17 July 2013
In this photo from Sunday, 7 July 2013, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I presides over the concelebration of the Divine Liturgy for the patronal feast of the Church of St. Kyriaki in Kontoskali, Istanbul, with Metropolitans Germanos of Theodoroupolis and Athenagoras of Kydonies. Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Myra was also in attendance. (photo: N. Manginas/The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople)
Ecumenical patriarch sympathizes with protests, prays for kidnapped bishops (AsiaNews) Ramadan has not stopped anti-government protests, which began with the events of Gezi Park. At an iftar (the traditional dinner after the daily fast during Ramadan) offered by the mayor of Istanbul to leaders of non-Muslim religious minorities, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I showed his interest in and sympathy for the protests, which are a sign of the growing desire for democracy and justice in Turkish society. In a veiled reference to the protests in Gezi Park, the patriarch said, “We are excited and joyful witnesses to important facts that seek to find a solution to long-standing situations that have accumulated over the years in Turkish society even though they cause divisions and polarization.” In his brief but tough speech, Bartholomew mentioned the kidnapping of Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul and Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Yohanna, expressing concern for their fate and inviting all those present at the iftar dinner to pray for them…
Concern for Syrian refugees grows (Vatican Radio) Suspected rebel gunmen assassinated a well-known supporter of Syrian President Bashar al Assad in Lebanon today, the latest sign that Syria’s civil war is spreading to its smaller neighbor. It was the first assassination of a pro-Assad figure in Lebanon since Syria’s conflict started more than two years ago. Meanwhile, the United Nations has appealed for more humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees…
After Morsi, Christians and churches targeted by Islamists (AsiaNews) More than 100 Christian families have fled Al Arish in the Sinai after receiving death threats from Islamist groups following the fall of Muhammad Morsi. Currently, Coptic churches in northern Sinai have canceled all services and meetings, except for the Divine Liturgy on Friday. No Christians are left in the towns of Rafah and Sheikh Zowayd. The Sinai Peninsula has always been a home for Islamist groups, many of them linked to Hamas in Gaza. For decades, they have fought against the Egyptian army as it tried to stop weapon supplies and smuggling into the Gaza Strip. Under Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the army had reduced pressure on them but now the military is back in force following the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s successor…
Russian, Serbian patriarchs criticize Serbian government (B92) Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej has conferred with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in the Russian Patriarchate in Moscow. The Serbian church head sought the aid of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government in the preservation of Kosovo and Metohija, leveling criticism at the Serbian authorities. Patriarch Irinej underlined that Serbia must not renounce Kosovo and Metohija, because that would imply renouncing its history, culture, spirituality and holy sites. Patriarch Kirill remarked that the Russian Orthodox Church agrees with the stands of its sister church in terms of Kosovo and Metohija, and he also criticized Serbia’s political leadership…
Roma integration idles (Al Jazeera) The Roma are Europe’s biggest ethnic minority. For decades they have been victims of racism, discrimination and social exclusion. In 2005 twelve European countries declared “the decade of Roma inclusion” and, in 2011, the European Union established a framework for their integration. But in its latest report, the E.U. Commission concluded that not only has inadequate progress been made but that the majority of states failed to allocate sufficient resources for Roma inclusion…
Grassroots ‘ecumenical friendship’ strengthens Catholic-Orthodox relations (Catholic World Report) Rather than collecting dust on a Vatican shelf, Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter “Orientale Lumen” (“Light of the East”), which encourages Latin Catholics to better know the traditions of the Christian East, has continued to inspire a Washington, D.C.-based grassroots ecumenical movement for almost two decades. Initially planned as a single meeting to discuss the pope’s work, the Orientale Lumen Conference has become an annual gathering open to anyone. In some ways, it has kept the light of Orthodox-Catholic dialogue burning even while official dialogues hit roadblocks…
16 July 2013
Tags: Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Ecumenism Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Roma
A mural depicting the Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin and Mount Ararat adorns a brick wall in Hollywood’s “Little Armenia.” (photo: Armineh Johannes)
Several years ago, we looked at a thriving group of Christian immigrants from the Middle East who had settled in southern California:
Leaving behind economic hardship, religious persecution and war — and in many cases family, friends and culture — Middle Eastern Christians have flocked to the United States in increasing numbers over the past three decades.
They have been immigrating to the United States and other Western countries since the late 19th century, but migration has increased as political and economic conditions have deteriorated in their home countries. About a quarter of a million Christians have left Palestine since 1948. Roughly the same number has left Lebanon since the end of its civil war more than a decade ago.
In coming to the United States, Christians from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria bring with them rich traditions they hope to preserve amid the dominant American culture, which their children often absorb.
“I would like to think we will preserve our culture and identity and keep that distinctiveness, but that may be wishful thinking,” says Michael Nahabet, an Armenian who emigrated from Syria more than 20 years ago. “The melting pot is a reality and we do not fight it. I believe we should be integrated and not live in a ghetto. It’s not a resistance, but we want to keep our identity.”
Mr. Nahabet and his wife, Nora, an Armenian from Lebanon, send their two children, Eddie and Natalie, to an Armenian school. They speak mostly Armenian in the home, but Natalie says she mainly speaks English with her brother and her friends.
The Nahabets live in the Los Angeles suburb of Chatsworth, not far from another suburb, Glendale, where one in four residents is Armenian. An estimated quarter of a million Armenians — many from the eastern Mediterranean where Armenians have lived since the Middle Ages — live in Southern California. Mr. Nahabet immigrated to the Los Angeles area at age 24 to start a business. He bought a service station, which he operated for 10 years before going into publishing.
Large numbers of Christians — often wealthier, better educated and with more connections to the West than their Muslim neighbors in the Middle East — take advantage of the opportunities available to them in the United States and Europe.
Read more about East Goes West in the January 2004 issue of the magazine.
16 July 2013
Tags: Lebanon Cultural Identity Armenia United States Immigration
Pope Francis greets the crowd after praying the Angelus at the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, on 14 July. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis prays for the victims of the Volhynia Massacre (VIS) Following Sunday’s Angelus, the pope commemorated the massacres of Volhynia in June 1943, a tragic episode during World War II in which tens of thousands of people lost their lives. He said: “I join in prayer with the prelates and faithful of the church in Ukraine, gathered in the cathedral of Lutsk for the Holy Mass of the souls of the deceased on the seventieth anniversary of the massacres at Volhynia. Those actions, provoked by nationalist ideology in the tragic context of the Second World War, claimed tens of thousands of victims and damaged the fraternity between the two peoples, the Polish and the Ukrainian. I entrust to the mercy of God the souls of the victims and, for their people, I ask the grace of profound reconciliation and of a peaceful future in hope and in sincere collaboration in building together the Kingdom of God…”
Monastery under attack; nuns appeal to Palestinian president (Fides) The nuns of the Greek Orthodox monastery in Bethany have sent a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to urge the leaders of the Palestinian Authority to take charge, with appropriate measures, of the escalation of attacks that the site has been suffering lately: thrown stones, broken glass, theft and looting of the monastery property as part of a campaign of intimidation. “We do not exclude,” wrote the Mother Superior Sister Ibraxia in her letter to President Abbas, “that behind these attacks there are those who want to foment discord among the children of the Palestinian nation…”
Greek Orthodox patriarch: Syrian people committed to unity and peace (SANA) Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch and All the East stressed that the Syrian people are committed to the territorial integrity of Syria, adding that efforts should be exerted for Syria to restore peace, security and stability. During a visit to Lattakia province, he called on the neighboring countries to exert efforts for peaceful political solution to the crisis in Syria, which was and will remain the homeland for dialogue, fraternity, amity and peace…
NGO claims Egyptian state is failing to respond to attacks on copts (Daily Star Lebanon) Egypt’s Christians have been targeted in a wave of attacks since the ouster of Islamist President Muhammad Morsi, and the state is failing to protect them, an NGO said Monday. Sectarian violence since the latest political upheaval in Egypt began has killed four Coptic Christians in Luxor governorate, with churches elsewhere torched and looted, said the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. “What is disturbing is the failure of the security apparatus to act — which at times looks like collusion — to protect citizens and their property who are being targeted on the basis of their religion,” the EIPR’s Ishak Ibrahim said in a statement…
Israel begins deporting Eritrean refugees to troubled African homeland (Los Angeles Times) In an acceleration of its controversial crackdown on African asylum seekers, Israel has begun sending Eritrean refugees back to their restive homeland, where they face uncertain and potentially perilous futures. The first planeload of 14 Eritreans left Israel over the weekend and the government is expected to repatriate about 200 more in the coming days, according to refugee-rights groups. After receiving a flood of about 60,000 African refugees over the last seven years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the influx a threat to the country’s security and Jewish character…
15 July 2013
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Palestine Israel Eastern Europe
Residents walk near a damaged church on 8 June in Qusair, Syria, on their way to inspect their houses and collect their belongings. (photo: CNS photo/Rami Bleibel, Reuters)
Today, the National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen turned a spotlight on a “shadow war” that analysts say is targeting Christians in Syria, and Allen took note of CNEWA’s efforts to provide relief:
Christian minorities face threats in many parts of the convulsed Middle East today, but perhaps nowhere is the danger more acute than in Syria amid that nation’s bloody civil war....
...As NCR went to press, a Greek-Catholic monastery in Qara was under assault by rebel forces. Officials of the Norbertine order told Vatican Radio they had lost contact with a 74-year-old Belgian missionary, Daniel Maes, living at the monastery.
In a July 1 opinion piece on National Review Online, religious freedom activist Nina Shea charged that a “shadow war” is being waged against Syria’s Christians. Shea pointed to the death of Murad and the fact that Islamist groups have begun setting up Shariah courts in areas of Syria under their control, charging Christians with a variety of alleged offenses under Muslim law.
In that context, some Syrian Christians have issued warnings about Western policies of arming Syria’s opposition.
“I would like everyone to know that the West, in supporting the revolutionaries, is supporting religious extremists and helping to kill Christians,” Fr. Halim Noujaim, the Franciscans’ regional minister for Syria and Lebanon, said after the execution of Murad.
The Obama administration recently announced the U.S. will provide small arms and ammunition to the rebels. Critics such as Noujaim charge that Assad’s fall could pave the way for either Iraq-style chaos or the Egyptian-style rise of an Islamist regime, in either case setting up Syria's Christian minority for special hardship.
The Catholic Near East Welfare Association has issued an emergency appeal to support Syria’s Christians.
Read more at NCR.
And to learn how you can help, visit our special page devoted to Syria.
15 July 2013
Tags: Syria Refugees CNEWA
Residents pray in the chapel of the Sacred Scripture Social Message Into Living Experience community — or SSSMILE — in Vettikkuzi in southwestern India. The community serves the region’s homeless. To learn more, read A New Home With a New Family from the December 2003 issue of the magazine. (photo: Sean Sprague)
15 July 2013
Tags: India CNEWA
Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter has called for reconciliation in Lebanon, saying that sectarian militias will lead the country to “destruction.” (photo: CNS/Jim West)
Patriarch calls for reconciliation in Lebanon (Fides) Any non-state army should be considered “illegitimate” and will result in the return of the country to the “law of the jungle and an increase in crime, a phenomenon that unfortunately we are already recording,” according to the Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites Bechara Peter Rai. He launched yet another warning about the fate of the Country of the Cedars during his homily on Sunday 14 July in Harissa. The head of the Maronite Church has called on political factions to reconcile in a new social contract, based on the National Pact of 1943 with which Christians and Muslims agreed on the joint management of political power and institutional offices in Lebanon which became independent from France. According to the patriarch, the conflict between the political factions is contributing to the “destruction of the country.” A drift that can be stopped only by returning to the foundational Covenant “with which the Lebanese built their Country on the basis of living together, preserving Lebanon against any loyalty to other nations of the East or the West”...
Dozens killed in series of attacks in Iraq during Ramadan (Al Jazeera) At least 33 people have been killed and almost 100 wounded in deadly attacks across Iraq as violence escalates during Ramadan, security and hospital officials say...
Car bomb kills at least 13 near Damascus (BBC) A car bomb has exploded north of the Syrian capital Damascus killing at least 13 people including 10 policemen, activists say. The overnight blast struck near a police station in the town of Deir Atiyeh, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. State-run Sana news agency confirmed the attack, saying “terrorists” had caused an unknown number of casualties. The blast comes as the Syrian army tries to regain ground around Damascus...
Hindus outraged at statue depicting Virgin Mary in a sari (International Business Times) The issue of Christian missionaries proselytizing in India has taken a bizarre turn after a church in the eastern state of Jharkhand installed a statue of Mother Mary and Baby Jesus depicted as “tribals,” the indigenous people of the state. With dark brown complexions and sporting traditional Indian tribal clothing (white sari with red border, etc.), the statue in a church in the village of Singhpur has sparked outrage from local Hindus and other non-Christians who have called for its immediate removal...
Tens of thousands line up to view relic in St. Petersburg (AFP) Around 65,000 people have queued for hours in Saint Petersburg to see a religious relic brought from Greece, officials said Saturday, in the latest sign of the Russian Orthodox Church’s influence in post-Soviet Russia. The cross of Saint Andrew — said to be a relic of the X-shaped cross on which Andrew the Apostle was crucified — was placed in Saint Petersburg’s Kazan Cathedral on Thursday after arriving from its historic home in Patras in Greece...
Patriarch Kirill: Russians are having too much fun (Radio Free Europe) Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has urged Russians to have less fun and spend more of their free time in seclusion. On July 11, Kirill said there was “more fun than needed” in the life of Russians. He said people spent a lot of their energy working and should occupy their time in isolated, quiet places instead of celebrating during their vacations...
12 July 2013
Altar servers assist in a liturgy at Our Lady of Paradise Cathedral in São Paulo. (photo: Izan Petterle)
As Rio de Janeiro gets ready for World Youth Day later this month, here’s a glimpse at another side of Brazil, from a profile in the magazine two summers ago:
On a cool Sunday morning in early April, parishioners fill the pews of the Melkite Greek Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Paradise in São Paulo, Brazil.
Numerous icons adorn the walls of the cathedral’s stunning nave. The two most precious icons figure prominently on the iconostasis, an icon screen dividing the sanctuary from the nave: Christ Pantocrator (Christ the Righteous Judge) and Theotokos (Mother of God). Overhead, a Byzantine—style mural of the crucified Christ covers the ceiling. Above the scene are painted in Greek the words “Triumph of Christ.”
Moments later, when the clock strikes 11, Archbishop Fares Maakaroun enters holding up the Book of the Gospels. A hush falls on the congregation, and the liturgy commences.
Located in the Paraíso (Portuguese for paradise) neighborhood in the heart of South America’s largest city and steps from its busiest thoroughfare, Paulista Avenue, the imposing Byzantine—style cathedral seems an unlikely landmark.
Yet, the cathedral and the Arab parishioners who built it have defined Paraíso since the 1940’s when construction began. By then, many of São Paulo’s Arab Christian immigrant families were living in the working—class neighborhood. In subsequent decades, the Arab community steadily grew, at times in sudden bursts, when emigrants fled conflict in Lebanon, Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East in search of a better life in the New World. Hearing about the opportunities in Brazil — often from relatives or friends already in Paraíso — São Paulo quickly became a preferred destination.
Today, the cathedral serves as the seat of the bishop of Our Lady of Paradise in São Paulo, spiritual home to an estimated 400,000 people — the largest Melkite Greek community not only in the Americas but in the world.
Read more about Paradise in Brazil from the July 2011 issue of ONE.
12 July 2013
Tags: ONE magazine Melkite Greek Catholic Church Brazil World Youth Day
An instructor at the Don Bosco Institute oversees the work of his students in a technology class in Cairo. Run by the Salesians of Don Bosco and supported by CNEWA, the institute enables Egyptians from all economic backgrounds to learn a trade to improve their lives and communities. (photo: Shawn Baldwin)
CNEWA focuses on supporting the churches in Egypt and Syria (B.C. Catholic) The Christian population in Syria faces a threat of being “wiped out,” says Carl Hétu, national secretary of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association Canada (CNEWA). “It’s become a Sunni/Shia battleground, and that’s not going to go away soon,” said Hétu. “The big losers are the Christians.” That’s why CNEWA is focusing its assistance on supporting the churches in Syria. “The Church in the Middle East is in survival mode, whether under the Ottoman Empire, or dictatorship, it has always adapted to the reality of the time, to play its humanitarian role,” he said. That humanitarian role is why the support of the churches is crucial, he said. In Egypt in the wake of a military coup that deposed the Islamist government, the future may be somewhat brighter for Christians there than in Syria, Hétu said. The patriarchs of the Catholic and the Orthodox Copts are working together in a new spirit of ecumenism, uniting the Christians, he said. Christian leaders and working “hand in hand” with Muslims who reject the repressive regime Muslim Brotherhood were imposing on Egypt. “The work of CNEWA is focusing on sustaining, helping and working with the local Catholic Coptic Church of Egypt,” Hétu said. That includes supporting their seminary, their seminarians, and religious in formation, as well as churches’ work in education, social services, health care and aid for children…
Catholics urged to pray for victims of Syria conflict (Vatican Radio) The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, is presiding at a Mass in London’s Westminster Cathedral on Friday to pray for all those suffering the effects of the civil war in Syria. In a statement issued earlier in the week, all of the English and Welsh church leaders call on Catholics to pray for a peaceful solution to the conflict and to offer whatever practical support they can through aid agencies that are operating in the region. For further details, Philippa Hitchen spoke with Dr. Harry Hagopian, Middle East advisor to the bishops in England and Wales…
Survey: Lebanese support for Syrian refugees flagging (Fides) A recent poll claims 54 percent of Lebanon’s citizens want to see their borders closed to further refugees. As many as 90 percent expressed a desire to limit the heretofore unrestricted access granted to those fleeing Syria’s civil war. The survey was sponsored by the Norwegian Fafo Research Foundation and published only because of the reactions raised by the Lebanese people due to the size of the influx of refugees. The reasons for the growing discontent are mainly economic and social order: 82 percent of respondents believe that refugees take away work from the Lebanese causing a fall in wages, while 66 percent of their prolonged presence is likely to undermine the management of water and energy resources of the country. These results also indicate the growth of xenophobic inclination: More than 80 percent of respondents respond negatively to the possibility of one of their relatives marrying a Syrian, while 53 percent are worried by the idea that Syrian children are eligible to attend the same school classes as their children…
Egypt calls for new look at Morsi prison escape in 2011 (New York Times) Egypt’s new rulers gave new credence to a court case against the ousted president, Muhammad Morsi, and members of the Muslim Brotherhood on Thursday over their escape from prison during the uprising that toppled his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. No charges have yet been filed. Its acceptance by powerful prosecutors follows the arrest of many Muslim Brotherhood members and is a new blow to the group by the military-backed government. The detentions have been criticized by rights groups and the Obama administration, which spent Thursday walking back remarks made early in the day by a State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, seeming to criticize Mr. Morsi as undemocratic and in so doing seeming to validate the military’s move to oust him…
Orthodox Church formalizes objection to constitutional declaration (Egypt Independent) Today, the Coptic Orthodox Church submitted to the Egyptian presidency a memorandum of legal objections to the recent constitutional declaration, a state-run news website quoted the Rev. Felopateer Gamil Aziz of Virgin Church in Faisal as writing on his Facebook and Twitter accounts. The church understands the nature of the constitutional declaration in the transitional phase and proposes the preparation of a new constitution for the country, different than the suspended constitution, he said. A meeting will be held today between the church and advisers of the interim president to discuss these objections, he said…
11 July 2013
Tags: Egypt Refugees CNEWA Syrian Civil War CNEWA Canada
Velma Harasen, former national president of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada, meets children at the Infant Welfare Center in Jerusalem. (photo: CNEWA)
Velma Harasen is the past national president of the Catholic Women’s League (C.W.L.) of Canada. We asked for her reflections after participating in the C.W.L.’s Holy Land pilgrimage with CNEWA. She shares her thoughts below:
What a blessing, what a gift to have journeyed in pilgrimage to the Holy Land with a small group that soon became like family. My daughter, Lori, was my accompanying family.
Our guide Alex, a Palestinian Christian, was an amazing source of information and referred to Bible readings at the various holy sites that we visited. A tearful departure spoke volumes of the love and respect we had for him.
Father Geoff celebrated Mass for us and truly served as our spiritual leader, including when we renewed our baptismal promises at the river Jordan. He may never know how much he meant to all of us but hopefully our gift of the handmade purple stole expressed our thanks.
I have been to the Holy Land twice before but this pilgrimage was very special to me. We met, mingled and ate with the Christians of the Holy Land and learned more about their daily struggles. Life is not easy!
In a local parish in Reineh, we attended a Latin Mass celebrated in Arabic and were treated to a reception afterward. We visited a number of projects supported by CNEWA, plus the two projects that were part of Velma’s Dream.
The Shepherds’ Field Hospital in Beit Sahour is operated by the Cooperative Society for Health Welfare, which is comprised of local families maintaining the hospital for the poor of the area, mainly pregnant women and babies. With limited resources, they serve their community with Christian love. We met the board, the midwife, nurse and a doctor who volunteers his time.
In a very small, sparse labor and delivery room with two narrow beds, I wondered aloud how they could manage should there be two mothers in labor at the same time! The response: “Sometimes we have three; we can manage!” The board is working hard to build a larger facility and was proud to show us the excavation!
The Infant Welfare Center is in the heart of Old City of Jerusalem. Children from the age of 4 months to 5 years are accommodated in the daycare. When we were there, the babies were enjoying their afternoon nap. However, we spent time with the older ones assembling puzzles, talking and singing. One class made thank you cards for each of us while, in another class, we joined in singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”! The center also operates programs for teens to keep them in school and off the streets.
I was affirmed that both these projects supported by the Catholic Women’s League were worthy and our donations were put to very good use! We have made a difference!
11 July 2013
Tags: Children Israel Holy Land Pilgrimage/pilgrims Holy Land Christians
Youths from the South Hebron Hills kick around a soccer ball at summer camp in the West Bank village of Tuba on 28 June. The camp is a welcome break for Palestinian children. Read more about the summer camp at this link. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Tags: Children Palestine Palestinians West Bank