31 July 2018
A flooded house is seen in the Kottayam district of India's Kerala state, where torrential rains have inundated hundreds of villages and displaced at least 100,000 people. (photo: UCANews/IANS)
Church helps victims as floods batter India (UCANews.com) Unusually long and heavy monsoon rains have inundated several parts of India and claimed at least 537 lives as church agencies and others reach out to help some two million people affected by floods. The Federal National Emergency Response Centre has recorded floods in six states after the monsoon began in Kerala in the south in early June. Teams of church people are working to provide immediate relief to flood-affected people, said Anjan Bag, who manages disaster intervention at Caritas India…
Druze women, children reportedly abducted by ISIS in Syria (Vatican News) Reports from Syria suggest that at least 36 women and children were abducted when the militant group attacked their villages in Sweida, a province in the south, last week. A few women have since managed to escape, but further details are unknown…
Doctor describes challenges Syrian refugees face in Jordan and Lebanon (WBUR/Public Radio) Millions of people have fled Syria since the civil war started there in 2011. Millions more are internally displaced. Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti speaks with Dr. Zaher Sahloul, president and co-founder of MedGlobal, a relief organization that has been working in refugee camps in the region…
‘The city of my birth in India is becoming a climate casualty…’ (The New York Times) I spent the first seven years of my life in this delta city, close to where the Ganges pours into the sea. In my memory, it was a city of steam and sweat, rice and fish, of languid, muggy afternoons. A city of water. Lots and lots of water. On this trip, in the era of global warming, I found a city at profound risk...
Hairdressing school gives Syrian refugees in Lebanon dream of independence (Reuters) Around 20 Syrian and Lebanese girls and women will study hairdressing for six months under the L’Oreal Foundation’s Beauty for a Better Life program, earning an internationally recognized certificate if they are successful…
30 July 2018
Tags: Syria India Refugees
In this image from 2016, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan celebrates a liturgy in a displaced-persons camp in Ankawa, Iraq. Last week, he presided at a synod of Syriac Catholic bishops, who issued a statement lamenting the plight of persecuted Christians.(photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
Syriac Catholic bishops from around the world, meeting in Lebanon for their annual synod, lamented the plight of their “tormented and persecuted” faithful.
In their final statement from the 23-27 July gathering, with Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan presiding, the bishops noted that they have “raised their voices high in front of the world, denouncing the calamities” which have especially affected the Syriac church, particularly in Syria and Iraq.
They characterized the situation as “a catastrophe that repeats the tragedy of genocide that took place with their ancestors a hundred years ago.”
“This grave violation of their civil rights has shaken their human, societal and cultural being, especially as they have experienced the tragedies of the displacement of thousands of families,” the bishops said.
The prelates also said they addressed the issue of the migration of thousands of Syriac Catholic families from the region and “the sense of shared responsibility and the urgent need to pursue the spiritual, pastoral and social service of those displaced.”
Regarding Syriac Catholics who settled in Europe, the Americas and Australia, the bishops encouraged them to continue to live their traditions and heritage and “to love their new countries, to be faithful to them and to be creative in various fields,” while stressing “their constant quest for spiritual service despite challenges and difficulties.”
The prelates “renewed their support and solidarity with all the tormented and persecuted” Syriac people who suffer “the pain of displacement, migration and uprooting, assuring them that the Church will remain with them.”
Likewise, they also discussed the return of the displaced to their villages in the dioceses of Syria and Iraq, countries which have been “plagued by disturbances and futile wars in recent years.”
The Syriac Catholic bishops also underscored concerns regarding specific areas in the Middle East.
They stressed the need for solidarity among the Iraqi people, for dialogue and acceptance of the other and for security, peace and stability to be restored to Iraq.
Regarding Syria, they called for an end to the country’s seven-year civil war and for all parties “to work together for the return of normalcy” in the country.
The Syriac Catholic bishops maintained that “Jerusalem is a city for all followers of the three religions” and affirmed “the right of the Palestinian people to return to their land and to achieve a lasting peace in the two-state solution.”
They expressed their confidence “in the wise leadership” of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the government of Egypt and congratulated Lebanon for peaceful parliamentary elections on 6 May, reiterating an earlier call that the Syriac Catholic community be represented in the new government.
Typically, the Syriac Catholic bishops meet in October. However, this year’s synod was scheduled to follow the first Syriac Youth International Convention, also held in Lebanon. More than 400 youth from 15 countries worldwide attended.
30 July 2018
Tags: Lebanon Syriac Catholic Church Persecution
These young women and their children recently took part in a community health program supported by CNEWA. (photo: CNEWA)
Recently, we got an update on a project CNEWA has been supporting in India: a community health program for better mother and child care. To date, it has benefitted 587 families in 10 villages. Our regional director for India, M.L. Thomas, offered additional details:
This project was to support tribal women, to help them understand how to care for themselves and their children, through low cost nutrition and immunizations. It was done in the Darbha block at Bastar District.
Many health issues were identified, particularly anemia and malnutrition. Eight staff members, including a qualified nurse, were engaged in this project.
It was noted that the major problem in this area was malnutrition among children and among pregnant and lactating mothers.
A major concern is a lack of knowledge about diet. Many families have very limited diets with low nutritional content. Mothers are anemic, children are malnourished and the general health of the family is poor. Awareness classes were given to the families on the positive effects of dietary supplements to improve overall health.
About 260 mothers benefitted from this program. A total of 10 training sessions were conducted.
In addition, health camps were conducted in 10 villages. About 800 people took part. We were able to detect anemia in pregnant women, along with some skin diseases, high blood pressure, pneumonia, malaria and tuberculosis. A doctor from the government’s medical college came to assist and give classes.
Most of the families, we learned, were following the wrong customs and beliefs about the kinds of foods pregnant women should eat. (An example: due to some local customs, pregnant women are often not allowed to appear before others and are often forced to eat less.) The awareness programs helped them to understand the importance of eating well, especially when pregnant or lactating.
In villages, mothers often will decline to nurse their newborn children, because of a mistaken belief it is unhealthy. Classes were organized to correct that misunderstanding and promote correct feeding practices from the first day of birth.
We remain grateful to all who have supported our important efforts in India and elsewhere, as we work to help some of the poorest in our world live healthier and happier lives — giving dignity and hope to so many who have only known hardship.
Thank you and God bless you!
30 July 2018
A Syrian boy walks at a refugee camp in Zahrani, Lebanon last month. Russia is pushing for refugees to return home. (photo: CNS/Ali Hashisho, Reuters)
Syrian refugees fear Russian repatriation (Vatican News) Russia, a key backer of hardline Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, wants refugees to go home, though an ongoing conflict in Syria has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions. The Russian special presidential envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, told reporters he had discussed the repatriation of refugees with government officials during his visits Thursday to Jordan and Lebanon…
Cardinal: call to ban confession in India is against freedom of religion (Vatican News) The Catholic Church of India has expressed shock that the government’s National Commission for Women (NCW) has called for abolishing the Sacrament of Confession, saying it is undue interference in a sacred an vital issue of Christian life. Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) issued a press release on 27 July saying the demand by the commission is absurd…
Latin Patriarchate issues statement about new Israeli Nation-State Law (Latin Patriarchate website) The recently enacted Basic Law: “Israel, the Nation-State of the Jewish People” is a cause of great concern. Seemingly enacted for internal political reasons, while defining Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, the law fails to provide any constitutional guarantees for the rights of the indigenous and other minorities living in the country. Palestinian citizens of Israel, constituting 20 percent are flagrantly excluded from the law…
Ukraine’s president calls Russian Orthodox Church a security threat (Politico) Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko on Saturday called the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church a national security threat. At a ceremony marking the country’s conversion to Christianity 1,030 years ago, AFP reported that the Ukrainian leader said that the Russian church’s sway among Ukrainian believers is a “direct threat to the national security of Ukraine.” The head of state also added that “this obliges us to act…”
Indian state ’treats Christians as terrorists’ (UCANews.com) All nine Catholic bishops of India’s northeastern Jharkhand state have sought federal intervention to stop Christians being treated like terrorists as part of alleged state government harassment. The bishops told governor Draupadi Murmu, who is the representative of the Indian president, that the state government led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had used its Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) to probe Christian institutions…
Egypt investigates death of Coptic bishop (Egyptian Streets) Following the gruesome discovery of the corpse of Bishop Epiphanius, Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church announced that authorities would be officially investigating the death. Bishop Epiphanius was the head of Anba Makar Monastery (Saint Macarius the Great) near Wadi el-Natroun. The church issued a statement on Sunday that the bishop had died in ‘strange circumstances…’
27 July 2018
Tags: Syria India Egypt
Bishop Milan Lach holds up an icon of Blessed Theodore Romzha, the Ruthenian bishop of Mukachevo, Ukraine, who was killed by the communists in the 20th century. The icon was presented to him by Bishop Milan Sasik, right, the current bishop of Mukachevo. He attended Bishop Lach's Divine Liturgy of enthronement at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Parma, Ohio on 30 June. (photo: CNS/Reen Nemeth, Horizons)
At 44, Bishop Milan Lach is the fifth bishop of the Byzantine Ruthenian Eparchy of Parma and the youngest bishop to head a diocese in North America.
He also is the third-youngest Eastern Catholic bishop to head a diocese and the first foreign-born bishop for an eparchy that comprises 12 states in the Midwest.
A native of Slovakia, Bishop Lach is among about a dozen bishops from other countries that Pope Francis has appointed to the United States.
He was enthroned recently as Parma’s bishop during a Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, after having served as its apostolic administrator since 24 June 2017. He succeeds Bishop John M. Kudrick, who resigned in May 2016.
Bishop Lach, who is a Jesuit, has visited almost every parish and mission of the eparchy since his arrival to the United States last summer and has established pastoral priorities that include youth, evangelization, and parish reorganization.
Byzantine Catholic Bishop Milan Chautur of Kosice, Slovakia, who was present for the 30 June enthronement, said his “wish for all the faithful” in the United States is that they receive Bishop Lach “as a gift from the Slovak church.”
“After the fall of communism, we immediately turned to the Greek Catholic Church in America for material needs, to build churches again. We were liquidated for 18 years (under communism),” the 60-year-old prelate told Horizons, newspaper of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma.
But now, with the Slovak Eastern Catholic Church strongly re-established, there may be an opportunity to return the favor, he said.
“We sense that, compared with us, there is a certain crisis of vocations and in the spiritual life (in the United States),” he said. “So, just as we received material gifts after the fall of communism, now we can repay with spiritual gifts.”
Bishop Chautur, who is a Redemptorist, said he attended the enthronement because he realized the importance of maintaining a connection between the Byzantine Catholic churches in the United States and Europe.
“There are people who came (to the United States) 10 years ago or 100 years ago, and they still carry within them the Gospel they received from their forefathers,” he said.
At the same time, he acknowledged the mission of the Byzantine Catholic Church in the U.S. is to minister and to be open to the diversity in American society.
“It is important to understand the roots (of the church), but it has to be open to everybody, all races, everyone is welcome,” he said. “The church has to fulfill its missionary vocation.”
The early Christians “didn’t stay in the ethnic ghetto, but they went to the whole world,” he said. “It is good to understand where we come from, but to spring up new offshoots. This was the foundation we have received, and now we need to build a new church, with new growth, open to everyone.”
Bishop Chautur, who ordained Bishop Lach a deacon in 2000 and a priest a year later, was one of three European bishops at the enthronement.
The other concelebrating Catholic bishops included Bishop Kudrick; Bishop Kurt R. Burnette of the Byzantine Eparchy of Passaic, New Jersey; Bishop John S. Pazak of Byzantine Eparchy Phoenix, Bishop Bohdan Danylo of the Ukrainian Eparchy of St. Josaphat, also based in Parma; Bishop Nelson J. Perez of the Latin-rite Diocese of Cleveland; Auxiliary Bishop Neal J. Buckon of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services; Ruthenian Bishop Milan Sasik of Mukachevo, Ukraine; and Bishop Abel Socska of Nyiregyhaza, Hungary.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, presided at the enthronement, attended by 400 people. The liturgy also was livestreamed. He read the letter of the pope appointing Bishop Lach to Parma, as well as a message from the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri.
Byzantine Archbishop William C. Skurla, metropolitan archbishop of Pittsburgh, was the main celebrant and homilist. He urged Bishop Lach in his homily to use his “energy to enliven the spiritual life of the church and protect it from the challenges of secularism and materialism which undermine the faith of our people.”
At the end of liturgy, Bishop Sasik presented Bishop Lach with an icon of Blessed Theodore Romzha, the Ruthenian bishop of Mukachevo who was martyred by the communists in the 20th century.
“I would like to express to the Holy Father my gratitude for his confidence in me as bishop of Parma. I will try my best to be the successor of the Apostles, to govern and serve,” Bishop Lach said at the end of the liturgy.
Bishop Lach told Horizons he intends to develop action plans in various areas of pastoral ministry and eparchial management to develop a more vibrant church.
“We are invited to be witnesses to the Gospel,” he said. “Our church must focus on evangelization, have a spirit of openness and prayer.”
His priorities include the “liturgy, the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and confession,” which are “part of our Eastern theology,” he said. He underlined the need to offer more catechesis and faith formation to the faithful, and to nurture priestly vocations.
Due to the current priest shortage in the eparchy, Bishop Lach has been inviting priests from Slovakia to come and minister. Two Slovak priests are currently undergoing the visa application process; one of them is expected to arrive this fall.
Bishop Lach said the recruitment of Slovak priests is a short-term measure to try to meet the urgent need for priests: Two priests retired this past year and at least another four are expected to retire in the next 12 months.
He said he hopes prospective vocations to the priesthood will be nurtured and there will be American candidates for seminary soon. The eparchy currently has two men in seminary formation and a third who will be ordained a subdeacon in August.
Bishop Lach recently created an eparchial youth commission to try to jump-start more youth ministry efforts.
The bishop also said he will consider reorganizing parishes to shift already limited resources, both pastoral and financial, to support the new missions and prayer communities that have developed in the western part of the eparchy.
“Perhaps we will have fewer parishes, but they will be more open (to welcoming others) and more vibrant,” he said.
He said there is an urgent need to get the eparchy in stronger financial shape, which includes reducing costs across the board, and he has already reached out to the neighboring Latin-rite Catholic dioceses of Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio, to share resources.
In an interview with Horizons, Bishop Perez said it has been a “a great blessing” to share resources with the eparchy and to get to know Bishop Lach, whom he described as a “wonderful guy, young guy, very spiritual, very pastoral.”
“It’s a great celebration for all of us, Eastern rite and Latin rite,” he said of Bishop Lach’s enthronement. “We all gathered together in an incredible liturgy and a great moment of joy for the church.”
Read more about the Ruthenian Catholic Church at this link.
27 July 2018
Tags: Byzantine Catholic Church
The video report above shows the aftermath of the attack by ISIL (ISIS) in Syria on Wednesday that left more than 200 people dead. (video: RT/YouTube)
Gruesome massacre in Syria is a reminder ISIS is far from dead (CNN) The militants went from home to home, killing families as they slept, before launching several suicide bombings on Wednesday, targeting a bustling vegetable market as well as government-held positions in the southern Syrian province of Suwayda. When the attackers ran out of ammunition, they detonated their explosive vests. By the day’s end more than 200 people were dead, and 180 wounded, in a gruesome massacre claimed by ISIS. The coordinated assault is a chilling reminder that ISIS is far from dead…
Reports: Ethiopian Prime Minister brings end Orthodox schism (AFP) Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has overseen the reunification of two feuding wings of the one of the world’s oldest Christian churches, his top aide said Friday. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church split in 1991 over the naming of a new patriarch after the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) removed the Derg military junta from power. Abiy oversaw a reunification ceremony in Washington, attended by priests in flowing black and red robes, state media reported…
Indian Christians upset by call to abolish confession (UCANews.com) An Indian federal agency has proposed abolishing the sacrament of confession on grounds that Christian priests misuse it to blackmail and target women, but church officials believe the plan is unnecessary interference in religious affairs…
Lebanon welcomes Russian proposal on refugees (The Daily Star) Lebanese officials Thursday welcomed Russia’s proposal for the return of Syrian refugees, pledging to form a committee to oversee the return with General Security playing a key role, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions…
Russian Orthodox Church slams plan to continue selling beer at stadiums (Reuters) The Russian Orthodox Church has criticized a proposed plan for Russia to relax its ban on beer sales at sports stadiums after a regional official asked President Vladimir Putin to continue sales after the World Cup. Russia relaxed its 2005 ban on alcohol sales at stadiums for the football tournament this summer in line with football governing body FIFA’s regulations. Beer sales in the 11 host cities rose by up to 39 percent during the tournament…
26 July 2018
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Ethiopia
A clergyman and altar servers process during Mass in 2014 at St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad, Iraq. The upcoming synod for the Iraqi Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad is expected to discuss issues vital for the church's future both in Iraq and among its diaspora community. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Saad, Reuters)
The upcoming synod for the Iraqi Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad in August is expected to discuss issues vital for the church’s future both in Iraq and among its diaspora community.
Chaldean Archbishop Yousif Thomas Mirkis of Kirkuk, Iraq, told Catholic News Service that the clergymen also will discuss during meetings from 7-13 August the election of new bishops as several Iraqi clergy are nearing retirement age. Proposals will be made for potential candidates.
Another concern, Archbishop Mirkis said, is the question of “vocations because there are presently only 15 seminarians in preparation to serve five Chaldean Catholic dioceses.”
Liturgical discussions will focus on the new translation of the Mass and developments to “adapt the Mass to the new communities living in the diaspora,” he said of Chaldeans now found in Australia, Canada, France and the United States.
The role of the deacon in Mass and the sacraments as well as the use of liturgical music are on the agenda as well.
Archbishop Mirkis said the situation of each Chaldean Catholic diocese in the Middle East and abroad will be examined. The Chaldean leaders are seeking ways to augment the spiritual formation of the Chaldean community to increase its vibrancy and vitality in the face of challenges, he explained.
Observers believe that 400,000 to 500,000 Christians now live in Iraq, compared to 1.5 million before the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.
Chaldeans are the indigenous people of Iraq, whose roots trace back thousands of years.
Read more about the Chaldean Catholic Church in this profile from ONE.
26 July 2018
Tags: Iraq Chaldean Church
In this image from last summer, a displaced Iraqi boy fills a bottle with water in Jada, Iraq. Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako has issued a letter to his flock, asking them to promote harmony in their country. (photo: CNS/Suhaib Salem, Reuters) Caption
Iraqi cardinal appeals for citizens to come together (Vatican News) Recently appointed Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako issued an appeal in a heart-felt letter to the citizens of Iraq this week. In his letter he asks for help from the people in order to promote harmony, unity and partnership in their country…
Death toll from ISIS attack in Syria climbs to 216 (AP) The death toll from coordinated attacks by Islamic State fighters on a usually peaceful southern Syrian city and surrounding countryside has climbed to 216, a local health official said Thursday, in the worst violence to hit the area since the country’s conflict began. Mass funerals were held in the city of Sweida on Thursday, a day after the wave of attacks that began in the early hours of the mourning and lasted for hours. The city was the scene of several suicide bombings, including one at a busy vegetable market that left a scene of devastation and set in motion the coordinated assaults…
Caste bias alleged at Indian relief camp (The Hindu) A group of people belonging to the Dalit community have alleged that they faced caste discrimination at a relief camp at Pallippad panchayat in Alappuzha district. Fifty-six members of the community, belonging to 23 families, registered a complaint with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and District Collector S. Suhas, stating that members of the Christian community had humiliated them at a relief camp functioning at Anjilimoodu L.P. School. Mr. Suhas has ordered a probe into the complaint…
Thousands of Syrian refugees want to remain in Lebanon (The Daily Star) At least 30,000 Syrian refugees who fought against the Syrian army hope to remain in Lebanon, a representative of Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday…
Russian Orthodox patriarch hopes anniversary will bring peace to Ukraine (RT) The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has expressed hope that the forthcoming 1030th anniversary of Christianization of the Kievan Rus, and planned celebrations for the event, will help to overcome strife in Ukraine…
25 July 2018
Tags: Syria Iraq Iraqi Christians ISIS
A woman participates in an outdoor prayer session at the Trippadam Center for Women. To learn more about this institution and the women it benefits, read A Refuge to Mend and Grow, from the June 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Meenakshi Soman)
25 July 2018
Tags: India Sisters Health Care Women
The Musa family fled Bashiqa, Iraq, in 2014 in the face of ISIS attacks. The family lived in Dohuk, Iraq, for three years. (photo: CNS/courtesy Catholic Relief Services)
In Iraq, the threat to Assyrians remains (AINA) Thanks to the generosity of donors around the world, Christians are returning from internal exile, determined to keep their faith alive, despite extraordinary challenges. But we must not be complacent about the fundamental political problems threatening the existence of a religiously, racially and culturally diverse Iraq…
Priest in Gaza: ‘people living in fear of a new war’ (Vatican News) As tension continues to erupt in violent clashes on the border between Israel and Gaza, the living conditions in the Gaza Strip continue to deteriorate. A Catholic Parish Priest speaks of the desperation of the people, of the dwindling Christian community, and of the widespread fear of a possible new war…
Deadly attacks hit Syrian villages, city of Suweida (Daily Star Lebanon) ISIS militants killed about 100 people in a series of attacks on government-held parts of southwestern Syria Wednesday, official sources said…
Award given to priest and builder of bridges between Islam and Christianity (AsiaNews) The Rev. Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian Jesuit and internationally renowned scholar, is this year’s recipient of the special award of the Stephanus Foundation for Persecuted Christians. The Foundation, through its chairperson Michaela Koller, decided to honor Father Samir because of his service to the spiritual heritage of Arab Christians…
Tags: Syria Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Interreligious