26 March 2013
As we mark the holiest week of the Christian calendar, we can’t help but think about our suffering brothers and sisters in the Middle East — those living in the land where Jesus walked, in the region that became home to the very first Christians.
The faithful are desperate for a sign of hope. I pray you will be that sign.
Please watch the video below to learn more. Then, visit this page to learn how you can help.
26 March 2013
Tags: Refugees CNEWA Middle East Violence against Christians War
Jesus falls the first time, the third Station of the Cross, is depicted in the prayer book for the Way of the Cross service on Good Friday at Rome’s Colosseum. The Via Crucis prayer book is illustrated with works discovered in Bethlehem and attributed to an unknown 19th-century Palestinian Franciscan artist. (image: CNS)
The Vatican has released the text of the Way of the Cross that Pope Francis will pray on Good Friday — and it has some strong connections to the people of the Middle East and to the world of CNEWA.
Meditating on Christ’s passion and the ways people contribute to his suffering, Lebanese youths lamented the ongoing emigration from and violence in the Middle East, divisions among Christians, the abuse of women and children, and the promotion of abortion.
But despite the hardships, horrors and despair, Christians are called to walk with Christ because “suffering, embraced in faith, is transformed into the path to salvation,” the youths said in meditations for the 29 March Way of the Cross service at Rome’s Colosseum.
Christians can find hope in bearing their burdens because Christ is with them. However, acceptance does not mean putting an end to one’s dreams, to speaking out and fighting for freedom and the truth, the reflections said.
“God does not want suffering and does not accept evil,” the text said. In fact, people can carry the cross with joy and hope because Christians know Christ “triumphed over death for us.”
A group of Lebanese young people wrote the meditations at the request of retired Pope Benedict XVI; the Vatican released the published text with commentary and prayers on the 14 Stations of the Cross on 25 March.
Each year, the pope chooses a different person or group of people to write the series of prayers and reflections that are read aloud during the solemn, torch-lit ceremony.
The retired pope asked Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai to choose the youths and guide their preparation of the texts. The retired pope’s request was meant to recall his 2012 visit to Lebanon and invite the whole church to pray for the Middle East — its tensions and its beleaguered Christian community.
The task of composing the 14 meditations was divided equally among committees from the six rites of the Catholic Church represented in Lebanon: Latin, Maronite, Melkite, Armenian, Syriac and Chaldean. In addition, six Catholic youth groups, a special-needs group and a nongovernmental organization were randomly chosen and assigned a station to focus on.
Participants said they tried to show the biggest challenges facing young people in the Middle East and elsewhere while also showing the Christian vision of hope and resurrection.
Read more here. And you can find the full text at the Vatican website.
26 March 2013
Tags: Lebanon Emigration Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Prayers/Hymns/Saints Easter
In the Christian village of Yacoubiyah, many say their families have fled to safer places, both inside and outside the country. Those who have chosen to stay are confronting new fears close to home, with some abandoned villas now used as bases for opposition brigades. Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr reports from Yacoubiyah, in Idlib province. (video: Al Jazeera)
Pope Francis’ sends Passover message online (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram to Rome’s Jewish community to mark the feast of Passover, which this year begins at sundown, Monday, 25 March. Linked is Vatican Radio’s translation of the full text of the message, addressed to the chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo di Segni, with whom the Holy Father met on 20 March during the course of his audience with delegations from other Christian confessions and non-Christian religions…
Pope to live in Vatican guest house (CNS) Pope Francis has decided not to move into the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace, but to live in a suite in the Vatican guesthouse where he has been since the beginning of the conclave that elected him, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman. “He is experimenting with this type of living arrangement, which is simple,” but allows him “to live in community with others” — both the permanent residents and guests…
Pope’s Holy Thursday mass to be simple and intimate (VIS) The Mass of the Lord’s Supper that Pope Francis will celebrate on Holy Thursday in the chapel of the Casal del Marmo Penitential Institute for Minors will be, by his express desire, very simple. Around 10 girls and 40 boys will take part in the Mass. The pope will wash the feet of 12 of them, who will be chosen from different nationalities and diverse religious confessions. The youth will also say the readings and the prayers of the faithful. Given the intimate nature of the pastoral visit, journalists will be restricted to the area outside the building and no live coverage will be transmitted…
Ecumenical patriarch expresses possibility of church unity (ANSA) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who attended last week the mass inaugurating the pontificate of Pope Francis, believes the reunification of the Orthodox and Latin churches, separated by schism for about 1000 years, is possible. Speaking at a meeting at the university of Kadir Has in Istanbul, Hurriyet reports, Patriarch Bartholomew I said he believed “there is a possibility for the next generations to see the churches of the East and West reunited,” adding that “this will probably not happen during my life”…
Jerusalem Christian leaders extend Easter invitation (VIS) In their Easter message, the leaders of the Christian churches of Jerusalem invite the faithful around the world to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, extending an ecumenical appeal to visit those churches and to “walk with the living stones of this land, following in the footsteps of the Risen Christ.” The text continues: “The Christian presence here, in the mother city of our faith, remains a beacon of the light of the Risen Christ that the first disciples were witness to in front of the empty tomb”…
More than half a million Syrian refugees in Jordan (Fides) The Syrian refugees who have found refuge in Jordan have already crossed the threshold of 500 thousand, according to Wael Suleiman, director of Caritas Jordan. “Every day,” explains Suleiman “between one thousand and two thousand refugees enter Jordan. 1700 arrived yesterday. The latest report released on this humanitarian crisis estimates that the refugees will be a million and a half by December. At that point the situation will become unbearable for Jordan”…
25 March 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Syrian Civil War Ecumenism Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
CNEWA works for, through and with the churches of the East to serve those in need — such as this young Iraqi refugee, pictured last year in Amman, Jordan. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Last week, Catholic News Agency profiled some of the urgent work CNEWA is doing right now, particularly in the Middle East:
Catholic Near East Welfare Association is working with local Churches in and around Syria to help refugees and those who have been displaced by the country’s civil war, now beginning its third year.
“Our concern is not just for the Christian community, but for all people who are caught in the middle; the vast majority of people in Syria, as in any part of the world, just want peace,” Michael La Civita, the association’s communications director, told CNA on 18 March.
“They want to get back to normal, to rear their families and cope as best they can, and of course this makes it quite difficult for them, because the violence is just getting worse and worse.”
The Syrian conflict marked its second anniversary last week. On 15 March 2011, demonstrations sprang up nationwide, protesting the rule of Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president and leader the country’s Ba’ath Party.
In April of that year, the Syrian army began to deploy to put down the uprisings, firing on protesters. Since then, the violence has morphed into a civil war.
United Nation’s estimates show that 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict. More than 1 million refugees have flooded into Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and inside Syria another estimated 2.5 million are internally displaced.
Catholic Near East Welfare Association works through local Churches to help the poor and partners with the Jesuits, Armenian Catholics, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and Melkite Greek Catholics.
“They come to us with needs, let us know what they need, and we provide them with the resources, whether its food, gear for children or schools,” La Civita said.
The group helps internally displaced people in Syria, those who have been forced out of their homes. These families are mostly from Homs and Aleppo, in the north and west of the country.
“They lived in the older quarters, and now they’re either in the suburbs or they’ve fled to a place called the valley of Christians, which is still in the hands of the government and is reasonably secure,” he explained.
Read the rest. Want to know what you can do? Take a moment to visit our page devoted to helping Middle East Christians, and make your voice heard!
25 March 2013
Tags: Refugees CNEWA Middle East Eastern Churches
Matzo and drops of wine are seen on a plate at a Seder table. The Jewish ritual feast is celebrated during Passover, the commemoration of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. (photo: CNS/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)
To mark the beginning of the feast of Passover tonight, Pope Francis has sent a message to Rome’s Jewish community:
”May the Almighty, who freed his people from slavery in Egypt to guide them to the Promised Land, continue to free you from every evil and accompany you with his blessing,” the pope said in the message delivered on 25 March.
Passover, the eight-day commemoration of God freeing the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, was set to begin that evening.
Thanking Rabbi Riccardo di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome, for attending his inaugural Mass on 19 March and his meeting with religious leaders the next day, Pope Francis said, “I am particularly pleased to extend to you and the entire Rome community my most fervent wishes for the great Passover feast.
“I ask you to pray for me, while I assure you of my prayers for you, trusting that we can deepen the bonds of esteem and mutual respect,” the pope said.
On the website of Rome’s Jewish community, Rabbi di Segni said he appreciated the message and planned to respond with a message wishing the pope and Rome’s Christians a happy Easter.
25 March 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Catholic-Jewish relations Christian-Jewish relations Jewish Catholic-Jewish Dialogue
Pope Francis exchanges a gift with retired Pope Benedict XVI after arriving at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, on 23 March. Pope Francis traveled by helicopter from the Vatican to Castel Gandolfo for the private meeting with the pope emeritus. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Pope Francis gives icon from Patriarch Kirill to pope emeritus (Interfax) Pope Francis has decided to give the Marian icon he received from Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill to Pope Benedict XVI. “The icon is called Our Lady of Humility and I will take the liberty to say just one thing: I thought of you, being so humble as a pope,” the press office of the Moscow Patriarchate quoted Pope Francis as saying. “Thank you, what a gift!” the pope emeritus said. The newly elected Pope Francis and his predecessor have just met in the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo…
Catholics, Orthodox celebrate Easter according to the Julian calendar (Fides) Most of the Catholic communities in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Cyprus are preparing to celebrate the liturgies of Holy Week not these days but in the first week of May, according to the Julian Calendar followed by the Orthodox communities. The unification of the Easter dates in most of the area is an application of the directive issued on 15 October 2012 by the Assembly of Catholic Ordinary of the Holy Land. This comes into force ad experimentum this year in the whole of Holy Land, with the exception of the areas of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where the Gregorian calendar will continue to be followed both to respect the constraints imposed by the system of the “status quo,” which regulates the coexistence of the different Christian churches in Holy Places, and to take account of the arrival of pilgrims from all over the world during the Easter season. By 2015, the provision for a common Easter date should be confirmed or recalibrated in accordance with the directions also given by the Holy See…
Cyprus Orthodox patriarch favors leaving eurozone (PressTV) The head of the Cyprus Orthodox Church says he prefers the debt-stricken nation to leave the euro as Nicosia is striving to avoid bankruptcy. “The euro cannot last,” said Archbishop Chrysostomos II in an interview with the Greek daily Realnews, published on Saturday. “I’m not saying that it will crumble tomorrow, but with the brains that they have in Brussels, it is certain that it will not last in the long term, and the best is to think about how to escape it,” he said…
New casualty in wave of Bulgarian self-immolations (Der Spiegel) A 40-year-old Bulgarian set himself on fire to protest poverty and corruption in his country on Friday, becoming the sixth self-immolation in the E.U. country in less than a month. The church is concerned about this trend. Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Neofit urged Bulgarians “under no circumstances” to take their own lives. “The Bulgarians must not fall victim to hopelessness,” he said…
In India, 1500 children die daily from preventable illness (Fides) Some 25 percent of children up to age 5 in India die from causes related to diarrhea. For millions of people in the Asian country, the lack of water is a constant challenge. Two-thirds of India’s population does not have adequate sanitation facilities. In the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh there is a shortage of latrines, and more than 665 million Indian inhabitants use open sewers or fields. According to the organizations Partners India and WASH, about 1500 children die every day in the country due to preventable diseases such as cholera and typhoid…
22 March 2013
Tags: India Pope Francis Holy Land Bulgarian Orthodox Church Cyprus
Pope Francis shakes hands as he greets diplomats during an audience with the Vatican diplomatic corps in the Apostolic Palace’s Sala Regia on 22 March. (photo: CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters)
Pope Francis this morning met with nearly 200 members of the diplomatic corps, and spoke powerfully and poignantly about the church’s mission in the world:
As you know, there are various reasons why I chose the name of Francis of Assisi, a familiar figure far beyond the borders of Italy and Europe, even among those who do not profess the Catholic faith. One of the first reasons was Francis’ love for the poor. How many poor people there still are in the world! And what great suffering they have to endure! After the example of Francis of Assisi, the church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just. But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the “tyranny of relativism,” which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.
One of the titles of the Bishop of Rome is “pontiff” — that is, a builder of bridges with God and between people. My wish is that the dialogue between us should help to build bridges connecting all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced! My own origins impel me to work for the building of bridges. As you know, my family is of Italian origin; and so this dialogue between places and cultures a great distance apart matters greatly to me, this dialogue between one end of the world and the other, which today are growing ever closer, more interdependent, more in need of opportunities to meet and to create real spaces of authentic fraternity. In this work, the role of religion is fundamental. It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. At the Mass marking the beginning of my ministry, I greatly appreciated the presence of so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world. And it is also important to intensify outreach to non-believers, so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail, but rather the desire to build true links of friendship between all peoples, despite their diversity.
Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges: these, as it were, are the reference points for a journey that I want to invite each of the countries here represented to take up.
The entire text can be read at the Vatican news site.
22 March 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Unity Ecumenism Christian Unity Dialogue
A pregnant woman gets a checkup at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. The clinic is run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena and receives funding from CNEWA. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Megan Knighton is a charitable giving advisor for CNEWA.
Spring is a time for new life and new hope — and CNEWA is helping to bring both to women and children in need.
No baby should ever die because her mother cannot afford a safe birth. No mother should ever have to suffer that pain. One of the most pressing needs in the places we serve is medical care — especially for pregnant women and for newborns during the first hopeful-yet-vulnerable months of their precious young lives.
That is why our CNEWA family supports mother-and-child health clinics such as the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan, and the Little Sisters of Nazareth Baby Care Center, which serves Christian Palestinian refugees in Dbayeh, Lebanon.
Thanks to prayers and generous donations, in 2012 the doctors and nurses at these two clinics were able to serve mothers and young children to the fullest. Here are just five of their successes:
Delivered over 1,000 healthy newborns
Provided 15,000 newborns and young children with free physicals and vaccinations
Gave free gynecological exams for any pregnant woman seeking care from our clinics
Screened every pregnant mother for vitamin and nutrient deficiencies and gave necessary supplements and dietary information
Purchased two new sonar machines that doubled the number of ultrasounds performed in a year
If you believe every baby deserves a safe birth, please make a generous donation today to CNEWA. You will help us to help others — and continue to bring forth a new springtime of life and hope for so many. God bless you and your family!
22 March 2013
Tags: CNEWA Children Health Care Donors Women
Ethiopian children gather on a rural hillside. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Several years ago, we took readers to Ethiopia for a closer look at the diverse traditions of its peoples:
The peoples of Ethiopia have long experienced constant interaction through trade, warfare, religious activities, migration and intermarriage.
Although Christians and Muslims have often found themselves as antagonists in territorial disputes, the two faith communities share in many of the same observances.
Large numbers of Christians and Muslims attend an annual sacrifice at Lake Bishoftu, a fertility rite of pagan Oromo origins. Members of both faiths also participate in an annual pilgrimage to the Harege region to honor the archangel Gabriel.
Non-Christians also join Ethiopian Christians in their celebration of the Finding of the True Cross, a two-day festival known as Meskel, as well as the Christian celebration of Temqat, or the feast of the Epiphany.
No matter their religious or ethnic identities, Ethiopians also share a number of cultural traits. Belief in active spirits such as the evil eye, a ban on the consumption of pork, a ritual calendar, pilgrimages and monotheism are just some of the many beliefs and practices common to the great majority of the Amhara, Tigrinyans, Falasha, Kman, Oromo, Somali and Haddiya of every faith community.
Despite these similarities and the modernization and consolidation efforts of Ethiopian governments starting in the late 19th century, Ethiopia is not a single national society.
Sadly, poverty is probably the only characteristic common to most every Ethiopian. The country is overwhelmingly poor, with most of the population engaged in subsistence farming. Degraded lands, poor cultivation and frequent droughts have left the country periodically unable to feed its people.
Read more about the Ethiopian people in the July 2004 issue of ONE.
22 March 2013
Tags: Ethiopia Cultural Identity Christian-Muslim relations Farming/Agriculture Ethiopian Christianity
Parishioners pray in the St. Elijah Church in Ain Kawa, Iraq, a mostly Christian neighborhood outside Erbil, Kurdistan’s capital and largest city. In the November 2011 issue of ONE, we reported that much of Iraq’s Christian population had found a haven in the Kurdish-controlled north. In the time since, poor economic conditions have caused many to relocate once again. (photo: Safin Hamed/Metrography)
Pope Francis accepts Chaldean patriarch’s invitation to Iraq (AsiaNews) As St. Francis traveled to the East where he met Sultan Malik al Kamil, so we hope Pope Francis “may come to Iraq to confirm us our faith and give our small community in the land of Abraham courage and hope,” said His Beatitude Mar Louis Raphael I during an audience with the pontiff this morning in the Vatican. “Yes,” answered the pope, “with joy.” The patriarch himself told AsiaNews about his meeting with the Holy Father before leaving this afternoon for Baghdad. The head of the Chaldean Church was in Rome for the pope’s inaugural Mass in St. Peter’s Square last Tuesday. The prelate said that he was “struck by the pope’s simplicity and spontaneity.” He was very moved when the two talked about the tragic fate of Iraqi Christians…
Pope emphasizes the importance of ‘table time’ (CNS) Pastors and theologians involved in ecumenical dialogue emphasize the importance of “table time” — sharing meals — along with serious theological discussions, shared prayer and joint action. Pope Francis spoke about his ecumenical vision on 20 March and prayed with delegates from Orthodox and other Christian communities at his inaugural Mass on 19 March. Since 17 March, he’s also had breakfast, lunch and dinner with the Orthodox representatives who came to Rome for his inauguration. Pope Francis is still living at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guesthouse where the Orthodox delegates also were staying. They all eat together and greet each other in the common dining room…
Moscow patriarchate optimistic about relations with pope (Interfax) The Moscow Patriarchate attaches great importance to promoting relations with the Catholic Church in many areas, including social service, support for the poor and the deprived and protection of people suffering from persecution, said Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for External Church Relations. Pope Francis met with metropolitan archbishop at the Vatican on Wednesday…
In pope, other religions see a friend (Washington Post) “In the maximum leader of the Christian world,” said Guillermo Borger, president of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association, “we have an ally.” The secretary general of the Islamic Center of the Argentine Republic, Sumer Noufouri, said he regularly attended an annual Mass convened by the then-archbishop to celebrate Argentina’s Independence Day, alongside the country’s Jewish leaders. “He is a person who listens and who knows Islam,” said Noufouri, who described the new papacy as “an opportunity for a fresh start in relations between Islam and the Catholic Church.” The interfaith relationships built by Pope Francis in Argentina underscore his approach to religious diversity — one that has given him a reputation for tolerance and peaceful cohabitation with non-Catholics…
Indian religious excited about ‘charism of religious life’ in pope (Fides) “History has repeatedly demonstrated that the charism of religious life can bring about change and growth of the church in terms of holiness and effectiveness of its mission. With Pope Francis the Holy Spirit indicates this direction,” said a statement by the Conference of Religious of India, which brings together more than 130,000 monks and nuns of several orders. The conference expressed “communion of heart and mind” with Pope Francis…
India’s economic miracle bypasses poor (Der Spiegel) Unlike in China, India’s economic miracle has failed to benefit the poor. Instead, the rich are getting richer in this notoriously divided land, and government support fails to reach those in need. An analysis by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development finds that the blatant gap between poor and rich is growing in India almost faster than anywhere else on the globe…
Tags: India Pope Francis Iraqi Christians Ecumenism Chaldean Church