19 November 2019
As Lebanon is engulfed in a massive protest movement, the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon gathered for its annual meeting 11-15 November 2019, at Bkerke, the Maronite Catholic patriarchate north of Beirut. The meeting was led by Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, second from left, and included other heads of religious orders. (photo: CNS/Mychel Akl for the Maronite patriarchate)
Lebanon Catholic leaders urge protestors to remain peaceful (CNS) While Lebanon continues to be engulfed in a massive protest movement, the country’s Catholic leaders called on demonstrators to be peaceful and civilized. In a 15 November statement at the end of its annual meeting, the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon hailed the “historic uprising” that has shaken the country since 17 October…
U.S. embassy in Jerusalem warns of Palestinian unrest (The Times of Israel) The US embassy in Jerusalem on Monday issued a travel warning for Americans planning to visit Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, warning of Palestinian unrest in light of Washington’s settlement policy shift announced earlier in the day. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US was softening its position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and repudiating a 1978 State Department legal opinion that held that they were “inconsistent with international law…”
After massacre, Ethiopia’s leader faces anger, and a challenger (The New York Times) Not long after security forces tried to arrest him in the middle of the night, Jawar Mohammed, a media baron and one of Ethiopia’s most prominent political activists, found himself face to face with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the man whose government ordered his arrest…
Pope meets Indian nun bringing hope to the destitute (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Monday received Indian nun Sister Lucy Kurien who has worked tirelessly for over 20 years giving shelter to destitute women, men and children in her country. Pope Francis knows Sister Lucy; they have met before in the Vatican because of her work to provide love, care and shelter to battered, exploited women, destitute men and street children. Sister Lucy is the Director and founder of Maher which she set up in Pune, the second largest city in the Indian state of Maharashtra in 1997…
18 November 2019
Tags: India Lebanon Ethiopia
Pope Francis greets a woman as he arrives to eat lunch with the poor in the Paul VI hall as he marks World Day of the Poor at the Vatican on 17 November 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
The poor are the church’s treasure because they give every Christian a chance to “speak the same language as Jesus, that of love,” Pope Francis said, celebrating Mass for the World Day of the Poor.
“The poor facilitate our access to heaven,” the pope said in his homily on 17 November. “In fact, they open up the treasure that never ages, that which joins earth and heaven and for which life is truly worth living: love.”
Thousands of poor people and volunteers who assist them joined Pope Francis for the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. After the liturgy and the recitation of the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis hosted a luncheon for 1,500 of them while thousands more throughout the city enjoyed a festive meal at soup kitchens, parish halls and seminaries.
Served by 50 volunteer waiters in white jackets, the pope and his guests in the Vatican audience hall enjoyed a three-course meal of lasagna, chicken in a mushroom cream sauce with potatoes, followed by dessert, fruit and coffee.
To speak Jesus’ language, the pope had said in his homily, one must not speak of oneself or follow one’s own interests but put the needs of others first.
“How many times, even when doing good, the hypocrisy of ‘I’ reigns: I do good, but so people will think I’m good; I help, but to attract the attention of someone important,” Pope Francis said.
Instead, he said, the Gospel encourages charity, not hypocrisy; “giving to someone who cannot pay you back, serving without seeking a reward or something in exchange.”
In order to excel at that, the pope said, each Christian must have at least one friend who is poor.
“The poor are precious in the eyes of God,” he said, because they know they are not self-sufficient and know they need help. “They remind us that that’s how you live the Gospel, like beggars before God.”
“So,” the pope said, “instead of being annoyed when they knock on our doors, we can welcome their cry for help as a call to go out of ourselves, to welcome them with the same loving gaze God has for them.”
“How beautiful it would be if the poor occupied the same place in our hearts that they have in God’s heart,” Pope Francis said.
In the day’s Gospel reading from St. Luke, the crowds ask Jesus when the world will end and how they will know. They want immediate answers, but Jesus tells them to persevere in faith.
Wanting to know or to have everything right now “is not of God,” the pope said. Breathlessly seeking things that will pass takes one’s mind off the things that last; “we follow the clouds that pass and lose sight of the sky.”
Worse, he said, “attracted by the latest ruckus, we no longer find time for God and for our brother or sister living alongside us.”
“This is so true today!” the pope said. “In yearning to run, to conquer everything and do it immediately, those who lag behind annoy us. And they are judged as disposable. How many elderly people, how many unborn babies, how many persons with disabilities and poor people are judged useless. One rushes ahead without worrying that the distances are increasing, that the lust of a few increases the poverty of many.”
The pope’s celebration of the World Day of the Poor concluded a week of special events and services for the homeless, the poor and immigrants in Rome.
The poor served by the city’s Catholic soup kitchens and Vatican charities were invited Nov. 9 to a free concert in the Vatican audience hall featuring Nicola Piovani, the Oscar-winning composer, and the Italian Cinema Orchestra.
From 10-17 November dozens of physicians, nurses and other volunteers staffed a large medical clinic set up in St. Peter’s Square. The clinic offered flu shots, physical exams, routine lab tests and many specialty services often needed by people who live and sleep on the streets, including podiatry, diabetes and cardiology.
As rain beat down on the square on 15 November, Pope Francis paid a surprise visit to the clinic and spent about an hour visiting with the clients and volunteers.
Afterward, the pope went across the street to inaugurate a new shelter, day center and soup kitchen for the poor in the Palazzo Migliori, a four-story, Vatican-owned building that had housed a community of women religious. When the community moved out, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, began renovating it.
The building now can accommodate 50 overnight guests as well as offering a drop-in center for the poor and housing a large commercial kitchen. Meals will be served at the building, but also will be cooked there for distribution to the homeless who live around two Rome train stations.
The Community of Sant’Edigio, a Rome-based lay movement that already runs soup kitchens and a variety of programs for the city’s poor, will manage and staff the shelter.
Watch a video about the lunch below:
18 November 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Poor/Poverty
In this undated photo, Pope Francis meets with Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, whom he named Saturday as the new Permanent Observer to the United Nations. (photo: Vatican Media)
Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines to be Permanent Observer to the UN (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Saturday appointed Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia as the new Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations. He succeeds Philippine Archbishop Bernardito Auza, who on 1 October 2019 was named by Pope Francis as Apostolic Nuncio to Spain and Andorra. Since 12 September 2017, Archbishop Caccia has been serving as Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon…
UNICEF: Many children remain left behind (Vatican News) Although the world has made historic gains over the past three decades in improving children’s lives, urgent action is required if the poorest children are to feel the impact, says a new UN report published on 18 November…
Pope: Having a friend who is poor will help you get to heaven (CNS) The poor are the church’s treasure because they give every Christian a chance to “speak the same language as Jesus, that of love,” Pope Francis said, celebrating Mass for the World Day of the Poor. ”The poor facilitate our access to heaven,” the pope said in his homily on 17 November. “In fact, they open up the treasure that never ages, that which joins earth and heaven and for which life is truly worth living: love..”
Ethiopian human rights leader battles scant resources (Reuters) When Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appointed a former political prisoner in July as head of the state-funded human rights commission, supporters hailed it as a sign the country might finally tackle abuses by security forces and move to break a cycle of bloody ethnic feuds. Now reality has hit…
India may attempt to land on the moon in 2020 (Space.com) Just months after a landing anomaly, India is hard at work pursuing another try at touching down on the moon, according to a news report…
15 November 2019
Tags: India Ethiopia Poor/Poverty United Nations
Pope Francis greets Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt's al-Azhar mosque and university, during a private audience at the Vatican on 15 November 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
15 November 2019
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis
A demonstrator walks near burning tires barricading a road during ongoing anti-government protests in Khaldeh, Lebanon, on 13 November 2019. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)
U.S. church leaders pray for peace as religious leaders meet in Lebanon (CNS) The U.S. bishops and the Knights of Columbus offered their “prayerful solidarity” to the Assembly of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon as Iraq and Lebanon experience protests against political corruption and foreign interference. The support came in a 13 November letter from Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus…
Egyptian woman fights unfair Islamic inheritance laws (AP) One Egyptian woman is taking on the country’s inheritance laws that mean female heirs inherit half that of men. Since her father’s death last year, Huda Nasrallah, a Christian, has stood before three different judges to demand an equal share of the property left to her two brothers by their father. Yet courts have twice issued rulings against her, basing them on Islamic inheritance laws that favor male heirs…
Israel-Gaza ceasefire strained by rockets, air strikes (BBC) Israel has launched fresh air strikes on militant targets after renewed rocket-fire from Gaza, as a day-old ceasefire is put under strain. Palestinian media said missiles hit sites belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) group early on Friday, injuring two people. It comes after five rockets were fired at Israel on Thursday following the ceasefire declaration by the PIJ…
Politics blocks Armenian hopes for genocide recognition (LA Times) On 29 October, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 405 to 11 in favor of a resolution to recognize the killing of 1.5 million Armenians more than a century ago as a genocide. Quick approval by the Senate appeared possible. But the 80-year-old Jamushian, whose parents survived the slaughter by Ottoman Turks, will have to keep waiting…
14 November 2019
Tags: Egypt Lebanon Israeli-Palestinian conflict
In this image from 2015, Pope Francis greets an elderly woman as he meets with people in a poor neighborhood in Asuncion, Paraguay. Pastoral care of the poor and those in need has been emphasis of the pontificate of Pope Francis. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Once again this year Pope Francis has opened a walk-in clinic in St. Peter’s Square to provide health care for the poor of Rome. The poor have been a constant theme for Francis’s preaching. In this he echoes Jesus, who not only preached about the poor, but also associated with them. This year 17 November is the World Day of the Poor for the Catholic Church.
The poor, the orphaned, the war torn, those driven from their homes are CNEWA’s constant companions. As we move across CNEWA’s world, cultures, languages, ways of dressing change like a kaleidoscope. Suffering and crushing poverty, however, remain a gray and ugly constant.
While the poor may be pushed to the peripheries of many societies in our world, they are central to both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament alone there are over 150 references to the poor; it appears over 30 times in the New Testament. It is a constant theme of the prophets who thunder against those who oppress the poor or treat them unjustly. The prophet Amos, speaking in God’s name, condemns those who “trample on the needy” and “suppress the poor,” those who “lower the bushel, raise the shekel” and “swindle and tamper with the scales,” i.e. charging more and giving less to poor customers. In response, God states, “Never will I forget a single thing you have done!” (Amos 8:4 ff.) God is angered not only by physical abuse of the poor but also by the economic exploitation of the poor through dishonest and exploitive business practices.
Jesus sees his ministry as intimately related to the poor. In his “inaugural” sermon in Nazareth Jesus describes himself and his ministry in the words of the prophet Isaiah “[God] has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the poor… (and) to set the downtrodden free.” (Luke 4:18; Isaiah 61:1 ff). The first of the Beatitudes is “How blessed the poor in Spirit…” (Matt 5:3; note that Luke 6:20 has simply “how blessed the poor.”) Luke is disturbingly harsh in his contrast between the poor and the powerful. In the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:16-31), the only reason Abraham gives for the rich man to be in hell is that he was rich: “…remember, my son, that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things…to Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in torment.” (16:25) This is a very disturbing position but one we simply cannot ignore. Luke is quite clear: to ignore the poor—to say nothing of oppressing and exploiting them—is something we do at great spiritual risk.
It is interesting that care for the poor is central to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Each realizes the seductive pull of wealth and power. Each realizes that it is easy to take one’s wealth as a sign not of only of God’s blessing but of God’s approval — and to move from there to a sense of entitlement.
For his part, Pope Francis speaks of “global indifference.” It is a truly frightening concept. It can arise from a sense of helplessness, vis-à-vis the seemingly overwhelming poverty, suffering and injustice in the world. For people experiencing this crippling sense of helplessness, the Gospel offers hope and courage: God is on the side of justice and goodness; grace and love will ultimately be victorious.
However, global indifference can also arise from a sense of entitlement — a sense that overwhelming poverty, suffering and injustice in the world is just not my concern. It is the attitude of: “I have enough to worry about without worrying about people I don’t know and really don’t care about.”
But for people suffering from an sense of entitlement and indifference, the Old and New Testament both offer a stark message: the prophets and Jesus warn us that indifference to the poor can put one’s very salvation in jeopardy (Matt 25:31-46).
The observance of the World Day of the Poor can provide us with a very important opportunity to examine what our attitude is to those for whom Jesus and the prophets were so concerned.
14 November 2019
Tags: Pope Francis CNEWA
Iraqi demonstrators carry a wounded man during ongoing anti-government protests in Baghdad on 14 November 2019. (photo: CNS/Alaa al-Marjani, Reuters)
Protests have erupted across Iraq, sparking turmoil and uncertainty in a country already suffering from the aftershocks of ISIS. And the toll of the injured and dead keeps rising.
Time magazine reports:
Iraqi protesters draped in their country’s flag have been taking part in demonstrations since 1 October that have left at least 319 people dead and at least 8,000 injured according to the U.N.
Many of the protesters wear face masks and helmets in the hope that this will protect them from security forces’ use of live bullets, tear gas, stun grenades and sound bombs to disperse the crowds of mostly young protesters. But many have been injured and hundreds of families are left searching for their injured loved ones in hospitals. Activists and physicians have been killed or kidnapped while giving aid to the demonstrators in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators have marched over the past six weeks and the protests have spread across the country. Dr Renad Mansour, a Middle East and North Africa Research Fellow at London-based think tank Chatham House describes the protests as “one of the largest grassroots political mobilizations.” Many Iraqis are frustrated that they are without clean water and electricity, despite the country having large oil reserves. Angered by the lack of jobs and basic public services, many protesters say corruption is to blame; money is being placed in the hands of the few, rather than the many, according to Mansour. Violence quickly became part of the equation, as protesters were met with lethal force by security forces.
14 November 2019
Lebanon is facing a serious financial crisis, as banks remain on strike over safety fears.
(video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)
Lebanon bank staff union to remain on strike (Reuters) Lebanon’s bank staff union called on Thursday for employees to stay on strike until it receives details of a security plan, especially on how to deal with customers. The union called for the strike over safety fears, as protests against political leaders sweep Lebanon and depositors demand access to their money after banks imposed new curbs…
Photos: Life in Iraqi Kurdistan (The Washington Post) President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria last month has brought fresh attention to the ethnic group known as the Kurds. For many years, the Kurds have been U.S. allies in the fight against the Islamic State. Trump’s move led to a bipartisan backlash and renewed interest in the Kurds, who also live in Turkey, Iraq and Iran. But who are they?...
Israel, Islamic Jihad agree on ceasefire (The Jerusalem Post) Israel and Islamic Jihad appear to have reach a ceasefire understanding that went into effect at 5.30 a.m, the IDF announced on Thursday morning. An Israeli official said that a restoration of calm could only be measured by the facts on the ground, clarifying that no concessions has been made to the Islamic Jihad. The operative policy remains in place, “we will harm those who harm us,” the official said…
India to set law on women entering temples (DW.com) India’s Supreme Court will set law on women entering places of worship after it was asked to review a 2018 decision to lift a ban on women entering a Hindu temple in Kerala. The court said Thursday that it will appoint a seven-judge bench to working on the case…
U.S. struggles to keep allies in fight against ISIS in Syria (The New York Times) At a high-level State Department meeting scheduled for Thursday, diplomats from 35 nations and international organizations will be asked to stick with the campaign to eradicate the extremist group even after its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed in an American raid last month. But confusion over the Trump administration’s policy in northeast Syria has discouraged allies, according to several diplomats, who said it has fomented doubt that whatever agreements are struck could be reversed by the president…
13 November 2019
Tags: India Lebanon Israel Turkey ISIS
Six members of the Carmelite order have joined the Gospel Journey Campaign that started in January 2018 in India. Pictured are Sisters Ginsa Rose, Princy Maria, Ann Ligy, Therese, Little Therese and Treasa Margret. (photo: CNS/Philip Mathew, Global Sisters Report)
Meeting with two Catholic nuns who were on a journey to spread the Gospel proved a turning point in the life of Mohan Kumar, a Hindu man in southern India’s Kerala state.
Sisters Little Therese and Treasa Margret of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel had gone to the 45-year-old alcoholic’s house as part of their Gospel Journey Campaign for spreading Jesus’ message and values to people of different faiths.
A week later, the nuns received a call from Kumar’s wife that her husband had stopped drinking and was acting more loving and kind to the family.
“We thanked God for the miraculous change in Kumar’s life and told the wife that we will continue to pray for her family,” Little Therese, 52, told Global Sisters Report.
For nearly two years, the Carmelite sisters have been on this journey of what they say is “radiating Gospel values on foot as Jesus did.” They walk with few possessions, expecting to live among people struggling with worldly and spiritual needs, in the pattern of Christ and his disciples.
Until May, the sisters, who go only by one or two given names, will be walking in the northeastern-most Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. From there they will go to the western Indian state of Maharashtra and one day hope to visit Mideastern and Asian nations.
The two nuns launched the campaign in Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese in early 2018 and visited Kumar, his wife and their two children at their home.
Sister Margret, 44, said they have many stories of alcoholics quitting their addictions to return to normal life, bringing joy to their families.
She recalled Kumar’s wife sharing many family problems during their talks. Her main worry was her husband’s heavy drinking, which consumed all his earnings.
“We tried to convince Kumar about the need for quitting drinking and taking care of his family. With the permission of the family, we also prayed in their house,” Sister Margret said.
The two nuns walk through towns and villages to evangelize, share the Gospel and teach Scripture among the most marginalized people of all religions. They include unorganized agricultural workers, low-wage urban laborers, the unemployed and tribal (Dalit) people in what was formerly India’s lowest caste.
They were joined in April 2018 by Carmelite Sisters Ginsa Rose, 51, and Therese, 43, and in January this year by Sisters Princy Maria, 55, and Ann Ligy, 60.
“We walk in pairs and talk to poor and marginalized people,” said Sister Little Therese. They also meet people who hang around in public places or sit in groups at coffee shops and share with them the Gospel and Jesus’ love.
Sister Little Therese said they have not faced any major challenges or obstacles during the campaign, although Hindu extremists opposed to Christianity have become more active in Kerala these days.
“Before we started the campaign, we had decided that, if any challenges or obstacles come our way, we would accept them with joy and go forward with courage,” she said as the other nuns nodded.
The people the nuns visit have only good words for them.
“I felt overwhelmed when the sisters shared the messages from the Bible and gave us a prayer card,” Sanjeev Rajan, 37, an auto-rickshaw driver, told Global Sisters Report.
He said the auto-rickshaw drivers are “very ordinary people” who were moved when the nuns spoke to them and prayed for them and their families.
Sister Little Therese said they follow Jesus’ command to his disciples when he sent them to villages in pairs.
“We carry a bag for keeping some essential things for daily use. We never carry any money or food. We survive with what people give us,” she added.
She said they take a two-day break during the week and spend the time in a nearby convent to pray and meditate and review their work. While traveling, they stay in homes that welcome them and eat what is given to them.
Once they are in a new region, Sister Margret said, they never use public or private transportation to move from one place to another.
“We go everywhere on foot, come rain or shine,” she said, and added, “God has been so gracious and merciful to us. None of us has fallen ill or felt tired of walking.”
Sister Ligy, a former teacher and the oldest of the six nuns, told Global Sisters Report she has a walking problem, “but that hasn’t stopped me from the campaign. I always felt that God is guiding me and giving me strength.”
The nuns make it a point to get the family’s permission before they pray for them.
“Once we visited a Muslim house. The mother insisted that we pray for them since she believes that Allah will listen to the prayers of people with pure hearts,” Sister Therese recalled.
According to their superior general, Sister Sibi, the vision of the campaign is based on the verse from the Gospel of St. Luke, “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
The congregation’s general council and Cardinal George Alencherry, major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, have approved the campaign.
After the campaign completed its first year in January, Cardinal Alencherry hailed the nuns for doing “amazing work.” He told them that more sisters from other congregations also want to join the campaign.
Archbishop George Njaralakatt of Tellicherry said the nuns on the Gospel campaign are role models for others. He said he prayed that more sisters will follow the six original travelers to reach out to people who have never known Jesus or the Gospel.
13 November 2019
Tags: India Sisters
Pope Francis greets a person as he leaves his general audience at the Vatican on 13 November 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope denounces violence against Jewish people (CNS) Pope Francis warned that violence against Jewish people, which reached a state of horror during World War II, is on the rise again. During his weekly general audience on 13 November, the pope reflected on the lives of Priscilla and Aquila, a first-century married couple who accompanied St. Paul in his ministry and were among the Jews expelled from Rome by Claudius Caesar…
Soldier kills man in Lebanon protest (AP) A local official for a Lebanese political party was shot dead by soldiers trying to open a road closed by protesters in southern Beirut late Tuesday, the army reported, marking the first death in 27 days of nationwide protests…
Mystery: thousands of birds found dead by India lake (CNN) It’s a mystery that has baffled officials in India. What killed more than 2,000 birds near the country’s largest inland lake? Locals spotted the carcasses on Sunday along the shores of Sambhar Salt Lake in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, Arun Prasad, the state’s Chief Conservator of Forests, told CNN Wednesday...
Ethiopian bishops lead prayers for peace (Vatican News) The annual peace prayers are an annual event promoted by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia to pray for peace, for the deceased, their families and all those affected in the conflicts that have taken place in Ethiopia…
Inside the world’s biggest Yazidi temple in Armenia (Al Jazeera) Armenia may be best known for its medieval-era monasteries, crumbling hilltop churches that feature in postcards and travel posters. But as of this fall, the small, landlocked nation of three million has a new religious landmark: the world’s largest Yazidi temple — Quba Mere Diwane…
Tags: India Armenia Jews Persecution Ethiopia’s Catholic Church