said. “Father (Jacques) Mourad is free. He is currently in the village of Zaydal,” about five kilometres (three miles) from the city of Homs, the source told AFP. The priest of the Syriac Catholic Church “celebrated mass this morning in Zaydal,” the source added, without providing details on how he gained his freedom, citing security reasons...

Iranian troops reportedly preparing for offensive in Syria (Reuters) Thousands of Iranian troops have arrived in Syria to join the regime’s military forces and Hizbollah allies to launch a ground attack against insurgents in Aleppo, two senior regional officials have said. Control of Aleppo city and the surrounding province in the area near the Turkish border is divided among the Syrian government, insurgent groups fighting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and ISIS that controls some rural areas near the city...

Syrian refugees in Jersey City are among few to start new life in the U.S. (The New York Times) After four years of fleeing and 15 hours of flying, Hussam Al Roustom walked off the plane at Newark Liberty International Airport, only to feel as if he had stepped into an American movie. “It was like an action film in the sense that this hero had lost everyone dear to him, and then he finds himself safe — but he has nothing else to lose,” Mr. Al Roustom said in Arabic, through an interpreter. “That’s how I felt.” Mr. Al Roustom is a refugee from Syria. Since arriving in June, he, his wife, their 3-year-old daughter and their 7-year-old son have been living in an apartment atop the Kwick Discount Center grocery store in Jersey City. Their journey ended even as four million Syrians were still looking for a home, throwing Europe and the Middle East into a humanitarian crisis. Mr. Al Roustom was one of only 1,682 Syrian refugees admitted to the United States since 1 October, 2014, and among 78 resettled in the New York metropolitan area...

Church has built strong interreligious ties since ‘Nostra Aetate’ (CNS) The scene in Foundation Hall of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum during Pope Francis’ visit spoke volumes about the Catholic Church and interreligious relations. On the platform with Pope Francis 25 September were representatives of the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jewish, Muslim religions as well as Christian religions. All equal. All offering prayers for peace and words of inspiration from their sacred texts. The event symbolized the strengthening relations and solidarity that the Catholic Church has with non-Christian religions as envisioned by “Nostra Aetate” (“In Our Time”), the Vatican II declaration that addressed the relations of the Catholic Church with other religions, said Father John W. Crossin, executive director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops...



13 October 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




A Carpatho-Rusyn Greek Catholic seminarian prays before the morning liturgy
in Uzhorod, Ukraine. (photo: Oleg Grigroyev)


For more than a millennium, Central Europe’s Carpatho-Rusyns have been engulfed in a violent whirl of Magyar, Germanic and Slavic antagonism. Always subjugated, Rusyn peasants toiled soil, kept livestock or cut timber for their Hungarian, Austrian or Polish masters. Such conditions, coupled with centuries of serfdom and forced assimilation, hardly favored the development of a distinct Rusyn identity. Nevertheless, among the Rusyns such an identity did develop, sowed by their distinct Slavic language, nurtured by their Byzantine Christianity — which they received from Sts. Cyril and Methodius in the late ninth century — and reinforced by their full communion with the church of Rome.

Today, fewer than 900,000 Rusyn Greek Catholics are scattered throughout Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, North America, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. A unified church, gathering them all under one mantle, does not exist. Rusyn Greek Catholics — also called Ruthenians — make up three distinct churches that, while sharing the same origins, traditions and culture, remain independent of each other.

  • In the United States, the Metropolitan Byzantine Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, with its three dependent eparchies of Parma, Passaic and Phoenix, is a particular or sui iuris church. It includes about 82,000 members.
  • The Eparchy of Mukacevo in Subcarpathian Ukraine, which numbers about 320,000 people, is dependent directly on the Holy See.
  • The Apostolic Exarchate for Byzantine Catholics in the Czech Republic is also dependent on the Holy See and counts 170,000 members.


Parishioners of St. Mary Protector, a Rusyn Greek Catholic church in Kingston, Pennsylvania, make and sell 4,000 peroghi a year to support the church. (photo: Cody Christopulos)

Rusyn Greek Catholics also belong to various jurisdictions of the Greek Catholic churches of Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine and the former Yugoslavia. Complicating matters further, substantial numbers of Rusyns, all formerly Greek Catholic, have created communities within various Orthodox churches in North America, Poland and the Czech and Slovak republics. However, with the exception of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church — an eparchy formed in Pittsburgh in 1939 under the jurisdiction of the ecumenical patriarchate in Constantinople — their Rusyn identity has largely eroded.

While a unified church may not yet exist, European and North American Rusyn Greek Catholics work together, assisting one another with financial and human resources. This mutual support is not limited to the Greek Catholic community alone. Guided by the ecumenical movement and encouraged by the foundation of nonpartisan societies dedicated to the study of Carpatho-Rusyn genealogy, history, literature and religion, relations among Rusyns of all faiths press forward.

Read a full account of the Carpatho-Rusyn Greek Catholic churches here.



13 October 2015
Greg Kandra




Eighth-grader E. M. Ebin, a resident of the Malankara Boys’ Home, takes a break from studying.
(photo: Jose Jacob)


In the summer of 2013, we took readers to a home for boys in India that was making a profound difference in many young lives:

The home is steeped in Christian values and Catholic teaching. But as with much of Indian society, it dwells side by side with other faiths — literally. The home is located between two family homes, one Hindu the other, Muslim. D. Vijaya Kumaran, the Hindu neighbor, and Nazim Ibrahim, the Muslim neighbor, have been associated with the home from the beginning, with Mr. Kumaran’s two sons and Mr. Ibrahim serving as tutors for the boys.

Mr. Kumaran, a retired bureaucrat, describes the Malankara Boys’ Home as “one of the best institutions in the area.” Mr. Ibrahim, a Kerala State Transport Corporation official, hails it as a “model” for those trying to help the poorest of the poor.

Mr. Kumaran says he has seen an amazing transformation in the home’s children.

“When they first arrive, they are timid and withdrawn,” he says, noting that such behavior is to some extent culturally instilled in people coming from backgrounds with lower social standing. “But by the time they leave, they are ready to face any challenge in life,” the 69-year-old upper-caste Hindu explains. He commends the home’s priests for giving individual attention to the children.

Read more about “Reaching the Young ‘Untouchables’” in the Summer 2013 edition of ONE. And to learn how you can support this project and so many others in India, please visit our giving page.



13 October 2015
Greg Kandra




Syrian residents inspect the damaged area after war-crafts belonging to the Syrian army bombed residential areas in Ein Tarma district in Damascus, Syria on 13 October 2015.
(photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


Survival in Syria: “Things are different” (CNN) Shelled-out apartment blocks, AK-47’s and black flags, tanks and Russian jets: the images we have of Syria, of death and destruction, omit any idea of life. But life goes on. “People are still trying to survive,” said journalist Zaina Erhaim. “They are still getting in love, they’re still getting their children to schools — although now the schools are in basements, although the field hospitals are in basements.” “They’re going on with their lives. They still go to school. They still have shops. But things are different”...

Iraqi refugees volunteer to help others (UNHCR) Childhood friends Hussein and Jaffa fled war ravaged Iraq together, crossing seven borders and the Aegean Sea to seek refuge in Europe. As they seek asylum in Austria, they decided to help those following in their tracks. Donning fluorescent jackets, they volunteer in a makeshift camp on the Austrian side of a bridge to Germany, helping 1,000 or so foot-sore refugees to get hot food, medical care, tents to sleep under and warm clothes to beat the autumn chill. “This is something I want to do here — to help people and to keep busy,” says soft-spoken Jaffa, 23, snatching a moment to chat while interpreting for Arabic speaking refugees headed to Germany — journey’s end for many of them...

Ukraine nuncio reflects on his country’s invasion (Vatican Radio) After four years as Papal Nuncio to Ukraine, Archbishop Thomas Gullickson reflects on the challenges faced by Ukrainians after their country was thrown into turmoil in 2014. The lives of millions of Ukrainians were destabilized, leaving up to two million people “on the run” and “having to find a new homeland,” the Archbishop told Vatican Radio...

Severe drought threatening millions of Ethiopians (RFI) Food insecurity is a sensitive issue in Ethiopia ever since the country was hit by famine in 1984-85 after extreme drought. The problem today is that the drought is affecting a large area — from the eastern Afar region to the southern Somali regions — which is an area that is already quite dry. “One factor of the crisis is that it’s a region that normally thrives on pastoral activities, and because of the drought, livestocks are also dying,” Ahmed Shukri, a senior economist with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization told RFI...

Indian couple tells synod how interfaith marriage is lived (Vatican Radio) The 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family, currently taking place in the Vatican 4-25 October, heard from of an Indian couple on Saturday how inter-faith marriage can be lived. Penelope and Ishwarlal Bajaj from Mumbai, who have been married for over 38 years, are among 18 couples from around the world invited to the Synod as auditors. The Indian couple was asked to share the testimony of their marriage and family life at the 6th General Congregation of the synod, Saturday morning...



Tags: Syria Iraq India Ukraine Ethiopia

9 October 2015
Greg Kandra




CNEWA will be visiting Altoona, Pennsylvania, this weekend. (photo: Wikipedia Commons)

This weekend, once again CNEWA will be hitting the road.

As we did recently in Illinois, we’ll be visiting a parish in Altoona, Pennsylvania: St. John the Evangelist. I’ll be preaching at all the Masses and members of our development team will be on hand to meet parishioners, pass out information about our work and answer questions about how people can support our mission, particularly on behalf of refugees in the Middle East.

If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by!

And if you’d like CNEWA to visit your parish or church group, please just drop a line to our development director, Norma Intriago. nintriago@cnewa.org.







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