19 September 2016
Syrians stand in the doorway of their home in the rebel-held town of Talbisseh on the northern outskirts of Homs as a Red Cross vehicle carrying aid drives past. (photo: Getty/AFP/Mahmoud Taha)
Moscow says strikes on Syria army threaten U.S.-Russia ceasefire plan (Christian Science Monitor) Moscow stepped up its war of words with Washington on Sunday, saying air strikes by a U.S.-led coalition on the Syrian army threatened the implementation of a U.S.-Russian ceasefire plan for Syria and bordered on connivance with Islamic State. The Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday that U.S. jets had killed more than 60 Syrian soldiers in the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor in four air strikes coming from the direction of Iraq…
Syria declares ceasefire over; U.S., Russia seek extension (Daily Star Lebanon) Syria’s military declared a week-long cease-fire over on Monday and vowed to continue fighting, even as officials from the United States and Russia met behind closed doors in Geneva to try to extend it. What is likely to be the final attempt by the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama to find a negotiated solution to the five year old civil war appeared close to collapse…
Long-awaited church construction law in Egypt disappoints activists (France24) Egypt recently issued a long-anticipated law governing the building of churches. Christians in the country had hoped its passage would help alleviate sectarian violence, but observers say the legislation falls dismally short. Human Rights Watch went so far as to call the measure discriminatory…
Roma flee to California as Europe turns more hostile (Bloomberg) When Viorel Romanescu last year fled his Romanian village, he didn’t follow the well-trod path to Western Europe like his fellow Roma. Instead, he sold his pig and horse, and bought a plane ticket to Mexico. This year, almost 1,800 Romanians have been apprehended at the southern U.S. border, up from fewer than 400 in all of last year and just a few dozen in 2008, according to government statistics. They are propelled by an anti-immigrant wave sweeping Europe and pushing the Roma across the Atlantic Ocean. The traditionally itinerant group, persecuted for centuries, is facing less-tolerant governments as more than a million migrants and refugees from Syria and other countries overwhelm the region. A resurgence of neo-Nazism from Romania to Italy has seen their camps demolished, businesses firebombed, neighborhoods walled off and children beaten…
Bombs, stones thrown at church in Lakhimpur Kheri (Indian Express) Vandals threw stones and homemade bombs into a church in Lakhimpur Kheri district of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on Saturday night, police said. Men on bikes hurled the weapons at Christ Church in Kotwali, damaging windows and furniture…
16 September 2016
Tags: Syria India Egypt War Roma
In this 2014 photo, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople embraces Pope Francis during a liturgy in the Patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul. This year, as we commemorate the 90th anniversary of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, we are reminded again and again of the word that is literally our middle name: East. Our April 2016 special edition of ONE focuses on what we consider the five families of the Eastern churches — Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Armenia — rooted in the ancient lands where the apostles first planted the Gospel. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
16 September 2016
Tags: Eastern Christianity Eastern Churches ONE magazine
The damaged interior of the Khan al Wazir market in the government-held side of Aleppo stands deserted in the silence of the cease-fire. (photo: Getty/AFP/Youssef Karwashan)
Streets and skies suddenly quiet, Syrians watch cease-fire with unease (New York Times) They are getting used to fewer explosions, and to fewer ambulances racing through their war-ravaged cities. Now, under a tentative cease-fire across Syria, people have more time to think about longer-term concerns. Government supporters and opponents alike share a sense of misgiving, as the cease-fire was negotiated between Russia and the United States, over their heads. They do not know its details, and they do not know if anyone has their interests in mind. “I hope this cease-fire is real, and not a chance for the armed groups to rearm,” said a police officer in a government-held Christian village near Homs…
Christian refugees celebrate the Holy Cross (Fides) The week of liturgical and community celebrations on the occasion of the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Ain Kawa, a predominantly Christian suburb in Erbil, ended on Tuesday, 13 September with a long procession, accompanied by songs and prayers, and with a ceremony at a local stadium…
Sectarian clashes in Minya; Coptic Bishop visits the wounded (Fides) New tensions and sectarian clashes have affected the province of Minya in Upper Egypt. Yet another violent incident occurred in the village of Assem, about 150 miles south of Cairo, on 12 September. According to local church sources, a fight broke out between young Muslims and Christians leaving at least two people in need of intensive care in two different hospitals in Minya…
Pope Francis: Mary is our mother, who defends us (Vatican Radio) In a “world that suffers the crisis of a great orphanhood,” we have a mother that accompanies and defends us. That was the message of Pope Francis during the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows…
Hungary aims to help persecuted Christians worldwide (AINA) A new government office aimed at helping the millions of Christians around the world who face persecution has been established in Hungary. “In 81 countries around the world Christians are persecuted and 200 million Christians live in areas where they are discriminated against. Millions of Christian lives are threatened by followers of radical religious ideologies,” says Zoltan Balog, the Hungarian Minister for Human Capacities…
Chaldean patriarch: Help us remove mines from Nineveh (Fides) “Before returning to reviving our beloved city of the Nineveh Plain,” Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael says remaining threats must be removed — including live explosives buried just out of sight. “The jihadists of [ISIS], even when they pull back, they continue to sow death with mines and explosive devices.” The church leader has already approached Fraternité en Irak in July — a French organization committed to supporting the Iraqi religious minorities — to take charge of the de-mining of the first two villages in the Nineveh Plain that had been freed…
15 September 2016
Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Pope Francis Hungary
The Rev. David Mickiewicz of Oneonta, New York, has been a generous CNEWA donor for close to 25 years. (photo: courtesy David Mickiewicz)
Many of CNEWA’s most ardent supporters are priests and religious — and a lot of them, we’ve discovered, have been donors for many years. We met one such donor earlier this year, when we made a parish visit to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Oneonta, New York to speak about CNEWA’s work on behalf of persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
The pastor, Rev. David Mickiewicz, mentioned that he had been a longtime donor, and that he had a deep love and affinity for the Eastern churches. I sent him an email recently and asked him to share some of his thoughts with our readers. He wrote back:
The Mohawk and Hudson Rivers were my backyard, north of Albany, where I was raised in Waterford, New York, and where my mother and brother still reside. What attracted me to CNEWA, I expect, has roots that go back to Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church and Saint Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church, places that I had to pass to arrive at Saint Michael, my Polish Roman Catholic parish. Onion-shaped domes and multiple crosses, Slavic choral music and the spirituality of the icon seduced me into the Eastern Christian experience — broadening and allowing me to more fully breathe in my Roman tradition.
Father Paul Pascavage introduced me to the Byzantine Rite and I started singing Old Slavonic with the choir for Divine Liturgy. Two Christmases and Easters! What a joy. This nascent initiation led to other Eastern Christian experiences throughout my life, which included serving for a few years in the Syriac tradition at Saint Anne Maronite Catholic Church in Troy, New York. Experiencing, participating in and teaching about Easter Christianity have become staples of my life, with the assistance of CNEWA. It must be close to 25 years that I have been receiving the CNEWA publication ONE and financially supporting the association. The magazine and its website reporting on Eastern Christians — so little known or acknowledged in the West — and the ecumenical and interfaith efforts to better the lives of all people really drew me to support them.
What is most challenging and humbling about my support of CNEWA is that, while Eastern Christians are paying a heavy price — as refugees, living in poverty, experiencing discrimination and violence, even to the giving of their lives for believing in Jesus — my following the faith over the last 60 years has cost me nothing. Growing up in a predominantly Catholic area and living in a country that, even as religion is pushed further and further from the public square, still bears a Christian veneer, I am insulated. CNEWA, through its publications and works, regularly reminds me of my responsibility to that part of the Body of Christ that is crucified. I have had to grapple with this question: what part of the experience of the Body of Christ do I embody for my suffering sisters and brothers?
Might you consider your own situation in relationship to our sisters and brothers? This needs to be more than just charity; charity in the long run must also change us.
Father David exemplifies so many of the committed men and women who are unsung heroes in our world — priests, sisters, religious whose generous and prayerful support makes so much possible.
To all of them: Thank you!
15 September 2016
Pope Francis greets Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, during a private meeting at the Vatican on 15 September.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)
15 September 2016
A six-year-old Syrian girl who fled from her home due to the Syrian civil war, poses for a photographer at a refugee camp outside Aleppo, Syria on 15 September 2016.
(photo: Ensar Ozdemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Russia, US accuse each other of violations in Syria ceasefire (CNN) Russia’s Defense Ministry said Thursday the United States was not fulfilling its obligations under the Syrian ceasefire agreement, as Moscow and Washington pointed fingers at each other for violating what had appeared to be a peaceful lull in fighting...
CNEWA releases report on program to feed hungry in Africa (CNEWA.org) Earlier this summer, CNEWA launched a campaign to help the suffering men, women and children in the Horn of Africa, hundreds of thousands of them enduring the worst drought in decades. “The food needs here are critical,” CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar said in an interview with Catholic News Service during a pastoral visit to the region. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, CNEWA has been able to respond to those needs...
Fear and paranoia still stalk Turkey after the failed coup (The Guardian) It’s been two months since a deadly coup attempt stunned Turkey, leaving some 240 dead and the country reeling. The physical scars are still raw — outside the parliament building in Ankara, which was hit by bombs and gunfire where helicopters fired into a crowd of protesters who had gathered to defend their democracy, the tarmac is still pockmarked with bullet holes. Dark, iron-colored stains on paving slabs betray the final moments of the brutally slain. Yet the psychological damage, the paranoia and fear that permeate public life, is still being done...
Vatican hospital to provide help in the Holy Land (Vatican Radio) An agreement was signed on Wednesday between the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital and the Bethlehem-based Holy Family Hospital, which is operated by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Holy Family Hospital is a major maternity hospital serving Palestine, and over 3,500 children are born in the institution every year...
Pope issues guidelines to harmonize canon law of the Latin Church and the Eastern Churches (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter on Thursday, in which he brings the basic legal instruments that govern the Latin Church and the Eastern Churches in communion with Rome more closely into accord with one another in several different specific areas regarding the discipline of the sacraments, and ecclesial identity of the faithful...
Franciscan: Indian Church is at the forefront to tackle poverty (Fides) The Church in India is at the forefront to tackle poverty and hunger, according to the Rev. Nithya Sagayam, OFM Cap, speaking at a national seminar on the theme of “answers to hunger and extreme poverty” organized by the NGO “Franciscans International” and by the Centre of Udayani Jesuits in Calcutta, from 11 to 14 September. As Fides learned, the Franciscan recalled that the Indian Church acts “in sync with the Millennium Development Goals,” with particular attention to the objectives of sustainable development and food security...
14 September 2016
Food is distributed during lunchtime at the summer youth program at Lideta Mariam Church in Alitena. (photo: CNEWA)
Earlier this summer, CNEWA launched a campaign to help the suffering men, women and children in the Horn of Africa, hundreds of thousands of them enduring the worst drought in decades.
“The food needs here are critical,” CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar said in an interview with Catholic News Service during a pastoral visit to the region.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors, CNEWA has been able to respond to those needs. CNEWA released more than $231,000 in funds in three installments this summer. We have just posted a report online, with an intimate look at what the Ethiopian Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat was able to do with these funds. Thousands have benefited — and the gratitude expressed has been humbling.
A generous mother offering eggs at the Alitena Health Center. (photo: CNEWA)
We found especially poignant this anecdote, describing a visit to one family:
As we left the family, Bisrat felt ashamed because according to local tradition, she couldn’t offer a cup of coffee to her visitors. But she went to an inner part of the house and returned with 10 eggs and offered them to us to take home. We were deeply touched by her generosity. Looking at the situation, the words of Sister Meaza still haunt me: “The less they have, the more generous they are.”
These are some of the people CNEWA is privileged to serve — and we remain profoundly humbled and grateful to all those who have made it possible for us to bring to those in need some measure of comfort, nourishment and hope.
Read the full report here. And if you’ve like to know how you can help, visit this page. If you can offer nothing else, please offer a prayer for our brothers and sisters in the Horn of Africa — and know they are praying, as well, for you.
14 September 2016
The Rev. Mykhailo Romaniuk blesses families from the Ukrainian community of Paris on 3 September in St. Volodymyr the Great Cathedral to mark the beginning of a new school year. Ukrainian Catholic immigrants have found a welcome home in Paris.
(photo: CNS/Ian Langsdon, EPA)
On Sundays, the Saint-Germain-des-Pres quarter of Paris — known for its artistic cafes, expensive boutiques and numerous bookstores — is filled with people in embroidered shirts who speak Ukrainian.
Since 1943, the Ukrainian Catholic community has prayed at the Cathedral of St. Volodymyr the Great on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Through the years, the parish has become the center of Ukrainian cultural and social life in Paris.
“We don’t have a feeling that we are in Paris as we are walking down the Boulevard Saint-Germain on Sunday or other feasts; it's like in our city of Ivano-Frankivsk,” said Zoriana Dolishniak. She, her husband, Andriy, and two children came to Paris from Western Ukraine six years ago. In Ukraine, Andriy Dolishniak had his own little business, but it did not go well, and they decided to start over in France. He works as an electrician in a construction firm; Zoriana Dolishniak cleans private houses.
Their children go to school — ordinary French school and Saturday Ukrainian school.
The Dolishniaks do not have legal status in France; they are waiting for documents. Their story is typical for the Paris Ukrainian parish, where new immigrants are the majority.
“Eighty percent of our faithful are undocumented,” said Bishop Borys Gudziak, who serves the Ukrainian Catholics in France, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxembourg. He said the Paris parish has been totally transformed by an influx of immigrants who are fleeing social and economic dislocation and, more recently, war.
“We have before us the example of the apostles and the first generation of Christians,” the bishop said. “What chance did St. Peter have in Rome where he didn’t know the language, he was an undocumented immigrant with no citizen rights, while living in the city of marble, senators, warriors and chariots? What chance do the Greek (Byzantine) Catholics have in Paris with the population of 10 million? We ask ourselves with a smile and in confidence in God’s guidance.”
Father Mykhailo Romaniuk knows well about the parish transformation. Eighteen years ago as a young priest, he was appointed to Paris, where most of the congregation was an aging post-war diaspora. His appointment coincided with the start of mass immigration of Ukrainians to Western Europe, and he was one of the first to welcome them in Paris.
“When the inflow started, doors of the cathedral never closed. People needed support and information. Sometimes people who arrived had no place to sleep, and they slept in a tiny parish hall,” recalled Father Romaniuk. He said they were difficult years, yet the openness of the church for the people in need helped build up the community. “We now have many people because we were there for them.”
On Sundays, about 600 attend liturgies, but the parish can see up to 3,500 on Easter, the priest said. It has more than 80 baptisms annually.
Bishop Gudziak said the parish raises the spirit of people. “They come to church to be together with God and with each other. In the city they work hard, often in demeaning circumstances, they live very modestly in tenement dwellings. But in church the glory of the Lord and the fellowship of the community is theirs.”
One reason people are attracted to the parish is the school, established in the 1950’s. Today it has more than 200 students.
“The Ukrainian school at the parish is a great advantage,” said Andriy Dolishniak, who is convinced that it is very important for the children to grow learning Christian values. School offers lessons on Ukrainian language, literature, history and catechism. Dolishniak said that while accompanying his daughter Solomiya to her catechism classes, he was able to deepen his own faith.
The working immigrants are modern-days nomads; some of them stay for a couple of years, some move to other cities and countries. Father Romaniuk said he considers his parish a missionary parish.
“It’s hard to implement long-term programs, but we would like to give as much as we can to the parishioners,” he said.
One of the programs the parish implements is the global Ukrainian Catholic Church strategy, “The Vibrant Parish — a place to encounter the living Christ.”
“For our eparchy, Paris is a model parish which develops programs and conducts experiments that then radiate throughout the other 29 communities that we have so far,” said Bishop Gudziak.
One of the tasks is to foster lay involvement and initiative in administration, in ministry and in outreach. Lawyer Stephane Dunikowski is actively engaged in parish and eparchy life, which she said makes her feel needed. She said she tries “to help with my efforts, my energy, my time and also financially.”
Bishop Gudziak said parishioners organized collections for sick children in Ukraine whose parents do not have money for treatment. He said parishioners have been generous toward those who are suffering in Ukraine because of war and the Russian invasion.
Some French Catholics have discovered Byzantine spirituality in the parish, even though they do not always understand national tradition and even the language; cathedral liturgies are celebrated in Ukrainian.
“I feel at home in this community,” said a woman who asked only to be identified as Natalie, who visits the cathedral almost every day. “I don’t understand a word during the service, but I get a lot.”
14 September 2016
At his daily Mass Wednesday, Pope Francis condemned the killing of Father Jacques Hamel.
(video: Rome Reports)
Pope Francis at Mass for Father Jacques Hamel: to kill in the name of God is satanic (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday morning celebrated Mass for the French priest of Rouen, Father Jacques Hamel, whom he described, is part of the chain of Christian martyrs that runs throughout the history of the Church. Father Hamel was murdered while celebrating Mass in his Parish Church by two men swearing allegiance to the so-called Islamic State in July...
Syrians await aid during ceasefire (CNN) A ceasefire in Syria’s brutal civil war appears to be holding into its second day — but for hundreds of thousands of besieged Syrians, the wait for humanitarian relief may last somewhat longer. Aid convoys are positioned at the Turkish border town of Cilvegozu, poised to enter the country and deliver food and medical aid to rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo, where the United Nations says between 250,000 and 275,000 people have been cut off from assistance since early July...
Aleppo priest: We’re struggling against desperation (Vatican Radio) There was calm across much of Syria Wednesday following a Russian and US brokered ceasefire, although a number of violations were reported since it took hold. With the truce in place the northern city of Aleppo is awaiting much needed aid...
Anti-Wahhabism spreading in Muslim world (Al-monitor) The religious authority in Saudi Arabia responded aggressively to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s annual message 5 September in which Khamenei attacked the Saudi government against the backdrop of the disputes between both states that culminated in forbidding Iranian pilgrims from the hajj this year. Iran also accused Saudi Arabia of negligence in managing the hajj, which led to the deaths of more than 760 people and injuries to around 1,000 in 2015...
Faith combined with firepower (The New York Times) While tanks and artillery have been Russia’s weapons of choice to project its power into neighboring Ukraine and Georgia, Mr. Putin has also mobilized faith to expand the country’s reach and influence. A fervent foe of homosexuality and any attempt to put individual rights above those of family, community or nation, the Russian Orthodox Church helps project Russia as the natural ally of all those who pine for a more secure, illiberal world free from the tradition-crushing rush of globalization, multiculturalism and women’s and gay rights...
Pope to mark World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will take part in the final meeting of the World Day of Prayer for Peace when he travels to Assisi on Tuesday, 20 September...
13 September 2016
Wadad Nagib rises at dawn, six days a week, to see off her three sons to their work as garbage collectors in an impoverished corner of Egypt near Cairo. (photo: Dana Smilie)
Some of the most heroic and inspiring figures we have met have been people who hold fast to their faith and their dignity, in spite of challenges most of us couldn’t imagine.
One of those is Wadad Nagib, a 46-year-old mother of six who lives in a corner of Egypt known as Garbage City — an impoverished Coptic Christian neighborhood that is home to the Zabbaleen, or “garbage people.”
As Sarah Topol reported for ONE:
To spend time with the Nagib family is to witness in microcosm the struggles of an entire class of people — and to realize that they are struggling not just to salvage what others discard, but also to salvage dignity and a way of life.
Mrs. Nagib’s husband collected trash for a living. Now too old to work, he has passed his route on to his children. And it seems, one by one, the Nagib children are carrying on the tradition.
Six days a week, Mrs. Nagib rises before dawn to see off three of her sons to their work as garbage collectors. At 5, the young men will have climbed into the family truck to head down the slopes to the city — a drive that takes two hours. There, they go from apartment to apartment along their route collecting garbage. By early afternoon, they head home, the truck loaded with trash.
While the young men rest, Mrs. Nagib and her daughters begin picking through the garbage bags with bare hands. They sort the debris into piles: aluminum cans, food waste, glass, etc. Later, the family will sell the recyclables.
Mrs. Nagib’s 3-year-old daughter plays barefoot in the trash heaps. Flies swarm around the mother and daughters. The sickly sweet stench of rotting waste fills the neighborhood’s narrow, unpaved streets.
“It’s not easy, but it’s what we have become accustomed to. All we want is security and God’s blessing,” Mrs. Nagib says. The slender woman wears a bright blue headscarf and small, simple earrings. As she gestures with her hands, she reveals a tiny tattoo of a cross on her right wrist, a common marking among Copts. “Maybe in the future things will get better.”
Read more about the Nagib family and the Zabbaleen here.
Last spring, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar paid a pastoral visit to Egypt and came away deeply moved:
How can garbage collectors and sorters who live surrounded by mountains of garbage in Cairo’s ghettoes be considered productive? How can they sing “Alleluia” at Mass on Epiphany? It is possible because so many of them look to the cross on their wrist for their cherished identity. They are not outcasts. They are not “second class.” They are brothers and sisters to Christ, and he is their Lord.
For their humility, their faith, and their tireless quest for dignity, they are also, to us, heroes.
To support our brothers and sisters in Egypt, visit this link.