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Winter, 2016
Volume 42, Number 4
  
21 January 2016
Michael J.L. La Civita




Vocations to religious life in Eritrea’s new Catholic Church enable it to educate, heal and care for its people. (photo: CNEWA)

Eritrea’s cultural roots run deep: Some 3,000 years ago, Semitic peoples from the Arabian Peninsula crossed the Red Sea and settled in the Horn of Africa. The successive cultures and empires they created — such as the Aksumite and the Abyssinian — are an inheritance Eritreans share with their symbiotic neighbors to the south, Ethiopians.

Eritreans and Ethiopians share many elements of a common history and culture, including the Christian faith and how it is expressed culturally. The vast majority of Christians in both countries share in the ancient traditions of the church as first developed in Alexandria, Egypt, and nurtured over the centuries in Abyssinia by monks and scribes and emperors. Employing the Ge’ez language, steeped in the traditions of the early church, and faithful to indigenous narratives as bulwarks against the influence of European Christianity, Eritrean and Ethiopian Christians are, for the most part, members of the Oriental Orthodox family of churches, which also includes the Armenian Apostolic, Coptic and Syriac Orthodox churches.

Catholics are few, but they make up a disproportionately influential community in both countries. Until a year ago, they formed one church, centered in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa with jurisdictions in Eritrea and Ethiopia celebrating the sacraments in both the Ge’ez and Latin rites. However, last January, the bishop of Rome, Francis, erected a new Catholic Eastern church centered in the Eritrean capital of Asmara.

The Eritrean Catholic Church is now a sui iuris (meaning “of its own right”) metropolitan church and is subject directly to the Holy See. The seat of the metropolitan archbishop is Asmara and includes the eparchies of Barentu, Keren and Seghenity, all of which utilize the ancient Ge’ez rites and traditions, although a few communities continue to use the Latin rite.

Metropolitan Archbishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam, M.C.C.J., leads an estimated 160,000 Eritrean Catholics, and includes a large number of men and women religious who administrate schools, child care facilities and other social service initiatives.

This concludes CNEWA’s series of summaries of the Eastern churches — which may be accessed always from the icon on the blog homepage titled, “Spotlight on the Eastern Churches.” We hope you found this series, which includes links to the more detailed series written for ONE magazine, useful and enlightening.



Tags: Eastern Churches Eritrea Eastern Catholic Churches Eritrean Catholic Church

21 January 2016
Michael J.L. La Civita




Parishioners of Holy Family Chaldean Mission in Phoenix, Arizona, pray during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. (photo: Nancy Wiechec)

Read more about the settling of Iraqi Christians in the American Southwest in ONE magazine’s winter edition.



21 January 2016
Michael J.L. La Civita




Girls rest after drawing water from a pump built by the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat of the Eparchy of Adigrat near the village of Mawo. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

Caritas warns about threat of famine in Ethiopia (Vatican Radio) The Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, Michel Roy, says the drought in Ethiopia and resulting food shortages means that the nation could slide into a famine situation later this year unless prompt action is taken to tackle this shortfall...

No one is excluded from the mercy of God, pope says at audience (CNS) The pope said that although divisions are often caused by selfishness, the common baptism shared by Christians is an experience of being “called from the merciless and alienating darkness” to an encounter with God who is “full of mercy...”

Lebanon’s Christian foes become friends (Al-Monitor) The meeting 18 January between the leaders of the two largest Christian parties and parliamentary blocs in Lebanon — Gen. Michel Aoun, former leader of the Free Patriotic Movement and the Change and Reform bloc, and Samir Geagea, the head of the Lebanese Forces — can be described as a miracle...

Vocations bloom in the desert: two priests are ordained in United Arab Emirates (CNA) Last week Catholics in Southern Arabia gathered in Abu Dhabi to celebrate the ordination of two Capuchin Franciscan priests by Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic of Southern Arabia...

Armine Sahakyan: The double-edged sword of Russia’s build-up in Armenia (KyivPost) The Russians are rapidly building up their two military bases in Armenia — and cranking up their PR machine to make sure everyone in the region knows take notice...



20 January 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro




Before the advent of ISIS, northern Iraq’s minorities were reasonably secure in celebrating their heritage. Here, circa 2010, Christian faithful gather around a fire during a Christmas celebration in Qaraqosh. In the 1970’s, Iraq’s Baathist government had renamed the Assyro-Chaldean city Hamdaniya. Check out an account of the Nineveh Plain’s Christians from the November 2011 edition of ONE. (photo: STRINGER/IRAQ/Reuters/Corbis)



Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians ISIS

20 January 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro




St. Elijah Monastery in Mosul, the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq, dates back to the sixth century. (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

ISIS has destroyed one of Iraq’s oldest Christian sites (New York Times) The Islamic State destroyed one of the oldest Christian sites in Iraq as part of its campaign against ancient sites in the country, according to satellite photographs published by The Associated Press on Wednesday and confirmed by Iraqi officials and historians. The monastery of St. Elijah, or Dair Mar Elia, stood for more than 1,400 years above a riverbed south of the city of Mosul, which the Islamic State seized from Iraqi forces in June 2014. The satellite photographs — taken by DigitalGlobe, a private company with headquarters in Westminster, Colo. — showed that the monastery was razed in late August or September 2014, including the site’s square complex of partly ruined rooms and a largely intact sanctuary that dated from the 11th century…

U.N. agency calls on donors to support Syrian farmers in their hour of need (U.N. News Center) With the war in Syria now approaching its sixth year, agricultural production has plummeted and food supplies are at an all-time low, pushing millions of people into hunger, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization stressed today, calling on governments to boost funding to help farmers keep their lands in production and prevent the situation from deteriorating even further…

Syrian Orthodox patriarch organizes a meeting with diplomats in Damascus (Fides) His Beatitude Mar Ignatius Aphrem II, Syrian Orthodox patriarch of Antioch, organized a reception to mark the start of the new year where all the diplomats accredited to the Arab Republic of Syria were invited. The reception was held yesterday at the patriarchal seat, in the district of Bab Tuma, the area of the Old City of Damascus. During his speech to diplomats accredited to the government of Damascus, Patriarch Mar Ignatius Aphrem reiterated that terrorism and the ongoing war in Syria are fed from the outside, and has renewed his appeal for international support towards the Syrian people…

Pope Francis receives invitation to visit Rome’s mosque (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday received a delegation of Muslims who presented him with an invitation to visit the Mosque of Rome. The delegation included the imam Yahya Pallavicini from COREIS (The Islamic Community of Italy) and Abdellah Redouane, the director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Italy…

Timket colorfully celebrated in Ethiopia (Ethiosports) Timket (Ethiopian Epiphany), which marks the Baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the Jordan River was colorfully celebrated throughout Ethiopia today. Timket is usually observed on 19 January; because this year is a leap year, it is celebrated today. The patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, His holiness Abune Mathias, spoke after a benediction to the crowd gathered at Jal Meda, urging those with wealth to share it with the less fortunate…



Tags: Syria Iraq Ethiopia Monastery Catholic-Muslim relations

19 January 2016
Greg Kandra




In this image from August 2015, women process into St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Cathedral in El Cajone, California for an ordination. To learn more about the thriving Chaldeans of the American southwest, read Nineveh, U.S.A. in the Winter 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Nancy Wiechec)



19 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis listens as Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, speaks during during the pope’s visit to the main synagogue in Rome on Sunday 17 January. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope visits Rome synagogue (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday became the third pope to visit Rome’s synagogue in a sign of continuing Catholic-Jewish friendship. During the visit that featured welcome speeches by prominent members of Rome’s Jewish community and a speech by the Pope, Francis greeted a number of people including several Holocaust survivors...

Report: Nearly 19,000 civilians killed in Iraq over 21 months (CNN) Nearly 19,000 civilians were killed in Iraq between January 2014 and October 2015 — a toll the United Nations calls “staggering” in a new report. The report, released Tuesday, outlines the horrific impact that Iraq’s ongoing conflict is having on its civilian population...

Vatican official: Dialogue is the only way to counter extremism (Vatican Radio) Father Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, on Sunday said “to counter extremism we have to commit ourselves to a sincere dialogue.” He was speaking at the First Arab Thinkers Forum at the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research in Abu Dhabi...

Pope to migrants: Do not be robbed of hope, joy of living (CNS) Welcoming thousands of migrants and refugees to the Vatican for their own Year of Mercy celebration, Pope Francis urged them to resist everything that would rob them of hope and joy. “Each of you is the bearer of a history, culture and precious values and, unfortunately, also often of experiences of poverty, oppression and fear,” the pope said on 17 January. But gathering in St. Peter’s Square for the Holy Year “is a sign of hope in God. Don’t allow yourselves to be robbed of hope and the joy of living, which spring from the experience of divine mercy, also thanks to the people who welcomed and helped you...”

Report: Hundreds of cases of anti-Christian violence in India (Fides) In 2015 over 200 anti-Christian violence occurred. Seven Protestant pastors and one lay person were killed, while the victims of violence as a whole are about 8,000, including women and children...

Believers celebrate Orthodox Epiphany with icy plunge (AP) Believers in St Petersburg, Russia, celebrate Orthodox Epiphany on Monday by taking a dip in icy cold water. The event started with a procession to the water, which was then blessed by a priest.Swimming in icy water is a traditional way for the Russian faithfuls to celebrate Epiphany...



15 January 2016
John E. Kozar




A Syrian refugee holds her child in Deir el Ahmar, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. (photo: John E. Kozar)

This Sunday marks the annual World Day of Migrants and Refugees. On this day, founded by Pope St. Pius X in 1914, the Catholic Church honors the families around the world who’ve made the difficult but courageous decision to migrate abroad in search of new opportunities and a better life. But we also remember in a special way the refugees who, like the Holy Family, have been forced to flee violence and persecution.

Sunday is a good day to reflect on how, in our lives as Christians, in our communities and in our church, we’re living up to the call of Jesus to welcome the strangers in our midst. And this year it’s an especially pressing question because, according to the United Nations, there are more refugees than ever. Nearly 60 million people across the globe are refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons. That’s the largest number of forced migrants in history.

The plight of refugees is deeply concerning to our Catholic Near East Welfare Association family, from our staff to our generous supporters and partners: the priests, bishops, sisters and lay people of the Eastern churches who live in service to others. As people reaching out to the poor on behalf of Pope Francis, we work in many places marred by conflict, where, tragically, human rights are violated daily. Helping refugees is a major part of what we do. Here are four ways that, together, we are assisting migrants and refugees during the coming year:

  1. Health care. After ISIS captured control of the Christian heartland of Iraq in the summer of 2014, some 130,000 Iraqi Christians took refugee in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. We’ve helped open three medical clinics and two mobile clinics to care for the displaced Christians, Yazidis and other refugees who can’t return to their homes. In 2016, we anticipate the clinics will help about 4,000 people each week.

  2. Food aid. Jordan has been a welcoming safe haven for refugees fleeing their homelands, but deep-rooted fear leads many vulnerable minority groups — including Christians — to avoid the refugee camps. This means they don’t get much-needed assistance from large international relief organizations. Instead, Christians often turn to churches for help.

    In Jordan, CNEWA partners with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary to provide food tickets to refugee families, who can use them to buy food at grocery stores. The beneficiaries include both Iraqi and Syrian families. The tickets ensure they receive safe, nutritious food, while also upholding their dignity by giving them the freedom to make their own purchasing choices. More than 2,000 children currently benefit from this modest but meaningful program.

  3. Spiritual comfort. Nearly seven decades after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, more than 5 million Palestinian refugees are still under the care of the international community. CNEWA helps Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Gaza, but we also do it in a rather unique place: a refugee camp in Lebanon that’s exclusively for Christian Palestinians. There, we support a small community of three Little Sisters of Nazareth, who are trusted friends, advisors and spiritual counselors to the 500 families of Dbayeh camp. They’re a visible and enduring sign of Christ’s presence to the poor.

  4. Advocating at the United Nations. Officially registered at the United Nations, CNEWA participates in the NGO Committee on Migration, which exists to “encourage the promotion and protection of migrants and their human rights, in accordance with the United Nations charter.”

    This year, we’re working with other Catholic and civil society organizations to call attention to the special needs of women with children in the exodus of refugees from war-torn Syria.

In a world with more forced migration than ever before, it’s vitally important for the Catholic Church to be a leader in efforts to relieve the suffering of refugee families.

Thanks to our supporters and collaborators, CNEWA is making a genuine contribution. On behalf of everyone here, I want to thank you for making it possible. But I also want to ask that, as you gather with friends and family this Sunday to celebrate Holy Mass, please offer a prayer for the world’s migrants and refugees.



Tags: Refugees Relief Migrants

15 January 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro




Father Androwas Bahus performs a wedding at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in the city of Shefa-‘Amr, Israel. For more, you can read about a day in the life of this Melkite Greek Catholic priest in Israel, or watch an interview with the photographer who shared this glimpse. (photo: Ilene Perlman)



Tags: Israel Cultural Identity Melkite Greek Catholic Church Melkite Galilee

15 January 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro




Mersen Chala shows a picture of his brother, Dinka Chala, who was killed by Ethiopian forces on 16 December for alleged participation in protests. (photo: Zacharias Abebeker/AFP/Getty Images)

Ethiopia confronts its worst ethnic violence in years (Washington Post) The cows are back in the valley near the village of Wenchi in Ethiopia’s highlands, after being driven out five years ago by the arrival of a Dutch agricultural company. They returned in the past few weeks, after villagers burned the warehouses filled with seed potatoes that were to be planted on communal grazing lands that authorities had turned over to the Solagrow PLC company. This attack is among dozens of demonstrations taking place for the past two months across Ethiopia’s Oromia region, which comprises a third of the country. Protesters from the Oromo ethnic group say the government is trying to take away their lands and use them for everything from industrial development to luxury housing projects. The response has been harsh; as many as 140 people have been killed by security forces using live rounds to quell the protests…

ISIS releases 16 Christian hostages of Khabur (Fides) Yesterday, ISIS released 16 more Assyrian Christians who were part of the large group of hostages that they captured and deported on 23 February, following an offensive against the predominantly Christian Assyrian villages scattered along the Khabur valley river of Hassake. Eight members of the group of released hostages were children. All appeared in decent condition. “This time,” said Syriac Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo of Hassake-Nisibis, “the hostages released were left near the city of Tel Tamar, and from there were able to reach their village of Tel Jazira…”

Mini-republics: A Syrian village seeks to survive amid carnage (Der Spiegel) Even as war continues to rage in Syria, normal people in the country are doing their best to survive in places like the village of Korin. It has transformed into a kind of mini-republic and has WiFi on the town square. But its population is slowly dwindling…

Russian military declares new objective: Humanitarian aid in Syria (Reuters) Russia’s defence ministry said on Friday a new objective of Russian forces in Syria was to provide humanitarian aid. Russian air force planes have delivered 24 tons of aid in the region around the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor, a ministry official said in a televised briefing…

United Methodist Church blacklists five Israeli banks (United Methodist Church) A recent decision by the United Methodist Church’s pension fund to halt investments in five Israeli banks is in keeping with its plan to use a human rights guideline for investments, announced a year ago. The banks are Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot. In a recent press release, United Methodist Kairos Response, an advocacy group, said it was pleased with the pension agency’s action. The group called the move “the first time a major church pension fund has acted to preclude investment in Israeli banks that sustain Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land…”



Tags: Syria Ethiopia Israel ISIS





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