11 March 2016
In this image from 2012, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar visits St. Anthony’s Dayssadan in India, a home for children with physical disabilities run by the Preshitharam Sisters.
It was 90 years ago today — 11 March 1926 —that what we now know as Catholic Near East Welfare Association was born:
On 11 March 1926, Pope Pius XI decided to unite permanently into one organization and under one administration all the American Catholic associations working for assistance to Russia and other areas of the Near East and in general working for the same goals as the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Church and the Pontifical Commission for Russia. This new pontifical organization was to be called the “Catholic Near East Welfare Association” (CNEWA). It was placed under the immediate direction of the archbishop of New York, and he was invited to form a governing body selected from the American hierarchy. The funds raised by the new association were to be placed directly at the disposition of the Holy Father, who would disburse them in response to the requests for assistance coming to him from all over the world or recommended to him by CNEWA itself.
It has been a remarkable 90 years, and a time worth remembering with humble gratitude and joy. Over the next several months, in our magazine and here on the blog, we'll be taking note of this milestone in a variety of ways. Beginning today, we launch a special series, “90 Years / 90 Heroes,” saluting just a few of the ordinary people who have done extraordinary work on behalf of CNEWA — and, as a result, on behalf of the poor and suffering throughout our world. During this Year of Mercy, we feel especially privileged to have been messengers of mercy to the poor, the hungry, the persecuted and the marginalized. And we owe a profound debt of gratitude to countless donors and benefactors who have helped us carry out our mission.
Two years ago, our president Msgr. John E. Kozar articulated that mission eloquently in this video below. Embarking on our 10th decade of service on behalf of
the Holy Father, we are forever thankful to those who have joined us on this journey. As our mission statement declares: “Together, we build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue — and inspire hope.”
A blessed and happy anniversary to all who are part of our CNEWA family — and be assured of our continued prayers!
11 March 2016
Rev. Paul Wattson, S.A. (1863-1940). (photo: Graymoor Archives)
Over the next several months, as CNEWA marks its 90th anniversary, we’ll be spotlighting 90 people who made a profound difference in our world over these last 90 years — and it’s only fitting that we begin at the beginning.
The first of our “90 Years, 90 Heroes” profiles features CNEWA’s co-founder, the Rev. Paul Wattson, who also founded the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement. Father Paul died in 1940; this past fall, the Archdiocese of New York formally opened his cause for canonization.
As the Rev. Elias D. Mallon, himself a Friar of the Atonement, wrote at the time:
Father Paul regarded other churches not as heretics and enemies, competitors or targets for proselytization, but as friends and fellow travelers on the road to the unity Christ wished for his church. He saw it as his task to be the Lamp that helped them on this journey.
His attitude toward other churches and his concern for the poor brought Father Paul in increasing contact with the Christians of the Middle East and India. After World War I, the situation of Christians in the Middle East was dire. Genocide was the order of the day for Christians in the lands of the Middle East. Millions of Armenians and hundreds of thousands of Christians from other Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches were either slaughtered or driven out of their homes as refugees.
Father Paul and the Rev. George Calvassy (later a bishop) of the Greek Byzantine Catholic Church sought a way to alleviate the sufferings of all Christians in the Middle East. Their attempts took many different routes, some of them dead ends, but their efforts along with others resulted ultimately in the founding of Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) in 1926. Pope Pius XI formally recognized CNEWA as a pontifical organization and placed it under the direction of the archbishop of New York.
The Eastern churches — Catholic and Orthodox — were dear to the heart of Father Paul. Many bishops from these churches visited Father Paul at Graymoor to ask his help and express their gratitude for any assistance they received.
Father Paul died on 8 February 1940. His pioneering work for Christian unity today might be considered ahead of its time, and even prophetic. He did not live to see the Second Vatican Council and its decree on Christian Unity; he did not see the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity become a world-wide event promulgated by both the Vatican and the World Council of Churches. But his prayers, vision and passion laid the groundwork for vastly improved relations between Catholics and Orthodox Christians, and helped CNEWA become a significant force for humanitarian and pastoral aid in a Middle East — a troubled land that is once again in our own day a place of genocide and exile.
Read more about Father Paul here. And for the full history of CNEWA, check out this link.
11 March 2016
As we mark CNEWA’s 90th anniversary today, we are continually uplifted by the faith and joy of those we have met from around the world, especially the young people. Here are a few small glimmers of hope: young Syrian refugees at the Zahle camp in Lebanon in January of 2016.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
11 March 2016
A Syrian man reacts as rescue workers try to pull a victim out from under the rubble of a building following a reported air strike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of Salhin in the northern city of Aleppo on 11 March 2016. (photo: Thaer Mohammed/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian opposition says it will rejoin peace talks (AP) The main, Western-backed Syrian opposition groups say they’ll attend U.N.-sponsored peace talks with the Damascus government in Geneva starting on Monday. The groups, assembled under an umbrella known as the High Negotiations Committee, said in a statement Friday that their participation comes in response to “sincere” international efforts to end Syria’s five-year civil war. An ongoing, tentative but more-successful-than-expected cease-fire has seen a significant drop in violence across the country for almost two weeks...
Syriac Orthodox Patriarch calls on Eastern Christians who emigrate to preserve identity (Fides) The culture that the Christians in the Orient were raised into, “is undoubtedly different from the one they find in the West. This difference is observed in the difficulty which the refugees find in integrating in the western societies.” These are some eloquent thoughts contained in the Encyclical Letter addressed to the faithful by Patriarch Mar Ignatius Aprhrem II, Primate of the Syrian Orthodox Church, on the occasion of the beginning of Lent...
Suicides on rise in Gaza (Mondoweiss.net) There is a strong taboo against suicide in the Gaza Strip, where Islam is the predominant religion. But on 9 February, Rezeq Abu Setta, 38 and a father of seven, joined a growing trend in the blockaded Palestinian territory. He attempted suicide. Abu Setta was one of the estimated 80 Gazans a month who tried to or succeeded in taking their lives in January and February — an alarming increase of 35-40 percent over previous years. And some sources suggest the total may be even higher...
Dalit Christians, Muslims demand quotas in India (Vatican Radio) Dalit Christians and Muslims in India are demanding that the government ensure them quotas in jobs and educational institutions, a right enjoyed by their Hindu counterparts...
Comboni Sisters mark 50 years in Bethany (Fides) The Comboni Missionary Sisters, the only missionary institute founded in 1872 by St. Daniele Comboni, have recently celebrated 50 years of presence in Bethany, the town of Judea currently in the territory of the Palestinian State, and separated by the nearby Jerusalem because of the wall of division...
10 March 2016
St. George Cathedral in Lviv was the site of the 1946 meeting that forced the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church underground for over 40 years. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Today marks a significant and tragic anniversary for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
Seventy years ago today, 10 March 1946, the church was brutally liquidated by Stalin’s regime, when the territories of western Ukraine fell under Soviet rule.
The liquidation campaign was orchestrated by the Communist regime as a process of reunification of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church with the Russian Orthodox Church. A special “synod” was held at St. George’s Cathedral in Lviv; about 200 local Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests were coerced to participate. The synod did not have any ecclesiastical legal validity since none of the Ukrainian Catholic hierarchs took part in it; by then, most of them were either under arrest or already in concentration camps. But at this meeting, it was decided that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church would break its ties with the Holy See and that it would be absorbed by the Russian Orthodox Church.
From that point, all clergy and religious who refused were subject to persecution by state authorities. All Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops, along with most of the priests and religious, suffered harsh oppression by the authorities for not giving up their Catholic identity and for staying loyal to their faith and the pope. As a result, from 1946 till 1989, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church — numbering about 2,000 clergy and several million members — was forced underground.
Among the priests who stood up to the regime and refused to acknowledge the validity of the synod’s decisions was my late grandfather, Adam M. Morawski. Despite numerous threats to his life from the communist regime, he continued to minister to his flock as a Catholic priest. In 1949, he and his family were arrested and deported to a labor camp in Krasnoyarsk region in Siberia. After nine years in labor camps, they were allowed to leave Siberia. Father Adam continued to minister secretly as an underground Catholic priest in Soviet Ukraine for the rest of his life. He died in 1982, several years before the church was legalized with the collapse of the Soviet Union. I admire him for his principles, strong faith and his loyalty to the church.
This sad anniversary is a strong reminder that throughout history Catholic Eastern churches have paid a very high price for their Catholic identity — and that they are a great gift to the universal church.
To learn more about how Ukraine’s church is being revived today, read Out from Underground in the Autumn 2015 edition of ONE. And to support Catholics in Ukraine as they work to rebuild their church, visit this giving page.
10 March 2016
Bishops from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican
on 5 March. (photo: L’Osservatore Romano/Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church)
After meeting with Pope Francis on 5 March, the Permanent Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) issued a statement which, in their words, “reflects the position of our Church on the current situation in Ukraine.”
The statement reads in part:
The UGCC has demonstrated with its very blood its solidarity with the Bishop of Rome and the worldwide Catholic communion. Now, during the Year of Mercy, is the time for the Catholic Church to bring the healing balm of mercy to their suffering brothers and sisters in Ukraine in reciprocal solidarity. The Ukrainian people are proving their commitment to European values of human dignity and the rule of law. Now is the time for Europe to understand that if it does not stand up for these same values in Ukraine, they become endangered throughout the continent. This is a time to confirm what the nations of Europe and its religious communities hold most dear; a time to see whether the blessings of freedom and prosperity that Western powers and societies enjoy might be shared more fully with a long-suffering people.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church ceaselessly prays for and promotes peace, and in Rome its leadership appealed to the Holy Father and to the world to help stop the war and stem the humanitarian crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. For Ukrainians who belong to different Churches and religious organizations and even secular citizens, the Holy Father is a global moral authority who speaks the truth. This voice of truth is particularly important for the suffering people of Ukraine. If the people do not hear or understand this voice they becomes confused, anxious and feel forgotten.
“The people are suffering, Holy Father, and they await your embrace, the active support of the Catholic communion and all people of good will” was our word. His Holiness made it clear that he would act. It was most important that on the eve of the sad anniversary of the Pseudo-synod of Lviv Pope Francis wholeheartedly acknowledged the faithfulness and heroic witness of generations of Greek Catholics. He prepared a warm pastoral statement calling the events of March 1946 by their proper name. The Holy Father emphasized that one cannot solve ecumenical problems at the expense of an Eastern Catholic Church.
We hope that His Holiness will initiate and support new steps to help relieve the dire hardships endured by millions of Ukrainians, that he will speak out on their behalf and encourage international aid. The UGCC stands ready to facilitate responsible, transparent, ecumenically sound administration of international assistance, serving the Ukrainian population without regard to ethnicity, political or linguistic preferences or religious affiliation. We are ready to cooperate in a well-coordinated plan that includes governmental and non-governmental bodies in order to lift the suffering out of their need, meeting both short-term and enduring needs of those affected by the humanitarian crisis caused by the invasion of Ukraine. Enough of this suffering! It can be prevented. It can be healed. Let us make the “Year of Mercy” a reality for the people of Ukraine.
Read the full document here.
10 March 2016
Children receive oxygen at a hospital in Taza, Iraq, on 9 March, after ISIS militants fired mortar shells and rockets filled with “poisonous substances” into their village.
(photo: CNS/Stringer, Reuters)
A new report states that Christians and minorities in Iraq, Libya and Syria are victims of genocide carried out by ISIS.
CNS has details:
The 278-page document was released March 10 in Washington, a week before a congressionally mandated deadline for the Department of State to announce if genocide was being committed against religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East and North Africa by the Islamic State.
It argues that the case for genocide exists and called on Secretary of State John Kerry to make such a declaration and to include Christians in it.
The report contains dozens of statements collected from 22 February through March 3 from witnesses and victims of atrocities carried out by Islamic State forces. The incidents include torture, rapes, kidnappings, murder, forced conversions, bombings and the destruction of religious property and monuments.
“Murder of Christians is commonplace. Many have been killed in front of their own families,” said the report, titled “Genocide Against Christians in the Middle East.”
It cites statements from religious leaders, including Pope Francis, and conclusions from the European Parliament, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and the Iraqi and Kurdish governments, all of which have labeled the Islamic State’s actions as genocide.
The report includes a legal brief directed toward Kerry detailing the case for a genocide designation.
Pope Francis last year condemned what he called “genocide” of Christians in part of the Middle East, noting:
“Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus,” he said,according to Firstpost. “In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end.”
10 March 2016
In this image from last year, Syrian refugees wait on the Syrian side of the border near Sanliurfa, Turkey. A new report says a quarter million children in Syria are at risk from the
ongoing civil war. (photo: CNS/Sedat/Suna, EPA)
Report: Syrian children at risk from ongoing war (Vatican Radio) A new report from humanitarian aid agency Save the Children says more than a quarter million children in besieged areas of Syria are at daily risk from the ongoing civil war...
Iraq’s President: Christians are “original” members of our nation (Fides) Christians are “original members” of Iraq, as evidenced by the ancient monasteries scattered throughout the country. And jihadi groups, such as Daesh, have raged not only against them but also against Muslim populations, as evidenced by Muslim victims — even Sunni — and the Islamic Caliphate mosques destroyed in Mosul. This is how Iraqi President Fouad Masum, of ethnic Kurd, called the current plight of Christians in Iraq, threatened by sectarian rifts and engaged in conflict with the self-styled Islamic State that have settled in Mosul since June 2014...
‘Terror rampage’ leaves one dead, 13 injured in Israel (Haaretz) Two Palestinian gunmen who fired at an Israeli bus in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning were shot and killed by Israeli forces after a car chase over several miles. A bystander was seriously wounded in the shootout. There were no injuries on the bus. Shortly after that incident, a 16-year-old male Palestinian was shot and killed after he tried to stab a soldier at an army position near the Palestinian village of Salfit...
Bishop calls Catholic silence on Middle East “massive failure” (CNS) An American bishop has called the silence of Catholics on the ongoing wars in the Middle East a massive failure. “The most massive failure of the Catholic community at all levels in the past 20 years has been to address the question of our ongoing involvement in the Middle East,” according to San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy. “What is particularly fascinating and troubling is all three recent popes were clearly opposed to the wars, yet at no level in the Catholic community was there any major opposition or sustained witness,” he said. “It’s like the dog that didn’t bark...”
Direct food aid programs in Ethiopia often fail (The Guardian) Our experience in Ethiopia — and more than 40 other countries facing the world’s toughest challenges — shows that massive direct food aid programmes often fail. Direct food aid — importing emergency food rations on a large scale — overrides local efforts to produce and distribute food, and tends to damage local and national resilience rather than support it...
9 March 2016
People line up for confession with retired priests at a retreat center near Irinjalakuda, India. Retired priests are continuing to minister to Catholics in India. Learn how in Redefining Retirement in the March 2009 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
9 March 2016
In this image from 4 March, Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq and Jordan, Archbishop Alberto Ortega Martin arrives to visit the Ashti camp which houses displaced Iraqis who fled the violence in the northern city of Mosul. Iraqi officials say they are expecting another influx of refugees with an upcoming offensive to retake Mosul. (photo: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraq expects new flood of refugees (Anadolu Agency) Iraqi officials are preparing for a new wave of refugees following an anticipated offensive to retake Mosul, a senior Iraqi official told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday. “Iraqi authorities have decided to set up three refugee camps on the outskirts of Mosul,” Noureddin Qablan, deputy chief of Nineveh city council, said. “We wanted to take all the necessary measures to avoid a repetition of past tragedies...”
Heartfelt appeal of missionary in Ethiopia: “The country is dying of thirst” (Fides) Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa and one of the world's poorest. Over 400,000 children suffer from severe malnutrition and in recent months drought has severely increased. It is expected that at the end of April, some areas will remain permanently without water. “I have been a missionary in Ethiopia for almost 10 years and this is the first time the Country is dying of thirst,” says Father Christopher Hartley in a note sent to Agenzia Fides...
Promotion of lay Catholics, commitment to dialogue are priorities in India (Fides) “There is need for on-going formation for the laity to enable them to understand and to live their role in the Church,” said Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, Nuncio Apostolic to India and Nepal, when he addressed the Plenary Assembly of the Latin Catholic Bishops of India. “In today’s socio-political scenario,” he explained, “it is fundamental to recognise the dignity of lay Catholics and the importance of their participation in the Church. Moreover Christian testimony in a pluralistic society means commitment to fruitful dialogue among persons of different beliefs, religions and cultures...”
Who is really taking Christian homes in Iraq? (Al-Monitor) Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units grouping is taking much of the heat for the seizure of Christians’ properties in Baghdad and other provinces. But the organization is trying to counter the claims by tackling the problem itself...
ISIS threatens “apostate Putin” in new video (Newsweek) Islamist group Islamic State (ISIS) has threatened “Putin the apostate” with an imminent attack on Russian soil in a new propaganda video. Since Russia began air strikes on ISIS and other anti-government targets in Syria during the last week of September 2015, there has been a concentrated anti-Russian backlash from the group. It claimed responsibility for downing the Russian passenger plane above Egypt in October and has continued to post Russian-language propaganda videos...