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Current Issue
December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
  
6 April 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, the Vatican confirms that Pope Francis will visit refugees from Syria and Iraq on the Greek island of Lesbos next week. (video: Rome Reports)

Greece confirms: Pope will visit refugees later this month (Reuters) Pope Francis is to visit Greece on 14-15 April, a Greek government official said on Tuesday, getting a first-hand look at the front line of Europe’s migrant crisis and thousands of refugees fleeing conflict. The Holy Synod, the ruling body of the Greek Orthodox Church, said in a statement it wanted the pontiff to visit Lesbos, the Aegean island where hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants have arrived in the past year. Confirming the visit, a Greek government official said Francis would be accompanied to Lesbos by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians...

Relics of saint recovered in Syria (CNS) The relics of Syrian St. Elian, which originally were thought to have been destroyed by members of the so-called Islamic State militia, have been found amid the rubble of the desecrated Mar Elian Church in Qaryatain, Syria. The sanctuary was bulldozed in August 2015, according to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Father Jacques Mourad, the prior of the Syriac Catholic monastic community, was kidnapped three months earlier when the terrorists initially raided the church...

Archeologists discover ancient Christian church in Gaza (AP) Palestinian tourism officials say construction workers in the Gaza Strip have discovered what they believe to be a Christian religious site from the Byzantine era. Heyam al-Bitar, research director for the Hamas-run Tourism and Antiquities Ministry, said on Tuesday that the discovery included remnants of marble Corinthian pillars, foundations and crowns, some of them with a Greek cross. She says the ruins likely belong to a church-like structure that existed in what is now Gaza City. She says they date back to the sixth century, and are characteristic of the era of Emperor Justinian...

Cardinal Dolan traveling to Iraq with CNEWA (NCR) New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, is traveling to Iraqi Kurdistan this week, according to a press release from the organization...

First Syrian refugee family headed to U.S. (AP) The first Syrian family to move to the U.S. under its speeded-up “surge” resettlement operation has left Jordan for the United States. Ahmad al-Abboud, his wife and five children, left on Wednesday for Kansas City in Missouri...

Syriac Orthodox Church calls arrest “insulting” (Fides) The Syriac Orthodox Church considers the way the Palestinian police arrested Metropolitan Swerios Malki Murad, Patriarchal Vicar of the Holy Land “insulting.” Such police custody — which took place on Saturday evening, 2 April and lasted a few hours — is “a humiliation for all the faithful of the Syriac Orthodox Church throughout the world.” This is what the statement issued by the General Secretariat of the Syriac Orthodox Holy Synod reads...

Canadian diocese will reimburse money for Syrian refugees lost in gambling (Catholic Register) The Diocese of Hamilton is picking up the pieces after a Chaldean Catholic priest admitted to gambling away $500,000 of donations meant for refugees. The diocese has vowed to make sure no refugees are turned away due to the loss of funds...



5 April 2016
Greg Kandra





Al Lagan speaks with a Capuchin priest during his visit to Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)

Some of CNEWA’s biggest heroes are our donors, and one of the most devoted was Alfred A. Lagan — known to everyone as just “Al” — who supported our work for decades and even went overseas, to see for himself the work his generosity made possible. He died in 2013, at the age of 77.

Al came from humble roots, as his obituary noted:

The son of an Irish immigrant who owned a tavern in the Bronx, NY, Al’s career began by cleaning the tavern and saving pennies left on the floor. At the age of 16, his own father’s untimely death meant an early end to childhood years. Al graduated from Iona College in 1956 at the age of 20, and joined the Navy, where he was part of the Explosive Underwater Ordinance Disposal team, or also known as a “frogman.”

He went on to become a philanthropist and business leader in Boston. But throughout his life, education remained a top priority.

Norma Intriago, now CNEWA’s development director, remembered:

Catholic education, to him, was the best way to tackle the issue of poverty — to give someone the opportunity of education, to arm them with knowledge and good values so that they can build a better life. I think Al felt very blessed as someone who had gone to college, got a master’s degree and started his own investment firm. He felt like his success wasn’t his to keep. It didn’t belong to him — it was God’s blessing. So it was his turn to share that opportunity with others. He was a true altruist. He really, truly, selflessly rendered of himself to others in need.

Following a trip to Ethiopia, Al wrote about his impressions of that country:

Poverty is visible everywhere in Ethiopia. Children often approached us and asked for money. One night, I saw a woman and her baby sleeping against a wall near our hotel. She wasn’t resting for a moment. She and her child were living on the street — they had nowhere else to go.

But what Norma Intriago recalled most was Al Lagan’s spirit:

The trip was a rough one. At one point, we were staying in pretty poor accommodations. The electricity went out. We went a couple of days without showering. You can imagine how that affects your mood. But Al’s mood never changed! Whether he was starved, unwashed, whatever, he just shrugged his shoulders. Because he knew the trip wasn’t about his comfort. It was about something bigger than him. It was about the children and their eager faces. It was about the sisters who ran the institutions and their resourcefulness. That was what the trip was about. These kids had nothing, and it was about making sure they have a chance. I think Al taught me quite a lot about living the Gospel.

CNEWA is able to do its work because of countless heroes like Al Lagan, whose spirit continues to inspire us.



5 April 2016
Greg Kandra




Volunteer Jancy Kuthoor greets (from left to right) Sister Leema Rose, Sister Sigi Kavalamackal and Sister Jolly Moolakodan outside their home in Dharavi, India. The Nirmala Dasi Sisters operate homes, clinics and centers serving in the poorest slums of India. Read more about them in ‘Slumdog’ Sisters in the July 2011 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)



5 April 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Pope Francis offers his prayer intention for April, asking for prayers for small farmers around the world. (video: Rome Reports)

Orthodox Church says it would welcome papal visit to Lesbos (Vatican Radio) A statement from the Holy Synod, or ruling body of the Orthodox Church in Athens, said the Pope had expressed a desire to visit one of the islands in order to draw attention to the humanitarian problems of the migrants, as well as the need for “an immediate cessation of hostilities in the wider Mediterranean region...”

Pope’s prayer intentions focus on small farmers (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ video for April’s prayer intentions focuses on the plight of the small farmer. The Pope Video is a global initiative developed by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer) to assist in the dissemination of the Holy Father’s monthly intentions related to the challenges the humanity faces...

Life for Turkey’s Syrian refugees (The Independent) As the first wave of refugees is deported from Greece to Turkey, human rights advocates have raised concerns about the country’s suitability as a destination for asylum-seekers. Turkey is home to over 2.5 million Syrian refugees, but its refugee camps can only house around 200,000. Images of the shelter provided to refugees upon their immediate return from Greece appear to show hundreds of people sleeping under one roof in cramped conditions...

Iraq’s food business booming, despite war (AP) Iraqi businessman Zaid Nazo has always been sure of his nation’s deep passion for food and wasn’t afraid to dream big when he transformed his small Baghdad coffee shop in 1999 into a casual dining and takeaway restaurant. Today, the 41-year-old father of two has opened four branches and his chain is one of the most popular in Iraq. The food business is booming. There are 40 percent more restaurants in Baghdad today than there were in 2013 — when security and economic conditions in the country were much better — according to Shakir al-Zamili, the chairman of Baghdad Investment Commission...

Ukraine conflict sparks hunger crisis (The New York Times) The two-year-old conflict in eastern Ukraine has left about 1.5 million people hungry, including nearly 300,000 in need of immediate help, the World Food Program, the main anti-hunger humanitarian agency of the United Nations, said on Monday...

Connecticut governor to receive “Profile in Courage” award for welcoming Syrian refugees (The Wall Street Journal) The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation announced Monday it had awarded Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy the 2016 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for his stance on accepting Syrian refugees in the state. “I’m deeply honored and moved by this experience to join other public servants who have been so recognized over the years,” Mr. Malloy, a Democrat, said at a news conference Monday...

A jewel in Syria where “ruins have been ruined” by ISIS (The New York Times) Where Palmyra’s impressive Temple of Bel once stood, only a single stone archway was left to frame a rectangle of blue sky above the arid desert about 160 miles northeast of Damascus, the capital. I traveled to Palmyra on Saturday with members of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia allied with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, to see what remained of the archaeological treasures of Palmyra...

Vatican creates new internet communications office (Vatican Radio) At the invitation of the Secretariat, of State of the Holy See, the Secretariat for Communications has established a Bureau called “DotCatholic” with the purpose of utilizing a generic Internet domain name (.catholic) of the first level, in order to share the teachings, the message and the values of the Catholic Church with the broader global community in Cyberspace...

Sprawling mural pays tribute to Cairo’s garbage collectors (The New York Times) The intricate mural took shape over the past few weeks, little noticed at first, spreading across a harried quarter of Cairo where Egypt’s garbage collectors live, amid overflowing bundles of this overcrowded city’s trash. By the time the painting was finished two weeks ago, it stretched across more than 50 buildings, making it the largest public work of art here anyone can recall. The mural, a circle of orange, white and blue in Arabic calligraphy, quotes a third-century Coptic Christian bishop who said, “If one wants to see the light of the sun, he must wipe his eyes...”



4 April 2016
Greg Kandra




Greek Catholic women say a prayer in the Hungarian village of Nyírascád. To learn how Greek Catholics are maintaining the traditions, read Holding on in Hungary in the May 2006
edition of ONE. (photo: Balazs Gardi)




Tags: Eastern Europe Hungary Greek Catholic Church

4 April 2016
Greg Kandra




In this image from February, employees prepare a convoy of four trucks transporting warm clothes and shoes to Ukraine, at the initiative of the French Red Cross in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, eastern France. Pope Francis over the weekend appealed for more aid for the people of Ukraine.
(photo: AFP/Jean-Philippe Ksiaek/AFP/Getty Images)


Pope appeals for peace, aid to Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed for peace in Ukraine and highlighted the tragedy of “all those who thirst for reconciliation and peace.” Speaking on Sunday during the Regina Caeli prayer in St. Peter’s Square the Pope said he is thinking in particular of the many who are suffering the effects of violence here in Europe...

Cor Unum to distribute funds to Ukraine (Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the papal charitable office, will be organizing the distribution of funds raised in response to Pope Francis” appeal for aid to the people of Ukraine...

In Istanbul, bookstore helps anchor Syrian refugees (AP) A rustic, three story-Arabic bookstore in old Istanbul has become an anchor for many Syrians who have stayed put in Turkey but crave a taste of home. The founder and owner of Pages, Samer al-Kadri, a refugee himself, says the store strives to be a bridge between Syrians, Turks and the myriad of foreigners who visit the city...

At least 29 killed in wave of suicide bombings in Iraq (The New York Times) Militants unleashed a wave of suicide attacks across Iraq on Monday, killing at least 29 people and wounding dozens, officials said...

Drought in Ethiopia could mean record food imports (The Weekly Times) A devastating drought in Ethiopia triggered by the El Nino weather pattern could double the nation’s wheat imports, according to the US Department of Agriculture. The African nation is in the middle of its worst drought in 50 years, which has left almost 400,000 people facing severe malnutrition...

Temporary freedom for Christian in India seeds hope (Crux) One of seven Christians convicted in 2008 for allegedly killing a Hindu holy man in the Indian state of Odisha, a charge that triggered a bout of anti-Christian violence that left 100 dead and 50,000 homeless, walked out of prison on March 31 accompanied by family members. It’s widely believed among India’s Christian community that the 2008 convictions were unjust, a way of distracting attention away from the failure of Odisha authorities in tandem with militant Hindu movements to protect the Christian minority...



1 April 2016
Greg Kandra




A Coptic villager in Upper Egypt checks his cellphone while transporting crops across town.
(photo: John E. Kozar)


CNEWA’s President, Msgr. John E. Kozar, made a memorable pastoral visit to Egypt earlier this year, and captured the deep faith of the country’s Christians in the Spring edition of ONE:

Egypt is often left out of discussions about the “Holy Land,” yet it is the land where St. Joseph took Mary and Jesus for safe haven. Sometimes the ancient history of the Pharaohs, the pyramids and the many archaeological treasures diminish the biblical importance of this land.

But Christians in Egypt, unlike in most of the Middle East, are truly at the bottom of society. Generally, they are the least educated, own very few businesses and are considered “second class,” or the outcasts of society. Many live in sprawling urban ghettoes, where many make a living picking and sorting garbage. Others live in very poor rural villages where they till the soil as indentured servants to wealthy landowners. One sister said, “They don’t dare take one head of grain to eat.” In either setting, however, their faith is alive.

Despite being extremely poor and living in horrible conditions, such as sleeping on a mud floor with their oxen and pigs, they relate to their local parish as an extended family and do everything needed to sustain each other, even to the point of taking in orphans or those children or elderly who have no one to care for them.

Read more and see his gallery of photographs here. And take a moment to hear him describe his visit in the video below.




1 April 2016
Greg Kandra




In this image from 25 March, Syrian refugee children play in front of a makeshift tent
in Izmir, Turkey. (photo: Evren Atalay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


Amnesty International says Turkey forcing refugees back to Syria (South Africa Times) Amnesty International accused Turkey on Friday of illegally forcing groups of Syrians to return to their conflict-torn country, saying the alleged expulsions showed the “fatal flaws” in a migrant deal agreed with the EU...

Meet Iraqi refugees going back to Iraq (Time) A small but growing number of refugees are going back to their home countries in the Middle East — after life in Germany doesn’t work out...

Genocide call tangled up in politics in Canada (Catholic Register) Widespread slaughter, expulsion, kidnapping and rape of Christians, Yezidis and other ethnic and religious minorities in territory controlled by the Islamic State may well constitute a genocide, but the Canadian government will not join a growing international movement and formally call it a genocide before there is a proper, third party investigation...

Gaza child labor doubled in five years (Newsweek) Child labor has doubled in the Gaza Strip in the last five years as unemployment continues to rise and economic conditions continue to worsen in the coastal enclave, according to Palestinian government statistics. The number of children between the ages of 10 and 17 in the enclave currently working in Gaza now stands at 9,700, Reuters reported, citing figures from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics...

Egypt preparing document on protection of churches in Islam (Fides) The Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, a body linked to the Egyptian Ministry for Religious facilities, will publish a vademecum within a month on the subject of “protection of the churches in Islam.” This was reported in recent days by Minister Mohamed Mokhtar, head of the department. The book in preparation — explained the representative of the Egyptian government — is intended to document that in Islamic societies reference to the Qur’an can be translated into a form inspired by the values of coexistence and respect among citizens of different religions...

Toronto art exhibit inspired by migrant crisis (Catholic Register) The exhibit, opening 2 April, is a collection of creative meditations on ongoing social issues of homelessness, migrant issues and refuge. Michael Stoeber, APT member and a professor at Regis College, said the theme was chosen as an initial reaction to the growing Syrian migrant crisis in the Middle East and Europe, but looking around Toronto, the group realized these issues are also in their own backyard...



31 March 2016
Greg Kandra




Sister Arousiag Sajonian serves as superior of Our Lady of Armenia Convent in Gyumri, Armenia.
(photo: Nazik Armenakyan)


Her first name means “Carrier of Light” in Armenian. And for more than two decades, Sister Arousiag Sajonian has been bringing light and hope to a troubled corner of Armenia — a land ravaged by earthquakes, wars and economic crises.

She was born and raised in the Middle East — “between Syria and Lebanon,” as she puts it — and entered the convent at age 19. A sister of the Immaculate Conception, she now serves as superior of Our Lady of Armenia Convent in Gyumri. CNEWA once described her order as a group of “no nonsense nuns” — and they are, to put it mildly, active. Sister Arousiag supervises an orphanage, a daycare center for the elderly, a vocational school and a summer camp program.

As she wrote in our magazine in 1997:

We have taught some 1,000 students on a weekly basis, preparing them for Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist and Reconciliation.

We have also visited the elderly and the sick and have organized public seminars. All these activities have been made possible through a vehicle donated by CNEWA, which has carried us back and forth from village to village.

Our classes and presentations were the first formal catechetical lessons offered to Armenian Catholics since the country was annexed by Soviet Russia in 1922.

This busy nun visited our New York office in 2012 and found time to sit down for an interview and described her long partnership with CNEWA:

Sister Arousiag: Every time I haven’t been able to get enough funds for a project, I’d write a letter to CNEWA and put on the top “S.O.S.” And I always received a positive response. Immediately.

ONE: What is the one message you’d like the world to hear about the work that you do?

Sister Arousiag: My message would be to share what they have with the least fortunate. Most of the time, they are people who don’t know how to get out of their situations. What we want is to teach them how to overcome — how they can have a more dignified life. That is very important: that we don’t pity them. We just help them to live a better life. That is something every human being strives for. They want dignity.



31 March 2016
Greg Kandra




Markian Surmach shows off some of the beautiful pysanky, or decorated eggs, he sells in his Ukrainian shop in New York City. See more examples of his work, and learn how they are created, in The Colors of Easter in the March 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: Erin Edwards)







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