Current Issue
Autumn, 2016
Volume 42, Number 3
12 October 2016
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

Pope Francis embraces Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople during an ecumenical prayer service with religious leaders in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy on 20 September. Pope Francis and retired Pope Benedict XVI joined a group of religious and civil leaders praising the patriarch in a new book, ahead of the 25th anniversary of the patriarch’s election. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Defending religious freedom, fighting indifference to attacks on human dignity and promoting care of creation are obligations that Orthodox and Catholics share and areas where Pope Francis said he and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople are in deep harmony.

In anticipation of the 2 November celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Orthodox patriarch’s election, Pope Francis and retired Pope Benedict XVI joined a group of religious and civic leaders in contributing to a book, “Bartholomew: Apostle and Visionary,” published by the U.S.-based Thomas Nelson.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published the texts written by Pope Francis and Pope Benedict 12 October.

In many meetings, Pope Francis wrote, the two “have not only strengthened our spiritual affinity, but above all have deepened our shared consciousness of the common pastoral responsibility we have at this point in history before the urgent challenges that Christians and the entire human family face today.”

At their first meeting, in March 2013, Pope Francis said he felt he was encountering someone “who in his person and his manner expresses all the profound human and spiritual experience of the Orthodox tradition.”

The relationship has grown and deepened both personally and on the level of their ministries, the pope said.

“The church of Rome and the church of Constantinople are united by a profound and longstanding bond, which not even centuries of silence and misunderstanding have been able to sever,” Pope Francis wrote. Building on the work of their predecessors, the two leaders have “the sacred task of tracing our way back along the path that paved the separation of our churches, healing the sources of our mutual alienation and moving toward the re-establishment of full communion in faith and love, mindful of our legitimate differences, just as it was in the first millennium.”

Pope Francis said he has learned much from Patriarch Bartholomew’s long study and teaching on the Christian obligation to care for the environment, and he said the two share a Gospel-based commitment to working for “a world that is more just and more respectful of every person’s fundamental dignity and freedoms, the most important of which is religious freedom.”

In working for a world where love and solidarity play a greater role, Pope Francis wrote, “we are both aware that the voices of our brothers and sisters, now to the point of extreme distress, compel us to proceed more rapidly along the path of reconciliation and communion between Catholics and Orthodox, precisely so that they may be able to proclaim credibly the Gospel of peace that comes from Christ.”

In his contribution to the book, retired Pope Benedict said he first met the patriarch in 2002 as they were traveling with St. John Paul II on a train to Assisi, Italy. “The patriarch had invited me to sit with him for a while in the same compartment and, in this way, to become personally closer.”

Meeting “along the way” was not accidental, the retired pope wrote. With the patriarch’s knowledge of theology, cultures and languages, “his thought is a journey with others and toward others, which certainly does not degenerate into a lack of direction, in which ‘being on the road’ would simply lead nowhere.”

“Deep-rootedness in faith in Jesus Christ, the son of the living God and our redeemer, does not stand in the way of openness to the other, because Jesus Christ bears in himself all truth,” Pope Benedict wrote.

Referring to Patriarch Bartholomew as “this great man of the church of God,” Pope Benedict also praised “his love for creation and his advocacy that it be dealt with in accordance with this love, in matters big and small.”

Pope Benedict said he was pleased that even after he resigned in 2013, “the patriarch has remained ever close to me personally and has even visited me in my little cloister. In many places in my apartment can be found memorable items from him. These items are not only endearing signs of our personal friendship, but also signposts toward unity between Constantinople and Rome, signs of hope that we are heading toward unity.”

12 October 2016
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, on 12 October. The pope called for an immediate cease-fire in Syria so that civilians can be rescued.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis calls for cease fire in Syria (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis renewed his appeal for peace in Syria on Wednesday. Addressing pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis said, “I want to emphasize and reiterate my solidarity with all victims of inhuman conflict in Syria...”

Sviatoslav reminds Catholic bishops ‘the first victim of war is truth’ ( On 6-9 October, Monaco hosted the Plenary Assembly of the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe. On Saturday, 8 October, the regular working meeting of the heads of Catholic Dioceses across Europe heard reports on pastoral challenges the Church faces in their communities. In his speech, His Beatitude Sviatoslav told his brothers-bishops about the third year of suffering afflicted to the Ukrainians by war. He stressed that despite diplomatic efforts and other activities of the international community, no lasting cease-fire has been achieved in Ukraine...

Warming Russia-Turkey relations sends chill through Ukraine (Christian Science Monitor) Leaders of Turkey and Russia signed a long-delayed deal Monday to build the TurkStream gas pipeline under the Black Sea to deliver Russian gas to Europe’s doorstep within three years. The rapid warming trend in Russo-Turkish relations holds deep implications for Syria’s immediate crisis, which dominated the talks and the subsequent headlines, but the fallout from that pipeline deal is a potentially crushing blow to struggling pro-Western Ukraine and may be rearranging strategic realities around the region for many years to come...

Offering mental health support to refugees in Lebanon (Huffington Post) For the more than one million refugees who have fled war in Syria and Iraq to Lebanon, mental health and psychosocial needs are many and complex. Unlike physical health issues, the lack of visible symptoms for mental health disorders often leads to them being overlooked. Many of the refugees who find safety in Lebanon have survived physical violence including torture, trauma, and have born witness to the atrocities of the unabated armed conflict...

Sister accuses media of bias in Syria coverage (CNS) A religious sister working with Christian families in Aleppo, Syria, has criticized Western media for their allegedly biased coverage of the six-year conflict. Sister Annie Demerjian, a member of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary, questioned why Western journalists focused on the plight of people in areas held by rebels and jihadis but seldom those in regions controlled by the government of Bashar Assad. “It is not fair,” she told Catholic News Service in a 10 October interview in Lancaster...

11 October 2016
Greg Kandra

Fadia Matti shows her family album, containing memories of life in Qaraqosh before ISIS forced her family to flee. (photo: Don Duncan)

Some of the most inspiring heroes we have met over the years are those who have remained devoted to their faith, in spite of almost unimaginable obstacles.

Most recently, that includes the men, women and children who have been displaced by ISIS in Iraq.

We profiled a number of them two years ago, including the Matti family:

Mother of four and wife to Saaed, Fadia Matti reaches often for a roll of toilet paper that sits next to her. She uses the roll for tissues for her coughing or crying. Since arriving in the basement of an unfinished building in Erbil, she has developed respiratory problems, and a broken heart.

“I don’t believe what has happened,” she says of her family’s displacement from Qaraqosh in northern Iraq. She sits on one of the foam mattresses of the family’s new shelter, a small quadrant defined by plastic sheeting. “I cry once I remember [our home in] Qaraqosh: the churches, Communion, having parties and how we would sit with our neighbors and wait for Christmas and Easter. I am sitting here, but my mind is in Qaraqosh.”

Around Fadia sit her children: her daughter Inas, the eldest; 16-year-old son Nibras; 13-year-old daughter Aras; and Diana, 10, the youngest. Her husband Saaed comes into the enclosure, removes his boots and sits next to her.

Around them lie the accouterments familiar to refugees and displaced people the world over: piles of foam mattresses, plastic containers, basic gas stoves, plastic sheeting and imperishable foodstuffs.

The Mattis have ended up in perhaps the worst living conditions that Erbil has to offer for the arriving Christians. While others are housed in tents in the grounds of St. Joseph’s Church or in temporary structures in social centers or on floors above where the Mattis now live, the Mattis’ own living space is in the poorly-lighted basement. The open sewer for the entire building is nearby. A constant smell of refuse and excrement lingers.

“My children get sick. I take them to the doctor. They get well. And then they get sick again,” says Fadia of the endless cycle of ill health that comes with living in such substandard conditions.

“I was comforting my kids, telling them that tomorrow would be better,” she says, “but now I am crying because I think of what we left behind: the churches especially, but also our memories, the childhoods of my children and everything we had.”

But her concluding comments speak poignantly of the deep and unwavering devotion these suffering Christians still carry in their hearts:

&lduqo;I love Qaraqosh. It’s my spirit. It’s my soul,” says Fadia. “We hope we will go back and that Christianity will remain in Iraq. My hope is in God and in Our Lady. It is impossible that Christianity will disappear.”

You can learn what has happened to Christians in Iraq since then by reading Grace in the Summer 2015 edition of ONE and United in Faith, Prayer and Love in the Summer 2016 edition, chronicling the pastoral visit of CNEWA’s chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, to Kurdistan.

The resilience of the Mattis and so many other heroic families continues to inspire the work we do around the world. If you’d like to learn how to help displaced families in Iraq, visit this page — and please, keep them in your prayers.

11 October 2016
Greg Kandra

In this image from last spring, children sing in a preschool for displaced children run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Ain Kawa, near Erbil, Iraq. To see more and learn more, read United in Faith, Prayer and Love in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE.
(photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

11 October 2016
Greg Kandra

In the video above, Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad describes what he and other Christians have endured in Iraq. As the country prepares for the liberation of Mosul, Iraq, there have been disputes about who will control the territory. (video: Rome Reports)

Disputes over future control of Mosul (Fides) The preliminary phases to the military assault for the liberation of Mosul from jihadists of the Islamic State sees the increase of political, geopolitical and sectarian disputes about the future political and ethno-religious structure of the region among the various actors in the field, after the possible defeat of the Caliphate...

The rise of Syria’s White Helmets (The Economist) Operating across rebel-held parts of the country, Syria’s civil-defence team has grown from small, ragtag bands of untrained volunteers into a formidable search-and-rescue force. The group has rescued more than 60,000 people since 2014, when it began to keep count. Known as the White Helmets for the color of the hard hats they wear, the rescue workers were nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize...

Turkey extends state of emergency following failed coup (NPR) In Turkey, the sweeping crackdown that began after the failed coup attempt in July isn’t slowing down. A three-month state of emergency billed as a temporary measure has just been extended for another three months...

Israel shuts down access to Gaza, West Bank for Yom Kippur (AFP) Israeli authorities have barred Palestinians from entering the country from the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, ahead of the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday that begins on Tuesday evening, the army said. Such closures are often put in place for major Jewish holidays, but Israeli security forces are on especially high alert following an attack by a Palestinian gunman in Jerusalem on Sunday that killed two people...

Bees bring hope to Palestine (Vatican Radio) On the West Bank, near Ramallah, honey production has become one of the basic economic resources for a group of women...

7 October 2016
Greg Kandra

A woman pauses on her way home in an Armenian village. Caritas Armenia, a longtime partner of CNEWA, seeks to help that country’s elderly. You can read a firsthand account and learn more about the challenges facing the region’s elderly in Shaken by the Earthquake of Life, both published in recent issues of ONE magazine. (photo: courtesy Caritas Armenia)

Tags: Armenia Poor/Poverty Village life Caritas

7 October 2016
Greg Kandra

Syrian refugees arrive at a refugee camp in early May at the Jordan border with Syria. (photo: CNS/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA)

U.N. to make aid delivery to Syrian refugees on Jordan’s border (Reuters) United Nations aid agencies will make their first deliveries of relief in two months to thousands of Syrian refugees stranded on Jordan’s northeastern border with Syria, the world body said on Thursday. More than 75,000 people, mostly women and children, have been stuck for months in makeshift camps in a no-man’s land on the Syrian side of the border, after fleeing central and eastern Syria…

Maronite archbishop: Aleppo is divided like a new Berlin (Vatican Radio) Daily life in the fiercely contested Syrian city of Aleppo becomes worse by the day. In an interview with Vatican Radio, Maronite Archbishop Joseph Tobji of Aleppo said nowhere is safe in the Syrian city which he called a “new Berlin.” The archbishop described how the residents of Aleppo are living with death on a daily basis as a result of the frequent bombardments and shelling, saying they celebrate at least ten funerals every day for those killed by the fighting…

A million children in Syria sign appeal for peace (Vatican Radio) More than one million children in Syria have been signing a petition calling for peace as part of a fresh appeal to political leaders to end the Syrian civil war…

Kidnapped Christians released in Egypt (Christian Today) Four Coptic Christians, including a child, who were kidnapped on Monday in the Egyptian town of Manfalout in Assiut, have returned home safely after a ransom was paid, according to the independent Cairo newspaper Watani…

Evidence of ancient Assyrian church discovered in Kazakhstan (The Astana Times) The ancient city of Ilyn Balik is well known from pilgrims’ travels. Recent excavations in Usharal village have uncovered an ancient city and cemetery with eight Nestorian gravestones and the markers prove Christianity was present in Kazakhstan long before Western imperialism…

Tags: Syria Egypt Jordan

6 October 2016
Greg Kandra

Atsede Gebetsadik attended the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School in Addis Ababa — a school serving the poorest of the poor in Ethiopia — and has now returned there to teach. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

One of the institutions CNEWA has supported is the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. As we reported in 2013:

The school, run by the Daughters of Charity and supported by CNEWA, is located in the middle of Kachene, the poorest neighborhood of Addis Ababa. It is the only school in the city targeting the poorest of the poor and one of the very few that is financially accessible to them.

Many of the students are orphans, or have lost one parent. A high proportion of people in the neighborhood are blind. Most of the adults get by on a precarious income earned through begging or occasional labor such as weaving baskets, selling grilled corn on the street or cleaning car windows. The daily worries of the children attending the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School go beyond spelling tests and times tables.

“These children are exposed to many risks due to the poverty they live in,” says Assefa Teklewold Worka, the children’s physical education teacher. “They are exposed to tobacco, alcohol or sniffing petroleum from a very early age. They are also at risk from the various diseases that the slum they live in can bring — and, in some cases, from trafficking and coercion into sex work.”

Despite these dangers, many of the school’s students are trying to stay in the game — to get a better education and, they hope, a better life.

In fact, they are playing to win.

One of those who has won is a young woman named Atsede Gebretsadik — a graduate of the school who has returned there as a teacher. She is managing to give back some of what was given to her — and in an interview, she imparted this simple, beautiful message:

“Teaching is a really difficult profession because what you are doing is creating people’s minds,” she says. “It’s not just talk and chalk, it goes further — into the homes of these children. We realize that yes, we are poor, but we challenge this poverty with education.”

That kind of heroic spirit is continuing to make a difference in the lives of many of those CNEWA serves around the world — and Atsede Gebretsadik is a living reminder that it pays off.

To offer your support for young people like Atsede in Ethiopia — many of whom are battling not just poverty but also drought — visit this giving page.

Tags: Ethiopia Children Education

6 October 2016
Greg Kandra

Bells call Georgians to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in Tblisi, Georgia. To learn more about the ancient church of Constantinople, and how it is thriving today, read Out of Byzantium in the Autumn 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)

Tags: Eastern Christianity Eastern Churches Georgia

6 October 2016
Greg Kandra

Children play in water from a burst pipe after an air strike in Aleppo, Syria, on 30 September. (photo: CNS/Abdalrhman Ismail, Reuters)

In Syria, Eastern Aleppo faces ‘total ruin’ in a matter of months (BBC) Rebel-held eastern Aleppo in northern Syria may face “total destruction” in two months, with thousands killed, the United Nations Syria envoy has said. Staffan de Mistura told reporters that he was prepared to personally accompany Al Qaeda-linked jihadists out of the city if it would stop the fighting…

Syrian forces seize half of rebel-held neighborhood in Aleppo (Reuters) Syrian government forces seized around half of a key opposition-held neighborhood in Aleppo on Thursday in a new advance against rebels, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said…

Holy See: World cannot ‘lose resolve’ in migration crisis (Vatican Radio) The permanent representative of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, on Wednesday addressed the executive committee meeting of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees…

Russian Orthodox Church: Collaboration more important than ever (Asia News) Hieromonk Stefan Igumnov, secretary for relations between Christians from the Moscow Patriarchate, hopes cooperation between Orthodox and Catholics will result in “peacekeepers” and “moral reference points” in a world marked by armed conflicts, terrorism, persecution, consumerism, materialism. He also speaks of the difficulties among Orthodox churches. Pope Francis’ meeting with Patriarch Kirill in Cuba catalyzed the growth of fraternal relations between Moscow and Rome…

Israel halts yacht trying to break Gaza embargo (The New York Times) Their chances of reaching the shores of Gaza were never high: Thirteen women on a yacht hoping to breach the years-old sea blockade of the Hamas-run Palestinian coastal territory enforced by the Israeli Navy. Naval officers boarded the yacht, the Zaytouna-Oliva, at dusk on Wednesday in international waters, after it had spent eight days at sea. It was searched and redirected toward the southern Israeli port of Ashdod…

Sheptytsky Institute moving to new location (Catholic Register) Canada’s premier center for university-level studies of Ukrainian Catholic theology, tradition and liturgy is moving from Ottawa to Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College. The Andrey Sheptytsky Institute will move from Saint Paul University, where it has operated since 1990, on 1 July 2017. Toronto classes will begin next September. It will offer master’s and Ph.D. programs in Eastern Christian spirituality and doctrine, liturgy, church history and ecumenism…

Tags: Syria Israel Eastern Christianity Christian Unity Migrants

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