5 September 2013
In this image from last March, U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, arrives for a prayer service with eucharistic adoration in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Cardinal O’Brien calls for prayers for Syria (CNS) As threats of military intervention against Syria escalate and the country’s future remains uncertain, a U.S. cardinal said that, no matter what transpires, prayer is urgently needed. Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, said that “whatever happens, if there is going to be peace in Syria and anywhere, prayer has to be a part of it.” The cardinal spoke on 5 September during a Vatican news conference presenting the chivalric order’s consultative meeting that will see a revision of its statutes and its upcoming pilgrimage to Rome as part of the Year of Faith. The order, which has members in 35 countries, particularly in North America and Western Europe, supports the pastoral and educational work of the church in the Holy Land...
Pope seeks Putin’s support in stopping Syrian air strikes (Catholic Register) In an open letter to Vladimir Putin, Pope Francis has appealed to the Russian President and world leaders gathering in St. Petersburg for a G-20 Summit to find a non-military solution to the crisis in Syria. “To the leaders present, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution,” the Pope wrote. “Rather, let there be a renewed commitment to seek, with courage and determination, a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation of the parties, unanimously supported by the international community.” The Pope’s letter came as world leaders arrived for a two-day summit that was intended to focus on the world economy but now will be dominated by the looming threat of U.S. intervention in Syria. Congress will vote early next week on whether to support President Barack Obama’s call for air strikes on military targets in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack allegedly directed by the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad that killed 1,429 people, including hundreds of children...
Syrian Christians say Western attack would make matters worse (NCR) Although President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are consulting their own legislatures before using force in Syria, there’s a constituency with far more at stake they might also poll that would likely deliver a resounding no: Syria’s Christians. Those Christians may be no fans of the regime of President Bashar Assad, but they generally prefer it to what they see as the likely alternative — rising Islamic fundamentalism and Iraq-style chaos, in which religious minorities such as themselves would be among the primary victims. “We heard a lot about democracy and freedom from the U.S. in Iraq, and we see now the results — how the country came to be destroyed,” said Chaldean Catholic Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo in a recent interview. “The first to lose were the Christians of Iraq.” “We must say that, what the U.S. did in Iraq, we don’t want repeated in Syria,” Audo said...
Christian, Muslim leaders examine challenges of Arab Christians (CNS) For decades, Arab Christians have been fleeing the Holy Land and the rest of the Middle East in droves, mainly because of violence. Within the past two-and-a-half years, some 450,000 Christians are believed to be among the 2 million people who have fled the civil war in Syria, an ancient land of historic churches, the country where St. Paul encountered Christ on the road to Damascus. Some 70 high-ranking Arab church leaders, together with their Western counterparts, and Muslim clerics gathered in Amman for a meeting on 3-4 September aimed at tackling “the challenges of Arab Christians.” The Christian and Muslims leaders aimed to find a way to end the sectarian strife threatening their people and countries. “We must confront extremist trends,” Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, told the gathering. He said it was the duty of religious leaders and their communities to work jointly “to get the new generation to accept ‘the other,’” in order to “isolate these trends”...
4 September 2013
In this image from 2008, many buildings in Maaloula, Syria wear washes of blue paint in honor of the Virgin Mary. (photo: Mitchell Prothero)
The news from Syria is increasingly grim. From the Associated Press today:
Al-Qaida-linked rebels launched an assault on a regime-held Christian mountain village in the densely populated west of Syria and new clashes erupted near the capital, Damascus, on Wednesday — part of a brutal battle of attrition each side believes it can win despite more than two years of deadlock.
In the attack on the village of Maaloula, rebels commandeered a mountaintop hotel and nearby caves and shelled the community below, said a nun, speaking by phone from a convent in the village. She spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
With the world focused on possible U.S. military action against Syria, there were new signs of fragmentation in rebel ranks, with a small group of jihadis from Russia announcing it has broken away from an umbrella group known as Jabhat al-Nusra.
The Syria conflict, which began with a popular uprising in March 2011, has been stalemated, and it's not clear if U.S. military strikes over the regime's alleged chemical weapons use would change that. President Barack Obama has said he seeks limited pinpoint action to deter future chemical attacks, not regime change.
Tragically, it’s not the Maaloula we remember. In 2008 we profiled the village, a place rich in religious history that we described as notable for “martyrdom and miracles”:
The sleepy Syrian town of Maaloula once seemed decades from the bustling city of Damascus, which lies some 30 miles away. Since the first century, when Christianity penetrated the barren mountains that shield Maaloula, its residents have commemorated the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and his martyred followers. Generations observed fasts and feasts, clung to traditions, passed on superstitions and developed new customs. And as the world around them changed — Muslim Arabs conquered Christian Syria in 634, making Damascus their capital in 661 — Maaloula’s sons and daughters remained steadfast in their Christian faith, maintaining even their distinctive language, Aramaic, which they shared with Jesus.
But Maaloula slumbers no more. Its churches and shrines, less than 45 minutes by car from the Syrian capital, host tens of thousands of tourists and pilgrims each year, swelling the small town of 2,000 residents.
Maaloula is synonymous with martyrdom and miracles. Scaling the cliffs that tightly contain it, Maaloula’s sacred and secular architectural wonders rise several stories, usually wearing a wash of blue distemper. Were it not for the vineyards and olive and apricot orchards that carpet the surrounding valley, a casual visitor might ponder how the townspeople have survived the mountains’ sun-dried, barren landscape for millennia.
Maaloula’s most distinctive feature, however, is the language its residents speak, the same dialect of Aramaic spoken by Jesus of Nazareth. Predating Arabic — the most widely used language in the region for more than a millennium — Aramaic originated more than 900 years before Christ and, in its many forms, was the Middle East’s lingua franca from around B.C. 1200 to A.D. 700.
4 September 2013
Jewish worshippers pray at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, in Jerusalem’s Old City, ahead of the Jewish new year, which begins tonight. (photo: CNS/Baz Ratner, Reuters)
4 September 2013
Syrian refugees carry their belongings as they enter the Turkish Cilvegozu border gate on 4 September. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said there had been a near tenfold increase over the past 12 months in the number of refugees crossing Syria’s borders into Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon — to a daily average of nearly 5,000 people.
(photo: CNS/Umit Bektas, Reuters)
Pope Francis renews his appeal for peace (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis renewed his appeal for peace in Syria and throughout the world on Wednesday, once again inviting Christians of every denomination, believers of every religious tradition and all people of good will to take part in the worldwide fast and vigil of prayer and penance for peace, which he has called for 7 September, the vigil of the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, whom we venerate as Queen of Peace. Many local Churches have already organized their own initiatives to mark the day...
Syrians face psychological trauma (Vatican Radio) Syrians caught up in the civil war face lasting psychological trauma, as well as violence and deprivation. Caritas Internationalis talked about the situation in Syria, and about the situation of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, in its annual report published last July. It also issued a statement last Friday calling for dialogue as the only possible solution to the Syrian crisis, and warning against military intervention...
Islam’s Grand Mufti of Syria welcomes pope’s call for prayer (Fides) In St. Peter’s Square or in the great Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, the Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badreddin Hassou, spiritual leader of Sunni Islam, welcomes the Pope’s appeal and will be there praying and fasting for peace in his country. The Mufti sent, through the Apostolic Nunciature in Damascus, an official letter to Pope Francis and is preparing to participate in the special pro-Syria day on 7 September, proposing to the Holy See to organize an interfaith meeting...
Rosh Hashana begins (Los Angeles Daily News) Sundown Wednesday signals the start of Rosh Hashana, the two-day holiday marking the Jewish New Year. Services ushering in the year 5774 on the Hebrew calendar will feature the blowing of the shofar, a ram’s horn. Rosh Hashana is a festive time when Jews gather with family members to reflect on the past year and the new one that is beginning. Celebrants also eat festive meals featuring apples dipped in honey, symbolic of the wishes for a sweet year. Rosh Hashana begins a 10-day period of penitence and contemplation leading to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Judaism’s most solemn and somber day. Jewish tradition holds that God records the fate of humankind in the Book of Life during the High Holy Days...
3 September 2013
Roman’s Girls, a Catholic initiative in Addis Ababa, assists about 20 girls with school. Read more about it in An Uphill Battle from the May 2009 issue of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
3 September 2013
In the video above from Sunday, Pope Francis asks during the Angelus for the international community to use all efforts to achieve peace in Syria. (video: Rome Reports)
Pope Francis calls for a day of fasting, prayer for Syria (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has called for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, in the entire Mideast region, and throughout the whole world to be held this coming Saturday, 7 September, 2013. Speaking ahead of the traditional Angelus prayer with pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square this Sunday, Pope Francis said, “On [Saturday] the 7th of September, here [in St Peter’s Square], from 7 PM until midnight, we will gather together in prayer, in a spirit of penitence, to ask from God this great gift [of peace] for the beloved Syrian nation and for all the situations of conflict and violence in the world.” The Holy Father also invited non-Catholic Christians and non-Christian believers to participate in ways they feel are appropriate...
Israel and U.S. carry out joint missile test (BBC) Israel has carried out a joint missile test with the U.S. in the Mediterranean, amid heightened tension over possible Western military strikes on Syria. The test came as the U.S. Congress prepared for its first public hearing on a possible military response to alleged chemical weapons use by Syria. Earlier, the UN confirmed that more than two million Syrians were now refugees from the 30-month conflict. More Syrians were now displaced than any other nationality, it said...
Pope names veteran diplomat as new Secretary of State (CNS) Although Pope Francis has not hesitated to break with convention during his brief pontificate, in appointing a seasoned member of the diplomatic corps as the top Vatican official, he resumed a long-standing tradition. The pope appointed Archbishop Pietro Parolin, 58, a longtime official in the Vatican secretariat of state and nuncio to Venezuela since 2009, to be his secretary of state. On 15 October, Archbishop Parolin will succeed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, 78, who came to the post in 2006 after serving as archbishop of Genoa, Italy. The secretary of state is the pope’s highest-ranking collaborator, coordinating the work of the entire Roman Curia, overseeing the operation of the Vatican press office and newspaper, coordinating the preparation and publication of papal documents, and supervising the work of Vatican nuncios, in their relations with Catholic communities in individual countries and with national governments...
Orthodox synod calls for prayers for Egypt (OCA.org) On 30 August 2013, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon and the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, issued a statement calling for prayers for all who are suffering in the crisis currently gripping Egypt, and especially that nation’s minority Christian community...
Pope Francis meets with Jewish leaders, wishes them a happy new year (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday wished Jews around the world a sweet and peaceful year 5774, called for increased dialogue among the world’s religious communities and opposed fundamentalism in any faith. During his first private audience with an international Jewish leader since being elected Catholic pontiff in March, Francis asked World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder to convey his New Year message to Jewish communities world-wide and said he also needed a sweet year because of the important decisions lying ahead. Using the Hebrew words for ‘Happy New Year,’ Pope Francis wished a “Shana Tova” and asked the WJC to share that message with the Jewish people worldwide. Lauder presented the pope with a Kiddush cup and a honey cake.
Buddhists, Muslims, Christians attend ecumenical gathering in Ethiopia (Independent Catholic News) On Sunday 25 August, in Adigrat, in the northern region of Tigray, Ethiopia, 174 people — among them Buddhists, Muslims and Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians, gathered in the main hall of Bruh Tesfa Youth Development Centre, a youth centre run by the Missionaries of Africa, as they do once a year, to break “injera” in an ecumenical ambiance to celebrate the numerous successes of the centre together. At the gathering in Tigray, some of the attendees were members of staff, students who had successfully completed their end of year exams, nine university graduates that Bruh Tesfa has supported in their studies, and a couple of missionaries of Africa. But the vast majority were Christian Orthodox priests and deacons; and on the high table an Imam, a representative of the Orthodox bishop, the Orthodox dean of the Nihibi-Dibla area of Adigrat and the Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Adigrat sat next to each other...
30 August 2013
Flooded with Syrian Christian refugees, Al Qaa’s Greek Catholic church in Lebanon is often filled to capacity. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
As fear of a U.S. military attack mounts, more Syrians are seeking refuge outside the country. Earlier this year, we looked at Syrian refugees fleeing into Lebanon:
Although she has only moved a few miles down the road, Hayat Qarnous wakes up to a world vastly different from the one she knew just a few weeks ago. Back then, she was living in Rableh, a village on the Syrian side of the Syria-Lebanon border and once the center of a quiet farming community. But since the Syrian uprising started in March 2011, it has been anything but peaceful.
“War is like fire,” she says, sitting in her newfound refuge in Al Qaa, a Lebanese village just across the border from Rableh. “A fire eats everything before it. So does war. There is no peace anywhere.”
It is this lack of peace, and its consequences, that have pushed more than a million Syrians to flee their homeland since the beginning of the conflict.
About 320,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring Lebanon and registered with United Nations aid agencies there. But many observers believe equal numbers of Syrians have not registered with the authorities in Lebanon; among these are an estimated 10,000 Christians.
Read more about Crossing the Border in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE.
30 August 2013
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Middle East Christians Syrian Civil War
During our Holy Land pilgrimage a few weeks ago, we had the privilege of visiting Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa, or “Way of Sorrows.” While the route has varied over the centuries, tradition holds that this is essentially the path Jesus travelled on his journey to Calvary.
To walk in the last footsteps of Christ while we remembered his suffering and prayed the Stations of the Cross was both memorable and moving. You can follow along as we trace Christ’s path in the video above.
30 August 2013
Tags: Holy Land Christianity Holy Land Christians Prayers/Hymns/Saints Christian
Iraqis in Baghdad demonstrate on 30 August against the possibility of a U.S. military strike against the Syrian government. As speculation mounted about air strikes on Syria, Western church leaders warned military intervention could lead to an escalation of hostilities. (photo: CNS/Kareem Raheem, Reuters)
Syrian civilians in desperate need as threat of U.S. strike looms (Al Jazeera) Any escalation of the Syrian crisis in response to last week’s reported chemical weapons attack will aggravate civilian suffering, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday, as UNESCO warned that Syria’s rich cultural heritage is being destroyed and archaeological sites looted. Magne Barth, head of the I.C.R.C.’s delegation in Syria, said proposed Western military action would “likely trigger more displacement and add to humanitarian needs, which are already immense.” Some 2 million people have already fled Syria, including 1 million children. Human rights groups estimate that over 100,000 people have been killed since the war began. Areas plagued by heavy fighting — including the countryside around Damascus, eastern Aleppo and Deir Ezzor province — are also reeling from breakdowns of basic services such as water, electricity and garbage collection, the I.C.R.C. said…
Copts in West campaign against Muslim Brotherhood (AINA) Expatriate Copts in Western capitals launched campaigns to draw attention to the violence of the Muslim Brotherhood and to expose it as a terrorist organization, and to support the Egyptian army. “We are also angry with the bias of the western media, which still talks of the June 30 demonstrations as a coup … when over 33,000,000 citizens went out to the streets all over Egypt calling for the ousting of [Muhammad] Morsi,” said activist Mark Ebeid…
Perpetual adoration to beg for peace and stop terrorism (Fides) In the Monastery of St. James in Qarah, a city between Damascus and Homs, the resident community — an ecumenical community of 20 men and women religious of 8 nationalities and of different Christian denominations — dedicate their days to ceaseless prayer. The Rev. Daniel Maes, a Belgian Catholic priest and the community’s head, told Fides that today and in the coming days the priests and nuns would give life to a nightly Eucharistic adoration for the intention of peace…
‘We live in fear of more violence,’ says Indian Jesuit (AsiaNews) “When they march in front of our church during demonstrations organized by the Muslim Brotherhood, protesters are amazed that the building is still there,” the Rev. Bimal Kerketta told AsiaNews. Originally from India, the priest has been in Egypt for ten years working as the principal of the school run by the Jesuit Fathers in Minya. “Each day, they gather in front of the building to shout slogans of intimidation. I fear that tomorrow’s event will lead to fresh acts of violence…”
Bishop Hanna: We reject any aggression on Syria (SANA) Jerusalem’s citizens held a gathering at the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to express sympathy with Syria which is exposed to threats and pressures targeting its stance and national role. In a speech in front of the participants, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Atallah Hanna of Sebastia called on all honest people to reject the foreign intervention in Syria that is planned by western countries, particularly the United States…
29 August 2013
Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Monastery Indian Catholics Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Israelis stand in line outside a gas mask distribution center in the northern city of Haifa on 29 August. Thousands of Israelis lined up at gas-mask distribution centers and communities bordering Syria as top government officials held emergency meetings amid fears of a possible Syrian attack on Israel. (photo: CNS/ Baz Ratner, Reuters)
The heightening tensions over a possible U.S. military attack on Syria were part of the discussion today in a meeting between Pope Francis and the king of Jordan.
Additional details, from CNS:
Dialogue and negotiations are “the only option for putting an end to the conflict and violence” in Syria, said Pope Francis and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
As Western leaders expressed strong convictions that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack against its own citizens and vowed to take action, Pope Francis met at the Vatican 29 August with King Abdullah and Queen Rania.
Jordan borders Syria and hosts hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled the fighting that began in March 2011 in an attempt to oust President Bashar Assad.
The king and queen’s meeting with Pope Francis, who technically was still on vacation, was arranged hastily after tensions grew in the Middle East over the reported atrocities in Syria and the unrest in Egypt.
In a statement issued after the meeting, the Vatican said that the pope and king “reaffirmed that the path of dialogue and negotiation is the only option for putting an end to the conflict and violence that each day cause the loss of many human lives, especially among the unarmed population.”
Pope Francis, with an interpreter, spent 20 minutes speaking alone with King Abdullah and Queen Rania before meeting the seven members of the Jordanian delegation. The king and three aides then held a working meeting with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states.
When the king arrived, Pope Francis greeted him in English, saying, “Welcome, Your Majesty.”
While reporters were present before the private meeting began, King Abdullah told the pope, “I have tremendous respect for what you are doing and for what the Catholic Church does.”
The Vatican statement said that during the meetings with the pope and with officials of the Vatican Secretariat of State, the two sides also discussed the problem of stability throughout the Middle East, Israeli-Palestinian relations and the question of the status of Jerusalem, a city sacred to Christians, Muslims and Jews.
The Vatican, the statement said, also expressed appreciation for the king’s commitment to promoting interreligious dialogue and his decision to convoke a conference in September about the challenges facing Christians in the Middle East.
Although the statement indicated a broad range of topics were touched upon, the meeting drew international attention because of the situation in Syria.
Read more at the CNS link.