11 March 2016
Rev. Paul Wattson, S.A. (1863-1940). (photo: Graymoor Archives)
Over the next several months, as CNEWA marks its 90th anniversary, we’ll be spotlighting 90 people who made a profound difference in our world over these last 90 years — and it’s only fitting that we begin at the beginning.
The first of our “90 Years, 90 Heroes” profiles features CNEWA’s co-founder, the Rev. Paul Wattson, who also founded the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement. Father Paul died in 1940; this past fall, the Archdiocese of New York formally opened his cause for canonization.
As the Rev. Elias D. Mallon, himself a Friar of the Atonement, wrote at the time:
Father Paul regarded other churches not as heretics and enemies, competitors or targets for proselytization, but as friends and fellow travelers on the road to the unity Christ wished for his church. He saw it as his task to be the Lamp that helped them on this journey.
His attitude toward other churches and his concern for the poor brought Father Paul in increasing contact with the Christians of the Middle East and India. After World War I, the situation of Christians in the Middle East was dire. Genocide was the order of the day for Christians in the lands of the Middle East. Millions of Armenians and hundreds of thousands of Christians from other Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches were either slaughtered or driven out of their homes as refugees.
Father Paul and the Rev. George Calvassy (later a bishop) of the Greek Byzantine Catholic Church sought a way to alleviate the sufferings of all Christians in the Middle East. Their attempts took many different routes, some of them dead ends, but their efforts along with others resulted ultimately in the founding of Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) in 1926. Pope Pius XI formally recognized CNEWA as a pontifical organization and placed it under the direction of the archbishop of New York.
The Eastern churches — Catholic and Orthodox — were dear to the heart of Father Paul. Many bishops from these churches visited Father Paul at Graymoor to ask his help and express their gratitude for any assistance they received.
Father Paul died on 8 February 1940. His pioneering work for Christian unity today might be considered ahead of its time, and even prophetic. He did not live to see the Second Vatican Council and its decree on Christian Unity; he did not see the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity become a world-wide event promulgated by both the Vatican and the World Council of Churches. But his prayers, vision and passion laid the groundwork for vastly improved relations between Catholics and Orthodox Christians, and helped CNEWA become a significant force for humanitarian and pastoral aid in a Middle East — a troubled land that is once again in our own day a place of genocide and exile.
Read more about Father Paul here. And for the full history of CNEWA, check out this link.
11 March 2016
As we mark CNEWA’s 90th anniversary today, we are continually uplifted by the faith and joy of those we have met from around the world, especially the young people. Here are a few small glimmers of hope: young Syrian refugees at the Zahle camp in Lebanon in January of 2016.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
11 March 2016
A Syrian man reacts as rescue workers try to pull a victim out from under the rubble of a building following a reported air strike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of Salhin in the northern city of Aleppo on 11 March 2016. (photo: Thaer Mohammed/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian opposition says it will rejoin peace talks (AP) The main, Western-backed Syrian opposition groups say they’ll attend U.N.-sponsored peace talks with the Damascus government in Geneva starting on Monday. The groups, assembled under an umbrella known as the High Negotiations Committee, said in a statement Friday that their participation comes in response to “sincere” international efforts to end Syria’s five-year civil war. An ongoing, tentative but more-successful-than-expected cease-fire has seen a significant drop in violence across the country for almost two weeks...
Syriac Orthodox Patriarch calls on Eastern Christians who emigrate to preserve identity (Fides) The culture that the Christians in the Orient were raised into, “is undoubtedly different from the one they find in the West. This difference is observed in the difficulty which the refugees find in integrating in the western societies.” These are some eloquent thoughts contained in the Encyclical Letter addressed to the faithful by Patriarch Mar Ignatius Aprhrem II, Primate of the Syrian Orthodox Church, on the occasion of the beginning of Lent...
Suicides on rise in Gaza (Mondoweiss.net) There is a strong taboo against suicide in the Gaza Strip, where Islam is the predominant religion. But on 9 February, Rezeq Abu Setta, 38 and a father of seven, joined a growing trend in the blockaded Palestinian territory. He attempted suicide. Abu Setta was one of the estimated 80 Gazans a month who tried to or succeeded in taking their lives in January and February — an alarming increase of 35-40 percent over previous years. And some sources suggest the total may be even higher...
Dalit Christians, Muslims demand quotas in India (Vatican Radio) Dalit Christians and Muslims in India are demanding that the government ensure them quotas in jobs and educational institutions, a right enjoyed by their Hindu counterparts...
Comboni Sisters mark 50 years in Bethany (Fides) The Comboni Missionary Sisters, the only missionary institute founded in 1872 by St. Daniele Comboni, have recently celebrated 50 years of presence in Bethany, the town of Judea currently in the territory of the Palestinian State, and separated by the nearby Jerusalem because of the wall of division...
10 March 2016
Children receive oxygen at a hospital in Taza, Iraq, on 9 March, after ISIS militants fired mortar shells and rockets filled with “poisonous substances” into their village.
(photo: CNS/Stringer, Reuters)
A new report states that Christians and minorities in Iraq, Libya and Syria are victims of genocide carried out by ISIS.
CNS has details:
The 278-page document was released March 10 in Washington, a week before a congressionally mandated deadline for the Department of State to announce if genocide was being committed against religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East and North Africa by the Islamic State.
It argues that the case for genocide exists and called on Secretary of State John Kerry to make such a declaration and to include Christians in it.
The report contains dozens of statements collected from 22 February through March 3 from witnesses and victims of atrocities carried out by Islamic State forces. The incidents include torture, rapes, kidnappings, murder, forced conversions, bombings and the destruction of religious property and monuments.
“Murder of Christians is commonplace. Many have been killed in front of their own families,” said the report, titled “Genocide Against Christians in the Middle East.”
It cites statements from religious leaders, including Pope Francis, and conclusions from the European Parliament, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and the Iraqi and Kurdish governments, all of which have labeled the Islamic State’s actions as genocide.
The report includes a legal brief directed toward Kerry detailing the case for a genocide designation.
Pope Francis last year condemned what he called “genocide” of Christians in part of the Middle East, noting:
“Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus,” he said,according to Firstpost. “In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end.”
10 March 2016
In this image from last year, Syrian refugees wait on the Syrian side of the border near Sanliurfa, Turkey. A new report says a quarter million children in Syria are at risk from the
ongoing civil war. (photo: CNS/Sedat/Suna, EPA)
Report: Syrian children at risk from ongoing war (Vatican Radio) A new report from humanitarian aid agency Save the Children says more than a quarter million children in besieged areas of Syria are at daily risk from the ongoing civil war...
Iraq’s President: Christians are “original” members of our nation (Fides) Christians are “original members” of Iraq, as evidenced by the ancient monasteries scattered throughout the country. And jihadi groups, such as Daesh, have raged not only against them but also against Muslim populations, as evidenced by Muslim victims — even Sunni — and the Islamic Caliphate mosques destroyed in Mosul. This is how Iraqi President Fouad Masum, of ethnic Kurd, called the current plight of Christians in Iraq, threatened by sectarian rifts and engaged in conflict with the self-styled Islamic State that have settled in Mosul since June 2014...
‘Terror rampage’ leaves one dead, 13 injured in Israel (Haaretz) Two Palestinian gunmen who fired at an Israeli bus in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning were shot and killed by Israeli forces after a car chase over several miles. A bystander was seriously wounded in the shootout. There were no injuries on the bus. Shortly after that incident, a 16-year-old male Palestinian was shot and killed after he tried to stab a soldier at an army position near the Palestinian village of Salfit...
Bishop calls Catholic silence on Middle East “massive failure” (CNS) An American bishop has called the silence of Catholics on the ongoing wars in the Middle East a massive failure. “The most massive failure of the Catholic community at all levels in the past 20 years has been to address the question of our ongoing involvement in the Middle East,” according to San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy. “What is particularly fascinating and troubling is all three recent popes were clearly opposed to the wars, yet at no level in the Catholic community was there any major opposition or sustained witness,” he said. “It’s like the dog that didn’t bark...”
Direct food aid programs in Ethiopia often fail (The Guardian) Our experience in Ethiopia — and more than 40 other countries facing the world’s toughest challenges — shows that massive direct food aid programmes often fail. Direct food aid — importing emergency food rations on a large scale — overrides local efforts to produce and distribute food, and tends to damage local and national resilience rather than support it...
9 March 2016
People line up for confession with retired priests at a retreat center near Irinjalakuda, India. Retired priests are continuing to minister to Catholics in India. Learn how in Redefining Retirement in the March 2009 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
9 March 2016
In this image from 4 March, Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq and Jordan, Archbishop Alberto Ortega Martin arrives to visit the Ashti camp which houses displaced Iraqis who fled the violence in the northern city of Mosul. Iraqi officials say they are expecting another influx of refugees with an upcoming offensive to retake Mosul. (photo: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraq expects new flood of refugees (Anadolu Agency) Iraqi officials are preparing for a new wave of refugees following an anticipated offensive to retake Mosul, a senior Iraqi official told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday. “Iraqi authorities have decided to set up three refugee camps on the outskirts of Mosul,” Noureddin Qablan, deputy chief of Nineveh city council, said. “We wanted to take all the necessary measures to avoid a repetition of past tragedies...”
Heartfelt appeal of missionary in Ethiopia: “The country is dying of thirst” (Fides) Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa and one of the world's poorest. Over 400,000 children suffer from severe malnutrition and in recent months drought has severely increased. It is expected that at the end of April, some areas will remain permanently without water. “I have been a missionary in Ethiopia for almost 10 years and this is the first time the Country is dying of thirst,” says Father Christopher Hartley in a note sent to Agenzia Fides...
Promotion of lay Catholics, commitment to dialogue are priorities in India (Fides) “There is need for on-going formation for the laity to enable them to understand and to live their role in the Church,” said Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, Nuncio Apostolic to India and Nepal, when he addressed the Plenary Assembly of the Latin Catholic Bishops of India. “In today’s socio-political scenario,” he explained, “it is fundamental to recognise the dignity of lay Catholics and the importance of their participation in the Church. Moreover Christian testimony in a pluralistic society means commitment to fruitful dialogue among persons of different beliefs, religions and cultures...”
Who is really taking Christian homes in Iraq? (Al-Monitor) Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units grouping is taking much of the heat for the seizure of Christians’ properties in Baghdad and other provinces. But the organization is trying to counter the claims by tackling the problem itself...
ISIS threatens “apostate Putin” in new video (Newsweek) Islamist group Islamic State (ISIS) has threatened “Putin the apostate” with an imminent attack on Russian soil in a new propaganda video. Since Russia began air strikes on ISIS and other anti-government targets in Syria during the last week of September 2015, there has been a concentrated anti-Russian backlash from the group. It claimed responsibility for downing the Russian passenger plane above Egypt in October and has continued to post Russian-language propaganda videos...
8 March 2016
Pope Francis, along with senior members of the Roman Curia, listen as Servite Father Ermes Ronchi, an Italian theologian, delivers his meditation during a weeklong Lenten retreat in Ariccia, Italy, on 7 March. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)
8 March 2016
Tags: Pope Francis
Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael delivers a speech during the inauguration ceremony of a new Chaldean church on the outskirts of Paris on 6 March. (photo: Matthieu Alexandre/AFP/Getty Images)
Patriarch: No ‘Christian militia’ to free land occupied by jihadists (Fides) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I has distanced himself definitively from groups within Christian communities asserting the necessity to defend their own community rights and fight jihadists by forming armed groups...
Syrian refugees despairing after five years of war (Voice of America) Many families are crowded into small cement block units, or tents, and there is not much to do. The pressure of living that way year after year is taking its toll. “These refugees have been staying in tents, and you can imagine the issues that we have, be it psychological, or even domestic violence. You have the whole family of seven people living in a small tent,” said Tanya Kareem, head of the UNHCR sub-office in Dohuk, northern Iraq. With the war in Syria about to enter its sixth year, donor fatigue is setting in. Ms. Kareem said funding constraints are affecting what UNHCR can do for the refugees…
Remembering India’s Christian martyrs should be a priority (Crux) Pope Francis often talks about the “ecumenism of blood” that anti-Christian persecution creates, driving Christians toward deeper unity because of the realization that denominational differences mean nothing to their persecutors. There’s probably no better place on earth to make that point than Kandhamal, India…
Vatican announces consistory to approve canonization of Mother Teresa (CNS) Pope Francis will preside over a consistory to approve the canonization of five men and women, including Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, the Vatican announced. The 15 March consistory will also determine the approval of canonization of Argentine “gaucho priest,” Blessed Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero and Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio, a 14-year-old Mexican boy martyred for refusing to renounce his faith during the Cristero War of the 1920’s, the Vatican said 7 March. The meeting of cardinals and promoters of the sainthood causes, also known as an “ordinary public consistory,” formally ends the process of approving a new saint…
Starving animals put up for sale at Gaza zoo (Reuters) A Gaza zoo owner is putting the last of his starving animals up for sale. Muhammad Oweida once hosted family and school outings at his zoo in Khan Younis in the southern part of the Palestinian territory. But war and economic hardship intervened to turn the venture into what is now a sad collection of 15 emaciated animals that he can no longer afford to feed. “I have to sell them in order to save them,” said Mr. Oweida, 24, sitting near the cage of a tiger who had not eaten in four days…
7 March 2016
Tags: Syria India Gaza Strip/West Bank Indian Christians Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I
In this image from 2006, children welcome visitors to the Our Lady of Armenia Boghossian Educational Center. To learn more about the faith that is flourishing in Armenia, read A New Start for Armenia’s Catholics from the January 2006 edition of ONE. (photo: Armineh Johannes)