Current Issue
Spring, 2017
Volume 43, Number 1
25 June 2013
Melodie Gabriel

Our tour group stands in front of Maison du Sacre Coeur with Sister Katharina Fuch, D.C., one of its dedicated caregivers. (photo: CNEWA)

Melodie Gabriel is a Development Assistant with CNEWA Canada.

Together with CNEWA Canada, the Catholic Women’s League (C.W.L.) of Canada has been supporting projects that aid our poor Christian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land. With this in mind, CNEWA Canada organized a trip for C.W.L. members to discover the Holy Land by not only walking in the footsteps of Jesus on a pilgrimage, but also meeting the “living stones.” We will encounter the Christians of the Holy Land by visiting different CNEWA projects and local Christian communities.

This is my first trip to the Holy Land and I feel very blessed to be here as one of the coordinators. Our hope over the next few days is for you at home to journey along with us through these blog posts.

Taking this trip with me is Carl Hétu, national director of CNEWA Canada, along with Megan Knighton and Bradley Kerr from CNEWA in the United States. As well, we have the Rev. Geoffrey Kerslake from the Archdiocese of Ottawa.

The Catholic Women’s League initiative to aid Holy Land Christians is entitled “Velma’s Dream,” named after Velma Harasen, past president of the C.W.L. We are pleased to have Velma join us on this trip, and she will share with us some reflections.

We went directly to Nazareth and visited the Church of the Annunciation, the place where “the Word became flesh” and the angel Gabriel visited Mary — which was very special to me, given that my last name is Gabriel.

This statue of the Virgin Mary adorns the grounds of the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. The modern basilica of the Church of the Annunciation has been built above at least five previous edifices dating from the 4th century. (photo: CNEWA)

On Saturday, we mostly visited churches in the area of Tiberias. My favorite activity was sailing on the Sea of Galilee, like Jesus did.

Fishing on the Sea of Galilee is as important a business as in Christ’s day, and much of the 1600 tons of fish that are harvested every year provide nourishment not just for the local residents but for the people of Jerusalem as well. (photo: CNEWA)

Here are a few words from Velma:

“I have visited the Holy Land twice before. Now, I have the pleasure of visiting the projects that the Catholic Women’s League is supporting. As well, having my daughter Lori along with me has been wonderful. This time around, I’m getting to see how the local Christian people are living. My heart goes out to them, just hearing their stories.

“I was extremely impressed with the French Hospital in Nazareth and with the Maison du Sacre Coeur in Haifa — two projects that CNEWA supports. I had a brother who was severely handicapped and died when he was 53 years old. Sacre Coeur was like the home he had lived in for years, and being there reminded me of his place and brought memories back of him. I can’t help but admire the work that the Franciscan Sisters are doing to help the sick and the handicapped.”

Stay tuned for more updates as we continue our journey this week!

Tags: CNEWA Holy Land Holy Land Christians CNEWA Canada

25 June 2013
Greg Kandra

A young girl completes a class project at Meki Catholic School. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Over the years, we’ve done a number of stories about the dramatic impact Catholic education is having in a country that is predominantly non-Catholic: Ethiopia. In 2005, photojournalist Sean Sprague visited one town to report on the diverse student body:

At 25, Lemi Meta is the oldest of Grabafila elementary school’s 170 students. At well over 6 feet tall, Mr. Meta dwarfs his classmates, some of whom are as young as 7. And yet, Mr. Meta does not feel uncomfortable in this setting — a Catholic school not far from the southern Ethiopian town of Meki.

“I had a dream about going to school but I never had the chance,” Mr. Meta said. “I live in a remote area where there is no school. In my village only three people out of 600 have ever been to school.”

Each day, Mr. Meta walks two and a half hours each way to attend class and, despite his advanced age, he talks about becoming a doctor.

The Grabafila elementary school is one of two area Catholic schools supported by CNEWA (the agency also provides support to many of its students, who are enrolled in the agency’s needy child sponsorship program). The school consists of four classrooms and a single office for the staff. It lacks electricity, running water, computers and a library. Cows and goats wander nearby. Primitive by Western standards, the school nonetheless fulfills a need not yet addressed by the government.

“Ethiopia is a rural society, where 80 percent of the population depends on subsistence agriculture,” said Abune (Bishop) Abraham Desta of Meki. “Droughts, famine and war have devastated this country. Only recently have we seen the government, and some religious organizations, build schools.”

Though Ethiopia’s Catholics number only 500,000 (the total population is 70 million), the Catholic Church has built more than 230 schools and vocational centers throughout the country. “Education is the church’s priority in Ethiopia,” asserted Abune Abraham.

Read more about schools in Meki in Never Too Late to Dream in the July 2005 issue of ONE.

Tags: Ethiopia Children Education Catholic education Ethiopia’s Catholic Church

25 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk, patriarchal exarch of all Belarus, prays the Divine Liturgy in the Minsk Holy Spirit Cathedral on 23 June 2013, also known as Trinity Sunday, or the celebration of Pentecost in Eastern Christianity. The Belarus Orthodox Church is another name for the Belarusan Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church. (photo: Belarus Orthodox Church)

Belarus Orthodox Church head decries capital punishment (Belarus Digest) The business-oriented weekly newspaper Belarusy i Rynok reports that the head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk, patriarchal exarch of all Belarus, spoke out against the death penalty during a roundtable that recently took place. Apart from the Orthodox Church, the representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, legislative and judiciary authorities, delegates from the Council of Europe, diplomats and human right activists participated in the event. “We, Christians, cannot legitimize capital punishment since this is the sin of murder,” he said, adding that “we sinful people” do not have the authority to make such decisions about another’s existence…

A series of attacks shake Iraq, including a church hit in Baghdad (AsiaNews) A dozen bombings on Monday in and around Baghdad killed at least 41 and wounded 125 others. Many of the attacks struck outdoor markets or restaurants in the Iraqi capital, including the neighborhoods Al Nasser, Karrada, Al Jihad and Nahrawan. Bombings were also reported in Mosul and Tikrit. Christian-owned shops and businesses were among the casualties, along with religious buildings. Last night, masked men attacked St. Mary Assyrian Church in the east of Baghdad. The attackers stood front of the building and fired wildly at the guards standing outside, seriously wounding two of them…

The Coptic Orthodox Church thanks armed forces for keeping the peace (Fides) In view of the demonstration against the government of Morsi convened on 30 June — the first anniversary of his rise to power — by opposition forces, the Coptic Orthodox Church published a message of thanks and appreciation for the Egyptian army. The high military instances had publicly stated its intention to remain at the service of the people and to want to avoid the ruin that hangs over the entire country. The Coptic Orthodox Church applauds military’s efforts to balance force and security…

Will Ethiopia’s ‘grand’ new dam steal Nile waters from Egypt? (Christian Science Monitor) Africa’s largest hydropower project, a new 6,000-megawatt dam on the Blue Nile, has sparked a row between Egypt and Ethiopia. But it could increase the overall water flow in the Nile in the long run, through the creation of a reservoir roughly half the size of Rhode Island…

Tags: Egypt Ethiopia Iraqi Christians Coptic Orthodox Church Belarus

24 June 2013
Greg Kandra

In Egypt, a Zabbaleen man takes a break from operating a plastics grinding machine. This photo accompanied the story Salvaging Dignity in the September 2012 issue of ONE. The story, by Sarah Topol, on Friday was honored with First Place in the category of Best Personality Profile at the 2013 Catholic Press awards in Denver. (photo: Dana Smillie)

Tags: Egypt ONE magazine Copts Egypt's Christians

24 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this 2010 image, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custos of the Holy Land, speaks to a reporter while attending a conference on Christian-Muslim dialogue at Sant’Egidio headquarters in Rome on 22 February. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Syrian priest offered his martyrdom for peace (Fides) On Sunday, June 23 the Syrian priest François Murad was killed in Gassanieh, in northern Syria, in the convent where he had taken refuge. The circumstances of the death are not fully understood. According to local sources, the monastery came under fire by militants linked to the jihadi group Jabhat al Nusra. “Let us pray,” writes Custos of the Holy Land Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M., “that this absurd and shameful war ends soon and that the people of Syria can go back to living a normal life.” Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, titular of the Syrian Catholic archeparchy in Hassaké-Nisibis reports to Fides: “Father Murad sent me some messages that clearly showed how conscious he was of living in a dangerous situation, and offered his life for peace in Syria and around the world…”

Greek Orthodox patriarch slams failure to free bishops (Daily Star Lebanon) Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X questioned the failure of states and security forces to expedite the release of two abducted bishops. “We appreciate the efforts exerted by the [relevant] states and security forces to seek out information on the fate of the two bishops, but we wonder if they lack the resources to secure their release?” the patriarch said during a liturgy at Balamand Monastery. He added, “We believe their fate is in the hands of God, but this doesn’t [free] anyone from the responsibility of finding out the truth and releasing them as soon as possible…”

Deadly fighting rages in Lebanon (Al Jazeera) At least 15 Lebanese soldiers are now known to have died in clashes between government troops and followers of a Sunni sheikh, who is opposed to the Shia movement Hezbollah and its involvement in the war in Syria. The clashes, which broke out on Sunday between the army and supporters of Ahmad al Assir, continued overnight in Sidon, reported Al Jazeera’s Nour Samaha on Monday. The fighting raged around Abra and the Ain al Helweh Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon, she said…

Pope: ‘A Christian cannot be anti-Semitic!’ (VIS) At noon today, the Holy Father received 30 members of the delegation of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations. The pope recalled that 21 previous meetings have helped to strengthen the mutual understanding and ties of friendship between Jews and Catholics. “The church recognizes that ‘the beginnings of its faith and election are to be found in the patriarchs, Moses, and prophets.’ … Due to our common roots, a Christian cannot be anti-Semitic!” he said…

Tags: Lebanon Syrian Civil War Holy Land Catholic-Jewish relations Orthodox Church of Greece

21 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

An elderly refugee from Azerbaijan languishes in an unsanitary government housing project in Armenia. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

In 2008, Gayane Abrahamyan reported on the tragic state of seniors in Armenia:

[Azerbaijani refugee] Sonya Sargsian resides in a dilapidated government-owned building housing impoverished pensioners and the homeless — one of three clustered in a forgotten suburb of Yerevan, the Armenian capital. Built as a student dormitory after World War II, the building has not been renovated since its construction. Residents share a common bathroom, which barely functions. Decrepit plumbing supplies water at irregular intervals.

“We can’t take a bath for months. We walk a district away to get water. Those unable to make the trip try to forget they have basic human needs,” Mrs. Sargsian said, pointing to the sewage leaking through the ceiling. …

For many elderly Armenians such as Sonya Sargsian, a normal life is but a memory. …

Prior to independence, Armenia had only one nursing home and it operated at 50 to 60 percent capacity. Today, seven nursing homes are scattered throughout the country. Overcrowded, these facilities have long waiting lists with as many as 100 or 200 persons waiting for a room.

“Attitudes about bringing elderly family members to nursing homes have changed,” said Artur Markosian, deputy director of a government-run nursing home in Yerevan. “It used to be shameful to do so; no child would bring a parent to such a place. But today, everything is seen from a different point of view.”

The growing demand for nursing homes is not the sole indicator that Armenia’s traditional family-centered values are deteriorating. The children of aging Armenians are not only admitting their parents into nursing facilities in record numbers, they are also in large part abandoning them in the process.

To read more about the plight of the elderly in Armenia, as well as efforts by the Armenian Apostolic Church and charity groups to help, check out ONE’s January 2008 cover story, Pensioners in Crisis.

Tags: Armenia Caring for the Elderly

21 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this 2010 photo, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I of Antioch and All the East, right, meets with Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch at the monastery and seminary of St. Ephrem the Syrian, in Syria. (photo: CNEWA)

Prayers for the bishops of Aleppo kidnapped two months ago (Fides) The churches of the Middle East unite in prayer for the release of the two metropolitan bishops of Aleppo — the Syrian Orthodox Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and the Greek Orthodox Boulos al Yazigi — kidnapped on 22 April. On Saturday evening, 22 June, exactly two months after the kidnapping, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch (brother of the kidnapped Greek Orthodox bishop) and the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I will lead jointly a prayer in Lebanon for the bishops’ release and for peace to prevail in Syria…

Syriac Christians, Kurds working together in Syria (Al Monitor) A shared desire to remain neutral in Syria has inspired cooperation between the Syriac Christian and Kurdish minorities, despite government encouragement of sectarian security branches. This Syriac-Kurd entente is rooted historically in the denial of both peoples’ rights in Syria…

U.N. agency denounces killing of Palestinian refugees in Syria (Daily Star Lebanon) The United Nations agency concerned with Palestinian refugees condemned Friday the recent killing of six Palestinians at the Khan Eshieh camp just outside of the Syrian capital. In a statement, the agency said at least three mortar bombs struck the camp outside Damascus Wednesday. UNRWA said it was not clear which party to the conflict had fired the mortar bombs. “In the strongest terms, UNRWA condemns these latest examples of disregard for civilian lives in the Syria conflict,” the Palestinian relief organization said…

Kerala Catholic association fights to save coast from erosion (The Hindu) Members of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council and the Kerala Latin Catholic Association undertook a fast from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday to draw attention to the need for immediate measures to protect the Thanni-Eravipuram coast from sea erosion. Inaugurating the protest, Syro-Malankara Bishop Joshua Mar Ignathios said that life turned miserable for people living along the Kerala coast every monsoon because the authorities took no timely steps to prevent erosion…

Indian bishops: Solidarity with Hindu pilgrims affected by floods (AsiaNews) The Bishops’ Conference of India expresses “deep concern” over the devastation caused by floods and landslides that have hit many parts of the State of Uttarkhand. To date, these disasters have left 150 people dead and tens of thousands of Hindus affected by torrential rains during a pilgrimage. The police have carried over 30,000 people to safety, but 50,000 more remain trapped by landslides. Through the diocesan Caritas and NGO’s, the Indian church has pledged to support the government agencies providing aid and assistance to victims of floods…

Guard shoots Israeli at Western Wall (Al Jazeera) A security guard has shot and killed an Israeli man at one of Judaism’s holiest sites in Jerusalem, the Western Wall, apparently mistaking him for a Palestinian fighter, police said. The shooting took place shortly before 8 a.m. as the plaza in front of the wall filled with worshippers for morning prayers ahead of the start of the Jewish Sabbath at sundown. The site was temporarily closed to the public…

Tags: Syrian Civil War Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Aleppo Palestinian Refugees

20 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this photo from April, Eritrean children under the care of religious sisters gather to meet visitors. Eritrea itself is an extremely young nation, having gained independence only in 1991. However, its spiritual roots are quite ancient. To learn more about the Eritrean Orthodox Church, check out the profile from the January 2005 issue of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)

Tags: Children Orthodox Church Orphans/Orphanages Orthodox Eritrea

20 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Syrian refugee families dwell in a derelict school building without a regular supply of electricity or water in Beirut, Lebanon, in this March 2013 photo. At the end of his weekly general audience on 19 June, Pope Francis called attention to World Refugee Day, 20 June. (photo: CNS/Don Doll, S.J., Jesuit Refugee Service)

Pope to Middle Eastern Christians: Never lose hope (Vatican Radio) Today, Pope Francis attended the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO) at the conclusion of the group’s 86th plenary assembly. ROACO is a committee that unites funding agencies from various countries around the world to coordinate charitable efforts. “The confrontation that sows death should give place to the encounter and the reconciliation that brings life. To all those who suffer I say forcefully: never lose hope! The church is close to you, the church walks with you and sustains you!” the pope said…

Witnessing to the love of Christ in Syria, plagued by hatred and war (AsiaNews) “In a small village north of Aleppo conquered by the rebels, Father Hanna, a Franciscan priest, rings the bell each day at the small local church. The chimes mark the hours of the day and are a sign of hope for the whole population, Christian and Muslim, knowing that in the small chapel there is someone ready to listen, to alleviate their suffering, regardless of faction, and religious beliefs. In Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and other cities, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd provide continuous assistance to the displaced, bringing clean clothes, food and words of comfort,” says Archbishop Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Damascus. “Clergy are laying down their lives life for Christ — and at this time the features of his face are those of the Syrian people, who are suffering…”

Chaldean patriarch: the only solution is political (Fides) “Blood calls for more blood, revenge calls revenge,” said Chaldean Patriarch Raphael Louis. As such, to achieve peace in Syria, “the only solution to look for is political.” The prospect of supplying arms to the rebels — favored by some Western Countries — will only lead to more chaos and bloodshed…

Building bridges in Belgrade (Vatican Radio) Vatican Radio interviews Gerard Mannion, the chairman of the Ecclesiological Investigations International Research Network, who discusses the major themes of a conference taking place this week in the Serbian capital. The assembly brings together a network of theologians and ecumenical experts from countries around the globe to discuss the themes of religion, authority and statehood. “For a long time now we’ve wanted to come to an area that is predominantly Orthodox and to involve as much of the Orthodox perspective as we could. … We’re delighted with the Orthodox participation and especially that [Serbian Orthodox Patriarch] Irinej opened the conference formally for us…”

Ethiopian refugees face dam backlash in Egypt (Al Jazeera) Over the last few weeks, there has been an emergence of xenophobic attacks against Ethiopians on the streets of Cairo, motivated by Ethiopia’s goal to build the “Grand Renaissance Dam.” The Ethiopian government is planning to dam the Blue Nile for hydroelectric power, a move Egypt worries will affect its water supply…

New Palestinian prime minister resigns (Reuters) Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has offered his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas just two weeks after taking office, an official in his press office told Reuters on Thursday. A government source told Reuters that Hamdallah made the abrupt, unexpected move because of a “dispute over his powers”…

Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Refugees Orthodox Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I

19 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Santa Lucia staff member Iman Bibawi Iskandar helps a resident practice writing Arabic Braille in preparation for an exam. (photo: Holly Pickett)

Almost half of Egypt’s population survives on less than $2 per day. According to the United Nations, poverty in Egypt has risen sharply over the past three years. And when economic conditions worsen, those with special needs often suffer disproportionately.

In the neighborhood of Abou Kir, northeast of Alexandria, the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross provide critical services to many of society’s most vulnerable members:

Home to some 300,000 people, Abou Kir is named for an important Egyptian early Christian martyr, St. Cyrus. Today, the city has a large Christian minority (about 30 percent of the population), most of whom follow the Coptic Orthodox or Catholic traditions. …

The Franciscan School dominates Abou Kir’s main thoroughfare, which is lined with mobile phone shops, vegetable stands and idling taxis. The Franciscan Sisters of the Cross, a Lebanese congregation whose members run the school, know their facility is the most prominent institution in town. …

Next to the school, the sisters operate a pioneering project that, since the early 1980’s, serves one of the country’s most disadvantaged groups: blind children.

“This is a special Franciscan apostolate committed to caring for the blind,” explains Sister Souad with pride. “Their food, their drinks, their sleeping, their health care — from the time they wake up in the morning until they go to sleep at night — the Franciscans take care of everything.”

The Santa Lucia Home — named in honor of the patron saint of the blind — was built with funds from CNEWA’s donors and houses ten girls and eight boys from ages 8 to 18…

Most of the residents at Santa Lucia come from poor Christian communities in and around Alexandria or from impoverished areas of Upper Egypt, which lie south of Cairo. Many have experienced the stigma associated with being blind before coming into the sisters’ care.

To read more about the Santa Lucia Home, check out Liam Stack’s Blind to Limitations, from the May 2010 issue of ONE.

Tags: Egypt Children Sisters Poor/Poverty ONE magazine

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