25 June 2013
CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar meets with Pope Francis at the 86th annual ROACO (Assembly of Aid Agencies for the Eastern Churches) in Rome.
I am just back from a week of meetings in Rome and I want to share with you some of the highlights and even the excitement that surrounded them.
Carl Hétu (our national director in Canada) and I were part of a group of funding agencies called to Rome by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches, for an annual meeting to discuss how we might more effectively respond to the pressing needs of Eastern Catholics suffering greatly in areas served by CNEWA. We are the only agency in this consortium (called ROACO) that is pontifical and completely dedicated to assisting the Eastern Catholic churches in some very troubled parts of the world.
But before I get into some of the compelling content of our sessions, let me tell where I was living while in Rome. Carl and I were hosted at the Domus Santae Martae, a Vatican residence that just happens to be the home of our Holy Father, Pope Francis. Imagine the surprise of “running into the Holy Father” at various intervals in the lobby, coming out of the elevator, coming down the stairs. And imagine the sheer excitement of realizing that the figure in white entering the dining room for breakfast was none other than Pope Francis. Yes, we were actually guests at the Holy Father’s new residence and what an honor it was. Although there is discreet security surrounding him at all times, he carries himself in a very relaxed way and freely gives waves and many, many smiles as he comes and goes.
Now for the various sessions:
As we so vividly are reminded each day in the news, the situation is Syria is abominable: everyone is suffering and many thousands are dying. Violence, hatred, vengeance — the realities of war — are confronted on every side.
The suffering of the Christians in Syria was dramatically and poignantly shared with us by a team of presenters. The apostolic nuncio to Syria, Archbishop Mario Zenari, described what was happening in the country as a reign of terror and fear. He said that threats of vengeance were directed especially at Christians, as they have generally neither taken up arms in the resistance nor openly sided with the regime. He claimed the “Arab Spring” had been stolen from the people.
A brave Franciscan parish priest joined us to give some brutal descriptions of how the war pits everyone against the other. Former neighbors and friends are now sworn enemies, people (even young teenagers) are captured and tortured and forced to “confess” and give names of their friends. Many have been executed. His particular town has been overrun by both sides on several occasions and so everyone is an enemy. Despite the threats directed personally to him by resistance fighters, radical Islamists and military sympathizers, he does not flinch in his determination to bring a small ray of hope to all: people of every faith and of no faith.
We were blessed with the testimony of a religious sister working in Damascus (a Daughter of Charity) who works mainly with abandoned women and children, but who always keeps the door open for all, at every time of day and night, never knowing if the people knocking at the door are friend or foe. With a deep faith and trust in God she and the other sisters strive to bring the Syrian people a brief respite from the cruel reality of war that surrounds everyone. Sister also highlighted how emotionally draining it is to have countless children wandering aimlessly looking for their parents or a mother and wife looking for her husband who has gone off to war or been taken prisoner.
The crisis in Syria was also described by a brave Jesuit priest who works with refugees in various areas of Syria. The war is not limited to a few areas of conflict, as more than one million homes have been destroyed and many millions have been displaced. Christians have largely stayed in Syria, not fleeing to Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey, but “hunkering down” with family and friends, sometimes with huge numbers crowded into bombed out and filthy dwellings with 40-50 people crowded together. But in his humble way he brings them the sacraments and the hope of Christ, and maybe a sack of rice.
The new Coptic Catholic patriarch of Egypt, His Beatitude Ibrahim Isaac, joined us for an extended presentation and discussion about the trauma for the church in Egypt. He commented that what was supposed to be an “Arab Spring” had turned into an “autumn.” Islamic fundamentalism has spread much fear for Christians. There is a strong movement from the villages (where Christians have previously felt more secure) to towns and cities. Slowly, Christians are losing their identity as they delicately tread the difficult waters of “fitting in” with the new order.
His Beatitude Ibrahim Isaac, Coptic Catholic patriarch of Egypt, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. (photo: CNEWA)
The patriarch is a very ebullient and a cheerful man and exudes confidence in the help of God. He is not naïve, though, about the where his nation and where the church might be going. But he stresses the positives: 170 Catholic schools whose doors are opened to all, clinics and hospitals who serve in the name of our Lord, orphanages who give comfort to lost or separated children. The church maintains her presence and gives hope to many, regardless of their religious group or political preferences. By the way, CNEWA is blessed to offer support to many of these programs. The patriarch privately asked me to thank you for your abiding support and especially your prayers of solidarity.
He highlighted the need to support basic human rights, the rights of women, the need to educate the young to become political leaders who can defend the rights of all and the importance of ecumenical outreach to the Coptic Orthodox Church, our big brother in Egypt. I told the Patriarch I was planning to visit him and his dear people next February and he was most enthusiastic to assist me in executing this pastoral visit.
For those of us involved in helping the church in Iraq, we know how underreported the suffering is there and the consequent flight of two thirds of its Christian community. Patriarch Louis Raphael, who was recently elected to govern the Chaldean Church (which represents about 80 percent of the Catholics of this country), gave some dramatic testimony of the suffering and plight of the Iraqi people. Although this is a country blessed with many resources and the ability to contribute to the wellbeing of the entire Middle East, conditions resulting from religious and political persecution have wreaked havoc and violence on the vast majority of Christians in this country.
Can you imagine when two-thirds of your family has fled because of violence or the lack of a future filled with peace? This is his reality. Some have wrongly described him as pessimistic or fatalistic, but his approach is that of a realist. And while he places hope and confidence in Almighty God, he places great importance on unity: in his own church, with other churches, and national unity above political unity.
I think he surprised some of our group (after all, we represent funding agencies) when he said very openly that he did not join us in Rome to ask for money or for support for important projects, but rather to seek solidarity in prayer and to invite us to engage our governments in the dialogue for a lasting peace in his country, for basic human rights and freedoms.
He is a very practical man and realizes that he also needs to shore up the organization of this important and historic church with better administration and coordination and communication. We all pledged to do our best at being advocates for this suffering church.
Another feature of this annual gathering is to receive a report from some of the religious leaders in the Holy Land, namely the apostolic nuncio to Israel and the apostolic delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, and the custos of the Holy Land, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M.
National director of CNEWA Canada, Carl Hétu, and Custos of the Holy Land Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M. (photo: CNEWA)
The nuncio stressed how the church has placed priorities on housing for young Christian families, education (especially higher education), and the heightened need for jobs. He also highlighted how the church seeks to preserve the rights of Christians in Palestine to build a positive society and to be productive citizens.
The custos (who administers the holy sites entrusted to the Franciscans) referred to the challenging equilibrium in preserving the “stones of memory” (the historical sites where salvation history is recorded) and serving the spiritual needs of the “living stones” (those witnesses to Christ now living in these holy places). The landscape in both dimensions is very complex and the costs are always greater than can be accommodated. As you can appreciate if you have been blessed to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, we must make every effort to cherish all these stones.
As a fitting conclusion to these days of emotionally charged content and what some would describe as depressing, we were graciously received in an audience by Pope Francis. After his words of thankfulness to all for the generosity of our donors, the Holy Father gave us some uplifting words about the suffering of the church in Syria, Egypt and Iraq and encouraged us never to lose hope and reminded us that charity must always accompany faith.
In a strong personal plea, he urged us not to give up on Syria and to keep the Syrian people in our hearts and prayers. And he gave us the formula of how a Catholic best responds in all circumstances: to be “rooted in faith, nourished in prayer, especially in the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of faith and charity.” ?
The pope then appealed to the powerful and the weak, appealing to world leaders and organizations to seek an end to all pain and violence and discrimination. And to those suffering, the message was loud and clear: “Never lose hope.”
After the ROACO meetings I continued on for two days, attending the meetings of the Board of Regents of Bethlehem University. CNEWA is one of the founders of this great success story in Palestine. As the only Catholic institute of higher learning in Palestine, it serves as a beacon for the rights of all Palestinians and how the Catholic Church seeks to inspire the young people of Palestine to become productive citizens and to contribute to the good of all.
Proudly the university is preparing to celebrate its 40th anniversary this October. It is also in the midst of a significant expansion program that will position it for even better service to the community in the future. The university, which is run by the De La Salle Brothers of the Christian Schools, has a very close working partnership with the Franciscans entrusted with the care of the holy sites in the Holy Land, the Papal nuncio and the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem.
It was indeed an eventful week for me and I hope you have assimilated some of the emotional content, the challenges that confront us, the honor entrusted to CNEWA by our Holy Father to respond to the needs of the Eastern Catholic churches in these areas of conflict — and the sheer delight of being so close to our Holy Father.
God bless Pope Francis and God bless all of you for your prayerful support and generous gifts.
For more on Msgr. Kozar’s trip to Rome, and his thoughts on the struggles of people in the Middle East, check out this report from Catholic News Agency, along with this audio interview with Vatican Radio.
25 June 2013
Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Rome Eastern Catholic Churches
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!
25 June 2013
Tags: CNEWA Holy Land Holy Land Christians CNEWA Canada
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.
25 June 2013
Tags: Ethiopia Children Education Catholic education Ethiopia’s Catholic Church
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…
24 June 2013
Tags: Egypt Ethiopia Iraqi Christians Coptic Orthodox Church Belarus
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)
24 June 2013
Tags: Egypt ONE magazine Copts Egypt's Christians
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…
21 June 2013
Tags: Lebanon Syrian Civil War Holy Land Catholic-Jewish relations Orthodox Church of Greece
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.
21 June 2013
Tags: Armenia Caring for the Elderly
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…
20 June 2013
Tags: Syrian Civil War Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Aleppo Palestinian Refugees
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)
20 June 2013
Tags: Children Orthodox Church Orphans/Orphanages Orthodox Eritrea
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