6 November 2019
The Vatican has announced the Holy Father’s prayer intention for November, and publicized it with the video below.
The full message:
In the Middle East, concord and dialogue among the three monotheistic religions is based on spiritual and historic bonds.
The Good News of Jesus, risen out of love, came to us from these lands.
Today, many Christian communities, together with Jewish and Muslim communities, work here for peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness.
Let us pray that a spirit of dialogue, encounter, and reconciliation emerge in the Middle East.
The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network of the Apostleship of Prayer developed “The Pope Video” initiative to assist in the worldwide dissemination of monthly intentions of the Holy Father in relation to the challenges facing humanity.
21 October 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Middle East
Members of the Habib family stand outside a store they have recently rebuilt in Qaraqosh.
(photo: Raed Rafei)
In the current edition of ONE, reporter Raed Rafei revisits Iraq, two years after the defeat of ISIS, and writes of how Iraqi Christians are facing the future with Resolve. He has some additional reflections on the people he met:
It was a blazing hot August Sunday. The streets of Qaraqosh, the largest Christian enclave in Northern Iraq, were mostly empty. Compared to my last trip two years ago, there were some repaired and freshly painted homes here and there. But overall, despite the signs of improvement, heavy destruction caused by the liberation war from ISIS almost three years ago was still visible. Pockmarked walls, collapsed ceilings, piles of rubble, scorched buildings were common sights across this once thriving town.
The people I talked to during my visit to Iraq as a reporter were generally relieved to be back to their homes and felt relatively safe, but the weight of the economic crisis and uncertainties about the future were noticeable in their worried faces and resonated during the silent moments of our conversations.
As the sun started to set, I could see groups of people of all ages flocking to the Church of Saints Behnam and Sarah. Despite the difficult circumstances, it was heartwarming to see how elegantly dressed the men and women of Qaraqosh were for the Sunday Mass. To secure the area, the streets around the church were blocked for vehicles by the Nineveh Plain Protection Units, a Christian Assyrian military organization formed after the invasion by ISIS. The service was being held in a makeshift tent in the church’s courtyard because the main hall was still under reconstruction. The fallen bell tower was a stark reminder of the recent tragedy of displacement. Nevertheless, I felt a sense of hope witnessing how packed the area was and the disarming simplicity of returnees resuming age-old cultural traditions.
The next morning, reality hit again. Members of a Shiite militia supported by Iran had blocked roads leading to Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region, to protest attempts by the government to integrate them into the Iraqi army. This was a testimony to the fragility of the situation. A vibrant, well-built local man in his late 20’s came in his gym apparel to the monastery where I had spent the night. He was going to drive me out of Qaraqosh. On the road, he told me about his taxi business and a restaurant he owned and managed. Despite economic difficulties, he said he was trying hard since his return to Qaraqosh to rebuild a life for his wife and his young daughter. I was impressed with his entrepreneurial spirit in a country where most people rely on governmental jobs.
After driving for two hours under an intense sun through alternative dirt roads to bypass the blocked highway, I was able to reach my hotel in Erbil. That night, I received a call from my driver. With a desperate voice, he asked me if I could help him find work as a concierge in Lebanon. He said he wanted to apply from there for asylum in Australia where some of his family resides. I was surprised and perplexed by his unexpected call. Compared to all the people I had talked to, he seemed to be doing well.
I answered him, reluctantly, “I will see what I can do but I can’t make any promises.” I wanted to help but with Lebanon’s ailing economy overburdened by a large number of refugees, it would be very difficult for him to find a job there.
He said that sadly, no matter how successful he was, he felt that as a young Christian man, there was no future for him and his small family in Iraq.
Read more about the plight of Iraqi Christians in the September 2019 edition of ONE.
18 October 2019
Tags: Iraqi Christians
Migrants from the Philippines are starting over in Jordan, with support from the local church.
(video: Nader Daoud)
The current edition of ONE features a look at migrants from the Philippines making a new home in Jordan, with the help and support of the Catholic Church. Journalist Dale Gavlak here offers some additional impressions of the people she met:
It seems that you almost can’t go anywhere in the western part of the Jordanian capital, Amman, without running into a guest worker from the Philippines.
They are everywhere. Although I’ve had the pleasure of knowing some who have worked for friends, I felt a whole new world open before me as I got to know two very special Filipina women with the Teresian Association who provide support and counsel to their many fellow country people navigating work and family challenges in Jordan.
Indeed, the Teresians are like “godmothers” to the Filipino community, says Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s regional director in Amman.
I recall first meeting Elisa Estrada when she welcomed me at the front door of the Annunciation Roman Catholic Church. Her lovely, warm, and engaging smile immediately put me at ease. I’m sure she has this same calming effect on everyone she meets. Afterwards, scores of us joined hands all across the aisles to say the Lord’s Prayer.
“For all the people in the church, you just hold their hand and I ask, ‘Jesus, put your hands in my hands. Whatever the person needs, provide that,’“ Elisa says.
At the end of the service, we enjoy a delicious communal lunch featuring Filipino specialties at the Pontifical Library Cultural Center, where I am introduced to many Filipinas working in Jordan. It’s also a festive celebration of the parish priest Father Gerald’s birthday, including song and heartfelt prayer and thanks.
“I have baked thousands of cakes to celebrate the gift of life because these domestic helpers are unable to bake their cakes in the households where they serve,” says Elisa of celebrations involving birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries. “It’s the time that I can share the beauty of life. By using the illustration of the cake as well, I have an opportunity to speak.”
She points to the ingredients needed to make a cake. Taken individually, she says, they won’t taste good. ”It the same with us, if we work together, if there is unity, life will be beautiful,” Elisa says.
“I always tell Jesus, when I face somebody, please put your words in my mouth and open their heart. I ask Him, “When I speak, make it no longer me, but You speaking through me,” she explains.
Sharabeth Rosqeta, 35, from Cabaruan Quirino Isabela, Philippines, says she sought work in Jordan because her family is poor.
“We are 10 children, and I’m the youngest. I come to the Center every Friday because it’s a big help for me and I learn a lot. I was baptized here at the age of 23 with confirmation and communion following,” Sharabeth says. “I have been able to learn more about my faith and Jesus.”
The other Teresian, Amabel Sibug, has taught Sharabeth to play the guitar as well as how to budget her finances effectively.
“We celebrate as a family. This is the most important thing that they feel: I belong,” says the energetic Teresian. ”Welcome to the family, we are glad that you have come to share your life with us where we can learn to love and to pray, as well as to be strong and to lean on each other,” says Amabel.
”For us, the gift of our vocation is that we give up everything to share the love of Jesus,” Elisa adds. “Thanks to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association for sponsoring us for our activities. “
Read more about those making a new home In a Land of Refugees in the September 2019 edition of ONE.
4 April 2019
A Daughter of Charity cares for orphans at the Crèche in Bethlehem. (photo: Samar Hazboun)
In the latest edition of ONE, writer Diane Handal reports on the exceptional work undertaken by three groups of religious sisters in the Holy Land. Below, she describes how her journey began, as she arrived in Israel.
I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport from Istanbul, awaiting the last leg of the trip: Tel Aviv to Jerusalem’s Old City.
The blue-and-white flag of Israel with the Star of David was everywhere as I walked toward passport control.
I took the shuttle bus down to Jerusalem with half a dozen other travelers. We drove by the green rolling hills of Ma’ale Adumim, about four miles from Jerusalem, an urban Israeli settlement and city in the West Bank. In 2015, the population was close to 38,000.
A religious sister from the Ukraine in a white habit with a red cross embroidered on her veil sat across from me and a young man from Vancouver sat beside me; it was his first visit to the Holy Land. The three of us departed at the Jaffa Gate only to find we were at the bottom of the huge wall and had to climb up to the actual gate with our baggage. I asked the driver why he left us below and his reply was that it would cost 50 more shekels (about $14) to be taken to the gate. The ride from the airport was $20. I wanted to scream.
The sister helped me carry my two bags and a stranger grabbed her bags and we trekked up together.
This was her second trip to the Holy Land and she said she was with the Russian church, which I believe was the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky.
Jaffa Gate was bustling with tourists and families who came to hear a classical music concert next to a huge Menorah with bright blue lights.
I dragged my bags to my hotel on one of the narrow winding stone streets of the Old City, and later went in search of a new shawarma place in the Christian Quarter, said to be better than my favorite in Bethlehem, Abu Ali.
I walked for a half hour through the narrow stone passages with their uneven steps that were slippery from the pouring rain. Merchants on both sides were standing in front of their stalls of pottery, religious artifacts, embroidered Palestinian dresses, jewelry, spices, fresh orange and pomegranate juice; some were using a broom to sweep the water back.
Every shopkeeper I asked sent me in a different direction. But eventually, I did find Maria’s and was greeted with “Ahlan wa Sahlan,” (Welcome) by Jack, the owner. He named the restaurant after his daughter Maria whom he had lost.
A young German couple from Berlin was sitting at a table. They had just come from Tel Aviv and were surprised by the high prices, even the hostels. They loved Jack’s shawarma, as did I.
The following day, I went to Bethlehem. It was cold, raining, and very windy. The sky was a steel gray, matching the wall that surrounds the city, only brightened by colorful graffiti. International graffiti artists include the anonymous Bansky, also a political activist and film director. His street art and subversive sayings combine dark humor with graffiti using a unique stenciling technique.
For Israelis, this is a security wall, which they claim protects them from Palestinian attackers trying to enter Israel.??For Palestinians, this is the reality: a concrete wall, stretching over 430 miles, a 25-foot high cement barrier representing what they see as apartheid.
I visited the Crèche (Holy Family Children’s Home) in Bethlehem, the only orphanage in the West Bank run by the Daughters of Charity.
When I walked into the nursery, about a dozen cribs lined the wall with colorful mobiles over each. My heart sank. Most of the babies were sleeping; a few were whimpering.
At the far right corner were two babies tucked under pink blankets who were 10 days old. Their mother had been sexually abused by male relatives and was in hiding for fear of being killed for ”dishonoring” her family.
In the middle of the cribs was a little baby girl whose mother was 14 years old; the mother had also been sexually abused by a family member. At the far left, a little baby named Nadia was lying on her stomach. She had brown hair and her big brown eyes darted back and forth. She had been left on the street by her mother.
My heart ached for these innocent babies, thinking of what lies ahead for each of them in this very conservative Middle Eastern culture where adoption is forbidden under Islamic law.
On the way to the checkpoint, I stopped at the Bansky Museum inside “The Walled Off Hotel,” which he owns.
The hotel offers guests “the ugliest view in the world,” a novelty. Looking out from the windows of the lobby or one of the rooms, one is forced to face “The Separation Wall.”
And then, it was on to the checkpoint and young heavily-armed Israeli soldiers checking papers and passports and, asking many questions.
Read more about sisters Seeing the Face of Jesus in the March 2019 edition of ONE.
15 February 2019
Tags: Jerusalem Daughters of Charity
Even if Christians struggle to recognize him with his “torn clothes (and) dirty feet,” Jesus is present in the migrants and refugees who seek safety and a dignified life in a new land, Pope Francis said.
If Jesus’ words, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me,” are true, the pope said, then “we must begin to thank those who give us the opportunity for this encounter, namely, the ‘others’ who knock on our doors, giving us the possibility to overcome our fears in order to encounter, welcome and assist Jesus in person.”
Pope Francis spoke about overcoming fear and welcoming others during a Mass he celebrated 15 February at a church-run retreat and conference center in Sacrofano, about 15 miles north of Rome.
The Mass was part of a conference titled, “Welcoming Communities: Free of Fear,” which was sponsored by the Italian bishops’ office for migration, Caritas Italy and Jesuit Refugee Service’s Centro Astalli. The 500 participants included representatives of parishes, religious orders and Catholic-run agencies assisting migrants and refugees, as well as individual families who host newcomers.
At a time when Italy’s government is trying to severely restrict immigration, Caritas Italy said the meeting was designed to encourage those working with migrants and refugees and to counteract fear of migration by highlighting how individuals and the entire country benefit from welcoming them.
At a Mass on Friday, Pope Francis preached about the necessity of welcoming migrants and refugees. (video: CNS/YouTube)
The prayers of the faithful, most of which were read by migrants, included asking God to help pastors educate all Catholics to welcome migrants and refugees and to help government leaders promote tolerance and peace. Ending, as is traditional, with a prayer for the dead, the petitions made special mention of people who were killed for their faith.
In his homily, Pope Francis noted how the ancient Israelites had to overcome their fear of crossing the Red Sea and trust God in order to make it to the promised land. And, when the disciples were on the lake in a storm, Jesus told them to not be afraid and assured them he was there with them.
“The Lord speaks to us today and asks us to allow him to free us of our fear,” the pope said.
“Fear is the origin of slavery,” just as it was for the ancient Israelites, he said, “and it is also the origin of every dictatorship because, on the fear of the people, the violence of the dictator grows.”
Of course, the pope said, people naturally are afraid of what they don’t understand and of strangers who speak another language and have another culture. The Christian response is not to play on those fears, but to educate people and help them turn strangers into friends.
“We are called to overcome fear and open ourselves to encounter,” he said. “The encounter with the ‘other,’ then, is also an encounter with Christ. He himself told us this. It is he who knocks on our door hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick and imprisoned, asking to be met and assisted.”
Pope Francis asked Catholics who have had “the joy” of assisting migrants and refugees to “proclaim it from the rooftops, openly, to help others do the same, preparing themselves to encounter Christ and his salvation.”
14 February 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Migrants
Through countless efforts across Egypt, the Coptic Catholic Church — although numerically small — works tirelessly to elevate lives and promote the flourishing of communities. The challenges are great, particularly when serving those who are marginalized.
But some of the success stories offer inspiration and, in so many ways, signs of hope.
Video produced by Roger Anis for CNEWA.
Learn more about the remarkable work underway in Egypt in Signs of Hope in the December 2018 edition of ONE.
10 December 2018
Tags: Egypt Coptic
The CNEWA team visited St. Lawrence Martyr Parish in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Last weekend, our little CNEWA team hit the road once again, this time heading to Hanover, Maryland in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. There, we spent time at St. Lawrence Martyr Parish, where I had the privilege of preaching at all the Masses and sharing the story of CNEWA’s work in the Middle East, particularly among refugees and those who have faced religious persecution.
The parish is staffed by the Order of the Most Holy Trinity, or Trinitarians — a group of priests and brothers founded by St. John de Matha. They trace their roots all the way back to the 12th century. The order has a special charism to the imprisoned — especially those imprisoned for their faith — and the parish in Maryland has a lay ministry devoted to this, known as SIT:
In 1999, the Trinitarian Order established an organization within their order called SIT (Solidaridad Internacional Trinitaria or Trinitarian International Solidarity) that focuses on our fellow Christians who suffer persecution because of their commitment to Christ and His Church. In October 2015, we started SIT St. Lawrence at the parish level to try and bring awareness and assistance to the persecuted Christians around the world.
It was this group, under the leadership of parishioner Matt Behum, that welcomed us to the parish and gave us the opportunity to share our story at the Masses.
Matt Behum, center, welcomed Chris Kennedy (l) and Deacon Greg Kandra (r) to the parish.
Deacon Greg preached at all the Masses over the weekend and shared stories about CNEWA's work among persecuted Christians. (photo: CNEWA)
The people in the pews were eager to learn more and my colleague, development associate Chris Kennedy, was only too happy to share information, literature and copies of our award-winning magazine, ONE.
CNEWA's Chris Kennedy greeted parishioners after the Masses. (photo: CNEWA)
It was a wonderful weekend. We’re grateful to the faith community at St. Lawrence for their warn welcome. We want to thank in particular the Trinitarians— the Rev. Binoy Akkalayil, O.SS.T. and the pastor, the Rev. Victor Scocco, O.SS.T.—for their generous hospitality and fellowship.
Father Binoy, Deacon Greg, Chris Kennedy and Father Victor. (photo: CNEWA)
During this season of Advent, it was especially meaningful to speak about bringing the light of Christ into the world through our mission and our ministry, and to remind people of the ongoing suffering of so many of our brothers and sisters around the world. We continue to lift them up in prayer.
We’re always eager to spread the word about CNEWA’s work and let others know how they can make a difference. If you would like us to visit your parish or group, please drop Chris Kennedy a line: email@example.com.
St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Hanover, Maryland. (photo: CNEWA)
7 December 2018
Tags: Syria Iraq ISIS Persecution
CNEWA will be visiting St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Hanover, Md. this weekend.
CNEWA is heading to scenic Maryland this weekend (my home state!) where I’ll be preaching at all the Masses about CNEWA’s work. We'll be at St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Hanover, Maryland in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. I’ll be traveling with my colleague Christopher Kennedy from our development department.
Can’t make it Sunday? We’ll be giving a special presentation about CNEWA after the 5 p.m. Mass on Saturday.
It’s a great privilege to be able to share our story — particularly during this beautiful time of year, Advent, when our hearts are anticipating the joy of Christmas and are uplifted by the hope of Christ’s coming.
I had a chance to talk about that and more with Christopher Gunty, editor of Baltimore’s Catholic Review, on the archdiocese’s radio program Catholic Baltimore. You can give a listen to that right here.
We love visiting churches or groups around the country to speak about our mission. Can we pay you a visit? Just drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
Meantime, see you in Maryland!
7 November 2018
This week, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, received a letter from a longtime friend and partner in the Middle East, Samir Nassar, the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus, Syria.
The note featured this image of a praying St. John Paul II:
Inside was this message:
Archbishop Nassar also included a letter with this poignant plea:
IS SYRIA A FORGOTTEN LAND?
It is often said that the Syrian war is the worst and most cruel seen by the world since the Second World War.
The fact that seemingly much of the violence has died down has made us wonder if Syria is remembered at all by most of the world…what a chaotic scene:
600,000 dead with only some buried in dignity and many others in collective graves. All this has meant that many families live in perpetual sorrow and emotional instability.
200,000 have disappeared, including two bishops and four priests; this has made life a nightmare for those who grieve for their loved ones — parents, friends and the churches who have no news of them.
13,000,000 refugees — a very heavy burden as a consequence of this world war game on the Syrian territory…whole populations who suffer in silence and despair. Bitterness and a loss of meaning to life…a broken people, scattered and searching for a future.
95,000 hands cut off, feet amputated or paralyzed in a country which is ill-prepared to handle these sorts of problems alone, and the subsequent psychological and health consequences.
2,500,000 dwellings demolished or destroyed.
Local currency is valueless and inflation has risen alarmingly; the exodus of the young has marked the remaining hopes for future growth.
Faced with these scenes of desolation in the church in Syria, I cannot fall into the role of a mere spectator. The church is a strong witness of the Spirit and the Light which it brings. She is a sign of the Presence and a witness in the domain of health care, education, pastoral work with the young, family support, accompanying fragile families and supporting in every way the less fortunate. All of this is done in the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation.
If the world has forgotten Syria, the Lord is watching over her and will not let the boat flounder!
He added a personal handwritten note, too:
Thank you, dear Msgr. Kozar, for the mission of CNEWA in Syria. Our problems are too heavy. Please pray for us. We prepare for Christmas with a heavy Calvary. God bless you for all that you did and do.
Please do not let Syria become a "forgotten land." Their needs are great. Remember them in your prayers.
7 November 2018
U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien, grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, arrive for a press conference at the Vatican on 7 November. The Knights are preparing for a major meeting in Rome.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
The 30,000 members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem fund about 80 percent of the annual budget of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, ensuring that Catholic parishes and seminaries, schools and hospitals in Israel, Palestine and Jordan continue to function, said U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien.
The cardinal, grand master of the Vatican-based order, said the knights and dames of the order come from 40 countries and pledge their prayers, their financial support and personal visits to the Holy Land to support the local Catholic communities there and to encourage ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and cooperation.
Every five years, leaders of the order from around the world gather for their general assembly, called a “consulta.” The meeting was scheduled for 13-16 November in Rome and was expected to include an audience with Pope Francis.
Meeting with reporters on 7 November, Cardinal O’Brien said the knights and dames “do not become involved in local government or political questions” in the Holy Land but offer support to the local Catholic Church there in cooperation with the Congregation for Eastern Churches.
Cardinal O’Brien said the order provides about $15 million each year in grants to Catholic projects in the Holy Land. Most are run by the Latin patriarchate, but the Maronite and Melkite Catholic churches also receive assistance.
The knights and dames of the Holy Sepulchre have given priority to education and formation programs, said Leonardo Visconti di Modrone, governor general of the order. By supporting 35 nursery schools and 41 elementary and high schools in Israel and Palestine, he said, the order’s members hope “to improve their quality and, through them, to make a fundamental contribution to the pacification of the region.”
About 57 percent of the 19,000 students in the schools are Christian, and most of the others are Muslim, he said. But all of them learn “our values of dialogue, tolerance and mutual respect,” which should help “overcome that violent confrontation that for years has martyred peaceful coexistence among people of different ethnic and religious groups.”
Cardinal O’Brien said each member of the equestrian order pledges to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land at least once in his or her lifetime, but most go regularly. The pilgrimage is built around prayer and visits to the holy sites, but always includes visits to schools, clinics, parishes and other projects funded by the knights and dames.
The funds are disbursed as grants, the cardinal said, and members of the grant-making committee visit the Holy Land three times a year to monitor the projects.
The order’s headquarters near the Vatican occupies a small part of the 15th-century Palazzo della Rovere; most of the order’s building was rented out to a company that ran it as the Hotel Columbus. The order’s contract with the hotel company expired years ago and, after a court-ordered eviction was issued in 2016, the hotel closed in May.
Visconti said the Italian government is insisting that restoration work be carried out on the hotel’s 15th- and 16th-century frescoes, and plumbing and other work is underway. But, he said, the knights and dames hope to have a new company renting the building and running it as a hotel soon, because the rental income covers the order’s administrative costs, allowing all donations to go directly to the Holy Land.
Tags: Jerusalem Holy Sepulchre