28 September 2015
Pope Francis censes the altar as he celebrates Mass at Madison Square Garden in New York
on 25 September. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Is 9:1)
These words, from the book of the prophet Isaiah, gave hope to the Israelites during the Babylonian Captivity. Thousands of years later, they resonated powerfully with the 20,000 people gathered in Madison Square Garden for the Holy Father’s Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice on 25 September.
I was fortunate to attend with some of my colleagues from CNEWA. Despite long security lines, snaking almost 20 blocks through midtown Manhattan, the mood in the Garden was electric — even more so than at typical concerts or sporting events there.
After parading through Central Park, the pope arrived at about 6:00 p.m. and circled the floor of the arena twice, accompanied by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. Mass began shortly thereafter — quite notably, ahead of schedule.
The Holy Father’s homily expanded on the first reading from Isaiah, and he linked it beautifully to life in the city. “Together with the prophet Isaiah, we can say: The people who walk, breathe and live in the midst of smog, have seen a great light, have experienced a breath of fresh air,” he said.
He explained that, while cities can be great centers of culture, tradition, and historical events, they are also a place where people can be easily forgotten. The foreigners, the homeless, children who go without schooling, people without medical insurance — they “stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity.” Thus, as Christians, we are called to “Go out, again and again, go out without fear, without hesitation,” and proclaim the presence of God, who walks with us on the streets. (You can read the complete text of his homily here.)
These words were meaningful for me, not only as a resident of New York City but also as someone who works on behalf of the downtrodden in some of the most troubled parts of the world. People in cities like Addis Ababa, Kiev, Jerusalem and Erbil continue to walk in the darkness of poverty, war, and persecution. Pope Francis has called CNEWA to be a “great light” for them, whether it be by caring for refugees young and old, feeding the hungry, or sustaining the men and women religious who do God’s work.
It was a joy and a blessing to be in the presence of the Holy Father, and his words stand as a call to action for me, my colleagues, and all who are in the service of the poor. May we always be proclaimers of the word, bringers of hope, and, as Pope Francis said, “witnesses of the light.”
Two members of CNEWA’s development team — Christopher Kossowski and Christopher Kennedy — attended the Holy Father’s Mass at Madison Square Garden
in New York City on Friday. (photo: CNEWA)
28 September 2015
Today, Ethiopians celebrate the holiday of Meskel, commemorating the finding of the True Cross by St. Helena. This image from 2007 shows some of the celebration surrounding the feast in Addis Ababa. You can read more about this holiday and its meaning here.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers)
28 September 2015
In the video above, Pope Francis is shown visiting the 9/11 memorial in New York City and taking part in a prayer service featuring representatives from several religions. (video: Rome Reports)
U.N. General assembly opens with focus on Syria, ISIS, refugees (The New York Times) The United Nations General Assembly opened on Monday with all eyes on the war in Syria and the twin crises it has helped spawn: the unyielding spread of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and the surge of refugees from the region into Europe. “Inequality is growing, trust is fading, and impatience with leadership can be seen and felt far and wide,” Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in formally convening the General Assembly’s 70th annual session. The remarks by Mr. Ban, who is approaching his last year as the secretary general, were unusually pointed...
Pope calls on U.N. to work for peace, justice (The Wall Street Journal) During a sweeping address before the United Nations, Pope Francis called on the international community to combat environmental degradation and social injustice, and praised the Iran nuclear deal as “proof of the potential of political good will.” Pope Francis, the fourth leader of the Catholic Church to address the U.N., used the occasion of Friday’s speech before the General Assembly to highlight signature themes of his pontificate...
Pope at 9/11 memorial: violence brings tears (CNS) Honoring both the pain and the strength of the families of those who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11 and drawing on the pools of water that are part of the site’s memorial, Pope Francis spoke about tears and quenching the world’s longing for peace. “The water we see flowing toward that empty pit remind us of all those lives” lost in 2001, he said. “The flowing water is also a symbol of our tears. Tears at so much devastation and ruin, past and present.” Afterward, Pope Francis joined a varied group of religious leaders and about 400 people in Foundation Hall to offer prayers for the deceased and for peace in the world...
Patriarch: Holy Land Christians “pray, weep, suffer and wait” with Jesus (CNS) Christian families in the Holy Land bear their daily suffering with hope, knowing that the cross is the cost of following Christ, said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem. “We are a church of Calvary, and it is something that we have to accept,” he said during a session of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia on 25 September. “Jesus says all who follow him will have to pick up their cross,” he continued. “We must take these words seriously. If we want to follow him, we have our daily cross.” The Latin-rite archbishop of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories contributed to a panel at the international four-day congress on the theme, “The Way of the Cross, the Way of the Heart: Suffering and the Family...”
Obama and Putin to confront tensions in Ukraine (AP) Face-to-face for the first time in nearly a year, President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday will confront rising tensions over Moscow’s military engagement in Syria, as well as the stubborn crisis in Ukraine...
Pope Tawadros II begins visit to Ethiopia (StarAfrica) Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria (Egypt) and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark has begun a six day visit to Ethiopia from Saturday to celebrate participate in the celebrations of finding of the true cross which is to be observed by Ethiopian Christians on Monday. The Pope, during his visit, is expected to meet the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Mathias I, the President and members of Ethiopia’s Public Diplomacy Delegation which visited Egypt last year...
AUDIO: Saving Russian religious music traditions (VOA) Many religions use music to help communicate their message. What you are listening to now is a choral work performed in the Russian Orthodox Church. This kind of singing is different from other religious traditions. And it is this kind of singing that a U.S.-based choir hopes to keep alive. The choir is part of the Patriarch Tikhon Russian-American Music Institute. The group recently went to Russia for training in what is known as the Slavonic tradition of music...
24 September 2015
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ethiopia Ukraine Muslim
The Divine Liturgy is celebrated in Ayia Zoni Orthodox Church in the Kipseli neighborhood
of Athens. (photo: Don Duncan)
Greece’s constitution opens with an invocation to the Holy Trinity and identifies the Orthodox Church of Greece as the “prevailing” faith community of the nation. This provision acknowledges the role of the church in the formation of the modern Greek state and its influence among the republic’s 10.7 million people, 98 percent of whom profess membership in the church.
Global calls for the elimination of this provision have intensified, especially since Greece joined the European Union in 1981. The statute has remained unaltered, however, despite two emendations since 1975.
While Orthodox Christianity assisted at the birth of modern Greece and has parented it for nearly two centuries, the Greek state actually created the Orthodox Church of Greece, thereby creating inherent church and state issues.
Christianity took root in the Greek-speaking world as the Roman Empire consolidated its hold on Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean. The Romans imposed their own code of law, but permitted the vanquished Greeks a large degree of autonomy, eventually adopting the Greek culture as their own. “Captive Greece,” wrote the Roman poet Horace, “took captive her savage conqueror.”
Interior of the Orthodox cathedral in Phira, the capital of the Greek island of Santorini. (photo: George Martin)
The Apostle Paul’s work among the Athenians, Colossians, Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians and Thessalonians is well documented. Whether in the Roman provinces of Achaea, Epirus and Macedonia or in the diaspora of greater Greece, these Greek-speaking Christians formed urban communities that evolved into important centers of the Christian faith.
Paul’s churches embraced the culture of the Hellenistic world, which provided the philosophical and theological vocabulary necessary to help them define and interpret the teachings of Jesus Christ. As the church grew throughout the empire, a distinctly Greek school of theology developed alongside a Syriac school that was dominant among learned Semitic Christians.
Often understood as cosmopolitan, the Greek school eventually asserted its preeminence when the Roman emperor, Constantine I, moved his government east, from Rome to the small Greek port of Byzantion on the Bosporus in the year 330.
Officially christened “New Rome,” the imperial capital of Constantinople (today known as Istanbul) took on a distinct Christian identity after Theodosius I established Christianity as the state religion of the Eastern Roman Empire (or Byzantium) in 394. And though the inhabitants of Constantinople would proudly retain their Roman identity for more than 1,000 years, they would also understand themselves to be the heirs of the ancient Greeks.
Click here to read more.
24 September 2015
Elementary students at Grabafila school in southern Ethiopia are pursuing knowledge — and dreams — thanks to the Catholic Church. Read more in “Never Too Late to Dream” in the
July 2005 edition of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
24 September 2015
Saudi emergency personnel and Hajj pilgrims stand near bodies covered in sheets at the site where at least 700 were killed and hundreds wounded in a stampede in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, at the annual hajj in Saudi Arabia on 24 September 2015. The stampede, the second deadly accident to strike the pilgrims this year, broke out during the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual, the Saudi civil defence service said. (photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Stampede kills hundreds at pilgrimage near Mecca (CNN) A stampede during one of the last rituals of the Hajj season — the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca — has killed more than 700 people and injured 800 others in Saudi Arabia. The stampede occurred Thursday morning during the ritual known as “stoning the devil” in the tent city of Mina, about 2 miles from Mecca, Islam’s holiest city...
Turkey alarmed over Russian buildup in Syria (Voice of America) Turkey has dubbed Russia’s rapid military buildup in Syria as “very dangerous.” The condemnation came as U.S. officials said they were still trying to fathom Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategy in Syria — whether his military objective is to help battle against Islamic State extremists, as Moscow claims, or to strike at rebel fighters seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad, a Russian ally...
Radical Russian Orthodox leader sentenced to jail (The Moscow Times) The leader of a radical Russian Orthodox group has been sentenced to 10 days in jail for vandalizing an art exhibition in Moscow this summer, a news report said Tuesday. A Moscow city court on Tuesday found Dmitry “Enteo” Tsorionov, who heads the “God’s Will” group, guilty of petty hooliganism for his organization’s 14 August attack on the Manezh exhibition center, the RIA Novosti news agency reported...
Israel to allow more exports from Gaza (Haaretz) For the first time since 2007, Israel will allow Gaza to export ironware, furniture and textiles to Israel in a bid to improve the embattled enclave’s economy, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, said Monday. The new rules will go into effect 7 October with the aim of “improving the Gaza economy and reducing unemployment,” said the office, which is responsible for civilian affairs vis a vis West Bank and Gazan Palestinians...
African episcopal conferences obtain observer status at African Union (Fides) The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar has obtained observer status at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. According to a statement sent to Agenzia Fides, the observer status was obtained following the signing of a memorandum of understanding on behalf of the President of SECAM, His Exc. Mgr. Gabriel Mbilingi. The Archbishop of Lubango, and the Commissioner for Political Affairs of the African Union, Ms. Aisha Laraba Abdullahi...
23 September 2015
Tags: Syria Ethiopia Turkey Muslim Russia
A doctor treats a young refugee at a dispensary in Zakho, Iraq, supported by CNEWA.
By any measure, it’s been a difficult year in the Middle East, with hundreds of thousands of people facing extraordinary challenges. War, persecution, displacement and poverty have all taken a toll. But CNEWA has accompanied our brothers and sisters on this difficult journey, as they have fought to maintain their dignity, their hope, and their faith.
We’ve been closely involved in many projects which have provided both humanitarian and spiritual support. Our regional directors have just sent us updates that help paint a clearer picture of what that has entailed in the last year.
In Iraq, thousands of displaced Christians have remained resilient even as they live in containers and makeshift housing. CNEWA has stepped forward to provide housing, healthcare — and hope. Read more.
In Lebanon, the Lebanese people have absorbed refugees from Iraq and Syria, many fleeing for their lives and looking for a safe haven. CNEWA has been there with counseling, emergency services and support for church institutions and schools. Read more.
And in Syria, with half the population driven from their homes and the economy in ruins, CNEWA has provided aid to support displaced families, provide health care and uplift Christians through church and catechetical work. Read more.
To learn more about CNEWA’s world and how you can support our work in the Middle East and elsewhere, visit this link.
All these projects and more help fulfill CNEWA’s mission to “build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue — and inspire hope.”
23 September 2015
A priest blesses his congregation in the Church of the Virgin Mary in Nazla, Egypt, one of the many churches burned in August 2013. Read more about Egypt’s efforts to recover in “Out of the Ashes” in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. And join Pope Francis in bringing hope to Egypt’s Christians. Visit this link to learn how. (photo: David Degner)
23 September 2015
On his flight from Cuba to the United States Tuesday, Pope Francis defended his teaching
on social issues. (video: Rome Reports)
Is Russia planning to move more troops into Syria? (CNN) Russia may be preparing to station troops at two new sites in Syria as it continues its rapid military buildup in the conflict-ravaged nation, a research firm says. IHS Jane’s said Tuesday that it had spotted two previously unreported sites in satellite imagery of western Syria where steps appear to be being taken to receive Russian forces...
Pope defends teaching on social issues (CNS) Pope Francis defended his position on the economy, the environment and other social issues as faithful repetitions of the basic Catholic social doctrine. Speaking to reporters flying with him from Cuba to Washington on 22 September, the Pope was asked about comments, mainly from the United States, claiming the Pope is a communist and about the Newsweek headline, “Is the Pope Catholic?” “I am certain I have never said anything more than what is in the social doctrine of the church,” he responded. “I follow the church and in this, I do not think I am wrong”...
EU pushes through deal to share refugees (The Guardian) European governments have forced through a deal to impose refugee quotas, sharing 120,000 people between them in a watershed decision that several states bitterly opposed. The decision to overrule opponents in the newer states of central Europe was highly unusual and perceived as an assault on their sovereignty by the four countries that voted against. While applauded by NGOs and immigration professionals as a belated attempt by the EU to get to grips with its biggest ever migration crisis, the decision was highly divisive and sets the scene for a tense summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Wednesday dedicated to the refugee emergency...
Jerusalem mayor takes tough stand against Al-Aqsa rock throwers (RNS) he Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem cannot be used to harbour violent agitators, the city’s mayor said after Muslims stockpiled rocks and pipe bombs inside the mosque just before and after the start of the Jewish New Year and violently clashed with Israeli police. “People can’t think they can use religious sites as a safe haven for violence,” said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on 17 September. “We will increase measures ... to ensure terrorists do not gain what they seek to gain.”...
Putin opens Moscow’s most elaborate mosque (The New York Times) The most elaborate mosque ever built in Moscow, a city that is home to one of the largest concentrations of Muslims in Europe, was opened on Wednesday by President Vladimir V. Putin. Mr. Putin, in brief remarks, called the new, modern mosque the biggest in Europe and said that it was a worthy addition to a capital and a country built on the idea of uniting different nationalities and faiths. The mosque is a central part of Russia’s efforts to develop its own system of Muslim religious education and training to counteract extremists seeking recruits, the president said. “Terrorists from the so-called Islamic State actually cast a shadow on the great global religion of Islam,” he said. “Their ideology is built on hate”...
22 September 2015
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Jerusalem Muslim Russia
Iraqi, Syrian and Ukrainian Catholics join Athens’ small Byzantine Catholic community for the Divine Liturgy at the neo-Byzantine Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. (photo: Marilyn Raschka)
At least one legacy remains in modern Greece of the Crusaders’ sack of the city of Constantinople in 1204 and their subsequent occupation of Greece: Most Catholics in Greece — some 50,000 people — are Greek-speakers who worship following the Latin rite of the Catholic communion of churches. However, as many as 6,000 people share the Byzantine rites of the dominant Orthodox Church and are in full communion with the pope.
Overwhelmed by the needs of refugees flooding Constantinople in the early 1920’s, Greek Catholic Bishop George Calavassy appealed to his friend, Father Paul Wattson, S.A., to raise awareness and funds in the United States on their behalf. Together, they helped found CNEWA. (photo: CNEWA)
No larger than a typical North American suburban parish, this church is sui juris, or autonomous, within the Catholic communion and is led by two apostolic exarchs, based in Athens and Istanbul, respectively.
If not for the humanitarian and pastoral works of one of its leaders, Bishop George Calavassy (1920-57), this church would barely merit a footnote in the annals of church history. For after the horrors in Asia Minor after World War I, this church and its bishop figured prominently in the care of Armenian, Assyro-Chaldean, Greek and Russian refugees then flooding the Turkish capital of Istanbul, prompting the foundation of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.
Read a full account of this fascinating history here.