25 October 2018
Pope Francis greets Catholicos Karekin II, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, during a private audience on 24 October at the Vatican.
(photo: CNS/Vatican Media handout via Reuters)
25 October 2018
Archbishop Bernadito Auza serves as the Holy See's Permanent Observer at the United Nations. (photo: Vatican Media)
On 24 October every year the world observes United Nations Day. This week, then, offers us an opportunity reflect on the important work of this body—and the Holy See’s involvement in it. CNEWA, as an agency of the Holy See, has significant interest in what the United Nations does — and it often impacts our work.
The United Nations or the UN was formed in 1945 immediately after World War II. The planet had experienced two major wars within a 30-year period. It has been estimated that up to 80 million people died in both wars; cities were leveled, populations were displaced and there was unimaginable suffering. Although the horror of those wars ominously seems to have faded for many people, the UN was founded precisely to prevent war, which was then rightly seen as the worst of all possibilities for humanity.
The UN consists of three different groupings: the Member States, which includes the General Assembly and the Security Council; UN Agencies such as UNESCO, UNICEF, etc.; and civil societies which consists of Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who engage in advocacy for causes such as peace, disarmament, human rights, etc.
There are 193 sovereign member states at the UN. Each of these countries maintains a Permanent Mission to the UN in New York and often in Geneva. The head of the mission is the Permanent Representative, who holds the rank of ambassador and is often referred as such and such a country’s “ambassador to the UN.” All of these countries form the UN General Assembly (GA), which meets in plenary session every year in September but can meet at any other time. The GA works on issues that are before it on any number of issues, many of which result in conventions by which member states bind themselves by treaty to follow, maintain and enforce certain issues.
The UN Security Council (SC) consists of five permanent members (the P5): China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States, each of whom enjoys absolute veto power over measures brought to the Council. Ten member states are elected by the General Assembly to serve on the Council for two-year terms.
In addition to the 193 sovereign member states, the UN recognizes two Permanent Observer Missions: the Holy See and Palestine. The Holy See, which has diplomatic relations with 180 states, was admitted to Permanent Observer status in 1964 and to full Observer Status in 2004. With full Observer Status, the Holy See has all the rights of a member state in the General Assembly except the right to vote.
The Holy See has a Permanent Observer Mission and a Permanent Observer Representative at the UN. The Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the UN is an archbishop with the rank of Nuncio. The Holy See is an active and effective member of the UN community as it advocates for, among other things, peace, disarmament, ecological responsibility, quality of life issues and very many others. One recent example: just last month, on 25 September 2018 Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, addressed the UN General Assembly advocating for the abolition of the death penalty. Although the Holy See is not a full member of the General Assembly, it plays a visible and important role in promoting peace and justice issues, serving in some ways as the conscience of the body.
The present and sixth Permanent Observer Representative is Archbishop Bernadito Auza, who was appointed on 1 July 2014. Archbishop Auza has shown himself to be an expert in increasing the visibility and, hence, effectiveness of the Holy See at the UN, especially through timely, strategic and informative conferences and side events. Through his work, the Holy See is an active participant in the issues affecting the contemporary world.
CNEWA has been accredited as an NGO at the UN for three decades, and I have been working at the UN for over 12 years, seven of which have been for CNEWA. It has been a fruitful and fascinating partnership, as CNEWA works with other NGOs to promote peace and justice in the Middle East — working with topics such as children’s rights, refugees and freedom of religion.
As we mark United Nations Day this week, it is good to recall the vital work the UN undertakes on behalf of the global community — and remember, as well, how all of us in the Christian community are called to work for unity and peace.
25 October 2018
Tags: United Nations
Pope Francis greets an Iraqi auditor at the Synod of Bishops. Stories of anti-Christian persecution in Iraq and India, among other places, have stirred the participants at the Synod.
(photo: Vatican Media)
Stories of anti-Christian persecution stir the Synod (Crux) One topic above all stands out, which may be no surprise given that synods are always an education in the realities of the global Church: Anti-Christian persecution. The two most sustained ovations so far have been for an Iraqi youth and an Indian archbishop, both of whom recounted direct stories of suffering and persecution on account of the faith in the 21st century…
Scuffle at Church of the Holy Sepulchre sparks anger (AP) A scuffle between Israeli police and Coptic priests at a major Christian holy site in Jerusalem on Wednesday drew condemnation from Egypt and churches in the Holy Land. Police and Coptic priests wrangled outside a contested chapel at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected…
International Buddhist-Christian gathering for nuns pledges to foster understanding (Vatican News) The First International Buddhist-Christian Dialogue for Nuns that concluded last week in Taiwan pledged to foster mutual understanding and friendship among themselves in order to witness to others and bring hope and healing to those in need…
Ethiopia appoints first female president (The Washington Post) Ethiopia’s Parliament on Thursday approved the East African country’s first female president, Sahle-Work Zewde, a veteran of the United Nations and the diplomatic corps. The position of president is ceremonial in Ethiopia, with executive power vested in the office of the prime minister. But the appointment is deeply symbolic and follows up on last week’s cabinet reshuffle…
Pro-Hindu tribal people take over Indian church (UCANews.com) Pro-Hindu tribal people have removed a cross from a Protestant church and converted the building into their community hall in India’s Jharkhand state in a move that Christian leaders believe is linked to upcoming elections. Some 50 tribal people took down the cross from the Vishwa Vani (voice of the world) church in Khadnga village, 25 kilometers from state capital Ranchi, on 20 October. They also repainted the name as Sarna Bhavan — the house of those following the traditional tribal Sarna religion. They also held a purification ceremony and prayers at the church...
24 October 2018
Tags: India Iraq Ethiopia Coptic Christians
St. Barbara Mother and Child Care Center provides a safe haven for women facing domestic violence and homelessness. (photo: Molly Corso)
In the current edition of ONE magazine, photojournalist Molly Corso reports on a center in Georgia helping at-risk mothers and their children. Here are some additional reflections on her visit.
I arrived at Caritas Georgia’s St. Barbara Mother and Child Care Center in Tbilisi early one Saturday, curious to see how the five women and seven children living there would spend the weekend.
I don’t really know what I was expecting, but the scene before me in the kitchen was not unusual: a mother balancing her baby on her hip as she went about the business of making breakfast, one hand securely around her child, the other stirring a pot or warming a bottle.
It is a balancing act played out every morning in thousands of kitchens around Georgia, and likely around the world: One eye on the child, one eye on the pot.
That image of the mother balancing her duties and her child stayed with me — in part, because the center itself is a bit of an extension of the country’s own attempts to find a balance.
Georgia is actively seeking to balance he resources of a poor state and the needs of its population. Even more so, it is attempting to find balance between its strong traditions and the painful truths of the modern world.
Everywhere in Georgia today you feel it. It is visible in the tug-of-war between honoring the past and working toward the future; it is palpable in the political debate over how far the government can, or should, go to protect minority rights — or care for women locked in abusive relationships.
Over the past several years, the veils of family honor and shame that traditionally masked domestic abuse have begun to slip. Horrific cases of murder and violence have forced the issue, once hidden, into the spotlight of media attention and political debate.
The good news is that the attention has brought results. The bad news is, as always, that attention to the issue has also underscored its scope: how widespread domestic abuse and violence against women really is in the country — and how hard it is to stop.
All this has forced the government into its own balancing act in terms of whom to help and how much to help them.
For the five mothers living at Caritas Georgia’s St. Barbara Mother and Child Care Center in Tbilisi, how well the government managed that balance had become an issue of immediate importance.
In the women’s own lives, the act of balancing their needs and those of their children had become an everyday process of weighing decisions and consequences that had life or death repercussions.
To remain at home or keep their child? To stay with an abusive partner or seek an uncertain future? To risk a new life alone, or remain locked in a cycle of violence?
For the women and children living at the Caritas center, at least, the act of balancing life and child has gotten much easier.
For one year, those living there are safely buffered from many of the problems that had plagued them. Caritas, in partnership with government programs, provides material care and psychological help for the women and children under their protection. It helps them use the law to defend themselves from abusive partners, find free childcare, get an education for a future job and last, but certainly not least, begin the process of unraveling the years of abuse and shame.
The women are different ages, come from different backgrounds and have different stories. But each shares one common truth: the St. Barbara Mother and Child Care Center is a last resort of sorts, a temporary safe haven to take stock of their lives and attempt to start again, to create a future — still balancing their roles as mother and caregiver but standing on firmer ground.
But at the end of the year, it is time for the women to take another step onto the high wire, balancing their children on one hip and the weight of their responsibilities on the other.
Not all of them make it, but the ones who do — those who have either found peace and security with families ready to accept them (and their children) or have committed to the hard work of surviving as a single parent — are able to because of the year gifted to them by Caritas Georgia.
That time offers a short step back to safe ground to regroup, readjust, and plot a path ahead.
Read Molly Corso’s story about Confronting Abuse of Women in Georgia in the September 2018 edition of ONE.
24 October 2018
Children in a rural village greet Msgr. John Kozar on his August 2017 pastoral visit to India.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
24 October 2018
The video above shows the aftermath of recent U.S.-led attacks in Syria. A monitoring group says such attacks over the last four years have claimed the lives of more than 3,200 civilians. (video: RT/YouTube)
Report: U.S.-led forces have killed more than 3,200 Syrian civilians (PressTV.com) A so-called monitoring group says more than 3,200 civilians have lost their lives ever since the US-led coalition purportedly fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group launched its aerial bombardment campaign in the conflict-plagued Arab country more than four years ago. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Thursday that as many as 3,222 civilians have been killed in the air raids…
How Syrian refugees strain—and strengthen—Jordan (The Christian Science Monitor) The influx of 1.3 million Syrians since 2012, including 130,000 students, has put Jordan’s cash-strapped schools, hospitals, housing, roads, and water networks under tremendous stress. And international donor fatigue is leaving the kingdom to face these challenges alone. But despite cuts in services and increased competition for jobs, Jordanians have until now remained sympathetic to their neighbors’ plight, carrying the added burden with few complaints…
Jerusalem’s mayor makes rare visit to refugee camp (The Times of Israel) Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat visited the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem on Tuesday as part of his drive to push the United Nation’s Palestinian refugee organization out of the capital and replace its operations with municipal services. Barkat met with city sanitation workers who entered the Palestinian neighborhood for the first time ever to carry out trash removal and other cleaning services…
India refuses to ban firecrackers during religious holidays (UCANews.com) India’s Supreme Court has refused to impose a blanket ban on firecrackers but has restricted their use during festivities including Christmas and New Year. The top court on 23 October permitted the use of firecrackers with reduced emission and decibel levels during festivals when Indians usually burst them as an expression of joy…
Turkey helps draw visitors to ancient Ethiopian mosque (Daily Sabah) Located in the town of Wuqro, 790 kilometers (over 490 miles) north of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, Al-Nejashi is said to be the first mosque in Africa. It is named after Nejashi, the then Ethiopian king who hosted companions of the Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him) who escaped persecution in Mecca…
23 October 2018
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Jordan
The interior of this church at Mt. Carmel has been renovated, with new lighting and an improved sound system provided by CNEWA. (photo: CNEWA)
Last week, Laura Schau-Tarazi, in our Jerusalem office, sent us this picture with a note:
On 14 October, CNEWA’s regional director in Jerusalem, Joseph Hazboun, attend the celebration at the Church of the Carmelite Sisters of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Haifa, for the consecration of the newly renovated church and altar.
CNEWA generously covered the costs to improve the interior lighting and sound system of the church, which has helped complete the entire renovation project.
The Monastery Notre Dame du Mont Carmel has a beautiful old church that serves as a venue for local ceremonies and celebrations of the feasts of the order. It also serves as a place of solace and reflection for spiritual retreats. Many weddings and baptisms by the local Christian community are also held at the church.
The church required significant rehabilitation work to the interior of the building, as it suffered from significant damage from water and weather over many years. Additionally, the ground floor became uneven . Most recently, the church tiles were repaired, damage from humidity was treated, and the altar was restructured to meet the needs of the cloistered sisters and the local community.
Despite these changes, the sisters still required funds to improve the interior lighting, which was often too dim. It frequently malfunctioned during events and consumed a lot of electricity. (It is important to note that the sisters had already selected for this work, Melloncelli, an Italian firm that visited the Monastery and designed a lighting system for the church, without taking any charges for the design).
The lighting and sound system provided by CNEWA have significantly reduced electricity consumption and improved the quality of worship in the church.
Thank you to our generous donors, who have helped to bring light to the faithful in the Holy Land — literally! Projects such as these help support the prayerful good work of religious sisters, serve to enhance the spiritual experience for so many, while also giving honor to our Lord and his Blessed Mother.
23 October 2018
Tags: Holy Land
Ukrainian Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of Kiev-Halych, arrives for a session of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican on 23 October. The archbishop says the recent split in the Orthodox Church will harm ecumenical dialogue. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
UN: 88 percent of Syrian refugees want to return home (The Daily Star) The head of the U.N. agency for refugees in Lebanon has said that 88 percent of Syrian refugees residing in Lebanon want to return to their homeland, the state-run National News Agency reported Sunday. The UNHCR official, Mireille Girard, suggested that the main reasons preventing Syrians from returning are practical, security concerns, and have nothing to do with the question of political settlement in Syria or the need to rebuild homes…
Jordan economy groans under weight of refugee crisis (The Irish Times) Jordan faces “a severe debt crisis due to low economic growth as a result of closed borders, reduced international assistance and low economic productivity”, states Dr Mary Kawar, Jordan’s minister of planning and international cooperation…
Moscow’s veto on Catholic/Orthodox dialogue may be slipping away (Crux) In a recent interview with Crux, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Ukraine, head of the country’s Greek Catholic Church, said “this step by the Church of Constantinople has destroyed certain schemes of ecumenical dialogue that took hold during the time of the Cold War…”
Kerala to distribute crops, free seeds to flood-hit families (IANS)Two months after floods caused havoc in Kerala and flattened major standing crops, the state government has decided to distribute crop inputs, particularly seeds, as a part of the rehabilitation package for affected farmers…
Business hopes and refugee woes after Ethiopia-Eritrea peace deal (Al Jazeera) While the border reopening has seen business boom in border towns in both countries, the number of migrants and refugees from Eritrea to Ethiopia has grown, with many citing Eritrea’s struggling economy, continuing indefinite conscription and political repression…
Swim team braves polluted waters off Gaza (GulfNews.com) On one of the world’s most polluted coastlines, 30 young Palestinians dive head first into the sea off the Gaza Strip, their minds filled with dreams of Olympic glory. Aged between 11 and 16, they make up a rare swimming club in the Palestinian enclave, and perhaps its only mixed-sex one. Coach Amjad Tantish talks through a warm-up before they race from the trash-strewn beach into the sea as he continues to bark instructions…
22 October 2018
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank Russian Orthodox Church
The Trippadam Psychosocial Rehabilitation Center offers Indian women in need a safe, loving home. Read how CNEWA reaches out to them and so many others in the September 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
22 October 2018
Tags: India CNEWA
St. Paul VI left an enduring legacy on the Holy Land. (photo: CNS)
For Holy Land Christians, St. Paul VI left behind a legacy of Catholic institutions to serve and strengthen the community.
On a more personal level, for two Catholic families living in the Old City of Jerusalem, he left behind a special blessing and a relic which has taken on more significance for them after his canonization by Pope Francis on 14 October.
During his January 1964 visit to the Old City, which then was under Jordanian rule, St. Paul VI made a spontaneous stop to the home of a sick man to hear his confession. Upon leaving the man’s home, he was received with a traditional cup of coffee from Fairuz Orfali and greeted by Laila Soudah, neighbors who shared the same courtyard.
The Orfali family has kept the plain white cup safely stored in a felt-lined glass and wooden box while the Soudahs have photographs of the visit.
After the pope took a symbolic sip of the coffee, Orfali, in the old local tradition of welcoming honored guests, poured the remains of the coffee at the pope’s feet.
The cup remains as it was: coffee grounds still at the bottom and around its side.
“It gives me chills now, especially that he has been canonized,” said Soudah’s daughter, Hania, 52, who had not yet been born during the visit. Her oldest sister Hanady was blessed by the future saint as were others in the courtyard.
“This was the first visit of a pope to the Holy Land. My grandparents, mother, father, our neighbors welcomed him in the traditional way. This is now something to be passed down generations of our family,” Hania said.
“Who am I that the pope should come to visit us?” her father, Issa, 84, said as he leafed through a folder with photographs of the visit. “We moved flower pots so there would be room. We were very honored he visited our house.”
During the visit, St. Paul VI called for the establishment of social rehabilitation and development projects. His call eventually led to the founding of Bethlehem University, Ephpheta Institute for hearing-impaired children, Tantur Ecumenical Institute, and Notre Dame of Jerusalem Pilgrimage Center.
As early as the 1940s, the future pope -- Msgr. Giovanni Battista Montini -- in his capacity as Pope Paul XII’s assistant responsible for displaced Palestinian refugees, had championed the Pontifical Mission Society’s relief efforts and continued to do so throughout his papacy.
At a November 1948 meeting in the Vatican, Msgr. Montini named the head of Catholic Near East Welfare Association at the time, Msgr. Thomas J. McMahon, to lead a papal mission specifically for displaced persons in Palestine which became the Pontifical Mission for Palestine. Pope Pius entrusted the mission to CNEWA.
As pope, he continued to show a deep commitment to CNEWA’s work by beginning his pontificate with the historic trip to the Holy Land, which he called a “pilgrimage of prayer and penance.”
“He wanted to establish such institutions that would help empower the situation of the local (Christian) community in the Holy Land,” said Joseph Hazboun, CNEWA regional director in Jerusalem.
The apostolic delegate in Jerusalem at the time, then-Father Pio Laghi, was a close friend of the pope and teamed with CNEWA and other organizations to make the pontiff’s ideas a reality.
“At that time, we were under Jordan rule with a majority of Muslims so for us these were very important,” said John Orfali, Laila Soudah’s son. “It made us feel that we belong here.”
The establishment of the Bethlehem University provided for the first time a school of higher learning for young Palestinians so they would not have to go abroad to study and boost emigration. The three other organizations continue their original mission, Hazboun said.
The initiatives St. Paul VI promoted testified to his belief in the church as an instrument of reconciliation and hope, CNEWA said in a statement about the canonization.
“St. Pope Paul VI left a large legacy and an example for many to follow in his quiet and humble way,” Hazboun said. “Really what we need now is humble people who can set aside the difficulties and disagreements that have accumulated over 1,000 years creating divisions which are due to political issues rather than theological issues. The unfortunate division still continues making it difficult to achieve unity.”
A year following his pilgrimage, Pope Paul VI issued the groundbreaking declaration “Nostra Aetate” on relations of the church to non-Christian religions.
“He was the continuation of the revolution but a completely different personality,” Rabbi David Rosen, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Department of Interreligious Affairs, said of St. Paul VI. He noted that most Israelis -- unfairly in his opinion -- have a mixed response to St. Paul VI’s Holy Land visit because he refused to meet with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem and met them instead in the northern city of Megiddo.
“It was seen as a great thing by Israel, but as it did not lead to anywhere, no establishment of relations, there was a sense in Israel of a letdown,” Rabbi Rosen explained. “With the rapid pace of Pope John XXIII, there had been expectations which were not met. But I feel he really tried to move forward.”
He delivered a warm speech in Megiddo, said Rabbi Rosen, testing the waters but needing to be cautious because there was negative reaction from the Arab world. Still, in 1974, he established the Pontifical Commission for Relations with the Jews.
CNEWA also recalled the new saint’s desire to bring unity across religious lines.
“We remain deeply grateful for the love and passion he brought to his papacy, and which he shared so selflessly with the suffering peoples in the Holy Land, a place now so fraught with division, hardship and violence,” CNEWA said it its statement. “So many of those we serve need his prayerful intercession now, more than ever.”
The video below, from British Pathé, shows highlights of Paul VI’s historic 1964 pilgrimage to the Holy Land.