23 April 2018
Cardinal Timothy Dolan visits a refugee camp just east of Zahleh, Lebanon. (photo: Michael La Civita)
An update on Lebanon from Cardinal Timothy Dolan (Cardinaldolan.org) When I put pen to paper ten days or so ago, writing my column for Catholic New York, I mentioned that I was on my way to Lebanon, and would report to you upon my return. Here goes . . . There we went, the three of us — Bishop William Murphy, retired Bishop of Rockville Centre; the Archbishop of Vancouver, Canada, Most Reverend Michael Miller, and me — as members of the board of Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), a nine-decade-old acclaimed but behind—the-scenes initiative of the church, to offer support to the fragile, small Eastern Catholic churches, centered mostly in the Mideast, but alive as well in Central and Eastern Europe, India, and Ethiopia (with members who have left their country of origin flourishing as well around the world)…
Syriac Orthodox Church calls for release of abducted archbishops (AINA) The Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Beirut called for the release of two kidnapped archbishops Saturday on the fifth anniversary of their abduction in Syria. Gunmen abducted Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim in April 2013 while the two church leaders traveled to the northern Syrian city from the Turkish border…
Syrian state TV claims rebels are set to quit enclave near Damascus (Christian Today) Syrian state TV said on Saturday that rebels had agreed to surrender an enclave northeast of Damascus and go to opposition areas at the border with Turkey…
Church attacked by mob in Egypt after applying for government license (AINA) A church that recently applied for a government license in Egypt’s Beni Suef governorate has been attacked by villagers on the same day a committee came to inspect the building. World Watch Monitor has reported that the Virgin Mary and Pope Kyrillos VI Church in Beni Meinin was attacked on 14 April, just after inspectors from the Building Authority Committee came to visit the building. The church, which has 700 members, has been in use for a decade, and it had applied for an expansion of the building…
How Egypt’s stubborn poverty threatens Sisi’s grip (Christian Science Monitor) Despite his landslide reelection last month and renewed talk of constitutional amendments to make him president for life, Egyptian strongman Abdel Fattah al Sisi’s grip on power is far from absolute as he enters his second term. Analysts warn that the retired general is presiding over a much more uncertain Egypt than when he first rose to power in a 2013 coup…
Tug of war between Poroshenko and Hilarion for Ukrainian Orthodox (AsiaNews) Discussions have been multiplying for days on the attempt by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to force the hand of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, to completely detach the Orthodox Church still linked to the Russian Patriarchate from Moscow and form a single autocephalous Ukrainian jurisdiction, in which all the souls of local orthodoxy converge. According to a statement issued on 17 April by Metropolitan Hilarion, the leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate “have no element to confirm or refute the existence of a negotiation between the President of Ukraine and the Patriarch of Constantinople”…
Armenia Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan resigns amid protests (Al Jazeera) Armenia’s newly elected prime minister has resigned following days of protests against his government, according to the politician’s website. In the past 10 days, thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets in the capital, Yerevan…
20 April 2018
Tags: Syria Egypt Lebanon Ukraine Armenia
With Cardinal Timothy Dolan, CNEWA’s chair, recently speaking about his encounter with refugees in Lebanon — and chronicling this week’s pastoral visit to the region with some richly detailed videos — we thought it a good time to look back on a short piece we produced and posted three years ago.
Marlene Constantin, a CNEWA project manager in Beirut, described efforts to help Syrian refugees in her country, and did it with both poignancy and power.
20 April 2018
Tags: Syria Refugees
Sister Ferdos Zora sings along with preschool students at a school for displaced Iraqi children in Iraqi Kurdistan. Read a personal account of life in exile from one of the sisters in A Letter From Iraq in the March 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Paul Jeffrey)
20 April 2018
Tags: Iraqi Christians Sisters Iraqi Refugees
In this image from 2016, Syrian refugees stand in snow outside their tents in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Lebanon continues to bear the brunt of absorbing massive numbers of refugees. A leading international rights group now reports that the refugees are being evicted from towns in Lebanon. (photo: CNS/Lucie Parsaghian, EPA)
Rights group says Lebanon is “evicting” Syrian refugees (AP) A leading international rights group says Syrian refugees are increasingly being evicted from towns in Lebanon without any legal basis. Human Rights Watch says local officials have been sending the Syrians eviction notices and using the police to intimidate them into leaving to other towns…
New terrorist group emerging in Syria (Business Insider) With up to 90% of its territory lost, ISIS appears effectively defeated as a conventional foe. But while the black flag of ISIS is being lowered, another may soon take its place — the white flag of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham. A new report in the Wall Street Journal details H.T.S.’s rise as it consolidates power in northwest Syria. Led by a former Al Qaeda militant, H.T.S. is mostly based in Syria’s Idlib Governorate and has taken advantage of the U.S.-led coalition’s focus on ISIS in the East, as well as the Syrian government and Russia’s focus on other parts of the country…
Gaza youth dies after protest near border (AP) The Health Ministry says the 24-year-old was killed in a border area in northern Gaza on Friday. Earlier in the day, a 25-year-old man was shot and killed in the same area. It says 40 protesters were wounded by gunfire or overcome by tear gas fired by Israeli troops from across the border fence…
New photos show destruction to ancient site in Syria (The Guardian) French archaeologists have been excavating at Mari since 1933, the most recent expedition running until 2010 when the Arab Spring and growing unrest made the site inaccessible. In light of the level of damage now evident, perhaps it’s worth sparing a moment to look at why Mari matters to archaeologists, historians and the cultural heritage of Syria…
19 April 2018
Tags: Syria Lebanon Gaza Strip/West Bank Historical site/city
CNEWA’s chair Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrapped up his trip to Lebanon Wednesday and sent along this heartfelt tribute to the country and its people — describing how Lebanon represents both Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
“There’s a lot of suffering here, the tears of refugees and the memories of war,” he says, “but there’s also hope, confidence, joy, and life! God bless Lebanon, God bless America, and God bless the Catholic Near East Welfare Association!”
We are humbled and privileged to have been able to share a few days with the cardinal — and to share with him, as well, some of the great work our donors are making possible.
Take a look.
19 April 2018
Tags: Lebanon CNEWA Middle East Christians
Members of the St. Paul Prison Chaplaincy of the Archeparchy of Addis Ababa, a lay organization that ministers to prisoners, travel to a facility outside of the Ethiopian capital. (photo: Don Duncan)
Last week our blog dealt with the “formation” of the clergy and members of religious orders and communities. This week we are going to look at the formation of the laity.
We focus on the subject of formation in the current edition of ONE, with stories throwing a spotlight on priests and religious sisters. But we also tell the stories of the laity.
First, we need to ask: who are they?
Vatican II defines the laity as those who are not clergy or religious (“Lumen Gentium,” par. 51). Last week, we noted that CNEWA does not directly engage in the formation of the clergy; rather CNEWA helps those who do the formation by providing them with the necessary resources to accomplish their task. It is the same with formation of the laity. CNEWA does not itself maintain any programs of lay formation. Nevertheless, wherever CNEWA is present, it supports such programs.
The Second Vatican Council attempted to make the church and its mission more effective in the modern world. Three documents published at Vatican II are extremely important for understanding the role of lay people in the church: “Lumen Gentium,” or the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (21 November 1964); “Gaudium et spes,” or the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (7 December 1965); and “Apostolicam actuositatem,” or the Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People (18 November 1965). If, in the past, Councils had dealt primarily with questions/problems of dogma — with great emphasis placed on the Magisterium or teaching office of the church and those who carry it out — viz., the clergy — Vatican II took a different approach. Vatican II spent little or no time dealing with dogmatic or theological controversies. Rather, it looked at the church as it was (in 1965) and asked how it could be more effective in its mission — how it could use its resources better for the Kingdom of God.
Key among those resources, of course, is the laity — the ordinary people in the pews to make up the greatest part of the Body of Christ.
In a sense, Vatican II “rediscovered” the laity. While lay people were all too often defined by what they were not — not clergy, not religious — Vatican II sees lay people as those “incorporated into Christ … and [who] in their own way share in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ and … carry on the mission of the whole Christian people in the church and in the world” (“Lumen Gentium,” par. 31). The role of the laity is: “to make the church present and fruitful in those places and circumstances where it is only through them [the laity] that she [the church] can become the salt of the earth” (par. 33).
The laity form a crucial and indeed indispensable part of the church’s mission. It is at this point that the formation of the laity is recognized as central to the life of the church. If people are crushed by dehumanizing poverty, by lack of education, oppression, war and debilitating yet curable diseases, there is no way they can carry out the mission entrusted to them by Christ. It is very hard for the sick, the poor and uneducated to be the leaders the church needs.
The first step of the formation of the laity, therefore, is to help them achieve a standard of living which promotes their human dignity as members of the Body of Christ. Working with local churches, CNEWA supports programs that help people recover their dignity and their futures. Wherever we work, CNEWA supports programs that promote the health, education and dignity of those whom we serve. Programs, for example, which teach people — especially women — a trade allow these people to rise above subsistence living and to begin to influence a wider world: their family, their village, their church. It helps empower them to go out spread the Gospel and change the world.
However, raising people’s standard of living and educating them for work is only a part of what the formation of the laity means.
Vatican II sees the life of lay person in the world as a life of witness and service. As people are trained, for example, to run small businesses, they need also be trained to behave as witnesses to the Gospel in the world in which they live and work. Perhaps the most important part of the formation of the laity is teaching them that their role in life is not merely to earn a living and support their family but to witness to Christ and transform the world in which they live and work into the Kingdom of God.
19 April 2018
Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver, British Columbia, meets with Iraqi Christian refugees on 14 April in Beirut. Refugee families, who fled Iraq in 2014 when Islamic State took over their village, are waiting to immigrate to Canada or any country that would welcome them. Archbishop Miller was part of a delegation from CNEWA visiting Lebanon this week with CNEWA’s chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Read more about the trip and watch videos of it here, here and here. (photo: Carl Hetu/CNEWA)
19 April 2018
Tags: Lebanon Refugees CNEWA Canada
On 19 April, Indian students in Amritsar join in protests calling for justice for rape victims and an end to sexual predation. (photo: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters march against India’s rape crisis (UCANews.com) Priests, nuns and lay Catholics were among thousands of people who joined a candlelight march in India to express solidarity with the nationwide outrage over gang rape and murders, especially of minor girls. About 1,500 people including children and the elderly from various religions marched through Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh state, on 16 April…
How Lebanon is teaching refugees to thrive (The National) Grassroots activists are doing what they can to ease the most crushing impacts of poverty and prepare Syrians in Lebanon for the future. One such organization is Maps (Multi-Aid Programs), run by an inspirational 33-year-old neurosurgeon, Dr Fadi Alhalabi. Having fled Damascus himself in 2013, he knows all too well the difficulties facing his compatriots as they attempt to rebuild lives shattered by war…
Ukraine moves to split church from Russia as elections approach (Reuters) Ukraine’s Orthodox church could become independent of Moscow under the terms of a presidential initiative lawmakers approved on Thursday, a move that President Petro Poroshenko said would make it harder for Russia to meddle in Ukrainian affairs. The Moscow Patriarchate is part of the Russian Orthodox Church and has a sizeable following in Ukraine…
Archbishop says special Mass for Christians in the Middle East (CNS) As a sign of solidarity with religious minorities who have been victims of Islamic State-led genocide, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford celebrated a special Mass for persecuted Middle Eastern Christians on 15 April at St. Mary Church. He welcomed Bishop Bawai Soro, who heads the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of Mar Addai of Toronto and is a native of Iraq. He delivered the homily and also proclaimed the Gospel in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus…
Child marriage doubles among Syrian refugees in Jordan (Middle East Monitor) Child marriage among Syrian refugees has more than doubled in the last four years according to new data released by Jordan’s court system. War, poverty and economic instability have been major factors in the increase in under age marriage throughout the Middle East…
18 April 2018
Tags: India Ukraine Middle East Christians Ukrainian Orthodox Church Women in India
In the video above, Cardinal Timothy Dolan meets with refugee families, many from Iraq, in Lebanon. (video: Archdiocese of New York/CNEWA)
The remarkable video above comes to us from the CNEWA team traveling to Lebanon with our chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and offers a powerful look at what so many in that corner of the world are living with — and how CNEWA is seeking to lift them up from despair to hope.
CNEWA’s Michael J.L. LaCivita passed along more pictures and this brief dispatch:
Archbishop Michael Miller of Vancouver meets with refugees. (photo: Michael J.L. LaCivita)
Imagine one night, at dinner, you receive a phone call that you have five minutes to take your family and gather some clothes and flee. For thousands of families in northern Iraq, this is precisely what happened on 6 August 2014.
The next day, their villages fell to ISIS. And while this band of nihilists and criminals has been defeated since, the nightmare for these families remains reality.
Many now live in exile and poverty — in Beirut and Amman and further afield. In some cases, the only help they receive is from the church and organizations such as CNEWA.
Today, our delegation encountered the fear and the desperation these parents feel, as they desperately want to come to America and Canada.
Pictured are some of the children Cardinal Dolan met during a visit to a school in Lebanon. (photo: Michael J.L. LaCivita)
They do not understand why we have closed our arms to them.
“We try to prevent them from falling into despair,” said Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III, “but we must rely on the generosity of others.”
Syriac Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III struggles to keep up the spirits of his people during this difficult period. (photo: Michael J.L. LaCivita)
Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who received us this morning thanked the cardinal, the delegation and CNEWA for our many years in Lebanon, and our work here, “especially during the darkest years,” during the last years of the civil war.
Pray for the Middle East. Pray for Lebanon. Resources are low. And time is running out.
Late yesterday, we also received this video, which shows the exceptional faith and charity of the Melkite Catholics in Zahleh, Lebanon. Check it out.
18 April 2018
Tags: Lebanon Refugees CNEWA
Part of the program in Sagar, India, taught young women basic sewing skills, to help them find better-paying jobs. (photo: CNEWA)
We recently received this update on a wonderful program CNEWA support from our regional director in India, M.L. Thomas:
The project aimed to educate poor and destitute children living in low-income urban areas of Sagar, India, helping them to learn basic skills — such as tailoring and dressmaking — to generate income for poor women and widows.
The program took place in seven urban neighborhoods and one village, benefiting some 200 children. Seven lay teachers were given the task to instruct the children and others, and did so with great talent and commitment.
Each class consisted of four hours of training in the morning.
A religious sister meets with some of the women. (photo: CNEWA)
The program, supported by CNEWA, has provided a platform for the sisters and priests of the diocese to meet the parents personally and provide counseling. The parents and teachers also met together in groups, which has helped them understand the value of education for their children and encourage them to go to school.
We could see that 83 children living in poverty were mainstreamed to government schools. Their attitude toward life will be better once they leave the slums, with a greater sense of responsibility toward their families and the community. Most of the teachers involved in the project were women; some came from poor families but were immensely dedicated.
The children showed great interest and enthusiasm to learn. The project not only helped the children to learn, but also reduced their stress and depression.
The results have been very promising! It was observed that these children see possibility and hope in their lives. They are not among those who go out begging or pursuing child labor, and they are not involved in drug abuse or addiction. Government authorities and the general public all appreciated the efforts through this project.
Tags: India CNEWA Education Poor/Poverty Women