3 August 2016
In this image from 2003, an Eritrean Orthodox bishop displays two Coptic-style crosses. The hand cross is used for blessings. To discover more about the Orthodox Church in Eritrea, read Ancient Church in a Young Nation from the November-December 2003 edition of the magazine.
(photo: Chris Hellier)
3 August 2016
Pallbearers carry the coffin of the Rev. Jacques Hamel on 2 August outside the cathedral in Rouen, France. Father Hamel was killed 26 July in an attack on a church at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen; the attack was carried out by assailants linked to the Islamic State.
(photo: CNS/Jacky Naegelen, Reuters)
Thousands of mourners, including Muslims, turn out for funeral of murdered French priest (CNS) During the 2 August funeral Mass for the Rev. Jacques Hamel, killed a week earlier by men claiming allegiance to the Islamic State, Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen stressed the need for forgiveness. “As brutal and unfair and horrible as (Father) Jacques’ death was, we have to look deep into our hearts to find the light,” he told the congregation of more than 1,500 at the Notre Dame Cathedral, while hundreds more watched the ceremony on a big screen outside in the rain...
Fighting rages in Aleppo (BBC) Intense fighting has continued around the Syrian city of Aleppo, where a rebel offensive is trying to break a government siege of rebel-held areas. Over the weekend, the rebels tried to reconnect an encircled area in the east with insurgent territory in the west. They set off a huge tunnel bomb underneath army positions in the strategic Ramouseh district. The army has been fighting back with the help of Russian air strikes to stop the rebels breaking through...
British jets bomb Saddam’s palace used by ISIS in Iraq (The Guardian) British fighter jets have bombed a former palace of Saddam Hussein being used as a training centre for Isis recruits in Iraq, according to the UK Ministry of Defense. A pair of RAF Tornados took part as a multinational squadron attacked the headquarters and training centre for foreign terrorist recruits, located close to the Tigris in Mosul...
U.S. will likely reach goal of admitting 10,000 refugees (International Business Times) While the U.S. acceptance rate of Syrian refugees has increased in recent months, the resettlement groups would like to see more done. America’s neighbor to the north has accepted almost 30,000 Syrian refugees since November 2015 and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made a point of welcoming new arrivals in a public manner...
Aftermath of Turkey coup attempt delays reconciliation with Israel (The Jerusalem Post) Last month’s attempted coup in Turkey and its aftermath have pushed off normalization of Israeli-Turkish ties, since the requisite accord has not yet come before the parliament in Ankara...
Detroit imams send condolences to Archbishop (Archdiocese of Detroit) Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron was moved this week to have received correspondences from local Imams on behalf of Michigan Muslims, expressing condolences for the death of Catholic priest Father Jacques Hamel, who was killed by terrorists in Normandy, France, on 26 July. “We are greatly saddened and troubled to hear of his tragic death and wish to express our sadness that so humble a servant of God was called to his Lord in such a cruel and violent manner,” wrote Imam Steve Mustapha Elturk, co-chair of the Imams Council, in a letter sent to Archbishop Vigneron on behalf of the Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC)...
Pope Francis meets with refugees during audience (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with a group of 65 child refugees from Syria and Eritrea on Wednesday during his General Audience. The children are staying in the small town of Castelnuovo di Porto, north of Rome...
2 August 2016
The Rev. Jose Manjiyil, C.S.T., seen in this file photo from 1998, has worked for decades to give dignity to the poor in India. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
As a Catholic missionary, the Rev. Jose Manjiyil, C.S.T. spent 30 years of his priestly life in the mission territory of Gorakhpur-Nepal Province of Little Flower Congregation (known as the C.S.T. Fathers).
Ordained a priest in 1986, Father Jose is also a lawyer and educator; he holds a Ph.D. in civil law, along with degrees in Arts and Education.
Through the years, he has been a good companion of CNEWA. His relationship with CNEWA began in 1997, when we provided financial assistance for constructing Mount Carmel Church in Gorakhpur.
In the years that followed, St. Mary’s Primary School was upgraded to a Hindi medium school for the poor children of the villages recognized by the Uttar Pradesh Government, thanks to Father Jose’s hard work and the generosity of American donors through CNEWA.
But healing the sick in Gorakhpur was Father Jose’s main concern. CNEWA supported his mission — and he received acclaim for his efforts.
He was honored with the Best Social Worker award in 1998 by the District Collector and Magistrate of Gorakhypur, Uttar Pradesh, India. The same year, he was featured in our magazine, describing his efforts to help the poor:
“The problem we face is poverty,” says Father Jose. “You know it, but you don’t feel it. If you ask a mother to add just one more spoonful of medicine to help a child, she will answer, ‘How can I? Where should I get it?’
“You can feel that poverty when you go to the village. We say you have to do this or that to prevent a disease and, if the people are poor, we will give them the medicines. But you still have to get them to want to do it.”
Diocesan social workers go from village to village to offer health care and teach villagers basic hygiene. They teach mothers natural methods of family planning and administer immunization programs; the task is gargantuan and, at times, frustrating.
“Our goal is empowerment,” says Father Jose, “to teach people how to keep clean and treat problems at home.
Father Jose’s hard work has brought smiles to many who persevered in difficult moments of life. He has attracted a beautiful blend of young and old. He cherishes them all. To quote him, “Old is gold, youth is bold. When you put both together, products are sold.”
CNEWA continues its support in Gorakhpur today among the poor — providing faith formation, help with hygiene and sanitation, assistance with finances, and pastoral outreach programs.
Today, Father Jose is the Director of Educational Institutions under the Little Flower Congregation, which runs more than 60 schools, technical schools and colleges.
He has been a great asset to the Catholic Church in India — and is a true CNEWA hero.
2 August 2016
Displaced Iraqis gather 16 July at a refugee camp near Mosul, Iraq.
(photo: CNS/Azad Lashkari, Reuters)
Security tops the list of what Christians of Iraq and Syria want before they’ll consider returning to areas they fled when the Islamic State and other extremist groups took over.
They also want help with displacement difficulties, justice for past offenses, self-governance, ethnic militias, and the right to ultimately choose to move permanently to Europe, the United States or beyond, said representatives of Christians and other minority ethnic groups. The minority representatives spoke at an all-day conference at Jesuit-run Georgetown University 28 June. The following day, the same group met at the U.S. State Department with representatives of more than 20 countries involved in supporting a post-Islamic State scenario in Iraq and Syria.
“The important thing ... is the security and the confidence that a family, a father, a wife, a child a daughter ... can be safe in their own home,” said Bishop Awa Royel of the Assyrian Church of the East.
Bishop Royel and other members of indigenous Iraqi Christian groups told Catholic News Service at the Georgetown conference that up to 70 percent of Iraq's Christians had fled their native country since U.S.-led forces toppled dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, and that, due to the Islamic State takeover of northern Iraq in 2014, close to 150,000 Christians from those areas had either escaped to nearby Kurdish-controlled areas or to neighboring nations.
“Security is important, long-term security, against ISIS and against any other group that could come up in the future,” Bishop Royel said, suggesting one way to achieve that was through international protection and a “constant line of dialogue” among northern Iraq’s various ethnic groups, to prevent the weakening of society, which the bishop said had facilitated the Islamic State takeover.
“When there are suspicions and when there are mistrusts, you have each religion going into their own little corner. Leaders of various religions present in Iraq ... have to meet regularly, not to discus theology, but just to share what the communities are going through,” he said.
Other Iraqi Christian participants at the conference concurred with Bishop Royel that their communities would be looking for increased security in the regions they had inhabited before fleeing Islamic State, which claims to have established a caliphate across parts of the Middle East and North Africa. Christians insisted this could only be achieved it they were given full administrative control of historically Christian cities and towns and if local Christian militias were reinforced in those areas.
Both “empowering (Christians) to take administrative control of their areas” and “training Christian youth to protect their areas” must be achieved for displaced Christians to feel safe enough to return home after Islamic State has been defeated, said Syriac Catholic Father Behnam Benoka of Iraq.
Father Benoka pointed out that since the time of Saddam, there were efforts on the part of the Iraqi state to populate historically Christian areas with other religious groups, and he called for demographic justice and for such historically Christian lands to be restored.
In March 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives and Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Islamic State was committing genocide against Christians, Yezidis, Shiite Muslims, and other religious and ethnic minority groups in Syria and Iraq.
“Unfortunately, months later, ISIS and other violent extremist groups continue to target and terrorize their victims through rape, enslavement and murder, while religious and cultural sites are systematically looted and destroyed,” read a statement by Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Project, which hosted the conference, “Threats to Religious and Ethnic Minorities Under the Islamic State.”
Bishop Royel, Father Benoka and the other Christian representatives to the conference's different panels told CNS that, in addition to their concerns regarding safety of the future, they were worried about the immediate welfare of tens of thousands of Christians now living in camps, containers, and in other desperate situations, in areas where they had fled inside Iraq and Syria, or in neighboring countries.
They called on Western governments to speed up the asylum process for minorities who wanted to leave until peace was restored, or for good.
“As a minority ... you pay the biggest price,” said panelist Bassam Ishak, a member of Syria’s Christian minority who estimated that well over a million of his co-religionists had been displaced due to the violence of ongoing civil war, Islamic State, and other extremist groups back home.
“We need a political resolution ... that takes into account the Syrian diversity and seeks to build a pluralistic Syria. Then (Christians) may have a future, and we may even have some ... who return,” Ishak said.
Concerns of the conference’s Christian panelists’ mirrored for the most part those of the region’s various other minority groups.
Conference panelist Rajab Assi Kareem, speaking on behalf of Iraq’s tiny Kakai minority, said Islamic State had destroyed the group’s places of worship and that it was up to “the United Nations to ensure the peace” needed to prevent it or similar extremist groups from ever coming to power again.
Murad Ismael, one of the conference’s several panelists representing Iraq’s Yezidi minority, called on the international community to “put some parameters for the minorities to maintain their homeland and to ensure a future.”
Yezidis wanted international protection and restitution, especially in light of the recent raping, kidnapping and massacres the community had endured at the hands of Islamic State in Iraq, said Ismael.
“Otherwise,” he said, “the best thing will be to open doors ... and to permit mass exodus.”
2 August 2016
A civilian carries a victim of an attack on the Ansari neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria,
on 31 July 2016. (photo: Ibrahim Ebu Leys/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Rescuers say toxic gas dropped on Syrian town (Reuters) A Syrian rescue service operating in rebel-held territory said on Tuesday a helicopter dropped containers of toxic gas overnight on a town close to where a Russian military helicopter was shot down hours earlier. The opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) accused President Bashar al Assad of being behind the attack. Assad has denied previous accusations of using chemical weapons...
Aleppo explained by the numbers (CNN) Some neighborhoods in Aleppo have been under fire for more than 80 consecutive days, leaving 6,000 people either dead or injured, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The UK-based monitoring group said rebel-held areas in the city’s east have faced sustained attack by regime artillery and airstrikes, while rebel and Islamic factions have shelled regime-controlled areas in western neighborhoods...
Muslims and Christians in French town pray old bonds survive priest’s murder (The New York Times) In the wake of Father Hamel’s murder, Muslim and Christian communities around France came together over the weekend to show solidarity by attending each other’s religious services, in churches and mosques alike. But the services in Rouen, and in St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray, a nearby suburb where Father Hamel was killed, took on a special resonance...
Turkey orders arrest of doctors in post-coup crackdown (Middle East Eye) Turkey has issued arrest warrants for 100 staff, including doctors, at the main military hospital in Ankara as part of the investigation into last month’s failed coup, local media reported. Police were searching the Gulhane Military Medical Academy hospital in the capital, private NTV television reported. It was not immediately clear if any suspects had been arrested...
Shrine in India elevated to basilica (Vatican Radio) St. Lawrence Shrine at Attur, Karkala, the Diocese of Udupi, has been elevated to the status of a minor basilica on Monday, 1 August 2016, making it the second Minor Basilica in the Southern Indian state of Karnataka and the 22nd Basilica in the country...
Ancient Russian icon comes to Canada (Globalnews.ca) Saskatoon’s St. Vincent of Lerins Orthodox Church greeted the Kursk-Root Icon Wednesday — an item believers say is capable of miraculous healing. The gold and jewel-laden image depicts the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child. The icon has been viewed by millions, according to Father Florin Soane with the church. “In a visible way, we can say, the Mother of God, the Mother of Church, is coming to us,” Soane said...
1 August 2016
World Youth Day pilgrims hold candles during a 30 July prayer vigil with Pope Francis at the Field of Mercy in Krakow, Poland. Palestinians and Israeli pilgrims shared the same sector of the Field of Mercy and had a chance to meet and talk. (photo: CNS/Bob Roller)
At least for a few minutes at World Youth Day, the physical barriers between Palestinian and Israeli communities were nonexistent.
A group of Palestinian Catholics and a contingent of Hebrew-speaking Catholics from Israel found themselves in the same sector at the Field of Mercy for the closing programs of World Youth Day.
The two groups talked for a short time after arriving on the open fields the afternoon of 30 July, members of both delegations said. The time together was cordial and offered a chance to meet people of the same faith living in neighboring communities who might not meet under ordinary circumstances.
“We can’t really meet each other in our country,” said Danielle Maman, 22, of Jerusalem, one of the Israeli Catholics. “We can’t talk face-to-face because there are walls and checkpoints.”
“We’re all Christians. We always try for peace,” said Asil Zarek, 17, of Beer Sheva, Israel.
Pilgrims in both groups said they were not sure how to overcome the political barriers that exist across the two communities, but they thought their faith could be a bridge.
“We should all, as Palestinians and Christians, be one together,” said Michael Abusada, 26, a Palestinian living in Jerusalem. “All of us can bring home peace, love and the mercy of Jesus.”
The theme of mercy ran throughout the six days of World Youth Day. Many participants, some of whom arrived as early as 10 a.m. for the evening vigil, reflected on their experiences in Poland, the new friends they made and the messages of mercy the emanated throughout liturgies and catechetical sessions of the festivities.
French-speaking pilgrims from Quebec said that on their trek from Krakow, more than four miles away, they thought about the people they met and how similar they all were.
“It’s all about meeting people,” said Benjamin LeCroix, a member of Assumption Parish in Saint-Georges, Quebec. “We all chose to be here. It’s not like a school trip where some people don’t want to be part of it. Everyone here wants to be a part of this great heaven.”
Seeing so many people sharing the Catholic faith impressed Andria Saenz, 20, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Laredo, Texas. She said being at World Youth Day also was about being on a pilgrimage to better understand her faith and the people of the world.
“I’ve never been out of Laredo, and I wanted to see what people were talking about,” she told Catholic News Service. “Poland is not the first place I thought of seeing. But the people and land are beautiful. I have a different perspective.”
It also was the first significant journey for Jacqueline Ndecky, 32, of Guinea-Bissau, and the 14 others in her group. She said seeing so many people focused on the life of Christ was gratifying.
“The message is there is no limit to Jesus,” she said. “He is the same to people in Asia, Africa, everywhere.”
A small group from the Diocese of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, was resting while waiting for the pope to arrive. Efrain Torres, one of 38 in the contingent, had been at previous World Youth Day celebrations, but never as a leader of a group, like this year. He said he was eager to hear what Pope Francis had to say.
“This is the presence and experience of the living Christ,” he said. “We’re waiting for the vicar of Christ, who invites us to go out to the marginalized. We want to know what God wants to tell us through our vicar and take it home in our hearts to share.”
Sister Catherine Holum, 36, an American Franciscan Sister of the Renewal ministering in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, England, was smiling as she talked with four other sisters from her order and three pilgrims from the archdiocese.
Sister Catherine described the week as a joy to experience. She also had been involved as an emcee at a catechetical session earlier in the week, keeping 150 young people engaged in the conversation through prayer, song and enthusiasm.
“This is where you meet the word, share the Lord, have a great encounter and make new friends. It’s a very beautiful thing,” she said.
“It’s not about ourselves, but what we do with our brothers and sisters. We’re a tool of our brother Jesus. Having heard about the mercy of God this week, we are called to be merciful ourselves. It’s a beautiful thing.”
1 August 2016
In the video above, Muslims attend Mass in France in a show of solidarity and sympathy following the brutal murder of a French priest by two men claiming fidelity to ISIS.
Muslims attend Mass in show of solidarity (AP) Muslims in France and Italy flocked to Mass on Sunday, a gesture of interfaith solidarity following a drumbeat of jihadi attacks that threatens to deepen religious divisions across Europe. From the towering Gothic cathedral in Rouen, only a few miles from where 85-year-old Rev. Jacques Hamel was killed Tuesday by two Muslim fanatics, to Paris’ iconic Notre Dame, where the rector of the Mosque of Paris invoked a papal benediction in Latin, many churchgoers were cheered by the Muslims in their midst. Interviewed outside the cathedral in Rouen, Jacqueline Prevot called it “a magnificent gesture.” “Look at this whole Muslim community that attended Mass,” she said. “I find this very heartwarming...”
Pope Francis: it is not right to equate Islam with violence (CNS) An economy that focuses on the God of money, not human beings, is the foundation of terrorism, Pope Francis said. Speaking to journalists aboard his return flight from Krakow, Poland, 31 July, the pope also stressed that violence exists in all religions, including Catholicism, and it cannot be pinned to one single religion. “I do not like to speak of Islamic violence because everyday when I look through the papers, I see violence here in Italy,” the pope told reporters. “And they are baptized Catholics. There are violent Catholics. If I speak of Islamic violence, I also have to speak of Catholic violence,” he added...
Christians paying a price in Turkey (The Express) Turkey, which once boasted two million Christians, has barely 120,000 now, fewer even than Iran. But what shocked people most about July 15’s attacks was how much hatred still remains after almost 10 years. Though it is nominally a secular republic there can be little doubt that the government and Turkey’s 117,000 Sunni imams work together...
Russian helicopter shot down in Syria, killing 5 (AP) A Russian transport helicopter was shot down in opposition rebel territory in northern Syria on Monday and all five crew and officers onboard were killed, the Kremlin said, in the deadliest single incident for the Russian military since its involvement in Syria’s civil war...
Europe losing track of child refugees from Middle East (The Wall Street Journal) European governments are losing track of significant numbers of children who have entered the continent without their parents as refugees from war-torn areas in the Middle East and beyond...
More churches in India push for shroud burial instead of caskets (The Times of India) Space constraint is forcing churches in Mumbai to opt for green solutions for disposing of the dead. In the last six months, the St Blaise Church, Amboli, has had at least 15 shroud burials (body wrapped in cloth and lowered into the grave). The coffin was not used by families voluntarily. Father Franklin Mathias, parish priest, said space constraint, the environmental benefits and economics of a burial without a coffin prompted them to encourage shroud burial. He said the success of such burials depends entirely on the parishioners...
29 July 2016
Children greet CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar, on his pastoral visit to an Ain Kawa camp for displaced Iraqis. See more memorable images from his trip in the Summer 2016
edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
29 July 2016
Syrian army soldiers patrol area on the outskirts of Aleppo on 28 July. (photo: AFP/Getty images)
Airstrikes kill dozens in Syria (AP) U.S.-led coalition airstrikes targeting a village in northern Syria held by Islamic State killed 28 civilians, including seven children, Syrian activists said. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said coalition aircraft struck the village of Al-Ghandour on Thursday night...
Trapped, under attack in Aleppo (Doctors Without Borders) The siege on east Aleppo has left an estimated 250,000 people trapped and struggling to survive, with the only road into non-government held areas cut off. Now the population, and crucially the war-wounded and seriously ill, have no way out, while vital food and medical supplies cannot get in. This siege has added more to the already woeful numbers of people living in besieged areas in Syria...
Turkey targets media in crackdown (Time) In recent days the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has issued orders shutting down 131 media organizations, and issued arrest warrants for at least 89 journalists and other media personnel over alleged ties to the coup plot...
Copts look to new law to end religious discrimination (AFP) Egypt’s Copts, the Middle East’s largest Christian minority, have long struggled to obtain official permission to build churches. They are now hoping a new law on building houses of worship — both mosques and churches — will curb discrimination against them...
Patriarch calls political paralysis in Lebanon “shameful” (Fides) “It is shameful that the Lebanese people should have to wait for years while other countries in the region choose who shall be the new President of their country/” This is how Maronite Patriarch Boutros Bechara Rai stigmatized yet again the institutional paralysis and cross vetoes between the national political forces and foreign interference which for more than two years has prevented the election of a new head of state for Lebanon, an institutional post which Lebanon’s complex system reserves for a Maronite Christian...
New app connects Russian Orthodox Church with believers (BBC) The Russian Orthodox Church is to launch a new messaging app in order to help priests to keep in touch with believers. It’s being made by the same designers behind the Church’s dedicated social network, Elitsy, which was launched in 2014. The app, which is currently in development, will “satisfy the needs of the faithful for interaction and continuous contact between parishioners and the Church,” according to Elitsy’s press service, cited by Tass news agency. It adds that the app has the blessing of the Church’s leader, Patriarch Kirill...
28 July 2016
Sister Imre serves residents at the St. Macrina Home in Máriapócs, Hungary.
(photo: Tivadar Domaniczky)
Sister Imre Ágota is one of several tireless sisters who have worked to restore the faith in Hungary after the collapse of Communism:
In 1991, 14 surviving Basilian sisters — including Imre Ágota, now mother superior — returned to their monastery in Máriapócs. Today, only 7 remain, and of these only 4 are active.
The community, like other Hungarian Greek Catholic religious communities, has had difficulties recruiting novices. Several women have tried community life, but each one soon left. The sisters hope and pray for more novices, but if none enters, the simple passing of time will accomplish what 40 years of Communist anti-religious policy could not.
In recent years, Hungary’s declining birthrate and aging population have strained the economy, which is still recovering from the transition from a controlled to a free market system. With this in mind, the sisters have devoted themselves to caring for their peers — the elderly — who are poorly served by the state system.
Once they restored their monastery, the sisters went straight to work. In 1992, they bought a building behind the monastery and opened St. Macrina Nursing Home, a 25-room room facility for elderly women.
Despite challenges and setbacks, the sisters have remained hopeful.
“I’m a teacher,” Sister Imre Ágota said, “not an economist.” But, she continued, “we are optimistic because we have always received donations. Slowly, slowly money comes in and things get done.”
“I am retired,” Sister Imre Ágota laughed, describing her typical day of work and prayer, which begins at 5 a.m. and ends as late as 11 p.m.
“It’s just that as mother superior, I’m now busier than I’ve ever been.”
Still, she is already thinking about another project: returning to teaching. “My heart beats for it,” she said.
That tireless spirit of hope renews so many who live and work in CNEWA’s world — and it’s one reason why Sister Imre is a CNEWA hero.