Current Issue
Autumn, 2015
Volume 41, Number 3
1 December 2015
Greg Kandra

A sister feeds a resident at Asha Bhavan, a home for the elderly and destitute in Kerala, India.
(photo: Jose Jacob)

Today marks #GivingTuesday, a global event to encourage the spirit of giving during the holiday season. As we noted last week:

On #Giving Tuesday, CNEWA will raise funds to ease hunger. Nutrition is a challenge for every initiative we support. In hospitals, mother-and-child clinics, orphanages, schools and Bible camps — and every facility that helps refugees — everyone needs to eat.

#Giving Tuesday will let us help churches and religious sisters provide healthy formula for infants. Lunches for school children. Hot meals for the elderly and sick. As Pope Francis noted, “We are in front of a global scandal, one billion people who still suffer from hunger today. We cannot look the other way and pretend this does not exist.”

To give on #Giving Tuesday — or even in advance — use your computer, smart phone or tablet. To make donating easy, we’re harnessing the power of CrowdRise. One of America’s most highly-regarded funding web sites, it’s an online giving hub that brings together ordinary people, diverse charities and companies. All to support important causes.

Read more about this special event and how you can help us help others.

1 December 2015
Greg Kandra

In this image from 5 November, Palestinian protesters throw stones at Israeli soldiers during clashes in Hebron. Escalating violence has moved the Palestinian Authority to request that municipalities tone down their public Christmas celebrations this year.
(photo: CNS/Abed Al Hashlamoun, EPA)

Palestinian Authority limits Christmas celebrations in West Bank (RNS) The Palestinian Authority has asked municipalities to tone down their public Christmas celebrations this year amid escalating violence between Palestinians and Israelis. Hana Amireh, who heads a government committee on churches in the West Bank, confirmed the Palestinian Authority is requesting “a certain decrease’ in festivities following the deaths of dozens of Palestinians since mid-September. The majority of them were killed during clashes with Israeli forces or carrying out terrorist attacks, according to the Israeli government...

Poll: only small fraction of Syrian refugees want to come to U.S. (The Washington Post) According to a new Gallup poll, a tiny fraction of would-be Syrian refugees say their desired home lies in the United States or Canada. The survey, which was conducted in January through face-to-face interviews, found that only 6 percent of Syrians who said they were contemplating leaving their country imagined North America as their chosen destination...

Pope sends message to Patriarch Bartholomew for Feast of St. Andrew (Vatican Radio) In a message marking the feast of the apostle Andrew, patron saint of the Orthodox world, Pope Francis urges Catholics and Orthodox to offer a “credible and effective witness” to the Christian values of trust, respect, charity and reconciliation. The message was hand delivered to the Orthodox leader in Istanbul by the head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, who led a delegation to the Patriarchal Church of St George for the feast of St Andrew on Monday 30 November. By consigning “painful memories to oblivion”, Pope Francis writes, and restoring a “relationship of love and fraternity”, there is no longer “any impediment to Eucharistic communion which cannot be overcome through prayer, the purification of hearts, dialogue and the affirmation of truth...”

Ethiopia faces power cuts while drought dries dams (Bloomberg) Ethiopia may face further power shortages because of low water levels at dams after a poor rainy season, an official said, following two days of sporadic cuts caused by technical faults at hydropower plants...

Sister stresses education among predominantly Muslim populations (Fides) In Pakistan and India, nuns carry out a great job among the population, almost entirely Muslim, in favor of education and the promotion of interreligious dialogue. This is what Sister Monica Joseph, Superior General of the Religious of Jesus and Mary, R.J.M. stresses to Agenzia Fides. Sister Monica is participating at the XIX Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. She also highlights the great efforts of her congregation in favor of children, young people, boys and girls, the poor and abandoned...

Tags: Syria India Refugees Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank

30 November 2015
Sami El-Yousef

Pope Tawadros II (C) arrives for the funeral of Archbishop Anba Abraham, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the Holy Land, on 28 November 2015 at the Coptic Patriarchate of Jerusalem, adjacent to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City.
(photo: Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images)

His Eminence Metropolitan Archbishop Dr. Anba Abraham passed away in Jerusalem on Wednesday 25 November 2015 and was laid to rest on the grounds of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate in the Old City of Jerusalem on Saturday 28 November 2015. In a surprise move, Coptic Pope Tawadros II presided over the ceremonies; a Coptic pope has not visited Jerusalem in 35 years and, in fact, there is a ban on Copts visiting Jerusalem and the holy sites as long as it is under Israeli occupation.

The visit was very low key and limited to the funeral services. No official meetings or contacts were made with Israeli officials. Several times, the pope reiterated the private nature of this particular visit and emphasized that it does not in any way break from the existing ban.

During the funeral services, Pope Tawadros spoke eloquently about his close relationship with the late Archbishop Anba Abraham and recalled the various stages of his life. He highlighted that, in the Coptic hierarchy, the archbishop of Jerusalem is the second most important figure after the Pope and the first among equals in the synod of bishops. He further urged all present to live a faithful life full of good deeds and service to others, always upholding Christian values.

In addition to Pope Tawadros, a delegation of 10 other Coptic bishops from around the Coptic world joined him. Representatives of all the churches of Jerusalem representing the varied landscape were all in attendance, including Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem Giuseppe Lazzarotto as well as Bishops representing the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Assysrian, Anglican, Lutheran, as well as all the Oriental Catholic churches. Representatives of both the Palestinian Authority as well as Israel were also present, joining several hundred people who came to bid him farewell.

Archbishop Anba Abraham was born in Sohag, Egypt, in 1943 and received undergraduate and graduate degrees in theology in 1967 and 1971 respectively. He held a doctoral degree in medicinal plants, graduating from Ein Shams University in Cairo in 1976. He became a monk in 1983; in 1991, he was called to become the archbishop of Jerusalem by Pope Shenouda III. He was highly respected within the local community for his humility.

CNEWA’s President Msgr. John E. Kozar meets with Coptic Archbishop Anba Abraham in Jerusalem in 2013. (photo: CNEWA)

In Jerusalem, CNEWA-Pontifical Mission for Palestine has maintained a very close relationship with the Coptic Orthodox Church. CNEWA has provided numerous grants to its institutions, supported services in education through the two Coptic schools operating in the Old City of Jerusalem, and funded renovations to a Coptic convent in Bethlehem.

Our prayers are with our Coptic brothers and sisters who are grieving this loss. May he rest in eternal peace.

30 November 2015
Greg Kandra

Migrants from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan arrive at the transit and registration camp in the town of Presevo, southern Serbia, on 24 November. The extensive vetting process that all refugees undergo before arriving in the United States, “screens out any possible threat of terrorism,” said the executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services. Read more. To help Syrian Christians still in the Middle East survive the winter, please visit this giving page.
(photo: CNS/Djordje Savic, EPA)

30 November 2015
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis sits next to Imam Tidiani Moussa Naibi during a meeting with the Muslim community at the Koudoukou mosque in Bangui, Central African Republic on 30 November.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope visits Grand Mosque (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday morning visited the Grand Mosque of Koudoukou in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, meeting with the city’s Muslim community. The Holy Father was welcomed to the mosque by the Grand Imam Nehedi Tidjani, along with four other Imam, who accompanied him to the podium. In his address, Pope Francis recalled the recent violence which has rocked the country, saying “Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters...”

Michigan plans to resettle more Syrian refugees ( Washtenaw County is home to approximately 16 refugees from the violence in Syria, and more could be on their way despite Governor Snyder’s call for a resettlement “pause.” Representatives from Jewish Family Services — the only refugee resettlement agency in the county — said they have families in the pipeline waiting for final clearance to make their way to Ann Arbor...

Chaldean Patriarch: let us pray for the liberation of Mosul (Fides) In all the Chaldean churches in the world, during Advent and during the daily celebrations, the faithful will pray to invoke the gift of liberation of Mosul and the entire Nineveh Plain, and ask for the rights of religious minorities living in Iraq to be guaranteed. These are the two prayer intentions that Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I suggested to Chaldean Catholics in Iraq and those in the scattered communities in the diaspora, with a message issued on the first Sunday of Advent...

Ukraine remembers victims of Stalin-era famine (AFP) Ukraine on Saturday held a day of mourning for the millions of victims of a Soviet-era famine, with President Petro Poroshenko describing it as an episode in the “war waged by Russia against Ukraine.” Poroshenko, accompanied by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and hundreds of Ukrainians, laid symbolic wheat ears and lit candles before the Holodomor — or “death by hunger” — monument in central Kiev...

The biggest African refugee camp no one talks about ( On a sunny November day in Addis Ababa the courtyard of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) centre is packed with people — some attend a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reception clinic, others get essential supplies, while students attend classes, and many simply play volleyball, table football or dominoes to pass the time. Now in its 20th year, the JRS compound resembles a microcosm of Africa’s — and even the Middle East’s — troubles, hosting refugees from South Sudan, Congo, Uganda, Somalia, Eritrea, Yemen, Burundi and more. It aims to assist 1,700 people in 2015...

Multi-purpose room completed at Catholic parish in Gaza (Fides) A multipurpose room has been completed in the Catholic parish in Gaza, which now can be used as space equipped to meet the diverse needs of the local community. The room, equipped with a large stage, can accommodate theater shows, conferences, meetings, weddings and social events of all kinds. The multipurpose space also has a game room, a library, a computer lab and a fitness facility. The inauguration of the new facility — report official media of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem — took place on 25 November in the presence of parishioners and many workers of the teams that worked on the project. The construction of the social space was done thanks to the financial support of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine...

India launches program for Jubilee of Mercy (Fides) “When we are nourished by the Eucharist we can nourish others” is the appeal launched by Abram Viruthakulangara, Archbishop of Nagpur, for the Jubilee Year of Mercy. As reported to Fides, in the diocese, located in the state of Maharashtra, the local community intends to live the time of the Jubilee highlighting the importance of reaching out to others: “Jesus has a two-point programme: love of God and love of one’s neighbor. Where there is love, God reigns”, the Archbishop said, adding, “the Kingdom of Jesus has no boundaries just like love has no boundaries...

Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Ukraine Ethiopia Islam

25 November 2015
CNEWA staff

More than half the refugees in Jordan are children.
(photo: Jeffrey Bruno/Vision Vocation Network)

Writer Jennifer Tomshack at the Vision Vocation Network traveled recently to Jordan and had the good fortune to see up close some of the work CNEWA (as it is known in the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission) is doing on behalf of refugees.

Take a look:

While the West is increasingly closing its doors to desperate families who are fleeing violence with nowhere to go, there’s simply no denying there are untold numbers of decent people in dire need. I know because I met them. And I met remarkable people doing something about it.

The Pontifical Mission, along with many religious orders and local Catholic and Orthodox parishes, are working to address the crush of needs in Jordan, which has borne the brunt of this humanitarian crisis.

Jordan’s population has risen to more than 11 million from around 8 million in the last two years, largely because of refugees, taxing this poor nation, which lacks oil, and pushing its unemployment rate up to 25 percent. This predominantly Muslim country, a model of stability and religious tolerance in the region, has offered safe haven to refugees of all faiths. “For Jordanians, caring for those in need is a moral duty and part of our national character,” King Abdullah II of Jordan wrote in an op-ed piece in the Austrian newspaper Der Standard. “However, today’s refugee burden is pushing us to the limits of our resources.”

I recently had the unique opportunity to visit Jordan on a media trip. One of my objectives was to bear witness to the suffering of refugees there.

I met the dedicated regional director of the Pontifical Mission, Ra’ed Bahou, the son of refugees himself. I met the women who help run the center, Amabel Sibug and Elisa Estrada, lay Teresians from the Philippines who have given decades of their lives to this place.

I met brave, scared parents. They’re educated, middle-class professionals, just like me. Their talents and ability to contribute to society are squandered while they wait to resume their lives.

Read on for more details about what CNEWA is doing.

Want to help out this holiday season? Visit this page to learn how you can make a difference in the lives of refugees in the Middle East.

Tags: Refugees CNEWA Middle East Jordan

25 November 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

Under police protection, workers rebuild St. Sebastian Church in Dilshad Garden, New Delhi. In response to a rash of anti-Christian violence, officers have been assigned to guard churches within the city. To learn more, read ‘There Will Be More Martyrs’, from ONE’s Autumn 2015 edition. (photo: Jose Jacob)

Tags: India Violence against Christians Indian Christians Indian Catholics

25 November 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

A Russian pilot parachutes out of a warplane downed by Turkish forces in northwestern Syrian town of Bayirbucak, near the Turkish border, on 24 November. (photo: Fatih Akta/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Second Russian airman shot down by Turkey is alive, says Moscow (The Guardian) The second Russian airman from the jet shot down by the Turkish air force is “alive and well” after the Syrian army undertook a 12-hour special operation to save him, Russian officials say. Both airmen ejected from the plane after it was hit by a Turkish F-16 on Tuesday, but the pilot was killed by fire from the ground, apparently from Syrian Turkmen fighters. Captain Konstantin Murakhtin, speaking on Russian television after his rescue, said his plane had not crossed into Turkish airspace and Turkish jets had not issued any warnings…

ISIS releases ten Assyrian hostages in Syria (AINA) ISIS released ten Assyrians captured on 23 February when it attacked 35 Assyrian villages on the Khabur river in the Hassake province. ISIS captured 253 in the initial attack and drove 3,000 Assyrians from their villages. Most have not returned. The hostages, five men and five women, are in good health…

Canada pushes back deadline to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees (Christian Science Monitor) The Canadian government on Tuesday pushed back to the end of February its deadline for accepting 25,000 Syrian refugees, in a concession that its original 1 January target was too difficult to meet. Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, sworn in this month, made the initial pledge part of his election campaign but a wide array of critics said the goal was unrealistic…

Firsthand account of Assyrian refugees in Iraq (AINA) On the northern edge of Erbil, Iraq, in the region known as Kurdistan, Camp Ain Kawa II serves as the last fragile refuge for Iraq’s shrinking Christian population. At its peak, there were roughly 1.4 million Christians in Iraq, yet through the long years of violence and persecution, Iraq’s Christian population has dwindled to fewer than 700,000…

Syrian patriarch: Western media ‘silent, cowardly and complicit’ with ISIS (AINA) Western media have been “silent, cowardly and complicit” with the persecution of Christians by ISIS, said Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III, the head of the Syriac Catholic Church, in a recent interview. “Western democracies have conspired against Syria and produced the destruction of the nation’s infrastructure, the demolition of houses, towns, villages, monuments and archaeological sites,” the patriarch said. “This is the result of a foolish politics and of a conspiracy, under the pretext of bringing democracy to the region…”

Compassion vs. security: What to do with Syrian refugees? (Catholic News Agency) As the U.S. plans to increase its intake of Syrian refugees to 10,000 next year, Americans — including Catholics — are trying to balance national security concerns with compassion for the refugees. Many Americans have expressed deep concerns about extremists infiltrating the resettlement program, especially after 13 November terror attacks in Paris killed 130 and injured several hundred. In the wake of the attacks, U.S. Catholic bishops have asked Americans not to scapegoat all Syrian refugees as possible terrorists and to remember their dire humanitarian plight. “These refugees are fleeing terror themselves — violence like we have witnessed in Paris. They are extremely vulnerable families, women and children who are fleeing for their lives,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, the auxiliary bishop of Seattle…

Tags: Syria Iraq Refugees Russia Turkey

24 November 2015
CNEWA staff

Sister Winifred Doherty, a Good Shepherd sister, enjoys lunch with children at
The Good Shepherd school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: Sean Sprague)

On 1 December, one week from today, Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) will participate — for the first time — in a global online event: #Giving Tuesday.

#Giving Tuesday is an annual, 24-hour fundraising campaign, entirely internet-based. It’s a day when CNEWA will celebrate — and encourage — the spirit of giving worldwide. It will bring together individuals, parishes and organizations to do good.

But to make this unique day a success? We need your help.

On #Giving Tuesday, CNEWA will raise funds to ease hunger. Nutrition is a challenge for every initiative we support. In hospitals, mother-and-child clinics, orphanages, schools and Bible camps — and every facility that helps refugees — everyone needs to eat.

#Giving Tuesday will let us help churches and religious sisters provide healthy formula for infants. Lunches for school children. Hot meals for the elderly and sick. As Pope Francis noted, “We are in front of a global scandal, one billion people who still suffer from hunger today. We cannot look the other way and pretend this does not exist.”

To give on #Giving Tuesday — or even in advance — use your computer, smart phone or tablet. To make donating easy, we’re harnessing the power of CrowdRise. One of America’s most highly-regarded funding web sites, it’s an online giving hub that brings together ordinary people, diverse charities and companies. All to support important causes.

Just go to CNEWA’s special CrowdRise/#Giving Tuesday donor page at: CNEWA Giving Tuesday.

#Giving Tuesday’s potential goes beyond money. I’m certain we’ll build greater public awareness of the small miracles CNEWA donors make possible. It will also introduce us to a diverse new audience. Tomorrow’s CNEWA donors.

Will you help us make the day a success? Playing an advance role is as simple as inviting family, friends, workmates and fellow parishioners — via email, Facebook or Twitter — to spread the word. In the days ahead, I’ll send you details that explain how.

#Giving Tuesday is about spreading compassion, faith and hope at this beautiful time of year. In the spirit of the season, let’s make room at our table for those in need.

Let’s make next Tuesday a day for sharing on behalf of those who struggle.

Meantime, check out the #GivingTuesday video below, which shows some of the work you are making possible in Ethiopia.

24 November 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

Archbishop Leo, head of the Orthodox Church of Finland, speaks during the opening of an ice church in Juuka, Finland, on 24 January 2015. (photo: Timo Hartikainen/AFP/Getty Images)

Thoughts of Finland conjure up images of fir trees blanketed with snow, crisp cold Arctic air, fresh water lakes, lingonberry preserves and reindeer. Golden icons, clouds of incense, beeswax candles and polyphonic chants do not figure in these musings. Yet, the world of Byzantium exists even in this land of Scandinavian simplicity.

The Orthodox Church of Finland includes an estimated 62,000 Finns, about 1 percent of the population. The church, however, plays a disproportionate role in modern Finland. The Finnish constitution establishes the Orthodox Church as a national church. The government collects taxes for the church while the Orthodox clergy (together with their Evangelical Lutheran peers) preside at affairs of state. In recent decades, the church has been energized by an increase of converts, an influx of Orthodox Greek, Romanian and Russian immigrants and renewed public interest in iconography, Orthodox theology and monastic spirituality.

Firmly rooted in the culture of the Byzantine East, the Orthodox Church of Finland is no stranger to the ethos of the West. Similar to the nation’s dominant Lutheran Church, Orthodox leaders emphasize the frequent reception of the Eucharist, encourage lay leadership and utilize the Gregorian calendar even for the celebration of Easter.

Once tied to the Russian Empire, a nascent Finnish state severed its ties with the abdication of the tsar in 1917, and the turmoil that followed. In 1921, Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and All Russia granted autonomy to Finland’s Orthodox Christians as well. Despite the protestations of the Moscow patriarchate, the ecumenical patriarchate declared the Orthodox Church of Finland an autonomous church under Constantinople in 1923.

While some Orthodox parishes could be found scattered throughout the new country, the center of the Orthodox Church of Finland remained in its eastern province of Karelia.

The Winter War (1939-40) between Finland and the Soviet Union, and the subsequent Soviet annexation of Karelia, however, soon changed that. About 90 percent of the parishes and properties of the church were lost, including its historic seminary and monasteries in Lake Ladoga. Rather than submit to Soviet oppression, Orthodox Karelian families, monks, priests, seminarians and sisters fled for the security of central Finland.

The Finnish government quickly resettled the refugees. Throughout the 1950’s, new parishes were founded, churches built, a seminary set up and eparchies erected. Monks reestablished the historic Valamo monastery in central Finland and, shortly thereafter, a convent for women religious was built nearby. Today, the centers receive hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and visitors each year and host an ever-growing number of academic workshops and spiritual retreats. Icon conservation studios also flourish.

In 1988, the Orthodox Church of Finland closed its independent seminary and moved its students to the state-run University of Joensuu, where an Orthodox theological faculty was established. Cantors, catechists and seminarians live in a separate residence near the campus, where they focus on liturgy and spirituality and study with other students at the university, which also offers degree programs for seminarians in the Lutheran tradition.

While the Orthodox Church of Finland includes some 150 churches and chapels scattered across Finland, its influence reaches far beyond Scandinavia. Orthodox Finns support the apostolic endeavors of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria in Kenya and Uganda. They participate in international ecumenical forums with the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church. And they have partnered with their Russian colleagues, providing moral support and financial assistance to reconstitute the original Valamo Monastery in Russian Karelia.

Though small, the Orthodox Church of Finland is unique in the Orthodox world, fusing in a creative way the contributions of Orthodox and non-Orthodox clergy and laity — regardless of gender — and in fostering ecumenism in an atmosphere of mutual trust.

Click here to read more.

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