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In this 1996 image, children attend a festival in New York celebrating Greek heritage. (photo: Karen Lagerquist)
  
16 April 2014
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2000, pilgrims follow the Way of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. (photo: George Martin)

This time of year is especially busy in Jerusalem, when Passover coincides with Holy Week. Christian pilgrims in the city for Easter often follow the tradition of walking the Via Dolorosa, (or “Way of Sorrows”), the winding route through Jerusalem that is marked by the Stations of the Cross, the traditional path of Christ’s journey to Calvary.

Writer George Martin followed that journey for our magazine in 2000:

The Via Dolorosa begins in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and winds its way through alleys that become progressively narrower and more crowded. Shops line the alleys, offering everything from tourist trinkets to shanks of lamb, from underwear to icons. Young boys hawk postcards; pickpockets and beggars ply their trades. Scattered between the shops are signs and bas-relief sculptures that identify the stations. At some spots one can enter chapels to pray; at others, Jesus’ passion must be commemorated on the street.

Pilgrimage groups stop to pray at a station and shops and passengers are blocked, at least partially. Those who must use the street push through: Hassidic Jews on their way to pray at the Western Wall; Muslim women carrying bundles on their heads; tourists with video cameras. The sights, the sounds and the smells are nothing like the quiet in which we pray the stations back home.

I always try to prepare the pilgrims by telling them we will follow the stations through a living city, like the Jerusalem of Jesus’ passion. Most of those living in Jerusalem at that time were neither his disciples nor his enemies; they were simply going about their lives as he was led to death. How many shopkeepers watched him pass, shook their heads at his misfortune and returned to selling their wares?

Crucifixion in ancient times was a public spectacle, a display of cruelty meant to subdue those harboring seditious thoughts. Jesus’ executioners did not have a religious event in mind. Although we meditate on some horrible scenes while praying the stations, we usually do so in the hushed surroundings of our churches, shielded from the reality of a man sentenced to death. Praying the stations in Jerusalem strips away some of that protective veil. The sacred and the profane collide on the Via Dolorosa.

Read more about walking In His Footsteps from the March-April 2000 issue of our magazine.



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16 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Police officers stand guard at the entrance to the new Azraq Syrian refugee camp, which is under construction east of Amman, Jordan, 25 March. Azraq Refugee Camp will open on 30 April, according to a U.N. official. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

Syria refugees face growing challenges in Jordan urban areas (Daily Star Lebanon) Syrian refugees in urban areas of Jordan are struggling to cope with inadequate housing, high debts, rising costs and educational challenges for their children, a global relief agency said Wednesday. CARE International said a household assessment of more than 2,200 Syrian refugees showed 90 percent of them were living in debt to relatives, landlords, shopkeepers and neighbors. Jordan is home to more than 500,000 Syrian refugees…

Syria fighting leaves Maaloula, a historic Christian town, in ruins (Los Angeles Times) On Tuesday, Syrian forces were targeting the remnants of a rebel force in this historic town, long a center of Christian worship and pilgrimage. Though most insurgents had long fled, a determined few remained well concealed in buildings and within the rubble, moving through tunnels and blasted-out passages. But they faced overwhelming force. Russian-made tanks pounded their positions while automatic-weapons fire rained down on them. Snipers posted on the bare hillsides trained their rifles on remaining rebel redoubts…

Palestinians wounded in clashes with Israeli police at al Aqsa mosque (The Guardian) Dozens of Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli police that erupted when the al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem was opened to Jewish visitors. A police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, told AFP that Palestinians threw stones and firecrackers at police when they opened the walled compound’s gates on Wednesday…

All eyes on Russia as Ukraine begins offensive in East (Der Spiegel) Russia has repeatedly denied that it is mobilizing its forces on the Ukrainian border and dismissed satellite photos released by NATO last week — designed to prove the contrary — as being out of date. On Tuesday, Moscow said claims that some Russian troops were in eastern Ukraine were “absurd.” Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said he hopes that Kiev has “enough brains” to prevent a further escalation…

United against Moscow (The Tablet) The Easter season will be an uncertain one for the embattled people of Ukraine, but what is sure is that it will not herald improved relations between the region’s churches. Since Moscow’s creeping occupation of Crimea began in late February, the Russian Orthodox Church has echoed the line of President Vladimir Putin with an obsequiousness recalling the worst days of Soviet rule. Its stance has provoked resentment among local Catholics and forced Orthodox Ukrainians to make hard choices between spiritual and national loyalties. Recent efforts by Catholic leaders in Europe to cooperate with Russian Orthodoxy can hardly be sustained when such sharp differences emerge over freedom…



Tags: Syria Refugees Ukraine Refugee Camps Palestinians
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15 April 2014
Greg Kandra




In Ethiopia, cows and oxen are used to stomp on the harvested teff. To learn more about the country’s agricultural industry — and how it’s moving into the modern era — check out Farming a Brighter Future from the January 2010 issue of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)



Tags: Ethiopia
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15 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Debris chokes a badly damaged church in the Monastery of Mar Sarkis in Maaloula after the Syrian government reclaimed it from rebel fighters on 14 April. (photo: CNS/Khaled al Hariri, Reuters)

Syrian army seizes ancient Christian town near Lebanon border (Reuters) Syrian soldiers backed by Hezbollah fighters recaptured the town of Maaloula, north of Damascus, on Monday, military sources and state television said, further squeezing rebels’ supply routes through the Qalamoun mountains into Lebanon. Islamist fighters, some from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, had taken over part of the ancient Christian town in December and held several nuns captive until releasing them in March in a prisoner-exchange deal. Government forces have recaptured several rebel-held areas and border towns in recent months, closing off supply routes from Lebanon and securing the main highway leading north from Damascus toward central Syria, Homs and the Mediterranean…

Missile strikes an Armenian Catholic school (Fides) A child died and 61 people were injured when a missile hit an Armenian Catholic school in Damascus, in the district of Bab Tuma. “Rescuers arrived immediately and the injured were taken to three hospitals in the area,” said the Rev. George Bahi, a priest of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate of Damascus. “We are all shocked by what happened…”

Syria’s graffiti revolution (Al Monitor) Syrian graffiti artists seek to reclaim the spirit of the revolution by taking on both the Assad government and radical Islamists. “This [graffiti] is an opportunity to gain back the public space that was stolen from us by the militias, formerly occupied by the regime with the pictures of Bashar and Hafez al Assad, and now taken by Quranic verses [of ISIS],” says Syrian activist Amer Mattar. Amer is a member of Shera’ (Arabic for “the street”), a group of young activists in the northern Syrian town of Kafr Nabl who are using graffiti as a way to reclaim a revolution they feel has gone horribly astray…

Ecumenical patriarch calls for peace in Ukraine (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople) “We believe that the good will of the Ukrainian people will succeed in bringing healing and ultimate reconciliation. … It is our wholehearted hope and prayer that, by that time, all divisions may be healed for the sake of the unity of the Ukrainian people,” Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I said…

Ukraine says it has begun military operation in east (New York Times) After days of failing to enforce its own ultimatums, the Ukrainian government on Tuesday began what the president called a military operation to confront pro-Russian militants in the east of the country. The first indication that the operation represented more than just words this time was a modest Ukrainian military checkpoint established on a highway north of the town of Slovyansk, which has been controlled by militants since Saturday…

Russia warns of encroaching Ukrainian civil war (Al Jazeera) Ukraine’s government said Tuesday that an “anti-terrorist operation” to oust pro-Russian rebels from occupied buildings in the east had begun, but attempts to wrest back control appeared sluggish amid warnings from Russia over the risk of civil war. “Blood has once again been spilt in Ukraine. The country is on the brink of civil war,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday, referring to at least two deaths on Sunday when Kyiv unsuccessfully tried to regain control in Slovyansk, one of about ten towns and cities where the rebels have seized buildings…



Tags: Syria Ukraine Violence against Christians Russia Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
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14 April 2014
Greg Kandra




With Passover beginning tonight, we offer once again the video below, first produced in 2013, in which CNEWA’s external affairs officer, Rev. Elias Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., discusses the significance of these two holidays and their proximity to one another:



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14 April 2014
Greg Kandra




A Palestinian boy carries palm branches to sell to Christian pilgrims before the annual Palm Sunday procession on the Mount of Olives overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem 13 April. Christian pilgrims walked the path that Jesus took when he rode a donkey into Jerusalem.
(photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)




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14 April 2014
Greg Kandra




In this image from Passover in 2009, Jewish worshipers are wrapped in prayer shawls as they take part in the Jewish priestly blessing at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest prayer site, in the Old City of Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Darren Whiteside, Reuters)

Drought could complicate food crisis in Syria (NPR) In March, the United Nations World Food Programme reported that a potential drought in the area could significantly hurt food production in Syria: “Large rainfall deficits in the 2013-2014 season will have a major impact on Syria’s next cereal harvest. With three quarters of the rainfall season gone, it is unlikely that there will be a significant recovery in this agricultural season.” That could also make a disastrous situation much worse. Dina El-Kassaby, a public information officer for the World Food Programme based in Amman, Jordan, says getting food to areas stuck in the middle of combat is already very difficult...

Israel prepares for Passover (Associated Press) Smoke wafted through the air in Jerusalem on Monday morning as Jews burned scraps of bread and added the final touches to weeks of meticulous preparations for Passover, the holiday in which the biblical story of the Exodus of the Jewish people from ancient Egypt is retold. This year, the holiday comes amid uncertainty over the future of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, with the sides facing an end-of-April deadline to reach a preliminary deal or agree to an extension of negotiations...

Pope sends Passover greetings (CNS) Offering Passover greetings to Rome’s Jewish community, Pope Francis also asked for prayers for his upcoming trip to the Holy Land. With the approaching of the start of Passover at sundown on 14 April, the Pope said he wanted to offer his “best wishes for peace” to Rome’s chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni and the city’s Jewish community...

Catholics in Crimea isolated (ByzCath.org) Catholics living in the Crimea have been cut off from their co-religionists in Ukraine since Russia seized the province, a bishop serving in Crimea has reported to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Bishop Jacek Pyl, an auxiliary of the Odessa-Simferopol diocese, told ACN: “We only communicate by phone or email; even the aid packages are kept back at the border...”

Parishes prepare for annual Good Friday collection for Holy Land (Vatican Radio) Parishes around the world this week will be taking up the traditional annual Good Friday Collection for the Church in the Holy Land.The proceeds from the Good Friday Collection go to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. The Franciscans have been caring for the holy sites there since 1209. They also assist the poor, run schools, provide scholarships, and conduct pastoral ministries to keep Christianity alive in the land where it originated. In his appeal to Catholics to donate generously this Good Friday, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, said “The Collection is still today the principal source which sustains the life and works of the region’s Christians...”

Catholic priest from Kerala appearing in major film (Deccan Chronicle) A Catholic priest in Kerala is all set to play a prominent role in a feature film. Father Thomas Chakkalamattath, who belongs to the Catholic order Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI), is enacting the role of a priest in the movie titled ‘Christmas Cake’, which narrates the story of a bond between a clergyman and a visually impaired boy abandoned by parents. The film, shot in Kerala and Malaysia, will hit screens on 25 April after Easter. It is directed by Sajan Kurien, who has made several parallel films screened in festivals...



Tags: India Pope Francis Ukraine Israel Kerala
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11 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Studite Hieromonk Nykanor preaches from the iconostasis of the 17th-century Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Lviv. Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from 1901 to 1944, founded the Studite order along the lines of the monastic traditions of the Christian East to facilitate the reunion of the Catholic and Orthodox churches. To learn more, read If You Pray, They Will Come, from the September-October 2003 issue of the magazine. (photo: Ivan Babichuk)



Tags: Ecumenism Eastern Christianity Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Monasticism Eastern Catholics
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11 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




A man shouts during a pro-Russia rally near the regional government building in Donetsk, Ukraine, on 6 April. (photo: CNS/Mikhail Maslovsky, Reuters)

Russian reboot of Crimea brings rubles and confusion (Al Jazeera) Just weeks after its blitzkrieg annexation of this Black Sea peninsula, the Kremlin is trying to do shock therapy with the region’s economy, moving swiftly to remake everything from the banking system and the legal system to the prices being set at open-air farmers’ markets and regular grocery markets…

Ukrainian Catholic clergy instructed on behavior during elections (RISU) The Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church approved on 4 April a set of instructions for how the clergy should behave during elections. The authors were prompted to issue the document in response to the behavior of clergy during the parliamentary electoral campaign of 2012. The document states that a priest is strictly prohibited from being part of a political party, from distributing campaign materials in church, from campaigning for someone and from openly expressing their political views in private conversations with believers…

From Cairo to Suez, Egypt workers defy government with labor strikes (Washington Post) Thousands of Egyptian workers have staged strikes for higher wages and better working conditions in recent weeks, raising the possibility of a confrontation between impoverished laborers and a new president set to be elected this spring…

Warily, Jordan assists rebels in Syrian war (New York Times) During more than three years of civil war in Syria, Jordan has come to the world’s attention largely because it has struggled to shelter hundreds of thousands of refugees. But, quietly, the desert nation has also provided a staging ground for rebels and their foreign backers on Syria’s southern front…

Lebanese army launches Bekaa Valley security plan (Daily Star Lebanon) On Thursday, the Lebanese army began implementing a security plan in the Bekaa Valley, raiding locations in the eastern town of Brital, notorious for being off-limits to authorities, in search for wanted individuals, including abduction gangs and drug dealers…



Tags: Egypt Ukraine Jordan Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Crimea
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10 April 2014
Greg Kandra




Berthe Maalouly, at left, leads Holy Apostles College in Jounieh, north of Beirut.
(photo: Sarah Hunter)


Several years ago, we profiled Catholic schools that were making a difference in Lebanon:

Catholic schools can be found throughout Lebanon, in areas where there is little religious diversity or towns where Christians and Muslims live in segregated areas. In such places, the boundaries separating public school districts frequently coincide with community boundaries — thus reinforcing sectarianism.

Catholic schools, meanwhile, enroll students from all communities, whether adjacent, distant, Christian or Muslim. In many parts of Lebanon, they represent the last forum where Christian and Muslim youth meet and grow up knowing one another.

“Catholic schools are natural places where children can come together, sit next to each other and get to know the other person slowly but surely,” said Maronite Father Marwan Tabet, who heads Lebanon’s General Secretariat of Catholic Schools.

“It’s not like you have to shove it down the throats of people — and the kids grow to know each other, to love each other, to accept each other. That’s very important.”

Father Marwan believes the student body’s religious diversity ranks among the greatest strengths of the nation’s Catholic school system. These schools, he said, are a “place where there is no proselytism, where children are not converted to Christianity. On the contrary, they are open to the other culture. They are accepted and they are cared for with the best of means and possibilities.

“When our institutions are accepted in areas that are solely non-Christian,” he concluded, “that fortifies the Catholic school because it is still accepted by the others.”

Read more about the Pillars of Lebanon in the June 2008 issue of ONE.



Tags: Lebanon Education
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