5 June 2013
A boy displaced by fighting in Syria attends a class in the governorate of Idlib, Syria, on 27 May. The Vatican has reiterated its call for negotiations and putting an end to violence in Syria, saying that children are suffering the most. (photo: CNS/Muzaffar Salman, Reuters)
Pope Francis today spoke poignantly about the ongoing suffering of the people in Syria:
Christians must help the people of Syria because “where there is suffering, Christ is present,” Pope Francis told representatives of Catholic aid agencies working in Syria and with Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.
“How much suffering, how much poverty, how much pain; and it’s Jesus who suffers, who is poor, who is thrown out of his country,” the pope said on 5 June during a meeting with the representatives who were holding a coordinating meeting at the Vatican.
Pope Francis said it is part of “the Christian mystery” that when the faithful see what is going on in Syria, “we see Jesus suffering in the inhabitants of the beloved Syria.”
“We cannot turn our backs on situations of great suffering,” he told participants at the meeting he convoked. “The weapons must be silenced.”
The meeting was held under the auspices of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes and coordinates Catholic charitable giving. The pope wanted the aid agencies to “respond to the continuing deterioration of the already serious humanitarian situation in the country and among the refugees,” said Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, council secretary.
Visit this page to learn how you can help those suffering in Syria.
4 June 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Syrian Civil War War Relief
Copts mourn after identifying a victim of sectarian and political violence. (photo: David Degner)
In the Spring edition of ONE, journalist Sarah Topol looks at how some of the men staying behind in Egypt are hanging on and seeking support, both economic and spiritual.
Meantime, the turmoil in Egypt is spreading to some unlikely places, according to USA TODAY:
Vendors at Egypt’s pyramids who are desperate to make money in a deepening economic crisis are using aggressive and even violent means to get tourists to give them some business, frequenters of the tourist spot say.
The U.S. Embassy issued a warning about increasing incidents at or near the famous pyramids at Giza about a dozen miles from downtown Cairo. Most of the incidents are due to overly aggressive vendors who in some cases come close to criminal conduct, the embassy says.
“U.S. citizens should elevate their situational awareness when traveling to the pyramids, avoid any late evening or night travel, utilize a recommended or trusted guide, and closely guard valuables,” according to a security message on the embassy’s website last week.
Read the rest here.
3 June 2013
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Economic hardships Coptic Christians Copts
A pilgrim holds a banner bearing the words “Blessed Pope John XXIII pray for us” in preparation for a Mass at the tomb of the pope. (photo: CNS)
Pope John XXIII died 50 years ago today. One of the men who succeeded him, Pope Francis, mentioned him in his homily this morning:
The pope spoke of the saints, remembering that today is the 50th anniversary of the death of Blessed Pope John XXIII, “a model of holiness.” In the day’s Gospel, he added, the saints are those who “go to collect the rent” on the vineyard. “They know what is expected of them, but they must do it, and they do their duty. … The saints are those who obey the Lord, those who worship the Lord, those who have not lost the memory of the love with which the Lord has made the vineyard: the saints in the church. Just as the corrupt do so much harm to the church, the saints do so much good.”
John XXIII may be best remembered for convoking Vatican II, which led to dramatic reforms within the Catholic Church, including a greater emphasis on ecumenism and dialogue with other faiths. Last year, we interviewed Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, who was a student in Rome during the Second Vatican Council. Describing some of the documents of the council, he said:
This is the basis for the church to reach out with great respect to the followers of different religions, conscious that the Holy Spirit is already active within their hearts and also within their religious traditions. This conviction leads to the statement that “the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.” This does not signify by any means that the church considers all religions to be equal, since it believes that the fullness of revelation has been given in Jesus Christ. Yet the attitude of respect provides the grounds for dialogue and cooperation at the service of all members of the human race.
31 May 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Ecumenism Pope Dialogue
An icon of the Virgin and Child hangs inside St. Michael the Archangel in Ladomirová. (photo: Andrej Bán)
With May drawing to a close, today marks the end of the month traditionally devoted to Mary. But devotion to the Mother of God isn’t confined to just one month. For many of the faithful, it goes on all year. In Slovakia, for example, we found the depiction of Mary shown above when we visited a village with a strong Greek Catholic presence and learned about historic churches:
On a cold and wet November day, a group of carpenters hammered away at the roof of St. Michael the Archangel Greek Catholic Church in the village of Ladomirová in northeastern Slovakia. Built in 1742, St. Michael’s stands out as perhaps Slovakia’s most beautiful and celebrated historic wooden church. Surveying the men’s work, the church’s pastor, Father Peter Jakub, explained that after 40 years, it was time to replace the worn hand-cut spruce shingles.
Only some 50 wooden churches, most dating back two centuries, survive in the modern central European republic of Slovakia; historians estimate more than 300 may have been built between the 16th and 18th centuries. Approximately 30 belong to the Slovak Greek Catholic Church. A handful have been closed and restored as museums, while the remaining churches are used by Evangelical Protestant or Latin (Roman) Catholic congregations. In recent decades, the Slovak government has designated 27 of these tserkvi (Slavonic for wooden churches) as national cultural monuments.
These wooden structures are inexorably fragile, vulnerable to decay and fire. But as architectural achievements constructed during a tumultuous and religiously volatile era, they now galvanize significant interest in and support for their restoration and preservation.
The lion’s share of Slovakia’s wooden churches clusters in the eastern region of Prešov, a mountainous and heavily forested area bordering Poland and Ukraine. Rusyn Greek Catholics — who inhabited tiny hamlets scattered throughout the Carpathian Mountains — constructed most of these churches.
For more on Slovakia’s Greek Catholic heritage, and the country’s remarkable churches, read Rooted in Wood from the May 2008 issue of ONE.
30 May 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity Icons Greek Catholic Church Slovakia Slovak Catholic Church
A shepherd tends his flock in Anjar, Lebanon. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
The charming photo above comes from a 2002 profile of “Little Armenia,” located in Lebanon:
Determined to preserve their cultural identity, religion, language and traditions, these Armenian refugees established clubs, schools, churches, hospitals and dispensaries. Today they attend Armenian churches and schools, eat Armenian food, speak Armenian and read Armenian periodicals. Whether members of the Armenian Apostolic, Catholic or Evangelical churches, Lebanon’s Armenians live in harmony. Although tight-knit, they too are affected by the specters of unemployment, emigration and cultural disintegration haunting all Lebanese.
Roughly 100,000 people — 80 percent of the population of Bourj Hammoud — are Armenian. One of the most densely populated areas in the country, Bourj Hammoud has become one of the largest manufacturing hubs in Lebanon, a center for jewelry, shoes and clothing, all crafted by Armenians. And while Armenians prefer to work with fellow Armenians, their clients are usually fashion-conscious Maronites, Sunni Muslims and Druze. …
“Our major problem today is the emigration of young people,” says Sebouh Saghian, the Mayor of Anjar. “We do not have local universities, so our youth go to Beirut for further education. Because of unemployment here, the majority do not return…”
Read more about this community in the July 2002 issue of our magazine.
29 May 2013
Tags: Lebanon Refugees Cultural Identity Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church
The Azar family prepares dinner in an empty lot in Al Qaa, Lebanon, where they have found refuge from the war in Syria. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
In the Spring issue of ONE, journalist Don Duncan gives a dramatic look at life in Al Quaa, a Lebanese village that has lately become home to Syrian refugees:
Although she has only moved a few miles down the road, Hayat Qarnous wakes up to a world vastly different from the one she knew just a few weeks ago. Back then, she was living in Rableh, a village on the Syrian side of the Syria-Lebanon border and once the center of a quiet farming community. But since the Syrian uprising started in March 2011, it has been anything but peaceful.
“War is like fire,” she says, sitting in her newfound refuge in Al Qaa, a Lebanese village just across the border from Rableh. “A fire eats everything before it. So does war. There is no peace anywhere.”
It is this lack of peace, and its consequences, that have pushed more than a million Syrians to flee their homeland since the beginning of the conflict.
About 320,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring Lebanon and registered with United Nations aid agencies there. But many observers believe equal numbers of Syrians have not registered with the authorities in Lebanon; among these are an estimated 10,000 Christians.
Lebanon, with its relatively large number of Christians — more than 30 percent of the population — is a natural choice for Christian Syrians seeking refuge. Beyond religion, most of the Syrian Christian refugees have chosen Lebanon for more pragmatic reasons. Many have family living in Lebanon, either as citizens or as laborers who have migrated to work in construction or farming since the Lebanese civil war ended in 1990. Others come to Lebanon, as in Mrs. Qarnous’s case, because it is the closest border to cross to safety.
“The journey between Rableh and Al Qaa used to take five to ten minutes before the war,” she says from a makeshift room she and her husband now inhabit in the hall of the Melkite Greek Catholic parish in Al Qaa. “Now it takes four hours.”
The trip is difficult and dangerous. Civilians have to navigate a complex landscape of warring factions, shelling and random attacks in order to arrive safely. Even after that, hunger, poverty and exposure to the elements await many of them in Lebanon.
Read more about Syrians Crossing the Border in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE.
21 May 2013
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War War
CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar pays a visit to the children of St. Anne’s Orphanage in Trichur, India. The children and Carmelite Sisters who run St. Anne receive support from CNEWA.
In the current issue of ONE, Msgr. John E. Kozar reflects on the importance of religious sisters:
Sometimes, they are the first evangelizers who share the Good News of Jesus; sometimes they are the mother figure a child has never known; sometimes they are a nurse at a clinic, not only dispensing medicine and bandages, but healthy measures of tender loving care; sometimes they offer a cup of rice to a starving mother and child; sometimes they welcome a refugee. And always, they are present. In the midst of war, famine, insurrection, terrorism, ignorance, abandonment or any form of persecution or oppression, the sisters offer their heroic witness. Make no mistake: They are heroes.
If you want to know how you can help those heroes, visit this page. Your gift today will be doubled with a dollar-for-dollar match, ensuring that the good work of these good women continues!
20 May 2013
Tags: India CNEWA
At the Baladna Club in Jericho, a member of the girls’ soccer team practices. (photo: Rich Wiles)
One of the important works of CNEWA is spotlighted in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE, which looks at youth centers in Palestine:
The Baladna Club is one of 20 youth centers supported by CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission for Palestine. Founded in 1999, the club has 120 members — Christians and Muslims, boys and girls from both public and private schools.
Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel, believes support for such programs as Baladna is an innovative effort to make a difference in the lives of Palestinian youths. These programs provide formative opportunities to learn, grow, work together and play together. Life under military occupation can be frustrating and dispiriting for young people; these clubs try to raise spirits, offer a sense of community and purpose, and provide stability and hope. CNEWA also set up the initial training to teach 20 nongovernmental organizations how to write proposals, plan strategically, find resources and, most importantly, think realistically.
Read more about this club and others in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE.
17 May 2013
Tags: CNEWA Palestine
Sister Eliseea sets aside an unfinished icon of the Holy Trinity to begin another one. (photo: Andreea Câmpeanu)
An old friend dropped by the office today: Sister Eliseea Papacioc, a Romanian Orthodox nun and world-renowned iconographer. She’s visiting the United States for a few weeks, stopping in Washington, New York, Florida and Tennessee for exhibitions and talks about her work, and she came to say hello and show us some of her remarkable work.
Last year, we took readers to her Romanian studio, and she explained the prayerful process by which she creates her icons:
“Once I understood that these icons should only be made with never-ending prayer, I realized I could not write them, because I could not pray. And I was a nun,” she admits.
“Your prayer becomes the icon, and the icon becomes prayer again for the one who has it in his home and prays in front of it. It’s all mystery, a real and continuous link to God,” she explains, as she sits in her workroom’s red armchair and sips a cup of tea.
Now, when Sister Eliseea writes, she prays nonstop. She follows a simple daily routine, which begins and ends in prayer. Each morning, she wakes up at dawn and reads from the Psalms. “That’s where I get all my sap, all my spirit,” she says.
Afterward, she writes icons, which she does until the sunset. She often continues into the night, sometimes until as late as 2 or 3 a.m. However, she only uses colored paints in the daylight.
She spent some time today explaining more of the spirituality that informs her work.
“I’m very connected with God when I do this,” she said, “and God is doing everything through my hand. I can’t paint without prayer. This comes from heaven, from the words of God, and if you can’t pray you can’t call yourself an iconographer. The prayer comes in your heart from God. Through this prayer, God gives me this inspiration. It’s like I’m under his protection all the time when I paint, he’s covering me with his wings. I never know how a painting is going to be. I just start a sketch and it just comes to me.”
Sister Eliseea said she’s written hundreds of icons over the course of her life; some can be done in a matter of months, others take years. A large icon of the “Deposition from the Cross” — Jesus being taken from the cross — took three years. It is all a labor of love.
“I’m not a commercial painter,” she said with a shy smile, explaining that she doesn’t keep any of the icons for herself. “I just paint as much as God inspires me. God gives me this gift to give to people, to give away.”
You can see Sister Eliseea presenting a couple of her icons, below — the aforementioned depiction of the Descent from the Cross on the left, and another portraying the Annunciation on the right. Read more about her in A Romanian Renaissance from the January 2012 issue of ONE.
16 May 2013
Tags: Sisters Prayers/Hymns/Saints Art Icons Romania
Parishioners sing a hymn during evening Mass in the Church of Sts. Simeon and Anne in Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Did you know there is a group of Catholics in Israel who regularly attend Mass in Hebrew?
The Spring issue of ONE offers a profile of this unique community:
By any measure, it may be one of the most distinct cultures in all of Israel. With just 500 active members, including children, Israel’s Hebrew-speaking Catholic community is so small that many Catholics around the world, and most Israelis, do not know of its existence. It endures as a vibrant contradistinction: Catholics celebrating their faith in a country that is overwhelmingly Jewish, worshiping in Hebrew, marking Jewish feasts and traditions, and honoring many local customs. Yet they are undeniably, proudly Catholic.
The community was born in 1955. That year, a group of Catholics in Israel founded a pious association called the Work of St. James to help Hebrew-speaking Catholics live their faith in a Jewish society.
“The church began to realize there were thousands of Catholics in Israel who were not Arabs and not expatriates, who belonged to and integrated into Hebrew-speaking, Jewish Israeli society,” says the Rev. David Neuhaus, Latin patriarchal vicar of Hebrew-speaking Catholics.
Some were married to Jews, while others were from Catholic branches of predominantly Jewish families. A smaller number were Jews who, like Father Neuhaus, had converted to Catholicism.
Regardless of their backgrounds, most “strongly saw themselves as Jewish historically, ethnically and culturally, and at the same time Catholic,” he says.
But between the 1950’s and the 1980’s, the community dwindled dramatically, largely due to emigration and assimilation.While members of the community come from a variety of backgrounds, all find unity in the most familiar form of Catholic worship, the Mass in the Latin rite, celebrated in Hebrew in six communities across Israel. As Father Neuhaus explains, it is the same Mass prayed around the world, but “with minor concessions to the particularity of praying in Hebrew.”
On Sundays, for example, the liturgy begins by lighting two candles representing the Old and New Testaments, signifying “their intimate unity.” The music is inspired by both Christian and Jewish traditions rooted in the region. Readings from the Old Testament, including the Psalms, are heard in their entirety, rather than selected verses, and Jewish feasts and days of commemoration are mentioned.
“Needless to say, praying in Hebrew brings out very forcefully the resonances in the liturgy with the biblical texts, particularly of the Old Testament,” Father Neuhaus says, after celebrating a weekday Mass at the Jerusalem chapel.
Read more about this community in Hebrew Spoken Here.
Tags: Middle East Christians Israel Cultural Identity Catholic