25 October 2019
Our CNEWA team will be visiting Our Lady of Mt. Virgin Parish in Middlesex, New Jersey, on 26-27 October. (photo: OLMV website)
CNEWA will be on the road Saturday and Sunday. We’re heading to Our Lady of Mount Virgin Parish in Middlesex, New Jersey. I’ll be the guest homilist this weekend, preaching at the Masses — not only proclaiming the Good News, but also sharing the good news about CNEWA’s work in the world.
If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and say hello! We are eager to answer questions, share copies of our award-winning magazine and introduce more people to “the best kept secret of the Catholic Church.”
We’re hoping to make more visits like this one in the months to come, so if you’d like CNEWA to visit your parish, let us know.
Just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you soon!
25 October 2019
In this image from March 2018, a Catholic church destroyed by Islamic State militants in Karamdes, Iraq, is examined by a priest. (photo: CNS/courtesy Archdiocese of Erbil)
Panel examines ways to protect holy sites worldwide (CNS) In light of continued attacks on houses of worship and holy sites around the world, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom held hearing on 23 October at the Capitol to learn ways to deter such attacks. Easy and immediate solutions, though, were elusive…
Turkish and Syria forces reportedly clash in Syria (The New York Times) Turkish forces and Turkish-backed militias appeared to have clashed with the Kurdish-led militia and its new allies, the Syrian government, in northeastern Syria on Thursday, raising the temperature in an already volatile area where multiple players are maneuvering for position after the abrupt pullout of American troops…
Report: Parts of Asia now hotbed of persecution (CNA) While Christians in Iraq and Syria suffer in the aftermath of Islamic State genocide, a new “hot spot” of persecution has emerged in South and East Asia, a recent report finds…
Ethiopian activist calls for calm after 16 killed in clashes (Reuters) Prominent Ethiopian activist Jawar Mohammed called for calm on Thursday amid protests that have killed 16 people and are challenging Nobel Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in his political heartland…
Pompeo vows support for new Ukraine church (France24) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has vowed US support for Ukraine’s new independent Orthodox church following its split with Russia in a meeting with its leader, officials said Thursday. Pompeo on Wednesday held a closed-door meeting with Metropolitan Yepifaniy, who was enthroned in February after the Ukrainian Orthodox Church broke its three-century relationship with Moscow…
24 October 2019
Tags: Syria Iraq Ethiopia Persecution
Days after the UN observed the International Day of Nonviolence, these Kurdish women and children fled violence this week, seeking safety in a Syrian classroom after Turkey launched the invasion of their homeland. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)
On 2 October the UN observed the International Day of Nonviolence. CNEWA works in some of the most violent places of the world. We have served and continue to serve the victims of ISIS, of wars, of religious persecution, ethnic hatred, etc., on a scale that often numbs the spirit. In serving these people, we also serve the cause of nonviolence and peace — and it is worth taking this occasion to look at Christianity’s call to pacifism and how it has impacted our history and our culture.
Christianity and non-violence have had a complicated relationship over 2,000 years. For 300 years, Christians were fairly regularly at the receiving end of the violence of the Roman Empire. The Roman occupation of Palestine, which Jesus experienced firsthand and under whose law and Procurator he was executed, would ultimately destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. With Constantine and the Edict of Milan (313), however, Christianity became a legally tolerated religion in the Empire. Rather quickly it became the official religion of the Empire.
While the New Testament tells of Jesus interacting with soldiers, of John the Baptist telling soldiers to avoid bullying, extortion and to be happy with their pay (Luke 3:14) and of Paul sending greetings “especially to those of Caesar’s household.” (Philippians 4:22), the acceptance of Christianity into the Roman Empire brought a major change. Christians went from being a persecuted minority to being civil servants and even emperors. They went from beings victims of power to agents of power.
There is clearly a strong voice for non-violence in the teaching of Jesus. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus blesses the meek and the peacemakers. Famously Jesus challenges his followers to “turn the other cheek” (Matt 5:39; Luke 6:29). In recounting the arrest of Jesus, all four Gospels speak of someone striking out with a sword. In Mark 14:47 it is “one of the bystanders;” in Matthew 26:51 “one of those with Jesus;” in Luke 22:49 “those around him;” and in John 18:10 it is Simon Peter. I mention these details because, in an odd reversal of the point of the text, some have used this to indicate that Jesus’ followers were armed; they use it as a justification for Christian violence. In every case, Jesus rejects the use of violence and in Matthew 26:52 he states, “those who take up the sword will be destroyed by the sword.”
In the centuries after Constantine, Christianity worked out an accommodation with the coercive power of the state. That accommodation alternated between strong support and criticism. After having enjoying the (sometimes deleterious) benefits of the support and protection of the Roman Empire, Christians faced a major crisis with the fall of the empire. How were they to react? Augustine of Hippo wrote The City of God in an attempt to deal with the question of whether God was abandoning Christians with the fall of the empire. It is also important to note that historians also trace the beginning of an articulated Christian theory of the just war to Augustine. The stress was now on the defense of Christianity.
By the Middle Ages, the just war theory was central to sometimes rather questionable Christian military endeavors, such as the Crusades (against not only Muslims but Jews and Christians such as the Orthodox and Albigensians who were considered heretics), various papal wars against Italian city states, etc.
Non-violence, however, while never really front and center in Catholic teaching in the Middle Ages, was also never totally absent.
Medieval laws — such as the Peace of God and the Truce of God — tried to limit violence. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) started his career as a knight enthusiastically engaged in glorious military endeavors against neighboring Italian cities. After his conversion, he was opposed to all wars, even to the point of visiting Sultan Malik al-Kamil on the battle field of Damietta during the Fifth Crusade. Some Franciscan scholars believe that Francis tried (successfully) to obtain an indulgence for visiting the Church of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi as a protest against war. Indulgences were very popular in the early Middle Ages and were attached to the different Crusades as a motivation for Christians to join the fight. Some scholars believe that Francis was offering his contemporaries a non-violent way to obtain an indulgence.
During the time of the Reformation, some of the Reformers, especially but not exclusively in the Anabaptist Tradition, once again brought the non-violent teachings of Jesus to the forefront. The Society of Friends (Quakers), Mennonites, Bruderhof and others stressed and stil stress non-violence and pacifism as an essential part of the Christian witness.
In recent decades, the popes have put increasing stress on the importance of peace and non-violence. Pacem in Terris, the 1963 encyclical of Pope John XXIII was the first of a still-ongoing series of encyclicals, papal statements, addresses to the UN General Assembly, etc., on the importance of peace and of achieving a just peace through non-violent means.
Catholic attempts to promote peace and non-violence have not been limited to papal announcements. It has been reflected in the piety of the church. In 2007 Franz Jägerstätter (1907-1943), an Austrian layman, was beatified as a martyr by Pope Benedict XVI. A conscientious objector, he was executed by the Nazis in 1943 and vilified by his contemporaries and countrymen for years before his beatification. The cause for the beatification and canonization of Dorothy Day (1897-1980), a famous New York pacifist, has now begun. On a practical level, Catholic organizations such as Pax Christi, the Community of Sant’ Egidio and others work and advocate for peace and non-violence. Pax Christi, founded in France in 1945, works in 50 countries and at the UN to achieve justice and an end to violence. In recent years, it has developed a section specifically to promote Catholic non-violence.
The people we at CNEWA serve know — tragically first-hand — that violence not only solves nothing, but like the mythical Hydra, it only generates more violence in an unending cycle. The words of Jesus in the Beatitudes, ”blessed are the peacemakers,” challenge us today as they challenged the first Christians 20 centuries ago.
With great Catholic Christian heroes throughout the centuries, we too hope, pray and work for a world truly blessed with peace, a world without violence.
24 October 2019
Tags: Middle East Christianity
In this image from January, Orthodox Metropolitan Gennadios of Italy and Malta, Pope Francis and the Rev. Tim Macquiban, minister of Rome's Ponte Sant'Angelo Methodist Church, leave an ecumenical prayer service at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Working for Christian unity and engaging in formal theological dialogues to promote it obviously raises questions about what the nature and mission of the church is.
In a project that took two decades of work by Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, Catholic and Pentecostal theologians, the World Council of Churches in 2013 published a document summarizing the points of greatest consensus.
In late October, the Vatican gave the WCC its formal response to the document, which was called “The Church: Towards a Common Vision.”
The response, coordinated by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and posted on its website, included input from Catholic theologians from around the world, bishops’ conferences and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
What is meant by “church” is a key ecumenical question as Christians work and pray for the unity Jesus wanted his followers to have, the Catholic response said.
Or, as the WCC document said, “agreement on ecclesiology has long been identified as the most elemental theological objective in the quest for Christian unity.”
In the Creed, Christians profess a belief in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church,” yet they differ on what Christ intended for his church, how it should be governed and how it should minister in the world.
“From a Catholic perspective,” the Vatican said, “the term ‘church’ applies to the Catholic Church in communion with the bishop of Rome. It also applies to churches which are not in visible communion with the Catholic Church but have preserved the apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, remaining true particular churches. Other Christian communities which have not preserved the valid episcopacy and Eucharist are called ‘ecclesial communities’“ in official Catholic documents.
The Vatican said of the WCC document, “While it presents a remarkable degree of common thinking on a wide range of important issues, it does not claim to have reached full consensus, the full agreement on all issues which is necessary in order to achieve full visible unity among the churches.”
The text, however, does show common agreement on “significant ecclesiological doctrines,” the Vatican said. Further theological dialogue is needed and, especially, study of the WCC document by Christians of all denominations.
Of fundamental importance, the Vatican said, is the document’s affirmation that “certain aspects of church life are to be considered as determined by God’s will,” although the WCC did not find enough consensus yet to affirm that “the threefold ministry of bishops, presbyter and deacon” is one of those aspects. The Catholic Church, of course, believes it is.
Still, the Vatican said, the document “traces ordained ministry to the Lord’s choice of the Twelve” and, in that way, “promotes the view that certain aspects of the church’s order were willed and instituted by Christ himself.”
The Vatican praised the WCC document for recognizing that “the three essential elements of communion concern faith, worship and ministry or service” and for acknowledging that both Scripture and tradition are necessary sources for determining what “church” means.
While the document uncovers “greater common ground in ecclesiology” than many people would have imagined possible, the Vatican noted that it did not treat the papacy or the role and ministry of the pope, the successor of St. Peter.
Other “unresolved concerns include who may be baptized, the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the relation of the Eucharist to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and churches who do not practice baptism or Eucharist,” the Vatican said.
Many modern developments within the Catholic Church, like a growing understanding of the church as a communion given life by the Trinity and an increasing emphasis on the need for “synodality,” also are recognized by other Christian communities and present in the WCC document, the Vatican response said.
“The most fundamental convergence is found in the affirmation that unity among Christians is vital for fulfilling the church’s mission of proclaiming the good news of reconciliation in the Lord and that this is a biblical mandate,” the response said.
The WCC also asked churches and Christian communities to look at areas in their lives that may need “renewal” in the light of the agreed principles and the commitment to Christian unity.
“The Catholic Church,” the Vatican said, “commits itself to respond to the call to grow in holiness,” to continue the process of renewal begun at the Second Vatican Council, “to being the church of the poor and for the poor,” to continue developing its “current practice of synodality,” and to strengthening laypeople in their role as missionary disciples.
While it is “painful,” the response said, the Catholic Church insists its members cannot celebrate the Eucharist with members of other churches. However, it said, “we will renew our commitment to do together whatever we can do together, even in the context of the liturgy.”
Those possibilities, the Vatican said, include the rite of washing the feet, the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday and celebrating prayer vigils and liturgies of the Word for major feasts such as Christmas, Epiphany, the Ascension, Pentecost and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
24 October 2019
Turkey has halted his military offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria after reaching a deal with Russia. (video: CBS News/YouTube)
Trump declares victory in Syria as Russian troops move in (The Washington Post) President Trump said Wednesday that a “permanent” cease-fire had been established in northeastern Syria, declaring a major diplomatic victory for his administration even as Russian forces began moving into territory once controlled by the United States and its Syrian Kurdish allies…
Ancient Byzantine church found near Jerusalem (Asharq Al-Awsat) Archaeologists have unearthed a 1,500-year-old Byzantine church in West Jerusalem. The church with stunning mosaics and glass windows was discovered ahead of building a new neighborhood in the town of Beit Shemesh…
Ruthenian women’s community established as monastery in Ohio (CNA) The Ruthenian Bishop of Parma last month erected Christ the Bridegroom Monastery as a female monastery sui iuris of eparchial right. The decision was made “in light of the present circumstances and the spiritual needs of the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom, and for the good of the people of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma for the Ruthenians.” Bishop Milan Lach’s decree was given on 27 September. As a sui iuris monastery of eparchial right, the community does not depend on another monastery, it is governed by its own typicon (rule of life), and it was erected by its bishop…
Lebanon protests unite sects in demanding new government (The New York Times) Drawing as much as a quarter of the country’s four million people to the streets, Lebanon’s seven-day-old antigovernment revolt has outlasted government pushback, the beginnings of a sectarian backlash and bad weather. The largest and most diverse protests since the country’s independence, they are also the most ambitious: Fueled at first by fury over economic conditions and corruption, the crowds now demand nothing less than a new political system…
Protests in Ethiopia threaten to mar image of Nobel-winning leader (The New York Times) Protests against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia erupted on Wednesday, threatening to taint the aura around his newly won Nobel Peace Prize, after a prominent critic accused the police of attempting to orchestrate an attack on him…
Kerala building homes that are flood-resistant (Ecowatch.com) he southern India state of Kerala, having lost almost a million homes in two disastrous floods in 2018 and 2019, is trying to adapt to climate change by building homes for the poor that are flood-resistant. In two years, one-sixth of the state’s 35 million population was affected by the floods, and 1.4 million of those had to abandon their homes. Many flimsy houses were destroyed and are being rebuilt from scratch…
23 October 2019
Tags: Syria Ethiopia Jerusalem Ruthenians
CNEWA’s president Msgr. John Kozar met with members of the Filipino community in Tel Aviv during a pastoral visit to Israel in December 2017. Read Msgr. Kozar’s reflections on how the church creates a sense of family in the current edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
23 October 2019
Tags: CNEWA Migrants Msgr. John E. Kozar
Flooding in parts of Kerala this month has been extreme. (video: CNEWA)
The video above shows the main city road (M.G. Road) of Ernakulam in Kerala, India — seriously flooded, due to heavy rain on Monday.
The flooding here is becoming worse every year due to climate change. It is still raining heavily as I write. From June to September, Kerala gets a monsoon, which makes up around 70 percent of the total average rainfall; the remaining 30 percent comes from another monsoon, which hits from October to December. However, the distribution pattern is causing the frequent floods.
We have been experiencing torrential rains for the last two years. Experts say climate change is having its worst impact on Kerala, because it is tucked between the Western Ghats on one side and the sea on the other.
Life in Ernakulam came to a standstill on Monday as the rains turned major roads into rivers. The streets were waterlogged. Residents were shocked as they were unable to get out of their houses, the water streaming into their homes.
The weather forecast predicts more rains in the coming days; people were told to take precautions to remain safe. More than 2,100 people have been evacuated to nine relief camps in the district.
Residents say the lack of proper maintenance of the roads and canals could also be contributing to the flooding, which affected shops and residents all along M.G. Road, Banerji Road and many other side roads in the city.
Please keep us in your prayers!
23 October 2019
Displaced Kurds stuck at a border near Derik, Syria, wait to try to cross into Iraq on 21 October 2019. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)
Syrians fleeing to Iraq (CNS) Humanitarians expressed concern over the situation of Syrian civilians displaced by the Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria. They say that as the cease-fire there is about to expire, they are seeing increasing numbers of refugees fleeing into Iraq while others are trapped inside the country. ”In the last 24 hours alone, 1,736 Syrians crossed into Iraq, the highest number to cross in one day since the beginning of Turkey’s military operation,” said Karl Schembri of the Norwegian Refugee Council, in a statement made available to Catholic News Service…
Msgr. Peter Vaccari tapped to lead CNEWA (CNEWA) Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Chair and Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of Catholic Near East Welfare Association/Pontifical Mission for Palestine, has announced the Holy See has approved the nomination and election of Msgr. Peter Vaccari to succeed Msgr. John E. Kozar as president of CNEWA/PMP. Msgr. Vaccari will initiate the process of transition as vice president on 1 January 2020. At a date yet to be determined, but in the near future, Msgr. Kozar will retire and concurrently Msgr. Vaccari will assume his responsibilities as president of CNEWA/PMP…
Ethiopia protestors burn Nobel winner Abiy Ahmed’s book (BBC) Protesters in eastern Ethiopia have burnt copies of a new book by prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed in a show of solidarity with an opposition media activist. Jawar Mohammed had said the government was removing security from his home in the capital, which officials denied. This triggered protests outside his compound and elsewhere in the country…
Russian Orthodox TV plans reality show set at monastery (Radio Free Europe) A TV channel affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church is putting out a call for applications for a reality show with a spiritual twist: its setting will be an island monastery on a lake halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg...
22 October 2019
Tags: Syria Ethiopia CNEWA
Thousands continue to protest in Beirut, demanding government reform. The protests have been going on for six days. (photo: Rod & Roy / Instagram)
Protests in Lebanon are continuing and show no sign of abating, according to Al Jazeera:
Protesters in Lebanon insisted on Tuesday they will stay in the streets for a sixth day even after the government approved an unprecedented package of economic reforms.
The protesters have declared a general strike, sending a clear signal they reject the measures Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government agreed upon on Monday.
Among the reforms is a 50-percent reduction in salary for former and current politicians and ministers; the abolishment of the Ministry of Information and a number of other state institutions; and the establishment of an anti-corruption panel.
CNEWA’s regional director in Beirut, Michel Constantin, sent us the picture above on Monday — which has been widely circulated on social media — and added this note:
This has become Lebanon’s biggest protest movement in modern history.
Accordingly, our office in Beirut was affected as the main road in front of Boutique Hotel has been closed by demonstrators and wheel burning since Friday, preventing the access to the office.
On Monday, church leaders expressed solidarity with the protestors, with Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, stating: ”We pray to God, through the intercession of our mother Mary, Our Lady of Lebanon, and St. Charbel, to touch the conscience of our political officials and inspire them to find the necessary, successful and quick solutions to the economic and social crisis, which has become a crisis of hunger.”
22 October 2019
Msgr. Peter Vaccari, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Msgr. John E. Kozar. (photo: CNEWA)
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Chair and Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of Catholic Near East Welfare Association/Pontifical Mission for Palestine, has announced the Holy See has approved the nomination and election of Msgr. Peter Vaccari to succeed Msgr. John E. Kozar as president of CNEWA/PMP. Msgr. Vaccari will initiate the process of transition as vice president on January 1, 2020. At a date yet to be determined, but in the near future, Msgr. Kozar will retire and concurrently Msgr. Vaccari will assume his responsibilities as president of CNEWA/PMP.
In a staff meeting in New York on Tuesday announcing the move, Cardinal Dolan said that Msgr. Kozar had approached him nearly a year ago to discuss a successor, noting he was going to be turning 75 in 2020 and wanted a smooth transition.
The cardinal expressed his gratitude to Msgr. Kozar for initiating the process — and also expressed his personal affection for him and the work he has done with CNEWA/PMP over the last eight years. The cardinal reminded the CNEWA family of his high regard for the agency and its work since his days serving the apostolic nunciature in Washington, D.C., then led by Archbishop Pio Laghi. Archbishop Laghi served in Jerusalem under St. Paul VI and was a great supporter of CNEWA and its work in the Middle East.
A priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, Msgr. Vaccari, 67, will conclude his term as Rector of Saint Joseph Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York, on 31 December. Ordained a priest in 1977, he has served as a parish priest, seminary professor, Chaplain with the Air Force Reserve, and Rector of Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington before becoming Rector of Saint Joseph’s Seminary in 2012.
Msgr. Kozar, a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, began his tenure as president of CNEWA/PMP in September 2011, after having served as National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies for ten years. “A diocesan priest on loan to the missions,” Msgr. Kozar has encouraged the Eastern Catholic churches — which CNEWA is privileged to serve — as these communities continue in their renewal called for by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council.
”As I travel throughout CNEWA’s world, the men and women of these rich communities of faith demonstrate the church at her best, whether by wiping tears from the eyes of abandoned pensioners or in offering the Bread of Life to refugees in a camp.”
Msgr. Kozar and Msgr. Vaccari reminded the CNEWA staff that they share a deep and long-lasting friendship, built over many years of traveling together to the Middle East on pilgrimage, and they look forward to working together during this period of transition of leadership.
Tags: CNEWA Msgr. John E. Kozar Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan