11 October 2013
In this 2010 photo, Syrian Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo of Hassaké-Nisibis arrives for a session of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Syrian archbishop decries ‘Kurdish state’ in northern Syria (Fides) Recently, the Kurdish Democratic Party has declared ’’the intention of creating a Kurdish autonomous region in the Syrian province of Jazira.” Syrian Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo of Hassaké-Nisibis commented on the committee meetings, which brought together the heads of different ethnic and religious communities, saying: “We have already rejected the proposal to create … a popular assembly proclaiming the autonomy of the region. Not even the majority of the Kurds want to create an autonomous political entity where the leadership is exercised by the dominant ethnic or religious group. At most one can propose a confederation of local communities that will set new relations with the central government in Damascus…”
Deal could see release of two bishops in Syria (Daily Star Lebanon) A deal running in parallel with efforts to free the nine kidnapped Lebanese in Syria could see the release of two Greek Orthodox bishops who were kidnapped in Lebanon’s neighbor earlier this year, the head of the Syriac League told The Daily Star Friday. “There are positive signs over an imminent release of the two bishops,” said Habib Afram. Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Youhanna Ibrahim were kidnapped on 22 April while en route to Aleppo from the Turkish border. They are reportedly being held by a small group of rebels in the Syrian town of Bshaqtin, about 12 miles northwest of Aleppo…
At border, Israelis watch Syria’s civil war through a fortified fence (Los Angeles Times) From the bunkers and watchtowers along this tense, fortified frontier, Israelis say they can do little more than view from afar the civil warfare raging across the border in Syria. And in a reminder of the helplessness and paralysis felt by the international community over what to do, Israel’s most visible strategy seems almost futile: It’s building a fence. With 20 feet of steel rebar, the structure is much taller and more imposing than the flimsy barbed wire coils and rusting posts that once separated Syria from Israeli-occupied Golan Heights…
In Karnataka, no end to violence against Christians (AsiaNews) Hindu ultra-nationalists continue their “brutal and relentless” violence against Christians and churches in the Indian state of Karnataka, according to Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, who in a letter called on the state’s Chief Minister Siddaramiah to intervene. The seriousness of the situation is such that the central government acknowledged the situation, defining Karnataka as one of the six states in which extremist forces are targeting minorities for their own political end…
Pope Francis: Let anti-Semitism be banished from every heart (Vatican Radio) On Friday, Pope Francis met with members of Rome’s Jewish community to mark the 70th anniversary of the deportation of the city’s Jewish population during the Nazi occupation. Among those present were Dr. Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome; Dr. Riccardo Pacifici, president of the Jewish Community of Rome; and Dr. Renzo Gattegna, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities. “I’ve said it other times and I would like to repeat it now: It’s a contradiction that a Christian is anti-Semitic: His roots are Jewish,” said the Pope. “A Christian cannot be anti-Semitic! Let anti-Semitism be banished from the heart and life of every man and every woman…”
Bishop Shahé Panossian elected primate of Lebanon (Catholicosate of Cilicia) On Monday, 7 October 2013, the Armenian Apostolic Diocesan Council of Lebanon met at St. Nishan Church in Beirut to elect a new primate of Lebanon from a short list of three names, ultimately selecting Bishop Shahé Panossian. The bishop was ordained deacon in 1976 and priest in 1980. From 1982-2006 he served, variously, as pastor of the Prelacy of Thessaloniki, Greece, and in the prelacies of Florida, Chicago and New Jersey in the United States of America. The former primate, Archbishop Gegham Khacheryan, resigned on 2 October…
10 October 2013
Tags: India Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Armenian Apostolic Church Syrian Catholic
In this 2005 photo, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, talks with Rabbi David Rosen, president of the International Jewish Committee for Interfaith Consultations, during a conference in Rome on 25 September on “Nostra Aetate,” the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on interreligious dialogue. (photo: CNS/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)
A leading figure on interfaith dialogue and ecumenism spoke out recently on the challenges facing Christians in some parts of the world today:
Pope John XXIII’s encyclical “Pacem in Terris” contains key principles of religious freedom that continue to have relevance for interreligious relations today. That’s the view of Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, former nuncio to Egypt and former president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Now based in Jerusalem, he was in Rome attending a recent conference marking the 50th anniversary of Pope John’s encyclical letter. …
In an interview, Archbishop Fitzgerald said: “There are principles of religious freedom, to practice one’s religion, not only in private but also in public, and freedom of conviction so that one can change one’s religion and this presents problems in the Islamic world in many countries. … There’s one country which doesn’t allow any churches or any public worship at all and that’s against fundamental human rights. I think the way forward is to found our dialogue on human rights and I think we can work together on that. …
“There have been some very encouraging signs,” Archbishop Fitzgerald said, including “an initiative taken by Al Azhar to bring priests and imams together.” He added: “If they can have an open attitude towards ministers of other religions, this will translate into common action and support — and there have been signs of support by Muslims for Christians who’ve been attacked.”
You can read more and hear the entire interview at the link.
You can find more of Archbishop Fitzgerald’s thoughts on interfaith dialogue in an essay he wrote for ONE in 2008, Islam’s Many Faces. He also sat down for an interview with us last year, marking the 50th anniversary of Vatican II and discussing the Middle East today.
10 October 2013
Tags: Unity Interreligious Dialogue religious freedom Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald
People enter the St. Simon Monastery 9 October to attend an event to commemorate the second anniversary of the clashes in Cairo’s Maspero Square, where 30 Christians were killed and more than 320 injured by security forces during a protest against discrimination. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)
Two years after the massacre at Maspero, Copts still waiting for justice (Fides) On the second anniversary of the massacre of Maspero, which on 9 October 2011 saw dozens of Copts massacred by the departments of the Egyptian army, the Coptic community organized a vigil in Cairo with candles. The participants in the vigil yesterday showed photos of the victims and denounced again the perpetrators, pointing the finger at former General Marshal Hussein Tantawi and senior representatives of the army then. After the vigil, protesters tried to reach Tahrir Square in procession, but their attempt was prevented by army units that dispersed the demonstration by resorting to tear gas…
In Egypt, a campaign to promote an ‘Egyptian Islam’ (Washington Post) On a recent Friday, Egyptian officials dispatched an Islamic preacher named Mustafa Nawareg to a mosque full of angry people — distraught relatives and friends of demonstrators killed by security forces. It was a crowd used to hearing fiery sermons that called the dead “martyrs” and exhorted followers to take to the streets. But now the crowd would hear from Nawareg, who was sent there by the government to “correct the fallacies of extremist thought.” It took about five minutes for the shoes to start flying. “Come down from your stage, you infidel!” yelled a man as the crowd surged toward Nawareg. He felt hands clasp his neck before he managed to escape. Nawareg’s sermon was part of a campaign by Egypt’s military-backed government to “standardize religious discourse” and promote what authorities describe as the true “Egyptian Islam.” But critics say the effort could add fuel to a violent backlash that has included a suicide bombing in the heart of Cairo and regular attacks on security forces in the Sinai Peninsula…
Orthodox Coptic bishop addresses bishops at plenary (B.C. Catholic) Coptic Orthodox Archbishop Mina of the Eparchy of Mississauga, Vancouver, shared the plight of Copts and other Christians in Egypt with Canada’s Catholic Bishops on 23 September. “Living in Canada and experiencing freedom of religion is something people take for granted,” Mina told the more than 80 bishops gathered at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (C.C.C.B.) annual plenary here. “It is my pleasure to clarify for your graces reality of events taking place in Egypt at this time…”
Christian graves in Jerusalem still being vandalized (Washington Post) Christian leaders in Israel are up in arms over what they say is a string of relentless attacks on church properties and religious sites — most recently the desecration of a historic Protestant cemetery where vandals toppled stone crosses from graves and bludgeoned them to pieces. The attack in the Protestant Cemetery of Mount Zion, one of Jerusalem’s most important historic graveyards, has struck a particularly sensitive nerve because some of the damaged graves belong to famous figures from the 19th and 20th centuries, a key period in Jerusalem’s history. Among them are a German diplomat, the founder of an orphanage who was a significant contributor to modernizing the city, and a relative of the owners of a prominent hotel…
Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate hosts theological conference (Basilica News Agency) On 3 October 2013, Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Daniel opened the International Theological Congress, an assembly joining representatives of state institutions, of hierarchs, and other participants from around the world. The conference will focus on the work of the late Rev. Dumitru Staniloae, a Romanian Orthodox priest, theologian and professor. “The role of the theologian is to emphasize spiritual virtues. I only want to underline the fact that Father Staniloae related the rationalist Occident to the contemplative Occident. Today, Father Staniloae is not only the famous Romanian theologian — he is a European who offers our country full European vocation and individualizes us as a nation,” said Victor Opaschi, Romania’s minister of religious affairs…
9 October 2013
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Jerusalem Coptic Orthodox Church Romanian Orthodox Church
In this image from 2010, sisters and patients gather for evening prayer at Grace Home, a home for HIV-infected children and patients in Trichur, India. Read more about the remarkable work at the home in Full of Grace. And to learn how you can help, visit our India giving page. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
9 October 2013
Tags: India Children Sisters Health Care HIV/AIDS
Pope Francis greets New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and chair of CNEWA’s board, at the Vatican on 7 October. Leaders of the U.S.C.C.B. were at the Vatican for an annual meeting. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)
Cardinal Dolan reflects on meeting with Pope Francis (Vatican Radio) Of their half hour meeting with the pope, Cardinal Dolan said: “We conveyed to him the love and the admiration and the esteem and gratitude of the Catholic people of the United States, and indeed of the people of the United States and especially the bishops. We had spoken about a beautiful new sense of a freshness and creativity within the church that’s thanks to his providential leadership.” Cardinal Timothy Dolan says last week’s shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa, in which hundreds of African migrants died, continues to bring tears to the pope’s eyes…
Pope Francis urges prayer for peace in embattled regions (VIS) In his greetings in various languages following today’s catechesis, the pope addressed with special affection the bishops from Ethiopia and Eritrea, reiterating his closeness to them “in prayer and in suffering for the many sons of their land who lost their lives in the tragedy of Lampedusa.” Pope Francis also recalled, during his greetings to Arabic-speaking faithful Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,” delivered a year ago in Lebanon. “I ask you to pray for peace in the Middle East: in Syria, in Iraq, in Egypt, in Lebanon and in the Holy Land, where the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, was born. Pray that the light of Christ reaches all hearts and all places, unto the ends of the earth…”
How the E.U. turns its back on refugees (Der Spiegel) They come seeking refuge, but when asylum seekers cross into the European Union, they often find little compassion. In Greece, they are held in squalid detention camps, while in Italy they often end up on the street. The correspondents of Spiegel Online report on the situation at entry points in various European countries…
Syria fighting continues amid disarmament program (Al Jazeera) Syrian government warplanes bombed rebel positions near a strategic northern town Tuesday, as international inspectors continued to tour production and storage facilities of the country’s chemical-weapons arsenal, activists said. The warfare is a reminder that the agreement to destroy the Assad regime’s unconventional weapons doesn’t address an ongoing civil war that has seen more than 100,000 killed with conventional arms…
World Bank: Israeli restrictions cost Palestinian economy billions (Los Angeles Times) Israeli restrictions in the West Bank cost the struggling Palestinian economy more than $3.4 billion a year, according to a report released by the World Bank on Tuesday. More than half of West Bank lands are largely off-limits to Palestinians, the report said. Increasing access to these lands could boost gross domestic production by as much as 35 percent, generate $800 million in additional annual revenue for the Palestinian Authority, cut its deficit in half and reduce reliance on foreign aid, it said…
Ousted Egyptian president to stand trial next month (Los Angeles Times) Muhammad Morsi, the deposed Egyptian president, will be put on trial next month, the state news agency reported Wednesday. Mr. Morsi, who has been detained since the military forced him from office on 3 July, will face charges of inciting the killing of opponents, an accusation that his supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood have called trumped-up…
8 October 2013
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Refugees Israeli-Palestinian conflict Immigration
Sister Piera Carpenedo of the Sisters of St. Dorothy tells a story to her hearing-impaired students at the Ephpheta Institute in Bethlehem, just one institution CNEWA is proud to support through the generosity of our donors. (photo: Steve Sabella)
Bob Pape is director of major gifts for CNEWA.
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8 October 2013
For Syrian refugees in Jordan, a new sense of home (New York Times) (slideshow)
Egyptian attacks escalating amid stalemate (New York Times) The lethal conflict between Egypt’s military-backed government and its Islamist opponents escalated on Monday, with an expansion of attacks against government targets, signs that the authorities have failed to secure the streets and that both sides refuse to back down. Three brazen attacks across the country included a drive-by shooting near the Suez Canal that killed six soldiers, a car bomb that killed three police officers and wounded dozens near the Red Sea resorts area, and the first rocket-propelled grenade launched in the struggle, exploding near an elite enclave of the capital and damaging a satellite transmitter…
Life goes on in Damascus, despite civil war (Der Spiegel) During dinners with politicians and professors, or in conversations in the narrow streets of the old city, everyone, without exception, expressed fear of the rebels. They worry that the rebels will be accompanied by fundamentalists, who will bring with them Sharia law. All the people we spoke with said that they distrust the West because the reasoning there is too simplistic and countries there set moral standards they fail to live up to themselves. And most said that while they don’t support Assad, they want to preserve their way of life. “Just look at what’s happening in Egypt and Libya,” said one man…
Christians march to denounce acts of intimidation by extremist settlers (Fides) A spontaneous march of Christians in Jerusalem was held on Monday, 7 October, through the streets of the Holy City to denounce the frequent desecration perpetrated by groups of extremist Jewish settlers against Christian places of worship. A group of more than 100 Christians, starting at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, then walked to Latin Catholic and Anglican cemeteries, desecrated in recent weeks with racist graffiti…
Patriarchs: Let us create a joint committee for dialogue (Fides) Mar Dinkha IV, patriarch of the Church of the East, and Louis Raphael I, patriarch of the Chaldean Church, have come together in agreement regarding the creation of a “joint committee” as a tool to tackle together the difficulties shared by the two sister churches…
8 October 2013
Tags: Syria Egypt Refugees Violence against Christians Christian Unity
In Astoria, Greek Orthodox priests and faithful celebrate the annual feast of St. Irene Chrysovalantou. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
Several years ago, we toured Astoria, New York, and discovered a thriving Greek enclave:
Officially, Piraeus is Greece’s third largest city, after Athens and Thessalonica. But don’t tell that to Greek-Americans in the New York area. For them, the “third city of Greece” is, in fact, Astoria, a neighborhood on the northwestern edge of the Borough of Queens.
Once home to singer Tony Bennett, stage star Ethel Merman and television’s Archie Bunker, Astoria at its height as a Greek-speaking enclave in the 1970’s boasted an estimated 300,000 Greek-Americans — more than the number of Greeks living in Piraeus.
Economic advancement, marriages, retirement, death and, to a lesser degree, assimilation, have contributed to the decline in the number of Astoria’s Greek-Americans. About 40,000 Greek-Americans remain in this traditionally working-class neighborhood of row houses and apartment buildings. But even as young urban professionals — fleeing Manhattan’s escalating housing costs — and other immigrant groups replace them, Astoria retains its Greek flavor, thanks almost entirely to the abundance of Greek restaurants and cafes, butchers and bakers, churches and clubs.
“We’ve given the area a different color,” said Spiro Svolakos, 53, who came to Astoria almost 30 years ago. “We’ve made it a restaurant town.”
Dutch and German immigrants first settled in the farthest northwestern reaches of Long Island in the early 17th century. Early residents called the settlement Hallet’s Cove, but in the early 19th century renamed it after John Jacob Astor to lure America’s first millionaire to invest there. Waves of other immigrants soon followed. The late 19th century brought Czechs, Irish and Italians, groups that founded Astoria’s Catholic parishes, schools and social clubs. Greek immigrants joined them.
In the 1920’s, new immigration laws — based on nationality — significantly curtailed Southern European immigration to the United States. But after the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act, which ended the national-quota system, tens of thousands of Greeks, many of them from the island of Cyprus, streamed in. Most settled in the New York area, including Astoria, which quickly became the hub of local Greek-American life and a home away from home.
“As soon as you arrived in Astoria, you had your deli, your fish market, your butcher,” recalled Eugene Bouzalakos, who came to Astoria in 1979. “You didn’t even have to speak English. The schools spoke Greek, the church people spoke Greek. You didn’t miss Greece because you had everything.”
...” One thing about Greeks,” said Maria Bouzalakos, ”they like to see people eat.“
“And if there are four of us eating, I set a table for five,” added her husband, Eugene. “Always, someone comes. If not, I have set a place for Christ.”
“I go to Greece a lot, and I lament to them how they’ve sold their heart and soul for the euro,” said butcher John Gatzonis.
“They have given up their religion and have become Europeans,” he said, recalling a recent trip to Greece when he saw most Greeks disregarding the traditional period of fasting preceding the feast of the Dormition of Mary in August.
“If one wants to see a Greek now, you don’t go to Greece, you go to North America or Australia,” he said. “I’ve evolved, but to some extent I’m the same Greek I was in 1956.”
The family meal is one of those traditions preserved by many of Astoria’s remaining Greek-American families.
In all eastern Mediterranean cultures, “the meal time, the dinner time is a sacred time,” said Father George Anastasiou of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
“Christ instituted the Last Supper as a meal. To eat with your family is sacred. You can see that to this day in Greek culture. We don’t have that American style of eating. We all order six, seven, eight dishes, and it becomes a familial thing.”
Read more about Discovering New York’s Greek Enclave in the November 2007 issue of ONE.
7 October 2013
The haunting melodies of the Armenian liturgy are chanted by a Bourj Hammoud choir. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
Several years ago, we profiled Armenians who had settled in Lebanon:
Determined to preserve their cultural identity, religion, language and traditions, these Armenian refugees established clubs, schools, churches, hospitals and dispensaries. Today they attend Armenian churches and schools, eat Armenian food, speak Armenian and read Armenian periodicals. Whether members of the Armenian Apostolic, Catholic or Evangelical churches, Lebanon’s Armenians live in harmony. Although tight-knit, they too are affected by the specters of unemployment, emigration and cultural disintegration haunting all Lebanese.
Roughly 100,000 people — 80 percent of the population of Bourj Hammoud — are Armenian. One of the most densely populated areas in the country, Bourj Hammoud has become one of the largest manufacturing hubs in Lebanon, a center for jewelry, shoes and clothing, all crafted by Armenians. And while Armenians prefer to work with fellow Armenians, their clients are usually fashion-conscious Maronites, Sunni Muslims and Druze. Yet inflation and regional economic challenges have affected even this affluent quarter.
“I have difficulty earning a living today; there is no work here,” says Armenak Kaiserian, who has run a shoe repair shop in Bourj Hammoud for 40 years.
In the narrow streets of Bourj Hammoud, traffic is so dense even the most intrepid drivers hesitate to venture there. Casting a rather somber pall on the area, five-story buildings border the narrow streets; drying clothes, hanging on lines along balconies, compete with webs of electric and telephone cable. Although it is hard to imagine, everyone in Bourj Hammoud can distinguish his or her own wires among the mess.
Read more about Lebanon’s Little Armenia in the July-August 2002 issue of the magazine.
7 October 2013
Tags: Lebanon Cultural Identity Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church
Ecumenical Bartholomew I led the closing celebration of the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan, beginning with a solemn doxology, in St. Michael’s Cathedral in Belgrade on 5 October. (photo: Serbian Orthodox Church)
Orthodox Christians mark 1,700th anniversary of Edict of Milan (Yahoo! News) Eight Orthodox Christian leaders, dignitaries from other faiths, politicians and thousands of others on Sunday celebrated the anniversary of the Edict of Milan, which established toleration for Christianity in the Roman Empire 1,700 years ago. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew called in a sermon for more religious freedom and reconciliation, flanked by Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, Patriarch Kirill of Russia, Patriarch Irinej of Serbia and their counterparts from Albania, Cyprus, Poland, Slovakia and other smaller Orthodox churches…
Kidnapped Italian Jesuit reported alive in Syria (Vatican Insider) “Father Paolo Dall’Oglio is alive and is being treated well by his kidnappers, who are members of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) extremist group,” says anti-regime activist Khalaf Ali Khalaf, reporting on information received from Al Qaeda-affiliated sources close to the extremist group…
Chaldean Patriarchate prohibits unauthorized sale of church property (Fides) The Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans has formally prohibited the sale of land and houses belonging to the patrimony of the church without permission “of the high ecclesiastical authorities.” The restrictive provision was made public in a statement on 5 October and makes explicit reference to the Holy See as a last resort call to grant licenses for the sale of properties belonging to the church…
Dozens killed in clashes as Egyptian identity politics turns violent (Christian Science Monitor) Large crowds gathered nationwide to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Egypt’s 1973 war with Israel. Supporters of former president Muhammad Morsi, ousted in a 3 July military takeover, also rallied in support of their leader and the democratic process they believe he embodies. In the capital, 30 anti-coup protesters were killed during pitched battles with the security services. Marching through the streets of west Cairo’s Dokki district, protesters shouted “we are not real… all this is photoshopped” in reference to the common refrain that Muslim Brotherhood supporters fabricate attendance numbers for the weekly demonstrations that have followed Mr. Morsi’s ouster…
At least 66 people killed in a day of bloodshed in Iraq (Washington Post) A suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of Shiite pilgrims passing through a mainly Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad and another detonated his explosives inside a cafe north of the capital, the deadliest of several attacks across Iraq on Saturday that killed at least 66 people. The killings, which also included attacks on journalists and anti-extremist Sunni fighters, are part of the deadliest surge in violence to hit Iraq in five years. The accelerating bloodshed is raising fears that the country is falling back into the spiral of violence that brought it to the edge of civil war in the years after the 2003 United States-led invasion…
Israelis, Palestinians intensify talks despite skepticism (Daily Star Lebanon) Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held a new round of talks on Monday, picking up the tempo of their meetings at the request of the United States in the face of widespread skepticism that they will ever reach a deal. The two sides resumed direct peace negotiations in late July after three years of stalemate and have conducted a series of discussions far from the gaze of the media over recent weeks, without any outward hint of the slightest breakthrough…
Tags: Iraq Egypt Ecumenism Middle East Peace Process Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I