18 December 2018
A Palestinian woman walks by a mosaic of the Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank, on 17 December. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
18 December 2018
in this image from January, Syrian refugees wait outside their shelters at Zaatari camp near Mafraq, Jordan. The pope joined the UN and Caritas today in observing World Day of Migrants and Refugees, and he urged communities to open their hearts to those arriving in their lands.
(photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)
Pope, UN, Caritas mark World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Vatican News) As the world marked the United Nations International Migrants Day on Tuesday, Pope Francis urged host communities to open their hearts and homes to those arriving in their lands. “Jesus knows well the pain of not being welcomed. May our hearts not be closed as were the houses in Bethlehem,” wrote the Pope on his Twitter account @Pontifex…
Pope: scapegoating migrants in political speeches is unacceptable (CNS) In today’s climate of mistrust, rejection and nationalism, the world urgently needs peacemakers and politicians who protect and lovingly serve others, Pope Francis said in his annual message for the World Day of Peace on 1 January. ”Terror exerted over those who are most vulnerable contributes to the exile of entire populations who seek a place of peace,” he said, and “political addresses that tend to blame every evil on migrants and to deprive the poor of hope are unacceptable…”
Ukrainian Catholic leader welcomes head of new independent Orthodox church (CNS) Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, said “the future of our church, our people and of a free, independent Ukrainian state in Europe depends today on how we nurture unity and overcome what separates us…”
‘The Gaza blockade is strangling us’ (BBC) In Gaza, two million people are poised to slip deeper into poverty, and basic services are at risk of collapse, according to the UN. It is calling for $350 million from international donors, following a drop in US funding for Palestinians…
Catholic religious sisters raise hope among Kerala’s flood victims (NCR) Church volunteers cleaned about 250,000 houses and helped people return home from relief camps after the floodwaters receded. The Jesus Youth, a global Catholic charismatic youth movement with roots in Kerala, cleaned houses infested with insects, snakes and eels. Caritas India, the church’s aid agency, distributed 16,000 kits with food and sanitary items, each one costing 4,000 rupees ($55). The priest credits Catholic religious women for playing a crucial role of bringing hope to flood victims…
In Jerusalem, Santa rides a camel (Israel21c.org) He has a certificate from Santa School in Denver, Colorado, but Issa Kassissieh doesn’t come down the chimney in America — he’s the resident Father Christmas in Jerusalem’s Old City and he’s traded the traditional reindeer sleigh for a camel…
17 December 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Jerusalem Kerala
Over the weekend, Ukrainian religious leaders elected Metropolitan Epiphanius as the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. (photo: Vatican Media)
Ukraine moves to form a unified Orthodox Church independent from Russia (NPR) Ukraine elected the head of a newly unified Orthodox Church this weekend, a move that the nation’s president hailed as an important safeguard against future Russian aggression. The church aims for independence from the Russian Orthodox Church, and Saturday’s election is just one step in a process that could take decades. Nearly 200 bishops, priests and other church officials elected 39-year-old Metropolitan Epiphanius on Saturday as the Ukrainian church’s head…
Church vandalized in India (Vatican News) With Christmas a little over a week away, the festive mood among Christians in the northeast Indian state of Assam suffered a setback when they discovered their church vandalized. Villagers on their way to work Saturday morning, found St Thomas Catholic Church and its grotto in Chapatoli village near Duliajan vandalized. They noticed the church door open and spotted the statue of Mother Mary knocked down from the grotto…
Ethnic violence escalates in southern Ethiopia (Al Jazeera) At least 21 people have been killed in two days of intense fighting between ethnic groups in southern Ethiopia amid escalating violence that has sent hundreds fleeing across the border to neighbouring Kenya. The violence broke out on Thursday and Friday near the town of Moyale, on the border with Kenya, in a region claimed by both the Oromo, the largest ethnic group in the country, and the Somali ethnic group…
New book explores war damage in Aleppo (Vatican News) Two years after government troops drove rebel fighters out of the city, the first book detailing the damage done to the Ancient city has been published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)…
Vatican concert highlights refugees (Vatican News) This year the Paul VI Hall is the setting for this event which boasts an impressive line-up of musical talent. There will be performances from American singer Anastasia, Italian performer Alessandra Amoroso, Dee Dee Bridgewater and the “New Direction Tennessee State Gospel Choir”. The theme for this 2018 Concert is “refugees” and the proceeds from this evening of entertainment will go to the Don Bosco Mission…
14 December 2018
Tags: India Ukraine Ethiopia Vatican Russian Orthodox
Pope Francis had lunch with poor people invited to the Vatican in November to mark World Day of the Poor. He's extended a similar invitation to the poor for a few days before Christmas.
(photo: Vatican Media)
Pope invites poor to Christmas lunch (Vatican News) n the spirit of Christmas, Pope Francis is inviting a group of poor people to a lunch offered by the athletes of Italy’s military finance police, said the Office of Papal Charities. On behalf of Pope Francis, the Office headed by the Pope’s official Almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, has invited the poor people to the Christmas lunch on 18 December hosted by the Gruppo Sportivo Fiamme Gialle (Yellow Flames Sporting Group) at the sports centre of the Guardia di Finanza (Finance Police), at Castelporziano, close to the seaside…
Russian-Ukraine tensions reach Mount Athos (The Guardian) Although most of the monks on Athos are Greek, for many Russians, as well as Ukrainians and Belarusians, a pilgrimage to Mount Athos has become almost like an Orthodox version of the Islamic hajj, seen as a spiritual must for any true believer. [Patriarch] Kirill has banned Russians from taking holy communion in the churches of Athos, calling any priests who bless the ecumenical patriarch schismatics, leading to a dilemma for those Russians who want to visit...
In first, Indian official to take office amid Christian rituals (Times of India) Mizo National Front is set to take oath in a predominantly Christian ceremony on Saturday, making it a first for a government in Mizoram. Apart from readings of Biblical verses, religious hymns like Handel’s famed ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ will be sung to mark the occasion. “We are doing it for the first time,” Lalruatkima, a newly-elected MNF legislator, said on Thursday, adding, “Singing of gospel and reading of verses from the Bible will follow the national anthem…”
Hundreds of Christians in Egypt protest at police killing (Channel News Asia) Hundreds of Coptic Christians on Thursday attended the burial of a father and his son who were killed by a police officer in Egypt’s Minya province, amid cries for the state to provide more protection. The Copts, who make up around 10 percent of the population, have long complained of discrimination. They have also frequently been attacked by Islamist militants who see them as infidels, prompting authorities to place armed guards outside churches and monasteries…
Ethiopia moving troops from Eritrean border (AP) Ethiopian military officials on Friday announced they are moving troops away from the border with Eritrea, months after the former rivals made a surprising peace…
13 December 2018
Tags: India Pope Francis Ukraine Ethiopia Eritrea
The video above shows the trailer for the acclaimed documentary "Mother Fortress," which illustrates the courage of religious working in Syria. (video: YouTube)
Documentary reveals courage of religious in Syria (Vatican News) The Vatican Film Library presents a documentary, directed by Maria Luisa Forenza and entitled “Mother Fortress”, at the Tertio Millennio Film Fest taking place in Rome. ”It’s not a film about Syria’s war but about the human condition in times of war.” That’s how Director Maria Luisa Forenza presents her latest documentary “Mother Fortress.” The Vatican Film Library — in conjunction with the Dicastery for Communication (Vatican News’ parent organization), the Pontifical Council for Culture, and the Office for Social Communications of the Italian Bishops’ Conference — showcased the documentary at the 22nd edition of the Tertio Millennio Film Fest held in Rome…
UAE Christians ‘enthusiastic’ about pope visit (Vatican News) Bishop Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, said in an interview with Vatican News that Christians in the UAE have “greeted the decision” of the Pope’s visit “with enthusiasm.” It is a “great joy” for him too, although it will also be a “logistical challenge…”
Police officers in Jerusalem stabbed in suspected terrorist attack (Haaretz) Two Israeli police officers are wounded after a Palestinian approached and stabbed them in a suspected terror attack in the Old City of Jerusalem early Thursday morning...
Syrian refugees face life-changing choice (The Daily Star) As the bus pulled out of a Beirut car park heading for Damascus, Ahmed Sheikh waved from the window, excited, he said, to be returning home to Syria after years as a refugee in Lebanon. Sheikh and his two sons are part of a steady trickle of refugees going back as the Syrian government tightens its grip on areas it controls and the prospect of new fighting recedes. But not everyone wants to go home just yet. While Beirut says 90,000 Syrians have returned this year, more than a million remain in Lebanon, including many who fear reprisals or army conscription, or whose homes were destroyed in the war…
India’s pro-Hindu party fails in polls (UCANews.com) India’s pro Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, which currently rules nationally, suffered a massive defeat when it failed to secure power in any of the five states where election results were declared on 11 December. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP was unseated in the three major states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. It also failed to make gains in northeastern Mizoram and southern Telangana states where two regional parties prevailed…
12 December 2018
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Arabian Peninsula
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem (l) is assisted by CNEWA's regional director for Jerusalem, Joseph Hazboun (r), in dedicating a new section of the Christ the King Bookstore devoted to sacred vessels and vestments.
(photo: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)
Tuesday, CNEWA’s regional director in Jerusalem, Joseph Hazboun, took part in the festivities to dedicate a new section of a major bookstore in Jerusalem.
Details, from Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem website:
On 11 December 2018, and under the patronage of Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Christ the King Bookstore inaugurated a new section of “Sacrum Palestine”, for Liturgical Vestments and Vessels.
Invited by the Rev. Bashar Fawadleh, Director of Youth of Jesus’ Homeland, Palestine (YJHP) and responsible for the bookstore, the ceremony was attended by a number of Franciscan and Latin Patriarchate priests, the Rosary Sisters, the Verbo Incarnato Sisters, the youth groups, and the parishioners. Representatives of [CNEWA's operating agency in the Middle East] the Pontifical Mission were also there: Mr. Joseph Hazboun, its Regional Director and Mr. Rodolf Sa’adeh, the project manager, who contributed to this project that they believe it will serve the church of the Holy Land and enrich its heritage.
The Apostolic Administrator commended the services carried out by the bookstore in answering the needs of the Living Stones. He also emphasized its rich Arabic books and resources for Theology and Catechism and the pivotal role that the bookstore plays in making these books available, in spite of the difficulty it endures in importing them, especially from Lebanon.
Visit the LPJ website for more photos and information.
12 December 2018
In this image from January, Pope Francis talks with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, at the cathedral in Lima, Peru. Cardinal Parolin this week said the Global Compact on human rights affirms that migration should never be an act of desperation.
(photo: CNS/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)
Cardinal highlights migration as he marks human rights declaration (Vatican News) Marking 70 years of this human rights document, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, gave an address with the issue of migration at its core saying, “the Global Compact affirms that migration should never be an act of desperation. In many countries of origin, however, individuals feel forced to flee whether due to conflict, violence, environmental degradation, human rights violations, or the inability to secure a dignified life for one’s family…”
New law provides relief for victims of genocide in Iraq, Syria (CNS) President Donald Trump has signed into law the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2018, which will provide humanitarian relief to genocide victims in Iraq and Syria and hold accountable Islamic State perpetrators of genocide. ”The legislation signed today again reminds us of America’s earlier efforts to aid victims of genocide — Christian communities targeted by Ottomans a century ago and Jewish survivors of Shoah,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a statement…
UN says 250,000 refugees could return to Syria in 2019 (Al Jazeera) As many as 250,000 Syrian refugees could return to their homeland in 2019 despite massive hurdles facing them, the United Nations refugee agency said. Some 5.6 million Syrian refugees remain in neighbouring countries, namely Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, Amin Awad, UNHCR director for the Middle East and North Africa, told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday…
Jerusalem planning committee refuses to discuss permit for mixed-gender prayer site (Haaretz) Jerusalem’s local planning and building committee refused to discuss a building permit for expanding the mixed-gender prayer area in the Western Wall, saying it is “a highly sensitive site.” The mixed prayer area is meant to resolve a dispute with Jewish diaspora and non-Orthodox Jews to allow men and women to pray together and not under ultra-Orthodox rules at Judaism’s second holiest site…
Is the church getting lost in India’s ‘smart cities’? (UCANews.com) If economic relationships in the past were marked by the exploitation of the poor, today a vast number of people find themselves largely irrelevant in the grander scheme of things. The cathedral or basilica was once considered the chief meeting place for the urban Catholic elite. Well-heeled non-Christians benefited from the services the church offered in terms of education and healthcare. But these services are becoming more and more irrelevant to the aspirational urban elite…
10 December 2018
Tags: Syria India Jerusalem Migrants
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Hanover, Maryland. (photo: CNEWA)
10 December 2018
Tags: Syria Iraq ISIS Persecution
Pope Francis greets a child as he visits poor, sick people at a center run by the CasAmica Onlus organization on the outskirts of Rome on 7 December. The pope in a message for Human Right Day urged everyone to place human dignity at the heart of all policies. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Pope marks Human Rights Day (Vatican News) Marking Human Rights Day, Pope Francis makes an appeal in a message to an International Conference on Human Rights, urging everyone to place human rights at the heart of all policies…
Caritas releases message for Advent to ’share the journey’ with migrants (Vatican News) Caritas Internationalis is urging the people of the world ahead of Christmas to “Share the Journey” with migrants and refugees and expand the horizons of their hearts by organizing a short pilgrimage with the migrants and refugees in their community to learn more about one another and forge bonds of hope. “It is how we live out our journeys and how we treat the people we meet that has the potential to transform our world,” said Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle in an Advent message…
Ukrainian Navy commander dismisses Russia’s charge of provocation (Al Jazeera) Ukrainian Navy commander Admiral Ihor Voronchenko says Russia has no right to put the 24 captured sailors on trial as they were “prisoners of war, not some criminals involved in contraband or illegal fishing”. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Voronchenko said he had no doubt that Russia was behind the attack on three of his boats, saying, “I confirm with authority ... we are sure the tactical decisions were not being taken by the commanders of the Russian ships”…
Algerian martyrs bear witness to dialogue and coexistence, pope says (CNS) The lives of 19 religious men and women martyred during the Algerian civil war are a testament to God’s plan of love and peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims, Pope Francis said. In a message read 8 December at the beatification Mass for the six women religious and 13 clerics, Pope Francis said it was a time for Catholics in Algeria and around the world to celebrate the martyrs’ commitment to peace, but it was also a time to remember the sacrifices made by all Algerians during the bloody war…
Bishop Hinder: pope’s visit to UAE will be an opportunity for dialogue, peace (Vatican News) In an open letter, the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia (UAE, Oman, and Yemen), Bishop Paul Hinder OFM Cap, commented on the announcement of the upcoming papal visit. ”We welcome Pope Francis with open hearts”, he writes, “and we pray with the words of St Francis of Assisi, which have been chosen as the theme of the visit: ‘Make me an instrument of your peace’”…
International airport opens in Kerala (Economic Times) Kerala has become the first state in the country to have four international airports with the inauguration of the Kannur airport on Sunday…
7 December 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Kerala Muslim Migrants
In this image from 2014, 80-year-old Marjik Harutyunyan was one of those struggling to get by, decades after the earthquake that devastated Armenia. To this day, countless others like her are still living in makeshift shacks erected in the aftermath of the quake. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
It was 30 years ago today that Armenia was hit by a catastrophic event — and the country’s people are still feeling the emotional and economic aftershocks:
Armenia’s second-largest city, Gyumri was flattened by a devastating earthquake in December 1988, taking the lives of 25,000 people, about 40 percent of whom were children. In the Western media, photographs of the ruined city — then known as Leninakan — became a source of humiliation for a crumbling Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; the quality of construction was so poor almost every building erected in Gyumri in the Soviet period was destroyed. A quarter century later, the city and its environs are shaken by a “different kind of quake.”
“This is an earthquake of life, of terrible social hardship and of moral values,” says Vahan Tumasian, who advocates for earthquake survivors’ housing rights and implements housing programs in northwestern Armenia. Even 25 years after the calamity, he adds, “poverty and homelessness are even more acute.”
…Since the earthquake, the population of Gyumri has dropped by about half. In 1988, some 220,000 people lived in the city. But by 2011 — due to the earthquake and the country’s economic collapse after it achieved independence from an unraveling Soviet Union — Gyumri’s population declined to 121,500. Many are convinced the actual number of people living in the city is less than 90,000.
According to the United Nations, Armenia is among the world’s “aging” nations. Pensioners constitute some 14 percent of the country’s 2.9 million people. In Gyumri, the average age is trending upward as more and more of the young and capable pursue employment abroad, usually Russia.
“Imagine how things stand with the frail elderly if men leave their children to go find jobs to earn their living, if unemployment is 40 percent in the city during the summer, and rises to 60 percent in the winter due to fewer seasonal jobs,” says Sister Arousiag Sajonian of the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.
“If the young cannot survive, how can seniors?” asks Sister Arousiag, who arrived in northwestern Armenia soon after the earthquake. She later founded the Our Lady of Armenia Boghossian Educational Center in Gyumri, which since 2011 has also included a center to care for the elderly.
Observers say pensioners in northern Armenia are left alone with no caretakers for a variety of reasons. Some may have lost their children in the earthquake. Others lost their children to emigration. But alone in Gyumri exists the phenomenon of orphaned children brought by the Soviets to work in factories — orphans such as Ophelia Matevosian — who never married or created families and remain alone.
Though two of these factors find their roots in the past, one remains an ongoing concern.
“The growing migration of the young is aggravating the issue with pensioners,” says Theresa Grigorian, who heads the social affairs department of Gyumri’s municipal government. She says thousands of childless seniors now live in Gyumri, the majority of whom were orphans themselves. Between 300 and 400 have lost their children in the earthquake and more than 2,500 are now left without a caretaker because of the emigration of their surviving children.
CNEWA has been at the forefront of efforts to assist these broken men and women and give them a sense of possibility and hope.
CNEWA supports a variety of initiatives of Caritas Armenia, the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception and the Ordinariate for Armenian Catholics in Armenia. Among efforts to care for the elderly, CNEWA supports the “Warm Winter” program of Caritas, which provides heating fuel to 620 pensioners living in Gyumri and in remote villages farther north, where temperatures can dip as low as 20 degrees below zero.
Read more about the remarkable spirit of these people who have survived so much and CNEWA’s work among them below. And to support efforts to give them dignity and hope, visit this link. Meantime, please lift up these people in your prayers and remember them in a special way, especially during this cold and difficult time of year.
An Unshakable Faith
Armenia’s Children, Left Behind
Shaken by the Earthquake of Life