10 March 2017
Sister Arousiag Sajonian heads the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Gyumri. Read about her work and An Unshakable Faith in the Autumn 2016 edition of ONE.
(photo: Dima Chikvaidze)
10 March 2017
Pope Francis is shown beginning his Lenten retreat at the Pauline Fathers’ retreat center in Ariccia, 20 miles southeast of Rome. The pope completed his retreat on Friday 10 March. In a gesture of solidarity, he made a donation to the poor people of Aleppo.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)
Pope concludes retreat, sends donation to the poor of Aleppo (L’Osservatore Romano) Prayer and solidarity united Pope Francis and the Roman Curia with war torn Aleppo during the week of spiritual exercises which closed on Friday, 10 March. The Pontiff celebrated a Mass for Syria on the morning of the last day of the retreat in Ariccia. In a gesture of closeness and solidarity, and with the contribution of the Roman Curia, he donated of 100,000 Euros for the poor people of Aleppo...
Russian Orthodox Church adds names of Western saints to its menology (TASS) The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church took a historic decision on Thursday to enlarge the Russian Orthodox menology with the names of a number of saints, who bore with witness of Christian faith in the West European and Central European lands before the split of the united Christian Church in 1054...
Coptic bishop: ISIS wants to divide Christians and Muslims (National Catholic Register) Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church of the United Kingdom and a spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church, as well as an advocate for religious freedom, told the Register in an interview that Egypt’s Christians need the solidarity of their fellow Christians around the world...
Surge in vandalism against Jews and Muslims prompts calls for dialogue in Canada (Catholic Register) A surge in vandalism and hate speech against Jews and Muslims has prompted a call for the revival of a national platform for Christian-Jewish or Christian-Muslim dialogue...
Gaza firm making Jewish skullcaps (AFP) In the heart of the Gaza Strip’s Shati refugee camp, machines buzz as Mohammed Abu Shanab’s employees sew small, round pieces of cloth: Jewish skullcaps for export to Israel. It may seem an unlikely product to be made in the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas and hit by three wars with Israel since 2008, but with unemployment and poverty rampant, some in Gaza will take any business they can get...
9 March 2017
CNEWA donors — and newlyweds — Ralph and Dorothy met us for breakfast in Anaheim.
(photo: Greg Kandra)
A real highlight of traveling around the country and taking CNEWA’s message to the world is getting the chance to meet some of CNEWA’s friends and supporters. When I went to the L.A. Religious Education Congress in Anaheim a couple weeks ago with the Rev. Elias Mallon and Deacon Greg Kandra, I had just that opportunity. We got to break bread (or butter some pancakes) with a delightful pair of CNEWA donors, Ralph and Dorothy.
Deacon Greg and I met them over breakfast at the Original Pancake House in Anaheim (the sourdough pancakes are amazing!). Ralph and Dorothy, pictured above, were married just 20 months ago on the 4th of July. They are as happy and energetic as any newlyweds could be. Dorothy, a native Californian is a special education teacher with a M.A. in Theology — she started her teaching career at age 53. Ralph, a retired Aerospace Engineer, was born in the Bronx but moved to California after college.
Dorothy’s love for helping others was instilled by her grandmother, who would always take time to feed the hungry. Like her, Dorothy has an affinity to care for the less fortunate, and especially loves to help children and mothers in need. She joked that she has worn Ralph down to see things her way and together they have shared their love with suffering families in Iraq and Syria. For that kind of heartfelt generosity, CNEWA remains profoundly grateful.
Equally as heartwarming were their stories about their longtime friendship, recent marriage and their two beautiful families — 10 children in all, with a bevy of grandchildren and great grandchildren.
It was the perfect culmination to a weekend filled with energy, spirituality and friendship at the L.A. Religious Education Congress.
Some 40,000 people attended the L.A. Religious Education Congress, held last month in Anaheim. The Exhibit Hall, at times, was a mob scene. (photo: Greg Kandra)
CNEWA was invited to participate in the L.A. Religious Ed Congress for the first time this year. The theme of the congress was “Embrace Trust,” befitting for CNEWA, because embracing trust is the essence of our work. Each day we place our trust in the Lord to guide us on our mission — protecting our partners and the people we serve in the most troubled countries in the world. We excitedly accepted this invitation to share a celebration of God’s love and the lessons of the Catholic Church.
The Congress promised a weekend of new and renewed friendships and it did not disappoint. With an estimated 40,000 attendees, there was constant activity in the Exhibit Hall, where we enjoyed greeting participants and sharing our mission of mercy and hope with our friends on the West Coast. Youth groups, clergy, religious educators and laypersons all united by faith and kindness of heart.
Debora Stonitsch introduced attendees to the work CNEWA is doing around the world.
(photo: Greg Kandra)
One would think manning a booth for eight hours a day for three days would be tiresome. But with so much energy and personal encounters, Deacon Greg, Father Elias and I found it anything but. The time passed quickly as we connected with old CNEWA friends — like the Rev. Brian Escobedo representing the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Pheonix. Father Brian had graciously hosted us at his parish in San Diego last October to speak on the crisis in the Middle East. The Rev. James Babcock, representing the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Newton, joined us at our booth, speaking with visitors about the Eastern Catholic Churches — he even took the survey we were conducting.
We were happy to meet up with an old friend, the Rev. Brian Escobedo from San Diego.
(photo: Debora Stonitsch)
It was an exciting and rewarding weekend, making new friends and re-connecting with old ones, and we hope to visit Anaheim again next year.
Meantime, if you would like more information about the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, or would like CNEWA to visit your group or parish to share our story, please contact our Development Director, Norma Intriago at firstname.lastname@example.org or me, Debora Stonitsch, Engagement and Partner Outreach at email@example.com.
Hope to see you in Anaheim next year! (photo: Greg Kandra)
9 March 2017
A displaced Iraqi woman prays the rosary in 2014 inside St. Joseph Church in Erbil, Iraq. The church gives refuge to thousands of people who were displaced by ISIS.
(photo: CNS/Daniel Etter, CRS)
Given the ongoing crises in the Middle East, North American, European and other Western nations will need to be more generous in coming to the aid of refugees and displaced peoples, said two prominent church leaders.
The answer is continued assistance, “not to close the gates of the countries where people are knocking for survival,” said Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, former Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva.
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, retired archbishop of Los Angeles, told journalists that nations like Lebanon and Jordan have been “very heroic” in accommodating large numbers of refugees, “as compared to many other countries, especially the United States, which I think is gravely at fault here.”
The archbishop and cardinal spoke about a 10-day visit to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Greece to visit refugees and church-based organizations offering aid and assistance. The 9 March media event was hosted by the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
“We saw humanity at its worst and humanity at its best on this journey,” Cardinal Mahony said. The worst was seeing situations “where men could so mistreat and maltreat other men, women and children.”
“On the other side, in the midst of all this suffering and pain, we found the best in the people,” who were involved in caring and bringing relief and aid to others, such as members of Catholic charities, international volunteers and nongovernmental organizations. “It was very inspiring.”
Both Archbishop Tomasi and Cardinal Mahony noted how the current populist sentiments in parts of Europe and the United States were negatively affecting the health, lives and dignity of millions of people needing accommodation and assistance.
“I can understand that with the political development of populist movements and xenophobic groups that politicians are concerned about limiting the massive arrival of people in the (European) Union,” Archbishop Tomasi said. However, he added, the consequence is people are trapped where they are, “they cannot go back and they cannot go forward,” and families often are broken up because they find themselves stuck in different countries.
A country’s right to regulate how many people come to them for resettlement needs to be respected, he said, but human rights and legal commitments to international conventions must also be respected, he said.
Making the problem worse, Cardinal Mahony said, was an approach taken during President Donald Trump’s election campaign, which “posed people who are different from you, (as) a threat to you, a threat to your jobs” and “they’re going to harm you.”
“This generalization of people who are different as a threat just compounds the issue and the problem,” he said.
The best way to handle resettlement, he added, is for the incoming family to have local families and communities, like a parish, reach out and help integrate them into the local culture.
While the world struggles to find a solution to the refugee crisis, “we need to support the programs that are making their lives less miserable,” such as those run by Catholic Relief Services and Jesuit Refugee Service, Archbishop Tomasi said.
“Compassion fatigue should have no room at this moment,” as millions of people are still in need, he said.
9 March 2017
This photo shows some of the damage caused by a fire Wednesday inside the Church of the Ascension in Jerusalem. (photo: Instagram)
Church of the Ascension damaged by fire (Times of Israel) One person was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of breaking into a landmark Jerusalem church and trying to set it on fire earlier in the day, police said, noting that the incident did not appear to have been a religiously motivated attack...
Marines add forces to Syria (Reuters) A U.S. Marines artillery unit has deployed to Syria in recent days to help local forces speed up efforts to defeat Islamic State at Raqqa and the campaign to isolate the city is going “very, very well,” the U.S.-led coalition said on Thursday. Coalition spokesman U.S. Air Force Colonel John Dorrian said the additional U.S. forces would be working with local partners in Syria — the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian Arab Coalition — and would not have a front line role...
Chaldean Patriarch: Let us copy the distinction between religion and politics from the West (Fides) Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, Primate of the Chaldean Church, suggested the key criteria that according to him are necessary to follow to make sure that the end of military campaigns against the jihadists of ISIS open a phase of real reconciliation and national reconstruction: “We must separate politics from religion, as the West,” insisted the Patriarch, “otherwise we will have no future...”
Photos reveal what it’s like to be a Syrian refugee in Turkey (The Washington Post) For the past four years, photographer Emin Ozmen has been documenting the plight of Syrian refugees living in Turkey. According to the United Nations refugee agency, there are more than 2.8 million registered Syrian refugees in Turkey. And more than half of them are children...
Why is ISIS targeting Copts in Sinai? (Al Monitor) An official at the national security department in north Sinai told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that IS is changing its tactics by attacking civilians at times and security officers and policemen at other times, while security “is slackening in collecting intelligence information” regarding the organization’s activities. Many of Sinai’s citizens are not cooperating with the police and the national security for fear of retaliation by ISIS...
8 March 2017
Anahit Mkhoyan, director of Caritas Georgia, visits the Harmony Center, which serves the elderly in Tbilisi. To learn more about her remarkable life and career, read her Letter from Georgia in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Antonio di Vico)
8 March 2017
In this picture from 2015, Syrian refugees are seen at a makeshift camp in Adana, Turkey. The Jordanian ambassador to Turkey says in a new interview that Turkey and Jordan are shouldering most of the burden of caring for Syrian refugees. (photo: CNS/Nathalie Ritzmann)
Holy See calls for respect for religious freedom (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic spoke to a high-level side event on Tuesday at the UN entitled “Mutual Respect and Peaceful Coexistence as a Condition of Interreligious Peace and Stability: Supporting Christians and Other Communities.” The Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva called on participants to recognize religious freedom as a fundamental human right...
Ambassador says Turkey, Jordan shoulder most of Syrian refugee crisis (Andalou Agency) Jordan and Turkey continue to shoulder most of the burden in the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, according to Jordanian ambassador to Turkey. In an interview with Anadolu Agency on Monday, Amjad al-Adaileh said Turkey has accepted over three million and Jordan 1.3 million refugees since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011. “We [Jordan and Turkey] are the countries that welcome and accept Syrian refugees. Our brothers and sisters will remain as guests in these two countries until this crisis ends,” he said...
ISIS loses key Aleppo water station (BBC) Syrian government forces have retaken a key water pumping station in Aleppo, a monitoring group said. Residents have been without mains water for nearly two months since the so-called Islamic State group cut it off...
Drugs pouring in to Gaza (Reuters) Marijuana and prescription painkillers are flooding into the Gaza Strip as never before, prompting officials from the ruling Islamist group Hamas to seek tougher punishments for smuggling drugs into the blockaded territory. The quantity of drugs seized In Gaza in January was as much as for the whole of 2016, officials said. Eight major dealers were arrested in one of the biggest police stings to date...
Indian Catholics continue prayers for kidnapped priest (CNS) A year after an Indian priest was abducted by suspected Islamic militants in Yemen, Catholics in his home state of Kerala are still praying for his release, reported ucanews.com. Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil was taken by a group of armed men who stormed a home for the elderly run by Missionaries of Charity nuns in Aden, 4 March 2016. During the incident the gunmen murdered 16 people, including four nuns. Even after one year, “we don’t know who kidnapped the priest and where they have taken him. The government of India and the Vatican have been trying their best to secure his release. Sadly, these efforts have failed to produce any results so far,” said Cardinal Baselios Thottunkal of Trivandrum, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India...
7 March 2017
Msgr. John E. Kozar makes some new friends during a visit to Iraq in 2016. (photo: CNEWA)
We began our 90th anniversary series, “90 Years, 90 Heroes,” literally “in the beginning,” with a look at the life of a man instrumental in CNEWA’s founding, the Rev. Paul Wattson. We thought it only appropriate that we conclude with the man leading CNEWA today, our president Msgr. John E. Kozar.
Honestly, Msgr. Kozar would probably cringe at being labeled a “hero.” When he first arrived at CNEWA in 2011, after a decade heading the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States, he described himself as simply a “happy and fulfilled priest...if there’s a title that I would put in front of me it would be ‘Parish Priest on Loan to the World.’ ” He began his ministry as a “parish priest” in his native Pittsburgh — but he has, in fact, made the world his parish. He’s logged a lot of miles circling the globe for CNEWA, paying pastoral visits to India or Ethiopia or another corner of the Middle East — often venturing into some of the most troubled and dangerous corners of our world.
He does this again and again out of a sense of mission and a desire to be present to those in need. Indeed, if he were to sum up his credo in one simple word — one first popularized by Pope Francis, in fact — it would be “accompaniment.”
This has been Msgr. Kozar’s guiding principle. “Ours is a ministry of accompaniment,” he wrote in 2014. Living out this ministry, this “happy and fulfilled priest” has sought to bring a sense of purpose, consolation and hope to suffering people around the world — through the work of CNEWA and always in the name of Christ.
His regular column in ONE magazine, Focus (a name that offers a nod to his great avocation, photography) has helped bring readers and donors along with him on his travels — and that, too, has spread that spirit of “accompaniment.”
As he wrote in 2015, following the visit of Pope Francis to the United States:
As a papal agency, CNEWA is honored and privileged to serve our Holy Father in accompanying local Eastern Catholic churches in many troubled areas of the world. In the Holy Father’s name, we humbly strive to be agents of peace, reconciliation and, especially, love of God for all.
I cherish the many such opportunities I have personally experienced on my pastoral visits to faraway places. In areas of extreme conflict, persecution and poverty, the love of God — as witnessed by the faith of those who suffer so much — rises above the dark clouds of so many ugly realities. As with Pope Francis in his pastoral visit here, the local church in those parts of the world we serve brings hope to so many souls. And CNEWA is privileged to walk with the church in the name of our Holy Father.
It is a journey that began 90 years ago — and one all of us at CNEWA look forward to continuing for many years to come!
7 March 2017
Msgr. Kozar made a pastoral visit to Ethiopia in April of 2016 and met some of the Daughters of St. Anne at a clinic they run. (photo: CNEWA)
This morning, we received the following email from Argaw Fantu, CNEWA’s regional director in Ethiopia:
This morning we received the tragic news of the car accident involving the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Anne. Eight of the sisters were driving to Hawassa to attend the funeral of a relative of Sister Tinsae Tirkaso, administrator of Asella Boys’ Orphanage.
Near Meki, 133 km (83 miles) south of Addis Ababa, a truck overtook their vehicle and four of the sisters died on the spot, including Sister Weinshet Gebru, Provincial Superior in charge of a formation house partnering with CNEWA; Sister Motu Baba, former administrator of Guder Girls’ Orphanage from September 2009 to May 2016; and Sister Hanna Bekute, Directress of Guder Catholic School from September 2012 to October 2014. The other four sisters survived; three are in critical condition.
The sisters of the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Anne are a jewel of the church, engaged in pastoral and human formation initiatives. They run schools, health facilities, cutting and sewing schools, vocational training centers, orphanages, and a school for the visually impaired. They partnered with CNEWA for a formation house in Addis Ababa, and also serve the Guder Catholic School, Guder Girls’ Orphanage, Asella Boys’ Orphanage, St. Raphael School for the Blind, and Bodit Catholic School.
In December 2016, the Daughters of St. Anne celebrated the 150-year anniversary of the founding of their religious congregation. On the occasion of the celebration, Sister Weinshet had said “this celebration is an occasion where the sisters can reflect on their service and thank God for the time He has given them.” Sister also asked all those who joined the celebration to pray for the Daughters of St. Anne so that God may bless them with the grace to keep on serving the people.
God in “the time He has given them” called them back for eternal rest. Taking the words of Sister Weinshet, let us pray that “God may bless them with the grace to keep on serving the people” through the survivors. Let us also join them with prayer for the consolation of this grieving community. May their souls rest in peace!
Learning of this news this morning, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar said, “The news of the traffic death of four sisters in Ethiopia, the Daughters of St. Anne, touches our hearts and souls very deeply. Having met the superior and many of the sisters in previous pastoral visits, I know the church of Ethiopia has lost some very devoted servants. For over 150 years, this congregation has served selflessly in Ethiopia and Eritrea. To their community and the entire church of Ethiopia and its people, we offer our collective prayers and support. May God welcome these servants into his heavenly kingdom.”
7 March 2017
In the video above, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan explains why it is important for Christians to remain in the Middle East. (video: Rome Reports)
A council of Christian communities takes shape in Kirkuk (Fides) The appeal repeatedly launched by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I to Iraqi Christians not to proceed “in random order” on the political and social ground, but to try to merge their forces in one “component” is beginning to have its first effects. On Monday, 6 March, the creation of a “Council” of Christian communities that proposes itself as a liaison between the different political and social organizations took shape in Kirkuk...
Report: Syrian children suffering staggering levels of trauma (The Guardian) Children in Syria are suffering from “toxic stress,” a severe form of psychological trauma that can cause life-long damage, according to a study that charts a rise in self-harm and suicide attempts among children as young as 12. A report by Save the Children and its partner agencies in Syria paints a harrowing picture of the country’s children, 5.8 million of whom are in need of aid, after a war which reaches its sixth year next week...
New U.S. travel ban blocks migrants from six nations, excluding Iraq (The New York Times) President Trump signed an executive order on Monday blocking citizens of six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, the most significant hardening of immigration policy in generations, even with changes intended to blunt legal and political opposition. The order was revised to avoid the tumult and protests that engulfed the nation’s airports after Mr. Trump signed his first immigration directive on 27 January. That order was ultimately blocked by a federal appeals court...
New travel ban meets with concern, opposition (CNS) Within hours of President Donald Trump’s new executive order 6 March banning refugees from six majority-Muslim nations, Catholic and other religious groups joined secular leaders in questioning the wisdom of such a move, with others vowing to oppose it outright...
Patriarch: corruption is a ‘social leprosy’ (Fides) “The state of corruption, ethical degradation, political feudalism that the country is suffering from, the prioritization of personal and sectarian interests is hindering the enhancement of the state institutions and pose a deadly social leprosy.” This is what Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai said in his weekly Sunday sermon at the patriarchal seat of Bkerké, with an obvious reference to the political and social situation in Lebanon...
Archbishop Pizzaballa sends letter to the people of Jerusalem (Vatican Radio) The Apostolic Administrator for the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M., has sent a letter to the people of the diocese at the beginning of the season of Lent. Archbishop Pizzaballa, formerly the Franciscan “custos” of the Holy Land, was appointed apostolic administrator in July 2016. In his Lenten letter, the Archbishop acknowledges mistakes made in the Patriarchate, especially concerning financial and administrative matters...