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December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
8 November 2012
Greg Kandra

Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, has been sent by Pope Benedict XVI on a mission to Lebanon. (2011 photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Sarah begins mission to Lebanon (Fides) Yesterday, 7 November, the Cardinal was received by the President of the Republic of Lebanon, the Maronite Catholic Michel Suleiman. Then he met the Maronite Synod of Bishops — taking part in their monthly meeting — and visited the Armenian Catholic Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni. There was also a “surprise” meeting with the old Orthodox Patriarch, who was born 91 years ago in a Syrian village near Hama...

Hindus and Christians must form peace-makers (Vatican Radio) In his message for Hindus on the feast of Deepavali (known as the “festival of lights” or Diwali), the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, explored the responsibility that Hindus, Christians and others have in doing everything possible to form all people, especially the young generation, into peace-makers...

Church working to free kidnapped Christians in Syria (Fides) There is an effort underway on behalf of the Church to try to free ten Christians who were kidnapped in recent days by an armed group while they were on a bus from Aleppo to Beirut...

Tags: Syria India Lebanon

7 November 2012
Greg Kandra

A worker and young visitor begin olive processing. (photo: John E. Kozar)

Last December, Monsignor John Kozar visited olive processing mill in Kobayat, Lebanon during his pastoral visit to the Middle East. You can read about his visit to this mill and other sites in Lebanon in his blog post:

Our first stop…was the olive processing mill that was running at full tilt, even though the olive season has just about ended. We were warmly greeted by the president of the cooperative association that oversees the pooled efforts of hundreds of farmers as well as by friends and coworkers. As the machinery hummed along, our hosts took us on a simple tour. They demonstrated how bags of olives brought in from outlying farms were sent through a series of machines and ended up a high quality olive oil. Needless to say, we had to each try a sample of the work.

Check out more on his Journey to the Holy Land.

Tags: Lebanon CNEWA Msgr. John E. Kozar Maronite Catholic

7 November 2012
Greg Kandra

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden react to the crowd following the president’s victory speech in Chicago. Pope Benedict XVI and U.S. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan congratulated Obama on his re-election. Cardinal Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and chair of CNEWA, said in his letter that the U.S. bishops pray that “you will exercise your office to pursue the common good.” (photo: CNS/Jason Reed, Reuters)

Pope Benedict sends congratulatory message to President Obama (VIS) Benedict XVI, through the apostolic nunciature in Washington, U.S.A., has sent a message to Barack Obama, congratulating him on his re-election as president of the United States of America. In his message the Holy Father expresses his best wishes to the president on his new mandate, and gives assurances of his prayers to God to help him carry out his serious responsibilities, both in his own country and within the international community. The Pope also speaks of his hope that the ideals of freedom and justice, which guided the founding fathers of the Unites States of America, may continue to shine out as the nation progresses...

Pope sends $1 million in aid to Syria, along with small delegation (CNS) Instability and increasing violence in Syria have prompted Pope Benedict XVI to cancel the planned visit to the war-torn nation by a delegation of cardinals and bishops. Instead, the pope announced Nov. 7, he has sent a smaller group to Lebanon to deliver a $1 million donation and boost the church’s humanitarian response to the crisis. The pope also appealed for dialogue to end the Syrian conflict, saying: “We have to do everything possible because one day it could be too late.” “I renew my invitation to the parties in conflict, and to all those who have the good of Syria at heart, to spare no effort in the search for peace and to pursue through dialogue the path to a just coexistence, in view of a suitable political solution of the conflict,” Pope Benedict said at the end of his general audience in St. Peter’s Square...

Patriarch Kirill shows growing might as leader (AFP) Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill is a close ally of President Vladimir Putin who survived Communist repression and made the church into one of the more powerful institutions of the post-Soviet state. The 65-year-old native of Putin’s Saint Petersburg has also faced his share of controversy since being selected for the high post in 2009 and embarking on a campaign to spread the Russian faith both inside the country and abroad...

Tags: Syria Middle East Pope Benedict XVI Russian Orthodox

6 November 2012
Greg Kandra

Children drink water from a well at their school in Kunkuri, Madhya Pradesh, India. (photo: Sean Sprague)

We’ve reported extensively on efforts to bring clean drinking water to people in CNEWA’s world. You can learn more in Rain Rich, Water Poor, and discover more about Madhya Pradesh in the September 1996 article Sons and Daughters of the Land.

Tags: India CNEWA Farming/Agriculture Water

6 November 2012
Greg Kandra

In this 9 January 2001 photo, then-Archbishop Leonardo Sandri meets with Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Maxim in Sofia, Bulgaria. (photo: CNS from Reuters)

Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria dies at age 98 (ABC News) Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria, who weathered a revolt over his communist-era ties to lead the Balkan country’s Orthodox Christians for more than 40 years, has died. He was 98. The patriarch died of heart failure early Tuesday at a Sofia hospital where he had been for a month, the Holy Synod said in a statement. The Holy Synod of 13 senior clergy will meet to make funeral arrangements and choose an interim patriarch until a larger Church Council is held within the next four months to pick Maxim’s successor, church officials said. Orthodox Christianity is Bulgaria’s dominant religion, followed by more than 80 percent of the country’s 7.4 million people…

Egypt’s Coptic pope says he will reject constitution imposing religious state (AFP) Egypt’s new Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II has said he would reject a constitution still in the making if it imposed a religious state in the Muslim-majority country, newspapers reported on Tuesday. The Coptic pope, whose minority community has become increasingly fearful of the rise of Islamists to power in Egypt, also urged Christians not to leave the country, stressing that they have coexisted with Muslims for centuries. “A constitution that hints at imposing a religious state in Egypt is absolutely rejected,” he told journalists on Monday, a day after he was chosen pope, the independent al Watan newspaper reported…

Christians seek release of kidnapped Armenian and others in Syria (Fides) Sam Ghannoum is a 28-year-old Christian Armenian songwriter. He comes from an Armenian family that lives in a suburb of Aleppo. He is known in the community for his eastern classical compositions and for songs that present the Christian message of love and peace. Sam is also one of the young Syrians who recently criticized the government on Facebook, voicing support for the original ideals of the Syrian revolution: democracy, freedom and human rights. He received threats in response. About twenty days ago, on 15 October, Sam was abducted by the Syrian secret services. According to the group “Syrian Non-Violence Movement,” his family is in pain and in fear for his life. They reaffirm “the good faith and the purity of Sam’s ideals” and ask for his immediate release…

Catholic groups in India expand presence on web (Times of India) Recently, the pope had asked all clergymen to expand their presence in the virtual world to reach out to youth who have been found to stray away from the path of the church. Further decision on the synod’s deliberations would be taken only after the pope prepares the ‘apostolic exhortation’ on the topic, a compilation of all the deliberations. “Many priests are already active in the cyber world. Once the apostolic exhortation comes, we will have motivational workshops and other deliberations on this topic. It is through these measures that the church can be one of today,” said Archbishop Francis Kallarakkal of the Latin Church. The synod of 260 bishops from around the world was deliberating on ‘new evangelisation,’ to stem the hemorrhaging of the faithful...

Tags: Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Indian Christians Patriarchs Coptic Orthodox Church

5 November 2012
Greg Kandra

This photograph of the interior of Kevork Church in Aleppo was captured after clashes between Free Syrian Army fighters and forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad on 30 October. (photo: CNS/George Ourfalian, Reuters)

Bishops’ delegation to Middle East warns of Syrian refugee crisis (U.S.C.C.B.) In a press conference on 1 November, members of a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (U.S.C.C.B.) delegation to the Middle East warned of a worsening Syrian refugee crisis and urged more international support for Syrian refugees in the region. “Without more international support, the humanitarian situation, both inside and outside Syria, could reach a breaking point in the not so distant future,” said Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas, a member of the U.S.C.C.B. Committee on Migration and head of the delegation. “The international community, led by the United States, must do more to provide assistance to the refugees in order to avert a humanitarian crisis,” he added.

Egypt’s Coptic Christians choose a new pope (Wall Street Journal) Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church chose a new pope Sunday, in a ceremony that will mark a new chapter in the relationship between the Arab world’s largest Christian minority and the country’s new Islamist leadership. The name of Bishop Tawadros, bishop of the Nile River delta region of El Beheira, was drawn by a blindfolded young boy from a crystal chalice containing the names of three candidates. The ceremony unfolded in front of a cheering crowd at Egypt’s main Coptic cathedral in downtown Cairo.

Egyptian Catholics welcome election of new Coptic pope (Fides) The election of Patriarch Tawadros II, new head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, is stirring reactions of joy and enthusiasm in the Catholic community in Egypt. “We are all delighted,” says Anba Kirillos William, Coptic Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Assiut. According to the current vicar of the Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt: “The three candidates for the succession of Pope Shenouda III were all worthy people. But with regards to ecumenical relations and cooperation between the Christian churches, we hoped that Bishop Tawadros would be elected — an open-minded and balanced person.”

Holy Sepulchre bank account blocked over water bill (Associated Press) A clergyman from the church built on the site where Jesus Christ is said to have been crucified said Friday that its bank account has been frozen as the result of a long-standing dispute with an Israeli water company. Greek Orthodox priest Isidoros Fakitsas said that the move has impaired the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to pay bills and salaries. As a result, the church is considering closing for a day in protest, shutting the doors to one of Christianity’s most popular pilgrimage sites.

Church in India cautious about reports of crucifix dripping with blood (Fides) “The Catholic Church has never claimed that the phenomenon of droplets of blood or water found on the crucifix in Irla is a miracle. In these cases, the church is always prudent. Every special event is carefully studied, expert advice is asked and strict standards before delivering a judgment is observed.” So says an official statement sent to Fides Agency by the Archdiocese of Bombay, where a phenomenon known as “supernatural” is making a stir in the Christian and civil community.

Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Indian Christians Patriarchs Coptic Orthodox Church

2 November 2012
Greg Kandra

Harold Scott uses a flashlight during an early morning All Saints’ Day Mass at Sts. Philip & James Church in St. James, N.Y., on 1 November. St. James was one of many communities on Long Island that remained without electricity three days after Hurricane Sandy swept through the region. (photo: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

As many of you probably heard, we had some stormy weather here in New York this week.

Our CNEWA offices have just reopened, and we’re finally picking up the pieces and getting back to work. Our corner of the city was relatively unscathed. But not far from here, it’s a different story. Much of lower Manhattan is still without power or subway service. Train stations are flooded. Fuel supplies are running low. Thousands of people in the region are homeless or seeking shelter. The devastation around so much of the greater New York area has been — in the words of one New York priest — “almost overwhelming”:

The damage from the wind, rain and flooding brought by Hurricane Sandy “is almost overwhelming,” said Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. “We’re reaching out to parishes and getting them to directly assist those in critical need — they know their own people and their neighborhoods,” he told Catholic News Service. Several Catholic agencies and religious communities have stepped forward to address the greatest needs of victims of the super storm. “Reaching out to parishes and other communities and neighborhoods is imperative at this point,” Msgr. Sullivan explained. “The response on the parish level has been tremendous. We’re also working very, very closely with several municipal, state and private agencies, including Red Cross, to figure out the best way to respond to this disaster.” When New York state and New York City were preparing for Sandy’s unprecedented onslaught, emergency responders had met with Msgr. Sullivan and Catholic Charities to plan how to best utilize its resources and personnel after the storm. “We’ve been in conversation with dozens of governmental agencies and made sure we put our staff in place. We have a lot of social work case managers who are trained to deal with emergencies like this,” the priest said. “They know how to get greater access to available services to those in need,” he said. “Many people suffering through disasters fall through the gaps. Our staff is in place to make sure that doesn’t happen. We found this is the best way to work with victims in this situation.”

On Wednesday Cardinal Timothy Dolan, New York archbishop and CNEWA chair, spoke about this disaster in a network interview:

The road back will be a long one. Catholic Charities has set up a special web page for those who want to help. Meantime, please keep all those affected by this calamity in your thoughts and prayers.


25 October 2012
Greg Kandra

Children play soccer amid destroyed buildings in the streets of Homs, Syria, 23 October. (photo: CNS/Yazan Homsy, Reuters)

Envoy announces temporary cease-fire in Syria during Muslim holiday (New York Times) Lakhdar Brahimi, the envoy trying to broker a peace deal in Syria, on Wednesday announced a seemingly unlikely cease-fire between the two sides to mark a major Muslim holiday: Eid al Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice. The United Nations Security Council unanimously endorsed his effort...

Kidnapped Greek Orthodox priest found dead near Damascus (Fides) The body of the Greek Orthodox priest Father Fadi Jamil Haddad, pastor of the church of St. Elias in Qatana, was found today in the Jaramana neighborhood, north of Damascus — not far from the place where he was kidnapped on 19 October…

Cardinal-designate on Syria, Lebanon and freedom of conscience (Vatican Radio) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter of Lebanon is one of six church leaders to be made cardinal in the November consistory. Tracey McClure caught up with the cardinal-elect at the end of Wednesday’s session of the Synod for the New Evangelization. In a wide-ranging interview, the patriarch speaks of the announcement that a papal delegation will be sent to Syria in coming days. The discussion also turns to the tension in Lebanon following last week’s assassination of a high ranking security official in a Beirut bombing that killed 3 people and wounded more than 80 others…

India’s new cardinal comes from a church that “does a lot for evangelization” (Fides) Joy, congratulations and hope are expressed by the Indian cardinals for the appointment of His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, major archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, who will be elevated to cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in the consistory to be held on 24 November…

Cossacks, Russian Orthodox leaders demand ban on Halloween celebrations (RIA Novosti) Cossacks and Russian Orthodox Church leaders in South Russia’s Stavropol Territory demanded on Thursday cancellation of Halloween celebrations organized by a local city administration. Authorities of the resort city of Pyatigorsk announced they would organize a “Halloween party” at a city square to give young people an opportunity to learn the history and traditions of the holiday…

Pilgrimage to Rome for the Year of Faith (VIS) Three thousand knights and ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem — a tenth of its total membership — will make a pilgrimage to Rome in 2013 for the Year of Faith. The event, which is due to take place from 13 to 15 September, will coincide with the general assembly of the order and will conclude with a celebration of the Eucharist presided by the Holy Father in St. Peter’s Basilica…

Tags: Syrian Civil War Russia Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Priests Syro-Malankara Catholic Church

24 October 2012
Greg Kandra

Syrian children who fled the violence in Homs, Syria, sit outside a tent in the hillside town of Arsal, Lebanon. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)

The refugee crisis in Syria continues to grow. This week, CNEWA’s regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, Issam Bishara, filed a report that helps explain the impact of this crisis:

As of 30 September 2012, the United Nations has estimated that 300,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring countries, while a further 1.5 million Syrians have fled their homes to find refuge in other towns and districts within Syria.

Accordingly, Christians have taken the same course to save their lives, but none of the Christian displaced families have fled to a refugee camp either in Turkey or in Jordan. Some of them have found temporary havens among families and communities, both within Syria and Lebanon, with whom they have cross-border connections and shared histories. However, as the host families’ ability to host becomes strained and refugees can no longer afford even the most basic rents, they will become more visible as a refugee population in need of immediate aid.

Read the full report here.

Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War Refugee Camps

24 October 2012
Greg Kandra

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter, left, walks with Msgr. John Kozar, president of CNEWA, at the patriarchal seat of the Maronite Catholic Church in Bkerke, Lebanon, on 13 September. (photo: CNS/courtesy of Maronite Patriarchate)

Lebanon’s Maronite patriarch, Syro-Malankara archbishop among six new cardinals (Catholic News Service) Pope Benedict XVI surprised pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on 24 October by announcing he would create six new cardinals, including 63-year-old U.S. Archbishop James M. Harvey, prefect of the papal household. The pope said the consistory to create the new cardinals, who come from six countries, would take place on 24 November, the feast of Christ the King. It will be the smallest group of cardinals created since the 1977 consistory when Pope Benedict XVI, then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, received his red hat from Pope Paul VI along with three other churchmen. The new cardinals also will include: Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter, 72; Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, 53, head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church; Nigerian Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, 68; Colombian Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, 70; and Philippine Archbishop Luis Tagle of Manila, 55...

Archbishop Shevchuck addresses Synod of Bishops (Vatican Radio) Finding new ways to preach the Gospel, especially in lands that have already received it, and to cultures that have been penetrated and formed by it, is one of the central points of focus for the fathers of the XIII Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. This is a special and particular concern for the major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Galicia, who, at 42 years of age, is also the youngest of the synod fathers…

Russian Orthodox Church concerned about persecution of Christians in Syria (Voice of Russia) The Russian Orthodox Church is concerned about persecution of Christians in Syria and other Arab countries which suffered a rapid regime change. This statement was made by the head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk Hilarion, speaking Tuesday at a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly committee…

Orthodox bishops in America release pastoral letter marking anniversary of Emancipation Proclamation ( On Tuesday, 23 October 2012, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America released a pastoral letter marking the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Expressing concern for human trafficking and related issues today, the members of the Holy Synod note that, “as the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation draws near, Orthodox Christians in the United States understand that our freedom in Christ compels us to come closer to the world that we are to serve, protect, heal and transfigure. The Church cannot ignore God’s world — God’s creation. She cannot ignore God’s people, especially those deprived of their freedom…”

Planning underway for Egyptian Catholic TV network (Fides) Its name will be “Salam,” which in Arabic means “peace.” It will see the light of day within 2013, but the planning phase has already begun. It will be the first Egyptian Catholic television network…

Tags: Violence against Christians Pope Benedict XVI Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Egypt's Christians

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