11 April 2014
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…
10 April 2014
Tags: Egypt Ukraine Jordan Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Crimea
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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.
10 April 2014
Tags: Lebanon Education
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Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly, pictured in a 2012 photo, served as Chaldean patriarch from 2003 to 2013. Pope Benedict XVI made him a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church in 2007. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly, retired Chaldean patriarch, dies at 86 (The Catholic Register) Pope Francis praised the dedication of the retired patriarch of the Chaldean Church, Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly, 86, who died April 8 in a hospital in San Diego, according to the California-based Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle. In a telegram of condolence to Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad, Pope Francis recalled “with deep gratitude the late patriarch’s dedication to his people and to the promotion of respectful, just and peaceful relations with followers of other religious traditions…”
Caritas president: International community must open refugee camps in Syria (Fides) “The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has reached an unsustainable threshold for Lebanon, equal to 25-30 percent of the population present on the national territory. The global and regional powers, instead of providing weapons to those who kill, should focus their interventions on this emergency,” said the Rev. Paul Karam, Maronite priest and president of Caritas Lebanon…
‘Risky’ operation brings aid to besieged Syrians in eastern Aleppo (U.N. News Center) The United Nations refugee agency and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent said today it managed to bring humanitarian aid to a besieged neighborhood in eastern Aleppo, an area that had been cut off from assistance since last June. The “rare and risky” operation to deliver aid to Boustan al Qaser was carried out following agreement with the Syrian Government and the opposition, according to a news release issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees…
Catholic convent, Maronite village latest targets of vandals in Israel (CNS) A Catholic convent near Jerusalem and a largely Maronite village in Galilee were damaged in recent weeks as a two-year wave of vandalism directed at Christians and Muslims in Israel and the West Bank continued…
Catholic bishops condemn separatism and sectarianism (RISU) The Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops in Ukraine released a statement supporting Ukrainian unity and condemning the incitement of hatred on religious grounds…
9 April 2014
Tags: Syrian Civil War Middle East United Nations Chaldean Church Maronite Church
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In this image from 2010, police limit access to the courtyard of the Holy Sepulchre, where thousands typically greet the procession. (photo: CNEWA, Jerusalem)
Some significant news out of Jerusalem today, from the Associated Press:
Palestinian Christians are awaiting a High Court of Justice ruling on a petition asking the state and the Israel Police to drop the heavy movement and security restrictions that have prevented worshipers from accessing holy sites in East Jerusalem on Holy Saturday during the past several years. Holy Saturday, which is the day before Easter, falls this year on 19 April.
The petition, filed in February by several East Jerusalem residents, argues that police roadblocks and barricades in and around the Old City on that day deter worshipers from even attempting to access the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other sites for Holy Saturday celebrations. The petitioners have also asked that armed security personnel not be allowed to enter the church. The heads of the five Eastern Orthodox churches and the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land also joined the petition.
Holy Saturday, also called the Saturday of Light by some of the eastern churches, is marked in East Jerusalem with a fire ceremony that symbolizes the resurrection of Christ. The custom for the past several hundred years is that the Greek Orthodox patriarch enters the holy sepulcher with an extinguished torch and prays. The tradition is that at 2 P.M., the torch lights up on its own, and its fire is passed on to the torches of other denominations and to the candles carried by thousands of believers waiting in the church and outside it.
According to the petitioners, between 1967 and 2005 Israel respected the Holy Saturday tradition and its character as a mass event. But in 2006, in a step that was never explained, the police started to erect barriers and screen worshipers before allowing them to enter. The petitioners’ attorney, Assad Masawi, said that in 2010, Palestinian Christian leaders began a dialogue with the authorities that resulted in somewhat improved access in 2011 and 2012. But in 2013 the situation deteriorated again, with reports of police roughing up worshipers and clergymen en route to the celebrations and refusing to allow access to various delegations whose visits had been coordinated in advance.
This is an issue CNEWA has been following for some time. In 2010, CNEWA’s Regional Director for Palestine and Israel, Sami el-Yousef, described the bittersweet atmosphere in Jerusalem during Holy Week:
For the past few years, Israeli authorities have closed the Old City and the area around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during Holy Week, preventing local Christian and pilgrims from attending the Holy Fire celebration.
My 88-year-old father remembers when Jordan controlled East Jerusalem. During Holy Week, fleets of buses packed with pilgrims from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Iraq would park along the road to Jericho. The crowds of pilgrims would walk to the celebration in the Old City. Their numbers far exceeded today’s turnout at Easter time, yet the Old City never closed its gates and the streets inside were never blocked. Access was open to all.
A couple of years ago, Israeli authorities attempted to impose a permit system limiting the number of people who could attend the Holy Fire celebration. Incensed, local Christians demanded the government respect the church’s centuries-old Status Quo, which prohibits any restrictions on the faithful visiting the church. After all, pilgrims naturally want to get as close as possible to Christianity’s birthplace, especially during Holy Week.
This year, despite outcry from church leaders, members of civil society and the Christian community at large, Israeli authorities made it next to impossible to enter the Old City on Holy Saturday. In the early morning hours, police set up roadblocks at all the Old City’s gates and dozens of manned checkpoints along the streets and alleyways leading to the church. Authorities cooperated with church leaders only to the extent of allowing a limited number of local Christians access to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, provided that police escort them. Israeli authorities also detained a small group of locals at Saint Jacob’s Orthodox Church from early morning until just 15 minutes before the Holy Fire celebration began.
Since I live in the Old City, it was very strange to be escorted by Israeli police officers to my church. I felt ashamed to have capitulated to such treatment, but regretfully that was the only way to get to my destination. It was even stranger to witness St. Jacob’s Church — my parish — transformed into a holding cell, a detention center if you will, for hours.
Read more about Christian High Holy Days in the May 2010 issue of ONE.
9 April 2014
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In preparations for Holy Week, Pope Tawadros II on Tuesday 8 April prepares holy chrism for the first time since his ordination in November 2012. The event marks the 38th times the chrism has been made in the Coptic Orthodox Church. To learn more about chrism, and its purposes, and to see more pictures of Tuesday’s liturgy, check out this link. And to learn more about the Christians of Egypt, read this profile from our magazine.
(photo: from Coptic Facebook page, via Ahram Online)
9 April 2014
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Pope Francis arrives for his general audience on 9 April. (photo: CNS)
Pope expresses “profound pain” at murder of priest in Syria (Reuters) Pope Francis spoke on Wednesday of his deep grief over the assassination of a 75-year-old Dutch Jesuit priest in Syria and made a renewed appeal for an end to the violence. Frans van der Lugt had been living in Syria since the 1970’s and had become widely known for his refusal to leave Christians who remained in the rebel-held city of Homs as it was blockaded by government forces. He was beaten and shot dead by unidentified gunmen at his monastery on Monday...
During general audience, Pope Francis appeals for peace in Syria (CNS) Here is our translation of Pope Francis’ remarks today about the murder of Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt and the continuing war in Syria: “Monday in Homs, Syria, Father Frans van der Lugt, my 75-year-old Dutch Jesuit confrere, was assassinated. He arrived in Syria about 50 years ago and always did his best for everyone with graciousness and love, and so was loved and held in esteem by Christians and Muslims. His brutal murder filled me with with deep sadness and made me think again of all the people who suffer and are dying in that martyred country, already too long a victim of a bloody conflict that continues to sow death and destruction...”
Ukrainian official: unrest will be resolved by force or by talks in 48 hours (CNN) Ukrainian acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Wednesday that the separatist protests in Ukraine's eastern region would be resolved within 48 hours — either through negotiations or the use of force. At the same time, Russia insisted that the presence of its troops just over the border was no reason to worry...
Ethnic Armenians tell of flight from Kasab, Syria (Los Angeles Times) They fled Kasab at daybreak, amid the clamor of artillery and word that Islamist rebels were advancing toward them from Turkey. About 2,500 residents, most of them ethnic Armenians, gathered documents and what few possessions they could carry. They piled into cars and minibuses that carried them 40 miles down mountain roads to the government-held city of Latakia. Only some elderly remained behind, residents said. “We escaped with the clothes on our back,” said one of those who eventually made it to Lebanon...
8 April 2014
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ukraine Armenia
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Frans Van Der Lugt, S.J. (photo: courtesy Ziad Hilal, S.J.)
The world is shocked by the news of the ruthless murder of Rev. Frans Van Der Lugt, a 75-year-old Dutch Jesuit who was killed early yesterday morning in Homs, Syria. A masked gunman entered the Jesuit residence where Father Frans lived and shot him twice in the head.
This horrific event has hit us hard in the Beirut office of CNEWA. We have known and worked with Father Frans for nearly a decade.
Father Frans was a psychotherapist involved in interreligious dialogue in Syria since 1967. He also built a center in Homs that housed 40 children with mental disabilities.
He was a well-known figure in the old city of Homs, respected by many for his refusal to leave the old city’s remaining residents despite constant shelling and dwindling supplies, insisting that Syria was his home and he wanted to be with the country’s citizens in their time of need. The old city has been held by the rebels and under a government siege for nearly two years. Father Frans’ appeals for help, posted on YouTube, described dramatically the dire circumstances facing the people of Homs, where food was scarce and even milk for newborns was hard to come by.
CNEWA has worked with the Middle East province of the Jesuit Fathers for decades, especially its communities in Lebanon and Syria. In 2006, CNEWA supported Father Frans and his work with children near Homs, rehabilitating the Al Ard Center for the mentally challenged. Located some 18 miles from Homs in the village of Al Qusayr near the Lebanese-Syrian border, the center is owned and operated by the Jesuit Fathers under the jurisdiction of the Latin archbishop in Syria. Directed by Father Frans, the center provided physical therapy, teaching and skill-building five days a week, five hours a day — and all that for free. Before Syria’s civil war, the center also received people seeking spiritual meditation, formation and retreats. The center also established an agro-industrial center for the production of olive oil and wine.
Even during the siege of Homs, when we couldn’t contact Father Frans directly, CNEWA continued to support the needy, marginalized and suffering people of Homs through his brother Jesuit, Rev. Ziad Hilal, who also remained in Syria. Since 2012, CNEWA has been able to provide 5,310 Syrian families in Homs with food and 4,100 Syrian students with school kits through Father Ziad.
Our efforts to support the struggling and suffering people of Syria go on. You can learn more about how to help at this page.
Meantime, our thoughts and prayers are with our Jesuit colleagues in Syria. We grieve with them, and for all the people of Homs who knew and loved this remarkable and courageous priest.
As the Vatican noted yesterday, the world has lost “a man of peace.”
8 April 2014
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In this image from 2004, pilgrims pray the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem. Holy Week, the most sacred time of the year for Christians, begins next Sunday. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
8 April 2014
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Pro-Russia protesters scuffle with the police at the regional government building in Donetsk, Ukraine, on 6 April. A Ukrainian Catholic bishop has warned his church could lose its legal status under Russian rule, and pledged to use “all possible means in the international arena” to defend it. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
Ukraine cracks down on demonstrators; Russia issues warning (Los Angeles Times) Ukrainian riot police on Tuesday cleared a regional administration building and public square in the eastern city of Kharkiv of hundreds of pro-Russia protesters, detaining scores in the process, officials said. In response, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a stern warning against the use of force on pro-Russia protesters in eastern Ukraine and alleged the direct involvement of private U.S. military experts…
Georgia’s ancient capital Mtskheta becomes holy city (Interfax) Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II has conferred the title of “holy city” on Georgia’s ancient capital Mtskheta, a place revered by Georgians…
Egypt’s media blackout on Sinai (Al Monitor) Ever since the beginning of the military operation that began in the Sinai Peninsula after the ouster of President Muhammad Morsi, there has been a media blackout regarding the events going on in this vital part of Egypt and the crises that its citizens are enduring. According to Mustafa Senger, a political activist from the Sinai, one of the most important problems is that mobile phone and Internet networks have stopped working…
Syria’s latest battle: The PR fight over sanctuary for Christians (Christian Science Monitor) When the Syrian opposition took over the Armenian Christian town of Kessab in coastal Syria last month, its 2,000 residents fled. Given the presence of Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al Nusra and other Islamist groups, they feared the worst for their town. So far, these fears have not been realized. Instead, rebels appear to be using Kessab as an opportunity to try to undo their reputation for extreme brutality towards Syria’s Christians and Shiites. But the Assad regime, which considers itself the protector of minorities, has launched a media campaign to demonstrate how Islamists are terrorizing Christians in Kessab, turning the town into a public relations battlefield in Syria’s civil war…
Fears rise about impact of drought on Syrians (U.N. World Food Program) The United Nations World Food Program (W.F.P.) provided assistance to a record 4 million people in Syria last month but a special report published today highlights how a potential drought would strain the country’s already fragile food security situation. W.F.P. food security analysts say rainfall since September has been less than half the long-term average, and will have a major impact on the next cereal harvest…
Syrians mourn slain Jesuit priest (Al Jazeera) After three years of civil war, during which brutal killing has become commonplace, many Syrians were left stunned Monday by the murder of a Dutch Jesuit priest gunned down in Homs, the besieged city that he refused to abandon. Francis Van Der Lugt — or Abouna (“Father”) Frans, as he was known to Syrians — touched the lives of many, not only Christians. As word of his death spread through Syria, Syrians grieved publically. On Facebook, young and old replaced their profile pictures with one of Frans: in a T-shirt, on a bicycle, among the olive trees, or smiling under the unmistakable black basalt arches of Homs’s Old City…
7 April 2014
Tags: Syria Egypt Ukraine United Nations Georgian Orthodox Church
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Dutch Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt, who had worked in Syria since 1966, was abducted from his home in Homs, beaten by armed men and killed with two bullets to the head, the Jesuits said on 7 April. He is pictured in a late January photo. (CNS photo/Yaz an Homsy, Reuters)
The news today about Rev. Francis van der Lugt, a Jesuit priest gunned down in Homs, sent shockwaves around the world. We were struck, in particular, by a connection to CNEWA. A story in the Associated Press quoted one of our contributors, a colleague and friend of Father van der Lugt, Rev. Ziad Hilal:
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the 75-year-old van der Lugt, was “a man of peace, who with great courage, had wanted to remain faithful, in an extremely risky and difficult situation, to the Syrian people to whom he had dedicated, for a long time, his life and spiritual service.”
It appeared that van der Lugt was directly targeted. A single gunman walked into the monastery, entered the garden and shot him in the head, said Rev. Ziad Hillal, a priest, who was in the convent when the attacked occurred.
“I am truly shocked. A man of peace has been murdered,” Hillal said in a phone interview from Homs with the Vatican Radio.
Van der Lugt’s death was first reported by Homs-based priest Assad Nayyef, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the state-run news agency, SANA.
An activist based in a blockaded rebel-area said rebel fighters were shocked by the priest’s death.
“The man was living with us, eating with us, sleeping with us. He didn’t leave, even when the blockade was eased,” said Beibars Tilawi said via Skype. Regardless of the rebels’ views toward Christians, the priest was well-liked for his efforts to get the blockade lifted and alleviate widespread suffering and hunger among civilians, Tilawi said.
We join our prayers with all those in Syria, and indeed around the world, who are grieving this tragedy.
For more on the crisis in Syria, read Fr. Ziad Hilal’s “Letter from Syria” in the Summer 2013 issue of ONE.
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