5 December 2018
Dominican Sister Luma Khudher of Iraq is pictured in an early October photo in Chester, England. At a 4 December ecumenical service at Westminster Abbey, Britain's Prince Charles spoke of how he was deeply moved by the testimony of Sister Luma, who fled ISIS but has returned to the Ninevah Plain to help re-establish the Christian presence. (photo: CNS/Simon Caldwell)
The heir to the British throne spoke of how he was deeply moved by the testimony of an Iraqi sister who fled Islamic State militants but has returned to the Ninevah Plain to help re-establish the Christian presence.
Charles, Prince of Wales, described the resilience of Sister Luma Khudher, a Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena, and other Iraqi refugees as a testament to the “extraordinary power of faith.”
Speaking in Westminster Abbey at a 4 December ecumenical service “to celebrate the contribution of Christians in the Middle East,” the prince recalled his “great joy” of meeting Sister Luma in England in October.
He told a congregation of more than 1,000 people how, in 2014, as extremists advanced on the Christian town of Qaraqosh, Sister Luma “got behind the wheel of a minibus crammed full of her fellow Christians and drove the long and dangerous road to safety.”
“Like the 100,000 other Christians who were forced from the Ninevah Plains by Daesh that year, they left behind the ruins of their homes and churches and the shattered remnants of their communities,” he said.
“The sister told me, movingly, of her return to Ninevah with her fellow sisters three years later, and of their despair at the utter destruction they found there,” he said. “But like so many others, they put their faith in God, and today the tide has turned -- nearly half of those displaced having gone back to rebuild their homes and their communities.”
Prince Charles said the return of Christians to Iraq represented “the most wonderful testament to the resilience of humanity, and to the extraordinary power of faith to resist even the most brutal efforts to extinguish it.”
He said that in meeting people like Sister Luma, he was repeatedly “deeply humbled and profoundly moved by the extraordinary grace and capacity for forgiveness that I have seen in those who have suffered so much.”
“It is an act of supreme courage, of a refusal to be defined by the sin against you,” he said, “of determination that love will triumph over hate.”
Christians who face persecution, endure and overcome “are an inspiration to the whole church, and to all people of goodwill.”
Sister Luma visited the United Kingdom in October as a guest of the Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity helping persecuted Christians.
She speaks English, having studied at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and earning a doctorate in biblical studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, so she could describe her ordeal in detail during a private meeting with the prince.
In his address, Prince Charles also expressed his hope that Christians and Muslims will again live together in peace, saying that throughout history they have “shown that it is possible to live side by side as neighbors and friends.”
“Indeed, I know that in Lebanon, Muslims join Christians at the Shrine of our Lady of Lebanon to honor her together,” Prince Charles said. “And I know that there are Muslim faith leaders who have spoken out in defense of Christian communities and of their contribution to the region.”
“Co-existence and understanding are not just possible, therefore; they are confirmed by hundreds of years of shared experience,” he said. “Extremism and division are by no means inevitable.”
The Catholic Church was represented at the service by Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark, vice president of the English and Welsh bishops’ conference; Dominican Father Timothy Radcliffe; and by U.S. Archbishop Edward J. Adams, papal nuncio to Great Britain. Christian leaders from the Middle East and North Africa also were in attendance.
Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury said that “to live in a country or in a society where a government, or an armed group, or even a minority of people consider that you should be consigned to oblivion because of your faith in Christ is an experience that is without parallel.”
“Obedience for Christians outside the Middle East and outside areas of persecution is to ensure that governments, that households, that societies welcome the afflicted, pray for the suffering, stand with those in torment, rejoice in liberation,” he said.
Read more about the remarkable work of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraq in ONE magazine:
5 December 2018
Tags: Iraq Dominican Sisters
In the video above, Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko offers his views about the heightened tensions between Russia and Ukraine. (video: Bloomberg/YouTube.)
Ukraine council to meet to form independent church (Reuters) A Ukrainian church council will meet on 15 December in order to create an independent Orthodox church and elect its leader, President Petro Poroshenko said on Wednesday. Under Poroshenko’s presidency, Ukraine has pushed to establish a national church and thereby sever centuries-old ties with the Russian clergy. The Kiev authorities say the step is essential to tackling Russian meddling on its soil…
Pope appoints new archbishop in Nagpur, India (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Monday appointed a bishop in the Indian Archdiocese of Nagpur. The Pope transferred Bishop Elias Joseph Gonsalves of Amravati to Nagpur Archdiocese, both in Maharashtra state. The See of Nagpur has been vacant following the death of Archbishop Abrahan Viruthakulangara on 19 April 2018…
'Peace is everything': Ethiopia and Eritrea embrace open borders (NPR)Almost everywhere you go in Zalambessa, a town on Ethiopia’s border with Eritrea, there are reminders of war: buildings in rubble, walls riddled with bullet holes and a border still delineated by two rows of trenches. But now, dramatic change is underway…
Egypt’s Pope Tawadros discusses status of copts, regional politics, reforms (Arab News) The pope describes events in Syria and Iraq, with the rise of Daesh, as “very painful,” and points out that Christians who had to flee and seek asylum abroad were among the most affected. However, his concerns extend beyond the plight of Christians alone, and he argues that a “weakening of Arab countries” means “the weakening of Arabs as a whole … Christians and Muslims alike…”
Beirut’s refugee artists (Al Jazeera) The ongoing conflict in Syria has forced not only Syrians, but Iraqis and Palestinian refugees out of the country and into Lebanon in search of safety. Sitting in a Beirut cafe, Syrian screenwriter Najeeb Nseir is unable to accept being labelled a refugee. ”I tell people I’m a tourist,” he says...
4 December 2018
Tags: India Ukraine Ethiopia Indian Bishops
The Conference of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East gathered for its annual meeting 26-30 November in Baghdad under the theme "Youth is a Sign of Hope in the Middle East Countries." (photo: CNS/courtesy Conference of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East)
Catholic leaders of the Middle East cautioned that the very existence of Christians in the region is threatened, but their faithful continue “to bear witness to the Lord Jesus amid a turbulent world interrupted by mighty waves.”
The Conference of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East reminded young people: “In light of the difficulties and challenges you face in the midst of the current situation in the Middle East, and in light of the bleak migration that threatens your future and the Christian presence in the East as a whole, we stand by you. As we share the same present pain, we look forward to a bright future with your presence, and we assure you that we will work together to provide the foundations of your steadfastness and steadfastness in your land.”
The patriarchs met in Baghdad 26-30 November with the theme, “Youth Is a Sign of Hope in the Middle East Countries.”
Cardinal Louis Sako, patriarch of Chaldean Catholics, opened the meeting and noted that emigration and religious extremism are pressing challenges.
At a 27 November liturgy at the Chaldean Cathedral of St. Joseph, overflowing with young people who shared their questions, concerns, fears and aspirations for their future with the prelates, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said: “We live in this terrible legacy that we have inherited in recent years. Today, many people want to leave because of the difficulties and pain created by takfiri terrorism and external interference.”
However, Patriarch Younan exhorted, “If we want to be faithful and faithful to our fathers and grandfathers, we must remain steadfast despite all the challenges.”
The patriarchs also concelebrated the liturgy on 26 November at the Syriac Cathedral of Our Lady of Deliverance in Baghdad, marking the attack there eight years ago in which two young priests and 45 believers were martyred.
In their final statement, the patriarchs called upon Iraq’s officials “to work hand in hand to renew the country and its development.”
The patriarchs also met with Iraqi President Barham Salih, who was received by Pope Francis at the Vatican on 24 November. The president told the prelates that he had invited the pope to visit Iraq.
Regarding Syria, the patriarchs expressed satisfaction “with the stability in most parts of the country, where life has returned to normal, hoping that this will include stability in all of Syria.” They appealed “to all decision-makers to work hard for the return” of displaced people and refugees, which they stressed “will have a profound impact” on maintaining national unity “so that Syria will remain the land of peace, freedom and dignity.”
In their statement, the Middle East patriarchs affirmed their solidarity with Palestine and its people “who still groan under the occupation and long for the dawn of salvation and independence.” They called upon the international community to “recognize the Palestinian state within the framework of the two states and the return of Palestinian refugees to their lands.”
They also urged respect for religious minorities, adding, “The truth, as Pope Benedict XVI warns us, is that ‘peace and justice in our world cannot be achieved if religious freedoms are not respected for all.’“
4 December 2018
Tags: Iraq Middle East
Ukrainian soldiers ride atop armored vehicles during military exercises on 3 December near Honcharivske. Ukrainian Catholic bishops said Ukrainians had a "right and sacred duty" to defend themselves against "Russian aggression," but should also avoid yielding to alarm and panic.
(photo: CNS/Valentyn Ogirenko Shevchuk, Reuters)
Bishops: Ukrainians have ‘sacred duty’ to defend against Russian aggression (CNS) In a message marking the anniversary of their country’s December 1991 referendum on independence from the Soviet Union, Ukrainian Catholic bishops said Ukrainians had a “right and sacred duty” to defend themselves against “Russian aggression,” but should also avoid yielding to alarm and panic…
Two refugees dead after fire rips through tents in Lebanon (AFP) A fire ripped through a refugee settlement in Baalbeck’s Yammouneh Monday, killing two Syrians, including a boy, and burning nearly two dozen tents, a local official said. An electric spark first ignited the fire in one of the tents, and winds caused the blaze to spread to around 25 others, a local source told The Daily Star, adding that Civil Defense units later fully extinguished the fire…
American-style holiday cheer comes to Jerusalem (The Jerusalem Post) The hoopla, billed as “Together: Marching with World Jewry,” was the initiative of the Diaspora Affairs Ministry and was designed to celebrate Hanukkah and demonstrate unity between Israelis and Diaspora Jewry…
Bakers from Baghdad who fled violence pursue a sweet dream (The New York Times) The marriage of Nael and Manar al-Najjar was forged in sugar. Mr. Najjar grew up working in his family’s Baghdad sweet shop. When he proposed, three months after meeting his future wife at a family wedding, he traveled six hours to her hometown, carrying 15 boxes of confections: baklava, kenafeh and Turkish delights. The couple settled in Baghdad, opened a bakery and started a family. As Catholics, though, they faced discrimination and threats of violence. When those threats turned deadly, they fled and sought asylum in America…
Searching for the real Queen of Sheba in Ethiopia (National Geographic) The Queen of Sheba is the Greta Garbo of antiquity. A glamorous, mysterious figure immortalized in the Bible and the Quran, celebrated in an oratorio by Handel, an opera by Charles Gounod, a ballet by Ottorino Respighi, and depicted in paintings by Raphael, Tintoretto, and Claude Lorrain, she remains tantalizingly elusive to the inquiries of historians. Across swaths of modern-day North Africa her legend lives on, despite—or perhaps because of—the fact that no one knows for sure if she existed, or if she did, where she lived…
3 December 2018
Tags: Lebanon Ukraine Ethiopia Jerusalem Jews
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas greets Pope Francis during a meeting at the Vatican on 3 December. (photo: CNS/Andrew Medichini, pool via Reuters)
Pope Francis and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas renewed their commitment to peace in the Holy Land and a two-state solution to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine, the Vatican said.
The pope welcomed President Abbas to the Vatican on 3 December and the two spoke privately for 20 minutes.
In a statement released after their meeting, the Vatican said the two leaders focused on “efforts to reactivate the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, and to reach a two-state solution, hoping for a renewed commitment on the part of the international community to meet the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.”
Pope Francis and Abbas also discussed the status of Jerusalem and underlined “the importance of recognizing and preserving its identity and the universal value of the holy city for the three Abrahamic religions.”
Tensions over the city rose again in December 2017 after President Donald Trump announced his decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, fulfilling a promise he made during his presidential campaign.
The announcement sparked anti-U.S. protests throughout Asia and the Middle East and drew warnings from Middle Eastern and European leaders that overturning the United States’ long-standing policy would further complicate peace negotiations.
Abbas presented the pope with a painting of the Old City of Jerusalem and said, “This represents the spirit of the Old City of Jerusalem.”
He also gave the pope a book titled, “Two Lands of Holiness,” a historical book about the Holy Land and Vatican City as well as hand-carved wooden panel.
The pope gave the president a commemorative medallion depicting St. Peter’s Basilica in the 1600s and a copy of his 2018 message for the World Day of Peace.
“It is from this year and I signed it with today’s date,” the pope said as he gave him the message.
Taking his leave, Abbas warmly embraced the pope, who thanked the Palestinian president for visiting.
“I am happy about this meeting,” Abbas replied. “We are counting on you.”
3 December 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Palestine
Pope Francis places an Advent candle during the Angelus prayer led from his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square on 2 December. The pope lit the candle as part of a plea for peace in Syria.
(photo: CNS/Giuseppe Lami, EPA)
Pope leads prayers for ’tormented’ Syria (CNS) Leading thousands of pilgrims in prayer, Pope Francis lit a candle in remembrance of the people of Syria, especially innocent children tormented by the country’s eight-year conflict. ”May this flame of hope and many flames of hope dispel the darkness of war,” he said on 2 December after praying the Angelus prayer…
Battle between Israel and Iran shifting from Syria to Lebanon (Haaretz) Thursday’s incident occurred a few hours after former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin made an unusual statement. Yadlin, who heads the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, told the radio station 103 FM that Iran has recently altered its behavior in the region…
JRS: a true Christian must ’welcome, protect, promote’ the other (Vatican News) As thousands of forced migrants continue to flee conflict and poverty in the countries, an increasing number of governments are implementing new migration plans and policies aimed at turning people back and discouraging them from setting out in their journeys of hope…
Ukraine calls up reservists amid tensions with Russia (AP)Ukraine’s president has announced a call-up of reservists amid tensions with Russia. Relations between the two neighbors have strained further following the 25 November incident in which Russia fired upon and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels and their crews…
Landmark Ukrainian Catholic church declared total loss after fire (CNS) A three-alarm fire that raged through St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church late 27 November left the landmark church on Roosevelt Avenue in Carteret a total loss. No one was injured in the blaze that sent tongues of flame into the night sky while smoke billowed out of broken spaces that once were beautiful stained-glass windows and holes in the roof made by the firefighters to gain control of the conflagration…
Artists work with refugees to create mosaic park in Jordan (The Jordan Times) What once was a dull desert area in the middle of the Azraq refugee camp was transformed into a new space for art and community engagement by the London-based organization Artmongers, recently…
30 November 2018
Tags: Syria Lebanon Ukraine Israel Ukrainian Catholic Church
Now 8-months-old, little Mariam is thriving and healthy after being treated for a hole in her heart. (photo: CNEWA)
In May, we told you about a CNEWA success story from Jordan, 2-month-old Mariam:
Before Mariam was born, her parents came to CNEWA, looking for help. The mother was older, and it was clear she needed a Caesarean delivery. The CNEWA staff directed the family to the Italian Hospital, supported by CNEWA in Amman, and helped pay for the surgery.
The delivery went well, but the doctors discovered that Mariam has a small hole in her heart. She is being treated with drugs and, in time, it is hoped the hole will close and Mariam will have a long life.
This week, Ra’ed Bahou, our regional director in Amman, sent along the picture shown above, with an update:
This is her second visit to our CNEWA office. Mariam and her father stopped by for the distribution of the Christmas food tickets for Iraqi families.
She is healthy and gorgeous.
We’re delighted to share that news with our readers — and grateful, as always, for the generosity of our CNEWA family that continues to make stories like this one possible.
30 November 2018
In this image from July, Pope Francis releases a dove with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople outside the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy. To mark the 30 November feast of St. Andrew, the pope sent a message to the patriarch, expressing the importance of working for Christian unity. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope: Christian unity is hope for a suffering world (Vatican News) Despite differences between Catholics and Orthodox Christians, Pope Francis said the two communities are called to be a sign of hope by working together for peace, human dignity and care of creation. “We can work together today in the search for peace among peoples, for the abolition of all forms of slavery, for the respect and dignity of every human being and for the care of creation,” the Pope said in a message to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople on the occasion of the 30 November feast of St. Andrew, the patron of the Patriarchate based in Istanbul, Turkey…
Ukraine bans Russian men from entering country (NBC News) Russian men between the ages of 16 and 60 have been barred from entering Ukraine after long-simmering tensions between the countries escalated into a clash on the Black Sea. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko tweeted Friday that restrictions on Russian nationals were taken in order to prevent the formation of “private armies which in reality are representatives of Russian armed forces…”
Syria says it shot down ’hostile targets in suspected Israeli attack (Reuters) Syrian air defenses shot down “hostile targets” on Thursday, state media said, in an area regional intelligence sources said contains Iran-backed assets, while Russian media said no Israeli jet had been downed as earlier reported…
Indians say they’re being held hostage in Ethiopia over unpaid wages (Bloomberg) India’s foreign ministry is investigating claims by expatriates in Ethiopia who say they are being held hostage by local staff that haven’t been paid after the financier Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. began defaulting on $12.6 billion in debt…
29 November 2018
In this image from May, Pope Francis greets Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople during a meeting in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
The last day of November holds a special significance for many Christians — and serves to remind us of the much-desired unity for which CNEWA and so much of the Christian world ardently pray.
In his encyclical Ut Unum Sint (That They May Be One) of 25 May 1995, Pope John Paul II wrote of the necessity of the church living and breathing with its “two lungs.” By that he was referring to the Catholic Church including Catholics not only of the Latin Rite but also the many different Orthodox Churches who were not in communion with Rome.
Historically it seemed that once Christians stopped being persecuted, they started arguing with each other. Churches broke relations (communion) with each other starting in the 4th century and continued to do so throughout the centuries. Some of the breaks were not that noticeable; others such as the Great Schism between the Eastern and Western Church in 1054 and the Protestant Reformation which started in 1517 were nothing short of tectonic and impacted major parts of the Christian world.
At the opening of the 20th century, Christianity found itself seriously divided and it seemed that those divisions were incurable. However, there were stirrings of the Spirit among some broad minded Christians, leading them to believe not only that divisions among Christians were wrong but also that they could be healed. The Ecumenical Movement was born.
With Vatican II (1962-65) the Catholic Church formally committed itself to this movement and to work for Christian unity by engaging in dialogue with other Christians. One of the most dramatic ecumenical events to occur took place during the council. Pope Paul VI visited the Holy Land—the first pope to do it since St. Peter. While there, he met with Athenagoras, the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople in January of 1964. Although the role of the Patriarch of Constantinople among the Orthodox Churches is quite different than that of the pope in the Catholic Church, he is, nevertheless, the “first among equals” and the Ecumenical Patriarch.
The historic meeting ultimately resulted in the lifting of the mutual excommunications which had been promulgated by the two churches in 1054; it also brought about the commitment to engage in dialogue and the pledge of regular visits between the Phanar (the cathedral of the Patriarch of Constantinople) and the Holy See. It was decided that the patriarch would visit or send a delegation to the Holy See every year on 29 June, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the patron saints of Rome. The Holy See would return the visit every year on 30 November, the feast of St. Andrew, patron saint of Byzantium.
The initial meetings were cordial, ceremonial and, of course, very important. Sometimes the patriarch himself came to Rome and the pope went to the Phanar in Istanbul. More often, high level delegation exchanged visits to celebrate the feast of the other church.
Over the decades what had begun as a cordial and ceremonial—though important—event has evolved into the meeting of friends and brothers. The small steps of rapprochement made by Pope Paul and Patriarch Athenagoras in the Holy Land, have evolved into a deep friendship and cooperation between Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew and the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
When the representatives of Pope Francis celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew tomorrow in Istanbul, they are representing two friends—Francis and Bartholomew—who have not only met several times but have worked together in issues such as the environment, world peace and the plight of refugees.
CNEWA’s world is deeply rooted in places where Orthodox Christians are in the majority. The yearly meetings between the pope and patriarch are signs to us that in a world of nationalism, xenophobia—if not downright hatred of “the Other”—and division, the “two lungs of the church” are working together to breathe new life in the two major Christian traditions of the world.
29 November 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople
A nun and patients pray during Mass in the St. Louis Hospital chapel in Jerusalem. Read about how this place has become An Oasis of Compassion in the September 2012 edition of ONE.
(photo: Debbie Hill)