5 September 2017
Syrian forces sit in the back of an armed vehicle west of Deir al-Zour on 4 September, after taking control of the area in the ongoing battle against ISIS. State media are reporting that the military has broken the siege of the city after more than two years.
(photo: George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian army reportedly breaks ISIS siege in Deir al-Zour (BBC) The Syrian military has broken a siege of the eastern city of Deir al-Zour, surrounded for years by so-called Islamic State, state media say. The official Sana news agency reported that troops and allied militiamen had joined up with forces at the Brigade 137 base on the city’s outskirts. An estimated 93,000 civilians have been trapped in an enclave on the western bank of the River Euphrates since 2015...
Vatican calls for new efforts to combat trafficking of migrants (Vatican Radio) Politicians, business leaders, civil society and faith communities must step up efforts to combat the alarming increase in human trafficking. That message was at the heart of a statement given at a meeting in Vienna on Monday by the Holy See’s representative to the fifth thematic session on the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration...
Charity warns of ‘unlivable’ conditions in Gaza (Aljazeera) One million children are suffering from “unlivable” conditions in the Gaza Strip, according to Save the Children, an international charity that promotes children’s rights and provides aid worldwide. “One million children in Gaza are living in dire conditions,” the group said in a statement on Tuesday. “Save the Children considers Gaza to be unlivable now...”
Mother Teresa to be co-patron of Archdiocese of Calcutta (Vatican Radio) As the first anniversary of the sainthood of Mother Teresa was marked on Monday, the Archdiocese of Calcutta, in eastern India, is set to declare her as its co-patron...
Items stolen by ISIS from Mosul museum recovered (IraqiNews.com) Eight artifacts, stolen by Islamic State from Mosul museum, have been recovered after a displaced family returned them to police, an official said. “A displaced family found pivotal artifacts as it returned back to house in al-Zanjili district. The relics were returned back to Federal Police elements deployed there,” Moss’ab Jassim, head of Nineveh monuments department, told Baghdad Today on Sunday...
1 September 2017
An Ethiopian Orthodox monk thumbs through an ancient manuscript. To learn more about 21st Century Scribes, check out our profile of these monks from the September 2006 edition of ONE.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
1 September 2017
After three years, priests are again able to celebrate Mass in Mosul, in the ruins of churches. The image above is from a documentary on Christians in Iraq and Syria, “Guardians of the Faith.”
UN: Last ISIS stronghold in Syria could soon fall (The Guardian) Raqqa, the last Islamic State stronghold in Syria, will fall by the end of October, allowing credible democratic elections to be held within a year, according to the UN special envoy for the country. Setting out a highly optimistic scenario for the end of the civil war, Staffan de Mistura said the country would face a “moment of truth” after the reclaiming of Raqqa. He urged President Bashar al-Assad to recognise he must make a political gesture if he didn’t wish to see a version of Isis return under a new name within months...
After three years of ISIS, the Mass returns to Mosul (CNA) Following the liberation of Mosul, Iraq, from the hands of the Islamic State, Christians are cautiously returning to the city. And as they return, so does the Mass. The Rev. Luis Montes, a priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, celebrated Mass in August at Saint George Monastery. The priest traveled to Mosul to record part of a documentary entitled Guardianes de la Fe (Guardians of the Faith), which seeks to show the reality of life for Christians in Iraq and Syria...
Israel builds underground wall (AP) Israel is pressing ahead with construction of an underground barrier along the border with the Gaza Strip in an ambitious project meant to halt the threat of attack tunnels built by the Hamas militant group...
Football among the Old Believers in Alaska (The New York Times) Voznesenka is a community of Old Believers, a secluded offshoot of the Russian Orthodox Church that resisted reforms in the mid-17th century and still adheres to traditionalist worship, customs, dietary restrictions and styles of dress...
31 August 2017
The Muslim Feast of Sacrifice, celebrated this year on 1 September, comes at the end of the Hajj and commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to God. (photo: Abraham’s sacrifice, from a fresco in Bulgaria/Wikimedia Commons)
This year, Friday 1 September marks the Muslim feast of Eid ul-Aḍḥā, the Feast of Sacrifice, one of the most significant feasts in the Muslim calendar. It comes at the end of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca which Muslims are obliged to make at least once in their lives during the Month of the Hajj.
To understand its significance, it helps to understand the story of Abraham and his two sons.
Muslims trace their religious lineage back to the patriarch Abraham, as do Jews and Christians, though in different ways. For Jews, Muslims and Christians, Abraham had two sons. Ishmael, Abraham’s first born, was the son of Hagar, Sarah’s servant. Sarah was childless, so Abraham, following the customs of the time, had a son through Hagar to carry on the line. Later, when Sarah miraculously conceived and gave birth to Isaac, the Bible sees Isaac as the main heir of Abraham and, therefore, of God’s promise (Genesis 18:1-15; 21:1-21). After the birth of her own son, Sarah convinced Abraham to send away Hagar and their son Ishmael. In Genesis 22 there is the familiar story of Abraham expressing willingness to obey God by sacrificing his son Isaac; the Lord intervenes and provides, instead, a ram (Genesis 22:13).
For Muslims, Ishmael — not Isaac — is the child of the promise. The Bible and the Quran differ on the story. If in the Bible Abraham is commanded to sacrifice Isaac, the account in the Quran 37:103 ff. presents Ishmael as the intended sacrifice. Both the Bible and the Qur’an agree that Ishmael was sent away, but they differ greatly in the details. In the Muslim telling, Abraham and Ishmael traveled to Mecca and set up the House of God there.
Much of the ritual of the Hajj revolves around Abraham and Ishmael’s time in Mecca. At the end of the Hajj, commemorating the “sacrifice” of Ishmael, Muslims recall that sacrifice by slaughtering (or having someone slaughter) a sheep or some other acceptable animal and giving the meat to the poor.
Interestingly, there are similarities between the two major Muslim holy days, the Feast of Sacrifice and the Feast of the Breaking of the Fast (of Ramadan), and two major Christian holy days, Christmas and Easter.
For Muslims, the Feast of Sacrifice is more important theologically — as Easter is theologically more important for Christians. However, the Feast of the Breaking of the Fast for Muslims and Christmas for Christians have somehow captured the hearts and imaginations of believers. There are many more popular traditions around the Feast of the Breaking of the Fast than of the Feast of Sacrifice. Greetings, visits and family events are often closely related to the Feast of the Breaking of the Fast. Nevertheless, theologically, if not emotionally, the Feast of Sacrifice remains, al-‘eid al-akbar, “the greater feast.”
31 August 2017
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, congratulates Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk during his enthronement as the new head of the Eparchy of St. Nicholas in Chicago on 29 June. (photo: CNS/courtesy Stanley M. Wlodkowski)
With the appointment of two new Ukrainian Catholic bishops in the United States, church leaders are hoping to reach out to church members in the diaspora.
“We are used to thinking about our church in the U.S. as a stabilized and settled church. However, it still is a missionary church,” said Bishop-elect Andriy Rabiy, who will be ordained in Lviv, where he was born, 3 September. He will serve as auxiliary bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.
“Our parishes established a hundred years ago are not as strong as they used to be because people had moved,” he told Catholic News Service. “They go where the jobs are. And in these new places we don’t have our parishes and missions. We need to examine carefully these migration processes and go where our people are.”
Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk, former auxiliary bishop of Lviv, was enthroned as the new head of the Eparchy of St. Nicholas in Chicago 29 June. He, too, told CNS he felt the need to reach out to his people.
“My eparchy, for example, includes California with its Silicon Valley,” he said. “Many Ukrainian IT professionals work there, and the majority of them are not acquainted with the life of church. We need to go to them.”
Bishop Aleksiychuk said he has decided to establish a new department in his curia to be responsible for mission and strategy.
“This department will not deal with the routine challenges but will look in the future, will keep the hand on the pulse and will be constantly looking for the new ways to talk to people about God — the God they seek, sometimes unconsciously,” he said.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, the leader of more than 5 million Ukrainian Catholics worldwide, entrusted Bishop Aleksiychuk with the task of mission at his enthronement when he said, “We are a Ukrainian church, but not a church for Ukrainians.”
In the late 19th century, the Ukrainian Catholic Church, a Byzantine church, sent priests to the United States to minister to its members who had migrated. Churches, parishes, and eparchial or diocesan structures were established later in what is known as the diaspora.
Archbishop Shevchuk told CNS that church leaders decided to ordain Bishop-elect Rabiy in Lviv “as a symbol of unity of the global Ukrainian church.”
“All the bishops of our church from different countries and continents will be present, as this day we start our annual synod,” he said. “Therefore, the ordination will be the event not for one eparchy, but for the whole church.”
“These bishops were born in Ukraine but will serve our people in the diaspora,” he added. “That’s an important sign of unity and exchange of gifts within the church. When the (Ukrainian Catholic Church) in Ukraine was getting out of catacombs after the collapse of Soviet Union and started restoring its structures, our clergy and laity from the diaspora helped immensely sharing their resources — financial, human, expertise, etc. Now it's time for the mother-church to share.”
The Rev. Mark Morozowich, dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington and a Ukrainian Catholic priest, said his church in the U.S. “needs dynamic pastors who will engage the people into the life of Christ and will stimulate the Christian life of the laypeople in our parishes.”
“We have to bring our unique tradition to the world,” he said noting that people of many different races view the Ukrainian Catholic Church as “their spiritual home.”
31 August 2017
Iraqi forces flash the sign for victory as they advance toward the al-Ayadieh area, north of Tal Afar, during the ongoing battle to oust the last pockets of Islamic State group jihadists from the area on 30 August 2017. Iraq’s prime minister today declared the area liberated.
(photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP /Getty Images)
Iraq announces ‘liberation’ of Nineveh province (BBC) Iraq’s prime minister says Nineveh province has been "fully liberated" from so-called Islamic State, after the district of Tal Afar was recaptured. Haider al-Abadi’s announcement followed the defeat of the jihadist group in the town of Ayadiya, where the militants had fled to from the city of Tal Afar. It leaves ISIS in control of just a few urban areas and some barren desert in central and western Iraq...
Pope greets rabbis in Rome (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday greeted a delegation of rabbis in the Vatican for the presentation of the Statement “Between Jerusalem and Rome...”
Syrians adapt to life in Jordanian camp (AP) Signs of refugees settling in are everywhere. Zaatari residents have painted walls and planted gardens. More than 3,000 refugee-run shops — typically single-room market stalls, but some more elaborate — line several main streets in the camp. Businesses include restaurants, fruit and vegetable stalls, hair salons, bridal shops and art galleries...
Coptic Patriarch Tawadros: Let us pray for the evil who attack churches (Fides) Following the attacks on churches and the massacres of Christians that have bloodied Egypt in recent months, “the Coptic Church has prayed for all,” even for “the evil people” who have attacked churches and Christians. With these words, the Coptic Patriarch has again given witness of the transparent faith with which many Coptic Christians have experienced the many experiences of martyrdom that have marked the recent journey of their Church. He did this during an interview with the Japanese television network Asahi, reiterating his confidence in the power of prayer, “which can change hearts...”
Christians in India install wooden cross atop hill (Times of India) The indefinite agitation carried out by the believers under Neyyatinkara Latin Catholic Diocese at Vithura in protest against the demolition of crosses at a hill in Bonacaud took a dramatic turn on Sunday, when a section of agitators defied the police personnel to reach the top of the hill and installed a new wooden cross there...
30 August 2017
Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia blesses a woman and other pilgrims during "A Call of Prayer Marian Pilgrimage" on 27 August at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Centralia, Pennsylvania.
(photo: CNS/courtesy George Ann Novak-Katchick)
Only a few structures still stand in this nearly abandoned borough 62 miles northeast of Harrisburg. Even fewer are visible through the tree cover from the top of an adjacent mountain overlooking what was once a thriving community.
The most notable and recognizable structure is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church, with bright blue domes that rise out of the foliage on the side of the mountain. Though all but seven of the town’s residents relocated because of the continuing fire in the anthracite coal mine beneath its surface, the church continues to serve a successful and thriving parish.
Nearly 400 people made the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Philadelphia’s pilgrimage to the little church on 27 August for the second annual “A Call to Prayer” on the eve of the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God.
The pilgrimage was the second since Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, the leader of more than 5 million Ukrainian Catholics around the globe, visited the church on 10 November 2015. He was accompanied by Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia, metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States, and Father Michael Hutsko, pastor of the parish.
Archbishop Shevchuk felt a sense of true holiness at the church and expressed his desire for all people of faith to visit and share the same sanctity and serenity. Six months after the visit, he declared the church a holy pilgrimage site.
“This church is built on the top of solid rock,” Archbishop Soroka said at the time. “A rock of faith for the area, for these pilgrims, and that’s what we want everyone to benefit from here, that our Lord’s love for us in unending.
“Even in disaster, the church continues,” he said.
For the pilgrimage, people crowded into the church, built in 1912, and onto the grounds for the Divine Liturgy celebrated by Archbishop Soroka and local clergy.
Outside the church, they followed along in prayer and song heard over large speakers.
“When one thinks of Centralia, two images come to mind — the mountain and the fire. This is providential, since many references to holy mountains and fire as the presence of God are found in sacred Scripture,” Father John Fields said during his homily.
“Today, as pilgrims to this holy mountain we come with open hearts, humility and faith to be in the presence of God and seek his grace and his blessings for our needs,” Father Fields told the faithful.
After the liturgy, the pilgrims processed from the church to an outdoor chapel that held an 18th-century replica of the miraculous Our Lady of Pochaev icon. A long line of pilgrims waited to pray before it.
Conventual Franciscan Father Martin Kobos, pastor of Mother Cabrini Church in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, offered a reflection on the living rosary. He held up a photo of his meeting with St. John Paul II and then took out something even more special — a rosary given to him by the saint.
Msgr. James T. Melnic led the Akafist to the Dormition of the Mother of God before the Holy Shroud of the Dormition as pilgrims spilled out of the outdoor chapel.
The service was followed by a candlelight procession with the icon to the church for a Moleben prayer service to the Mary led by Archbishop Soroka.
During his homily, Archbishop Soroka recalled the words of Mary to the servants at the wedding feast at Cana: “Do whatever he tells you.” It’s the same advice Mary gives to the faithful today, he said, “to follow Jesus and to do what he inspires us to do.”
Afterward, participants were anointed with the holy oil and venerated the icon as well as the icon and relics of Blessed Nicholas Charnetsky, a martyr of the church who was beatified by St. John Paul in 2001.
Pilgrims traveled from as far as Philadelphia, Washington and New Jersey to focus on their spiritual lives during the afternoon.
The procession was the moment Marsha Brubaker of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had been waiting for. She and her husband, Phil, made the pilgrimage after reading about the event in the faith section of a local newspaper.
“It’s visually powerful when you see so many people praying for peace and praying for others; it’s outstanding,” she said.
Making the trip from Philadelphia for the second year was Eugene Borys and his family, who received individual blessings from Archbishop Soroka. Borys’ son is a seminarian and joined the pilgrimage with five seminarians from St. Josaph at Ukrainian Catholic Seminary in Washington.
Mary Theresa Mattu, 83, of nearby Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, was raised in the parish, being baptized and married there. It is also where her parents are buried. She still attends Divine Liturgy at the church.
Barbara Liparela of Shavertown, Pennsylvania, attended as a member of the choir from St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in McAdoo, Pennsylvania, which sang the responses during the Divine Liturgy.
Several languages could be heard being spoken during the pilgrimage, reminding those on the grounds of the feast of Pentecost, when the common language understood by all was that of faith.
30 August 2017
Jordanian security forces stand guard at the Al-Karameh border point with Iraq on 30 August 2017. Jordan and Iraq reopened their only border crossing, saying security had been restored three years after ISIS seized control of frontier areas. (photo: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis urges African nuns to offer credible witness (Vatican Radio) The Holy Father Pope Francis has asked members of the Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa (ACWECA) to deepen the bonds of friendship and communion among themselves so that they may offer a more convincing witness to society and the Church. He has also called on them to embrace a united apostolate to the poor, the sick and the marginalized...
Jordan and Iraq open border crossing (AFP) Jordan and Iraq on Wednesday reopened their only border crossing, saying security had been restored three years after the Islamic State group seized control of frontier areas. In a joint statement, the two countries’ governments said the crossing, called Turaibil in Iraq and Al-Karameh in Jordan, was reopened after it was “secured... against attacks by criminal gangs...”
Pope and patriarch prepare statement for World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (Vatican Radio) At his General Audience, the Pope said he and “our dear brother Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople” had prepared a Message to be released on 1 September. “In [the message],” the Holy Father said, “we invite all to assume a respectful and responsible attitude towards Creation...”
Helping Ethiopian Jews (Times of Israel) Sometimes, it’s easy to read a continual drip-drip-drip of headlines and forget about the people behind them. Take, for example, the headlines these past couple of years about the Falash Mura, the former-and-perhaps-future Jews of Ethiopia, who want to move to Israel...
Pilgrims return to abandoned coal town (Newsworks.org) Only a few structures still stand in what was Centralia, Pennsylvania. Even fewer are visible through the tree cover from the top of an adjacent mountain overlooking what was once a thriving community. The most notable and recognizable structure is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church, whose bright-blue domes rise out of the foliage on the side of the mountain. Though all but seven of the town’s residents relocated because of the ongoing fire in the anthracite coal mine below its surface, the church continues to serve a successful parish...
29 August 2017
Volunteers reach out to help flood victims in India. (photo: CNEWA)
While many in the United States and around the world have been following the dramatic stories of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, we were reminded today of a similar disaster affecting the other side of the world.
This morning, we received a note from our regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, who wrote about the torrential rains and floods that have affected millions in India — and he described how the Diocese of Gorakhpur is responding. CNEWA has supported the diocese and its projects in many ways over the years, particularly in efforts to strengthen the rural health care system.
M.L. Thomas wrote:
Recent floods in eastern Uttar Pradesh have claimed hundreds of lives and caused heavy damage in the areas impacted by the floods. Over 2,523 villages in 24 districts are flooded, affecting approximately two million people. The flood fury is caused by the raging waters of rivers emanating from Nepal.
The Diocese of Gorakhpur, through its social service team, reached out to the flood victims to provide clean drinking water, food items, and medicines. The diocese accepted the help of school children and college students for distributing food packets and water bottles to those in need.
Our prayers are with all our suffering brothers and sisters in India, in Texas, and around the world, with the fervent hope that God’s tender mercies will shelter them through every storm.
Students help to distribute food packets, medicine and water to those affected by the floods.
29 August 2017
In the video above, a Syrian Christian refugee describes the warm welcome he has received at Vatican parish. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)
Christian prisoner freed in Iraq (Fides) Rana Behnam is a Christian woman who was freed in the suburbs of Tal Afar after having been held for a long time in a place of segregation by the jihadists of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Tal Afar, along with other yazida women. Her release — according to Iraqi media reports — took place during the offensive that was launched last Sunday by the Iraqi army...
Top Vatican official discusses terrorist threat, immigration debate (CNS) The Vatican obviously is concerned about terrorist threats, “especially for the senseless hatred” it represents, and will continue to remain vigilant, said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. Speaking to reporters on 26 August Cardinal Parolin said he had seen the most recent video attributed to Islamic State in which the pope and Vatican are threatened, and “one cannot help but be concerned.” However, he said, he did not believe the video prompted extra security measures beyond those that have been in place for some time...
Hostility grows toward Syrian refugees in Lebanon (Reuters) For six years, tensions have simmered as 1.5 million Syrians poured into Lebanon, equal to around a quarter of its population. Refugees have faced waves of hostility since the conflict in neighboring Syria took hold. But the debate over their presence has taken a harder edge in recent months, fueled by political leaders who say Lebanon has lost patience with the social and financial burden of the refugee crisis...
Pope Tawadros dedicates first Coptic church in Japan (Egyptian Streets) Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II has inaugurated the first Coptic Orthodox church in Kyoto Japan, state-run MENA news agency reported on Sunday. The church was established in 2016 to serve Egyptian, Ethiopian and Eritrean Coptic communities living in the East Asian country. The inauguration was attended by a number of Coptic bishops including Daniel the bishop of Sydney in Australia in addition to Egyptian Ambassador to Japan Ismail Khairat...
Syrian refugee earns high marks in Canada (Catholic Register) Peace, order, good government — that’s all Jomanah Chahrour’s family needed to succeed when they arrived in Edmonton almost six years ago, fleeing Syria’s chaotic, brutalizing civil war. Headed for McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., with an $80,000 Schulich Leader Scholarship and her high school diploma from Windsor’s Catholic Central High School in her back pocket, Chahrour doesn’t count her success as merely personal. For the 19-year-old future astrophysicist, success is a family affair...