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Summer, 2016
Volume 42, Number 2
  
28 June 2016
Greg Kandra




Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai, the Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, has been an outspoken advocate for reconciliation in his homeland. (photo: John E. Kozar)

During a time of turmoil and violence in his homeland, Lebanon’s Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai — Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch — has been a heroic voice calling for reconciliation. It was a subject he addressed during his visit to CNEWA yesterday, and it’s one he’s made a hallmark of his ministry to the people of Lebanon.

He was enthroned as Patriarch of Antioch and all the East on 25 March 2011, the Feast of the Annunciation. Fittingly, his name “Bechara” means “annunciation.” That day, he served as a kind of herald to the people of Lebanon, both Christian and Muslim, announcing a message of “communion and love,” the very words he chose for his patriarchal motto.

In his homily, the patriarch did something bold for a Catholic leader, quoting from the Quran and its account of the annunciation. He noted the esteem in which Muslims hold Mary, and he sought common ground:

For the sake of “communion and love” we work together in the countries of the Middle East and with you the representatives of the leaders of our brother and sister countries, and we work to preserve and strengthen our relations of solidarity with the Arab world, and to establish a sincere and complete dialogue with our Muslim brothers and sisters and build together a future in common life and cooperation. For one single destiny links Muslims and Christians in Lebanon and the countries of the region in which, a culture particular to all of us, was built up by the diverse civilizations which passed one after another in our lands and thus we have a common patrimony in which we all shared in its creation and now work at its cultural development. We accompany with anxiety the uprisings and protests which are taking place here and there in our Arab countries. We regret the victims and the wounded and we pray for stability and peace.

As an emissary of hope and healing in the world CNEWA serves, the patriarch has been a great supporter of our shared mission to uplift those who are suffering and to accompany those in need. In Lebanon today, that includes an overwhelming number of refugees, many fleeing war and terror in Iraq and Syria; they now make up roughly half the country’s population.

Visting Syria three years ago, the patriarch issued a passionate plea for peace:

“Here in Damascus we say together: ’Enough of war and violence! Enough of the killing and destruction of homes and landmarks! Enough uprooting and suffering inflicted on innocent citizens! … We preach together the Gospel of peace, we work hand in hand for reconciliation, the promotion of human rights and dignity. … Every drop of innocent blood that is shed is a tear from the eyes of Christ.”

To assist the patriarch and support the work of CNEWA in Lebanon, visit this page.



28 June 2016
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets retired Pope Benedict XVI during a 28 June ceremony at the Vatican marking the 65th anniversary of the retired pope’s priestly ordination. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

Pope Francis had warm words for his predecessor today, marking marking the 65th anniversary of Benedict’s ordination to the priesthood. CNS has details:

In his first public address in almost a year, retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his sincere gratefulness to Pope Francis, saying that his goodness “from the first moment of your election, in every moment of my life here, touches me deeply.”

“More than the beauty found in the Vatican Gardens, your goodness is the place where I live; I feel protected,” Pope Benedict said 28 June.

Pope Benedict also conveyed his hope that Pope Francis would continue to “lead us all on this path of divine mercy that shows the path of Jesus, to Jesus and to God.”

Pope Francis led a Vatican celebration for the 65th anniversary of Pope Benedict’s priestly ordination. The two were joined by the heads of Vatican offices and congregations and several guests, including a delegation from the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Those gathered gave Pope Benedict a standing ovation as he made his way into the Clementine Hall and took his seat to the right of the pope’s chair.

A few minutes later, Pope Francis entered the hall and made a beeline for his predecessor, who respectfully removed his zucchetto before greeting him. Pope Francis has made no secret of his admiration for the retired pontiff, often comparing him to a “wise grandfather at home.”

During his return flight to Rome from Armenia 26 June,, Pope Francis praised Pope Benedict for “protecting me and having my back with his prayers.”

Read more.

For more, check out the CNS video of the event and the remarks below.



Tags: Pope Francis Pope Benedict XVI

28 June 2016
Greg Kandra




Lebanese army soldiers and forensic experts inspect the site where suicide bomb attacks took place 27 June in the village of Qaa. (photo: CNS/Hassan Abdallah, Reuters)

Suicide bombers strike predominantly Christian village in Lebanon (CNS) Suicide bombers attacked a predominantly Christian village in northeast Lebanon twice in one day, and residents called on the government to support them, saying ISIS fighters were holed up on the outskirts of town. Two separate sets of four suicide bombers attacked the village of Al Qaa on 27 June; the first attack killed five people in addition to the bombers. About 30 people were injured in the two incidents, the second of which occurred near St. Elias Melkite Greek Catholic Church as people were preparing for the funerals of the people killed in the first bombing…

Pope to patriarchate: ‘God’s mercy is a bond uniting us’ (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis addressed a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, with whom he held a private audience on Tuesday in the Vatican, calling the mercy of God ‘the bond uniting us’. The delegation came to Rome following the conclusion of the weeklong Pan-Orthodox Council, which was held on the Greek island of Crete…

A new church for displaced Christians dedicated in Iraq (Fides) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I inaugurated a large church dedicated to Mary Mother of Perpetual Help on Monday, 27 June, in Ain Kawa — a Christian-majority suburb of the city of Erbil, where many Christians sought refuge from ISIS after fleeing their villages in the Nineveh Plain. The new, large church building was funded with the offerings of the faithful…

Catholic agencies second only to UN in providing aid to Iraq and Syria (Catholic Register) Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) Canada National Director Carl Hétu reports Catholic aid agencies contributed $150 million in 2015 to help the people of Iraq and Syria. “This is quite amazing,” said Mr. Hétu, who attended the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches at the Vatican from 14 to 16 June as a representative of CNEWA. This was the highest level of aid going into the Middle East from any group after the United Nations, Hetu said. This Catholic response, organized, planned and working with and through the churches of region went to help “all of the people in the Middle East,” not only Christians…



Tags: Lebanon Middle East Christians Iraqi Christians Ecumenism ISIS

27 June 2016
Greg Kandra




Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai, Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, takes questions during a press conference in New York on 27 June. (photo: CNEWA)

As part of his pastoral visit to the United States, Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai, Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, visited CNEWA’s New York offices Monday for a series of events that underscored the challenges Lebanon is facing today.

The patriarch’s schedule included delivering an important statement on “the present situation and future prospects” of Christians in the Middle East, a news conference, personal interviews, meetings, and an interfaith luncheon — all held at CNEWA’s New York headquarters on First Ave.

CNEWA’s chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, greets the patriarch, left, who was welcomed to CNEWA by CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar, right. (photo: CNEWA)

The patriarch was greeted by CNEWA’s chair, New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who welcomed him to the New York Catholic Center. After exchanging greetings, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar accompanied him to CNEWA’s board room, where the patriarch held a news conference to discuss developments in the Middle East.

Msgr. John E. Kozar introduces the patriarch and his staff to reporters and CNEWA staff.
(photo: CNEWA)


The patriarch took pains to emphasize the rich history shared by Christians and Muslims in the Middle East, and the vital role Christianity has played there across the centuries.

“Christians helped spread the culture of diversity, moderation, openness, respect, acceptance and cooperation with those who are different,” he said in his opening statement. “The Christian presence has enriched the Middle East, its cultures and history, with evangelical values on the human, political, cultural and social levels.” He explained: “Christianity became an essential part of the culture of those countries and it has also benefited from Islamic values and traditions. This Christian-Muslim interaction has resulted in a spirit of openness and modernity for the majority of Muslims. This constitutes a sign of hope for a better future for the Middle East.”

During his remarks, the patriarch said “a political solution to the conflicts (in the Middle East) ought to be a top priority.” (photo: CNEWA)

But he also took note of continued turmoil in the region — civil war, terrorism, widespread displacement and a growing number of refugees — and called for just and lasting solutions.

“A political solution to the conflicts ought to be a top priority,” he said, “and a just, global and permanent peace should be established as soon as possible.” He called on the international community to work to secure the return of refugees to their homes and their land. He said he believes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the origin of problems in the Middle East, and stated: “A solution to that problem ought to be found in according with the United Nations Resolutions, which would allow the establishment of a Palestinian State alongside an Israeli State.”

He also took note of the overwhelming number of refugees that have flowed into Lebanon, with roughly half the country’s population now comprised of people who have fled Syria or Palestine. The roots of the crisis, he said, run deep. “The countries of the Middle East,” he explained, “are victims of international competition motivated by political, economic and strategic interests related to oil and gas and linked more particularly to the most inhuman disregard for life, the constant profiting from the sale of arms.”

After taking questions from the gathered reporters, and elaborating on his statement, the patriarch attended a small luncheon, featuring some two dozen interfaith and ecumenical leaders — and a few familiar faces, including an old friend, CNEWA’s President Emeritus, Msgr. Robert Stern.

Bishop Gregory Mansour, Msgr. John E. Kozar, and Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai greet CNEWA’s President Emeritus, Msgr. Robert Stern. (photo: CNEWA)

This marked his first visit to CNEWA in five years — and it had great meaning not only for us, but for others working for peace in the world we serve.

“His care extends to not only Christians in need, but to men and women of good will of other faith traditions,” said Maronite Bishop Gregory Mansour, who accompanied him to CNEWA and who serves the Eparchy of St. Maron in Brooklyn. “They, too, have fled the bloodshed that has destroyed huge swaths of a once vibrant and diverse Middle East.”

The patriarch is scheduled to be in the United States until 10 July. His visit includes stops in a number of Maronite Catholic communities and parishes throughout the eparchies, or dioceses, of St. Maron of Brooklyn and Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles. We hope he returns soon!

Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai, center, and Bishop Gregory Mansour, beside him, pose with some of the CNEWA staff after the patriarch’s press conference. (photo: CNEWA)



27 June 2016
Greg Kandra




Children and their grandmother stand in their home in Beit Hanoun, Gaza, which suffered heavy damage in the 2014 war. To read a powerful and personal account of life in Gaza today, check out A Letter from Gaza in the Summer edition of ONE. (photo: Shareef Sarhan)



27 June 2016
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin II, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, pour water on a tree in a model of Noah's Ark during an ecumenical meeting and prayer for peace in Republic Square in Yerevan, Armenia, on 25 June. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope concludes trip to Armenia with call for unity (Vatican Radio) On the last day of his three day visit to Armenia, Pope Francis participated Sunday in the Divine Liturgy celebrated by his Oriental Orthodox host, Catholicos of all Armenians Karekin II. In a discourse at the conclusion of the celebration, Pope Francis spoke of his “already unforgettable” visit and prayed that the two Churches “follow God’s call to full communion and hasten to it...”

Pope speaks of Armenian massacre and Christian persecution (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday met with Armenia’s political, diplomatic and civil society representatives, recalling both the genocide suffered by the nation a century ago and the suffering of Christians around the world today...

Archbishop Chullikatt named Apostolic Nuncio to Kyrgyzstan (Vatican Radio) On Friday, Pope Francis appointed Indian Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikatt Apostolic Nuncio to Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic in central Asia. Archbishop Chullikatt who is already Apostolic Nuncio to Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, based in Kazakh capital Astana, was the Holy See’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York from 2010 to 2014. Before that, the 63 year old prelate from southern Indian’s Kerala state served as Apostolic Nuncio to Jordan and Iraq...

Holy and Great Council concludes (oca.org) According to a release issued by the Press Office of the Holy and Great Council, His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, “expressed his joy for the willing and positive response of the Local Autocephalous Orthodox Churches in attendance. At the same time, he underlined the immense efforts, over many years, by all Autocephalous Churches in preparation of the topics on the Council’s agenda...

Council focuses on relations with other Christians (OrthodoxCouncil.org) On the fifth day of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated by His Grace Bishop George of Siemiatycze of the Church of Poland at the Sacred Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery of Gonia. Afterward, the Hierarchs continued their work in the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth sessions of the Council. The day’s sessions focused primarily on Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World. His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew encouraged an open and honest dialogue among the Hierarchs, and during the fourteenth session the Hierarchs reviewed proposed changes to the final text submitted by the Primates and individual Hierarchs of the local Orthodox Autocephalous Churches...

Suicide bombers kill five in eastern Lebanon (Associated Press) A group of suicide bombers detonated their explosives’ vests in a northeastern Lebanese village near the border with Syria on Monday, killing five people and wounding at least 15, a Lebanese military official and paramedics said...

Ukrainians leaving Russian Orthodox Church (Newsweek) Russia’s continued meddling in Ukraine is driving Ukrainian citizens out of the Russian Orthodox Church. Instead, they are swelling the ranks of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate...



24 June 2016
Greg Kandra




Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem celebrates Easter Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City on 27 March. Pope Francis today accepted the resignation of the patriarch, who reached the retirement age of 75 last year. (photo: CNS/Amir Cohen, Reuters)

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Twal retires (Vatican Radio) His Holiness Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem who reached the age of 75 for retirement last October. The Pope has elevated to Archbishop Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, former Custos of the Holy Land for twelve years, and appointed him as Apostolic Administrator sede vacante of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. He will hold the position until the appointment of a new Patriarch...

Pope arrives in Armenia (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis follows in the footsteps of John Paul II who visited Armenia in 2001. But this papal visit will take place in a very different context. Pope Francis has made sure that this meeting between churches has a popular element to it. As always during his journeys he has come to be with the people of the nation unusually for Armenia in the public Square...

Ecumenism to be focus of pope’s Armenia trip (Vatican Radio) Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as the state religion at the beginning of the fourth century and the great majority of people in the country today belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church which is part of the Oriental Orthodox family. Relations with other Christian communities, including the small Armenian Catholic and Roman Catholic Churches, are very good and Pope Francis will be focusing on the importance of ecumenical dialogue and action at a prayer service on Saturday...

Armenians demonstrate to demand election of new patriarch (Fides) A group of Turkish Christians of the Armenian Apostolic Church organized a protest demonstration yesterday, Thursday, 23 June, in Istanbul, outside the headquarters of their Patriarchate, to ask the election of a new Patriarch...

Council discusses fasting, marriage (OrthodoxCouncil.org) On the fourth day of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated by the delegation of the Patriarchate of Romania at the Sacred Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery of Gonia. Afterward, the hierarchs continued their work in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh sessions of the Council. The ninth session of the Council continued the discussion on The Importance of Fasting and its Observance Today, while the tenth and eleventh sessions focuses on The Sacrament of Marriage and its Impediments. Following extensive and honest discussion about various canonical and pastoral perspectives of the two agenda topics, the primates and individual hierarchs of the local Orthodox autocephalous Churches proposed a number of suggestions and clarifications...



23 June 2016
Greg Kandra




The icon known as “Our Lady Who Brings Down Walls” appears on the separation wall in Jerusalem. (photo: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)

The website for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem last week told the story of a powerful image of the Virgin Mary that has profound meaning for the people of a divided land:

Graffiti painted along the Separation wall, charged with political and social messages, have always been a form of protest against Israel’s unjust measures. Near the Emmanuel Monastery in Bethlehem, an icon of the Mother of God emerges on the 8-meter high concrete wall, revealing with its beauty the failure of communities to love one another.

Made at the request of the local faithful and some internationals, the icon of Our Lady who brings down walls was written on the Separation wall between Bethlehem and Jerusalem in 2010. The purpose of their request was clear; an icon that could bring along hope that the wall would come down some day.

According to Ian Knowles, the iconographer who wrote the icon, the inspiration behind Our Lady originated from a speech that Pope Benedict XVI had given at a special assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops in 2010. During the assembly, His Holiness referred to chapter 12 of the book of Revelation and talked about a woman who is clothed with the sun and gives birth with a cry of pain. He linked how this chapter in the Bible is a prophecy about the suffering of Christians in the Middle East. “That gave me an image of Mary, who is pregnant, clothed with the sun chased by the beast that wants to devour her child,” Ian pointed out.

Before the visit of Pope Francis to the Holy Land in 2014, graffiti of a giant serpent, that is eating babies, was painted along the wall that leads to the icon of Mother of God. “It is quite prophetic to see this serpent near the icon of Our Lady. In the book of revelation, the woman is chased by the beast, which wants to eat her child” Ian said. “Once the image was complete, it was as though it called out the hideousness of the wall.”

Read more about the icon. And if the name Ian Knowles sounds familiar, he was profiled not long ago in the pages of ONE:

Mr. Knowles waxes rhapsodic when describing how icons continue to fascinate Christians after so many centuries. “It’s a profoundly spiritual art. It’s not a secular art about a spiritual theme; this is actually in some ways an embodiment of Christian culture. ... It’s a bit like a relic: You actually touch God, in a way — not because of what it looks like, but because of the thing itself. The whole process by which it’s created and made and fashioned and worked is within a profoundly religious context, so it sort of incarnates it.”

You can also learn more about the meaning and importance of icons here.



23 June 2016
Greg Kandra




A child naps in a home between Saesa and Idaga Hamus in Ethiopia. To read about the recent visit of CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar to Ethiopia, and see more dramatic pictures, check out his photo essay in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)



23 June 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Pope Francis expresses his solidarity with the people of Armenia and says he will be visiting them this weekend as a pilgrim and a brother. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope Francis sends video message to Armenia (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a video message to the people of Armenia, ahead of his visit to the country this weekend. In the message — delivered in Italian — the Holy Father says, “[It is] as a servant of the Gospel and a messenger of peace [that] I desire to come among you, to support [your] every effort towards peace — and I would share our steps on the pathway of reconciliation, which generates hope...”

Palestinians praying in demolished Gaza mosques (Middle East Monitor) Two years after Israel’s demolition of mosques in Gaza in its latest offensive against the Strip in 2014, Palestinians today continue to pray in what remains of the damaged structures. Gaza’s religious property incurred $50 million in damages during Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge,” the committee in charge of assessing the damage incurred by the Ministry of Endowments said. It noted that 73 mosques were completely destroyed and 197 were partially damaged during the aggression, adding that 10 of its staff members were also killed...

Ethiopian government reports on food aid during drought (AllAfrica.com) The Government of Ethiopia has supplied 627,000 metric tons (MT) of food aid to affected areas since the outbreak of the current drought and 222,000 MT of food aid in the second phase of relief response. People in Oromia, Amhara, Southern Nations and Nationalities, Afar, Beshangul Gumuz and Gambella regions have benefited from the food aid, according to official sources...

Melkite synod cancelled (CNS) The Melkite Catholic Synod of Bishops was cancelled after 10 bishops boycotted, resulting in a lack of quorum. Only 12 of 22 bishops traveled to Ain Traz, summer seat of the patriarchate. Those who did not attend called for the resignation of Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham, who has held his post since 2000. They are protesting the duration of his time as patriarch and some landholdings of the Melkite Church...

Holy and Great Council concludes third day (OrthodoxCouncil.org) On the third day of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated by His Beatitude Patriarch Irinej of Serbia at the Sacred Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery of Gonia. Afterward, the hierarchs continued their work in the sixth, seventh, and eighth sessions of the Council...







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