5 November 2013
Oseni Khalajian, a pensioner living in Eshtia, belongs to a community of Armenian Catholics descended from Armenians who fled to Georgia to escape the Turkish mass murder. (photo: Molly Corso)
The Autumn issue of ONE includes a memorable look at life in Armenia, and Catholics who have true staying power — those who kept the faith alive despite years of persecution:
Older generations, while they maintained their Catholic identity, are still struggling to come to terms with their faith after decades of pressure to abandon it. Built in 1886, when the first Armenian immigrants started to trickle out of Turkey and into Georgia, the church in Eshtia was turned later into a warehouse when the Soviet Union’s Josef Stalin went to war against religion in the 1930’s.
Armenian Catholics, however, went to great lengths to maintain their identity and faith. Villagers tell tales about elders baptizing the communities’ babies in secret, and Dr. Ovsepian remembered celebrating Christmas.
“During the time of the Communists, people were also religious,” Father Antonian recalls. “I remember well the holidays like Christmas — which were celebrated.”
But for men like Vano Gasparian, a local born in 1955, being an Armenian Catholic was part of his identity, even if he grew up knowing little about the faith.
“Catholics remained Catholics,” he says, adding, however, that for the older generations it can be a difficult transition from a culture that promoted atheism to a life of faith.
“For the young, they believe with their whole soul,” he says. For the older generations, “for us, it is harder.”
Read more in the Autumn issue of ONE.
5 November 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity Armenia Village life Georgia Armenian Catholic Church
In this 2008 photo, Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Karekin II of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, patriarch of All Armenians, attends Pope Benedict XVI’s weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Dario Pignatelli, Reuters)
Patriarch Karekin II to head World Council of Churches (ArmenPress) The delegates of the tenth assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, South Korea, unanimously elected His Holiness Karekin II, supreme patriarch and catholicos of All Armenians, to become the president of the World Council of Churches. The Press Service of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin informed Armenpress that the patriarch will head the Council for the coming eight years…
Archbishop calls Sadad killings the largest massacre of Christians in Syria (Fides) “What happened in Sadad is the most serious and biggest massacre of Christians in Syria in the past two years and a half,” said Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh, Syriac Orthodox metropolitan of Homs and Hama. In Sadad, invaded by Islamist militias a week ago and then re-conquered by the Syrian army, “45 innocent civilians were martyred for no reason, and among them several women and children, many thrown into mass graves. Other civilians were threatened and terrorized. 30 were wounded and 10 are still missing. For one week, 1,500 families were held as hostages and human shields…”
Five days on the ground with Syrian Christians (Catholic World Report) As civil war continues to rage in Syria, Christian communities with ancient roots in the country stand in the crossfire between the Syrian government and the rebel forces. Below is an account of several days in the war zone from the Rev. Daniel Maes, a Belgian priest who has been at the Melkite Greek Catholic Monastery of Mar Yakub in Qara, Syria for several years. In it he details the efforts of Mother Agnes-Mariam de la Croix, the Lebanese-born superior of the Mar Yakub nuns, to free hostages taken by the rebels and to negotiate peace…
Explosion at the nunciature in Damascus, no casualties (VIS) According to the Holy See Press Office, the apostolic nunciature in Syria, located in Damascus in the central quarter of Malki, was struck by a mortar shell this morning. The incident did not cause extensive structural damages and the nunciature remained open to the public today…
United Nations estimates 40 percent of Syrians need aid (Al Jazeera) Valerie Amos, United Nations humanitarian chief, told the 15-member Security Council on Monday that 9.3 million people now need outside help to survive, up from 6.8 million in September, and 6.5 million are now homeless inside the country, up from 4.25 million. The population of Syria is about 23 million…
Orthodox and Catholic theologians call for peace in Middle East (U.S.C.C.B.) The North American Orthodox Catholic Theological Consultation issued a statement on the plight of Christians in the Middle East at their meeting in Mississauga, Ontario, calling for the release of a Greek Orthodox metropolitan and a Syriac Orthodox metropolitan — both from Aleppo, Syria — and repudiating the kidnapping, torture and killing of not only Christians but all civilians…
Ethiopian Orthodox Church works to end violence against women (Care2) With 45 million members, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has powerful influence on Ethiopian society. U.N. Women forged an initiative with the church in two districts, Woldia and Kobo, in the northern Amhara region. Aiming to reach a broad population, the project involves in-depth training workshops that engage religious leaders to take the lead to end violence against women and girls. At the trainings, the religious leaders learn about the causes and consequences of violence against women and strategies to prevent violence…
To celebrate Diwali, Nepal and India ‘lose’ a month of electricity (AsiaNews) In India and Nepal, the five-day Diwali festival consumes every year as much electricity as a whole month of ordinary use. Still, the ’festival of lights’ is the most important and lavish celebration on the Hindu calendar. And today, the fifth and final day of the festival, people celebrated Bhai Tika, a time when brothers and sisters meet and exchange gifts…
4 November 2013
Tags: India Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Armenian Apostolic Church Ethiopian Orthodox Church
A young Ethiopian girl is shown in one of many photographs captured by Sister Christian Molidor during her travels for CNEWA. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
In the Autumn edition of ONE, we devote several pages to the remarkable photographs of Christian Molidor, R.S.M., who worked for CNEWA for many years and died this past summer. Michael J.L. La Civita pays tribute to her life and work in the video below.
4 November 2013
In the video above, Melkite Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch answers questions at Aid to the Church in Need’s UK office. (video from Aid to the Church in Need)
Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch discusses life in Syria (Byzcatch.org) John Pontifex interviews Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch at Aid to the Church in Need’s UK office. The Patriarch, who is the head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, was visiting the UK as the guest-of-honour at Aid to the Church in Need’s Persecuted but never forgotten events in London and Glasgow. In this interview he talks about what life has been like for Christians in war-torn Syria...
Mursi trial begins in Egypt (Vatican Radio) Egypt on Monday began the trial of ousted president Mohamed Mursi. It is the second time in just over two years that an overthrown president has been in court in Egypt. The trial is not being aired on state television and journalists were barred from bringing their telephones into the courtroom set up in a Cairo police academy. The now-banned Muslim Brotherhood has said it will not abandon street protests to pressure the army,which toppled Mursi on 3 July, to reinstate him. Speaking to Vatican Radio the Chief press spokesman, of the Greek Melkite Catholic Church in Cairo, Fr. Rafic Greiche says he hopes the trial will help turn a page for the Egyptian people...
Pope Francis prays for deceased cardinals and bishops (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday, 4 November celebrated Mass in remembrance of all the cardinals and bishops who died during the past year. During the Mass, which was held in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pope reminded us that we are all in the merciful hands of God who will grant heavenly rewards to the just and the righteous...
Chaldean patriarch reflects on his ministry (Asia News) “Remember always that you are priests!” Therefore, “I invite you to think of the wonderful mission to which you are called” within “the One, Universal, Holy and Apostolic Church,” said Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako I in a letter to the Chaldean clergy, published on 31 October and recently sent to Asia News. His Beatitude talks about the ten years of his episcopate, his nine months at the helm of the patriarchal see and the coming final celebrations of the Year of Faith. For this reason, he has decided to address for a second time, after his first letter in May, all the bishops, priests, religious and nuns of the Chaldean community in order to invite them to “prayer and introspection” under the protection “of the Virgin Mary...”
30 October 2013
The staff here will be on retreat the rest of this week. But before we left, we wanted to remind you to check out the newest issue of the magazine. The Autumn issue of ONE is now online. The print edition should be arriving in your mailbox any day now.
For a preview, check out the brief video below from Msgr. Kozar. And then visit us at this link for more. See you next week!
29 October 2013
Tags: Egypt CNEWA Ethiopia Jordan ONE magazine
Children in the village of Awo, such as 13-year-old Tiblets Gebray, often suffer from chronic malnutrition and depend on outside support during lean years. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
In the Autumn issue of ONE, Don Duncan writes about efforts to help in the hungry in parts of Ethiopia. Here, he offers his personal impressions of the region he visited.
I was only about 5 when Irish rock singer Bob Geldof was making headlines again. We were used to seeing him prancing around a stage singing hits like “I Don’t Like Mondays” with his band, The Boomtown Rats. Ireland is a small place and we are almost systematically proud of anyone who makes it big beyond our shores.
By 1984, Geldof was becoming known more for his humanitarian credibility than for his indie credibility. Responding to BBC reports of a burgeoning famine crisis in Ethiopia, he established a series of charity initiatives in the United Kingdom and beyond involving rock stars and rock concerts. Band Aid in 1984 and Live Aid in 1985 netted a combined total of $245 million for Ethiopia.
Almost 30 years later, Geldof remains high in the Ethiopian consciousness. Everywhere I went, the mere mention of my nationality elicited the same response: Bob Geldof!
In Europe, the legacy of the Band Aid/Live Aid era has been a deeply entrenched image of Ethiopia as a place of poverty, misery and famine. My experience so far in this county has been to the contrary, thankfully. Sure, the country has its problems but it is rapidly developing and most of the regions are stable, food secure and progressing.
It was not until I got to the northern region of Tigray that a shadow was cast on this largely positive impression. Many areas near the border with Eritrea in northern Tigray, as well as in the desert areas of southeastern Ethiopia, are in constant danger of famine. Population growth over the past 30 years, combined with the detrimental effects of climate change on yearly rainfall, have rendered many swaths of the region barren and left its population chronically food insecure. It is here that I found the schools where CNEWA is helping to provide crucial high-energy biscuits during the months where food is most scarce.
It was shocking to me to think that, while the rest of the country develops, some areas are slipping back to conditions similar to the traumatic famine that swept the country in the 1970’s and 80’s. But then I began to see terraces along the hills, dams on streams, small reservoirs, canalization and irrigation systems and other such technology dotting the landscape that spoke of a real effort to stave the effects of climate change. I was told that since the fall of the communist Derg regime in 1990 — a regime that worked on natural resource rehabilitation, but only in the villages it wanted to repopulate — the new administration has been very serious about land rehabilitation across the whole country.
It reminded me of how famine can be political. Again, I thought of Bob Geldof and the politics of his Live Aid and Band Aid initiatives. Through music and televised events, he created a widespread consciousness of the Ethiopian famine among the populations in the West and, by extension, forced Western government to stand up, pay attention and take action.
Most encouraging of all is that, unlike the external aid of the 1980’s, the land rehabilitation initiatives in Ethiopia today are managed domestically by the Ethiopian government. While much of the money for the projects comes from foreign governments and international agencies like the World Food Program, Ethiopia has taken the fore on managing its own risk with regards to drought, famine and food insecurity. This is very encouraging.
Still, for many of the homes and schools I visited in northern Tigray, this sea change is imperceptible. Their fields are still poor and their stomachs empty for much of the year. But all around them, technologies and infrastructures are being put in place that will eventually, perhaps in the next few years, return a level of productivity to their land and food to their table.
Read more of Don Duncan’s reporting in Hungry to Learn, in the Autumn issue of ONE. To find out how you can help feed the hungry in Ethiopia, follow this link.
29 October 2013
Tags: Ethiopia ONE magazine Farming/Agriculture Hunger Famine
At the Bird’s Nest, an Armenian orphanage in Lebanon, women make miters and vestments. To learn more about the Armenian Catholic Church, read our profile from the September 2008 issue of ONE. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
29 October 2013
Tags: Lebanon ONE magazine Orphans/Orphanages Armenian Catholic Church
In this photo from last month, Pope Francis walks with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch during a private meeting at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Heads of Eastern churches to meet in summit (VIS) Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, announced in his address at the opening of the new academic year of the Pontifical Oriental Institute that a summit meeting of the patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern churches of Syria, Iraq and the Middle East will be held in the Vatican, in the presence of Pope Francis, on 21 November. The meeting, which will take place from 19 to 22 November, will take as its general theme “The Eastern Catholic churches, 50 years after Vatican Council II…”
Jesuits on the Syrian conflict: Let’s stop arms dealers (Fides) In order to understand and stop the conflict in Syria, “one should recognize and call by name the real interests at stake — at a local, regional and international level — that do not correspond to the interests of the Syrian people,” the Provincial Superiors of the Jesuits of the Middle East and Europe said in a recent statement. The Jesuit provincials dwell in particular on arms trafficking as triggering and feeding the violence in the Middle East…
Orthodox bishop appeals to rescue the people of Qalamoun (AsiaNews) The Syriac Orthodox Bishop Silvanus Boutros Naame issued an appeal on behalf of the approximately 3,000 residents of Sadad and Hofar, in the Qalamoun region of Syria, near the border with Lebanon. The bishop asks that they that they be saved from siege and moved to safe places “in any direction, either towards the Convent of Al Attieh or towards the city of Homs, where we may welcome them…”
Beleaguered Syrian Christians fear future (Denver Post) The shelling and recent rebel assaults on predominantly Christian towns have fueled fears among Syria’s religious minorities about the growing role of Islamic extremists and foreign fighters among the rebels fighting against President Bashar al Assad’s rule. Al Qaeda-linked fighters have damaged and desecrated churches in areas they have seized. In Raqqa, militants set fires in two churches and knocked the crosses off them, replacing them with the group’s black Islamic banner. Radical Islamists also torched an Armenian church in the northern town of Tel Abyad on Sunday, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights…
Syria polio outbreak confirmed by WHO (BBC) The World Health Organization has confirmed ten cases of polio in war-torn Syria — the first outbreak in the country in 14 years. The United Nations body says a further 12 cases are still being investigated. Most of the 22 people who have been tested are babies and toddlers. Before Syria’s civil war began in 2011, some 95 percent of children were vaccinated against the disease. The U.N. now estimates 500,000 children have not been immunized…
Patriarch: Interreligious relations in Serbia ‘harmonious’ (B92) The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, has described interreligious relations in Serbia as “harmonious.” Patriarch Irinej last week headed a Serbian delegation on a visit to Jakarta, Indonesia. According to Tanjug, the patriarch said “there are no such [harmonious] relations in Kosovo and Metohija, where ethnic Albanians declared independence unilaterally.” The patriarch and his Indonesian hosts “agreed that religious conflicts occur when politicians abuse religious issues,” according to the news agency…
28 October 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Middle East Christians Syrian Civil War Ecumenism Serbian Orthodox Church
Coptic Christians chant prayers during a candlelight protest after dozens were killed during clashes with soldiers and riot police in October 2011. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
In the Autumn issue of ONE, Sarah Topol reports on young Copts persevering during a time of turmoil in Egypt. Here, she offers some reasons why they dare to hope.
You read a lot of stories about Christians fleeing Egypt — they make up roughly 10 percent of the country’s 85.3 million people, and are now the largest Christian population in the Middle East.
Since the revolution, Egypt’s economy has crumbled, the political system has in some ways become even more repressive and instances of sectarian violence have mounted. One might imagine every Christian would want to leave Egypt — or at least they would be depressed by their prospects in a country they have inhabited for centuries. And while feelings of concern, fear and anxiety continue — and there are young people who want to leave — the kids I spoke with in Cairo want to stay put. In reporting this story, I was struck by how positive the young people I spoke to were.
It shouldn’t have shocked me, because you see this phenomenon throughout history; time and again, young people have asked for change because they are too youthful to have been disappointed in the past. They have less to lose than their parents. And let’s face it — your early 20’s are the time for idealism.
But what made their optimism interesting to me is that these particular young people have been disappointed. In Feb 2011, president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, and many thought they toppled a dictator. They believed there was a New Egypt on the horizon.
Instead, the transition has been turbulent. Ruled by an interim military government that prosecuted more civilians in military courts in 18 months in power than Mubarak did in his nearly 30-year reign, they then saw the election of Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi. Under his term, journalists have been intimidated, the economy has continued to fail, rolling blackouts have hit the country and protests against his term have ended in more violent clashes with security services. From inflation to security to trash collection, everything in Egypt seems to be stagnating, if not getting worse. Yet the young people I spoke with were trying to stay positive, though even they admit that’s not easy. But why?
The best answer I got was from Diana Maher Ghali, a 24-year-old who is expecting her first child this fall. She had this to say about their youthful optimism:
We believe that after the dawn there is light. That’s the rule of the world; it’s not dark all the time, and it’s not light all the time, and we feel this is our time to make a change.
We didn’t live under [Gamal] Nasser or [Anwar] Sadat. We didn’t live through all those wars. We didn’t live under the English occupation. This is our time to do something and this is our time to make history as young people.
If we don’t do anything, then our kids are going to blame us in the future for standing still and watching our country fall apart. I think we get our enthusiasm from this. We try to encourage each other. If we ever give up, it’s over. It’s always important to have hope that something will change, but it’s about taking action — not just sitting in your home.
Read more about Faith Under Fire in the Autumn issue of ONE.
28 October 2013
Tags: Egypt Cultural Identity ONE magazine Coptic Christians Copts
Children take part in the dedication of the new cathedral in Ukraine. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Several weeks ago, CNEWA president Msgr. John Kozar had a chance to visit Ukraine and take part in the dedication of a new cathedral. He writes about it in the new issue of ONE:
We came at the invitation of Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, to participate in the consecration of the new Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Our Lord, located in Kiev, Ukraine, and to commemorate a historic religious event heralding the beginning of the church in Ukraine. Gathered with us for the formal celebrations were Cardinal Timothy Dolan, CNEWA’s chair and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; Archbishop Richard Smith, his counterpart in Canada; and a number of Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops from Canada and the United States.
But our primary reason for visiting Ukraine was pastoral — to demonstrate CNEWA’s abiding support for this church that is, in fact, relatively young. Let me explain.
I say “young” because even though the church has been present there for over 1,000 years, it was suppressed for generations — forbidden and driven underground until only 22 years ago. With the fall of communism and the end of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has risen from the underground. Today, it is a dynamic and vibrant church. It never lost the faith — in fact, despite thousands of bishops, priests, sisters and lay faithful being executed or sent off to labor camps in the countryside and into Siberia, the faith was heroically passed on to successive generations.
What amazed and moved me was that these brave and courageous people do not complain about their great sufferings. Nor do they not look for pity. Rather, they celebrate their joy of rising with Christ and proclaiming him to all. The consecration of the new cathedral was a dramatic sign to the faithful in Ukraine and beyond that the faith shared in baptism can flourish — even in the worst of times.
Read more about his visit in the Autumn issue of ONE.
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Msgr. John E. Kozar Eastern Europe CNEWA Canada