6 February 2014
In this image from 2010, Sister Shubba Poovattil visits with an elderly resident in Malayatoor, India, at a home devoted to caring for the “poorest of the poor.” Read more about the work she and other sisters are undertaking in Fearless Grace. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
This week Pope Francis released his first message for Lent, which begins on 5 March. The message focuses on the needs of the poor, taking for its starting point this verse from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).
In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it. Destitution is not the same as poverty: destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope. There are three types of destitution: material, moral and spiritual. Material destitution is what is normally called poverty, and affects those living in conditions opposed to human dignity: those who lack basic rights and needs such as food, water, hygiene, work and the opportunity to develop and grow culturally. In response to this destitution, the Church offers her help, her diakonia, in meeting these needs and binding these wounds which disfigure the face of humanity. In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.
No less a concern is moral destitution, which consists in slavery to vice and sin. How much pain is caused in families because one of their members — often a young person — is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care. In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide. This type of destitution, which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to the spiritual destitution which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love. If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us through Christ, because we believe we can make do on our own, we are headed for a fall. God alone can truly save and free us.
Read the full message here.
And if you want to offer your support to women like sister Shubba Poovattil in India, visit this page to find out how.
4 February 2014
Tags: India Pope Francis Sisters Poor/Poverty Caring for the Elderly
Altar server Andriy Palchak, 14, holds a candelabra in a tradition known as the “Great Blessing of Water” during the Divine Liturgy celebrated for the feast of Theophany at St. Mary’s Assumption Ukrainian Catholic Church in St. Louis on 12 January. (photo: CNS/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)
As the crisis in Ukraine continues to unfold, churches around the world are offering prayers of support. Catholic News Service recently carried a story profiling one church in St. Louis, Missouri:
Olga Shulga said her father has never lived in fear. So when she learned he had joined the protesters in Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, she wasn’t all that surprised.
Shulga and her husband, Alex, members of St. Mary’s Assumption Ukrainian Catholic Parish in St. Louis, are among those prayerfully watching as the unrest continues to unfold in Ukraine.
“My father will fight with everything he has, because we were raised Ukrainians,” said Olga Shulga. But the 37-year-old, who came to the United States from Kiev almost 15 years ago, worries about her family members who have frequently been bringing food and other necessities to protesters or stand with them in solidarity.
The ongoing protests started last fall after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych withdrew from a promised trade deal with the European Union. The situation has brought together members of St. Mary’s Assumption to support one another and their homeland as they watch from afar. In mid-January, parishioners took up a collection to be sent to support protesters.
Many of the parish’s 30 households are recent immigrants and some came after the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1991, said the parish’s administrator, Deacon Eugene Logusch.
“The people in Ukraine have no fear,” he said. “They are prepared to stand up and they want change. They don’t want the country to continue in this way and the government was completely shocked” at the reaction.
Shulga said that while her heart is with her family, she’s grateful for the opportunities she’s had in the United States. In Ukraine, “there’s no future there. That’s why I left. It’s a fight for every person to build a new life for you and your family,” she told the St. Louis Review, newspaper of the archdiocese of St. Louis.
3 February 2014
Tags: Ukraine United States Ukrainian Catholic
Kostas Patitas sits in his apartment in Kipseli, Athens. (photo: Don Duncan)
The Winter issue of ONE offers a powerful look at how the people of Greece are coping with their country’s ongoing economic crisis:
Kostas Patitsas, 59, who lives in the working-class Athens neighborhood of Kipseli, regularly takes advantage of his local parish’s food aid. Mr. Patitsas’s case is a classic example of Greek recession misfortune: In February 2012, his position was made redundant before he reached retirement age. Now he finds himself without a pension in an anemic job market that has become increasingly discriminatory against mature applicants as the recession deepens. He depends on his brother and other family members to pay the property tax on his small apartment and his electricity bills. He needs about $135 a month for cigarettes and tea. For food, he lives on the fare from his local parish, Hagia Zoni Church.
“I am quite optimistic by nature,” he says in the yard of the church as he lines up for food. “And I believe growth will return in 2014.” All the people lined up around him burst into laughter. He is quoting the much-maligned Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, who uses this phrase as a boilerplate response to any interrogation regarding the future. It becomes clear that for Kostas Patitsas, and for many others, humor is a coping mechanism.
Some 300 people have come to the soup kitchen at Hagia Zoni. They joke and laugh, but it is a heavy, trudging humor. Before long, they have all departed with their food to eat at home alone.
Mr. Patitsas eats his food on a small table in a communal garden outside the back door of his ground-floor apartment, which is dark, damp and shabby.
Along with humor, he says, his other big coping mechanism is his faith.
“I go to church every Sunday,” he says, “and when I feel low and hopeless, it fills my soul.”
Read more about A Greek Tragedy in the Winter 2013 issue of ONE.
3 February 2014
In this image from 2011, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill celebrates Christmas liturgy at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. Last week, he joined Patriarch John X. Yzigi of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch in issuing a plea for peace in Syria.
(photo: CNS/Denis Sinyakov, Reuters)
Syria hits areas held by rebels in Aleppo (New York Times) Syrian government aircraft continued to strike rebel-held areas in Aleppo with makeshift bombs on Sunday, killing at least three dozen people, most of them women and children, antigovernment activists said. The bombs were dropped across neighborhoods in the south and east of the country’s largest city, reducing cinder-block apartment buildings to rubble and leaving crowds of men searching the debris for survivors, according to videos posted online...
Russian, Greek Orthodox leaders join in call for peace in Syria (AsiaNews) The Moscow Patriarchate and the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch have launched a joint appeal for peace and independence of Syria. “The two churches believe that only through open and honest dialogue true peace its independence and territorial integrity be guaranteed in Syria, and equal rights and opportunities for its citizens ensured,” reads the statement issued on 30 January, at the end of Patriarch John X Yazigi’s visit to Moscow...
Protestors fill Kiev’s square as president returns to work (EuroNews) Ukraine’s embattled president has announced that he is returning to work on Monday after four days’ sick leave. It came as thousands of protesters filled Kiev’s main square — demanding that he give up power. Opposition leaders, fresh from meeting European US officials at a conference in Munich, told the crowd that they would secure international aid of they were able to take power. “We have a common understanding with our Western partners about what should be done in Ukraine and how much money it requires,” said Arseniy Yatsenyuk, leader of Ukraine’s opposition Fatherland Party. “But first of all, the question is who will be executing this plan of change for Ukraine, as no one trusts this regime”...
Pope’s first Lenten message to focus on poverty (Catholic News Service) Pope Francis has chosen the theme, “He became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich,” for this year’s Lenten message, said a Vatican statement on 31 January. The theme comes from a verse from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians where the apostle is promoting generosity in giving and wishes to “test the genuineness of your love by your concern for others.” The full verse reads: “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich,” (2 Cor 8:9). The text of the pope’s message for Lent, which begins on 5 March, was to be released at a Vatican news conference on 4 February...
Cyberactivists say dreams of democracy in Middle East unrealized (Catholic News Service) Cyberactivists from Egypt and throughout the Middle East said their dreams of freedom of expression and democracy are unrealized. They are caught in a vise of surveillance and censorship, no matter if the military or Muslim Brotherhood hold the reins of power in the aftermath of the Arab Spring that saw longtime rulers toppled three years ago. “I’m wanted by three different branches by the security forces, mainly because they have their own propaganda about the revolution,” said Marcell Shehwaro, a young Syrian Christian blogger. “I work against it. I was forced to flee my house, my family and my friends” to live in an area under opposition control...
Kerala considers bill to stop lavish weddings (Business Standard) The Kerala government will soon come up with a bill that will prevent ostentatious weddings where people flaunt their wealth, Social Welfare Minister M.K. Muneer said here Monday. Muneer told the state assembly that the situation has reached such a “dangerous level” where weddings only mean flaunting of one’s wealth. “We are working out on how we can prevent this excessive flaunting of wealth on the occasion of weddings and it would be through a new law,” he said.
24 January 2014
In this photo from 11 January, Pope Francis greets participants in the annual meeting of the Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration. Those in attendance included CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar, shown in the first row, fifth from the left. (photo: The Holy See)
Earlier this month, Pope Francis took part in a remarkable gathering of Christians — a foreshadowing, in some ways, of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which concludes tomorrow. Vatican Radio had details:
The audience was attended by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, who provided the opening remarks. Also present were members of the management committee of the board which comprises the principle benefactors and scholarship students who are studying in Rome.
“The path of reconciliation and renewed fraternity between the churches,” said the pope in his address, “required the experience of friendship and sharing that arises from the mutual understanding between members of different churches, and in particular the young people initiated into sacred ministry.”
He went on to praise the work of the committee, and thanked the many benefactors who have supported its work. He assured those present that he would remember them in prayer, and asked for their prayers in exchange.
The Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration was established on 27 July 1964 by Pope Paul VI as one of the initiatives aimed at “reestablishing fraternal ties between the Catholic Church and the venerable Eastern churches.”
The committee promotes the exchange of students between the Catholic Church, Orthodox churches of the Byzantine tradition and Eastern Orthodox churches, who wish to study theology or other ecclesiastical disciplines at Catholic or Orthodox institutions.
23 January 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Unity Ecumenism Interreligious Christian Unity
Several weeks ago, CNEWA’s Chief Communications Officer Michael J.L. La Civita and and Director for Programs Thomas Varghese visited the South Caucasus — Armenia and Georgia — to assess needs and see how CNEWA might be able to help. Their journey was chronicled in a series of blog posts in late November. Now, we’re pleased to present the video below, which brings this remarkable trip to life in a new way — capturing the spirit, character and faith of the people and their homeland.
Take a few minutes to watch. If you’d like to learn how you can support our brothers and sisters in that part of the world, visit our Eastern Europe giving page.
23 January 2014
Tags: Armenia Georgia Eastern Europe Caring for the Elderly Caritas
In this image from 2012, a teenager is seen using an iPad in St. Louis, MO. (photo: CNS/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)
Pope Francis issued his message today for World Communications Day, and focused on digital media:
Like the good Samaritan, who stopped on the road to help a person in need, travelers along today’s communication highways should offer support to those they encounter there, Pope Francis said.
“The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people,” he said in his message for World Communications Day.
Modern means of communication, especially the Internet, offer “immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity,” he said. Because of that, he said, the Internet is “a gift from God.”
“Communication at the service of an authentic culture of encounter” is the theme of this year’s World Communications Day, which most dioceses will mark 1 June, the Sunday before Pentecost. The message, released 23 January, was dated 23 January, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists.
“Good communication helps us grow closer, to know one another better, and ultimately to grow in unity,” the pope said.
“The walls which divide us can be broken down only if we are prepared to listen and learn from one another,” he said. “A culture of encounter demands that we be ready not only to give, but also to receive.”
Good communicators must take the time necessary to listen to others and, more than just tolerate, truly accept them, he said.
“Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute,” the pope said in his message.
Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told reporters that the pope is not proposing “a relativism” of the faith, but is continuing his predecessors’ calls for the church to engage with a multi-cultural and multi-religious world.
“I can’t have an outlook of being the only one and the absolute,” Archbishop Celli said. “I am just a concrete incarnation of that truth that is Jesus Christ and his Gospel,” which people live out in myriad ways in different cultures and traditions across the world.
Read more. And you can read the full message at this link.
23 January 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Unity Dialogue
A Syrian refugee boy carries wood in the Al Yamdiyeh refugee camp near the Syrian-Turkish border in Latakia province on 10 January. (photo: CNS/Khattab Abdulaa, Reuters)
Pope Francis has issued another plea for peace in Syria. From CNS:
As world leaders gathered in the hopes of finding a peaceful solution to Syria’s three-year-long brutal conflict, Pope Francis asked that they spare no effort in bringing an end to the violence.
The pope also urged the people of Syria to rebuild their nation and see in the other “not an enemy, a rival, but a brother or sister to welcome and embrace.”
The pope made the appeal at the end of his general audience in St. Peter’s Square on 22 January, the day a major peace summit, dubbed “Geneva II” began in Switzerland.
The U.N.-sponsored talks — scheduled to run at least until Jan. 24 — were to bring world leaders together to help forge a solution to the crisis and bring representatives of the Syrian government and major opposition figures together for direct talks for the first time.
A two-person Vatican delegation, led by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva, was also invited to attend the peace summit.
In his appeal to summit participants, Pope Francis said he was praying that “the Lord touch the hearts of everyone so that, by exclusively seeking the greater good of the Syria people, who have been greatly tried, they spare no effort in urgently bringing an end to the violence and conflict, which already has caused too much suffering.”
The pope said he also was praying that the people of Syria would begin a journey of reconciliation and peace “with determination.” He asked that the country be rebuilt “with the participation of all citizens,” so that everyone would see each other as family and not as rivals.
And visit our Syria emergency relief page to learn how you can help.
22 January 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Syrian Civil War United Nations Middle East Peace Process
Godmothers in Palayur, India, get ready for group baptism on the ‘First Sunday.’ (photo: Jose Jacob)
The winter issue of ONE is now online. Our cover story focuses on the thriving faith of Palayur, India, where St. Thomas is believed to have introduced Christianity some 2,000 years ago. Celebrations on the First Sunday of every month continue to pass on the faith:
One of the most important events on the First Sunday is the celebration of baptism at the Thaliya Kulam. Families arrive from all across Kerala. Godmothers sit with the children in their laps, with godfathers, parents and relatives standing behind. From the baptismal font in the pond, Father Koonamplackal invites godparents to bring the candidates up one by one. …
From across Kerala, others continue to be drawn to the site, called by a spiritual allure they cannot quite put into words. The sacristan says some parishioners who had left Palayur now feel something is missing. They tell him they want to come back.
Professor Menachery says such testimonies are part of Palayur’s power — and a testament to the deep and enduring faith it inspires, which has truly stood the test of time. That, he explains, is part of what makes Palayur unique.
“It is doubtful,” he says, “whether there are many places in the world that could claim a similar continuous Christian presence for nearly two millennia.”
Read more about Palayur in 2,000 Years and Counting from the Winter issue of ONE.
21 January 2014
Tags: India Kerala Indian Christians ONE magazine Thomas Christians
In this image from last March, Pope Francis walks with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople at the Vatican. (photo: CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Catholic Press Photo)
This week marks the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Pope Francis spoke about the subject on Friday:
Pope Francis said the evangelization of secular society requires focusing on the essentials of Christianity in collaboration with other Christian churches.
The pope made his remarks on 17 January at a meeting with representatives of the Lutheran Church in Finland, who were making their annual ecumenical pilgrimage to Rome on the feast of Finland’s patron, St. Henry. The meeting occurred one day before the start of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Pope Francis told the group that ecumenical relations lately have been undergoing “significant changes, owing above all to the fact that we find ourselves professing our faith in the context of societies and cultures every day more lacking in reference to God and all that recalls the transcendent dimension of life.”
“For this very reason, our witness must concentrate on the center of our faith, on the announcement of the love of God made manifest in Christ his son,” the pope said. “Here we find space to grow in communion and in unity, promoting spiritual ecumenism.”
Pope Francis quoted the Second Vatican Council’s decree on ecumenism, which described “spiritual ecumenism” as consisting of “conversion of heart and holiness of life, together with private and public prayer for Christian unity,” which form the “soul of the whole ecumenical movement.”
In the Summer issue of ONE, the Rev. Elias Mallon wrote about ecumenism:
It has been almost 50 years since the publication of the Decree on Ecumenism. It would be a mistake to underestimate the tremendous progress that has been made as Christians come to a deeper understanding of what we believe as we work toward the unity willed by Christ. That is not, however, a call to self-satisfaction.
As recently as the General Audience of 18 January 2012, the first day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Benedict XVI said “the ecumenical task is a responsibility of the entire church and of all the baptized.”
He recognized that “since the birth of the ecumenical movement more than a century ago, there has always been a clear awareness that the lack of unity among Christians is an obstacle to a more effective proclamation of the Gospel.” But, the pope added: “The fundamental truths of the faith unite us more than they divide us.”
A long and challenging road lies ahead to complete Christian unity. But it is a road Pope Francis seems eager to travel. In addressing the delegation of the ecumenical patriarchate in Rome for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in late June, Pope Francis stressed that “the search for unity among Christians is an urgent task — you have said that ‘it is not a luxury, but an imperative’ — that, today more than ever, we cannot put aside.”
Read more on the issue of ecumenism in the Summer 2013 issue of ONE.
Tags: Pope Francis Ecumenism Christian Unity Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I