16 July 2013
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)
11 July 2013
Tags: Children Palestine Palestinians West Bank
Bulgarian Orthodox Metropolitan Kalinik, 82, was ordained bishop in 1971 and elected the metropolitan of Vratsa in 1974. (photo: Bulgarian Orthodox Church)
Bulgarian Orthodox Church elects interim Varna metropolitan (Novinite) The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church elected Wednesday, after a 2-hour emergency sitting, Vratsa metropolitan Kalinik as interim metropolitan of Varna and Veliki Preslav. Metropolitan Kalinik is to temporarily replace the late Varna Metropolitan Kiril whose body was discovered on a beach near Varna on Tuesday. Bulgarian clergy maintain that the cause of death was most likely hypothermia, contrary to early suspicions of foul play. Metropolitan Kalinik will assume the post after the traditional 40 days of respect for the deceased…
Second Christian in a week murdered in Egypt (Times of Israel) Security officials say suspected militants have killed a Christian merchant in the northern Sinai Peninsula. They said 60-year-old Magdy Habashi was abducted last Saturday from the town of Sheikh Zweid. His decapitated body was found early Thursday in a cemetery. Habashi is the second Christian to be killed in northern Sinai in less than a week. Coptic Christian priest Mina Aboud Sharween was gunned down by suspected militants last Saturday as he walked in an outdoor market. There has been a backlash against Christians by Islamist militants for their activism against former President Morsi…
Syrian Christians become kidnapping targets, flee to Lebanon (Global Post) While the war has increased animosity between Sunni and Shia, it has also devastated Syria’s Christians, some of whom have now fled to Lebanon. Their story is rarely told. When the Syrian uprising broke out in March 2011, Christians remained neutral or sided with Assad. They saw that Muslim extremists — both Shia and Sunni — had driven Christians out of Iraq after the US invasion of 2003. They feared a similar crisis in Syria. Even in the early months of the uprising, some local Sunnis were chanting the slogan, “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the tabout [coffin]”…
In Aleppo, hunger stirs protestation against rebel blockade (AsiaNews) Citizens of Aleppo have been spurred to protest against the blockade imposed by the rebels on the districts controlled by the government. “We lack food and medicine,” shout the inhabitants of the neighborhood of Bustan al Qasr, “the people want an end to the blockade.” According to the Syrian Observatory for human rights, protests against the scarcity of basic necessities began early Tuesday, 9 July, when dozens of protesters gathered near a checkpoint. In the protest, one demonstrator has allegedly been killed, struck by a bullet in the head; it is still unclear whether he was shot by the rebels themselves or by an army sniper…
Chaldean patriarch extends greetings to Muslims in honor of Ramadan (AsiaNews) “On behalf of myself and of all the of Christians of Iraq, I extend my best wishes to all Muslim men and women for the beginning of this blessed month,” said Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I in an address to his brothers and sisters of Islam at the start of Ramadan. His Beatitude wishes that it will be a time of “doing good and peace” for the country and its inhabitants. He stressed the primary duty to preserve “our national unity” and adopt a “language of dialogue in solving problems” — because, the Patriarch added, “we are one community, despite our diversity…”
10 July 2013
Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Bulgarian Orthodox Church
Women from the village of Manhari weave religious articles in a program supported by the local eparchy. (photo: Sean Sprague)
While much of Egypt is in turmoil, faith somehow endures. Several years ago, writer-photographer Sean Sprague visited a Coptic Christian village in Upper Egypt for a closer look:
“People here,” [Father Matta] asserted as we strolled through the muddy lanes of Manhari, “don’t experience Islamic extremist aggression, but they do feel economically repressed.
“Many families cannot support themselves, although there are some wealthy Coptic families.”
Father Matta’s family, however, is not one of the wealthy ones. Typically, Eastern Catholic married priests in the Middle East must also hold down jobs outside the parish to support the family, thereby reducing the parish burden. The priest’s wife, in addition to rearing a family, must also work.
Father Matta led me on a tour of Manhari’s four-story Catholic Social Services Center. Here, working parents leave their children in a well-run kindergarten. School dropouts improve their reading and writing skills while young women learn to weave tapestries. The center offers additional vocational training in its tailoring workshop. Mothers and their children receive medical care in a mother-child clinic and the center conducts courses in health and hygiene.
“The villagers survive by raising livestock — cattle, buffalo, sheep and goats — and by growing clover for fodder,” Father Matta said. “Fuul, or fava beans, and wheat provide the Egyptian staple diet. They grow in fields around the village,” he added.
…A few miles from Manhari at an Orthodox church, which once served a monastic community, we met a priest revered by all Copts — Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant — Father Yacoub, an old man with a long white beard. Father Matta greeted him with elaborate embraces and kisses. Father Yacoub sat in virtual silence while we drank tea and spoke with his young colleague, Father Bola. His eyes gleamed with obvious pleasure at our visit.
“Relations between Orthodox and Catholic Copts in Manhari are warm,” Father Bola said, taking a sip of his sweetened tea.
“Caritas serves the entire community. Intermarriage is common. So it doesn’t really make much difference which church you are from. We are all from the same cloth.”
Read more on Upper Egypt’s Copts from the July 2002 issue of the magazine.
Tags: Egypt Coptic Orthodox Church Coptic Christians Copts Coptic Catholic Church