14 September 2016
The Rev. Mykhailo Romaniuk blesses families from the Ukrainian community of Paris on 3 September in St. Volodymyr the Great Cathedral to mark the beginning of a new school year. Ukrainian Catholic immigrants have found a welcome home in Paris.
(photo: CNS/Ian Langsdon, EPA)
On Sundays, the Saint-Germain-des-Pres quarter of Paris — known for its artistic cafes, expensive boutiques and numerous bookstores — is filled with people in embroidered shirts who speak Ukrainian.
Since 1943, the Ukrainian Catholic community has prayed at the Cathedral of St. Volodymyr the Great on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Through the years, the parish has become the center of Ukrainian cultural and social life in Paris.
“We don’t have a feeling that we are in Paris as we are walking down the Boulevard Saint-Germain on Sunday or other feasts; it's like in our city of Ivano-Frankivsk,” said Zoriana Dolishniak. She, her husband, Andriy, and two children came to Paris from Western Ukraine six years ago. In Ukraine, Andriy Dolishniak had his own little business, but it did not go well, and they decided to start over in France. He works as an electrician in a construction firm; Zoriana Dolishniak cleans private houses.
Their children go to school — ordinary French school and Saturday Ukrainian school.
The Dolishniaks do not have legal status in France; they are waiting for documents. Their story is typical for the Paris Ukrainian parish, where new immigrants are the majority.
“Eighty percent of our faithful are undocumented,” said Bishop Borys Gudziak, who serves the Ukrainian Catholics in France, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxembourg. He said the Paris parish has been totally transformed by an influx of immigrants who are fleeing social and economic dislocation and, more recently, war.
“We have before us the example of the apostles and the first generation of Christians,” the bishop said. “What chance did St. Peter have in Rome where he didn’t know the language, he was an undocumented immigrant with no citizen rights, while living in the city of marble, senators, warriors and chariots? What chance do the Greek (Byzantine) Catholics have in Paris with the population of 10 million? We ask ourselves with a smile and in confidence in God’s guidance.”
Father Mykhailo Romaniuk knows well about the parish transformation. Eighteen years ago as a young priest, he was appointed to Paris, where most of the congregation was an aging post-war diaspora. His appointment coincided with the start of mass immigration of Ukrainians to Western Europe, and he was one of the first to welcome them in Paris.
“When the inflow started, doors of the cathedral never closed. People needed support and information. Sometimes people who arrived had no place to sleep, and they slept in a tiny parish hall,” recalled Father Romaniuk. He said they were difficult years, yet the openness of the church for the people in need helped build up the community. “We now have many people because we were there for them.”
On Sundays, about 600 attend liturgies, but the parish can see up to 3,500 on Easter, the priest said. It has more than 80 baptisms annually.
Bishop Gudziak said the parish raises the spirit of people. “They come to church to be together with God and with each other. In the city they work hard, often in demeaning circumstances, they live very modestly in tenement dwellings. But in church the glory of the Lord and the fellowship of the community is theirs.”
One reason people are attracted to the parish is the school, established in the 1950’s. Today it has more than 200 students.
“The Ukrainian school at the parish is a great advantage,” said Andriy Dolishniak, who is convinced that it is very important for the children to grow learning Christian values. School offers lessons on Ukrainian language, literature, history and catechism. Dolishniak said that while accompanying his daughter Solomiya to her catechism classes, he was able to deepen his own faith.
The working immigrants are modern-days nomads; some of them stay for a couple of years, some move to other cities and countries. Father Romaniuk said he considers his parish a missionary parish.
“It’s hard to implement long-term programs, but we would like to give as much as we can to the parishioners,” he said.
One of the programs the parish implements is the global Ukrainian Catholic Church strategy, “The Vibrant Parish — a place to encounter the living Christ.”
“For our eparchy, Paris is a model parish which develops programs and conducts experiments that then radiate throughout the other 29 communities that we have so far,” said Bishop Gudziak.
One of the tasks is to foster lay involvement and initiative in administration, in ministry and in outreach. Lawyer Stephane Dunikowski is actively engaged in parish and eparchy life, which she said makes her feel needed. She said she tries “to help with my efforts, my energy, my time and also financially.”
Bishop Gudziak said parishioners organized collections for sick children in Ukraine whose parents do not have money for treatment. He said parishioners have been generous toward those who are suffering in Ukraine because of war and the Russian invasion.
Some French Catholics have discovered Byzantine spirituality in the parish, even though they do not always understand national tradition and even the language; cathedral liturgies are celebrated in Ukrainian.
“I feel at home in this community,” said a woman who asked only to be identified as Natalie, who visits the cathedral almost every day. “I don’t understand a word during the service, but I get a lot.”
14 September 2016
At his daily Mass Wednesday, Pope Francis condemned the killing of Father Jacques Hamel.
(video: Rome Reports)
Pope Francis at Mass for Father Jacques Hamel: to kill in the name of God is satanic (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday morning celebrated Mass for the French priest of Rouen, Father Jacques Hamel, whom he described, is part of the chain of Christian martyrs that runs throughout the history of the Church. Father Hamel was murdered while celebrating Mass in his Parish Church by two men swearing allegiance to the so-called Islamic State in July...
Syrians await aid during ceasefire (CNN) A ceasefire in Syria’s brutal civil war appears to be holding into its second day — but for hundreds of thousands of besieged Syrians, the wait for humanitarian relief may last somewhat longer. Aid convoys are positioned at the Turkish border town of Cilvegozu, poised to enter the country and deliver food and medical aid to rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo, where the United Nations says between 250,000 and 275,000 people have been cut off from assistance since early July...
Aleppo priest: We’re struggling against desperation (Vatican Radio) There was calm across much of Syria Wednesday following a Russian and US brokered ceasefire, although a number of violations were reported since it took hold. With the truce in place the northern city of Aleppo is awaiting much needed aid...
Anti-Wahhabism spreading in Muslim world (Al-monitor) The religious authority in Saudi Arabia responded aggressively to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s annual message 5 September in which Khamenei attacked the Saudi government against the backdrop of the disputes between both states that culminated in forbidding Iranian pilgrims from the hajj this year. Iran also accused Saudi Arabia of negligence in managing the hajj, which led to the deaths of more than 760 people and injuries to around 1,000 in 2015...
Faith combined with firepower (The New York Times) While tanks and artillery have been Russia’s weapons of choice to project its power into neighboring Ukraine and Georgia, Mr. Putin has also mobilized faith to expand the country’s reach and influence. A fervent foe of homosexuality and any attempt to put individual rights above those of family, community or nation, the Russian Orthodox Church helps project Russia as the natural ally of all those who pine for a more secure, illiberal world free from the tradition-crushing rush of globalization, multiculturalism and women’s and gay rights...
Pope to mark World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will take part in the final meeting of the World Day of Prayer for Peace when he travels to Assisi on Tuesday, 20 September...
13 September 2016
Wadad Nagib rises at dawn, six days a week, to see off her three sons to their work as garbage collectors in an impoverished corner of Egypt near Cairo. (photo: Dana Smilie)
Some of the most heroic and inspiring figures we have met have been people who hold fast to their faith and their dignity, in spite of challenges most of us couldn’t imagine.
One of those is Wadad Nagib, a 46-year-old mother of six who lives in a corner of Egypt known as Garbage City — an impoverished Coptic Christian neighborhood that is home to the Zabbaleen, or “garbage people.”
As Sarah Topol reported for ONE:
To spend time with the Nagib family is to witness in microcosm the struggles of an entire class of people — and to realize that they are struggling not just to salvage what others discard, but also to salvage dignity and a way of life.
Mrs. Nagib’s husband collected trash for a living. Now too old to work, he has passed his route on to his children. And it seems, one by one, the Nagib children are carrying on the tradition.
Six days a week, Mrs. Nagib rises before dawn to see off three of her sons to their work as garbage collectors. At 5, the young men will have climbed into the family truck to head down the slopes to the city — a drive that takes two hours. There, they go from apartment to apartment along their route collecting garbage. By early afternoon, they head home, the truck loaded with trash.
While the young men rest, Mrs. Nagib and her daughters begin picking through the garbage bags with bare hands. They sort the debris into piles: aluminum cans, food waste, glass, etc. Later, the family will sell the recyclables.
Mrs. Nagib’s 3-year-old daughter plays barefoot in the trash heaps. Flies swarm around the mother and daughters. The sickly sweet stench of rotting waste fills the neighborhood’s narrow, unpaved streets.
“It’s not easy, but it’s what we have become accustomed to. All we want is security and God’s blessing,” Mrs. Nagib says. The slender woman wears a bright blue headscarf and small, simple earrings. As she gestures with her hands, she reveals a tiny tattoo of a cross on her right wrist, a common marking among Copts. “Maybe in the future things will get better.”
Read more about the Nagib family and the Zabbaleen here.
Last spring, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar paid a pastoral visit to Egypt and came away deeply moved:
How can garbage collectors and sorters who live surrounded by mountains of garbage in Cairo’s ghettoes be considered productive? How can they sing “Alleluia” at Mass on Epiphany? It is possible because so many of them look to the cross on their wrist for their cherished identity. They are not outcasts. They are not “second class.” They are brothers and sisters to Christ, and he is their Lord.
For their humility, their faith, and their tireless quest for dignity, they are also, to us, heroes.
To support our brothers and sisters in Egypt, visit this link.
13 September 2016
Main speakers at “Baptism by Fire” fundraiser included the Rev. Henri Boulad, S.J. of Egypt, Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, and Carl Hétu, national director of
CNEWA in Canada. (photo: CNEWA Canada)
On 10 September 2016, more than 260 people attended the “Baptism by Fire” fundraising dinner in Canada in at the Madison Convention Center near Toronto. People from different parishes and different backgrounds attended — including local bishops and clergy. We gathered together for a common cause — supporting Christians in the Middle East, mainly in Iraq, Syria and Egypt.
The “Baptism by Fire” fundraising dinner drew more than 260 people at the Madison Convention Center in the Toronto area. (photo: CNEWA Canada)
Sponsored by the Archdiocese of Toronto and CNEWA Canada, the event raised funds that will support CNEWA’s work in Syria and Iraq, and projects in Egypt run by keynote speaker, the Rev. Henri Boulad, S.J.
Some memorable quotes of the night:
Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, addresses the crowd. (photo: CNEWA Canada)
- “The testimony of selfless love is the best gift you can give.” — Father Henri Boulad, S.J.
- “We pray for the Lord to bless those who are giving their lives in the Middle East.” — Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto
- “We support people not because they are Christian, but because we are Christian.” — Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto
- “We need to make sure there’s a future of Christianity in the Middle East.” — Carl Hétu, CNEWA Canada national director
- Let’s be advocates for peace in the Middle East.” — Carl Hétu, CNEWA Canada national director
If you’d like to lend your support, visit this link. You can also read more about CNEWA’s work supporting Christians in the Middle East in recent editions of ONE magazine, including this in-depth look at displaced Iraqis and this report on Cardinal Dolan’s pastoral visit to Iraq last spring.
Carl Hétu, CNEWA Canada national director (center) with two of the event organizers, Kris Dmytrenko (left) and Daniel Torchia (right). (photo: CNEWA Canada)
13 September 2016
The Rev. Androwas Bahus leads an early morning liturgy at St. Peter and St. Paul Church in the city of Shefa-Amr, Israel. That was just the beginning of his long and eventful day. Learn more about A Day in the Life of an Israeli Priest in the Winter 2015 edition of ONE.
(photo: Ilene Perlman)
13 September 2016
Syrians celebrate Eid Al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) on 12 September 2016 in Aleppo. Syria is beginning its first full day of a ceasefire brokered by Russia and the United States.
(photo: Emin Sansar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Calm in Syria as ceasefire begins (Al Jazeera) No deaths have been documented in Syria since a ceasefire brokered by Russia and the US entered its first full day, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). At least 14 violations were reported since the ceasefire took effect on Monday, but most parts of Syria remained relatively calm, the SOHR’s Rami Abdulrahman told Al Jazeera. “No one has died from gunfire over the past 15 hours,” he said on Tuesday at 12pm Damascus local time (09:00 GMT). “This is so far the most successful ceasefire to take place in the country...”
Thousands of Syrian refugees head to school in Jordan (Al-Monitor) To allow more Syrian refugee children access to education, the kingdom has taken several measures supported by international funding. One of them is that from now on, state schools are allowed to enroll Syrian children even if their paperwork is not in order, government spokesman Mohamed Momani told Agence France-Presse. Families can sort out their situations during the school year. Jordan has also created special classes for some 25,000 children ages 8-12 who had been deprived of schooling for the past three years or more. Falling behind has been one of the barriers that complicated many Syrian children’s education. These new “catch-up classes” will prepare children to join their age group in just one year...
Ukrainian rebel leader announces ceasefire (ABC News) Separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday announced a unilateral cease-fire starting at midnight Wednesday, which could be a major step in solving the conflict that has raged for more than two years...
Syrian refugees living in fear as Lebanon tightens its laws (BBC) Faced with one of the most severe refugee crises in the world, Lebanon has been toughening up its policies towards Syrians who have fled there, leaving many in an increasingly vulnerable state. In one of the latest examples, authorities in the southern village of Kfarruman gave those who did not have a local sponsor 15 days to leave...
Hindu militants attack Christian church in India (Fides) For more than half an hour, a small Pentecostal Christian church packed with faithful was hit by a hail of stones organized by Hindu extremist militants who accused the Christians of proselytism, according to Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians. The incident took place on Sunday, 11 September, in Siddharth Nagar district in Uttar Pradesh state in northern India...
12 September 2016
A woman prays during the liturgy at the Armenian Catholic Center in Tbilisi, Georgia. The Vatican today announced the itinerary of Pope Francis, who will be visiting Georgia and Azerbaijan later this month. Read details here. To learn more about the faith in Georgia, check out Staying Power from the Autumn 2013 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)
12 September 2016
In this image from 2014, Jordan’s King Abdullah II meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican. Last week, the Muslim king called on Muslims to help Christians address challenges in the Middle East.
(photo: Paul Haring/CNS)
Jordan’s king: Muslims must help Christians address Mideast challenges (CNS) Jordan’s King Abdullah II told a visiting delegation from the Middle East Council of Churches that his country has become a model for coexistence, fraternity and moderation in the Middle East. “Christians in the Arab world are an integral part of the Arab social fabric, and protecting their rights is a duty of all,” the Muslim monarch told the delegation on 7 September. King Abdullah said Arabs, whether Muslims or Christians, face similar challenges in the Mideast, caught up in sectarian and other conflicts, adding that they also share a responsibility in addressing these challenges...
Syria ceasefire set to begin (CNN) When the sun sets Monday over Syria, the country’s war-weary residents will be watching to see if the fighting will stop for a full 48 hours, in line with a hard-fought ceasefire brokered Friday by the US and Russia...
A nation at war, Ukraine turns to the Lord (Catholic Register) With 10,000 dead in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, Russian tanks and missile systems massing on the eastern border, two million internally displaced Ukrainians, Crimea already under Russian rule and the Ukrainian Black Sea fleet sunk or stolen, the Rev. Peter Galadza is putting his trust in the politics of the beatitudes. Along with about 1.2 million other Ukrainian-Canadians, Father Galadza understands just how easily his country is sacrificed on the altar of power politics and strategic interests...
Christians and Muslims meet to discuss violence against religious minorities in India (Christian Today) Fifty Christian and Muslim religious leaders gathered in India’s capital New Delhi to discuss “challenges for the freedom of religion and belief in India” under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and to tackle ways on how to address the increasing violence against religious minorities in the Hindu-dominated South Asian nation. Father Z. Devasagaya Raj, secretary of the Indian Catholic bishops’ conference’s office for Dalit and indigenous people, lamented how both Christians and Muslims are currently “facing physical, symbolic and structural violence” from Hindu extremists across the country...
Rabbi, imam nurture interfaith relationships in the wake of 9/11 (RNS) Like many Americans, New York University chaplains Imam Khalid Latif and Rabbi Yehuda Sarna remember exactly where they were on 11 September 2001. Both men say that day and its aftermath were pivotal in defining what they now see as their lives’ mission: to promote a vision for interfaith engagement based on personal relationships...
9 September 2016
In this image from 2015, Pope Francis stands between Jewish and Muslim religious leaders during a prayer service at the ground zero 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
As we mark the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks this Sunday, CNEWA’s external affairs officer, the Rev. Elias. D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., reflects on their legacy.
His thoughts appear in the current edition of the National Catholic Reporter:
On 11 September 2001, no one could have foreseen the Middle East of 2016, in which Iraq is close to being a failed nation; Syria is engaged in a suicidal civil war; and ISIS controls large swaths of Iraq and Syria, massacring Christians, Yazidis, Shabaks, as well as Sunni Muslims who don’t agree with them. The Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate under the so-called Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has brought wanton destruction on a scale that has not been seen since the Mongol invasions of the 13th century.
Self-described jihadis have carried off murderous attacks in the U.K., Spain, France, Belgium and Germany, bringing terror to countries that had not previously experienced it. Many European countries are being inundated with refugees. The world of September 2016 has little in common with that of September 2001.
While there are very few hopeful signs, there are, nonetheless, some important things that are happening and are often overlooked. In the Middle East, where Christians often simply ignored each other, there is now a new recognition of what the pope calls the “ecumenism of blood.” Threatened with extinction, many Christian churches are now working together, finding they have much in common that they may have overlooked before. The crisis in the Middle East, especially the refugee crisis, has brought an encouraging new era of cooperation between Francis and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew.
Although it has unfortunately not received the coverage it deserves, the Muslim world has also reacted with shock and horror at what is being done in its name. Muslim leaders from Iraq to Morocco to France to Indonesia have been gathering to ask themselves what is happening to Islam and condemning the violence.
Perhaps the most impressive action on the part of scholars from every tradition in Islam was “A Common Word.” Addressed to all Christian leaders, the letter, published in 2007, calls Christians and Muslims to work together for peace. In a most powerful statement, the Muslim scholars proclaimed “our very eternal souls are all also at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony.”
There’s much more. Read it all at the NCR link.
9 September 2016
Some of the children who attend the new Saint Rachel Center in Jerusalem show off their handiwork. The center — supported in part by CNEWA — cares for the children of migrants in Israel. Read more about it here. And for a deeper look into the lives of migrants in Israel, check out Surviving Without a Country in the Promised Land in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE.
(photo: St. James Vicariate)