4 April 2014
Since the Syrian civil war began, the Sahel al Alma School in Jounieh, north of Beirut, has adapted to an influx of Syrian children, who now comprise the majority of students. To learn more about them, read Crossing the Border from our Spring 2013 issue of ONE. And to find out how you can help children like these, visit our Syria giving page. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
3 April 2014
In this image from 2013, mlitary police stand outside the burned Rabaa Adawiya mosque on 15 August, the morning after the clearing of a protest which was held around the mosque in Cairo. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)
The bishops in the Holy Land, addressing that question, have posted a statement today on the website for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. CNS has details:
Repeated references to persecution of Christians, “usually referring only to what Christians suffer at the hands of criminals claiming to be Muslims, plays into the hands of extremists,” said Catholic leaders in the Holy Land.
“In the name of truth, we must point out that Christians are not the only victims of this violence and savagery. Secular Muslims, all those defined as ‘heretic,’ ‘schismatic’ or simply ‘nonconformist,’ are being attacked and murdered in the prevailing chaos,” said a statement from the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land, posted on the website of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem on 3 April.
“In areas where Sunni extremists dominate, Shiites are being slaughtered. In areas where Shiite extremists dominate, Sunnis are being killed,” the bishops said. “Yes, the Christians are at times targeted precisely because they are Christians, having a different set of beliefs and unprotected. However, they fall victim alongside many others who are suffering and dying in these times of death and destruction. They are driven from their homes alongside many others and together they become refugees, in total destitution.”
The bishops said the extremists, “at home and abroad,” hope to “sow prejudice and hatred, setting peoples and religions against one another.”
They acknowledged that Christians had lived in relative security under some of the dictatorial regimes in the Middle East, so Christian leaders defended these regimes that were overthrown as part of the Arab Spring.
“Instead, loyalty to their faith and concern for the good of their country should perhaps have led them to speak out much earlier, telling the truth and calling for necessary reforms, in view of more justice and respect of human rights, standing alongside both many courageous Christians and Muslims who did speak out,” the bishops said.
They said they understood people’s fear and suffering when family members are killed or are driven from their homes.
“In certain circumstances their only consolation and hope is to be found in Jesus’ words: ‘Happy are those who are persecuted in the cause of right: Theirs is the kingdom of heaven,‘” they said.
However, they added, “All Christians and many Muslims are threatened by these forces that seek to create a society devoid of Christians and where only very few Muslims will be at home. All those who seek dignity, democracy, freedom and prosperity are under attack. We must stand together and speak out in truth and freedom.”
There’s more at the CNS link.
And you can read the full statement from the bishops at the Latian Patriarchate of Jerusalem website.
3 April 2014
Tags: Holy Land Muslim Arab Spring Christian
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth talks with Pope Francis during a meeting at the Vatican on 3 April. The Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, were making a one-day visit to meet with the pope and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. (photo: CNS/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)
Pope Francis met for the first time today with Queen Elizabeth:
The royal visit took place as the Vatican and the United Kingdom were marking the 100th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. Formal ties were broken in the 1570s after Pope Pius V excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I, who had reasserted the Church of England’s independence from papal authority.
The Vatican described the meeting as “official, but informal,” which explained why it was held in the studio of the Paul VI audience hall rather than in the library of the Apostolic Palace and why the queen was not wearing black. Instead, she arrived from a luncheon with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano wearing a light lavender skirt and jacket.
The queen and prince arrived about 20 minutes late. After Pope Francis said, “Welcome,” Queen Elizabeth said, “Sorry to keep you waiting; we were having a pleasant lunch with the president.”
After a 17-minute private meeting, the pope and the queen exchanged gifts. Pope Francis presented the couple with a facsimile of Pope Innocent XI’s order extending the cult of St. Edward the Confessor. St. Edward, king of England in the mid-11th century, is venerated by both Catholics and Anglicans. The pope also had a gift, which he explained in Spanish, was for 8-month-old Prince George of Cambridge, the queen’s great-grandson: a cross mounted on a lapis lazuli orb.
“He will be thrilled by that,” the queen said, adding, “when he’s a little older.”
Pope Francis gave Prince Philip a series of three medals of his pontificate; the prince thanked him, joking, “It’s the only gold medal I’ve ever won.”
Saying it was “a gift for you personally,” Queen Elizabeth gave the pope a large basket of food from the estates surrounding her homes; the items included an assortment of honey, a dozen eggs, a “haunch of venison,” shortbread, juice, preserves and “Balmoral whiskey.” The prince held up the whiskey, explaining what it was, then picked up another bottle and said, “It’s apple juice.”
And, fulfilling a long-standing tradition, Queen Elizabeth gave the pope two signed, silver framed photographs of her and the Duke of Edinburgh, telling him, “I’m afraid I have to give you a photograph; it is inevitable.”
The April 3 visit was the British royals’ fifth meeting with a pope at the Vatican. In 1951, the year before she was enthroned, she met Pope Pius XII. As queen, she met Pope John XXIII at the Vatican in 1961 and Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1980 and 2000.
Reigning since 1952, she was the first British sovereign to welcome a pope to England when she greeted Pope John Paul II in London in 1982. She also welcomed Pope Benedict XVI to Britain in 2010.
2 April 2014
Tags: Holy Land Muslim Arab Spring Christian
Village boys in Ethiopia receive oral instruction from an Orthodox scribe, or debtera. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Eight years ago, we took a look at the Christian influence on schools in Ethiopia:
The impact of Christian monastic education in Ethiopia should not be underestimated, said David Bridges, chairman of the Von Hügel Institute, a Catholic research facility at St. Edmund’s College at the University of Cambridge. “There is a rich historic tradition of education associated with Christianity that goes back almost as long as the church itself,” he said. “At the village level, wandering priests bring teaching to scattered rural communities, usually in return for subsistence food and shelter. At the higher levels people study for 30 to 40 years to take the full curriculum of the church, with its different branches for music, literature, philosophy, theology and specialized forms of poetry.”
Mr. Bridges lamented the fact that this tradition tends to be overlooked by international consultants in education.
Read more about Making the Grade in Ethiopia in the March 2006 issue of ONE.
1 April 2014
Tags: Ethiopia Education Orthodox
Jennifer Jozel, 17, a Catholic, holds a candle inside the Dormition of the Virgin Church in the Israeli Christian village of Mi’ilya in Galilee. She will join the air force in September. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Catholic News Service this week profiles a small but growing demographic, Israeli Christians who are volunteering to join the Israeli army:
At the end of a recent unofficial pre-induction briefing for about 30 young men preparing to join the Israeli army, the participants stood and, led by Greek Orthodox Father Gabriel Nadaf, recited the Our Father in Arabic with hands outstretched. They finished by making the sign of the cross.
“You are not going to shoot,” said Father Nadaf, the spiritual leader of the year-and-a-half-old Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum, whose 18-year-old son, Jubran, was among the new recruits. Father Nadaf reminded them of the fate of Syrian Christians, some of whom have been kidnapped and killed.
“You are going to protect. You do not go to attack but to defend. The Messiah said not to kill, he did not say don’t defend. We have to defend our Holy Land,” the priest said.
The young men represent an increasing number of young Israeli Christians who are deciding to voluntarily join the Israeli military, explained Capt. Shadi Haloul, 38, the forum’s spokesman, a Maronite Catholic and reservist in the Israeli Defense Forces.
Forum officials said about 84 Christians joined the army in the last half of 2013, the same number that joined in the prior 18 months. Although they are a small part of the 120,000 Christians who live in northern Israel, IDF officials called the forum’s impact “astounding.”
While Jewish men and women and Druze men from the age of 18 are required to serve in the military, Christians and Muslims have been exempt. Historically, Christian Arabs have viewed themselves as part of the Palestinian people and considered service in the army as unthinkable, although individual Christians have volunteered to serve on their own.
The forum was established to help Christians better integrate into Israeli society and to seek equal treatment and opportunities in a country where army service is key to accessing certain jobs and promotions, better mortgage terms and educational opportunities.
But also, as neighboring Arab countries remain in a quagmire of war and violence, some Israeli Christians say they want to help defend the only country in the region where they believe Christians have equal protection and freedom despite the occasional inequality.
Read more at the CNS website.
1 April 2014
Tags: Israel Palestinians Maronite Christian
In the video posted above, witnesses describe last week’s attack on Kessab. (video: RT.com)
Syrian Army trying to retake Kessab (RT.com) The Syrian Army is trying to retake the Christian majority town of Kessab reportedly seized by Al Qaeda-linked forces. The attack forced hundreds of ethnic Armenians to flee and caused international outcry, with Armenia blaming Turkey for supporting extremists. Warring sides in Syria are facing off over Kessab, an ethnic Armenian hub on the Turkey-Syria border…
Is Crimea gone? (CNN) In diplomacy, as in sales, success often depends on making your adversaries believe they proposed the result you wanted. By that measure, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have closed the sale on annexing Crimea from Ukraine. On Monday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited the region that Moscow now claims over international protests, while Russia also said it was withdrawing a battalion of infantry troops from the tens of thousands deployed near the border with eastern Ukraine…
Pope Francis to become first pontiff to be broadcast in 3D (Variety) Pope Francis will become the first pontiff seen globally in 3D during the upcoming 27 April ceremony in St. Peter’s Square when two of his predecessors, Popes John Paul II and John XXIII, will be canonized as saints…
Some Muslim countries won’t screen ‘Noah’ (Catholic Register) Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates banned the film in early March, citing Islamic prohibitions on showing images of prophets. The Film Censorship Board in Indonesia, home to roughly 215 million Muslims — more than any other country — banned the film last week. Cairo’s Al Azhar University, a historic center of Islamic learning, issued a fatwa against the film urging Muslims not to see it, citing a prohibition on depicting prophets. Yet most Muslim-majority countries have not banned “Noah,” and many observant Muslims in America saw the film when it debuted…
31 March 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Turkey Crimea Media
Pope Francis blesses a woman during an audience with people who are deaf or blind in Paul VI hall at the Vatican on 29 March. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
On Saturday, Pope Francis offered some stirring words to those dealing with physical limitations:
Only those who recognize their own limits can accept the great gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, which is why Catholics with disabilities are such important and powerful witnesses of faith, Pope Francis said.
Meeting March 29 with close to 7,000 members, staff and volunteers of the Apostolic Movement for the Blind and the Little Mission for the Deaf, Pope Francis insisted it is “truly blasphemous” to believe that a physical limitation or disability is a punishment from God.
“Jesus radically refused that way of thinking,” he said.
“The person who is sick or has a disability, precisely because of his or her fragility and limits, can become a witness of the encounter: the encounter with Christ who opens one to life and to faith; and the encounter with others, with the community,” Pope Francis said.
The key to being a trustworthy, effective witness to Jesus, he said, is first having had the experience of meeting Jesus.
“A witness to the Gospel is one who has encountered Jesus Christ, who knows him or, better, feels known by him, recognized, respected, loved and forgiven. This encounter has touched him deeply, has filled him with new joy and given his life new meaning,” the pope said.
CNEWA supports a number of institutions that offer those with physical challenges both inspiration and hope, including the Paul VI Ephpheta Institute, which helps deaf children in Bethlehem and the Santa Lucia Home in Egypt, which helps young people who are blind. Visit our giving page to learn how you can support these and other wonderful institutions that are doing so much to uplift those most in need.
28 March 2014
The Soorp Badarak, or Divine Liturgy, is celebrated daily by the Mekhitarist community.
(photo: Onnik Krikorian)
In 2007, we paid a visit to Armenia and discovered a seminary helping foster monastic vocations after the fall of Communism:
“Five years ago, when I was 75, I thought it was time to rest and pray in preparation for the last joyous journey to be with our Father in heaven, but it was not to be,” said Father Hovsep Behesniryan, a priest of the Armenian Catholic Armenia Congregation. After serving more than 64 years in ministries in Venice, Paris, Los Angeles and New York, “I was called into service once more, this time in Mekhitarist.”
He was sitting in a parlor of the Mekhitarist minor seminary, located in the Armenian capital city of Yerevan, where the Ethiopian-born priest supervises the education of those who hope to follow his path. The seminary opened in October 2004 and is now home to 22 boys, age 13 and older.
“Every boy who comes here believes God called him,” said 16-year-old Narek Tchilingirian, who spent a month at the seminary before deciding to enter. His mother, Tsovinar, was not surprised. “He always went to church regularly, and he always took part in religious ceremonies and youth organizations.”
Father Hovsep’s return to the land of his ancestors has more than personal significance for the octogenarian. The seminary also marks a significant step in the homecoming of an Armenian religious community after centuries in exile.
Read more about The Long Road Home in the May 2007 issue of ONE.
27 March 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama presents a gift to Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican on 27 March. The president gave the pope a blue box containing a selection of fruit and vegetable seeds from the White House Garden. (photo: CNS/Stefano Spaziani, pool)
President Barack Obama met Pope Francis today for the first time, and the visit included the customary exchange of gifts. The CNS blog has details:
U.S. President Barack Obama gave Pope Francis a small chest full of fruit and vegetable seeds that are used in the White House Gardens.
“If you have a chance to come to the White House, we can show you our garden as well,” the president said.
“Como no!” the pope replied in Spanish, “Why not?” or “Of course.”
The seeds were inside individual blue velvet pouches.
“These I think are carrots,” the president said as he opened one of the pouches.
The president said the idea for the seeds came after he heard that Pope Francis had decided to open to the public the gardens at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.
The custom-made box the seeds came in is made from reclaimed wood from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore &mash; the first cathedral in the United States and an international symbol of religious freedom. [Read this story by the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s The Catholic Review for more interesting background on the box!]
The basilica’s cornerstone was laid by Jesuit Father John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop and archbishop in the United States.
Read more about the gifts. And CNS also has additional details about the meeting.
26 March 2014
Father Ihor Hiletsky shows a picture of the grave of alcoholism in the village of Stankiv.
(photo: Yuriy Dyachyshyn)
While Ukraine has been very much in the news lately, something that isn’t reported much is the country’s serious problem with alcoholism and addiction. We looked at how the country was coping back in 2010:
According to a 2008 study on alcoholism conducted by the World Health Organization, Ukraine ranked at the top of the list of countries with the highest rates of alcohol consumption among children and young people. With a population of 2.5 million people, the Lviv Oblast (or province) falls within the mean of Ukraine’s 24 oblasts with respect to substance abuse, which includes alcoholism and drug use. Last year, between 1 January and 1 July, public health authorities registered 428 cases of alcoholism and drug addiction among people under the age of 18, and 35,248 cases among adults.
“That is only the official data,” says Dr. Myroslava Kabanchyk, the chief physician at the Lviv State Clinical Pharmacological Dispensary. “There are many more people like that, a great number of whom fear seeking medical treatment. If they did they would not be able to work or go abroad for five years. Many others have just not been officially registered, such as those over 60 or those who live deep in the Carpathian Mountains.” She estimates the real number of addicts and alcoholics far surpasses the official numbers...
...In 2003, Viktor Proskuriakov took part in “The Burial of Alcoholism,” a ritual in which parishioners from the Greek Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity in the village of Stankiv joined together and took an oath to give up drinking and end alcohol dependency. The crowd gathered around an open grave, which was filled with liquor bottles, to pray and symbolically bury the disease. Marked with a tombstone to remind villagers of their oaths, the grave can be seen from the road leading to the church and rectory.
Father Ihor Hiletsky, who serves as the church’s pastor as well as the coordinator of youth programs for the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Stryj, organized the burial.
“The idea to conduct a series of events exposing alcoholism as a sinister evil occurred in 2001 just after I had come to Stankiv,” says Father Hiletsky.
Read more about Burying Alcoholism in the January 2010 issue of ONE.