3 January 2019
In this image from 16 December, Metropolitan Epiphanius, newly elected head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, conducts a liturgy at St. Michael's Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine. Official recognition of this new church is causing conflict and division within Orthodoxy.
(photo: CNS/Valentyn Ogirenko, Reuters)
Official recognition of Ukrainian church roils Orthodox world (RNS) In a few days, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew, the foremost leader in the Eastern Christian church, is scheduled to recognize the newly founded Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Bartholomew plans to give the tomos, or the formal decree of autocephaly, to primate Metropolitan Epiphanius in an elaborate ceremony in Istanbul that coincides with one of the most important celebrations for Orthodoxy, the Epiphany. But not everyone in the Orthodox world will be celebrating with them…
Kerala paralyzed over protests (BBC) Violent protests have paralyzed the southern Indian state of Kerala after two women made history by entering a prominent Hindu temple. Schools across the state are closed and public transport too has been suspended. One person was killed in clashes on Wednesday. The Sabarimala temple was historically closed to women of “menstruating age” — defined as between 10 and 50. The Supreme Court revoked the ban in September, which prompted outrage…
Water crisis could make Gaza uninhabitable by 2020 (PBS) In the Gaza Strip, 97 percent of freshwater is unsuitable for human consumption, and raw sewage pours into the Mediterranean Sea. Facilities for desalinating and treating water function on only a limited basis, as Israel controls the flow of fuel and supplies into the region. But Israelis, too, could face consequences from contaminated water…
Israel’s new mayor plans to silence mosque loudspeakers (The National) Israel’s new mayor of Jerusalem is planning to push for the volume to be turned down on the city’s mosque loudspeakers during the call to prayer. Israeli television reports indicated that the move would be one of the first policy pushes by Moshe Lion after he won the municipal election in November, replacing hard-right mayor Nir Barkat…
Ethiopia pardons hundreds of prisoners amid Christmas celebrations (Xinhua Agency) The Ethiopian government on Wednesday announced amnesty to some 530 federal prisoners amid Ethiopia’s unique Christmas day celebrations. Prisoners were pardoned amid the unique Ethiopian Christmas, as the country prepares to mark the day on 7 January to remember the birth of Jesus Christ based on the traditions of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, state affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported on Wednesday…
2 January 2019
Tags: India Ethiopia Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Russian Orthodox Church
Pope Francis twirls a soccer ball presented by a member of CirCuba, the Cuban national circus, during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican on 2 January. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
2 January 2019
Tags: Pope Francis
Pope Francis kisses a figurine of the baby Jesus as he celebrates Mass marking the feast of Mary, Mother of God, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on 1 January.(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope prays for new year marked by tenderness, brotherhood, peace (CNS) A new year is a chance for a new start, a time to remember that all people are brothers and sisters and a time to nurture amazement that God became human to save all people, Pope Francis said. The 1 January feast of Mary, Mother of God, also is a time to remember how strong maternal love and care are, and how they are the secret to making life more livable, the pope said during his homily at a feast day Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica…
Indian cardinal spends Christmas with ’untouchables’ (Crux) Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, a leading voice for the rights of Dalit Christians, celebrated Christmas with the Dalit Community from the Cheetah Camp area of Trombay, Mumbai…
Mass grave of Ethiopian Christians killed by ISIS found in Libya (CNA) A mass grave of 34 Ethiopian Christians executed by the so-called Islamic State group in 2015 has reportedly been unearthed in Libya. The bodies have been exhumed and will be eventually repatriated to Ethiopia, the Libyan interior ministry says…
As Ukraine and Russia battle over Orthodoxy, schism looms (The New York Times) Ukraine is on the verge of opening the biggest schism in Christianity in centuries, as it breaks from the authority of a Moscow-based patriarch and this week expects to formally gain recognition for its own church, taking tens of millions of followers. Intensifying a millennium-old religious struggle freighted with 21st-century geopolitical baggage, Ukraine’s security services have in recent weeks interrogated priests loyal to Moscow, searched church properties and enraged their Russian rivals…
Cardinal Parolin visited Iraq for Christmas (Vatican News) From 24-28 December, the Vatican Secretary of State visited Iraq, viewed as a “very welcome visit” by the auxiliary bishop of Baghdad…
Syrian refugees in Lebanon fall deeper into debt (VOA) Syrian refugees in Lebanon are falling deeper into debt, with 2018 being the worst year yet, as more families marry off children to cope financially, according to a U.N. Report…
Top Vatican press officials resign (CNS) Saying they thought Pope Francis should be “completely free to assemble a new team” for Vatican communications “at this time of transition,” the director of the Vatican press office announced he and the vice director had resigned. Pope Francis accepted the resignations of Greg Burke and Paloma Garcia Ovejero, the press office announced on 31 December. The pope appointed Alessandro Gisotti, coordinator of social media at the Vatican Dicastery for Communication, to serve as interim director of the press office…
21 December 2018
Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Ukraine Russian Orthodox Church
Youth celebrate at a Christmas party for Iraqi refugees in Jordan in December 2014. (photo: CNEWA)
CNEWA’s blog content will return in January; in the meantime, we wish a happy and healthy holiday season to all, and a blessed new year.
21 December 2018
Tags: Iraqi Christians Jordan Iraqi Refugees
Catholic faithful gather to celebrate the parish feast of Holy Savior Church in Addis Ababa. Read more about the challenges facing the Ethiopian Catholic Church in a letter from Abba Teshome Fikre Woldetensae published in the December 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
21 December 2018
Tags: Ethiopia Ethiopian Christianity Ethiopian Catholic Church
People gather near a light display on 17 December, ahead of Christmas in Moscow. (photo: CNS/Tatyana Makeyeva, Reuters)
A “roofless crib” in Damascus (Fides) This year the task of preparing the Christmas Nativity scene in the Cathedral of Damascus was given to the youth who had started meeting together after eight years of violence and dispersion. In the representation of the Nativity, the figures of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and Infant Jesus in the manger are exposed outdoors, not covered by the roof of a stable or a hut. The youth have stated that this represents the 13,000,000 Syrian refugees who are homeless and have no roof of their own…
Syrian bishop: U.S. pull-out further step towards to ending the conflict (AsiaNews) The withdrawal of U.S. troops “is further confirmation that the conflict in Syria, albeit in a slow and laborious way, is heading towards an end,” says Chaldean Catholic Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo. The Jesuit and former president of Caritas Syria says he hopes the country now can seek a long-term solution…
Turkey’s Erdogan delays operation against Kurdish forces in Syria (Washington Post) Turkey will delay a planned offensive against Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday, citing talks with the U.S. president and other officials after the administration’s decision this week to withdraw all U.S. troops from the country…
U.S. genocide law triggers mixed feelings among Iraqis (Al Monitor) A new US law designed to protect religious minorities and punish the Islamic State for its atrocities is getting a mixed reception from Iraqis, who are uncertain about how it will be applied on the ground. Murad Ismael, the executive director of the Yazidi rights group Yazda, praised the Trump administration’s support for religious minorities as an “excellent principle.” Other groups, however, bristled at the new law’s focus on Yazidis and Christians. U.S.-based Mandaean activist Nazar al Haidar, for example, told Al Monitor that his community is not explicitly covered by the law…
Orthodox believers rally to protest Ukraine parliament vote (New Jersey Herald) Over 1,000 believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church rallied outside the country’s parliament Thursday to protest its demand that their church’s name is changed to reflect its ties to Moscow. Parliament passed a bill earlier Thursday demanding that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church explicitly indicate its link to the Moscow Patriarchate in its name. The Ukrainian church has been part of the Russian Orthodox Church for centuries, but a bitter tug-of-war following Russia’s annexation of Crimea has encouraged moves within Ukrainian orthodoxy to create a separate church with no direct links to Moscow…
Indian nun: Survivors ‘need to be heard’ at Vatican abuse summit (Crux) A Vatican summit on clerical sexual abuse from 21 to 24 February will emphasize the fact that “victims need to be heard,” says a member of pope’s main child protection organization. The crucial steps, says Indian Sister Arina Gonsalves, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, are to “recognize the truth of what has happened and … meet abuse survivors in their home country ahead of the February summit in order to learn firsthand the suffering that they have endured…”
20 December 2018
Tags: Syria Ukraine Sisters Yazidi
Susanna Akram conducts a class in sign language organized by the Better Life ministry. To learn more about this program and other efforts by the Coptic Catholic Church to nourish faith and community in Egypt, read Signs of Hope in the December 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Roger Anis)
20 December 2018
Tags: Egypt Education Disabilities Coptic Catholic Church
U.S. soldiers surveil the area during a combined joint patrol on 1 Nov in Manbij, Syria. (photo: CNS/Zoe Garbarino, U.S. Army handout via Reuters)
U.S. announces withdrawal of American troops from Syria (Vatican News) Announcing the pullout, U.S. President Donald Trump claimed American forces had defeated ISIS in Syria. “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” he said in a video address taped on the White House lawn…
Blindsided U.S. ally France to stay in Syria, Britain says ‘much remains to be done’ (Rudaw) France will not pull its forces out northeast Syria, a French minister said Thursday, after US President Donald Trump announced the immediate and complete withdrawal of American troops…
Climate change hits Indian farmers (UCAN India) The effects of climate change and unseasonal rains have been wreaking havoc on economically poor communities in India, says Purshutam Das, a social worker among farmers in New Delhi. “The crop yields have turned monstrous for the farmers across the country and they aren’t able to even feed their families because their crops are every year getting destroyed due to bad weather,” Das said…
Christian, Muslim leaders join Jordan’s king for Christmas celebration (Crux) As sectarian strife engulfs neighboring Mideast countries, Jordan’s King Abdullah II invited Catholic and other leaders to celebrate Christmas in the spirit of fraternity and harmony the holiday symbolizes… [Read more about this church here.]
Ancient Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church establishes congregations in Georgia and France (OCP Media Network) The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has opened new congregations in the European nations of Georgia and France. Metropolitan Mathew Mar Timotheus of the U.K., Europe and Africa celebrated Divine Liturgy at one of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Churches in Georgia. This ancient church is said to have been established by St. Thomas the Apostle. His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II is the current catholicos on the Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas in the East and the Metropolitan of Malankara…
19 December 2018
Tags: Syria India Jordan Syrian Conflict Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
The December 2018 edition of ONE is now online.
Christmas arrived early this year: we’ve just posted the December edition of ONE online. Look for it in your mailbox, soon!
This edition focuses on those we are calling “The Caregivers” — and within its pages you will find some of the many ways CNEWA works to extend care and compassion to those in need.
You will discover how a mobile clinic visits the marginalized Dalits in India, bringing them care and Healing the Forgotten.
We’ll take you to A Refuge in Lebanon serving Syrian refugees.
And you will see how compassionate caregivers in Ukraine offer the elderly Windows to the World.
To experience the powerful photography and award-winning journalism of ONE, read more of our digital magazine at this link. And check out Msgr. John E. Kozar’s video preview of the latest edition below.
Have a blessed Christmas!
19 December 2018
In this image from 2016, women light candles before attending Christmas Eve liturgy at the Melkite Catholic Cathedral in Damascus, Syria. (photo: CNS/Youssef Badawi, EPA)
All over the world in the places where CNEWA serves, Christians—Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant—next week will be celebrating Christmas. Earlier in the month Jews around the world celebrated Hanukkah. In different ways both Christmas and Hanukkah are festivals of light.
We human are at times odd creatures. Although we spend as much of our lives in darkness as in light, we are never quite comfortable with darkness. In the modern world we really don’t know what darkness is, other than the condition that exists before we turn on the lights. Blackouts, especially in big cities, become epic events and everyone remembers where they were “when the lights went out.”
For ancient peoples, darkness was far more powerful. What artificial light there was came from candles. While the wealthy might have many candles, the poor had few. When darkness set in, life changed. No one in the ancient world would consider themselves a “night person,” unless they were thieves or robbers.
In the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, light is a very important thing. Light is connected with divinity: God dwells in unapproachable light. In the highly sophisticated and even academic Nicean Creed Christ is proclaimed “Light of light.” The prophets often spoke of the people walking in darkness — and in describing the saving power of God, Isaiah (9:2) speaks of the people who walked in darkness seeing a great light, which is God. The psalmist (36:9) calls God the “fountain of light” and goes on to say “in your light we see the light.” Bonaventure, the great Franciscan saint and philosopher, spent a great deal of time thinking about what it means to say “in God’s light we see the light.”
Light and darkness also become metaphors for goodness and evil. One of the documents found among the Dead Sea scrolls was entitled “The Battle of the Children of Darkness with the Children of Light.” Light is good; darkness is not. Jesus himself is the light which enlightens his followers.
Hanukkah, which celebrates the rededication of the Temple after it was desecrated by the Seleucid Greek conquerors, recalls how the menorah was able to remain lit in the Temple for seven days, despite having enough oil for only one day. Hanukkah is for Jews the festival of lights par excellence.
Interestingly, while we Christians spend much of this season stringing lights and lighting candles to mark the birth of Christ, the New Testament is silent as to the time of year in which Jesus was born. It was something which just did not interest the Gospel writers, who were concerned with who Jesus was and what his teachings were. The overwhelming event of the Resurrection made things like the date and circumstances of Jesus’ birth quite secondary. In fact, two of the Gospels—Mark and John—do not mention it at all.
As Christianity took root and grew in the Roman Empire, converts from paganism were familiar with two very important pagan celebrations that took place around the winter solstice—the longest night of the year. Those feasts were the Saturnalia and the feast of Sol invictus, “the unconquerable sun.” These feasts were set at the darkest time of the year but also precisely at the winter solstice, after which the days started to become longer. Both of these festivals were extremely popular with Romans.
Not having a concrete date for the birth of Jesus, Christians opted to take the images of light overcoming darkness of the Roman festivals and to give them new meaning with the birth of Christ, the Light of the World.
As we Christians celebrate Christmas in our electrified world, it might be helpful to reflect a bit on darkness as something more powerful and frightening that merely having the switch off. When we see the darkness of war, suffering, racism, poverty and hatred in our world, the importance of light impresses us. The light of Christ dispels and overcomes that darkness.
In his light, the followers of Christ not only see the light but are ourselves called to become lights, to live in our world as enlightened and illuminating witnesses to the one whose birth we celebrate on Christmas.
Tags: Christianity Judaism