11 July 2016
Nuns light candles on 11 July for victims of a suicide car bomb attack at a shopping area
in Baghdad. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Saad, Reuters)
Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako, on the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, called for tolerance and forgiveness to fight extremism, hatred and terrorism.
Speaking at a prayer service 7 July in the Karrada section of Baghdad for the victims of the 3 July bombing that killed more than 290 people and wounded 200, the patriarch emphasized that “there is a spiritual, moral, and patriotic side for our prayer.”
“In such a tragedy, we are joining millions of Muslims in praying for the affected families, that God may have mercy on the victims and bless the wounded with a speedy recovery,” Patriarch Sako said.
“We express our shock, sadness and solidarity with Iraqis and strongly condemn these cruel acts that affected innocent people, stole the happiness of preparing to celebrate Eid al-Fitr and converted it to a national mourning,” he said.
The patriarch said terrorism had nothing to do with religion, “but may be linked to political games that allow killing of Muslims, Christians, Mandaeans and Yezidis as ‘infidels,’” the patriarch said.
He added that “everyone should understand that killing innocent people leads to hell rather than to heaven.”
“Our prayers this evening will help us learn lessons from this tragedy and find effective and permanent solutions,” he said. “If the government was coherent and politicians worked as one team, ISIS wouldn’t be able to commit these crimes; tamper with the country’s security and stability, killing thousands of innocent people; displace millions; and destroy the Iraqi national fabric and peaceful co-existence.”
11 July 2016
A man carries an injured girl after an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, on 8 July. Rebel fighters have launched an assault on some districts of the city. (photo: CNS/Abdalrhman Ismail, Reuters)
Syrian rebels launch attack in Aleppo (BBC) Syrian rebel fighters have launched an assault on government-held districts of Aleppo, after troops cut their only route into the divided northern city. The rebel operation began at dawn on several fronts, with hundreds of shells being fired at western areas. State media said eight people were killed and dozens hurt by the barrage...
Report details life of Syrians under al-Qaeda affiliate (Al Monitor) Amnesty International released on 5 July a groundbreaking account of the “reality of life” for Syrians living in Idlib and Aleppo under the rule of Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate, and other armed groups, including those backed by US regional allies...
Vatican outlines pope’s upcoming trip to Georgia, Azerbaijan (Associated Press) The Vatican says Pope Francis will meet with Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders during his 30 September-2 October trip to the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan, adding a strong interreligious dimension to an already politically delicate trip. The Vatican on Monday released the itinerary for the Caucasus trip, which was originally planned as an extension of Francis’ recent visit to Armenia but was split up...
Report: Child labor surging in Iraq (Reuters) More than half a million Iraqi children are estimated to be at work rather than at school as violence and displacement hurt the income of millions of families, according to UNICEF. The number of children currently working, more than 575,000 has doubled since 1990, the year when Iraq attacked Kuwait, setting off a chain of events that led to the 2003 US-led invasion and the sectarian strife that continues to this day...
CNEWA food program keeping girls in Ethiopia’s classrooms (Catholic Register) Most of the more than 10 million Ethiopians now dependent on direct food handouts will survive the country’s worst drought in 60 years, but how they survive will depend on the generosity of Catholics abroad. The Catholic Near East Welfare Association has launched a cash appeal to help feed students at Catholic schools and youth in parish summer programs. The food aid will keep students in school and help secure their futures once the drought is over...
Russian Orthodox monastery may open in Washington, D.C. (Sputnik) The first Russian Orthodox monastery could be opened in the US capital of Washington D.C. or in its vicinity, Metropolitan Jonah, a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), told Sputnik. “In the area, not necessarily in D.C.... It will be Russian tradition, of course, you know, the services will also be in English, as well as in [Church] Slavonic... [The monastery] has a very specific outreach [program] to educate people about Orthodoxy and Russian culture and Russian spiritual culture,” Metropolitan Jonah said, answering a question about his plans to establish a monastery in Washington D.C....
American journalist Greg Burke appointed to succeed retiring Vatican spokesman Lombardi (Vatican Radio) The Rev. Federico Lombardi S.J. is stepping down after ten years as Director of the Holy See’s Press Office. Father Lombardi, who also served as Director of Programs and later, Director General of Vatican Radio from 1991 to February 2016, will be replaced by 56 year old American journalist Greg Burke, currently Vice Director of the Vatican Press Office. Father Lombardi, who turns 74 in August, was also Director General of Vatican television (CTV) from November 2005-January 2013...
8 July 2016
Four boys in Lebanon enjoy ka’ak, a sesame-seed-encrusted bread stuffed with spices. To learn more about the history and traditions of bread in Lebanon, check out Food for Thought from the September 2002 edition of our magazine. (photo: Marilyn Raschka)
8 July 2016
In the video above, the Armenian archbishop of Aleppo says that Syria has been deeply wounded by war, with many of the victims being children. (video: Rome Reports)
Syrian civilians killed in air strike (AFP) At least 22 civilians including a child were killed in air strikes on an Al-Qaeda-held town in northwest Syria on Friday, a monitoring group said. Dozens of people were also wounded in the strikes on Darkush, near the Turkish border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, updating an earlier casualty toll. “The toll of the attack is now 22 people, including a child and seven women,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman...
Dozens killed in ISIS attack on Shia shrine in Iraq (Al Jazeera) At least 30 people have been killed in an ISIS suicide bomb, gun and mortar attack on a Shia shrine north of Iraq’s capital Baghdad, officials said. The incident comes just days after the worst bombing in the country since the US-led invasion of 2003, which was also claimed by ISIL. That attack, in a bustling Baghdad street packed with shoppers, killed 292 people, according to the health ministry...
UN: Some 70 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in poverty (Haaretz) More Syrian refugees in the Middle East are falling into debt and facing poverty, partly as a result of exhausting their savings with shortages of essential aid worsening their plight, UN agencies and local governments said on Tuesday. Some 70 percent of refugees in Lebanon are living below the poverty line, compared with 50 percent in 2014, according to the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan mid-year review, carried out by UN agencies, local governments and aid groups...
Interfaith Ramadan dinner builds bonds in Canada (Catholic Register) During Ramadan, Muslims across the globe share the Iftar meal each evening. Iftar allows Muslims to physically replenish the body’s energy after fasting from dawn until dusk and to mentally reflect on the beauty and sacrifice of their faith. This year, this combination of sustenance and contemplation was opened to Torontonians of all faiths as part of the Intercultural Ramadan Friendship Dinner series...
7 July 2016
Msgr. Richard Barry-Doyle was the founder of “The Catholic Near East Welfare Association,” which in 1926 merged with the Catholic Union to become what we now know as CNEWA.
No salute to the heroes of CNEWA would be complete without paying tribute to one of its earliest champions, Msgr. Richard Barry-Doyle, a colorful character in his own right, and a passionate advocate for the poor and suffering of the Near East.
In 1924, Msgr. Barry-Doyle founded “The Catholic Near East Welfare Association,” one of the American associations working to assist Russia and the Near East in the aftermath of World War I. Pope Pius XI combined it with a similar group, the Catholic Union, in 1926 to form what we now know as CNEWA.
As Michael J.L. La Civita wrote several years ago:
We know very little about the life of Barry-Doyle. The biographical data that exists can be found in a few newspaper clippings and letters housed in the Association’s archives at Graymoor. These morsels of information, recorded by the monsignor himself, are often erratic. It is evident, at least, that Barry-Doyle was an adventurer and a romantic, a dashing military officer and pious priest.
Barry-Doyle was born in 1878 in County Wexford, Ireland. Two family relations of the Irish-born priest figured prominently in his life: Commodore John Barry, the father of the United States Navy, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. To honor his American ancestor, the monsignor hyphenated “Barry” to his family name.
Ordained in 1900, he left his parish in the middle of the night during Passiontide — why, records do not show. He turned up in England several years later as rector of a Yorkshire parish, then left to serve as an army chaplain during World War I.
According to Barry-Doyle, he was on every front of the war from France to the Gaza campaign in Palestine. He was also listed as killed, and while the Armistice was signed, he “hovered between life and death” in an English hospital. By 1922, the much-decorated priest had been recognized by the pope and the Russian Jewish community for his refugee work in Constantinople.
He went on to gain fame as a public speaker and fundraiser:
Barry-Doyle began a speaking tour that he described as “more in the form of an entertainment than a lecture.” Barry-Doyle’s “Call of the East” packed movie and opera houses up and down the east coast. On 16 April 1924, the “famous World War chaplain” filled Carnegie Hall. An excerpt illustrates its dynamism:
Here [Smyrna, Turkey] misery and want stalked the streets in the skin and bones of thousands of refugee children...I have seen their little bodies lying in the Thracian wayside where they had died of hunger and typhus...I have seen the children on the streets of Constantinople and Athens eating the heads of fish thrown out from houses...I have seen the death carts roll through the streets, piled high with bodies of little boys and girls, who were taken to be buried in one common grave outside the city, without a mother’s tears, nor flowers, nor any of the symbols of mourning, nor any mark to show their final resting place.
Though maudlin and theatrical for modern tastes, “The Call of the East” was very effective. Americans craved European news in the wake of the Great War and they responded generously.
The “Children’s Crusader,” as Barry-Doyle was now called, raised more than $4,000 from his first audience, the prestigious Converts’ League in New York. In Indianapolis, the Knights of Columbus pledged more than $5,000.
He traveled the world with missionary zeal. A newspaper account of his travels in Australia from 1927 quotes this passionate appeal for funds to feed the hungry:
“Bread, bread, bread…the real call of the East is a call for sympathy, help and bread.”
The report concluded:
Monsignor Barry-Doyle is not only an eloquent pleader for orphan children, but he is much more — he is an eloquent pleader for religious tolerance and for the brotherhood of man in the proper sense of the word. It is but true to say that for over an hour he held his great audience fascinated by the power of his eloquence, and by his great font of practical and natural wisdom, saturated here and there with acute and heartfelt emotion.
Learn how you can continue his mission here.
7 July 2016
Immaculate Conception sisters greet children at Our Lady of Armenia Education Center in Tashir, Armenia. More children there are growing up without fathers, and the Church is doing what it can to help. Read about Armenia’s Children, Left Behind in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE.
(photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
7 July 2016
Orthodox leaders attend a 25 June session of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church on the Greek island of Crete. During the week following the meeting, Orthodox clergy in the U.S. reflected on what the council would mean for Orthodox Christians in the United States.
(photo: CNS/Sean Hawkey, handout)
Syrian forces reportedly cut road into Aleppo (BBC) Syrian government forces have effectively cut the only road into rebel-held areas of the city of Aleppo, a monitoring group and rebels say. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said troops had advanced to within 1km (0.6 miles) of the Castello Road, within range of their light weapons. Rebels said that meant no-one could now get into or out of the east of the city, home to up to 300,000 people...
Baghdad death toll continues to climb (Al Jazeera) The death toll from a car bombing at a crowded shopping area in Iraq’s capital Baghdad last weekend has risen to 281, Health Minister Adeela Hammoud said. DNA samples have been collected from 150 families to identify bodies charred beyond recognition, Hamoud told al-Iraqiya state TV on Thursday. It was the country’s worst attack since the 2003 US-led invasion...
U.S. Orthodox leaders have mixed, hopeful reactions to council (CNS) During the week following the pan-Orthodox council, which wrapped 26 June in Crete, Greece, Orthodox clergy in the U.S. reflected on what the council would mean for Orthodox Christians here. Going into the council, the most pressing issue for American Orthodox Christians was the question of the diaspora: how the church’s hierarchy should work in lands that are not traditionally Orthodox, but where different groups of Orthodox Christians now live, like in America and Australia...
Netanyahu arrives in Ethiopia (AfricaNews.com) Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived in Ethiopia today on the final leg of his historic African tour that has seen him visit Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda, holding high level discussions with leaders of the respective countries. Netanyahu and his wife left Rwanda, where he visited the Kigali memorial center, laid a wreath and left a condolence message, he also held a joint press conference with president Kagame with the announcement of major policy cooperation...
Istanbul travelers defy terror (Huffington Post) It’s Eid season here, the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan, a time when domestic and international travel volume often increases. Yet the mood on this New York-Istanbul flight is somber — but defiant. The staff shows every sign of pride and resilience...
‘The Survivor’s Guide to Gaza’ (SBS.com.au) Gaza is home to 1.9 million people, but has little fresh water, food or power. It’s one of the most densely populated places on the planet, with the world’s highest unemployment rate. “We live in a prison,” rapper MC Sari tells Brett Mason on Tuesday’s Dateline. “[But] it’s our culture to be positive...”
6 July 2016
A worker from the Piacenti restoration center works on a mosaic in the Church of the Nativity
on 5 July in Bethlehem. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
An Italian team has completed restoration of Crusader-era mosaics in the Church of the Nativity, but the mosaics will only be unveiled publicly after work on lighting, electricity and the fire alarm system is also finished.
The work involved removing the layers of centuries-worth of soot and dirt — a result of the smoke of candles lit by pilgrims coming to venerate the site traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Jesus — from about 1.55 million tiny mosaic pieces that were reviewed and restored.
“I think all the churches want to save this church because here Jesus was born,” said Giammarco Piacenti, CEO of Piacenti restoration center, which began work on the church starting with the rotting wooden roof in April 2013. “It is important for all Christianity. For my professional life, this occasion is incredible.”
Only 1,400 square feet of mosaics remain from the original 21,528 square feet that adorned the wall, he noted. The others were destroyed by rain leaking through the roof, he said.
Made of stone, mother of pearl, and glass and gold leaf, the mosaics portray different scenes in the life of Jesus and the church, including the disbelief of Thomas, the Assumption and Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey.
Piacenti said the mosaic of the disbelief of Thomas shows the date of 1155 and the names Ephraim and Basilius, presumably artisans who created the work. Some pieces of the mosaics remain missing and will not be replaced, he said, based on the theory of restoration that there should be a minimum of intervention on any piece.
“Really, it is only conservation,” he said.
One special moment came when restorers cleared away plaster from the wall bordering the roof in the main section of the church and discovered a seventh mosaic of a golden angel, in addition to the six they already knew existed. The angels’ arms gently direct pilgrims toward the grotto traditionally thought to be the site where Mary gave birth to Jesus.
During the Ottoman Empire, the angels’ faces were disfigured with gunshots to the nose and so here the missing pieces have been replaced, said Piacenti.
Both Islam and Judaism prohibit graven human images.
“They were shot in the nose to destroy, to kill them,” Piacenti said. Restoration gave them “a second life.”
The Church of the Nativity is shared by the Franciscans, and the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox churches. It is governed by the traditional Status Quo, the 1852 agreement that preserves the division of ownership and responsibilities of various Christian holy sites. In years past, the denominations have been known to jealously guard over their sections of the church, to the extent of fist fights breaking out over who could clean which part of the stone floor.
Relations among the churches have become progressively more cordial over the past decade, and the three churches were able to come together under the auspices of a special committee formed by the Palestinian National Authority. Through joint discussions they reached a working agreement permitting the much needed restorations on the Church of the Nativity to begin.
Once funds are raised, the next stage of the project will include restoration of the church’s 50 pillars and the study and restoration of the church floor and the mosaics underneath.
The different denominations have come to similar agreements in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, allowing for restoration projects to begin there as well.
6 July 2016
Rebel fighters carry their weapons as they take part in military training 19 June in Daraa, Syria. The Syrian military has declared a three-day truce during the Islamic festival of Eid al-Fitr.
(photo: CNS/Alaa Al-Faqir, EPA)
Syria declares 72-hour truce (BBC) The Syrian military has unilaterally declared a three-day truce covering the whole country, state media report. A statement by the general command said the “regime of calm” began at 01:00 on Wednesday (22:00 GMT on Tuesday) and would last until midnight on Friday. The period covers the Islamic festival of Eid al-Fitr...
Pope’s visit to Armenia has left spiritual legacy (Vatican Radio) The head of the Catholic Church in Armenia says Pope Francis’ recent visit to the country has helped to strengthen and confirm people in their faith. The Pope visited the Armenian capital Yerevan, the northern city of Gyumri and the ancient monastery of Khor Virap on the Turkish border from 24 to 26 June. He will return to the region for a visit to Azerbaijan and Georgia at the end of September...
Coptic nun killed by stray bullets (Fides) It was not a targeted attack, but a tragic accident caused the death of Sister Athanasia, the Coptic Orthodox nun killed yesterday, Tuesday, 5 July, while she was traveling by car on the road connecting Cairo to Alexandria, heading towards the monastery of Mar Girgis in Khatatba. The vehicle in which the nun was travelling with the driver and two of her sisters was involved in a shooting in progress on the road between two local family clans. A few stray bullets reached the car, causing the death of Sister Athanasia...
Floods deal ‘staggering’ blow to families recovering from Ethiopia’s drought (UN News Centre) The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) announced that floods across Ethiopia have severely impacted the recovery processes, particularly for livestock-dependent families, following more than 18 months of dry spells and poor rainfall induced by an El Niño drought phenomenon. Estimates rose significantly in June, as updated reports from the Ethiopia’s National Flood Task Force show that close to 690,000 people are now likely be affected, with over 320,000 estimated to be displaced, said the agency in a report...
Patriarch urges mediation to end Middle East crises (America) The plight and vulnerability of Lebanon, enwrapped by the chaos of Syria on its north and east and threatened by the tensions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on its south, were brought into sharp focus during a U.S. visit by Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church. During his cross-country pastoral visit, Cardinal Rai stopped in New York at the headquarters of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association on 27 June where he implored reporters to remain mindful of the precarious state of Lebanon as it grapples with the region’s various crises...
Fundraiser launched for demining site of Christ’s baptism (Fides) The demining project of Qasr al-Yahud area, which extends around the west bank of the Jordan River, the site where many Christian traditions believe Jesus was baptized, will last two years and cost at least $4 million to complete the demining. For this reason, the Halo Trust, a UK based demining group, has launched a subscription to finance the project, aimed in particular at Churches and Christian communities all over the world...
5 July 2016
The Rev. Mikael Khachkalian chats with a member of his congregation at the
Armenian Catholic Center. (photo: Molly Corso)
The Rev. Mikael Khachkalian does some amazing work in a far-flung corner of Georgia — and he does it virtually on his own. He’s the only Catholic Armenian priest serving in the capital, Tbilisi — long one of the centers for Armenian Catholics in the country.
He is one busy priest:
Father Khachkalian ministers to his people by both preaching the faith and preserving a culture. From celebrating the liturgy every morning in Armenian to Saturday language lessons with the youth, he is a full-time advocate for Armenian identity in Georgia.
After daily liturgies in the Armenian Catholic Center near downtown Tbilisi, the faithful explore the language of the liturgy as much as its meaning, sounding out unfamiliar Armenian words and practicing the proper pronunciation with the young priest and an assistant.
For Father Khachkalian, learning the language is paramount to understanding the faith, preserving the community’s Armenian Catholic identity and encouraging its growth for the future. But these evangelical efforts are facing stiff headwinds in a country experiencing a revival in Georgian nationalism and Georgian Orthodox Christianity.
...Father Khachkalian believes that 90 percent of self-identified Latin Catholics in Tbilisi are Catholic Armenians. Despite their numbers, however, there is no official Armenian Catholic church in Tbilisi — or anywhere in Georgia outside of the small village parishes in Samtskhe-Javakheti.
In a recent report, the priest outlined the need for a separate Armenian Catholic church in Tbilisi.
“The Armenian Catholic community in Tbilisi is going through difficult times,” he writes. “It’s divided and weakened.” He highlights that the parish center needs “major repairs” and is not big enough for the entire community to meet at one time and celebrate their faith.
“It is also a problem for us to build a church. We have not seriously tried yet, but I think we will have problems,” he adds. While Georgian law nominally does not prohibit Armenian Catholics — or any other faith — from building a church, in reality, it is very controversial.
“Discrimination — if you start to do something, then you feel it.”
...From morning until night, Father Khachkalian witnesses to the faith and culture that make Armenian Catholics a unique part of the universal Catholic faith.
The people are both dedicated and devout, as we noted in 2014:
To spend time with Georgia’s Armenian Catholics is to rediscover the deep reservoirs of piety and purpose — and a remarkable strength of character — that have defined them for generations.
It is also to realize, above all, that the story of Georgia’s Armenian Catholics is one of unwavering faith.
Read more about the Armenian Catholic community in A Firm Faith. And discover the heroic work of Father Khachkalian in this profile.