10 February 2017
Aaron M. Butts, assistant professor of Semitic languages and literature at The Catholic University of America in Washington holds an Ethiopic manuscript containing the Gospel of John at Mullen Library. The university is the holder of the fifth largest collection of Ethiopian Christian manuscripts in the United States and the largest collection of Ethiopian Islamic manuscripts outside Ethiopia. (photo: CNS/Tyler Orsburn)
A massive donation of Ethiopian religious manuscripts to The Catholic University of America in Washington makes the school one of the largest holders of such texts outside Ethiopia.
The value of the donation, by Gerald and Barbara Weiner of Chicago, is estimated to be more than $1 million. The collection includes more than 215 Islamic manuscripts, 125 Christian manuscripts, and 350 so-called “magic” scrolls with prayers to protect the owner or reader from particular illnesses.
What makes the manuscripts valuable is that they’re handmade, according to Aaron Butts, an assistant professor of Semitic languages and literature at Catholic University. What makes them rare, he added, is that such texts are rarely seen outside Ethiopia, and that the East African nation's rainy season often renders the books and scrolls unusable or illegible after repeated use. That so many texts — most of which date back to the 18th and 19th centuries, with a few even older — still survive, and in a usable condition, he told Catholic News Service, is “amazing.”
“Every one of them is a treasure,” Butts said.
The donation makes Catholic University the holder of the fifth largest collection of Ethiopian Christian manuscripts in the United States, and the largest collection of Ethiopian Islamic manuscripts outside of Ethiopia.
Butts said Gerald Weiner had hoped to collect holy books from Ethiopian Judaism, but “when he realized how few were available, he started collecting books from Ethiopian Christianity and Islam.”
Although modern bookbinding techniques exist in Ethiopia, the nation’s religious leaders still greatly prefer to use handmade books. Their makers use the skins of sheep, goats and cattle to make the books; even the “parchment” pages come from these animal hides.
Each book’s contents also must be written by hand with ink. Frequently, there are illustrations in the books — and definitely on the scrolls — making the production of even one book a prolonged and relatively costly venture.
Butts explained that the scrolls are not regarded as official prayer texts by Ethiopian Christian leaders, “but the people who use them use them as prayers.” The prayers ask for divine help for any number of maladies, headaches among them, he said, but some focus on pains only experienced by women, such as they experience with menstruation and childbirth. “This may be why religious leaders have not thought of them as official,” he added.
The edges of some pages of the books are so dark they look like they had been burned. Rather, Butts said, “it’s dirt from the hands” of the user. Some books have “illuminated” illustrations that display their brilliance despite the passage of time, and contain writing underneath the illustration legible to a sharp reader.
Included in the donation were a trio of Ethiopian Christian liturgical texts featuring Gospel passages on one page, and homilies from saints on the next. The tomes are massive in size, each likely containing 200 or so pages with generous margins bordering each page “as a symbol of the wealth” of the religious figure who commissioned the three-volume set, Butts said, adding “Imagine how many animals, how much ink was used” to complete the set, with the writing of each book taking at least several months to complete.
Butts told CNS that the Weiners wanted to make sure the recipient of the gift would be able to provide access to the collection. Catholic University will be able to provide not only scholars and students with access, but also Washington’s Ethiopian-American community.
The Washington area is rivaled only by the much larger Los Angeles metropolitan area for the size of its Ethiopian community. There is a particular concentration of Ethiopian restaurants and shops — including an Ethiopian evangelical church — along the border of Washington with the suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland, and many Ethiopian-American men make their living as taxi drivers.
The donated books and scrolls are still being assessed for their relative durability after two or three centuries. When the assessment is complete, which Butts hopes will be sometime in the spring, Catholic University will invite the Weiners to attend a reception marking the donation.
Check out a video on this manuscripts from CNS below:
10 February 2017
In this image from last month, Syrian children transport their salvaged belongings from their damaged house in Doudyan, a village in northern Aleppo. A Caritas official who has just returned from Aleppo describes parts of the city as “post-apocalyptic” and “beyond human imagination.”
(photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)
Parts of Aleppo described as ‘post-apocalyptic’ (Vatican Radio) A senior Caritas official who’s just returned from the Syrian city of Aleppo says the devastation and humanitarian crisis there are “beyond human imagination” with many areas in the east looking as though they had been hit by a nuclear bomb. Patrick Nicholson is the head of Communications for Caritas Internationalis and has just returned from a visit to the war-ravaged city. In an interview with Susy Hodges he described the scenes, especially in eastern Aleppo, as “post-apocalyptic” because of the extent of the destruction and shared with her a shocking story of how he discovered 6 young children, including a baby, living on their own amidst the rubble of their bombed-out house...
Retaken parts of Mosul return to life (The New York Times) The last time I was in Iraq, two months ago, I stood next to the highway out of the city of Mosul and watched ambulances screaming by, carrying dead and wounded soldiers. During my reporting in Mosul this week, the picture couldn’t have looked more different in the eastern half of the city, which was recently taken back by government forces. Even in places where soldiers were still partly on edge — like above, patrolling along the banks of the Tigris River near the front line with the Islamic State — I still was able to walk alongside them...
Assad: U.S. troops welcome in Syria to fight terrorism (AP) Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview released on Friday that the United States is welcome to join the battle against “terrorists” in Syria — as long as it is in cooperation with his government and respects the country’s sovereignty...
Syrian women arrive in Canada to continue their education (CBC) Five young women who were unable to finish their education in war-torn Syria landed at Pearson International Airport Thursday to start their journey as students in Canada. The women will be studying English at the International Language Academy of Canada (ILAC), after winning scholarships from the organization...
Melkites bring fresh signs of life to Catholic cathedral in Canada (Catholic Register) After being closed for more than a decade, the Cathedral of the Transfiguration north of Toronto has quietly re-opened its doors. The cathedral has welcomed parishioners of nearby Jesus the King Melkite Catholic Church to use its yet unfinished space for Sunday services. The Melkite Catholics had been homeless after their Thornhill, Ont., church was engulfed in flames last October...
8 February 2017
Tags: Syria ISIS Melkite
Late last month, we received an email and some video clips from Ethiopia that showed, in a wonderful and uplifting way, how donors are making a difference in the lives of those we serve.
The email explained that a generous family of donors had made it possible for the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home to host a Christmas party for dozens of the children and some former residents.
Sister Lutgarda Camilleri, the head of the home, wrote to the donors:
The celebration was led by Father and Mother Christmas...the program started by a blessing by the parish priest and a welcome speech. The children started with their program, of Christmas drama, cultural dancing and songs. They also enjoyed all the delicious goodies. Afterwards, gifts were given and everyone went to rest, thanking God for the day.
We have no words to thank you for your generosity. Every small donation counts. With the money you donated to our organization, we bought different items, which helped to buy all sorts of presents for the children, which made them happy.
Wow! It was so nice to see the children full of happiness and joy and their love and enjoyment. This is an unforgettable day.
Check out the video below, from the Christmas party — a joyful testament to the generosity of our donors, who make what we do possible. Thank you!
8 February 2017
Sister Seraphina of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary visits with a refugee family from Iraq now living in Jordan. To learn more about how the sisters are Welcoming the Stranger in Jordan, check out the current edition of ONE. (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
8 February 2017
Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican 8 February. The pope called for action in the fight against human trafficking and asked for prayers for migrants.
Aleppo: Faith and courage in a city of conflict (Vatican Radio) For five years the Syrian city of Aleppo has been a key battleground in the country’s brutal civil war. This former financial hub was home to 250 thousand Christians with hopes and dreams. Now it has become a place of loss and suffering. With a fragile ceasefire in place, aid agencies are keeping up their work to help those who have lost everything as a result of the conflict...
Pope calls for action in fight against human trafficking (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed to government leaders to be strong in the fight against the scourge of human trafficking. Marking Wednesday’s ‘International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking’ marked annually on 8 February, and focusing this year on the trafficking of children and adolescents, the Pope had words of encouragement for all those who in different ways, help minors who have been enslaved and abused to be freed from this terrible oppression...
U.N. says 30,000 have returned to Mosul (AP) Some 30,000 people have returned to Mosul since Iraqi forces launched a massive operation in October to retake the country’s second largest city from the Islamic State group, the U.N. said Tuesday...
Bishop: ‘legalization’ of Israeli settlements is against the virtues of justice (Fides) Bishop William Shomali, Patriachal Vicar of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem for the Holy City and Palestine, said the law the Israeli Parliament passed yesterday — which “regulates” houses and Israeli settlements built illegally on Palestinian territory illegally occupied by the army of Israel — “makes the solution two peoples-two states almost impossible. It offends justice...”
Bishops to Secretary of State: don’t move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem (Catholic News Agency) The Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires wise U.S. engagement to build a better future for both peoples, and this future could be endangered by an embassy relocation, the U.S. Catholic bishops told the new Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson...
7 February 2017
Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Palestine Israel
In this image from 1999, CNEWA’s John Faris and Elizabeth Weese meet the Rev. Shaji Mekkara, whom “Grandma Elizabeth” had sponsored as a seminarian. (photo: CNEWA)
Many of the unsung heroes of CNEWA have worked tirelessly behind the scenes, changing lives in ways that often go unnoticed. One of those heroes is Elizabeth Weese.
She was a volunteer in our New York office for a number of years — but before that, sponsored a seminarian in India. She described her experience recently in an email to us:
About 1984 an Irish friend urged me to sponsor a seminarian. Bless her good soul! I filled out an application and it wasn’t too long before I received a letter and picture of Shaji Mekkara from India. And so it began. We corresponded all through his seminary days, learning about each other. Two or three years after his ordination, he was sent for two years to Lugano, Switzerland, to continue his studies. Plans were made pretty quickly for a visit to Lugano so that we could meet. Actually, I went twice, thinking I would never see him again. It was after these visits that he decided he should call me “Grandma” — and so I have been ever since.
But we did meet again when I brought him here, to the United States for three weeks. It was during that visit that we had a lovely meeting with [CNEWA’s Deputy Secretary General] Msgr. John Faris and some of the staff. That was also when I asked about doing some volunteer work for CNEWA and was invited and became a small part of the CNEWA family. It was all very fulfilling and I’ve continued to be a sponsor of various projects within the “family.”
I’m afraid my volunteer days are over, but not my affiliation with CNEWA. Never.
More on Shaji: I find it hard to believe that on May 8, 2017, he will celebrate the 25th anniversary of his ordination! God gives us such lovely gifts.
Among her many other charitable activities, Elizabeth Weese is also a Lady of Charity and a Lady Grand Cross in the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.
We asked her what led her to volunteer with CNEWA, and she wrote back:
It was a sudden inspiration at the time Shaji and I had our visit. I had done some volunteering before but had never thought about CNEWA. I’m glad I did. It has been a rewarding experience for me and I hope my stuffing envelopes was helpful — although it’s difficult to understand how that might have an effect on someone half way around the world!
Then, again, God’s ways are mysterious and you never know how he’ll make use of our talents or even the every-day things we can do.
Amen, Elizabeth. Thank you for helping us to do what we do — and for helping nurture another vocation!
To learn more about how CNEWA supports seminarians and helps form church leaders, both religious and lay, visit this link.
7 February 2017
These young people greeted CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar during his trip to the Divine Renewal Retreat Center in Margherita, India. You can learn more about his recent visit here.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
7 February 2017
Rebel fighters sit inside an armored vehicle near the town of Bizaah northeast of the city of
Al-Bab, near the Syrian city of Aleppo, on 4 February 2017.
(photo: AFP/Nazeer al-Khatib/Getty Images)
ISIS ‘besieged’ al-Bab (Al Jazeera) Syrian government forces have advanced on the ISIS-held city of al-Bab, cutting off the last supply route that connects it to the armed group’s strongholds further east towards Iraq, according to a monitoring group...
Holy See calls on U.N. To address economic, social, spiritual poverty (Vatican Radio) The Holy See’s representative to the United Nations has told a commission for social development that world leaders must address “not only economic poverty but also social and spiritual poverty with policies and investments that people can see and touch”...
Iraq using corpses to wage psychological warfare in Mosul (Reuters) As Iraqi forces prepare to expand their offensive against Islamic State from east to west Mosul, they want to stamp out any sympathy that residents may have for the group, which won instant support when it seized the vast city in 2014. “We will leave the terrorists there,” said Ibrahim Mohamed, a soldier who was standing near three dead jihadists, ignoring the stench...
Egypt’s Christians granted leave to visit Jerusalem (Albawaba.com) Egypt’s Muslim civil servants have long had the right to take a one-off paid vacation to perform the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Until now, however, the country’s Christian minority has enjoyed no such accommodation. That all changed on Saturday when the nation’s Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that Coptic government employees should be allowed an equivalent month-long holiday to visit Jerusalem...
Kerala bishop wants Catholics to marry earlier (Scroll.in) The bishop of Thamarassery diocese of the Syro Malabar Catholic Church, the largest group of Catholics in the state, issued a pastoral letter in January, exhorting believers to ensure that their boys are married off before the age of 25 and girls before they turn 23. It said that late marriages have an adverse impact on the birth of children and the well-being of the family...
Pope releases Lenten message (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ Lenten message was released on Tuesday entitled “The Word is a gift. Other persons are a gift”...
6 February 2017
University student Rebecca Sisay attends a catechetical program to promote lay formation and leadership in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Learn more about efforts to inspire the future leaders of Ethiopia’s sacramental Christian communities in Ethiopia’s Sleeping Giant, featured in the Winter 2016 edition of ONE. For more on the city, Mumbai Mirror published a short profile of Bahir Dar yesterday. (photo: James Jeffrey)
6 February 2017
Tags: Ethiopia Catholic Ethiopian Christianity Youth
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi visits Aleppo on 1 February. (photo: George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images)
Meeting the Christians of Aleppo (Catholic Herald) On December 23, the guns finally fell silent and an apparent victory was handed to Syria’s President Assad in the battle for the city. Today, the cacophony of bombs is replaced by an eerie silence. Will the people come back? Not yet. With a political settlement still a distant hope, people are just marking time. In the meantime, the full cost of war can at last be counted, including the depletion of the city’s Christian population…
Syria’s Assyrians concerned about postwar existence (AINA) Some of Syria’s Christians fear that their existence in the postwar Syria would be threatened, particularly following the latest political and military developments accompanying the crisis. Those Christians expressed their worries after they were ruled out from the upcoming Geneva talks, and because the Syriac language was not included in the draft constitution that a Russian delegation handed over to representatives of the Syrian government in Damascus last month to provide equality between Kurdish and Arabic language in local administrative areas…
Jordan joins the table in Astana for Syrian ceasefire talks (Rudaw) For the first time Jordanian representatives are in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan, meeting with officials from Russia, Turkey, Iran, as well as the United Nations to discuss the implementation of the Syrian ceasefire agreement on Monday…
Israel’s settlement bill ‘big step towards annexation’ (Al Jazeera) The Israeli Knesset has advanced controversial legislation that, if approved, would lead to a host of illegal settlements built on privately owned Palestinian land being legalized retroactively. The so-called “Regulation Bill,” scheduled for a vote on Monday, would apply to around 4,000 settlement homes in the West Bank for which settlers could prove ignorance that they had built on privately owned land and had received encouragement from the Israeli state to do so…
Israel not paying to de-mine Christian holy site (Al Jazeera) Nearly half a million tourists annually walk past two fenced-in minefields to visit Qasr al Yahud (“Castle of the Jews”), the site where Jesus was believed to have been baptized in the River Jordan. A $4 million project launched last year by the de-mining charity Halo Trust is hoping to make the site safer, after the group struck an agreement with Israeli authorities, the Palestinian Authority and local churches that own plots in Qasr al Yahud. But Israel, whose army peppered the site with mines after the 1967 war, is not paying for these de-mining efforts, observers note…
Tremors felt in northern India (Times of India) An earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter Scale struck Uttarakhand late on Monday night. The quake caused tremors that were felt across northern India. Two teams of the National Disaster Response Force (N.D.R.F.) “have been rushed from Ghaziabad to Uttarakhand to conduct rescue and relief operations, if the situation arises,” tweeted the Office of the Home Minister of India…
Tags: Syria India Palestine Israel Aleppo