Current Issue
December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
29 September 2015
Greg Kandra

Syrian children who lost one or both of their parents in Syria’s ongoing conflict line up to attend a party organised for them by the local NGO Douma Society in the rebel-held district of Douma, east of Damascus, on 28 September 2015. CNEWA and the Vatican have just announced a new global initiative to provide help for thousands of Syrian families this winter.
(photo: Abd Doumany/AFP/Getty Images)

CNEWA partners with Vatican to help Syrian refugees (CNEWA) In a new effort to support Christians in the Middle East, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, has announced a major “global initiative” — partnering with Catholic Near East Welfare Association — to provide much-needed help for 6,000 families in Syria. The target is $2 million...

Obama and Putin play diplomatic poker over Syria (The New York Times) After circling each other for the past year, President Obama and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia squared off on Monday at the United Nations in dueling speeches that presented starkly different views on the Syrian crisis and how to bring stability to the Middle East. President Obama made a forceful defense of diplomacy and the system of rules represented by the international body, but in a veiled reference to Mr. Putin, he warned that “dangerous currents risk pulling us back into a darker, more disordered world...”

Syriac bishop warns of “destruction of Christians” in the Middle East (New Jersey Advance) Saying he represents a “forgotten people,” the leader of one of Catholicism’s oldest branches on Monday implored the United States and Europe to intercede in what he described as the systematic purging of Christians from the Middle East. Ignatius Youssef III Younan — bishop of the Syriac Catholic Church, one of nearly two dozen Eastern Rite churches in union with the Roman Catholic pope — issued his plea during a press conference at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark...

New patriarch: religious language must be used at the service of peace (Fides) Political and religious speeches should serve to instill the spirit of love and service in the hearts, and not the contrary, fomenting conflict and division. This is the key concept expressed by Mar Gewargis III, new Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, at the liturgy for his inauguration, which marked the beginning of his patriarchal ministry...

Refugees tell of escaping homeland for fear of safety (Vatican Radio) Some refugees attempting to make their way across Europe say they left their home countries because they have become targets for refusing to kill innocent people...

Power crisis in Gaza causes boom in ice business (Al Monitor) The worsening electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip has caused a boom in the ice manufacturing and selling industry. The industry is thriving due to the increasing public demand on it by citizens and meat and fish vendors who are keen to preserve their products. The Gaza Strip has been suffering from an acute electricity crisis since Israeli warplanes bombed the only power plant in Gaza in 2006, following the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in June of the same year. As a result, electrical power is only provided for six hours daily, and eight at best...

Ethiopians celebrate Meskel ( The Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross, Meskel, is celebrated by Ethiopian Christians throughout the country every year on 26-27 September. The occasion has been observed for more than one and half millennium by the faithful, the clergy and the leaders of the Ethiopia Orthodox Tewahedo church, and UNESCO has declared it one of the “intangible heritages of humanity.” In Addis Ababa, the celebrations begins on 26 September with the building of the Damera, the bonfire, a conical pyre of poles surrounded by bundles of branches and torches, decorated with green grass and the yellow Meskel which symbolizing the New Year. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to Meskel Square where priests in their colorful robes chant hymns and prayers and perform rhythmic dances in front of the pyre...

Indian judge urges Christians to be faithful to the Indian constitution (Pakistan Daily Times) A series of questions posed by Christians to India’s Supreme Court judge Justice Kurian Joseph showed that one of the main religious minority communities felt insecure across India, The Hindu newspaper reported. Atthe Juhanon Mar Thoma Lecture hosted by Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, Justice Kurian allayed their fears, gave them hope and pointed to the way to fight rightwing Hindutva forces. He spoke at length about the time and life of Jesus Christ, urging his fellow Christians to be faithful to the Indian Constitution...

Tags: Syria India Ethiopia CNEWA Russia

28 September 2015
Greg Kandra

Today, Ethiopians celebrate the holiday of Meskel, commemorating the finding of the True Cross by St. Helena. This image from 2007 shows some of the celebration surrounding the feast in Addis Ababa. You can read more about this holiday and its meaning here.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers)

28 September 2015
Greg Kandra

In the video above, Pope Francis is shown visiting the 9/11 memorial in New York City and taking part in a prayer service featuring representatives from several religions. (video: Rome Reports)

U.N. General assembly opens with focus on Syria, ISIS, refugees (The New York Times) The United Nations General Assembly opened on Monday with all eyes on the war in Syria and the twin crises it has helped spawn: the unyielding spread of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and the surge of refugees from the region into Europe. “Inequality is growing, trust is fading, and impatience with leadership can be seen and felt far and wide,” Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in formally convening the General Assembly’s 70th annual session. The remarks by Mr. Ban, who is approaching his last year as the secretary general, were unusually pointed...

Pope calls on U.N. to work for peace, justice (The Wall Street Journal) During a sweeping address before the United Nations, Pope Francis called on the international community to combat environmental degradation and social injustice, and praised the Iran nuclear deal as “proof of the potential of political good will.” Pope Francis, the fourth leader of the Catholic Church to address the U.N., used the occasion of Friday’s speech before the General Assembly to highlight signature themes of his pontificate...

Pope at 9/11 memorial: violence brings tears (CNS) Honoring both the pain and the strength of the families of those who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11 and drawing on the pools of water that are part of the site’s memorial, Pope Francis spoke about tears and quenching the world’s longing for peace. “The water we see flowing toward that empty pit remind us of all those lives” lost in 2001, he said. “The flowing water is also a symbol of our tears. Tears at so much devastation and ruin, past and present.” Afterward, Pope Francis joined a varied group of religious leaders and about 400 people in Foundation Hall to offer prayers for the deceased and for peace in the world...

Patriarch: Holy Land Christians “pray, weep, suffer and wait” with Jesus (CNS) Christian families in the Holy Land bear their daily suffering with hope, knowing that the cross is the cost of following Christ, said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem. “We are a church of Calvary, and it is something that we have to accept,” he said during a session of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia on 25 September. “Jesus says all who follow him will have to pick up their cross,” he continued. “We must take these words seriously. If we want to follow him, we have our daily cross.” The Latin-rite archbishop of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories contributed to a panel at the international four-day congress on the theme, “The Way of the Cross, the Way of the Heart: Suffering and the Family...”

Obama and Putin to confront tensions in Ukraine (AP) Face-to-face for the first time in nearly a year, President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday will confront rising tensions over Moscow’s military engagement in Syria, as well as the stubborn crisis in Ukraine...

Pope Tawadros II begins visit to Ethiopia (StarAfrica) Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria (Egypt) and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark has begun a six day visit to Ethiopia from Saturday to celebrate participate in the celebrations of finding of the true cross which is to be observed by Ethiopian Christians on Monday. The Pope, during his visit, is expected to meet the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Mathias I, the President and members of Ethiopia’s Public Diplomacy Delegation which visited Egypt last year...

AUDIO: Saving Russian religious music traditions (VOA) Many religions use music to help communicate their message. What you are listening to now is a choral work performed in the Russian Orthodox Church. This kind of singing is different from other religious traditions. And it is this kind of singing that a U.S.-based choir hopes to keep alive. The choir is part of the Patriarch Tikhon Russian-American Music Institute. The group recently went to Russia for training in what is known as the Slavonic tradition of music...

Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ukraine Ethiopia Muslim

24 September 2015
Greg Kandra

Elementary students at Grabafila school in southern Ethiopia are pursuing knowledge — and dreams — thanks to the Catholic Church. Read more in “Never Too Late to Dream” in the
July 2005 edition of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)

24 September 2015
Greg Kandra

Saudi emergency personnel and Hajj pilgrims stand near bodies covered in sheets at the site where at least 700 were killed and hundreds wounded in a stampede in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, at the annual hajj in Saudi Arabia on 24 September 2015. The stampede, the second deadly accident to strike the pilgrims this year, broke out during the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual, the Saudi civil defence service said. (photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Stampede kills hundreds at pilgrimage near Mecca (CNN) A stampede during one of the last rituals of the Hajj season — the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca — has killed more than 700 people and injured 800 others in Saudi Arabia. The stampede occurred Thursday morning during the ritual known as “stoning the devil” in the tent city of Mina, about 2 miles from Mecca, Islam’s holiest city...

Turkey alarmed over Russian buildup in Syria (Voice of America) Turkey has dubbed Russia’s rapid military buildup in Syria as “very dangerous.” The condemnation came as U.S. officials said they were still trying to fathom Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategy in Syria — whether his military objective is to help battle against Islamic State extremists, as Moscow claims, or to strike at rebel fighters seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad, a Russian ally...

Radical Russian Orthodox leader sentenced to jail (The Moscow Times) The leader of a radical Russian Orthodox group has been sentenced to 10 days in jail for vandalizing an art exhibition in Moscow this summer, a news report said Tuesday. A Moscow city court on Tuesday found Dmitry “Enteo” Tsorionov, who heads the “God’s Will” group, guilty of petty hooliganism for his organization’s 14 August attack on the Manezh exhibition center, the RIA Novosti news agency reported...

Israel to allow more exports from Gaza (Haaretz) For the first time since 2007, Israel will allow Gaza to export ironware, furniture and textiles to Israel in a bid to improve the embattled enclave’s economy, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, said Monday. The new rules will go into effect 7 October with the aim of “improving the Gaza economy and reducing unemployment,” said the office, which is responsible for civilian affairs vis a vis West Bank and Gazan Palestinians...

African episcopal conferences obtain observer status at African Union (Fides) The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar has obtained observer status at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. According to a statement sent to Agenzia Fides, the observer status was obtained following the signing of a memorandum of understanding on behalf of the President of SECAM, His Exc. Mgr. Gabriel Mbilingi. The Archbishop of Lubango, and the Commissioner for Political Affairs of the African Union, Ms. Aisha Laraba Abdullahi...

Tags: Syria Ethiopia Turkey Russia Muslim

23 September 2015
Greg Kandra

A priest blesses his congregation in the Church of the Virgin Mary in Nazla, Egypt, one of the many churches burned in August 2013. Read more about Egypt’s efforts to recover in “Out of the Ashes” in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. And join Pope Francis in bringing hope to Egypt’s Christians. Visit this link to learn how. (photo: David Degner)

23 September 2015
Greg Kandra

On his flight from Cuba to the United States Tuesday, Pope Francis defended his teaching
on social issues. (video: Rome Reports)

Is Russia planning to move more troops into Syria? (CNN) Russia may be preparing to station troops at two new sites in Syria as it continues its rapid military buildup in the conflict-ravaged nation, a research firm says. IHS Jane’s said Tuesday that it had spotted two previously unreported sites in satellite imagery of western Syria where steps appear to be being taken to receive Russian forces...

Pope defends teaching on social issues (CNS) Pope Francis defended his position on the economy, the environment and other social issues as faithful repetitions of the basic Catholic social doctrine. Speaking to reporters flying with him from Cuba to Washington on 22 September, the Pope was asked about comments, mainly from the United States, claiming the Pope is a communist and about the Newsweek headline, “Is the Pope Catholic?” “I am certain I have never said anything more than what is in the social doctrine of the church,” he responded. “I follow the church and in this, I do not think I am wrong”...

EU pushes through deal to share refugees (The Guardian) European governments have forced through a deal to impose refugee quotas, sharing 120,000 people between them in a watershed decision that several states bitterly opposed. The decision to overrule opponents in the newer states of central Europe was highly unusual and perceived as an assault on their sovereignty by the four countries that voted against. While applauded by NGOs and immigration professionals as a belated attempt by the EU to get to grips with its biggest ever migration crisis, the decision was highly divisive and sets the scene for a tense summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Wednesday dedicated to the refugee emergency...

Jerusalem mayor takes tough stand against Al-Aqsa rock throwers (RNS) he Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem cannot be used to harbour violent agitators, the city’s mayor said after Muslims stockpiled rocks and pipe bombs inside the mosque just before and after the start of the Jewish New Year and violently clashed with Israeli police. “People can’t think they can use religious sites as a safe haven for violence,” said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on 17 September. “We will increase measures ... to ensure terrorists do not gain what they seek to gain.”...

Putin opens Moscow’s most elaborate mosque (The New York Times) The most elaborate mosque ever built in Moscow, a city that is home to one of the largest concentrations of Muslims in Europe, was opened on Wednesday by President Vladimir V. Putin. Mr. Putin, in brief remarks, called the new, modern mosque the biggest in Europe and said that it was a worthy addition to a capital and a country built on the idea of uniting different nationalities and faiths. The mosque is a central part of Russia’s efforts to develop its own system of Muslim religious education and training to counteract extremists seeking recruits, the president said. “Terrorists from the so-called Islamic State actually cast a shadow on the great global religion of Islam,” he said. “Their ideology is built on hate”...

Tags: Syria Pope Francis Jerusalem Russia Muslim

22 September 2015
Greg Kandra

Palestinian Christian Nadim Khoury, master brewer and co-founder of the Taybeh Brewery Company, pours a beer at the Taybeh Oktoberfest in the West Bank village of Taybeh
on 19 September. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

In 2011, we visited the town of Taybeh, “the only entirely Christian village in Palestine,” and we turned a spotlight on its annual Oktoberfest:

The family — owned Taybeh Brewery began modestly, when brothers Nadim and Daoud Khoury returned to their hometown to help rebuild the local economy. Over the next decade, the brothers worked tirelessly to improve their product and expand the business.

The Khoury family has lived in Taybeh for at least 600 years. The brothers’ grandfather served as the pastor of the local Orthodox parish. As children, they attended school in nearby Ramallah. But as young adults, conflict and the resulting dearth of educational and economic opportunities drove the brothers to set out for the United States, where they completed their studies and lived for several years.

“We came back after the Oslo Agreement. First, my brother Nadim came in 1994 and I myself followed in 1999,” says Daoud Khoury, who since 2005 has served as Taybeh’s mayor.

“I wanted to do something for my small village. It is important to me to keep Taybeh a Christian village in Palestine. I mean no prejudice, but we are surrounded by 16 Muslim villages and live with them peacefully,” explains Mayor Khoury.

“But, I and my fellow citizens feel it is a treasure that we inherited this land from our great–grandfathers. They passed down the land from generation to generation and did not sell it, even though they were probably in need back then. We feel it is our duty to preserve the land and keep Taybeh Christian.”

Since opening its doors, Taybeh Brewery has steadily earned a local and international reputation for its high quality, all–natural selection of beers, which includes a popular golden stout and nonalcoholic alternative.

Now, this year’s Oktoberfest is in full swing, and CNS dropped by:

As Palestinians and Israelis in Jerusalem once again became embroiled in violence, locals and guests in Taybeh were enjoying ice-cold beers, grilled meats, frosted doughnuts and throbbing music as the all-Christian Palestinian village celebrated its 11th Oktoberfest.

“This gathering is good,” said a beaming Nadim Khoury, who together with his brother, David, opened the village’s now-famous Taybeh microbrewery, which hosts the festival. That was in 1995, two years after Nadim Khoury returned from an extended sojourn in the United States.

“It brings unity to all the people here; they share, sell local products, drink beer, eat,” Nadim Khoury said. “We show the world we can have a normal life, we celebrate life. The Middle East always has problems; this is our peaceful resistance.”

Over the pulsating rap of a local Palestinian band, David Khoury, a former village mayor, remarked: “We brought democracy to Palestine by selling beer,” he said. “And someday we will toast peace over beer.”

Read more.

22 September 2015
Greg Kandra

A young Syrian refugee covered with dust arrives with her family in the town of Ruwaished, where they are welcomed by Jordanian authorities. While many refugees are trying to make their way to Europe, the vast majority are remaining in the region.
(photo: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images)

Most refugees remaining in Syria (The New York Times) As the West grapples with a new flood of asylum seekers bursting across Europe’s borders, the vast majority of Syrian refugees remain in the region: 1.9 million in Turkey, 1.2 million in Lebanon and 630,000 registered here in Jordan. Underfunded aid agencies and overburdened host countries have been struggling for years to support them...

Russia expands fleet in Syria (The New York Times) Russia has sharply increased the number of combat aircraft at an air base near Latakia, Syria, giving its forces a new ability to strike targets on the ground in the war-stricken country. Over the weekend, Russia deployed a dozen Su-24 Fencer and a dozen Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack planes, bringing to 28 the number of warplanes at the base, a senior United States official said on Monday. Until the weekend, the only combat planes there had been four Flanker air-to-air fighters...

Compensation announced for the burning of church in Tabgha (Fides) On Monday 21 September, Israel’s Attorney General announced that the State of Israel will offer compensation to the Sanctuary of the Miracle of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes, in Tabgha, which on 18 June was burnt by terrorists of the extreme radical right wing. This was reported by official sources of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem...

Report: Egypt demolishing homes in Gaza (The Times of Israel) The Egyptian military’s campaign against Islamic insurgents in northern Sinai is harming thousands of civilians and risks turning more people against the government, Human Rights Watch said in a report Tuesday. The government has evicted 3,200 families over the past two years, and razed hundreds of acres of farmland and thousands of homes in its bid to destroy illegal smuggling tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip with Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula, the rights group said....

The “other” refugees, from Eritrea (America) The mounting refugee problem in Europe — often seen as a result of the Syrian war — has attracted the attention of the world’s media. But there is another, often forgotten, dimension to the crisis which has been on going for a number of years: the political instability in North Africa, Eritrea specifically...

Why haven’t Jews responded to Vatican II after 50 years? (The Forward) The arrival of Pope Francis in America and the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s landmark declaration, Nostra Aetate, have allowed us, as Jews, to marvel at the revolutionary developments in our relations with the Catholic Church in the past half-century. But while the church has taken great strides in re-examining the way it considers and interacts with Judaism and the Jewish people, Jews have done little in response...

21 September 2015
Greg Kandra

CNEWA paid a visit to Geneseo, IL last weekend. (photo: CNEWA)

We had a whirlwind visit to western Illinois over the weekend, but it was a great opportunity to connect with old friends, meet new ones and speak about the challenges facing Christians in the Middle East. It was also a chance to introduce CNEWA to a new audience and talk about how our papal agency is working to support those most in need today.

My colleague Chris Kennedy and I arrived in Moline, IL Saturday morning, and drove across the Mississippi River to Davenport, Iowa, where we had lunch with a longtime donor, the Rev. Tom Stratman, 89 years young, and a lifelong Iowan. Father Tom purchased a CNEWA annuity some years back and has supported our work ever since. He lives in a residence for retired priests in Davenport. It was great to connect with him, hear stories about his family and his priesthood and get to know a kindred spirit.

CNEWA’s Chris Kennedy, longtime donor Father Tom Stratman, and Deacon Greg Kandra break bread in Davenport, IA. (photo: CNEWA)

After lunch, we headed back across the river to Geneseo, IL, driving past acres of cornfields and small Victorian homes, until we came upon our destination, St. Malachy’s Catholic Church.

St. Malachy’s Catholic Church in Geneso, IL, hosted CNEWA this past weekend. (photo: CNEWA)

There, we were met by the parish’s one priest, the Rev. Michael Pakula, who has served as pastor for 20 years and somehow handles three weekend Masses on his own (with the help, I should add, of five deacons.) Father Mike invited CNEWA to serve as his parish’s “mission outreach” this year.

CNEWA Development Associate Chris Kennedy, ready for action at St. Malachy’s. (photo: CNEWA)

Our information table provided brochures, donor information and reading material, including copies of our award-winning magazine, ONE. (photo: CNEWA)

I preached at all the Masses, while Chris manned our information table in the vestibule. The parish also took up a second collection at all the Masses for CNEWA.

Deacon Greg Kandra preached at all the Masses at St. Malachy’s last weekend. (photo: CNEWA)

During my homily, I spoke about the sisters helping the displaced Christians of Iraq in Erbil — notably Sister Maria Hanna — and spotlighted the remarkable, selfless mission of love they have undertaken. (You can read more about it in our current issue of ONE.) The fervor and faith of the people of Iraq are both humbling and inspiring. And the generous response of the good people in Geneseo was a real blessing. We left uplifted and enriched.

We’re grateful to Father Mike for inviting us to visit — and especially thankful to his parish community for its warmth, hospitality and generous spirit. (A special shout-out has to go to Pat and Kellee Drewlow, active parishioners who made sure we were well fed and well supported during our stay.) St. Malachy’s is a vibrant parish, with a lot of young families, and their commitment to helping others and reaching out to the wider world is an inspiration.

Chris Kennedy, St. Malachy pastor Father Mike Pakula, and Deacon Greg Kandra. (photo: CNEWA)

If you’d like CNEWA to come to your parish, just drop us a line. Our development director, Norma Intriago, will be happy to coordinate a visit.

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