12 May 2016
Sister Sophie Boueri, D.C., with one of her young friends at the Creche in Bethlehem.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Sister Sophie Boueri, D.C., spent much of her life caring for the tiniest and most helpless: young orphans who found love and care at the Creche, a home for unwanted children in Bethlehem. In 2011, CNEWA’s Msgr. John Kozar caught up with this spirited sister and, like everyone who meets her, was in awe:
The director of the facility is named Sister Sophie and she is something special. This sister is the embodiment of the protector of little babies and the unwanted. She loves each and every one of the 91 childen cared for at the Creche.
She took us to a room with little ones ranging in age from a few days old to about nine months. One of the babies was left at a big garbage dump, another at Sister Sophie’s doorstep. Some children were dropped off for various reasons. There is no legal system for adoption in Palestine and Muslim tradition does not allow for it, so this is a big challenge. But Sister Sophie, her staff and her many volunteers still present loving smiles to all who visit.
But at an age when most people are trying to take it easy, 83-year-old Sister Sophie then took on one more tough job in a tough corner of the world. After nurturing young orphans in the West Bank for decades, she turned her attention to another group of orphans: abandoned elderly women in her native Lebanon. Her order, the Daughters of Charity, has a worldwide charism to help the poor and the marginalized.
She spoke with us last year about her new mission:
ONE: Tell me about your work in Lebanon.
Sister Sophie: We have 40 elderly women who live in our home. Some are sisters and others are women who have no families or who have been abandoned by their families. We have one doctor and ten staff members. I am the only sister. All the women are Christians, and we accept all rites — Maronite, Orthodox, Latin. We ask only that they be Christian because we take them to Mass every day.
ONE: What kinds of activities do you provide for your residents?
SS: I take them to daily Mass and to receive the sacraments. I walk with them and I am present with them all the time. Once a patient gets better and they can move, I take them on little field trips to places such as the Marian shrine in Harissa or St. Sharbel Monastery.
ONE: What keeps you strong enough to help the elderly when you are elderly yourself?
SS: Only him! I promised Jesus a long time ago I would help all people. This is a promise I cannot break. All my life I have seen the poor and I cannot see them without helping them. Do you see how poor they are? And Sister Sophie also is very poor.
To support heroic people such as Sister Sophie, serving the poor in Lebanon, visit this giving page.
12 May 2016
Aemenuhi Khachatrian, 73, has lived alone for more than six years in Yerevan. To learn more about the challenges facing Armenia’s elderly, and what’s being done to help them, read A Letter From Armenia in the Summer 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
12 May 2016
In the video above, African journalists report on the devastating floods that have hit Ethiopia, displacing thousands still coping with a massive and relentless drought. (video: CCTV/YouTube)
Flash floods displace tens of thousands in Ethiopia (Reuters) Flash floods displaced nearly 120,000 people in Ethiopia last month and a total of almost half a million are expected to be affected this year, government and humanitarian agencies said on Wednesday. The floods are part of the global El Niño weather phenomenon that had previously caused a severe drought in the Horn of Africa nation following successive failed rains...
Turkey threatens stronger military action in Syria (The Wall Street Journal) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened Thursday to take stronger military action inside Syria to halt relentless Islamic State rocket attacks that have brought life in parts of one Turkish border town to a standstill. After weeks of deadly Islamic State strikes, Mr. Erdogan suggested that Turkey was prepared to send troops into neighboring Syria to bring an end to attacks on Kilis, the Turkish town nominated this year for a Nobel Peace Prize for welcoming so many Syrian refugees...
Moscow patriarch: Fight against terrorism is a ‘holy war’ (Fides) “Today the fight against terrorism is a holy war.” This is the strong message used by Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, to support the need for a joint mobilization of the international community against a phenomenon which he presented as a global evil. The expression, together with explicit references to the Russian military intervention in the Syrian conflict, was used by the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church on the occasion of a ceremony held to commemorate the fallen Russians of World War II, on 6 May...
Study looks at the role of Christianity in Israeli society (Pew Research) Christians currently make up just 2% of Israel’s adult population. Indeed, as of 2010, Christians made up a small share (4%) of the population in the Middle East-North Africa region as a whole. A Pew Research Center survey of Israel provides a rare window into the religious beliefs and practices of this close-knit group...
Christian school workers stage demonstration in Ramallah (Fides) A qualified representation of Christian school staff took part yesterday, Wednesday, 11 May, in a new public mobilization organized in Ramallah, calling for the revision of the Social Security legislation approved by Palestinian authorities last March...
Pope: Vatican will study question of women deacons (CNS) Pope Francis told the heads of women’s religious orders from around the world that he would set up a commission to study the New Testament deaconesses and he also insisted more can and should be done to involve lay and consecrated women in church decision-making at every level. Asked if he would establish “an official commission to study the question” of whether women could be admitted to the diaconate, Pope Francis responded: “I accept. It would be useful for the church to clarify this question. I agree...”
11 May 2016
Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, leads a 2015 service at St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo. Although Coptic Orthodox Christians and Catholics have much to do to achieve eucharistic communion, they still can witness together to the importance of holiness and the dignity of human life, Pope Francis said in a letter to the patriarch. Read more about the letter here. And discover more about the Copts in the pages of ONE magazine. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)
11 May 2016
In this picture from 2014, a Christian family who fled from violence in Mosul, Iraq, sit in the room of a church in Amman, Jordan. The Vatican is funding a job-creation program for Iraqi refugees in Jordan, a country that is hosting close to 1.5 million refugees, but is struggling to provide work for them. (photo: CNS/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA)
Vatican funds job-creation project for refugees in Jordan (CNS) The Vatican is funding a job-creation program for Iraqi refugees in Jordan, a country that is hosting close to 1.5 million refugees, but is struggling to provide work for them. With $150,000 donated to the Vatican by visitors to its pavilion at the World’s Fair in Milan in 2015, the Vatican will provide the funding that Caritas Jordan needs to launch the project...
Pope Francis sends letter to Coptic patriarch on Day of Friendship (Vatican Radio) 10 May marks the anniversary of the first encounter between Pope Paul VI, the Bishop of Rome, and head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III, which took place 43 years ago. Today, on the Day of Friendship between Copts and Catholics, Pope Francis has written to His Holiness Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark, to commemorate the occasion...
Cardinal: Don’t let Marrakesh Declaration be ignored (CNS) Noting the untimely death of previous declarations of Muslim comity with other faiths, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Washington’s retired archbishop, urged that the Marrakesh Declaration, drafted in January to have the same effect, not remain ignored. Cardinal McCarrick, during a 10 May “Newsmaker” assembly at the National Press Club in Washington, referred to the Medina Charter issued by the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, which allowed Muslims and non-Muslim “tribes,” including Jews, to live in Medina in peace and to come together for common defense...
Ethiopia hosts conference on hate speech (Vatican Radio) A two day forum exploring the role of religious leaders in Africa in preventing hate crime and atrocities, is taking place in Addis Abada, Ethiopia. Religious leaders from across Africa have gathered for the forum, which is co-sponsored by the Office of the UN Special Advisor on the prevention of Genocide, the World Council of Churches and the King Abdulla bin Abdulaziz Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID)...
10 May 2016
François Moniz, left, takes a break with his wife, Edith, during a 2014 rally in Ottawa to show support for Iraq’s persecuted Christians. (photo: CNEWA)
One year ago today, CNEWA lost a beloved member of our family, François Moniz. We asked CNEWA’s national director in Canada, Carl Hétu, to reflect on this unsung hero.
François Moniz isn’t known to most people outside of the CNEWA family. He was CNEWA Canada’s first office administrator from December 2004 until his death on 10 May 2015.
Back in 2004, François had a full time job in the private sector in administration. But he was out on sick leave, fighting a vicious cancer. After several treatments during the winter and spring of 2004, he was told that nothing had worked and his days were numbered. Knowing this, I brought him back some oil from the tomb of Saint Sharbel in Lebanon. Sharbel was a 19th century monk who was canonized in the 1960’s. Many miracles have been attributed to him.
A couple of months later, after using the oil and with many prayers, François learned some amazing news: the tumor was gone. The doctors were shocked. A real miracle! Before he went back to his job, I asked François if he could give me a hand with his free time in laying out the plan to start CNEWA Canada. I had known him for over 25 years, and I knew I could take advantage of his administrative expertise.
As we sat discussing how to proceed, it became obvious that he was the perfect person to join me in this new challenge. So I offered him the job and I remember his words that day: “I’ve never worked for the church, but I guess I owe one to God.” He turned out to be a superb fit.
The years passed by and CNEWA Canada grew. François was an important part of that growth, and we shared many exciting hours of planning, debating, and evaluating. But then, his cancer reappeared in 2013. This time, we knew that the chances of survival were slim; he needed an operation to remove the tumors. Yet, six months after the surgery, in July 2014, he was back on the job. “You’re back too early,” I told him. He replied, “Not early enough.” He couldn’t stand to be away.
In October of that year, the cancer returned in full force. But even then, François came to the office. He missed some days, but remained very committed. I would say to him, “Stay home, we can manage.” And he would reply, “Carl it’s not from home that I can make a difference.”
Finally, in February 2015, he told me that he would be leaving his job. Heartbroken and sad, we hugged each other, both of us knowing he would never come back. I visited him in the hospital during his final days, and he told me, “You know, working for CNEWA was God’s plan, not mine. And I am privileged that he allowed me to help so many people all over the world.”
François cared. To the end, he was committed to CNEWA’s mission.
He did such a good job that I believe God needed François for other purposes. God called him home on 10 May 2015, Mother’s Day. He was 56.
François left behind his wife, Edith, two children and three brothers.
Thank you, François, for your honesty, objectivity, professionalism and, above all, your friendship.
10 May 2016
In this image from 2007, an Ethiopian seminarian leads a procession. Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church finds modernization challenging some long-held traditions. How is it coping? Read Ethiopian Orthodoxy at a Crossroads from the November 2007 edition of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
10 May 2016
Indonesians take part in a demonstration in solidarity with the civilians of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo in front of Syrian Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 9 May 2016. A fragile cease-fire in Aleppo has been extended another 48 hours.
(photo: Agnes Rudianto/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Syrian government extends cease-fire (The Washington Post) The Syrian military on Monday extended a fragile cease-fire that had broken down in the northern city of Aleppo, as the United States and Russia worked together to try to get peace talks back on track and quell the violence. Shortly before the cease-fire was due to expire and as fighting raged in the northern city of Aleppo, the Syrian military announced that the truce would be extended for 48 hours...
U.S. Announces $50 million aid program for Gaza (AP) The United States has announced a $50 million aid program for the Gaza Strip. U.S. officials said Monday that the money will be used over five years to provide basic humanitarian assistance and create jobs. The money will be distributed by the U.S Agency for International Development in partnership with Catholic Relief Services...
Indian bishops condemn rape and murder of Dalit student in Kerala (Vatican Radio) The Catholic bishops of India have joined political parties, rights activists, women organizations and others in condemning the rape and brutal murder of a young Dalit law student in southern India’s Kerala state. The 30-year-old student by the name of Jisha was raped and murdered at her home in Perumbavoor on 28 April...
New bishop appointed to Phoenix eparchy (CNS) Pope Francis has appointed Bishop John S. Pazak of the Byzantine Eparchy of Sts. Cyril and Methodius of Toronto as bishop of the Holy Protection of Mary Eparchy of Phoenix. The Pope accepted the resignation of Bishop Gerald Dino, 76, of the Phoenix eparchy, where he had served eight years...
Chaldean patriarch writes about priests who have emigrated to U.S. without permission (Fides) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I, writing to the priests, religious and faithful of the Chaldean diocese in the U.S., says to divide the ecclesial body into separate groups is a “serious sin,” in a time when the Chaldean Church is also prompted by the dramatic historical circumstances which guards unity with special care. For this reason, he said, even the communities in diaspora that belong to the eparchy of St. Peter of the Chaldeans, based in San Diego, California, are called to walk the path of reconciliation, and take advantage of the new Apostolic Administrator to favor the return to its “excellent start.” He made this comments in the letter which he also announces the appointment of Archbishop Shlemon Warduni, auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad as their Apostolic Administrator, waiting for the Chaldean Synod to proceed to the election of the new Bishop, after Saturday, 7 May...
Israeli general compares Jewish state to Nazi Germany (The Washington Post) On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day last week, a top Israeli general gave a speech saying he saw “revolting trends” in today’s Israel that he compared to Nazi-era Germany and Europe in the 1930s. No surprise — this has created a big stir in Israel, flaring again Sunday...
India rejects U.S. report on religious freedom (RNS) India is rejecting a U.S. panel’s charges that the religious freedom of minorities in the world’s largest democracy is being violated with tacit support from elements in the ruling party. By contrast, leaders of the country’s Christian and Muslim minorities welcomed the findings of the report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), released on Monday (2 May) in Washington...
Visiting the ancient Ethiopian churches carved into the mountains (The Daily Mail) For centuries, young men and boys have climbed the steep mountainsides of Tigray, Northern Ethiopia, to reach ancient churches carved into the side of the jagged rock faces. Believed to have been built over a thousand years ago, churches in these remote mountains have been a place of worship and study for Orthodox Christians in the region. Hoping to get closer to God literally and figuratively, the young students risk their lives on a daily basis as they scale the cliff-sides to get to the churches where teachers have spent decades studying holy scriptures...
9 May 2016
In this image from 2011, an Iraqi man inspects the damage at a Catholic church after attacks in Kirkuk. Despite predictions that Christianity could be wiped out of his war-torn homeland within five years, Chaldean Archishop Yousif Mirkis of Kirkuk said he believes in God's ultimate preservation. (photo: CNS/Khalil Al Anei, EPA)
Despite predictions that Christianity could be wiped out of his war-torn homeland within five years, an Iraqi Catholic cleric said he believes in God’s ultimate preservation.
“This prognosis may be of thinkers or politicians, but not of the believers,” Chaldean Archishop Yousif Mirkis of Kirkuk told Catholic News Service at an April trauma counseling training in this Lebanese mountain retreat town.
“When our faith reaches the edge, even to the point of death, there is always an intervention of God, something amazing happens,” said the archbishop.
“This is the faith of the Old Testament witnessed in Exodus and (the) parting of the Red Sea, and in the New Testament with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, I don’t believe those who say that there won’t be Christians in Iraq.”
Iraq’s Christian population numbered about 1.4 million during the rule of Saddam Hussein, but figures now hover between 260,000 and 300,000 as political instability and persecution by Islamic State militants have drastically reduced their numbers. Other religious minorities, such as the Yezidis, also have been targets of vicious persecution by the extremists.
Half of the remaining Christians in Iraq struggle to remain true to their faith or flee to other countries due to dangers the Islamic State poses, including forced conversion to Islam. Every year, the Christian population decreases by 60,000-100,000, according to the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, in a report issued late last year.
Archishop Mirkis has argued otherwise from his experience of helping those who have fled extremist persecution and are displaced within their homeland. He said healing in his diocese to those traumatized has taken a number of forms, whether using puppets, theatrical scenes, art, song and poetry as well as group “talk.”
“We try to use all the possibilities in our community and especially spiritual services such as masses, Bible study groups. The best thing is not to give up. We shall overcome,” he said of the 130,000 who fled from the 2014 Islamic State militant takeover of Mosul and the Ninevah Plain. “There are too many questions for us about Daesh and what is to follow,” he said, using the militants’ name in Arabic.
“But this is not the first time we experienced this kind of persecution,” he said, noting past times of Christian persecution.
The Aid to the Church in Need report references an exodus from Iraq of Christians fearing ethnic cleansing and potential genocide at an unprecedented pace while the world has stood by. It warned that “Christianity is on course to disappear from Iraq within possibly five years — unless emergency help is provided on a massively increased scale at an international level.”
In late April, Islamic State militants blew up Mosul’s iconic clock tower church, known as al-Latin or al-Sa’ah Church. Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako denounced the destruction.
“We have received news that the ISIS elements blew up the archaeological Latin church belonging to the Dominican fathers, located in the center of Mosul. We strongly condemn the targeting of the Christian Church and also condemn the targeting of mosques and other houses of worship,” he said.
The patriarch urged Iraqi politicians to speed up the national reconciliation process, while imploring the international community and religious authorities to do more to end ongoing sectarian conflict in order to protect the country and its citizens.
But the storming of Iraq’s parliament building by Shiite protesters in late April underscored the extreme fragility of the government and plunged Iraq into a deeper political crisis as divisions spread not just among Sunni Muslims, Shiites and Kurds, but splinter each grouping from within.
Archbishop Mirkis said: “Those who decide to emigrate are making a very hard decision. Those who stay, we try to help them.”
He said his diocese has taken in 800 families and 400 university students who want to continue their studies in Iraq, even though their parents have emigrated.
“Christians who are stable in Iraq discovered that they can do more than be Christian only. By welcoming the displaced and helping them, many have overcome the trauma they have experienced,” he said. “I spend all my time, not only with material needs of the traumatized, but also addressing their psychological and spiritual healing.
“Our faith is very rich. It dies, if you don’t use it,” he said. “Please use the faith you have. Don't let it die inside you.”
9 May 2016
Pope Francis meets Catholics and Muslims taking part in an interfaith colloquium.
(photo: Vatican Radio/L’Osservatore Romano)
Catholics, Muslims highlight shared beliefs for social, political life (Vatican Radio) Catholic and Muslim experts in interreligious dialogue have issued a joint communique stressing their shared beliefs as a basis for peaceful coexistence and cooperation for the common good...
European Award for Armenian church in Turkey (Fides) The Armenian Apostolic Church of St. Giragos in Diyarbakir has been awarded for its recent restoration by the European Union, but the awards ceremony and the laying of the commemorating plaque of the award cannot be held at the place of worship, which since March has been confiscated by the Turkish military authorities for security purposes, along with other churches in the historic center of the city...
56 hours with the Russian army in Syria (The Washington Post) Last weekend, I received a call from the Russian Foreign Ministry offering a spot on a three-day press tour with the Russian army to Syria, exact dates and destinations TBD. There was also a special warning for American journalists coming aboard. Write poorly about us, an official said, and “this will be your first and last trip...”
Closed Roman Catholic church in New York becomes Malankara Catholic church (The Journal News) A Yonkers Roman Catholic church shuttered last year in a parish consolidation will celebrate its rebirth Saturday as an Eastern Rite congregation. The Rev. Sunny Mathew, 43, the new congregation’s pastor, said the move to Yonkers realizes a longtime dream for his parishioners, who began their congregation in 1984 in New York City. Most Holy Trinity Church at 18 Trinity Plaza will be occupied by St. Mary’s Malankara Catholic Church, an Indian congregation that for 17 years worshiped in the chapel at Salesian High School in New Rochelle...
Is the era of great famine over? (The New York Times) The worst drought in three decades has left almost 20 million Ethiopians — one-fifth of the population — desperately short of food. And yet the country’s mortality rate isn’t expected to increase: In other words, Ethiopians aren’t starving to death. I’ve studied famine and humanitarian relief for more than 30 years, and I wasn’t prepared for what I saw during a visit to Ethiopia last month...
New York Episcopal church welcomes flock of destroyed Serbian Orthodox cathedral (The New York Times) As Desa Boskovic stepped into the shadow of the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava in Manhattan on Sunday afternoon, her mind grew clouded with memory. It was there that she sought refuge as an immigrant from Serbia in 1973, hopeful for some sense of familiarity in this alien city. Its grand gothic arches have welcomed her every Sunday since, framing her family as they observed baptisms, weddings and funerals. Now she wept as she beheld the scorched skeleton of the cathedral that a week earlier had gone up in flames, generations of devotion reduced to rubble...